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How to improve your credit score in 4 systems

Improving your credit score is potentially worth nearly $100,000.

Consider two people:

  • Abby, who has great credit (760)
  • Derek, who has poor credit (620)

In their 30s, they decide to buy houses of similar prices. How much do you think they each pay?

Spoiler alert: Not the same amount.

Check out the graph below:

Improve your credit score - credit scores
Source: Data calculated in June 2017.

Because Derek has poor credit, he’ll end up paying nearly $68,000 more in interest than Abby — whose credit is awesome.

Don’t be like Derek. Instead, be like my readers who improved their credit scores by listening to some Indian dude online:

Improve your credit score - Tweet

Improving your credit score can seem like an incredibly daunting task — but it’s actually pretty straightforward as long as you have the right systems in place.

And in a world where nearly 110 million Americans have NEVER even checked their credit score, making sure you have a good one will put you ahead of the curve when it comes to things like attaining a home mortgage, refinancing your student loans, buying a car, or even renting an apartment.

It’s also an incredibly easy way to get started on earning a Big Win. That’s because credit has a far greater impact on our finances than saving a few dollars a day on a cup of coffee.

Luckily, we have the exact systems to help you get started improving your credit score. They are:

To understand why these systems work, you need to first know how your credit score works.

(If you already know how credit scores work, click here to jump down to the systems.)

Before you improve your credit score…

There are two main components to credit history:

  1. Credit report. This is an all-inclusive report that potential lenders (i.e. people considering lending you money for things like cars and homes) use to gain basic information about you, your accounts, and your payment history. This report tracks all credit-related activities, although recent activities are given a higher weight.
  2. Credit score. This is often called your FICO score because it was created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. It’s a single number between 300 and 850 that represents your risk to lenders. Think of it like the SparkNotes of your credit history. The lenders look at this number along with other pieces of information such as your salary and age to decide if they’ll lend you money for credit like a credit card, mortgage, or car loan. They’ll charge you more or less for the loan depending on the score, which signifies how risky you are.

And while your credit score and credit report are two entirely different things, your score comes from the information in your report.

The actual number is determined by the following information and their associated weight in relation to your score (credit score formula courtesy of Wells Fargo):

What your credit score is based on:

  • 35% payment history. How reliable you are. Late payments hurt you.
  • 30% amounts owed. How much you owe and how much credit you have available, or your “credit utilization rate.”
  • 15% length of history. How long you’ve had credit. Older accounts are better because they show you’re reliable.
  • 10% how many types of credit. If you have more lines of credit open, the better your score will be.  
  • 10% account inquiries. How many times you have or a lender has checked your credit background.

What your credit report includes:

  • Basic identification information.
  • A list of your credit accounts.
  • Your credit history (whom you’ve paid, how consistently you paid, and any late payments).
  • Amount of loans.
  • Credit inquiries or who else has requested your credit information (e.g., other lenders).

Think of yourself as a football team. The credit report is all the plays you run and the credit score is the cumulation of all the goal point units you score in the game match…

I’m such a HUGE fan of football. Can’t you tell?

“My credit score is XXX. What’s that mean?”

Your credit score will be within a range of 300 and 850. The range determines whether or not your score is solid — but a good rule of thumb is the higher your credit score, the better you’re off.

Below are a few ranges from Experian and what they may mean for you.

  • 850 – 800: This is a fantastic spot to be with your credit score. If you’re here, you’ll have no problem securing a loan or a good down payment percentage on your home.
  • 799 – 740: Though not the top spot, this is still a very good area to be. You’ll be offered great rates here.
  • 739 – 670: This is an okay credit score range — though not great. Focus on closing unused accounts and consolidating loans to move this number up.
  • 669 – 580: This is when you should start worrying. If your credit score is here, you’re considered a “subprime” borrower and won’t get very good rates. Reduce your debt load and work on your payment history in this band.
  • 579 – 300: Here you’re likely not to be considered for a loan at all and will run into numerous issues with things like getting approved for apartments. You should find a non-profit credit counselor and ask for help.

It’s ridiculously easy to check your credit score. It’s so easy, I want you to do it right now.

Seriously. Checking your credit score is incredibly simple. I suggest starting at Credit Karma or Mint.

Once you have the number in front of you, it’s time to take some steps to improve your credit score.

How to improve your credit score

You don’t need to become a credit weirdo like me and read 50 books on credit optimization to raise your credit score. You can actually ignore most advice and simply do a few, key things to dramatically improve your score.

In fact, there are four major tips that will have the biggest impact in improving your credit score.

  • Improve your credit score tip #1: Get out of debt fast
  • Improve your credit score tip #2: Automate your credit card payments
  • Improve your credit score tip #3: Keep your accounts open — and put a recurring charge on them
  • Improve your credit score tip #4: Get more credit — but only if you have no debt

A while back, I asked my readers how they improved their credit scores. Their answers revealed that improving your credit score isn’t rocket science. It’s about being disciplined and having some no-nonsense financial systems in place.

I’ve included some of the best answers in here to show you that it is possible to improve your credit score and to give you insight into how you can do it yourself.

Improve your credit score tip #1: Get out of debt fast

Tweet - Improve your credit score

Too many people think that since they have debt, they should game the system and play the 0% balance transfer game, switching balances from card to card to save a few percentage points on debt interest.

Yeah!! Let’s stick it to the man!

What I’ve found is that they spend more time transferring balances from card to card instead of actually paying their debt off. That’s ridiculous, especially when you consider that 30% of your credit score is calculated based on how much you owe.

Instead, I want you to pay down that debt using my five-step method. I’ve written about this system before in my post about how to get out of debt, but I’ll give you a breakdown on the exact same system that’s helped thousands of readers finally escape their debt.

Here’s a brief overview:

  • Step 1: Find the exact amount you owe.

    You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh. Of course you should know how much debt you have,” but it’s actually wayyy harder than you think.

    In fact, a study found that many don’t actually know how much debt they owe. It makes complete sense too. Humans are sensitive creatures who would rather run from their problems than tackle them head-on.

    However, this just leads to you blindly paying the minimum payment instead of actually owning your debt. Only then can you start a good strategy to get rid of it.

  • Step 2: Decide what to pay off first.

    Not all debt is created equal. You might have debt across several cards, each with their own balance and interest rate.

    There are typically two schools of thought when it comes to credit card debt: Pay off the highest interest rate first, or pay off the lowest balance first.

    In the standard method, you pay off the card with the highest APR since it’s costing you the most. The minimum leaves you saddled with more debt. Even $20/month more helps save you a lot of money.

    In the alternative method, you’re paying off the lowest balance first while paying the minimum on your other credit cards. This is also known as the Snowball method and was popularized by Dave Ramsey. While it isn’t technically the most efficient method, it’s enormously rewarding on a psychological level to see a credit card paid off.

    Bottom line: Don’t spend more than five minutes deciding. Just pick a method and do it.

  • Step 3: Don’t be tempted.

    If you want to get rid of your debt for good, you can’t keep adding to it. That’s why you need to stop yourself from taking on more, at least until you’ve gotten rid of your existing debt.

    So do yourself a favor and get rid of your credit cards (at least until you’re out of debt). Give them to a friend or a family member to hold on to. If you have a safety deposit box, put them in there for a while. Some people have literally frozen their cards in a block of ice so they have to wait a few hours before using them. Anything works as long as your cards are out of sight and out of mind.  

  • Step 4: Negotiate a lower interest rate.

    Did you know that you can actually save over $1,000 in a single phone call with your credit card company? Using simple negotiation systems, you can lower your credit card’s APR and put that money back in your pocket. For the exact scripts that you can use during your negotiations, be sure to check out my full article on eliminating debt.

