MONEY financial independence

Financial Lessons of America’s Founding Fathers

What can the men who adorn our currency teach us about our own finances? Quite a lot, actually, but not because they were all as good with money as they were at creating a nation.

In theory, the founding fathers should be the ultimate financial role models. After all, they’re literally on the money. Warren Buffett might be every investor’s hero, but even he can’t count his earnings without seeing the faces of Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, and Jefferson. Even John Adams, perhaps the most neglected of the founding fathers, has been commemorated on the dollar coin.

What can the men who adorn our currency teach us about our own finances? Quite a lot, actually, but not because they were all as good with money as they were at creating a nation. Jefferson, for example, amassed a great fortune but later squandered it and ended his life all but penniless (despite, of course, the economic advantages of being a slaveholder). But others, including Washington — a shrewd and even ruthless businessman — died very wealthy men.

Here are some of the lessons, still applicable today, that can be drawn from these historic financial lives.

Have a Back-up Plan

Alexander Hamilton may have been the greatest financial visionary in American history. After the Revolutionary War, as Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Hamilton steered the fledgling nation out of economic turmoil, ensured the U.S. could pay back its debts, established a national bank, and set the country on a healthy economic path. But it turned out that he was far better at managing the country’s finances than his own.

When Hamilton was killed in a duel with vice president Aaron Burr, his relatives found they were broke without his government salary. Willard Sterne Randall, biographer of multiple founding fathers, recounts that Hamilton’s wife was forced to take up a collection at his funeral in order to pay for a proper burial.

What went wrong? Hamilton’s law practice had made him wealthy and a government salary paid the bills once he moved to Washington, but he also had seven children and two mistresses to support. Those expenses, in addition to his spendthrift ways, left Hamilton living from paycheck to paycheck.

The take-away: Don’t stake your family’s financial future on your current salary. The Amicable Society pioneered the first life insurance policy in 1706, well before Hamilton’s demise in 1804, and term life insurance remains an excellent way to provide for loved ones in the event of an untimely death. Also, don’t get into duels. Life insurance usually doesn’t cover those.

Diversify Your Assets

Conventional wisdom holds that investors shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, and our nation’s first president prospered by following this truism.

During the early 18th century, Virginia’s landed gentry became rich selling fine tobacco to European buyers. Times were so good for so long that few thought to change their strategy when the bottom fell out of the market in the 1760s, and Jefferson in particular continued to throw good money after bad as prices plummeted. George W. wasn’t as foolish. “Washington was the first to figure out that you had to diversify,” explains Randall. “Only Washington figured out that you couldn’t rely on a single crop.”

After determining tobacco to be a poor investment, Washington switched to wheat. He shipped his finest grain overseas and sold the lower quality product to his Virginia neighbors (who, historians believe, used it to feed their slaves). As land lost its value, Washington stopped acquiring new property and started renting out what he owned. He also fished on the Chesapeake and charged local businessmen for the use of his docks. The president was so focussed on revenues that at times he could even be heartless: When a group of revolutionary war veterans became delinquent on rent, they found themselves evicted from the Washington estate by their former commander.

Invest in What You Know

Warren Buffett’s famous piece of investing wisdom is also a major lesson of Benjamin Franklin’s path to success. After running away from home, the young Franklin started a print shop in Boston and started publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac. When Poor Richard’s became a success, Franklin reinvested in publishing.

“What he did that was smart was that he created America’s first media empire,” says Walter Isaacson, former editor of TIME magazine and author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Franklin franchised his printing business to relatives and apprentices and spread them all the way from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas. He also founded the Pennsylvania Gazette, the colonies’ most popular newspaper, and published it on his own presses. In line with his principle of “doing well by doing good,” Franklin used his position as postmaster general to create the first truly national mail service. The new postal network not only provided the country with a means of communication, but also allowed Franklin wider distribution for his various print products. Isaacson says Franklin even provided his publishing affiliates with privileged mail service before ultimately giving all citizens equal access.

Franklin’s domination of the print industry paid off big time. He became America’s first self-made millionaire and was able to retire at age 42.

Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Joneses

Everyone wants to impress their friends, even America’s founders. Alexander Hamilton blew through his fortune trying to match the lifestyle of a colonial gentleman. He worked himself to the bone as a New York lawyer to still-not-quite afford the expenses incurred by Virginia aristocrats.

