How Web Design Affects Your Online Sales

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Here’s something many business owners are not aware of: their website is more than just their online identity. While also considered by many as a virtual representation of their physical store or office, it is so much more. Apart from being your online business card, your website is also a powerful selling tool.

Here’s another fact many might find surprising: your website’s design has a massive impact on your online sales. For starters, your website’s architecture can impact consumer trust and the length of time they remain on your site. Both factors can translate to revenue (or loss) depending on how they are handled.

While it’s important to know the right website trends to incorporate in your design, knowing how your web design affects your online sales is just as crucial.

Let’s start by looking at some interesting facts that highlight the impact of web design on your online sales:

A staggering 75% of visitors will base the credibility of your website on your design. When visitors don’t find your site trustworthy, they will stay away from your site and look for information elsewhere. Understandably, this can result in a loss of sales for your business.

An enhanced design can improve your site’s credibility. A polished, clean, and modern website can make it very convenient for your visitors to browse or shop on your site. When it’s easy to transact on your site, they are more likely to patronize what you have to offer.

A great web design can increase customer loyalty. A whopping 89% of people turn to a competitor after a bad customer experience. If you want to generate more sales and improve customer loyalty, your web design is one of the things you should look into.

Web Design Elements That Can Help Boost Your Online Sales

Now that you know how your web design affects your online sales, here are some web design elements that can help you generate more revenue:

Integrate responsive design.

Once you know the impact of web design on your online sales, it’s easier for you to understand the impact of having a functional site. One of the first things you need to integrate to increase sales is a responsive design. A responsive design can help ensure your website can be accessed by anyone regardless of the device they use.

Make your call to action (CTA) page stand out.

Creating a superb CTA page is another effective way you can boost your online sales. When visitors want to purchase the products or services you offer, they look to your CTA for guidance. If your CTA page won’t be able to successfully guide your visitors on how to proceed, you can lose substantial revenue in the process.

Use high-quality visuals.

To help increase sales, use only high-quality visuals on your site. Avoid using graphics or stock photos as they can seem impersonal. It is also likely that your visitors will see them on other sites. Also, adding top-quality visuals can make your site stand out and make your products and services more enticing to your target audience.

Ensure you have organized navigation.

Another important web design aspect you should look into is your navigation. Ideally, you need to have organized and easy-to-use navigation. It is easier for you to sell your products and services to your visitors with organized navigation. You need to also ensure your site has all the relevant information your prospects will look for.

Use white space accordingly.

Many brands make the mistake of filling every inch of their website with visuals or information. However, overloading your website can be counterproductive as it can overwhelm and distract your visitors. This might not be common knowledge, but white space is key to good design so use it to your advantage.

Speed up your site.

If your site does not load fast, your visitors can leave without even checking the products or services you are offering. To determine your site’s current load time, you can use Google

PageSpeed Insights. If you don’t have the time to implement changes that can improve your page speed, investing in the help of experts would be a good idea.

Final Thoughts

Various factors can impact your online sales, and web design is one of them. If you are not where you want to be in terms of online sales, it is recommended that you carry out a website audit. If you need any help improving any aspects of your website, don’t hesitate to invest in the help of experts. If anything, it is an investment that will yield lucrative returns in the long run.

About The Author, Shawn Byrne is the founder and CEO of My Biz Niche, Arizona-based digital marketing, and web design company that has achieved superior results for its clients. Before My Biz Niche, Shawn worked for Venture Capitalists where he built a private portfolio of e-commerce and informational websites that generate revenue through various digital marketing strategies.

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Top Design Tips to Boost Your Sales

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Effective Design Tips to Improve Your Sales in 2020

Running a business can be challenging, and 2020, the year of the COVID-19, has been especially trying.  You find that you are struggling to make sales, and you’re starting to worry that you may have to shut down. With the right design tips, you can boost your sales and keep your doors open, even in these challenging times.

the word create written in pencil

2020 has proved to be a very challenging year for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the business landscape leading to the closure of many companies.  Those that have managed to survive have had to implement cutbacks and other cost-saving measures. 

In the same breath, they are looking for ways to increase their sales to remain afloat. Platforms such as Mr.Bet have excellent tools for those operating online casinos and are looking for tips to design a game. But what tips can help boost sales for other businesses?

We will show you the top design tips to boost your sales in 2020 below.

1. Have a professional website built

What are web design tips?  Simply put, it is any techniques you will apply to increase traffic to your website.  One of the best design tips for websites is not to have sliders on your homepage. They can confuse people whatever you want to tell your audiences.

