When I worked in corporate America, I was serious about my savings and retirement accounts. I needed them to have commas and a minimum number of digits in them. When I left corporate America for a creative career, my commas eventually left me. I've since embarked on a scavenger hunt to find them.
But seriously, though. I'm always interested in ways to generate income and grow my money. And despite my age, I'm not risk-averse. I'm OK with a bit of volatility because I want to maximize my return. I'm also open to investing funds outside of a traditional savings account, 401(k) or IRA as long as I'm not scammed because, like I mentioned, a sis does not play about her money.
That brings me to a few types of financial products we've been hearing a lot about these days, namely Forex, individual investment apps like Robinhood, and most recently, the group economics savings club called sou-sou.
Here's the scoop on all three:
The Tea On Forex
Forex is shorthand for foreign exchange, which is simply the process of buying one currency while simultaneously selling another one, but in this case, the goal is to make a profit. We're all familiar with the foreign exchange market, especially if we travel internationally or make international purchases. It's the world's most traded market with a daily turnover of $5.1 trillion. (The U.S. trades about $257B per day.) That's the easy part, understanding what it is.
The difficult part, at least for 60% of forex traders, is that it's extremely risky and you can lose all of your money quickly. It would take some real research to know what you're doing. For one, you need to be especially skilled in speculating the direction currencies are likely to take in the future. And two, you'll need to be pretty knowledgeable in the spot market.
The good news is that when you're ready, you can start trading with a minimal amount of money, sometimes as little as $5 to $10. However, some forex brokers require a minimum account deposit of $500 to $1,000. Forex.com has a downloadable guide that introduces you to trading currencies and walks you through your first trade.
Buying stocks as an individual may be a bit safer than forex––or at least it should be. And we should see our money add up, with a few dips and rebounds, over time.
The Tea On Robinhood
We've heard of apps like Acorns, Stash, Robinhood, and even Cash App where we can buy stocks or buy into portfolios directly from our phones. It's called micro-investing, which means we're only owning a fraction of a stock to begin with because the amount we're investing is much less than the full share price. Micro-investing also means micro results, as Dave Ramsey personality Chris Hogan says. Since you're putting in so little, say the spare change from your morning frappuccino, the return is small. And let's not forget to account for any monthly maintenance fees (not to be confused with $0 commission fees.)
Micro-investing is great for beginning investors who want to educate themselves but it's not a good way to build a retirement fund.
What's particularly interesting, or scary, about Robinhood and apps like it is that some critics consider it to be riskier than gambling, especially for young users, because it allows users to engage in margin trading. Margin trading is an investment option where you use "borrowed" money to trade. NPR recently reported that a 20-year-old may have lost upwards of $730,000 in margin trades. Mind you, a few of these apps have attracted mainly millennials and novice investors with free stock during this pandemic. They just kept on trading with no money. So again, it's important to know the terminology, how much you're spending and how much is physically in your account.
Another thing worth noting about Robinhood is its leaderboard, or a snapshot of the company stocks most Robinhood investors own, can be somewhat misleading or it provides an incomplete picture. It doesn't mean these are hot stocks investors should buy. For example, Hertz car rental was on the leaderboard but that was because tons of inexperienced investors were buying it. Hertz is actually in bankruptcy and had bet on another company buying them. It didn't happen so now Hertz has to scramble for even more funds in order to cover those stock purchases. Any shares Hertz issued after receiving permission from the bankruptcy courts is now worthless. And those Robinhood investors have simply lost their money.
The Tea On Sou-Sou Savings Clubs
If you're at a point where you say, "To heck with the foreign exchange market and those stocks, I'll stick with cash right now," then let's talk about the sou-sou that everyone's suddenly considering.
The sou-sou originated in West Africa but is widely practiced in African, Caribbean, Latino, and Asian immigrant communities as a way to raise quick money as a group and distribute lump sums to individuals to launch businesses, send kids to college, etc, upfront. I've even heard of an adapted version in the form of a birthday club, where members receive cash on their birthdays, and it's worked well for years.
How it works is that the group appoints one person to collect a set amount of funds from each member (including the collector.) The pool is paid out on a rotating basis to each member on a predetermined schedule. For example, if five individuals contribute $100 every week, then one person receives $500 every week and the cycle starts over after five weeks. It's particularly beneficial to the person who receives the initial payout if they needed it right away; they would've put in $100 and received the first $500 the following week. Granted they would need to put in the second $100 at that point, too, but you get my drift.
In the 2020 version, which surfaced after the rise of the Rona, the rules have changed. This more modern sou-sou requires a $500 contribution plus the introduction of two friends, who will also invest $500 each. In four weeks, the initial investor will receive $4,000.
To many people, this is where it begins to sound a little Ponzi-ish. In fact, The Washington Post posted a story in early August stating that the sou-sou is an illegal pyramid scheme. The article points out that "Eventually, the whole enterprise collapses and the last folks coming in — the wide base of the pyramid — lose their money."
At least in the traditional sou-sou, the math works but in the modern sou-sou, it seems that all of the funds aren't distributed and it raises the questions of who gets that money and what happens when investors leave the group — especially when they get their $4,000 — or no new ones join before current members get their return on their investment? That's both risky and unfair to say the least.
The best and safest way to reap the intended benefits of a sou-sou, in my opinion, is to go in with well-trusted individuals and not a group of iffy or flaky strangers.
Working as a freelance creative forces me to find different ways to earn money. Living in the thick of a pandemic forces us all to find ways to save and grow our money. Trust, I get that the uncertainty of it all does tempt us to want to try clever ways to maintain or reclaim those commas in our bank accounts. But it's also important for us to fully understand the pros and cons of these financial products if we want to keep those commas coming.
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Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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