  • Step 5: Decide how you’re going to pay your debt.

    There are a number of ways you can approach this. You can use the money you got from step four and put it towards chipping away at what you owe. You can also tap into hidden income to free up some money. If you’re really enterprising, though, you can start EARNING more money — I’ll explain that in a little bit.

    A while back, I created a video all about negotiating your debt. Don’t be thrown off by how I filmed it using a potato. The advice can still help you expertly negotiate with credit card companies.

    And if you are in debt, one system that can help you tackle it is through automating your finances.

    Improve your credit score tip #2: Automate your credit card payments

    Improve your credit score - Tweet

    35% of your score (the biggest portion) reflects your payment history, so even missing one payment can cause your credit score to drop 100 points, jack your APR up 30%, add $200+/month to your monthly mortgage payment (insane, I know), and more.

    By setting up automatic payment using my IWT system, you won’t have to worry about manually paying your bills each month or accidentally forgetting a payment and getting slapped with a huge penalty.

    The best part? Once you automate your personal finances, you’ll automatically invest, save money, and pay off all your bills at the beginning of the month — not just your credit card statement!

    Improve your credit score - Automating finances

    For more information on how to automate your finances, check out my 12-minute video where I go through the exact process with you. (Try not to be too impressed with my awesome whiteboard art.)

    You should ideally be paying off your entire credit card balance each month, but if you can’t, you can still improve your score by paying at least the minimums, on time, every month.

    Improve your credit score tip #3: Keep your accounts open — and put a recurring charge on them

    Improve your credit score - Tweet

    So many times, when people get motivated to “do something” about their credit cards, the first thing they do is close all the cards they haven’t used in a long time.

    Sounds logical: Let’s clean out the old cobwebs in our wallet!

    In reality, this is a bad idea: 15% of your credit score reflects the length of your credit history, so if you wipe out old cards, you’re erasing that history.

    Plus, you’re also lowering your “credit utilization rate,” which basically means (how much you owe) / (total credit available).

    For nerdy people (aka half my readers), here’s the math of your credit utilization score — plus a little-known caveat:

    “If you close an account but pay off enough debt to keep your credit utilization score the same,” says Craig Watts of FICO, “your score won’t be affected.” (Most people don’t know this.)

    For example, if you carry $1,000 debt across two credit cards with $2,500 credit limits each, your credit utilization rate is 20% ($1,000 debt / $5,000 total credit available).

    If you close one of the cards, suddenly your credit utilization rate jumps to 40% ($1,000 / $2,500). But if you paid off $500 in debt, your utilization rate would be 20% ($500 / $2,500) and your score would not change.

    A lower credit utilization rate is preferred because lenders don’t want you regularly spending all the money you have available through credit — it’s too likely that you’ll default and not pay them anything.

    NOTE: If you’re applying for a major loan — for a car, home, or education — don’t close any accounts within six months of filing the loan application. You want as much credit as possible when you apply. However, if you know that an open account will entice you to spend, and you want to close your credit card to prevent that, you should do it. You may take a slight hit on your credit score, but over time, it will recover— and that’s better than overspending.

    Bottom line? Even if you don’t use a card, keep it open. Put a small charge on it — say, $5/month — and automate it each month. This way, you ensure your card is active and maintains your credit history.

    Improve your credit score tip #4: Get more credit — but only if you have no debt

    Improve your credit score- Tweet

    I cannot stress this enough: This system is only for financially responsible people. That means you have zero debt and you pay your bills in full each month. It’s not for anyone else.

    That’s because this system involves getting more credit to improve your credit utilization rate. This falls in the same 30% bucket as your debt does when it comes to your credit score.

    To improve your credit utilization rate you have two options: Stop carrying so much debt on your credit cards (we covered that above) or increase your total available credit. Since you should already be debt-free, all that remains for you to do is to increase your available credit.

    Here’s a great script you can use when you call your credit card company:

    YOU: Hi, I’d like to increase my credit. I currently have $5,000 available and I’d like $10,000.

    CC REP: Why are you requesting a credit increase?

    YOU: I’ve been paying my bill in full for the last 18 months and I have some upcoming purchases. I’d like a credit limit of $10,000. Can you approve my request?

    CC REP: Sure. I’ve put in a request for this increase. It should be activated in about seven days.

    I request a credit-limit increase every six to 12 months because it’s such an easy win. I suggest you do the same.

    Remember: 30% of your credit score is represented by your credit utilization rate. To improve it, the first thing you need to do is get debt-free. Once that’s done, THEN increase your credit.  

    Improve your credit score = Big Win

    Take the time to start improving your credit score using the four systems outlined above — and to help you even more, I’d like to offer you something: The first chapter of my New York Times bestseller I Will Teach You to be Rich.

    It’ll help you tap into even more perks, max out your rewards, and beat the credit card companies at their own game.

    I want you to have the tools and word-for-word scripts to fight back against the huge credit card companies. To download it free now, enter your name and email below.

    How to improve your credit score in 4 systems is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Source:

There were over 12,000 poison control calls for people eating laundry pods last year

Tide Pods are the Internet’s breakout meme of early 2018. For those of you not in the know, the joke is that brightly colored laundry detergent pods look like delicious fruity candy so maybe we should, you know, eat them.

To be clear, you should not eat them.

“You’re really taking a chance — and to what end?” Alfred Aleguas of the Florida Poison Information Center told The Washington Post earlier this month. “It’s pretty foolish behavior.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned that “a meme should not become a family tragedy.” Tide partnered with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to issue a PSA.

But Tide Pods are not exactly a breaking public health emergency. In fact, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), which compiles up-to-the-minute numbers on poison control calls, shows that detergent pod poisonings are actually trending downward.

In 2017, there were 12,299 calls to U.S. poison control centers due to exposure to laundry pods, according to AAPCC’s latest data. That number is actually down by about 14 percent since 2015, when there were over 14,000 calls. The organization didn’t start tracking pod poisoning separately until 2012, when Tide Pods first came out.

A couple things to keep in mind. First, while 12,000 poison control calls sounds like a lot, it’s well within the range of calls for a lot of other common household products. In 2016, for instance, there were over 20,000 calls related to hand sanitizers, 17,000 for toothpaste exposure, 16,000 for deodorants and 13,000 for mouthwash.

As is the case for laundry pods, the overwhelming majority of calls for these products were due to kids age 5 and under. As any parent of toddlers knows, if a 3-year-old can grab something and put it in his mouth, he’s gonna grab it and put it in his mouth.

Second, not every call represents an actual ingestion of a laundry pod. A parent may call poison control because they suspect their kid ate something harmful but aren’t really sure, for instance. That call still gets logged in the database.

Notably, of the 13,000-plus laundry pod calls in 2016, only about 5,000 resulted in someone requiring treatment in a medical facility. And only about 700 of those resulted in a “moderate” or “major” risk to the individual’s health.

That’s still more sick kids than anyone wants to see, of course. But in a country where you’ve got 20 million kids under the age of 5 living in households full of bright, colorful, nonedible products, it’s to be expected.

Finally, as I noted above, laundry pod exposures are actually trending downward. That could be a sign that as consumers become more familiar with the product, they’re getting smarter about keeping it away from their kids.

This year could bring fresh new detergent horrors, of course. But as The Post’s Lindsey Bever points out, before teens were doing the Tide Pod challenge they were chugging milk by the gallon, eating heaping spoonfuls of cinnamon, lighting themselves on fire and throwing boiling water at each other.

The Republic survived each of these crises. It will probably survive Tide Pods too.