Other things you need to incorporate in your web design include:

  •       A strong call-to-action
  •       Visible contact information that works
  •       Aligning your website to any advertisements 
  •       Developing design tips by understanding exactly who you are talking to and their point of need
  •       Having trust icons such as social proof, security measures, and safe shopping guarantees, among others
  •       Creating a sense of urgency around your promotions or products
  •       Making the checkout process easy
  •       Simplifying the checkout process and removing the navigation bar from the page. You do not want to present customers with the option of abandoning their carts.
  •       Incorporating customers voice in your copy

2. Put the Customer First

With the pandemic being such a painful reality in 2020, business owners must put the health and safety of customers first.  If you’re operating a brick-and-mortar store, ensure you have proper sanitization and social distancing rules.  

Communicate with the customers via your website, email, social media, or even mobile apps.  Information around the pandemic and staying safe is especially welcome at this time.

One of the best design tips in marketing you will get is to go over and beyond customer expectations. When customers see that you care for them, they will remain loyal and even send some referrals your way.

Invest in training staff members to build passion around the brand and give customers the same experience.

woman holding her head in front of her laptop

3. Design and Optimize Your Gaming Website

Online gaming is on the rise. If you are a new developer, here is what you need to know.

  •       When designing, think of the end-user by having an easy-to-use interface
  •       Hook your players with your characters
  •       Provide quality sound to enhance the mood
  •       Provide consistency and balance in gameplay
  •       Unique designs will ensure you stand out

Optimizing your website is so much more than having the right keywords to attract visitors. The use of graphics and video will help reduce bounce rates.  There are some fantastic design tips graphics you will find online to help with the process. 

Design tips in Photoshop will help you customize photos or even create virtual tours for your visitors.

Customize your website to make it accessible on smart devices such as tablets or mobiles. A large percentage of visitors will browse it via such devices. 

4. Offer Money-Back Guarantee

Have you ever wondered why companies offer money-back guarantees? Not only is it a very effective marketing tactic, but it shows that you have faith in your product. 

When customers know they can return a purchase they are not happy with, it’s likely they’ll trust you with their money. Just be sure to offer a guarantee that you can live up to it.

5. Don’t Forget Your Existing Customers

If you have existing customers, repurposing your marketing content to mitigate them is a good move.  By developing messaging that directly talks to them, you increase the likelihood of return purchases.

Think about promotions that target them directly. It could be a way of saying thank you to them for their loyalty.  In return, they will stick by you and continue to be faithful customers.

Conclusion

We have shared what we consider top design tips to boost sales in 2020.  Everything you do should be about the customer. Safety and information during this pandemic period are critical. 

Pay attention to your website design and take advantage of smart devices so that you can reach those who shop via their smart devices. Most importantly, pay attention to your existing customers through promotions and exclusive offers, where possible.

What other tips would you have for a business that wants to stay afloat in 2020?  Head over to the comment section to share your feedback.  

 

Author’s Bio 

 

Alex has many irons in many fires, including starting an eCommerce store and his own marketing company. He is very busy, but the work is rewarding, and freedom has allowed him to fish, see friends more regularly.

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Can You Really Build A Business Giving Away Free Stuff?

flat lay desk giving things away to build your business.

When it comes to the most commonly heard business advice, “The money is in the list” ranks right up there in the number one spot.

Whether you’re a coach, an information product seller, a top-notch service provider, or you’re selling a line of skin-care products, growing your mailing list must be a priority.

There’s plenty of strategies to help you add a steady stream of emails to you list, too. A downloadable resource guide prominently offered in your blog sidebar is a proven tactic, as is a training webinar that potential clients can attend live (or even pre-recorded). You’ve likely heard of—and tried—other strategies as well.

And while all of these ideas will produce a trickle of new opt-ins, or maybe more depending on your website’s traffic numbers, they won’t bring in a tidal wave of sign ups. But there is one technique that will.

The Beauty of Massive Giveaway Events

Imagine what would happen to your mailing list if you suddenly had 40 or 50 or even more super successful business owners—all with big lists of their own—promoting YOUR opt-in gift? You’d open your autoresponder account in the morning and see hundreds of new email addresses each and every day. You could easily double or even triple your list in no time at all.

And you know what all those emails mean—more eyes on your products and services, and more money in your pocket.

Giveaway events like this work because a group of business owners in similar niches all work together to drive massive amounts of traffic to a single page. It’s a simple technique that’s worked time and again in nearly every niche, and it can just as easily work for you.

Organization is Key

Here’s the thing, though. In order to make this (or really, any list-building strategy) work for you, you have to get organized and make the process as smooth as possible for all involved. You’ll need an infrastructure in place that includes:

  • A great looking landing page to collect email addresses
  • A website server that can handle lots of traffic
  • A hidden page where the offers can be presented, and participants can click each link to claim the freebies that appeal to them
  • A mailing list provider to follow up with both participants and your fellow business owners
  • A group of friends and colleagues who will commit to giving away some top-notch prizes and who will follow-through on mailings

It may seem like a lot of work, but when you consider what it could mean for your business growth, the benefits of hosting a large-scale giveaway are clear.

