CNBC make it 2024-07-11 00:25:30


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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Our side hustles bring in $125,000 a year or more: ‘Nearly everybody’ can make money this way

Sarah and Jamie McCauley are landlords, YouTubers, Walmart pallet flippers, eBay resellers and Amazon product reviewers — and those are just their active streams of income.

The McCauleys make their money by researching what makes side hustles profitable, testing them and teaching others how to do the same on YouTube. The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based couple earned nearly $140,000 from eight streams of income last year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

They’re particularly good at two types of gigs, they say: anything involving real estate and their YouTube channel itself, where they share their side hustle exploits with at least 146,000 subscribers.

“If you’re looking to just make some extra money on the side, maybe pay off a credit card debt or pay for a vacation, I think that is doable for nearly everybody,” says Jamie.

DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to earning passive income online

The McCauleys are part of a side hustle revolution, a growing number of Americans who supplement income with multiple jobs. More U.S adults — about 39%, according to Bankrate — have side hustles today than ever before, whether out of necessity, precaution or a desire to increase their earning power.

Ease of starting is at an all-time high: Platforms like Amazon, Airbnb and Fiverr offer instant access to paying customers. But with competition also rising, it’s hard to build a side hustle that regularly brings in revenue.

Make It spoke with a selection of Americans with successful side hustles to learn how they built their businesses, and used them to fund a wide variety of financial goals. Every respondent highlighted four common traits that helped drive their success:

They tailor their product to their audience

No matter what you sell, you need people willing to buy it. Jenny Woo says her side hustle is successful for a simple reason: She researches her audiences intensely, and tailors her products specifically to them.

Woo is an adjunct lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, a freelance business consultant and the teacher of an online course about emotional intelligence. Her one-woman side hustle, called Mind Brain Emotion, sells 12 different emotional intelligence-themed card games.

It brought in $1.71 million on Amazon last year, according to documents reviewed by Make It.

Woo’s first deck of cards, “52 Essential Conversations,” was tailored toward parents who — like her — wanted to connect with their kids and build their emotional intelligence skills. She joined parenting Facebook groups and observed users’ posting, commenting and liking habits, she says.

After selling $10,000 worth of the game in a 2018 Kickstarter campaign, Woo kept researching. She conducted a survey of her consumers, and learned that “overwhelmed” teachers looking to support children’s social and emotional development made up a significant portion of her audience, she says.

Her second deck, “52 Essential Relationship Skills,” was built for those teachers. It didn’t sell as well as her first deck, but it taught Woo that she could broaden, and combine, her audiences.

Woo applied that lesson to her third game, “52 Coping Skills.” She started with her own experiences working with college students during the Covid-19 pandemic and combined it with her continued research on teachers and parents, she says.

It’s now Mind Brain Emotion’s top-selling game, says Woo.

They find a platform suited for their product

Woo sells on Amazon, which has a broad reach, to collectively rope in Mind Brain Emotion’s hyper-specific audiences. Tim Riegel’s products have a more singular customer base, so he sells on Etsy, a marketplace known largely for homemade and handmade goods.

Riegel, a full-time general manager at a sheltered workshop, makes firepits from recycled tank ends in Lamar, Missouri, and sells them under the name Mozark Fire Pits. His average product weighs 225 pounds, and sells for $950.

Mozark Fire Pits brought in approximately $202,000 on Etsy last year, according to documents reviewed by Make It. Riegel maintains a 40% profit margin, he says.

Riegel chose Etsy over platforms like Amazon, Wayfair and Overstock because it felt more user-friendly, and a better fit for his personalized products, he says. He also sells on Facebook Marketplace, which costs him more in advertising — but less in shipping costs for customers within a 200-mile radius, he adds.

That kind of platform analysis is valuable, no matter what kind of side hustle you run.

If you sell a service, instead of a good, you might consider platforms like Fiverr and Upwork — popular among photo editors, marketing writers and voiceover artists — or Taskrabbit, known for labor-intensive side hustles like cleaning or repair work.

Or, opt out of those platforms entirely. If your gig is something that many other people also do, try finding marketplaces with more narrow niches like Contently, Skyword or ServiceScape, recommends side hustle expert Kathy Kristof.

“One of the problems I see with a lot of freelancers is that they go to the best-known online platforms … and those platforms are so saturated with people who have been there for, often, decades,” says Kristof, whose blog SideHusl has reviewed more than 500 different side gigs.

They stand out on saturated platforms

No matter your platform, you’ll need to stand out. A good listing can help: clear and concise, written for your intended audience, free of typos, with high-quality graphics and some search engine optimization (SEO).

Becky Powell, a kindergarten teacher based in Beaverton, Oregon, has a side hustle selling worksheets for other educators on an online platform called Teachers Pay Teachers. Many of her worksheets focus on her personal specialty, teaching children sight-reading skills.

Her side hustle didn’t take off until she embraced SEO. When she uploaded her first worksheets, she titled them, “Creating sight words with pattern blocks.” Sales slowly trickled in.

Her husband Jerome, who has a business background, suggested a simpler title, like “Hands-on sight words.” The sight-reading worksheets quickly became her bestselling products, Powell says.

Powell’s store brought in $125,500 in 2022 revenue, according to documents reviewed by Make It. Her husband also sells worksheets on the platform, and they’ve used their combined earnings to fund vacations and pay down their mortgage and student loans, Powell says.

“You have to have passion and knowledge,” she says. “You also have to have a business sense [and understand] SEO.”

Once you gain enough customers, work to turn your sales into positive reviews, so you appear higher in platforms’ search results, Kristof advises. Customer service, prompt shipping and quality control can usually earn you a good online reputation.

They know when to change direction or walk away

The McCauleys have a rule for their ever-changing collection of side hustles: “You either have to be one of the first to get there, or your approach has to be very unique and different to be successful,” Sarah says.

But being first or unique doesn’t guarantee long-term success. In 2020, the couple was early to a side hustle trend: pallet flipping. At local warehouses, they’d buy pallets of returned goods from Amazon, Walmart or Target. They’d unbox the pallets, discover their contents and resell the items for a hopeful profit.

From December 2020 to December 2022, the McCauleys made about $19,500 in pallet-flipping profits, they estimate. Their most popular unboxing YouTube video got 5.4 million viewers, translating to an additional $30,000 in advertising revenue, says Jamie.

Last year, more Americans hopped on the pallet-flipping trend. Pallet prices rose, resale values dropped and a slew of unboxing videos diluted the McCauleys’ viewership. “The pallets became not really worth our time … from the standpoint of time over money,” says Sarah.

Four years ago, the McCauleys would’ve simply moved onto their next side hustle. Now, they’re feeling the strain of constantly building new gigs from scratch, and starting to reorganize their income streams into a smaller number of longer-term projects.

Instead of flipping their current home renovation project in Northern Michigan for a profit, for example — something they’ve done multiple times — they’ll keep it as their own vacation house and part-time Airbnb rental, they say.

“We always knew [side hustling] was going to have an expiration date,” says Jamie. “It’s a young person’s game, to always be looking for what’s next.”

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How to avoid the No. 1 kind of regret people have when they die, from an Ivy League instructor

Of all the things I fear — spiders, needles, rejection — regrets take the cake. I have a deep-rooted fear of getting to the end and feeling woefully disappointed — not so much by the life I lived but by the life I didn’t live.

In many ways, I have my mother to thank for waking me up and helping me course-correct. She died at 58 with a litany of regrets. After losing her, I was gripped by the fear of dying with my own laundry list of “if onlys.” 

I committed to live a regret-free life or die trying. Now I’m hell-bent on helping us all make the most of our time while we’re lucky enough to be above ground. I want us to live regret-free lives we can feel proud of. 

That’s why I left my job as a corporate executive to become a “stop squandering your life” speaker and coach. It’s why, while I was in the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, I wrote a 101-page thesis about “reflecting on mortality to inspire vitality and meaning in life.” And it’s why I recently published my book, “You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End With No Regrets.”

The 2 major kinds of regrets

As terrifying as regrets are, they can be useful, because they can motivate us to change our behavior and improve our lives. That is, they can help us after we simmer in the uncomfortable awareness of what could have been if we’d only made a way better decision.

We tend to value regret more than any of the negative emotions out there, studies show, because we understand its value and power.

There are two main categories of regrets you want to pay attention to:

  1. Regrets of commission: These include things we did that we wish we hadn’t done. We tend to be able to rationalize regrets of commission through the softening of time.
  2. Regrets of omission: These include the paths we didn’t take, the things we wish we’d done that we never did. Regrets of omission tend to haunt us. 

Regrets of commission ‘cool off over time’

Also known as hot regrets, regrets of commission tend to feel intense at first. They’re often stupid things we do that make us burn in the short run with shame, guilt, or remorse, and then cool off over time.

Here’s a true-crime sampler from my clients and workshop attendees: 

  • “Being mean to Kandy on the schoolyard in sixth grade” 
  • “Having an affair” 
  • “Telling that client what I really thought of them” 
  • “Getting a DUI” 
  • “Leaving my vintage baseball card collection at home for my mother to later throw out” 
  • “Giving Tom the finger after quitting in a huff” 
  • “Eating three-day-old sushi” 

Regrets of omission ‘torment us’

Also known as wistful regrets, regrets of omission can torment us until the end of time. 

Real-life client examples include: 

  • “Not backpacking across Europe after college” 
  • “Not running that marathon”
  • “Not finishing law school” 
  • “Not fixing my relationship with my brother” 
  • “Not writing that children’s book”
  • “Not ordering desserts just for myself; I wish I’d had more pieces of cake all to myself” 
  • “Not telling my first crush I loved him”

Regrets of omission plague us mostly because these are paths not taken. They shine a glaring spotlight on the chasm between our actual selves and the person we’ve imagined as our ideal self, one that could make our dreams come true.

How to prevent the most painful regrets 

Anticipating our regrets before they come to fruition — or what I call our “pre-grets” — gives us a chance to live a life that feels right. 

In my book, I share several exercises, assessments, and tips designed to help you identify your pre-grets and figure out how to use them to your advantage. Here’s one way to start: 

  • Get comfy in bed. Yes, for real — recline your body and take a deep breath. Imagine you’re lying on your deathbed. You’re not in pain. You feel lucid and at peace. You’re near the end and reflecting back on your life. Start to zero in on your regrets of omission — not the things you did do but rather the things you didn’t do. 
  • Make a list of what comes up for you.
  • Circle the entries that make your heart beat fast, or make it ache or skip a beat. Any heart-related reaction is a good indication that this one matters
  • Pay close attention to the pre-grets that want to hide on the page because they’re fragile and afraid to be exposed. Perhaps you feel fear of failure or rejection or ridicule. That’s a sign that it’s important to protect and be kind to those dreams.
  • Start brainstorming ways to take even one step forward. Better yet, write one down right now. 

An unflinching awareness of your pre-grets can change the trajectory of your life.

That’s because we don’t have to continue down the paths we’re on and resign ourselves to regrets of omission. We don’t have to merely imagine the paths not taken.

We can go down entirely different paths if we choose. We just have to recognize what matters deeply to us and take action.

Jodi Wellman is a former corporate executive turned executive coach. She has a master’s in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she is an instructor in the master’s program and a trainer in the world-renowned Penn Resilience Program. She runs her own business, Four Thousand Mondays, and is the author of “You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End With No Regrets.”

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.

Excerpt adapted from “You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End With No Regrets” by Jodi Wellman. Copyright © 2024. Reprinted with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.

The No. 1 country where expats are happy with their careers

Expats in Denmark are among the happiest with their work lives, according to the latest Expat Insider survey from InterNations, the online global community for people who’ve moved abroad.

The Nordic country ranks No. 1 for where people are most satisfied with their jobs, career opportunities and work-life balance, among other aspects.

That’s based on survey responses from more than 12,500 people living in foreign countries and reflects their feelings on four broad categories covering work topics, including their career prospects, salary and job security, work culture and satisfaction, and work and leisure.

Denmark ranks highest for two groupings: work culture and satisfaction, as well as work and leisure.

Some 84% of expats in Denmark are satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to a global average of 60%; a similar share are happy with their work hours and, on average, work 39.2 hours per week, compared with 42.5 hours for the global average.

Here are the top 10 countries where expats are happiest with their work lives abroad:

  1. Denmark
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Belgium
  4. Netherlands
  5. Luxembourg
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. Australia
  8. Mexico
  9. Indonesia
  10. Austria

Ilana Buhl, a CNBC Make It contributor and American teacher who moved to Denmark, says moving from Texas to Copenhagen brought about lots of positive changes to her work life: shorter workweeks, stronger boundaries around off-hours, five weeks of paid vacation, and a better salary to cover a lower cost of living.

Outside of work, she also enjoys robust public transit, public health care, affordable day care, and ample maternity leave paid for by her employer and the government.

Many of these factors contribute to the fact that Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the annual World Happiness Report.

Coming in at No. 2 is Saudi Arabia, where a majority, 75%, say moving there has improved their career prospects, versus 56% globally. The majority, 63%, of newcomers relocate to Saudi Arabia for work, where they say they’re satisfied with the state of the local economy.

Meanwhile, just 35% of expats around the world say they moved to a foreign country for job-related reasons.

The biggest downside to working in Saudi Arabia may be the long hours — expats working there report logging 47.8 hours a week for a full-time job.

Rounding out the top three is Belgium, where expats are highly satisfied with their job security, the local job market and their own career opportunities.

Expats in Belgium say they enjoy flexibility in the workplace, especially among the 68% who say they can work remotely, and their shorter-than-average full-time workweek of 40.8 hours.

Panama was recognized as the No. 1 best country for expats overall, according to the InterNations survey. The overall ranking accounts for broader life and financial factors, where foreigners say they’re satisfied with the quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and an “expat essentials” index, which covers housing, administration, language and digital life.

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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.

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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