AAPCC reminds you that if you think your child has ingested laundry pods, diaper cream, mouthwash or deodorant, you can call the national poison help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone. Source:

Why 7-11, inventor of the Slurpee, is now all about cold-pressed organic juice

Store manager Bihari Sheth stocks items at the Deli Market inside a 7-Eleven store in Des Plaines, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Like thousands of U.S. convenience stores, the 7-11 off Spring Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., crams three rows of snacks between a wall of chilled sodas and a bank of churning Slurpee machines.

But starting this month, 7-11 will also begin selling cold-pressed juice. It’s organic, vegan, fair trade, non-GMO, gluten-free — and designed to appeal to an entirely new type of convenience-store consumer.

Analysts say the launch is a tiny part of a major trend sweeping truck stops, corner stores and mini-marts from coast to coast. As sales of gas, cigarettes and soda plummet, many stores are vying for consumers with fresh produce and other “better-for-you” products that would have once looked out of place in the land of Big Gulps.

That could make a difference in the diets of millions, experts say, especially those who rely on convenience stores as a primary source of food.

“There is a convenience store in every community in America,” said Amaris Bradley, the director of partnerships at the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, which has worked with stores to offer more nutritious items. “If you can transform that industry, you can make healthy options more accessible for a lot of people.”

Already, convenience stores have begun to change how they do business, said Jeff Lenard, who heads strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores. Nearly half of all convenience stores expanded their fruit and vegetable offerings in 2017, according to a NACS survey, and thousands more introduced yogurt, health bars, string cheese, packaged salads and hard-boiled eggs.

At 7-11, the world’s largest convenience store chain, with 10,500 U.S. locations, the company has aggressively developed “better-for-you” products under the Go!Smart banner, pushing low-sugar herbal teas, fruit-and-nut bars and rice crackers.

At Kwik Trip, the Midwestern chain seen by many in the industry as the leader of the healthy stores movement,  executives hired an in-house dietitian, Erica Flint, to help introduce new products and reformulate old ones.

Each of the company’s 586 stores now stocks fresh fruit and vegetables, from avocados, potatoes and mushrooms to “snack packs” of grape tomatoes. Over the past four years, the chain has also gradually begun introducing healthier items like an egg white breakfast sandwich and reduced the sodium in its soups.

“As the generations change, what consumers are looking for changes as well,” Flint said. “Different consumers are looking for different things, and we’re trying to provide options for all of them.”

Convenience stores also face a collapse of the industry’s top-selling items — cigarettes, soda and gas — said Frank Beard, an analyst for GasBuddy, an app and data service for convenience stores. Soda and cigarette sales have been down for years, he points out, and the margins on gas are low.

“Food sales are an opportunity for them,” Beard said. “It’s a perfect storm of factors.”

This isn’t to say, of course, that convenience stores don’t still sell junk. Before Beard worked in the industry, he spent 30 days eating only gas station food as an Internet stunt. Customers must often navigate a maze of chips and sodas, he acknowledged, to reach the raw almonds and bottled water. Healthy foods typically don’t replace unhealthy ones on shelves — they simply move them over.

And while chain stores have leveraged their size and distribution networks to source healthy items, many independent stores have struggled to change their stocks, Lenard said.

When a team of researchers from the University of Illinois tallied the foods available at 127 stores in underserved areas in 2015, they found the stores stocked 1.8 fresh fruit options, on average, and 2.9 fresh vegetables. Only 12 percent offered whole-wheat bread or low-fat dairy products.

“We’ve seen that smaller, independent stores have a much harder time picking up on this trend,” said Melissa Laska, the director of the Public Health Nutrition program at the University of Minnesota. “They don’t have access to the distribution chains that other stores have, and that creates challenges.”

Despite those challenges, Laska and other public health advocates continue to push for change in convenience stores. They’re a prime target because they’re everywhere: 93 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 minutes of one, according to NACS figures.

Convenience stores are often one of the only food sources in low-income areas, where people may rely on them for groceries in between big trips or drop by regularly for snacks. Research has not strongly demonstrated that healthier convenience stores lead directly to healthier diets — but they are a necessary prerequisite.

“People can’t purchase healthier foods if they aren’t available,” Laska said. “So this is the first step — but only the first step. Other things need to happen to change the wider food system.”

For Lenard, those next steps will necessarily involve getting more produce and other perishable foods to smaller stores that can’t buy in bulk. The industry is working on a number of possible solutions, including cooperative buying arrangements and direct sales from farms.

Already, they say, there are positive signs. In the past year and a half, four of the country’s largest convenience store distributors have committed to initiatives with Partnership for a Healthier America, which is allied with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! project. With PHA, the companies have promised to make it easier for convenience stores to source produce and other healthy foods — and to market those products.

Collectively, PHA estimates, the four distributors reach 130,000 convenience stores.

“Some stores may be slower to adapt,” said Beard, the analyst. “But there’s no question that everyone is going to follow.”

Read more:

The one piece of Michelle Obama’s legacy that President Trump can’t wreck

Why Wawa won’t let food stamp recipients buy a sandwich on toasted bread

It’s a nightmare for grocery stores, but it might make your groceries cheaper Source:

State of Social 2018 Report: Your Guide to Latest Social Media Marketing Research [New Data]

What’s in store for the social media industry in 2018?

The way consumers use social media channels is constantly evolving and as marketers and entrepreneurs, we need to adapt to these changes.

To better understand these changes, plus what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond we teamed up with Social Media Week to collect data from over 1,700 marketers and create the State of Social Media 2018 report. The report shows us how marketers, from businesses of all sizes, are approaching social media marketing.

Ready to jump in?

A handy guide to navigating what’s coming up next in the social media world.

3 Key social media takeaways to guide your marketing in 2018

1. There are huge opportunities in the messaging space (only 20 percent of marketers have used messaging apps for marketing)

Messaging platforms have grown at an incredible rate over the last couple of years. And there are now more people using the top four social messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) than the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn)1Business Insider, 2017.

Despite this incredible growth, our State of Social 2018 survey found that just 20 percent of businesses have invested in marketing through messenger platforms:

After seeing such high user growth for the past few years, companies like Facebook will begin to focus on how they can monetize chat apps which will open up new advertising opportunities for marketers.

Right now, marketers still appear to be investing more time and resources into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but as organic reach continues to decline (more on this below), we’ll see a greater number of marketers experiment with messaging apps as a way to connect with their audience.

2. Companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business

When we asked respondents how effective social media marketing has been for their business 45 percent said “somewhat effective” and a further 29 percent believed that social media marketing had been “very effective”.

However, when we split these results based on whether or not the respondents had invested in ads, we found that businesses that have invested in social media ads are more than twice as likely to report that social media marketing is “very effective”.

Whereas businesses that have not invested in ads are more than twice as likely to report that the effectiveness of social media marketing for their business is “uncertain” or “very ineffective”.

3. Engagement is the #1 way to measure ROI from social media advertising

When we asked respondents how they measure the ROI of their social media advertising campaigns, 42 percent said ROI, followed by leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent):

When we broke down the data by business size, engagement was still the #1 way both small and large businesses measure ROI from social media advertising:

This appears to be the continuation of a trend we noted in 2017, where social media is becoming more about engagement than driving traffic or making direct sales.

State of Social 2018: The full report

About the State of Social Media survey and data

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers (1,796 to be precise) from businesses of all sizes. You can view a more detailed breakdown on the data at the bottom of this post.

How marketers are using social media platforms: 7 insights you need to know

1. Facebook is still the leading platform for marketers (96 percent of businesses use Facebook)

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers with 96 percent saying their business is actively using it. Twitter was close behind with 89 percent of respondents saying they use the platform for their business.