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How Does Website Speed Affect Your Bottom Line?

‘Search engines now care a lot about user experience and one of the largest impacts on user experience is website speed. 

So if you want to stand a chance of getting anywhere near the money-making positions in the SERPs (1st, 2nd & 3rd spots) you need to ensure your pages are loading both on mobile and desktop… FAST.

Take a look at the 6 steps I took to increase my website speed…’

 

 

Author Bio

‘After a successful digital marketing career in the corporate world, Matthew Woodward began his blog in 2012. Since then he has picked up 8 blogging awards and more importantly, helped thousands of his followers achieve their digital marketing and SEO goals through his detailed case studies and tutorials.’

 

Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin | Youtube

 

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How Does Society Patronize Women When it Comes to Money? Ask Sally!

We’ve been talking about how society patronizes women when it comes to money quite a bit lately. But what, exactly, does that look like? Sallie has a few thoughts on this one.

 

Sallie’s answer:

By making us feel guilty.

By making us think that not buying a coffee from a coffee shop can help us become millionaires. By telling us that we have to save, and budget, and not talking to us about investing. Telling us that we’re risk-averse. All the messages we get, as women, about money, that are guilt-inducing and shame-inducing.

It starts in childhood when parents talk to their little girls about budgeting, and saving, and being careful, and little boys about making money, and being the CEO, and going to the top of the jungle gym. It continues as we become young adults and we are told to “take the money quiz” to find out our “money type,” while the guys are told about diversified investment portfolios.

The result of all of this is that the primary emotions so many women feel around money are shame, and loneliness, and isolation.

We need to break this down, get rid of the guilt. Don’t listen to the patronizing voices, and talk about money.

Are you ready to get started building your future?

*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.

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Should You Save Your Money Or Invest It?

Both investing and saving involve setting aside money today to prepare for the future. So it’s understandable that some people mix them up, or think of them as alternatives to one another. But they aren’t the same, and how you combine them can have a big effect on your money.

The real difference between saving and investing is where you’re putting your money — which, in turn, influences how much risk you’re taking, and how much your money could grow while it’s saved / invested.

How saving and investing work

Saving

Piggy banks and mattress hoards technically count, but when we talk about saving, we really mean putting your money in a savings account at a bank — one that’s insured by the FDIC. FDIC insurance guarantees that if something happens to the bank you’re using, you won’t lose any of your money (up to $250,000). That means when you save (up to that much), you’re taking zero risks.

When you put your money in a savings account, you earn a small amount of interest. The national average is 0.09%, and even “high yield” savings accounts only pay around 2%. That’s because technically, the bank is paying to borrow that money from you — they use cash flow from customer deposits to loan money to other people (and charge their own interest).

Still, you can withdraw your money any time you want. There’s a fee, though, if you make more than six withdrawals a month, which is meant to entice you to keep your savings in the bank. (There’s no penalty for taking money out of a checking account, like when you pay bills — but checking accounts don’t generally pay interest.)

Bottom line: Savings accounts are really safe, pay a small amount of interest, and allow you to get your money out quickly.

Investing

When you invest your money, you’re using your cash to buy investments. That might mean you own individual stocks, bonds, or alternative investments; or it might mean you own shares of a fund (aka a basket of individual investments), like you’ll have if you’re an online client of Ellevest.

As the values of your individual investments go up (or down), the value of your investment account will go up (or down). You might also earn payments called dividends from stocks, and interest from bonds. All that’s what makes it possible to earn (or lose) money by investing. The exact amount of risk involved depends on what kinds of investments you own.

So think of investing not as “spending” your money, but simply changing how it works. True, it’s not exactly the same as having cash (for one thing, you can’t pay rent with it). And as we mentioned, your investments might become worth substantially more or less than the cash you originally paid for them. But you can sell your investments to turn them back into cash any time you want — just give it a couple days to process. (You might also owe taxes if you sell investments that have gone up in value since you bought them.)

Bottom line: Like saving, investing is a way to put aside money for the future, while still giving you pretty quick access to that money if you need it. But unlike with a savings account, investing involves risk.

So if investing involves risk, why not just save all your money instead?

We’ll tell you why: Historically, over the long term, investing has been a lot more powerful than saving. This is true because investing involves risk — people demand to be compensated for taking on the extra risk of investing their money.

Does taking a risk feel uncomfortable? We get it. But when you’re talking about your biggest money goals, like retiring, you can’t really afford not to invest. That’s because — even though some individual years were up and some years were down — over the past 91 years, the stock market has returned an annual average of 9.5%. (Timely reminder: Savings accounts = 0.09% interest. For context, inflation has historically hovered around 2%.)