Similarly, Thomas Jefferson’s dedication to impressing guests with fine wines, not to mention his compulsive nest feathering (his plantation, Monticello, was in an almost constant state of renovation), made him a life-long debtor.

Once again, it was Ben Franklin who set the positive example: Franklin biographer Henry Wilson Brands, professor of history at the University of Austin, believes the inventor’s relative maturity made him immune to the type of one-upmanship that was common amongst the upper classes. By the time he entered politics in earnest, he was hardly threatened by a group of colleagues young enough to be his children. Franklin’s hard work on the way to wealth also deterred him from excessive conspicuous consumption. “Franklin, like many people who earned their money the hard way, was very careful with it,” says Brands. “He worked hard to earn his money and he wasn’t going to squander it.”

Not Good With Money? Get Some Help

In addition to being boring and generally unlikeable, John Adams was not very good with money. Luckily for him, his wife Abigail was something of a financial genius. While John was intent on increasing the size of his estate, Abigail knew that property was a rookie investment. “He had this emotional attachment to land,” recounts Woody Holton, author of an acclaimed Abigail Adams biography. “She told him ‘Thats all well and good, but you’re making 1% on your land and I can get you 25%.'”

She lived up to her word. During the war, Abigail managed the manufacturing of gunpowder and other military supplies while her husband was away. After John ventured to France on business, she instructed him to ship her goods in place of money so she could sell supplies to stores beleaguered by the British blockade. Showing an acute understanding of risk and reward, she even reassured her worried spouse after a few shipments were intercepted by British authorities. “If one in three arrives, I should be a gainer,” explained Abigail in one correspondence. When she finally rejoined John in Europe, the future first lady had put them on the road to wealth. “Financially, the best thing John Adams did for his family was to leave it for 10 years,” says Holton.

As good as her wartime performance was, Abigail’s masterstroke would take place after the revolution. Lacking hard currency, the Continental Congress had been forced to pay soldiers with then-worthless government bonds. Abigail bought bundles of the securities for pennies on the dollar and earned massive sums when the country’s finances stabilized.

Despite Abigail’s talent, John continued to pursue his own bumbling financial strategies. Abigail had to be eternally vigilant, and frequently stepped in at the last minute to stop a particularly ill-conceived venture. After spending the first half of one letter instructing his financial manager to purchase nearby property, John abruptly contradicted the order after an intervention by Abigail. “Shewing [showing] what I had written to Madam she has made me sick of purchasing Veseys Place,” wrote Adams. Instead, at his wife’s urging, he told the manager to purchase more bonds.

Make A Budget… And Stick To It

From a financial perspective, Thomas Jefferson was one giant cautionary tale. He spent too much, saved too little, and had no understanding of how to make money from agriculture. As Barnard history professor Herbert Sloan succinctly puts it, Jefferson “had the remarkable ability to always make the wrong decision.” To make matters worse, Jefferson’s major holdings were in land. Large estates had previously brought in considerable profits, but during his later years farmland became extremely difficult to sell. Jefferson was so destitute during one trip that he borrowed money from one of his slaves.

Yet, despite his dismal economic abilities, Jefferson also kept meticulous financial records. Year after year, he dutifully logged his earnings and expenditures. The problem? He never balanced them. When Jefferson died, his estate was essentially liquidated to pay his creditors.

 

MONEY Travel

JetBlue’s New Outdoor Park Lounge Looks Totally Amazing

Paul Rivera/JetBlue JetBlue's new outdoor waiting area at JFK's terminal five.

This place is so nice you won't want to leave to get on the plane.

Starting Wednesday, waiting for a JetBlue flight in New York will be like a walk in the park. Because there will be an actual park.

The airline announced today it is opening a new outdoor space at John F. Kennedy airport, featuring seating, planters, and a miniature lawn. The new area, which spans 4,046 square feet on the roof of JFK’s terminal five, will also include seating for 50 people, free wifi, food trucks, and a fenced-in dog run with synthetic grass, along with a view of the New York City skyline.

JetBlue says the waiting area, known as the T5 Rooftop (as in: Terminal 5), is open all summer between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and will be accessible to all ticket holders once they clear security.