2. Facebook organic reach continues to decline (only 21 percent of respondents haven’t noticed a decline in the past 12 months)

Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm and it appears that organic reach has once again declined over the past 12 months with just 21 percent of people “disagreeing” or “strongly disagreeing” with the below statement:

3. Video is a top priority for 2018 (85 percent of businesses would like to create more video content)

Video has been booming across social channels for the past couple of years and 85 percent of businesses are keen to create more video in 2018:

When we asked what’s currently holding businesses back from creating more video content lack of time and budget were the two main blockers:

4. Facebook is dominating the paid advertising space (94 percent of marketers have used Facebook Ads)

Facebook is the most popular platform for paid ads (94 percent), followed by Instagram (44 percent), with LinkedIn and Twitter tied in third place (26 percent):

Looking ahead, 67 percent of businesses are looking to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018:

5. Images are the most shared type of content (95 percent of businesses post images to social channels)

Ninty-five percent of respondents said their business posts images, with links (85 percent) being the second most shared content type:

6. The rise of stories (68 percent of marketers are planning on creating more stories in 2018)

Last year, only 29 percent of State of Social respondents had created stories on Instagram or Snapchat. This year 42 percent have created stories on Instagram (just 11 percent had created stories on Snapchat):

Further to this, 68 percent of respondents plan to create more stories content in 2018:

7. Live video hasn’t yet caught on (only 31 percent of marketers have broadcast live video)

In our last State of Social report, 26 percent of marketers said they had created live video content. In 2017, 31 percent of marketers said they had broadcast live content—just a 5 percent increase:

For those who have created live video, Facebook was the number one platform of choice, ahead of Instagram and Periscope (Twitter):

Live video could still present a huge opportunity in 2018, though. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, recently revealed that live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. This could be especially valuable for Page owners as Facebook is making changes to their News Feed algorithm to give people more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Check out the full State of Social 2018 report below

The data: Who took part in the survey?

For this report, we surveyed over 1,700 marketers from businesses of all sizes. The majority of respondents work at companies who focus on both B2B and B2C customers (43 percent), while 33 percent work at purely B2B companies and 25 percent at B2C companies. 49 percent of our respondents work at businesses with 1-10 employees. At the other end of the scale, 7 percent of respondents work at companies with over 200 employees.

Company size

Just under half (49 percent) of the people who took our survey work at companies with fewer than 10 full-time staff. A further 21 percent work at companies with between 11-50 full-time team members. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • 49 percent: Fewer than 10 people
  • 13 percent: 11-25 people
  • 8 percent: 26-50 people
  • 8 percent: 1,001+ people
  • 7 percent: 51-100 people
  • 6 percent: 101-200 people
  • 5 percent: 201-500 people
  • 4 percent: 501-1,000 people

Marketing team size

The majority of respondents in our survey work closely with a small number of colleagues in their marketing teams or act as the sole marketer at their company:

  • 41 percent of respondents were the only marketer at their company
  • 38 percent of people worked in marketing teams of between 2-5 colleagues
  • 11 percent of people work in marketing teams larger than 11 people
  • 9 percent of people work in marketing teams of between 6-10

Industry breakdown

Twenty-three percent of those who took the survey work at organizations in the marketing, PR, and advertising space. Other industries include: Media and Publishing (11 percent); Non-Profit (10 percent); Education (8 percent);  Consumer Products (8 percent); IT & Services (6 percent);  Software (5 percent); E-commerce (3 percent); Medical & Healthcare (3 percent); Financial (3 percent); Travel & Tourism (2 percent); Financial Services (2 percent); Government (2 percent); Law & Legal Services (1 percent); Other (15 percent).

⬆ Back to the top.

Over to you

Thanks so much for checking out our State of Social 2018 report. We hope you enjoyed the data and discovered some useful takeaways for your business.

P.S. We’ve made the data open and available to anyone in this Google Sheet (feel free to make a copy and interrogate in any way you’d like – we’d love to hear what you might find). You can also download a copy of all the State of Social 2018 charts here.

Feature image via Jaelynn Castillo. Source:

We have a responsibility’: CVS vows to stop altering beauty images in its stores, ads

CVS Health announced Jan. 15 that it would no longer use digitally manipulated photographs of models to market its own brand of beauty products. (Reuters)

CVS Pharmacy announced Monday that it will begin alerting customers when beauty images used in marketing campaigns or on social media have been digitally altered, and vowed to end touch ups of its beauty images by the end of 2020.

The Rhode-Island based company will launch the “CVS Beauty Mark,” a watermark that will begin appearing this year on beauty images that have not been materially altered — meaning the person featured in the image did not have their shape, size, skin or eye color, wrinkles or other characteristics enhanced or changed. CVS plans to work with key brand partners and industry experts to create specific guidelines that ensure transparency, the company said in a statement.

The move comes as more companies promote body authenticity and embrace the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Seattle-based Getty Images in the fall announced that it would no longer carry creative content depicting models whose body shapes had been retouched to make them look thinner or larger. In 2016, the toy company Mattel introduced a new line of Barbie dolls with three new body types — Petite, Tall and Curvy — to change the beauty ideals girls are exposed to from a young age.

Dove for more than a decade has encouraged women to love their bodies, though the company appeared to miss the mark last year with a gender-empowering stunt that went awry: Its release of curvy, slender and pear-shaped bottles designed to represent different body types.

Some companies’ efforts to promote authentic beauty ideals get lost in a world still saturated with confusing messages. In 2016, when American Eagle’s lingerie and loungewear company, Aerie, released photos of its new plus-size spokeswoman in a pink string bikini, the Internet applauded it as an empowering symbol of authentic body image. But when singer Selena Gomez wore a similar bikini the year before, she was shamed online for gaining weight and admitted to needing therapy afterward.

Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president of CVS Health, said she hopes the company’s initiative will help move the conversation about body image in a more positive direction.

“As a woman, mother and president of a retail business whose customers predominantly are women, I realize we have a responsibility to think about the messages we send to the customers we reach each day,” she said in the company’s statement.

“The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established,” she said. “As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

CVS, which has more than 9,700 locations, previously made headlines in 2014 when it became the first national pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Read more: 

Smoking penalties, ER fees, premiums on the poor: How states want to shrink Medicaid

Why coming up with a drug for Alzheimer’s is so devilishly hard Source:

How to get out of debt (without gimmicks or games)

As part of back to basics month, let’s use today to explore how you can get out of debt without gimmicks or games.

How to get out of debt without gimmicks or games

After twelve years of reading and writing about money, I’ve come to believe that debt reduction ought to be a side effect and not a goal. Getting out of debt is a target, not a habit. And, as we’ve been discussing recently, good goals are built around actions instead of numbers. If you restructure your life so that you’re spending less than you earn, you will get out of debt. It’s a natural side effect.

Having said that, I realize that a lot of GRS readers are struggling to get to square one. Getting out of debt is their goal and primary obsession. That’s okay.

Before you can begin repaying your debt, you must be earning a profit. Unless your income exceeds your expenses, your debt is actually increasing. If you’re continuing to add debt, or if you’re only able to make minimum payments, you must first find ways to spend less and earn more until you have a positive “saving rate”. (Both businesses and people earn profits. But when individuals earn a personal profit, we call it “savings”.)

After you’re earning a personal profit, you can (and should) make debt elimination a priority.

Why You Should Pay Off Your Debt

Debt repayment can improve your credit score, meaning you’ll pay less on everything from rent to car insurance to future borrowing needs. Plus, debt reduction is one of the best returns you can earn on your money.

Investing in the stock market provides an average annual return of about 10% — but that return isn’t guaranteed. Some years the market is up 30%, but other years it drops by 40%. When you pay down a credit card, you earn a guaranteed return of 20% (or whatever your interest rate is). That’s tough to beat.