To put that into context, here’s what we project could happen if someone were to save / invest $25 a month for 40 years.*

InvestingvsSavingComparison

Here’s why this matters: Research shows that women keep 71% of their assets in cash, compared with 60% for men — so they could be missing out on potential investing returns. Add in things like the gender pay gap, and it’s no wonder that generally, women retire with two-thirds as much money (and worse for women of color), even though they live an average of six to eight years longer. In fact, this gender investing gap could cost women hundreds of thousands — for some women, millions — of dollars over the course of their lives.

When you should save and when you should invest

So yes, we believe you should invest. But that doesn’t mean saving isn’t sometimes the right choice. There’s a time and place for both.

Whether you save or invest has to do with two things: time and risk. If you’re planning to need your money in the next year or two, then it might make sense to save. That’s because if the investing markets took a tumble, you wouldn’t have much time to give it a chance to recover. You should also use a saving account for the money in your emergency fund — if (when) you need that money for financial emergencies, it has to be there, 100% safe and sound.

On the other hand, if you have three-plus years until you’re going to need your money, then investing can make sense instead. And the longer your timeline, the more important it is to consider investing over saving. You also might choose to invest any money that you don’t need — aka money that you just want to grow as quickly as possible (and aren’t afraid to take risk with).

Moral of the story: Put both saving and investing on your money checklist. They aren’t the same, but they’re both useful. And they’re both part of a smart, future-focused financial plan. Get started today.

Check out this Investment Guide to Bonds by InvestmentCanvas.com

Are you ready to invest in yourself? Start here!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

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The Finance Checklist You Need To Work Through This Fall


If summer’s self-care mood is “treat yourself,” then fall’s self-care mood is “let’s do the damn thing.” Enter: financial self-care. Because a) summer was expensive (lookin’ at you, Charleston vacation), b) September is Self-Care Month anyway and it’s better late than never (it’s a thing, I promise) and c) getting your money stuff in order feels A-Maz-ing.

It’s good for present-day you: Sometimes the best way to beat stress is to look the stressful thing in the eye and conquer it. And it’s good for Future You, too — the sooner you get started, the more time you have to work toward your goals. And it’s good for stress: In one survey, 73% of people who had clear financial goals also said they had lower stress levels. Plus, like with any self-care practice, the more consistent you are with it, the better it gets.

So here’s your fall financial self-care checklist. Grab your calculator & not the one on your phone because it’s probably right next to the FB button. Nope, grab a real-life 1980’s style calculator! What? You don’t have one of those? #geeksneedlovetoo Grab a calendar, a notebook, and sharp pencil or whatever it is you use to “do the damn thing” and let’s get down to it!

Your Financial Self-Care Checklist

1. Track down your most recent pay stubs

Start by getting an understanding of how much money you have coming in each month. Grab your paycheck stubs from the past month and give them a look.

First, calculate how much you’re making after taxes — aka your take-home pay. This may or may not be equal to the final amount of your check: If you have money withheld for 401(k) contributions, insurance premiums, or other employee benefits like that, then those will come into play later. For now, just look at your gross pay minus taxes. How much take-home pay do you earn in one month?

If you get paid irregularly, like if you rely on freelance income, then this might be a bit trickier. We recommend calculating your take-home pay from the last few months and then taking an average.

2. Get to know your current spending habits

Next, pull up your debit and credit card statements and look through your past few months of purchases. Categorize them into three buckets: needs (groceries, rent, etc), fun (eating out, buying things you wanted, etc), and “Future You” (saving, investing, and debt payments beyond the minimums).

This is where those paycheck withholdings we mentioned above come in. Any 401(k) contributions you’re making go in the “Future You” bucket, and insurance premiums go in the needs bucket. You can categorize any other withholdings however makes sense — for example, a public transit benefit might go in needs, and a gym membership might go in fun.

Finally, add them all up. How much are you spending on each bucket per month? There are no wrong answers — this exercise isn’t meant to make you feel guilty, it’s just to see where you’re starting from today.

3. Set a goal for your future spending habits

Now it’s time to make a plan. We like the 50/30/20 rule, which is a high-level framework for organizing your spending. It uses the same buckets we mentioned above. Traditionally, following the 50/30/20 rule means 50% of your take-home pay will go to needs, 30% will go to fun, and 20% will to Future You.

But those percentages might not be realistic for you — which is why step two on this list was so important. Based on your spending habits today, set yourself a realistic goal for tomorrow. Maybe it’s 70/20/10, or 60/20/20, or 80/15/5. It’s flexible.

Even if you can only put 1% to Future You, start there. Over time, you can work on trimming expenses or boosting your income so that you can increase that percentage over time.

