CNBC make it 2024-07-10 07:25:39


Why Serena Williams tried to deposit her first $1 million check at a drive-thru ATM

In the early days of her tennis career, Serena Williams cared so much about winning that she forgot to collect her earnings — repeatedly.

Williams, 42, brought in $94.8 million in prize money as a tennis player before retiring in 2022, according to the Women’s Tennis Association. Early in her career, she nearly left a decent chunk of it behind: She was so singularly focused on her performance that she’d nearly leave cities without picking up her money, she told First We Feast’s YouTube talk show “Hot Ones” last week.

“Is it true that you rarely collected your winnings your first year on tour and then once tried unsuccessfully to cash your first million-dollar check in a drive through ATM?” host Sean Evans asked her.

“Those are all true,” responded Williams, who won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 73 career singles titles during her 27-year career. “I never played for money. I played because I loved the sport … I wanted to win.”

Williams’ professional debut — in which she played a single game, losing a qualifying match at the 1995 Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada — reportedly resulted in a $240 check. At age 14, she was in no rush to spend that money, she said.

The same was true when Williams got her first million-dollar check. People around her were excited about the dollar figure, but all Williams wanted to do was deposit it and get back to work, she recalled.

“I never really spent a lot of money,” said Williams. “I just went through the drive-thru and the guy was like, ‘Uh, I think you need to come inside for this.’”

As her career evolved, her “tax guy” had to remind her to get her money while she toured, she recalled.

″[He] would be like, ‘You didn’t get your money?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t get that one in Zurich. I forgot that one in Moscow,’” Williams said. “I was playing to win, and if I didn’t win, I wasn’t thinking. I was just so angry that I wanted to just figure out a way to get better and win the next time.”

When to teach kids money lessons

Williams’ early-career experiences were part of her financial literacy education: When she started making her own money as a teen, her dad Richard made sure that she was in charge of it, she told Bloomberg’s ‘The Deal’ podcast in May.

“I remember having to figure that out and having to learn how to manage from a very early age and not get crazy with it, and so he empowered us to do that,” Williams said, adding that when it came time to weigh sponsorship deals with companies like Puma and Nike, she always had a seat at the table.

“I’m 16, my dad is negotiating, they’re going back and forth, and he wants me there for the whole time to make sure I know what to do in the future,” she said. “I learned early on that your paycheck from tennis — maybe that’s why I forgot them — should be your smallest earning.”

Personal finance lessons for kids are important, experts say. If you start teaching kids basic money lessons as early as ages 5 to 8, they’ll be ready to learn about concepts like saving, spending and investing by ages 8 to 12, Eric Landolt, head of family advisory and art & collecting at UBS Global Wealth Management, told Make It last year.

By the time they’re teenagers, they’ll be well-equipped to effectively manage a small budget or allowance, said Landolt.

“Financial literacy should be a basic skill, a basic skill in the sense of like, reading or writing or doing so something in a way that should be brought to everyone in any circumstance,” he said.

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15 U.S. states with the lowest cost of living—a single person can live there on $20 an hour

As a single person, you’ll need an annual income of $40,000 to cover basic expenses in the cheapest U.S. states, according to a recent SmartAsset analysis.

The state with the lowest costs of living is West Virginia, closely followed by Arkansas and Oklahoma, the analysis says. In West Virginia, a one-person household needs a pre-tax income of $39,386 to pay for necessities like housing, transportation, health care, taxes and other common expenses — as tracked by the MIT Living Wage calculator.

The good news: The median American yearly wage for full-time workers is nearly $60,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But minimum wage workers in many of the least-expensive U.S. states lag significantly behind that figure. With a 40-hour workweek, West Virginia’s $8.75 hourly minimum wage translates to just $18,200 per year, for example.