There are also non-financial benefits to paying off debt, including:

  • Simplicity. The more debt you have, the more bills you have. It’s easier to manage your money when you have a simple, efficient financial infrastructure. Each time you pay off a debt, you move one step closer to this ideal.
  • Cash flow. Whenever you eliminate a debt, the money formerly used for that monthly payment becomes available to pursue other goals – including fun stuff like ski trips and knitting supplies.
  • Freedom. When you have monthly payments to meet, you’re chained to your job. You’re unable to take risks. Once your debt is gone, a wider range of options becomes available to you.
  • Peace of mind. Best of all, once you’re debt-free, you can sleep easier at night. You’ll put less pressure on yourself, and you’ll have fewer fights about money with your partner.

When I first tried to get out of debt, I lacked a system. Without a plan, I sent extra money to one credit card and then another. As a result, I never seemed to make any progress.

After deciding to become boss of my own life, however, I researched how to get out of debt. Many books recommended a strategy called the “debt snowball”. Although I was skeptical, I gave it a try. The method worked. Using it, I managed to eliminate my debt and begin saving for the future.

The Debt Snowball

With the debt snowball, you set aside a specific amount of cash each month to pay off the money you owe. At first, progress is slow. In time, however, you begin to make rapid progress, picking up speed like a snowball rolling downhill.

Step One

The first step is to make a list of your debts. For each obligation, include the balance you owe, the interest rate, and the minimum payment. Arrange the list so that the debt with the highest interest rate is on top. Next comes the debt with the second-highest interest rate, and so on, until you reach the final debt on the list, which will be the one with the lowest interest rate.

For instance, here’s the actual list of my debts from October 2004, ordered by interest rate:

  • Computer Loan: $1116 @ 15% ($48 min)
  • Business Loan $2800 @ 11% ($30 min)
  • Home Equity Loan $21000 @ 6% ($100 min)
  • Car Loan $2250 @ 5% ($170 min)
  • Personal Loan $1600 @ 3% ($100 min)
  • Personal Loan $6430 @ 0% ($60 min)

I had $35,196 in debt and my minimum payments totaled $508 per month.

Step Two

Once you’ve listed your debts, decide how much you can afford to pay toward them each month in total. This should be at least the total of your minimum payments ($508 in the example above), and preferably more. In my case, I started by allocating $700 every month toward debt reduction.

Step Three

Now, for all of your debts except the debt with the highest interest rate, make minimum payments every month. Use the rest of the money you’ve allocated for debt reduction to pay down the debt with the highest interest rate.

The computer loan topped my list of debts with an interest rate of 15%. The minimum payments for the other debts combined to $460 per month. Under this plan, I’d then take the remainder of the $700 I’d allocated toward monthly debt reduction and apply it to the computer loan. Instead of making the $48 minimum payment, I’d pay $240.

Step Four

Repeat this process every month until the debt at the top of the list has been eliminated.

Step Five

Here’s where this method gets powerful. With your first debt defeated, you don’t use your improved cash flow to buy new things. Instead, you use the extra cash to attack the next debt on your list.

If I start by applying $700 toward debt each month, for example, I continue to apply $700 toward debt each month until all of the debt is gone. After the computer loan is retired, I focus on the business loan. Because the minimum payment on my other debts would be $430, I could funnel $270 to pay off the business debt every month.

When the business debt is gone, I’d then throw $370 per month at the home equity loan, and so on. Ultimately, I’d be left with a single loan: the $6430 personal loan at 0% interest. Every month, I’d apply all $700 to get rid of this debt.

Pros and Cons

The debt snowball is powerful and effective. Mathematically, it’s the best way to get rid of your debt. There’s just one problem.

When you attack your debts from highest interest rate to lowest, you’ll pay less money in the long run. Unfortunately, many folks – including me – find the going difficult. In my case, I hit a wall when I reached the third debt on the list, my home equity loan. That $21,000 balance was going to take years to repay. I didn’t have that kind of patience.

Fortunately, I learned there were other ways to order your debts. You don’t have to tackle the high interest rates first.


Building a Better Snowball

Humans are complex psychological creatures. They’re not adding machines. Many of us know what we ought to do but find it difficult to actually make the best choices. (If we were adding machines, we wouldn’t accumulate consumer debt in the first place!) It’s misguided to tell somebody so deep in debt that they must follow the repayment plan that minimizes interest payments. The important thing to do is to set up a system of positive reinforcement.

Because of this, many people prefer slight variations on the debt snowball method. These methods ignore math in favor of psychology.

Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball

Financial guru Dave Ramsey has popularized one variation of the debt snowball. Instead of ordering your debts by interest rate, he suggests you attack those with the lowest balances first.

Using Ramsey’s method, my debts from 2004 would be ordered like this:

  • Computer Loan: $1116 @ 15% ($48 min)
  • Personal Loan $1600 @ 3% ($100 min)
  • Car Loan $2250 @ 5% ($170 min)
  • Business Loan $2800 @ 11% ($30 min)
  • Personal Loan $6430 @ 0% ($60 min)
  • Home Equity Loan $21000 @ 6% ($100 min)

As with the standard debt snowball method, I’d make minimum payments on each debt except the top one on the list. At it, I’d throw everything else I’ve allocated for debt reduction each month. When the top debt was eliminated, I’d move on to the one with the next smallest balance.

Ramsey’s variation isn’t as quick as paying high-interest debt first, and in the long-run, you’ll lose slightly more to interest payments. (In my own case, the projections showed it’d take an extra month to repay my debt and I’d pay and extra $841.15 in interest.) However, there’s a psychological advantage to doing things this way.

By attacking your smallest debts first, you get some quick wins, which provide a mental boost. This psychological lift provides extra motivation to keep attacking that debt. Every few months, you get the satisfaction of crossing another debt off the list! Ramsey says this is “behavior modification over math”, and he’s right. In fact, I opted to use this variation of the debt snowball when I repaid my own $35,000 of debt in 39 months.

Adam Baker’s Debt Tsunami

Other experts, including my buddy Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt, suggest yet a third alternative they call the debt tsunami. They argue it’s best to pay off your debts in order of their emotional impact. Attack your debts from smallest balance to highest, they say, but for added psychological boost, prioritize any debt that particularly bugs you.

“I used to be addicted to gambling,” Baker says, “and I had debt that was specifically associated with gambling. To pay that off first changed me as a person. To pay off the $600 I owed on a credit card was great, but it didn’t change me. It didn’t signify that my life was going to be different and that I was going to live in a different way.”

But paying off his gambling debt did mean something to him, so Baker attacked that first.

Here’s another example: Many people borrow money from their parents. These loans may carry interest rates of only two or three percent (or maybe they’re interest free), but they come with a lot of psychological baggage. This is another instance where it might make sense to pay down low-interest debt first because the non-financial rewards are so great.

The most important thing when paying off your debts is to pay off your debts; the order in which you do so is ultimately irrelevant. Find a system that works for you and develop the discipline to stick with it.

Note: It’s less imperative to repay low-interest debt. Businesses use “leverage” to borrow money cheaply so that they can earn higher returns elsewhere. You do the same when taking out a mortgage at low rate (like three percent) or using school loans to improve your education (which will, in theory, provide high future returns). It’s good to repay all of your debt, of course, but it’s okay to make repaying the mortgage a long-term goal instead of lumping it in with your debt snowball.

The Bottom Line

As I mentioned at the start, I’ve come to believe that debt repayment is a side effect and not a goal. You shouldn’t make it your primary purpose.

If you do the other things I recommend, such as creating a personal mission statement and boosting your profit margin, you’ll naturally pay off debt as a matter of course. But you’ll enjoy a benefit many people don’t have once their debts are gone.