4. Take the next step with your 401(k)

Two things, specifically. First, if your employer offers a 401(k) employer match but you aren’t taking full advantage of it, then sign up and start contributing enough to get the full match. That’s free money, y’all.

Second, if you have an old 401(k) or two (or however many) from a previous employer just chillin’ out there, think about rolling it over. You could roll it over into your new employer’s plan if they let you, or an IRA. Either way, it can be super helpful to get everything in one place. (PS: This isn’t as much of a process as it might seem. When you start a rollover with Ellevest, we’ll guide you through the steps.)

5. Prioritize your debt payments

Being in debt — credit cardsstudent loans, personal loans, etc — doesn’t feel good. But paying your debt off does. The fastest way to do it is to pay more than the minimum required payments if you can. That will also save you money because the longer you take to pay debt off, the more interest you’ll owe.

So if you have debt and can make extra payments, the next step is to figure out which debt you want to focus on first. There are two popular strategies: To start with the balance that has the highest interest rate, or to start with the balance that has the smallest outstanding balance. Here’s some more info on those two methods and how to put them into practice.

6. Set an emergency fund target

Financial emergencies are a fact of life. Cars need repairs. People (and pets) get sick. Phones and computers break. This is why building an emergency fund is a big part of getting your financial life in a stable place.

We typically recommend saving between three and six months’ worth of your take-home pay. (Here’s how to decide exactly how much is right for you.) That might sound like a lot, but it’s totally OK to start small and work your way up over time. But today, your goal is just to figure out how much you want to aim for. Maybe, if you don’t have high-interest debt, you even open an account and make your first deposit.

7. Start investing toward your goals

If you’ve finished the first six steps of this checklist — first of all, you’re crushing it. Keep the momentum going by starting to prioritize and invest toward your long-term money goals. Goals like ramping up your retirement contributions, or like buying a home or starting a business.

Financial self-care checklist complete. Now light an apple-scented candle, put some chili on the stove, and enjoy the fall vibes.

Are you ready to start investing in yourself? Start here!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

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Easy Steps To Invest Consistently

Investing consistently is the very best thing you can do for your future you. I get it the struggle is real! There are so many things vying for our attention that it’s easy to put things off or forget about them completely. Your future will be here before you know it. Believe me, I woke up & found myself at 49! How the hell did I get here so quickly?

Your future you will thank you for taking the time today to plan for tomorrow. What do you want to be or do when you grow up?

Do you want to:

  • Travel the world
  • Open a restaurant
  • Pay for your kids to go to college
  • Live your future life comfortably

If you answer yes to any of these things then you need to come up with a plan now rather than later.

MAKE IT A HABIT

Investing consistently, a bit out of every paycheck, is powerful. There’s the plain and simple fact that you’re building up your wealth, deposit by deposit. And if you put it on autopilot, there’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

There’s another reason why the practice of consistent investing has historically been good for investors. And it’s so compelling that it even has a name:

DOLLAR-COST AVERAGING

Boring term. But a BFD for your bottom line.

Dollar-cost averaging is investing a consistent dollar amount at regular intervals of time, no matter what’s going on in the market. Example: a $100 recurring deposit into your investment account every month.

Why Does It Matter?

Ellevest says investors want returns. And some investors, in an attempt to earn as much in returns as possible, make a grave mistake: attempting to “time the market.” They think they can guess what will happen next, and try to “buy low” and “sell high.”

Bad idea. No one — no one — knows what the markets will do tomorrow. Not us. Not that confident-sounding guy on TV. Not even the people who are paid to do it.

That means you’re inevitably going to feel it on days when the market goes down. Bummer, yes, but it’s not all dark and gloomy. Here’s why: When the market’s down, that $100 deposit will get you more shares of stock. (That’s why you might hear people say that the markets are “on sale.”)

Example

Say the market was humming along, then plummeted, and then started to come back up.

Here’s what would happen if you were to keep investing consistently the whole time:

And here’s what would happen if you were to keep your money in a bank account while the market was down and then invest what you’d saved once it started to come back up:

In the first example, while your investments did lose value temporarily, it worked out pretty well for you after the market rebounded. In the second example, you missed out.

Back to real life. By using dollar-cost averaging, you take your own emotions (aka an investor’s worst enemy) out of the equation. You get rid of the risky guesswork, make investing a solid habit, and give yourself the opportunity to grow your net worth steadily over time. Pretty compelling reasons to invest regularly, right?

Here’s a compelling reason why “regularly” should start … right now.

Are you ready to start investing in your future you? Ellevest can help!

*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.

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Clever Emergency Fund Solutions To Keep You From Becoming Homeless

Picture this: Your car blows up & your warranty is a thing of the past, you get sick and can’t even go to work much less pay the doctor, your employer folds up and files for bankruptcy or that baby you have been waiting for turns into three right before your very eyes.s What are you going to do?

