Friday, October 31, 2014

A Grown-Up Halloween Indulgence


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Everyone thinks being a kid on Halloween is the best - you get to dress up, go trick or treating with your friends, and collect bags full of free candy.

Sure, it's great. But I'd like to make a case for Halloween as an adult being even better.

Think about it - you still get to dress up, but now you have either (a) the skills to make a cool costume or (b) more than the $4.67 in loose change your piggy bank to buy a cool costume with.


I'm a belly dancer this year! And yes, I'm totally rocking the costume all day long.

You also still get to hang out with your friends, but instead of having to traipse about in the cold, soliciting candy from strangers, you can do it inside at a party with a nice ambient temperature (okay, okay, parties can get a little too hot).

And okay, the candy isn't free. But assuming you have some sort of job, or have had a job at some point, chances are that you have a few dollars to buy your own. And then you can get exactly what you want! It's all about quality over quantity - instead of collecting a bag full of cheap candy that tastes okay, you can order a few of your favorite treats that taste amazing!


I recommend Caveman Chocolates Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups. They're paleo, vegan, and - above all - amazingly delicious!

Every order has five packets of two delicious dark chocolate cups each.


The ingredients list is short and sweet. It's just 70% dark chocolate, almonds, golden honey, organic vanilla extract, and sea salt.

Certainly more wholesome than the generic half-stale chocolate bars of childhood Halloween hauls, and also a million times more delicious.


The chocolate is rich and dark and intense, but not too intense. It's sweet, but grown up.

The almond butter filling is nutty and the perfect amount of salty, just like a really high quality homemade almond butter.



Can we just take a moment to appreciate that amazingness?

Caveman Chocolates is a small company started by two brothers in Pennsylvania, who still make every batch themselves. Pretty cool!


Check 'em out. They make all of their chocolates by hand, so you know every piece is high quality and made with care!

Have a happy Halloween, everyone! Whatever you're doing tonight, be safe :) And don't forget to involve chocolate!

What's your favorite Halloween treat?

What are you doing this Halloween?

What is your favorite chocolate treat?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Weekday Wisdom from the Ec Expert: Retirement Investments For Dummies!


I'm interested in a lot of things - writing, acting, blogging, social media, biology, research, travel, politics, international relations, business, fashion, etc.

Finance isn't one of them.

Unfortunately for me, and everyone else who isn't a finance whiz, it's very important to make smart financial decisions. Making smart financial decisions can mean the difference between a golden age retirement, full of travel and gardening, and not being able to retire at all. Yikes!


Don't let that be you.

Retirement seems far away, especially for those of us who are fresh out of college, but now is the time to start saving for retirement.

Don't believe me? Read on for a straight-forward explanation of why you should worry about your retirement funds now!

***

Imagine two people trying to save for retirement. 

Alice invests $5,000 each year from ages 20 to 29 and then proceeds to not contribute a cent more (not what I would recommend). 


Bob socks away $5,000 every year starting at age 30 but keeps contributing right up until retirement. 

Who has more money in the bank when both retire at age 65, assuming a (reasonable) 7% rate of return? No peeking!

Believe it or not (and I know a lot of people who didn’t until I showed them), Alice is ahead of Bob for retirement!

For everyone who isn't Ben and doesn't love Excel - just focus on the highlighted fields. Alice ends up with more!
Alice contributed only $50,000, but ends up with almost $800,000. Bob contributed $180,000, but retired with a little under $750,000. What happened here?

The key effect here was compounding interest. 

By the time Bob started contributing to his retirement account, Alice’s nest egg was already earning thousands of dollars per year in investment returns. Even though he contributed over three times as much in total, he couldn’t catch up to her early start. 


Making Money Online

(Bob’s contributions might weigh more, but his nest egg doesn’t).

In this case, the tortoise and the hare isn’t quite right. 

Alice’s hare fell asleep on the track at age 30 and still won the race! Slow and steady is fine, but it works best if you start early. Every bit counts, and the earlier bits count the most. In fact, by the time Alice retires, the $5,000 she saved at age 20 is now worth over $100,000! 

The $5,000 Bob saved at age 65 is worth, well, $5,000. I bet he wished now that he’d picked her plan!

So get saving, and get your money working for you! It may seem silly to be worried about retirement at age 20, but whatever age you’re at is a great time to start if you want to avoid worries further down the road. 

Your future self will thank you, and be happy that you were so clever when you were younger.  

And, just for those who’d like to see the answer to my question, here are the trajectories of our two guinea pigs’ nest eggs:



In my next columns I’ll cover useful tools for budgeting and how to invest your retirement savings for the long haul (the only way to do it!). 

***

Ben Cohen was born in Washington, D.C. and majored in economics at Harvard University. He now works full-time in risk analysis and does academic research on the side. He loves science fiction, sushi, and efficient long-term investing. 

How are you preparing for your retirement?

What finance strategy do you not understand? 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebrating National Non-GMO Month with GMO-Free Cookies!

I love science. In fact, I majored in biology at Harvard. That said, I don't particularly have the desire to eat science experiments.


So GMO foods? Not really my thing.

A lot of people feel the same way, so October is national month to consciously avoid GMOs! It's really not as hard as you might imagine - it doesn't mean you have to go all organic or you can only eat hemp seed shakes and fruit salad (as yummy as those both are).

It's also not difficult to get kids on board! There are lots of delicious non-GMO snack foods, if you look for them. I really like Mary's Gone Crackers Love Cookies!


They come in four flavors, of which I've tried (and loved) the chocolate chip and the double chocolate cookies.

I know, right. I've tried the two chocolate ones - big surprise.

For those who don't like chocolate (how is that a thing?) there are the n'oatmeal raisin and the gingersnap cookies! Why N'oatmeal? These cookies, all four flavors, are gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, and GMO-free.


They're healthy, lunchbox-friendly, allergy-friendly, and delicious!


The cookies are made with superfoods, like chia seeds, quinoa flakes, a whole grain gluten free flour blend, and coconut palm sugar.

They're crunchy cookies that are the perfect amount of sweet and both of the chocolate cookie flavors (even the chocolate chip) are very, very chocolatey.


I love it! They're also buttery-tasting, even though they're vegan, and crisp, even though they're gluten-free.

Mary's Gone Crackers did a great job with these! I give them a thumbs up and would definitely include them in C's lunchbox as a healthy non-GMO treat that she can take with to her nut-free cafeteria without worry. Yum and yay!

How are you celebrating National Non-GMO Month?

Do you pay attention to GMOs in your foods?

Are you concerned about GMOs?

Stumble Me, Please!