You see, a lot of people feel lost once they’ve dug out of debt. Search online and you’ll find tons of questions and conversations about what to do next. Debt repayment had given them purpose, and now that purpose is gone. As a result, they lose financial direction. And like a dieter who had aimed for a weight instead of a lifestyle change, an unfortunate few of the newly debt-free find themselves resuming bad habits.

If you’re pursuing other goals and intentionally building good habits, you’ll get out of debt. And once you get out of debt, the good times will continue: That debt snowball you’ve been building will transform itself into a wealth snowball.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to financial freedom!

Have you ever had to dig out of debt? What methods did you use? Were some more successful than others? If you had to do it over again, would you have done anything differently? What advice would you give to others who have just taken on the role of money boss in their lives?

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Money story: I was a frugal jerk

This guest post from the Frugal Jerk is part of the “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity. Today, the Frugal Jerk — who has asked to remain anonymous for now — shares the first half of his story about going from internet entrepreneur to busted and broke.

I was a frugal jerk!

You might know me. I’m a blogger and entrepreneur. I’ve had tens of thousands of customers during the last decade, so it’s very possible that you’ve purchased something from me in the past.

I’ve been read by millions of readers on my own sites and I’ve appeared as a guest writer on popular websites you’ve surely heard of. I’ve also been featured in New York Times bestselling books that may sit on your shelf. At my peak, my income was $300,000 per year. By many accounts I would be considered successful. But I’ve made many dumb mistakes with money.

We’re not going to bury the lede: At a certain point, because of a perfect storm of mistakes and problems, the smartest move was to foreclose my home. This move may have even saved my life. This is that story.

What’s interesting about all of this is that I grew up fairly poor and conservative with money. If I couldn’t pay for something in cash then I didn’t buy it. I didn’t make stupid financial decisions. Those decisions were for idiots. I was no idiot! (Reality check: Everyone is an idiot sometimes.)

Buying the Hype

When I bought my home, everything was going great. In the run-up to the U.S. recession, houses wouldn’t stay on the market for long. If you remember those days, you know that you could go to a first open house and the house would often be sold before you got there. It got to the point where houses were regularly selling for more than asking price. Bidding battles were not uncommon.

This should have been a warning. But I was young and dumb and flush with cash. I had a business generating almost $1,000 in profit per day. Mostly automated. All online. What to do with all that money? Home values always go up, right? It’s always smart to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” isn’t it? We all heard it daily. (You might still hear it regularly since the economy has improved lately.) Plus, it’s the alleged American Dream. Quite literally everybody around me told me to buy, particularly those who knew my income. Parents, friends, the echo chamber in the media. I didn’t hear a single dissenting opinion. (Besides my own, which I steadfastly ignored.)

So I bought a home.

Considering my income, I thought I was making a smart choice. I settled — and I do mean settled because I didn’t even like the home — on a $300,000 four-bedroom three-bath two-car-garage home. I was a young single guy with a huge family home. I know what you’re probably thinking. But it was “only” one year’s income and I put 20% down. What could possibly go wrong?


If you’ve been a working adult over the past decade, you know the answer.

Nearly everything went wrong.

The stock market tanked. The housing market tanked. And, most relevant to my eventual foreclosure decision, my income tanked. The year I bought my home, I made about $300,000. The year after, I made less than $50,000. The year after that? Less than $20,000.

It was a massive blow to not only my finances but also my ego.

The Shiller Index of Home Prices

In the Beginning

My beginnings probably aren’t atypical of folks who read sites like Get Rich Slowly.

I started working and saving at around age 13. I had a checking account and kept it balanced all through high school. I graduated from a four-year university with a science degree and not a single dollar in debt. Actually, because of the business I started while in school I graduated college with over $50,000 in savings, including $10,000 in a Roth IRA. Who starts a Roth IRA in college? The Frugal Jerk, that’s who.

Even though I had all this savings, I still felt poor. What’s $50,000 when others folks are millionaires and billionaires? Some call this a scarcity mindset, and maybe it’s a result of growing up “not rich”. We always had electricity and food and went on the occasional vacation (often camping). But I was an LA Gear child with Nike Air tastes. Maybe you can relate?

Like many folks in similar situations, I was raised with a faulty money blueprint. I wasn’t taught the value of money or the thought process behind saving and spending. But I was taught that rich people were to be venerated and poor people disparaged. There was nothing worse than to be poor or in debt or to ask for help. (The ultimate sin was getting any help from the government.)

I was told things like, “No, too expensive. You’ll end up like one of those poor people.”

I was taught to buy the cheapest, even if the more expensive is in the budget, better quality, and more useful. (Now I know a simple cost-benefit analysis can go a long way to helping decide whether to buy something that’s cheap versus something more costly.) The point is that as I became an adult, even though I was debt free and had a significant savings account, I felt poor, was terrified of actually being poor, and I wanted a lot more. And I got it. For a while anyhow.

The positive side of growing up the way I did is that I was taught debt was generally bad (except for a mortgage or car note, for whatever reason). I wasn’t taught why debt was bad, but the lesson mostly stuck. I never — not once in my life — carried a credit card balance. I never paid my bills late. I bought everything in cash, including a luxury automobile.

Wait, what? Frugal with a luxury automobile?

Well, I quickly fell into the classic spending trap once I started earning big. What’s $60,000 for a car when you’re earning that much in just two months? I wrote a check and paid extra to have the specific vehicle I wanted driven cross country and delivered to my door. (In case you’re wondering, that costs over a thousand bucks.) I couldn’t wait to show it off. To whom? To all the poor unsuccessful suckers around me. “Ha! I’m so smart. I bought this expensive car for cash! All these other idiots are using financing. So dumb.”

See? I was already a jerk — but no longer frugal. Obviously.

Things Fall Apart

So, the recession was in full swing although many of us were in denial. Me? Well, as I said, my income tanked and my home’s value tanked. My Roth IRA was worth about what I put into it. My mortgage and home-related expenses were eating close to $25,000 per year, so I was spending more than I was making. (My income fell to below $20,000, remember?) Things were not going well for me.

I decided to try to sell my home.

I listed it below my purchase price. It wouldn’t sell. I set an arbitrary limit to the hit I was willing to take on the home; I was hoping I wouldn’t lose more than $30,000 (or ten percent). In retrospect, I should have done whatever it took to sell. But that’s the thing about hindsight: It’s too easy to look back and judge. I didn’t think things would keep getting worse and I was using emotion instead of logic to make my decisions.

Did I say Frugal Jerk? Frugal Idiot is more like it, right?

But we’re still not to the point of foreclosure. I hustled hard, got some of my income back, and was once again earning nearly $10,000 per month. Not anywhere near what I made before, but a great income nonetheless. I could replenish some of my savings and maybe not worry so much about expenses anymore.

Unfortunately, we still hadn’t seen the worst of the recession. At this point houses like mine were still sometimes — rarely — selling for over $200,000. It wasn’t the $300,000 I bought mine for but it also wasn’t the $120,000 or less they’d eventually sell for. I was uneasy. I didn’t want to take a $100,000 hit on my home (which would take out the majority of my savings), and I didn’t feel like I had many options besides sticking it out and hoping for the best.

Then my income tanked again. Hope wouldn’t — couldn’t — save it. Because, in case you’re unaware, hope is a terrible strategy in business and in life. (Particularly in finance.)

Darkness Visible

Maybe I’ve left out something important: During this time I was also dealing with suicidal depression and debilitating anxiety. Not the result of financial troubles, but certainly exacerbated by them.

The Opposite of This

Getting out of bed or going grocery shopping was unbearable (and, frankly, a rare occurrence). I often went weeks without speaking to another human being. If I had to, I’d do my grocery shopping at 3 a.m. so I could avoid other people. If you’ve read Darkness Visible by William Styron or even Allie Brosh’s more accessible book Hyperbole and a Half, then you might have some understanding of what this kind of depression feels like. It’s something I’ve dealt with since a young age. And by “dealt with” I mean I shut myself off from the world and kept it all in.