Your stress level just shot through the roof, but this is life and nobody’s lane is bump-free. Hell, I’m not sure mine is even paved. It’s small things like this that can throw you off track quickly.

According to the Fed’s most recent survey40% of Americans would struggle to pay for an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money. So whether you think of it as an emergency fund, a rainy day account, a financial cushion, or an “uncertainty fund,” you need one.

HOW MUCH DO YOU REALLY NEED TO HAVE IN AN ‘EMERGENCY FUND’?

At Ellevest, we typically recommend that you set aside three to six months’ worth of your take-home pay for emergencies. That can feel like a really big number, especially if you’re starting from scratch … but it’s one of the most important things you can do with your money. Because imagine if you needed it and didn’t have it. (Ouch.)

We can almost hear you thinking it: Three to six months is kind of a range. How much do I really need? There are two things that come into play during that decision: how much uncertainty you might have to face and your personal comfort level.

The shakier your financial ground is, the more you need to have.

FOR EXAMPLE

if you freelance full-time as a single mom and own a fixer-upper, you’re probably going to want closer to six months’ (or more) of your salary saved up. (Also, you are a superhero and we bow down to your amazingness.) Or if you’ve been in a steady, salaried job for a while, share finances with someone (like a spouse), and have no dependents and no mortgage, three months is probably good for you. (Heck yeah. You’re killing it.)

But maybe you’re in a stable, salaried job and share finances with someone in a stable, salaried job — and yet, three months doesn’t feel like enough security for you. In that case, save more. These are just guidelines, so do what feels best for you. (Just don’t keep all your money in cash. That can really cost you)

Once you’ve decided on how much you need to have there are three things that can help you get there.

  1. Pay down high-interest-rate debt — anything more than 5% — before you get started. Waiting to pay that debt off can really cost you.
  2. Find a high-level budgeting guideline that’s flexible enough to work for your life. Like the 50/30/20 rule.
  3. Work your way up, and set mini-goals along the way. Maybe your first goal is $1,000, and then one month’s expenses, and then two, and then three.

WHERE SHOULD YOU KEEP YOUR EMERGENCY FUND?

Keep your emergency fund in cash in a bank account. Make sure that’s FDIC insured.

Ellevest’s Emergency Fund goal is held in FDIC cash, so that might be a good place. High-yield savings accounts are another option. We don’t recommend putting your emergency fund in a certificate of deposit (CD) or any other type of account that doesn’t let you make withdrawals whenever you want. Don’t risk it.

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE YOUR EMERGENCY FUND?

Definitely an emergency: Anything unexpected that you absolutely must pay for. Your water heater breaks. You have to travel to see a sick loved one.

Definitely not an emergency: Things you want but don’t really need, or things that you could save up for. Think last-minute vacation plans or your annual insurance premiums.

But there’s also a gray area, and that’s different for everyone — here’s Ellevest’s best advice to help you decide what is and isn’t an emergency for you.

Saving up three to six months’ take-home pay, in cash, for emergencies only, is one of the earliest steps you can make if you want to take control of your financial future. (Wondering about the others? We’ve got you. Here are smart money moves to make at every age.)

Are you ready to start investing in your future you? Ellevest can help!

*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.

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What Even Is Vesting?

 

If you’ve ever started a full-time job, heard the word “vesting schedule,” and nodded vaguely, you aren’t alone. “Vesting” is one of those terms people tend to drop without checking to make sure you know what it means — which is weird because it could have a big impact on your financial future.

What Even Is Vesting?

What is vesting?

If you’re given something that vests over time, you don’t actually own it right away. Instead, it gradually becomes yours, a little bit at a time. Two common examples are employer 401(k) matching contributions and employee stock options.

For example, let’s say your employer 401(k) match vests evenly over four years. What’s actually happening is that they’re putting their match into the same investments, but they’re kept in a separate bucket in your account. After one year, you’d actually only own 25% of the investments in that bucket. If you left your job at that point, you’d take that 25% with you, and they’d get to take the rest back. After two years, you’d own 50%. After three years, 75%, and after four years, it’d all be yours. (Of course, you don’t need to wait for your own contributions to vest. They’re already yours.)

The same thing could apply to any company stock options they granted you: You’d own (and be allowed to exercise) 25% of the options you were granted after one year, 50% after two years, and so on and so forth.

This helps your employer in two ways. First, it gives you a reason to stick around for a while. And if you don’t end up staying at the company for very long, then they would get some of their money back.

OK, so what’s a vesting schedule?

Your vesting schedule is the specific rundown of what you’ll get when. The “vesting evenly over four years” thing we mentioned above is a pretty common one, but there are tons of different ways your actual vesting schedule might be structured.