“As rooftop bars, sunbathing and summer enjoyment are such a big part of living in New York City, we wanted to bring this unique aspect to customers traveling through T5,” Jamie Perry, JetBlue vice president of brand and product development, said in a press release.

MONEY

This Is Why You Should Consider Dumping Your Traditional Job

175138232
Hero Images—Getty Images/Hero Images

79% of independent workers say they're happier without a regular job.

Don’t feel bad for independent workers because they don’t have regular jobs, with benefits, traditional work hours, and such. This broad category of workers, which includes freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed, is quite happy with life as it is.

According to the 2015 edition of the State of Independence report from MBO Partners, a business services company focussing on the self-employed, 79% of independent workers say they are happier working on their own.

The full report will not be released until the fall, but Steve King, partner at the small business analysis firm Emergent Research that worked with MBO on the study, also said 59% of independent workers reported they were healthier than if they held a traditional job.

Why are independents in such a good mood? King says features like control, autonomy and flexibility make independent work more attractive than the typical 9-to-5. “Our research, and the research of others, is finding growing numbers of Americans are willing to trade income and job security for the autonomy, flexibility and control independent work provides,” King writes.

To some extent, the study’s findings are to be expected. The majority of those surveyed say that, for a variety of reasons, they voluntarily chose the independent work life over more traditional gigs. So it’s no surprise nearly two out of three independent workers report being “very satisfied” with their work situation, and why four out of five plan on staying independent. After all, most of them consciously decided to pursue this style of work.

MBO says almost 18 million Americans are full-time independent workers, an increase of 12% over the last five years. According to the company, the overall employment market grew by 7% in the same time period.

MONEY cell phones

Sprint Cancels Plan to Dramatically Slow Online Videos After Internet Outcry

SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

Someone read the fine print

Sprint will no longer be slowing internet videos to near dial-up speeds, the company announced on Tuesday.

The wireless carrier had previously introduced an “All-in” plan that rolled unlimited talk, text, data, and the cost of a smartphone into one $80 monthly payment. The Washington Post reported that some users quickly noticed a clause in the plan’s fine print explaining that Sprint would slow video speeds to 600 Kbps, which the Post described as “little better than what you’d get on dial-up.”

Outrage over the video throttling spread quickly online, and on Tuesday night Sprint’s CEO said he would remove the speed restrictions. “No more limits on streaming video,” Marcelo Claure, the carrier’s chief executive, declared in a post on Twitter.

Claure said Sprint may still “manage the network” at some times in order to “reduce congestion,” suggesting Sprint users may still have their speeds throttled during periods of heavy internet use. However, a Sprint representative confirmed to the Post that the company would be removing its two-year-old policy on throttling streaming video for all of the company’s plans, not just for All-in subscribers.

Thanks, internet.

Read Next: Find the Best Cellphone Plan For You

MONEY facebook

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Defends Controversial ‘Real Name’ Policy

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg Hosts Internet.org Summit
Udit Kulshrestha—Bloomberg/Getty Images Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Vulnerable groups have opposed the rule

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think Facebook’s real name policy is inherently discriminatory, the social media giant’s CEO said Tuesday.

The real name policy, which requires users to go by their real names on the site, has been criticized by domestic violence survivors, Native Americans, drag queens, and trans users, who say the rule discriminates against their identity and in some cases puts them at risk of physical harm.

In response to a question from BuzzFeed asking whether Facebook would end the policy in light of those concerns, Zuckerberg replied that the real name requirement was essential to Facebook and that the policy’s meaning had been misinterpreted.

“There is some confusion about what our policy actually is,” the CEO wrote during a Facebook Q&A. “Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that.”

The 31-year old executive also emphasized that a real name requirement exists, at least in part, to protect Facebook users. “[The policy] helps keep people safe,” said Zuckerberg. “We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively towards other members of our community when they’re using their real names. There are plenty of cases — for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband — where preventing the ex-husband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important. As long as he’s using his real name, she can easily block him.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had to answer for the real name policy. Last October, after a number of drag queens were locked out of their accounts for real name violations, the company apologized to LGBTQ users “for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks,” and promised Facebook would develop a new system to review accounts that are reported as fake.

Zuckerberg echoed that promise in his most recent statement on the issue, saying Facebook is “working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.”

But the policy’s opponents have reason to be skeptical of the CEO’s latest assurance. Since the company first vowed to reform their real name system, a number of users have continued to have their accounts locked for perceived policy violations. Writer Lux Alptraum said she was banned for not using a real name in February, and Facebook gave her no recourse to contest the decision.

“The only option I was offered was to update my name; there was no option to contact a Facebook representative or even submit any documentation to support my online identity,” wrote Alptraum.

MONEY Apple

Here’s How to Turn Off Apple Music

You might like things just the way they were

Apple launched Apple Music on Tuesday, the company’s new Spotify-like streaming music service. iPhone and iPad users who update their devices to the latest version of iOS will see their old Music app has changed to prominently feature Apple Music and its various bells and whistles.

That’s great if you want a streaming service from Apple, but not so much for anyone who liked things just the way they were. If you would rather listen to the music you’ve purchased with no fancy-smancy recommendations or new album suggestions, there’s a simple method of doing so.

As Six Colors‘ Dan Moren explains, just go to the Settings app, then tap on the Music tab and move the “Show Apple Music” switch to the off position.

IMG_4722

Moren notes this won’t completely change things back to the way they were—you’ll still see the Connect tab, for instance—but your Music app should look at least a little bit more familiar.

MONEY

Read next: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

MONEY Books

Why Adults Are Getting into Coloring Books

131188540
Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

It's the latest "literary" craze.

Coloring books: they’re not just for kids anymore.

That’s the word from The Boston Globe, which reports that coloring books for adults are flying off store shelves. The books, which the paper says are more detailed than their child-focussed counterparts, are among the top sellers on Amazon and are well stocked by bookseller Barnes and Noble.

Why are grownups buying up a genre generally targeted at younger children? The answer seems to be that coloring between the lines can be a therapeutic exercise.

“I think it probably speaks to people’s enjoyment in doing this kind of relaxing hobby or distraction from everyday life,” Sarah Deaver, president of the American Art Therapy Association, told the Globe. “It creates an object of focus, and it creates something that’s beautiful and that’s satisfying.” One best-selling coloring book is subtitled Stress Relieving Patterns, and promises to provide “hours and hours of stress relief, mindful calm, and fun, creative expression.”

Adult coloring books have become so popular that even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the act. Earlier this month, Bantam books announced it would publish a GoT coloring book meant for a mature audience. The book “will feature 45 original black and white illustrations, inspired by characters, scenes, locations and other iconic images from Martin’s wildly successful ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series,” the company told the Los Angeles Times. The coloring book is scheduled for release sometime this fall.

MONEY Donald Trump

Angry Customers Want Macy’s to Fire Donald Trump

Donald Trump Launches His New Signature Watch Collection
Desiree Navarro—FilmMagic Donald Trump launches his Signature Watch collection at Macy's Herald Square.

The Donald’s official merchandise is facing some serious resistance

Donald Trump piñatas may be flying off the shelves, but The Donald’s officially licensed products are facing some serious resistance.

Quartz reports that a petition calling for Macy’s to drop Trump’s merchandise has gathered over 700,000 signatures. The petition is authored by Angelo Carusone, executive vice president for the left-leaning research organization Media Matters, and calls on the retailer to “sever ties” with Trump over the GOP presidential hopeful’s recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

“Donald Trump has attacked Mexican immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘killers,'” wrote Carusone. “It’s time for Macy’s to follow Univision’s and NBC’s lead and finally dump Trump.” Carusone is referring to recent decisions by the two broadcasters to split with the billionaire after he implied many Mexicans who come to America are criminals.

Trump has lent his name to a number of products, including spring water, and Macy’s currently carries the Donald J. Trump Collection line of clothing and the Empire by Trump fragrance. A Donald Trump white dress shirt is listed as regularly retailing for $69.99, while a Donald J. Trump Blue Pindot Suit can cost as much as $650. Many of the items are currently on sale. A container of Trump’s Empire perfume costs $52, but Empire-scented deodorant can be had for as little as $14.

This is not the first time the Media Matters executive has taken aim at Trump. Quartz notes Carusone also published a petition in 2012 calling for Macy’s to drop Trump’s merchandise in the wake of his comments suggesting Barack Obama might not be an American citizen. The current petition is an updated version of the previous effort, but Carusone told Quartz earlier today that 25,000 new signatures have been added in roughly the last 24 hours.

It is unclear how effective another petition against Trump will be. In an email to the Media Matters executive following the 2012 petition and published by BuzzFeed, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren wrote that “we respect your opinion and those who have signed the petition,” but “Many of the individuals associated with products sold at Macy’s — or at any retailer, for that matter — express personal opinions that are not related to the merchandise we sell or to the philosophies of our company. That is the nature of a free society.”

TIME Donald Trump

Angry Customers Want Macy’s to Fire Donald Trump

Donald Trump Launches His New Signature Watch Collection
Desiree Navarro—FilmMagic Donald Trump launches his Signature Watch collection at Macy's Herald Square.

The Donald’s official merchandise is facing some serious resistance

Donald Trump piñatas may be flying off the shelves, but The Donald’s official merchandise is facing some serious resistance.

Quartz reports that a petition calling for Macy’s to drop Donald Trump’s merchandise has gathered over 700,000 signatures. The petition is authored by Angelo Carusone, executive vice president for the left-leaning research organization Media Matters, and calls on the retailer to “sever ties” with Trump over the GOP presidential hopeful’s recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

“Donald Trump has attacked Mexican immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘killers,'” wrote Carusone. “It’s time for Macy’s to follow Univision’s and NBC’s lead and finally dump Trump.” Carusone is referring to recent decisions by the two broadcasters to split with the billionaire after he implied many Mexicans who come to America are criminals.

Trump has lent his name to a number of products, including spring water, and Macy’s currently carries the Donald J. Trump Collection line of clothing and the Empire by Trump fragrance. A Donald Trump white dress shirt is listed as regularly retailing for $69.99, while a Donald J. Trump Blue Pindot Suit can cost as much as $650. Many of the items are currently on sale. A container of Trump’s Empire perfume costs $52, but Empire-scented deodorant can be had for as little as $14.

This is not the first time the Media Matters executive has taken aim at Trump. Quartz notes Carusone also published a petition in 2012 calling for Macy’s to drop Trump’s merchandise in the wake of his comments suggesting Barack Obama might not be an American citizen. The current petition is an updated version of the previous effort, but Carusone told Quartz earlier today that 25,000 new signatures have been added in roughly the last 24 hours.

It is unclear how effective another petition against Trump will be. In an email to the Media Matters executive following the 2012 petition and published by BuzzFeed, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren wrote that “we respect your opinion and those who have signed the petition,” but “Many of the individuals associated with products sold at Macy’s — or at any retailer, for that matter — express personal opinions that are not related to the merchandise we sell or to the philosophies of our company. That is the nature of a free society.”

MONEY Donald Trump

Donald Trump Piñatas Are a Hit In Mexico

A Mexican client who lives in the U.S., looks at a pinata depicting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hanging outside a workshop in Reynosa, Mexico, June 23, 2015. Days after billionaire Trump accused Mexico of sending criminals to live in the United States, a Mexican artisan has given angry Mexicans an outlet-- a Trump pinata they can stuff with candy and beat with a stick. In the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Dalton Ramirez works at his family's pinata shop where they create a variety of paper mache figures to be filled with treats and broken open with sticks on birthdays and holidays.
Daniel Becerril—Reuters A Donald Trump piñata.

"This pinata especially is the one everyone wants to break."

Mexicans have found a way to hit back at Donald Trump. Literally.

Reuters reports that piñatas bearing Trump’s likeness, including “a flange of blonde hair and a big mouth,” have hit store shelves in Mexico and are proving popular among customers eager to protest the billionaire’s recent remarks against immigrants.

Trump, who is a Republican candidate for president, drew criticism after declaring in his campaign announcement speech that Mexican migrants were bringing “drugs, crime, and rapists” to the United States. He later called his comments “100 percent correct,” but insisted he was a strong supporter of Mexicans. “How can I not love people who give me many millions of dollars for apartments?” Trump said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Donald’s comments prompted piñata maker Dalton Remirez to design an extremely bashable piñata bearing Trump’s visage. The candy-filled sculpture retails for about $40, and Ramirez says it has been flying off shelves. “This piñata especially is the one everyone wants to break,” the artist told Reuters.

Read next: 8 Epic Business Failures with Donald Trump’s Name on Them

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com