It’s no wonder my chosen career path was to sit in front of a computer and not speak to people on a day-to-day basis. Some might say that career path was more curse than blessing. While it’s provided an interesting life, it hasn’t been without consequences.

Living with the proverbial dark cloud of depression is difficult enough. Doing it while also dealing with income uncertainty and a crashing economy? Yikes! Clearly I’m still here, but it was almost too much to handle. Thankfully, humans are resilient creatures. Even jerks like me.

My foreclosure process was long and grueling. From the time I missed my first payment until the day the house was actually foreclosed upon took three years. But, believe it or not, the experience was one of the most positive things to happen to me as an adult. It forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with money and with life itself. I also learned how to start over with nothing, from the bottom of the heap with a broken credit score.

For more on that, stay tuned for part two of my story next week. And if you have more questions than answers leave them in the comments. I won’t answer them here because I’m a jerk — but I’ll cover them in the future.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After twenty years of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are. Unduly nasty comments on reader stories will be removed or edited.

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GRS Theater: Developing Self-Reliance — Personal empowerment lessons from 1951

GRS Theater: Developing Self-Reliance — Personal empowerment lessons from 1951

Earlier this week, I encouraged readers to become proactive by developing an internal locus of control. In that article, I wrote:

You are the boss of you. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get out of debt or to buy a house or to ask for a raise. And nobody’s going to come to you out of the blue to explain investing or health insurance or your credit card contract. Take charge yourself.

“I get it,” you might be thinking. “Self-reliance is great. But how do I change? How do I get from where I am to becoming a more self-reliant person?”

In today’s installment of GRS Theater, we’re going to look at another fun educational film nearly seventy years ago. This short video (targeted at teenagers) aims to help viewers become more proactive.

“If you’re not self-reliant, you’ll never do any more than just ‘get by’,” says the narrator.

I love how in his desk, Mr. Carson, the French teacher, just happens to have a typewritten card with the four steps to self-reliance. “Learning to be self-reliant takes time…and hard work,” he says, handing young Allen the list.

Here are Mr. Carson’s steps, with a bit of elaboration.

  1. Assume responsibility. Take the blame for things that are your fault; look after your own work; plan your own time; depend on yourself to get things done.
  2. Be informed. If you don’t know some vital piece of information, find it out. Ask. Get the facts you need to make smart decisions. Knowledge gives you power. Ignorance puts you at the mercy of others.
  3. Know where you’re going. Set smart goals. Have a long-range plan so that you understand the general course you’re trying to make through life. Don’t simply react passively to the world around you.
  4. Make your own decisions. Develop the ability to think for yourself. Don’t rely on others to make choices for you — that’s a sure route to unhappiness. Be decisive.

These steps are very similar to habits espoused by modern self-help gurus. Taking control of your own destiny is a great way to improve your satisfaction with life, to increase your happiness. The film picks up bonus points from this lit geek by name-dropping Ralph Waldo Emerson and his essay, “Self-Reliance”:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

In the film, we get to watch as young Allen gains self-reliance, which transforms him from a dependent child to a confident young adult. Eventually, he becomes a leader among his classmates.

“Yessir,” says Mr. Carson. “That was self-reliance — the kind we can all use. It’s hard work to become self-reliant…[but] Allen learned to do it, and he’s a certainly a happier and a better person for it. Will you develop the habit of self-reliance?” Source:

Norway used to be one of those countries Trump might have spit on. Now Norwegians don’t even bother coming here

After telling lawmakers in an Oval Office meeting Thursday he doesn’t want more immigration from “shithole countries,” President Trump said the U.S. should bring in more people from countries such as Norway instead.

In the history of international migration to the U.S., it was a deeply ironic statement. (Many have also called it racist, since Trump used the vulgarity to describe Haiti, El Salvador and African nations.)

About a century ago, a wave of European migration drew many Norwegians to the U.S. At the time, they faced challenges assimilating and catching up with native Americans.

But now that the president wants Norwegians to come on over? They’re likely too successful to bother.

Norway may have been on Trump’s mind due to his recent meeting with the country’s prime minister, who would have reason to boast of her country’s economic success. Norway has ranked at the top of the U.N.’s Human Development Index for all of this century. By all measures, it has a high quality of life.

But, interestingly enough, that’s a relatively recent development.

For the vast majority of history, including the period in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s that comprised the biggest wave of immigration from what is now Norway to the United States, Norway might have been on the president’s so-called manure pile. European immigrants of that time fueled many of the same fears about immigration we see today, and politicians fought to close the nation’s borders back then — as successive waves of migrants from different European countries face hostility upon arrival in the U.S.

Until the postwar era, Norway’s per-capita gross domestic domestic product — that is, the amount of economic activity generated per person — was about half that of the U.S., according to the Maddison Project Database, which compiles and adjusts historical economic data. For much of that time, Norway’s GDP consistently ranked in the bottom half of European countries in the data set.

During that time of intense immigration, researchers have found, Norwegians were far from the model they might appear to be today. For decades after their arrival, they struggled to adapt and lagged behind other groups.

In a 2012 paper that first came to my attention in an excellent series of tweets from Cato Institute analyst Alex Nowrasteh, economists Ran Abramitzky of Stanford University, Leah Platt Boustan (now of Princeton University) and Katherine Eriksson (now of the University of California, Davis) looked at Census data for immigrants from 16 European countries and regions between 1900 and 1920.

They found that Norwegians, compared with natives with similar occupations, did worse than any other immigrant group in terms of the income they earned after spending time in the United States. Even after 30 years in the country, the authors found, Norwegians had failed to close the gap with either native earners or most other immigrants (those from Finland and Portugal were the exceptions).

Chart from the 2012 NBER working paper “<a href=””>A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration</a>”&nbsp;from Ran Abramitzky, Leah Platt Boustan, and Katherine Eriksson.

By that same measure, even second-generation Norwegian immigrants (black bars) had a worse time of it than any other group studied.

Chart from the 2012 NBER working paper “<a href=””>A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration</a>”&nbsp;from Ran Abramitzky, Leah Platt Boustan, and Katherine Eriksson.

In the current era, Norwegian-Americans are doing well. But perhaps not as well as Norwegian-Norwegians who, with a boost from their careful stewardship of natural wealth such as North Sea crude and hydropower, enjoy high levels of income and health status, and other scores of quality of life.

Remember how their GDP, adjusted for population, use to be half that of the U.S.? Now the chart has almost flipped.

Norwegians have it so well today that, the president’s entreaties aside, they don’t even bother coming to America any more. Based on the most recent detailed numbers available from the Census Bureau, which tracks migrants from more than 100 countries, Norwegian-born people today are the third smallest group of resident immigrants in the U.S. in raw-number terms.

Many countries above it on the list are smaller in terms of population. The only two below it on the list are Latvia, which has about a third of Norway’s population of 5.3 million, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which is nearly 50 times smaller.

According to a tweet from Statistics Norway (via Reuters), just 502 Norwegians moved to the U.S. in 2016, down 59 from the year before. An entire generation of Norwegians have, through their immigration decisions, made it clear where they prefer to live. Source:

Smoking penalties, ER fees, premiums on the poor: How states want to shrink Medicaid

Chris Bondurant of Atlanta, rear left, calls for an expansion to Medicaid outside the state capitol in Atlanta in 2014. (David Goldman/AP)

Indiana hopes to make Medicaid enrollees pay a fee if they smoke cigarettes. Arizona wants to put a five-year limit on how long its poor residents can be enrolled in the program. And Kentucky wants families earning as little as $5,100 to pay Medicaid premiums — and to kick patients out of the program if their payments get 60 days behind.