For one thing, vesting doesn’t have to happen evenly. For example, your assets might vest 25% after one year, 50% after two years, and 100% after three years. Or you could have a four-year vesting schedule with a one-year “cliff.” (A cliff is kind of like a delayed start and is more common with stock options than with 401(k) matching contributions.) In that example, you’d own 0% of your assets until one year later, at which point you’d own 25%. After that, the rest of your assets would vest gradually every month (or quarter, depending on your plan) over the next three years.

Some vesting schedules start from the day you get hired — they’d end four (or however many) years after your hire date, and any matching contributions or options you got after that would be 100% vested right away. Other vesting schedules start from the date you actually get each contribution or set of options — so anything you get this month would fully vest four (or however many) years from now, and anything you get next month would fully vest four years from next month. Typically, that kind of “rolling” vesting schedule would just keep on rolling.

If you aren’t sure about your own vesting schedule, ask your HR team to give you the inside scoop. They should definitely be able to tell you more.

What does vesting mean for me?

If you have stock options or a 401(k) match on a vesting schedule, you’ll need to think about when you plan to leave the company. If you’re planning to stick around for a while, then you probably don’t need to worry about your vesting schedule too much.

But if you might want to leave your job before your vesting schedule is up, the decision can definitely affect your bottom line. This is particularly true with 401(k) matching contributions, which are very real money you’d be sacrificing.

We’re never going to tell you to stay in a bad job — your mental health and career trajectory could easily be more important than the impact of leaving unvested assets on the table. But if your job is OK, and you think you can make it to the end of your vesting schedule, it might be worth staying put.

If you have unvested stock options, then you wouldn’t be sacrificing “real money” if you left your job — you’d be sacrificing the possibility of money in the future. In that case, ask yourself a few questions to help you think through the range of possible outcomes:

  • Will there be actual company stock to buy by the time your options vest?
    • If your company is publicly owned, aka already has stock in the market, then the answer is pretty much yes.
    • If your company is about to go public (IPO), that process will probably be finished by the time your options vest. So, yes.
    • If you’re at a private company that isn’t planning either of those things, maybe not. In that case, if you want to leave, your unvested options probably don’t need to carry much weight in your decision.
  • If yes, how much do you think the company’s stock will be worth by the time your options vest? This is key. If you think the stock will be worth more than your options’ strike price — meaning you’ll make money if you exercise the options, aka buy the stock — then it might be worth sticking around at your current job until your options vest.

(Btw, if you do end up staying and waiting for your options to vest, we definitely recommend chatting through the decision on whether to exercise them with a financial planner and a tax pro.)

And just like that, another previously-intimidating money term is checked off the list. Boom.

*This post contains an affiliate link. If you decide to invest with Ellevest I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect you.

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You Need To Start Investing ASAP & Here’s Why

Have you come up with excuses why you’re not investing right this minute?

Excuses like these:

  1. It will be easier once I get that raise.
  2. I just don’t have time.
  3. It’s overwhelming to think about learning to invest properly.
  4. Money just makes me squeamish.

Believe me, I used all of these excuses and even more. I have avoided money conversations my whole life, but at 49 I realize that I am only hurting myself. If I had started younger I’d be much better off when I get older. Still starting is much better than not… at any age.

WE LOSE MONEY EVERY SINGLE DAY WHEN WE DON’T INVEST

It’s easy to put investing off. But every single day you wait could cost you about $100. Yes … a Benjamin according to Ellevest. Click To Tweet

Give Ellevest a try!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

 

 

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How To Completely Change How You Feel About Dealing With Money & Ditch The Overwhelm

When I was growing up talking about money was a definite “no”. My parents never discussed things like pay vs. bills, money issues or even how to manage a checking account. So it’s no wonder that today when thinking about money I start to get anxious immediately.

My stomach starts hurting, I can feel my heart beating faster and I want to run far, far away. Even as a business owner dealing with the financial aspects like paying bills, investing in my business or even sending out invoices stresses me out.

I’m tired of feeling like this and I just bet that I’m not alone. Do you feel anxious or stressed when you think of your finances? My biggest fear is becoming homeless even though it’s basically happened twice & we’ve survived both times. I have nightmares of living in a cardboard box, under a freeway bridge searching garbage cans for scraps of thrown out food.

This year, I’ve decided to put myself smack in the middle of that ‘uncomfortable’ feeling and find ways to be able to gain that financial freedom, ditch the nightmares, pull up my big girl panties and put a stop to those overwhelming feeling.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Ellevest who specializes in investing for women. Here is what they say about the ‘overwhelm of money’:

That kind of feeling comes in a lot of different flavors. For some of us, the words “money” and “someday” always go together — it just never seems to be the right time to think about it. Some of us give a hard pass to the thought of making a budget. Some of us have made a few mistakes along the way that we’re scared to face. And some of us just feel lost and overwhelmed about knowing where to start.

So that’s us. If it sounds like you, here’s something good to fight the bad. Those feelings are valid. And they also don’t have to be permanent. You’re not alone. And no matter where you start, there are always things you can do to move forward.

Six Steps To Overcoming Financial Stress

You might think that sitting down to organize your money will be overwhelming and generally unpleasant, but we’re willing to bet that it’ll actually make you feel more in control. All you have to do is do the damn thing.

But you don’t have to go into this process blind. Here’s a checklist of steps you can take (and some deeper advice on each one, too). We recommend starting at the top and working your way down, one at a time, at a pace that works for you.

  1. Give your brain a boost. Picture a future where you’ve already done the thing. You don’t magically have a ridiculous pile of cash — but you’ve taken the time to think about your goal, you’ve thought about tradeoffs along the way, and you’ve mapped out the steps you’ll take. Sometimes projecting that feeling of accomplishment before you do anything else can get you from “bad feeling” to “hey … I can do this.”
  2. Look at your current spending habits. Use them to make a high-level spending plan for the future. Here is a great how-to
  3. Join your employers 401k plan. Here is why they are so important.
  4. Pay off your highest-interest debt first. It’s costing you a lot so getting rid of that is a huge money-saver. Here are a couple of approaches that can work.
  5. Set a goal for an emergency fund. Work on building it up so you don’t have to play that dreaded ‘what-if’ game any longer. This can help.
  6. Make a plan to invest for your goals. That might include retirement, buy a house someday, have kids, starting your own business, or just growing your net worth.

Some Ideas To Make It All Easier

Break It Down

If that list above looks like a mountain, just break it down into smaller more doable bits. Something like this:

GOAL

  • Look at your current spending habits and use the 50/30/20 rule to make a future spending plan.
  • Log in to your bank account and download your most recent account statement.
  • Make three “buckets”: Needs, Fun, and Future You. Categorize each purchase from your bank statement into one of these buckets, and then add them up. This is how your spending looks today.
  • Look at your most recent paystub. What’s the final amount of the check? That’s your take-home pay. Multiply that by the number of paychecks you get each month to find your monthly take-home pay.
  • Calculate 50% of that number (for needs), 30% of that number (for fun), and 20% of that number (for Future You).
  • Look at your current spending habits and see whether you can make adjustments so that you’re spending within those buckets. If it isn’t doable, adjust the buckets’ percentages until they work for your real life.
  • Aim to stay inside your buckets next month. Then, next month, see if you can tweak things to get them closer to that 50/30/20 ratio — and then plan to keep adjusting on the reg.

Once you have your little bitty steps, you can start with just the first one. Or maybe you do three little bitty steps at a time. Or you go until you really want to stop, and then you take a break.

This can really help you build momentum — and it can also help you avoid that big overwhelmed feeling by focusing on one small thing at a time.

SCHEDULE A FUN THING LATER

If money stuff has a history of making you feel bad, try this trick: doing it right before doing something you know will make you feel good. Like drinks with friends. Or your favorite workout class. Or curling up with a good book. (Sure, it’s a little Pavlovian, but hey, mood boosters are mood boosters.) if you have something to look forward to after you do The Big Thing, you might be more motivated to keep going as you work through it.

LET GO OF ‘HAVE-TO’

“Ugh, I really do have to sit down and deal with my money this weekend” probably isn’t a mindset that’s doing you any favors. Neither is “I have GOT to stop spending so much” or “Wow, I have to stop being such a hot mess with my money.” You wouldn’t try to motivate your best friend that way, would you?

Switching off the “I must do this” mindset — which can feel unforgiving and judgmental, and who needs more self-criticism? The magic is trying to shift it to something more positive. Maybe a “This is a thing I’m doing for myself” mindset. Or a “Hey maybe I can’t get a raise tomorrow but I can do this” mindset. Or an “” mindset. Or whatever mantra works for you.

THINK OF IT AS SELF-CARE

The idea behind today’s self-care movement is to protect your mental health so that you can bring our best self to your everyday life. The stress will disappear, your self-esteem will get a huge boost & you’ll feel better about today & tomorrow.

But here’s the thing:

While money is people’s number 1 reason for stress , the act of saving and investing are the biggest boost of women’s confidence when it comes to building the future we want. So if finally dealing with the money stuff is going to improve your mental health — by helping to knock out all that stress and guilt and anxiety about money, and helping you feel good about tomorrow — then doesn’t that count as self-care too? (Note: This is also extremely compatible with candles and wine. Just sayin’.)

Bankrate.com has written a great piece on the benefits of paying off debt and you can find it here.

Are you ready to ditch the overwhelm & prepare for the future you want to have?

Give Ellevest a try!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

 

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