Here’s a look at the 15 U.S. states with the lowest cost of living, based on how much a single person needs to cover basic costs:

  1. West Virginia: $39,386
  2. Arkansas: $39,724
  3. Oklahoma: $40,211
  4. North Dakota: $40,262
  5. Kentucky: $40,355
  6. Ohio: $40,359
  7. South Dakota: $40,718
  8. Louisiana: $41,233
  9. Mississippi: $41,361
  10. Iowa: $41,678
  11. New Mexico: $41,807
  12. Nebraska: $41,849
  13. Alabama: $41,911
  14. Missouri: $42,024
  15. Wisconsin: $42,062

Based on a 40-hour workweek, these totals work out to an hourly wage that ranges from about $19 to $20. In contrast, the most expensive state for a single person is Massachusetts, where a single person needs $58,009 per year to cover basic costs. That works out to roughly $28 per hour.

While rural states have lower costs, they tend to have lower wages, too. The median household income in West Virginia is $52,460, compared with $75,910 in New York, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data from 2022.

The difference in basic costs between states is largely due to housing, which tends to be most affordable in rural states. Urban areas typically offer a higher concentration of jobs, attracting more residents — and increased housing demand drives up home prices.

Annual housing costs in heavily urban states like California and New York are close to $20,000, compared to roughly half that figure in the 15 least expensive states.

Rural states also tend to have lower taxes than states with large cities, because their public services and infrastructure are less expensive. Taxes vary by about $5,000 to $10,000 per year between states, according to SmartAsset’s analysis.

MIT’s Living Wage calculator is based on data from various federal agencies, adjusted for inflation as of December 2023.

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How a couple making $230,000 have set themselves up to ‘constantly feel poor,’ from a money expert

Maddie, 29, and Paul, 33, live well in London.

Although Paul recently left his job, they’re still earning $230,000 a year from Maddie’s income, the couple tells self-made millionaire and money expert Ramit Sethi on a recent episode of his “I Will Teach You to be Rich” podcast. Their last names are not used.

Maddie’s high salary, along with some savvy money habits like regularly saving and investing, have helped them live comfortably even in a high-cost area like London. But they still stress about money, especially as they plan their wedding for next year.

Maddie oscillates between two mindsets when it comes to finances. One tells her, ”‘I’m going to live a bougie, great life. I work hard. I’ve made great money. I can do what I want, and we can travel a ton and have a great wedding, and all these things,’” she tells Sethi. “And then the other side, constantly feeling stressed and guilty about it.”

Though Sethi encourages his listeners to keep a “guilt-free spending” category in their monthly budget, Maddie and Paul seem to be overdoing it. “You’re actually setting yourself up to constantly feel poor relative to everyone else around you,” Sethi says.

Spending on travel, shopping, means ‘losing money every single month’

Going through their finances, Sethi found the couple has done relatively well at keeping their fixed costs in check. Their rent, groceries, car payment and other necessities come out to about 63% of their take home pay, even while Paul isn’t working.

But a look at their discretionary spending showed that Maddie has good reason to feel anxious about their finances. The couple admitted they spend around $7,000 a month on travel and shopping. That brings their total spending above their monthly income. 

They’ve managed to stay out of debt thus far aside from a small auto loan, but with several friends’ weddings as well as their own around the corner and their spending habits unchecked, Sethi worries they’re on a path to destruction.

“I think you earn the right to feel okay about being in the red occasionally if you have a very large net worth,” Sethi tells them. “But I think when we factor in the fact that you’re losing money every single month, that you’re planning to continue that for the foreseeable future … that starts to be trickier.”

Overdoing it on trips and social events because ‘we want to keep up’

Maddie and Paul say they hesitate to change their lifestyle in order to rein in their spending and feel more comfortable about money. They know Paul getting a job will help improve the situation, but they don’t want to rely so much on high incomes that they can never stop working.

Yes, Paul bringing in any income, especially a six-figure salary as he expects, would help, Sethi agrees. But the spending is the real problem.

“It’s not actually normal for people making $230,000, which is a very good income, to be traveling eight times a year internationally, plus your own personal travel, plus Barry’s Bootcamp, plus shopping and golf trips,” Sethi says.

Maddie and Paul admit that a lot of their spending is prompted by pressure from their friends and culture.  “We hang out with people [for whom] money feels to be less of a concern due to their backgrounds,” Maddie says. “There’s definitely a sense like we need to keep up. Or not [that] we need to; we want to keep up.”

“It’s this compulsion to be at everything and live such a social life [that] just drains us,” Paul adds.

‘Your income is not commensurate with your vision’

Sethi presses Maddie and Paul about what they actually want out of life and what sacrifices they may be willing to make to get there.

Having a big wedding for themselves is important to Maddie and Paul, as is their financial security, they reply. They plan to have kids within the next several years and want to make sure they’re setting themselves up for success in that phase of life.

Even if Paul gets the salary he expects at his next job, the couple would be wise to make some changes, Sethi says. “I love your vision for an even greater life. It’s beautiful,” he adds. “But your income is not commensurate with your vision, nor will it be.”

The idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” and lifestyle creep are common pitfalls because humans are social animals, Sethi says. But Maddie and Paul need to acknowledge that their friends’ lifestyle choices have nothing to do with their personal financial situations and goals.

Decide which societal influences you want to accept and which don’t align with your rich life.
Ramit Sethi

“We’re all part of a larger community that influences our spending,” Sethi says. “The minute you start accepting that is the minute you can decide which societal influences you want to accept and which don’t align with your rich life.”

Paul and Maddie acknowledge they need to work on declining when their friends invite them to go on trips or to attend weddings that aren’t a priority so they can put their money towards the things that are most important to them.

“We have to be more intentional and purposeful with our spending decisions, especially by getting more comfortable saying ‘no’ both to ourselves and to outside commitments,” Paul says in his follow-up video. 

Check out the full podcast episode here.

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The No. 1 question to ‘always’ ask in a job interview, from a LinkedIn career expert

The final minutes of a job interview — when the interviewer is done with their questions and opens up the floor — is time you don’t want to waste. 

Asking smart, thoughtful questions can give you an edge over other candidates and help you decide whether a role is the right fit for you. 

There’s one question, in particular, that you should “always” ask in a job interview, says LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill.

“What does success look like to you in the first 90 days of this role?” 

By asking how success is measured within the team or company, you’re demonstrating that you’re proactive, and someone who wants to learn the skills needed to excel in the role, McCaskill explains. 

The first 90 days of a new position is the most common timeframe employers use to assess your fit for the job and company culture, McCaskill adds, so it’s a helpful reference point to include — otherwise, the question might feel too broad.

“It cues to the interviewer that you’re curious, and really thinking about how you can help them solve whatever challenges they’re facing at the moment,” he says.

With this question, you’ll better understand what kind of learning curve you’ll face and how your performance will be evaluated. 

The interviewer’s response could make you feel more confident about the role or uncover some red flags. 

If the hiring manager avoids spelling out the specific tasks and responsibilities of the role or is vague about scheduling and expectations for working overtime, “those could be signs that a job is high-stress,” McCaskill explains. 

This question can also help you prepare for any follow-up interviews.

“It gives you a vantage point into what skills and traits the employer is prioritizing in hiring for this role, and what language they use to describe their ideal candidate, so you can mirror it,” says McCaskill. “It helps you get to the very heart of what they’re looking for.”

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3 tips for using Google Flights to score cheaper airfare, from a travel expert

When it comes to booking flights, travel experts are just like the rest of us.

Katy Nastro has visited more than 40 countries around the world. For the most part, she finds her flights through the Google Flights search engine.

As a frequent flyer and travel expert at Going, Nastro has a number of techniques she employs to find the best and most affordable flights she can.

Part of what makes Google Flights Nastro’s preferred flight booking destination is the ability it gives her to customize her search. When she is planning a trip, Nastro doesn’t stop at entering her destination and dates. She’ll toggle settings to sort by nonstop flights, preferred airlines and will potentially set a price threshold. 

“I put in all of my filters to make sure that I’m looking at as close to perfection as possible,” Nastro tells CNBC Make It. 

Here are three tips from Nastro to book flights like a pro.

1. Flexibility is your friend

Keeping your options open is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself find the best travel deals.

“I think flexibility is the biggest thing people need to remember,” Nastro says. “Google Flights has the functions within it to make it as easy as possible for you to explore all your options.”

For example, Nastro prefers to look at one-way flights rather than round-trip when she is first planning a journey. This is helpful not only for comparing prices, but also for figuring out if she can get as close to her desired flight times as possible. 

“If you’re really looking to prioritize traveling more affordably you should open your search up to the idea that you could fly out on your preferred airline but it might be cheaper to fly back on another,” she says. 

When she punches in a destination, Nastro doesn’t just stick to that city’s local airport. She adds different airports in the area as well, even if they might be a bus or train journey away from where she wants to go. 

“It really gives you the capability to widen your net,” she says. With more options, you can decide if flying out of your way is worth the savings. “Do I really want to prioritize my cost savings with the time that it’s going to take me to get to these alternate airports? Maybe. If the cost saving is significant enough.” 

When searching for international flights, Nastro is aware that Google may serve her options that have “super long layovers or multi-stop flights that nobody is really looking for.” To avoid getting her hopes up for a low price on a suboptimal flight, she plans ahead. 

“When I’m searching, I’m always making sure that I put in layover duration and toggle which connecting airports I will and won’t fly through,” she says. 

“Yes, you might be able to get a cheaper flight if you have a longer layover,” she adds. “But unless you’re going to be able to leave the airport and have enough time to do so, it might not be worth that time sitting in the airport.” 

2. Price history is helpful … until it’s not

Google Flights has a feature that shows you pricing history for a flight you’re looking at, as well as predictions of how the price will fluctuate in the future. But be careful about relying too much on this information, especially during a record-breaking travel season.

“It’s tough to say that Google Flights is 100% accurate all of the time,” Nastro says. “It’s giving you an estimation based off of history, which is pretty good, but it doesn’t mean that past history is going to deliver future results.”

Deciding when to pull the trigger and book your flights may depend on when you’re looking. If you’re in the Goldilocks window — the time frame during which you’re most likely to find the best prices to a given destination — you should feel comfortable booking with the knowledge that prices are only likely to go up from there.

“For peak seasons like the summer, we recommend booking between three and seven months out for domestic trips and between four and 10 months for international trips,” she says. 

But if you’re booking on short notice, don’t gamble on a sudden price drop.

“If you’re looking to book a flight in two weeks, it’s probably best to book it immediately if you’re comfortable with the price rather than wait another week,” she says. 

3. Don’t turn off alerts after you book

Once her flights are booked, Nastro still keeps price alerts on. 

“Because we have largely done away with change fees on legacy carriers in the US, if you booked a main economy ticket you can call and have that flight rebooked at that lower price and then get a credit,” she says. “I did this the other day and got a credit that I’m going to use towards a flight in August.”

Nastro configures her settings to give her alerts not only for the flight she already booked, but for all flights that day for the trip she wants to take.

“It’s likely not the case, but if it’s cheaper to fly on a different airline, I fly enough that it would make sense to pocket the travel credit to be used in the future and then book that cheaper ticket,” Nastro says.

And as much as she prefers Google Flights, Nastro will still check other sites as well.

“Sometimes Google Flights doesn’t display the absolute lowest fair that could be available on a really small [online travel agency],” she says. “You can use other search sites like Skyscanner or Momondo that could be $200 more in savings.”

Want to be a successful, confident communicator? Take CNBC’s new online course Become an Effective Communicator: Master Public Speaking. We’ll teach you how to speak clearly and confidently, calm your nerves, what to say and not say, and body language techniques to make a great first impression. Sign up today and use code EARLYBIRD for an introductory discount of 30% off through July 10, 2024.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

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