These proposals are part of a host of changes that mostly conservative states have unsuccessfully sought for years to overhaul Medicaid, a federal insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Now, the Trump administration is giving at least some of these initiatives the green light. On Thursday, health officials issued new guidance to state Medicaid directors, saying the administration would allow states to impose work requirements on certain Medicaid recipients — a first in the program’s 53-year history. Doing so will help Medicaid recipients who are not disabled find employment, Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, argued in announcing the changes.

Ten states have already filed requests for waivers to add work requirements to their Medicaid policies, and the Trump administration approved a proposal Friday from Kentucky to overhaul its Medicaid program, including by imposing new work requirement and premiums.

The states’ proposals vary widely, from small tweaks to changes that would dramatically reduce their program’s size and scope. And many plans go far beyond the new work requirements, pitching provisions that include raising premium payments for Medicaid enrollees, new fees for emergency room visits and requirements for drug testing and treatment.

States administer Medicaid, but it is a federal program. And for states to make the changes they’re suggesting, they need approval from the Trump administration.

Health-care experts say many of these proposals are likely to be adopted. The Trump administration has already told one state, Iowa, that it can sharply limit how providers are paid for treating Medicaid patients, and new premium payments for the poor are also expected to be accepted.

Other policy proposals appear outside of what the administration opened the door to on Thursday, at least for now. At least three states have proposed capping the number of years participants can be on Medicaid over the course of their lives.

Trump’s team has the authority to approve these policies, but officials said Thursday’s order on work requirements does not mean they will also begin changing other policies they have traditionally rejected.

“Yesterday’s guidance is ONLY about community engagement/work requirements and not about any other topic that might be found in a state’s" application, Johnathan Monroe, a spokesman at CMS, wrote in an email.

The Trump administration’s moves signal an attempt to align state Medicaid programs with long-held conservative policy objectives, as congressional Republicans appear to be pulling back from transforming the federal health plan through legislation after failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“This is the untold story of the next chapter in the Trump administration’s assault on health policy,” said Ari Ne’eman, who served on the National Council on Disability under President Obama. “It’s a series of technocratic-sounding changes that amounts to the slow bleeding of the health-care systems for low-income Americans, but it requires no act of Congress, and, because it’s so wonkish, never gets adequate coverage.”

For years, conservative states’ proposals to restrict Medicaid were thwarted by the Obama administration, which rejected petitions to create work requirements and impose other limits. Obama expanded the number of Americans on Medicaid by millions via the Affordable Care Act, which encouraged states to expand eligibility for the program.

The health-care law funded much of the expansion, but conservatives argue the law dramatically strained states’ budgets. They also said tighter restrictions would help the poor instead find employment.

“There are people that are not going into the workplace and we have a time when the economy is very strong — this is a good time to do it,” said Robert Doar, who focuses on poverty at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, about new work requirements on Medicaid.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes being sought are in Arizona, Utah and Kansas, which are seeking to create unprecedented “lifetime caps” on Medicaid. Currently, poor Americans in every state can remain on Medicaid as long as they qualify. All three states have sought to create new policies with unprecedented limitations on the number of years participants could stay on Medicaid — up to five years in Arizona and Utah, and to three years in Kansas. (There would be exemptions for pregnant women, the disabled, victims of domestic abuse, and several other categories.)

It’s unclear if the Trump administration will permit lifetime caps. The Obama administration rejected similar requests, and Trump officials have given no indication they plan to approve them.

Critics slammed the proposals.

“We’d see a dramatic increase in the number of uninsured,” said Daniel Derksen, professor of public health at the University of Arizona, about how that provision would impact his state. “You’d also see the rate of closure for rural and critical access hospitals go up — those are the vulnerable parts of the health community that could only absorb a certain amount.”

Several states have also proposed creating new requirements that Medicaid participants help pay for their insurance.

For instance, the waiver Maine filed with the federal government would create new premium payments, ranging between $10 to $40 per month for Medicaid enrollees. Maine’s largest health center, Penobscot Community Health Care, has estimated that thousands of its Medicaid enrollees would be unable to meet the obligation and lose insurance, said Sarah Dubay, a spokesperson for the health center.

Although some cost-sharing already exists for Medicaid, states have proposals to strip participants of their insurance for failing to pay.

Wisconsin families who failed to meet those premiums could be ineligible for insurance for up to six months. Arkansas wants anyone who does not meet new work requirements for three months to be locked out of coverage the following year. Kentucky and Indiana want to prevent those who miss Medicaid renewal deadlines from being re-enrolled for six months unless they complete a special training course.

The Obama administration did approve limited plans in Montana and Indiana that stripped insurance for Medicaid enrollees who failed to pay, but some of the proposals go farther: They would impose fees on for people at a lower income thresholds and increase the severity of penalties for missing payments.

“I think the next wave of changes we’ll see is making premiums enforceable for the very poorest people,” said Mary Beth Musumeci, associate director of the program on Medicaid and the uninsured at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We’re talking about payments for homeless people with no income at all — it’s very difficult for them to meet.”

Other new Medicaid fees would emerge in many different states. Wisconsin is considering new monthly premiums of $8 for those under the federal poverty line. For a family of two, the federal poverty line is about $16,000 annually. Maine wants to create a new asset test for a new eligibility requirement. Utah would create a $25 fee for Medicaid patients who go to the emergency room for “nonemergency visits.” Arizona wants to stop paying for Medicaid trips to the hospital that are not emergencies.

Indiana proposes a mandatory contribution to a savings account for tobacco users on Medicaid that is the only proposal of its kind, according to Musumeci.

These new policies are intended to discourage high-risk public health behavior that come at taxpayers’ expense, but critics say they’ll simply wind up taking health insurance away from the poor.

“The Trump administration is poised to give states unprecedented room to nickel and dime low-income Medicaid beneficiaries who are struggling the most to stay afloat,” said Rebecca Vallas, a poverty policy expert at the Center for American Progress, a center-left think tank.

CAP found that upward of 640,000 Medicaid enrollees would be at risk of losing their insurance if all 10 states with pending waiver requests have them granted.

There are other changes sought by states that were already approved by the agency for Iowa. In particular, the Trump administration gave Iowa permission to limit  “retroactive eligibility” for Medicaid, which ensures providers can be reimbursed by the program even if the patient was not enrolled when treated. That policy shift is expected to reduce the Medicaid benefits of roughly 40,000 Iowans, according to the Iowa Des Moines Register.

Arkansas, Indiana, and New Hampshire also received permission to limit retroactive eligibility, but only for their states’ Medicaid expansion populations. (Iowa’s waiver also impacted traditional Medicaid enrollees.) Similar changes to the one in Iowa are likely, as Verma told the Medicaid directors this fall, “If we approve an idea in one state, and another state wants to do the same thing, we will expedite those approvals.”

Beyond that, some states, including Wisconsin, are proposing new drug tests that critics say would likely force thousands more off Medicaid. It’s unclear if these will be granted.

Disability advocates worry it’s just the beginning, noting that it only makes sense for states to turn their attention to these waivers now, after the dust from the Obamacare repeal bills has settled.

“If you’re a state, putting in one of these waivers is one of the most complicated things you can do. You don’t do it when the entire health care system is up in the air,” Ne’eman said. “Now, however, the Trump administration is clearly messaging that they want conservative states to be sending in these so-called policy reforms — and moving on them as fast as possible.”

In a press call on Thursday, Verma defended moving people off Medicaid as a key desired outcome. “This policy is about helping people achieve the American Dream,” Verma told reporters. “We see people moving off Medicaid as a good outcome.” Source: