“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”



Ideas for Your Freedom Year — Trips of a Lifetime

Dear Bored at Work Seeking Adventure –
Now, why wait to see these amazing places until your 65 with a gold watch and arthritis ?Get to planning your Freedom Year adventure now!
Yours truly

Editor, FreedomYear.com

Trips of a Lifetime
(Original Article from Frommers)

A tree overgrowing the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

In 1861, it was just a mysterious hulk of laterite and sandstone blocks, shrouded in roots and vines, in the Cambodian jungle. Today, the ancient city of Angkor — capital of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th to the 15th century — is Cambodia‘s chief tourism attraction, a breathtaking sprawl of temples and shrines that covers 400 sq. km (154 sq. miles).

Part of the complex is Angkor Thom — or great city in Khmer — dotted with many temples. The centerpiece is a fantastical Buddhist temple called Bayon, with four huge enigmatic stone faces, each cosmologically aligned with a compass point, as are each of its 51 small towers.

Angkor’s primary attraction, however, is the main temple, Angkor Wat, whose four-spired profile has virtually become the symbol of Cambodia. Dating from the 12th century, it stands 213m (700 ft.) high from its base to the tip of its highest lotus-shaped tower, the largest religious monument ever built. Scholars believe its symmetry mirrors the timeline of the Hindu ages, like a map or calendar of the universe. Approaching from the main road over a baray, or reservoir, you climb up three steep levels to the inner sanctum, where you’ll be high up for an awe-inspiring view.

Photo Caption: A tree overgrowing the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Photo by Frommers.com Community

Bungalows over the water in Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Nothing says “ultimate honeymoon” like Bora Bora. Lush mountains slope down to a lagoon striped with bands of clear water ranging from deep blue-green to neon-turquoise. Around the lagoon, palm-fringed atolls and coral reefs trace a wispy pentagon, and everywhere, suspended boardwalks lead like tentacles to overwater bungalows for newlyweds and other romantics. Too perfect a tropical getaway to be a secret, Bora Bora is nevertheless remote and expensive enough that the island’s luxurious mystique has remained intact.

Less touristy and even more stunning is Moorea — inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Ha’i in James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, made popular by the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. Once you behold its beauty in person, you may find it hard to believe the scenery isn’t computer-generated: Jagged mountain contours are so dramatically faceted as to seem man-made, and the dense vegetation blanketing every surface of the island has the soft, rich look of green velvet. If the landscape isn’t dreamy enough, visitors can learn the art of growing black pearls or traditional tattooing at Moorea’s Tiki Theatre Village, a reconstructed Polynesian village. Or visit a vanilla plantation in cliff-bounded Opunohu Valley. Or simply make friends with local residents, who still have time to stop and chat with inquisitive visitors.
Photo Caption: Overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Photo by Frommers.com Community

Hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Three volcanoes created the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Cappadocia, in central Turkey, 515km (320 miles) southeast of Istanbul. The first eruption spread delicate tufa, which wind and water sculpted into ever-evolving domes, hollows, clefts, and cones. Later eruptions scattered harder lava. Now, as the soft underbelly erodes, huge boulders teeter upon slender tufa towers known as “fairy chimneys.” Locals still burrow homes into the soft rock, as they have since the Paleolithic era. Some have opened these singular dwellings as guest houses, extending genuine hospitality to travelers about to venture to the region’s top sights.

South of Nevsehir are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli — two of the most impressive underground cities dug by invaders as early as 2000 B.C. as they traversed this crucial crossroads between the East and the West. From the Christian era, the Goreme Open Air Museum encompasses 30 painted churches from the 2nd century A.D. near Goreme. More recent additions to the landscape are the medieval caravansaries, such as the Agzikarahan (now a carpet market), where traveling merchants lodged as they traveled the Silk Road in the 13th century. Now a carpet market, Agzikarahan draws today’s weary travelers for a glass of tea, some haggling, and a glimpse of Ottoman architecture at its height.
Photo Caption: Hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
Photo by Frommers.com Community

Hverir thermal field near Reykjahlíð, Iceland.


The terrain of Iceland, among the world’s most dynamic and otherworldly, is still in the process of being created before your eyes. The earth steams and bubbles. Volcanoes rise like islands in a sea of sand. Lava cracks and cools into thousands of never-before-seen shapes. Waterfalls drop from heath-covered mountains with spiked ridges and snowcapped peaks. Cows, sheep, and ponies graze on velvety green pastures. Daylight never ends in summer, with alternating periods of rain and sunshine, marble skies, and heavy mists made for romantics who know that only on a misty day can you see forever.

And then there are the Icelanders: 100% literate, with Europe’s lowest infant mortality rate and the highest rate of births outside marriage; and the vibrant nightlife in Reykjavik. The force of life in the people of Iceland — as in the landscape — is incomparable.
Photo Caption: Hverir thermal field near Reykjahlíð, Iceland
Photo by Frommers.com Community

The Tiger's Nest Monastery near Paro, Bhutan.


The captivating kingdom of Bhutan, rooted in the traditions and beliefs of a fast-disappearing Buddhist universe, opened its doors warily to the outside world only little more than a quarter-century ago. Those who trickled in found a place like no other. Its mountain landscapes, with holy peaks unclimbed to avoid disturbing the gods, are as pristine as its primeval forests, a naturalist’s dream. Roads are few and precipitous, but at almost every turn there is something to see: traditional half-timbered farmhouses in sheltered valleys, arresting fortress monasteries on hilltops, rare animals and birds, and groves of blooming trees and earthbound flowers.

Valleys are colorful (sometimes raucous) places, suffused with the scent of butter lamps and enlivened by flocks of unruly novices, disputatious monks, and altars piled high with offerings from the rural poor, who come to spin prayer wheels, finger beads, or seek advice.

Never colonized by Western powers, Bhutan remains deeply independent, the last Tibetan Buddhist monarchy not swallowed up by China, to the north, or India, to the south. Despite the arrival of the country’s first luxury spa resorts, one visits Bhutan on Bhutanese terms, in limited numbers, for immersion in an encompassing Buddhism that touches everything.
Photo Caption: The Tiger’s Nest Monastery near Paro, Bhutan
Photo by Frommers.com Community

View of Machu Picchu in Peru's Sacred Valley.

Machu Picchu, Peru

The Inca Trail footpath is an ancient Andean passage from Cusco, capital of the Incan empire, through the Sacred Valley, to the 15th-century ruins of the civilization’s crown jewel, Machu Picchu. Cleared from centuries of thick forest growth since historian Hiram Bingham introduced it to the world in 1911, this fabled lost city of the Incas defiantly guards its mystique.

Did it serve as a citadel? An astronomical observatory? A ceremonial city or sacred retreat for the emperor? Why did the Incas construct, inhabit, and then deliberately abandon it in less than a century? How did the Spanish conquistadors miss it? Whatever its intended purpose, Machu Picchu remains the world’s greatest example of landscape art, sitting gracefully like a proud saddle between two enormous Andean peaks.

Visitors come to run their hands over the massive, smoothly cut stone, which fit together seamlessly without mortar. Other travelers make it a point to experience daybreak, when the light creeps over Machu Picchu’s jagged silhouette and slowly, with great drama, illuminates the ruins row by row, building by building. Most spectacular is the winter solstice sunrise, when sunrays stream through the Temple of the Sun window, setting the stone at the center of the temple ablaze.
Photo Caption: View of Machu Picchu in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
Photo by Sarah Haden

Climbing one of the tallest dunes at sunrise in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia.

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia

“Surreal” is the word most often used to describe the textured landscapes of Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia. Its purple gravel plains are carpeted in soft green grass after the rains. Golden dunes rise up from the sea. The iconic Sossusvlei dunes, a series of burnt-red and deep-orange pyramids, tower some 300m (984 ft.) above the white clay pan into which the Tsauchab River has its annual petit mort (little death).

A little larger than Switzerland, the planet’s oldest desert and fourth-largest conservation land is best experienced by car, with the windows open and the hot wind in your hair. It’s not a wildlife destination per se, but step away from the gravel roads and you’ll encounter some of nature’s more interesting species, cleverly adapted to these hyper-arid conditions.

Head south from Windhoek, the capital, and spend the night at one of the fabulous safari camps in Namib Rand, the private reserve adjacent to the park, just an hour from Sossusvlei. Then head east to the lesser-known but equally captivating Naukluft Mountains, source of the Tsauchab’s waters, where crystal streams fill jade-green rock pools. Finally return via the black boulders of the Juiseb Canyon to Swakopmund, where you can follow the dunes south to Sandwich Harbor for the refreshing sight of water teeming with flamingos and pelicans.
Photo Caption: Climbing one of the tallest dunes at sunrise in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia

Lions resting on the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Okavango Delta & Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve is a world where edible beasts — zebras, giraffe, warthogs, antelopes — are forever on alert, as lions, leopards, or packs of wild dogs lie in wait to take them down for dinner. This spectacular environment is arguably the best place on the planet for an intimate view of wildlife in action.

A fan-shaped oasis in a country that is 80% desert, the delta draws hordes of animals for a drink of its life-giving waters. After the summer rains, the delta is ravaged by water from Angola in the north, transforming it into another world, soaked with life and charged with the beauty of abundance. Visitors get to watch the flood plains of the world’s largest inland delta miraculously fill up. Waterways dotted with islands and clogged by reed beds provide a network of navigable channels where visitors are poled around in dugout canoes. While basking in luxurious lodges and top-end safari drives, visitors await that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch predators take down their prey.
Photo Caption: Lions resting on the Okavango Delta in Botswana
Photo by Frommers.com Community

Terracotta warriors in Xian, China.

Xian, China

A train crossing of China’s Silk Road takes you through a cultural journey from the Far East to the Mideast, from modern Chinese megacities through an ancient arid desert plateau to stunning mountains. For an ideal 10-day trip, you can follow the ancient trade route used from the 1st century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. starting in Xian, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Along the way, travelers can make stops at the official end of the Great Wall at Jiayu Guan, the Mogao Buddhist caves near Dunhuang, the aforementioned desert basin of Turpan, and the provincial capital Urumqi — an ideal base for a day trip to Heavenly Lake.

Time your travels so you hit Kashgar — the end of the line — on a Sunday, when its bustling market comes to life. Or, opt for a five-hour drive to the even more impressive Sunday market in Khotan, the largest in Central Asia.
Photo caption: Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, China.
Photo by Jodi Bratch

The French Valley of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine is the crown jewel of Chile’s national park system. Lakes of milky greens and blues (“paine” is the Tehuelche word for “blue”), gentle valleys, and frigid hanging glaciers captivate hikers who come to walk the park’s circuit of well-maintained trails — but nothing has more power to impress and compel than the Paine Massif — a series of jagged peaks thrown up from the earth 3 million years ago.

This being Patagonia, weather conditions are also impressive and instantly changeable, from warm sunny pauses to screaming winds that can prevent anyone from walking exactly upright. The best time of year for hiking is late December through February, when weather conditions are at their most mild and daylight is longest, but intrepid travelers visit year-round.
Photo caption: The French Valley of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

A large stone moai statue in Rapa Nui on Easter Island.

Easter Island

Whether you call it Rapa Nui (as do its Polynesian inhabitants) or Isla de Pascua (as do Chileans), Easter Island is synonymous with those giant carved heads known as moai. We know how they were made. We know where they were made and how they were transported across the island. We just don’t know why — and that’s the great mystery. Theories abound, but possibly the most well-reasoned one is that the 12 Rapanui tribes carved ever-bigger versions of the original smaller moai to boast of their virility, strength, and power in a low-tech arms race that led to the eventual deforestation of the island and the decimation of its ecosystem. The population is estimated to have peaked at 15,000. By the time Dutch explorers first saw the island on Easter Sunday in 1722 (thus the Westernized name), the population had dwindled to just under 3,000 people, all facing starvation.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll discover an island and a people who have proudly recaptured their heritage. Since it’s the most remote inhabited island in the world (it’s in the South Pacific more than a five-hour flight from Santiago), we recommend spending a week here, giving you time to explore the island at a leisurely pace and to recharge in its balmy climes. Be sure to visit Rano Raraku, the volcanic peak that served as the quarry (aka the “Nursery”) for the famed statues, where you’ll find moai complete or in process scattered about the slope.
Photo caption: A large stone moai statue on Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island
Photo by Frommers.com Community

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Why travel so far to look at a large red rock? Because it will send a shiver up your spine. Because it may move you to tears. Up close, Uluru is more magnificent than you can imagine. Immense and overwhelming, this area has what’s described as a “spirit of place” here.

In photos (which never do it justice), “The Rock” looks smooth and even, but the reality is much more interesting — dappled with holes and overhangs, with curtains of stone draping its sides, creating little coves hiding water holes and Aboriginal rock art. Depending on the angle and intensity of the sun, the color changes from pink to a deep wine red. And if you are lucky enough to be visiting when it rains, you will see a sight like no other. Here, rain brings everyone outside to see the spectacle of waterfalls created off the massive rock.

But don’t think a visit to Uluru is just about snapping a few photos. You can walk around the Rock, climb it (although we say don’t; even the local Anangu people consider it too dangerous), fly over it, ride a camel to it, circle it on a Harley-Davidson, trek through the nearby Olgas, and dine under the stars while you learn about them. Of the many ways to explore it, one of the best is to join Aboriginal people on guided walks. Just do yourself one favor: Plan to spend at least two days here, if not three. — Lee Mylne

Photo Caption: In 1985, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was returned to its Aboriginal owners, known as the Anangu, who manage the property jointly with the Australian government.
Photo by Frommers.com Community

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Most vacations aren’t exactly life-altering, but a surprising number of people who trek the Camino de Santiago come away from the experience feeling fundamentally changed. While it is physically a long and arduous walk over a 500-mile course, most of the labor is more … metaphysical. It’s a spiritual journey that emulates the path walked in the year 950 by a French monk to visit the remains of the Apostle St. James in remote Santiago de Compostela. He described his journey in what is considered to be the first travel guide, the Codex Calixtinus.

One thousand years later, pilgrims are still tracing his footsteps, starting in Navarre and ending in Galicia, usually after a solid month of walking, for the full effect. But it’s also possible to undertake only sections of the journey, depending on your time allowances. You choose your own path.
Photo Caption: The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Photo by Markel Redondo

Rice paddies in Sapa, Vietnam.

North Vietnam

The Vietnamese capital Hanoi is the home base for exploring northern Vietnam. Book an overnight train to the high mountains and rice terraces of Sapa, an old French colonial hill station that you can use as a base for easy hikes of nearby villages. The diverse ethnic hill tribes gather in town under the gaze of the old Mission Church to trade goods (to other Vietnamese) and souvenirs (to tourists). Or head 62 miles out to Bac Ha on Sundays for another bustling market. If you miss that one, hire a guide to take you to Coc Ly, which holds a colorful market on Tuesdays — you get the picture.

Head due east from Hanoi to catch the light playing on the arching rock formations of Halong Bay — it’s never the same, painting rich colors on a stunning landscape, and the bay attracts many artists and photographers.
Photo Caption: Rice paddies in Sapa, Vietnam
Photo by Frommers.com Community

7 Work Ideas for Your Freedom Year

7 Legitimate Work-at-Home Jobs for 20-Somethings

By John Pacenti  |   Bankrate.com — Mon July 16, 2012
(Original Article on Yahoo.com here)

Work at home in your PJs?

One ad reads, “I will juggle three fire clubs with a firework on my head for $5.” Another offers a 45-minute Spanish lesson on Skype or professional advice on buying real estate. All are on Fiver.com where anybody can sell a service for $5, many through the Internet.

The website is indicative of how the work-at-home job scene has evolved in just the last few years.

“We are now seeing younger and younger people working from home,” says Michael Haaren, co-founder of RatRaceRebellion.com, which has tracked 17,000 telecommuting jobs since 2007.

“Three years ago, the person who typically worked at home was a mom who wanted to be there for her children. Now it’s skewing younger — and the young people, they are multitasking.”

Many young people have turned to telecommuting due to the lack of entry-level jobs in a struggling economy, Haaren says. These jobs can vary wildly and do not always pay well, but for the intrepid they can be pieced together to pay the bills.

[Related: High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs]

From more lucrative positions to the usual telecommuting stalwarts, Bankrate took a look at seven industries where a computer in a spare bedroom could mean lots of spare change.

From old-school to new-school

Job: Teacher/Tutor
Pay: $10 to $14 per hour

Hiring for online instructors is robust, as for-profit universities, such as Kaplan and the University of Phoenix, grow, Haaren says.

And colleges aren’t the only schools looking for teachers. All the teachers at the Florida Virtual School, which enrolls children from grades 6 to 12, work from home.

Jennifer Kohn, spokeswoman for Tutor.com, says the company has about 2,500 teachers on contract and a waiting list of thousands. She says tutors teach students of all ages and levels. Recent graduates, and even those still in college, are a good tutoring fit as long as they pass the application process. It also offers those who are retired a great way to supplement their retirement income while giving those taking a break from the real classroom a way to still have income.

“The people who can really do calculus and chemistry get paid more,” she says.

One reason online tutoring is growing is that the students like the anonymity of the service. “It takes away any sort of biases,” Kohn says. “It’s just about the work.”

As for the tutors: “People like the flexibility,” Kohn says. “They can set their own schedule. They can change their hours weekly as they see fit. You can tutor at 9 o’clock at night if you want.”

Shop ’til you drop

Job: Mystery shopper
Pay: $5 and up per assignment

One of the more unusual trends for those working from home is employment as a mystery shopper. More than just liking a store and buying a sweater there, the motive behind it is to help a company’s workforce development, says Dan Denston, executive director of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, or MSPA.

The workings behind a job are relatively simple, albeit detail-oriented. A mystery shopper works as an independent contractor reporting back to a company on various areas and experiences in the store. Depending on how difficult and time-consuming the job is, payment ranges from $5 to $160, Denston says. And with some assignments, shoppers don’t even need to leave home, making phone calls to businesses to examine their customer service.

While they won’t get rich, mystery shopping gives new graduates still looking for a traditional 9-to-5 job an opportunity to help pay the rent, Haaren says.

As the mystery-shopping industry grows — 7 percent from 2010 to 2011 — it’s important to be on the lookout for scams. It’s extremely important to use credible sites to find companies looking for undercover consumers. Denston says his company, MSPA, backs all the secret shopping companies they have as members because they know they are legitimate. “You should never have to pay for a list of mystery shopping jobs,” he says. “It’s a tell-tale sign of a scam.”
[Related: Flummoxed by Failure—or Focused?]

Peddle your goods online

Job: Crafter
Pay: Varies

Selling homemade goods online is a modern turn on old-fashioned small business. Leslie Truex, who runs WorkAtHomeSuccess.com, says these are true cottage industries.

Some of these businesses are even bringing assistants into their homes to help them produce their products, which can be clothing, jewelry or any number of assorted knickknacks. The crafters then advertise their products on popular websites like Etsy, Artfire and Craftsu.

Selling goods or crafts can be a good way for a student or recent graduate to make a few extra bucks if it’s something they enjoy doing, but they need to think about the time involved in their work and whether it will pay off.

“Most people will fail, but a few will be successful,” Truex says. “The key is the ability to market themselves.” You need to be able to know your market, and know where your potential clients can be found, she says.

James Dillehay, author of “How to Price Crafts and Things You Make to Sell,” lives near Santa Fe, N.M., and says it’s important to build up a customer base.

“Because there is so much competition, don’t put all your hopes and resources into developing an Etsy store while ignoring face-to-face markets,” he says.

Etsy reported $62.8 million in goods sold in March — or more than 3 million items sold. The site charges 20 cents to list an item and 3.5 percent of sales. But don’t think you must stick to just Etsy. Other craft sites out there are free, and some just charge a flat fee.

Take your business idea to the Web

Job: Internet entrepreneur
Pay: Potentially millions of dollars

The idea of the struggling artist has given way to that of the ambitious entrepreneur.

Marissa Feinberg says she sees a number of these dreamers at her business, Green Spaces, which provides them with an office setting when needed.

“Everyone is trying to be the next Facebook, the next Mark Zuckerberg, the next Instagram,” she says. “They are getting new funding and circulating their ideas.”

Haaren describes the Internet entrepreneur movement as a “tanker full of gasoline.”

He pointed to the website Kickstarter.com and Crowdfunding.com, where creators of innovative projects can seek money.

Haaren also says new legislation supported by President Barack Obama will allow entrepreneurs to hold “mini IPOs” to get their businesses off the ground. One startup, he says, raised $3 million to fund its idea of synching electronic devices to a watch-like gadget.

Success stories such as Omgpop are fueling the fire. The one-time struggling startup hit it big with the Pictionary-styled smartphone game “Draw Something.” The popularity of the game drew the attention of media game company Zynga, which purchased Omgpop earlier this year for almost $200 million.

The customer is always right

Job: Customer service agents
Pay: $8 to $15 per hour

The backbone of the work-at-home sector is customer service. And it’s attractive to the younger set still looking to enter the job market because all one needs is a telephone and time.

Haaren says the service can vary widely. “Generally it’s for inbound calls,” he says. “It could be ‘I need help ordering a pizza’ (or) helping people with their credit cards.” U-Haul, American Express, Apple and AAA are increasingly using home-based customer service agents, he says. Amazon is also looking to wade into the waters.

“That’s a big deal,” Haaren says. “Amazon is like the 500,000-pound gorilla.”

Allstayathome.com says customer service jobs are very plentiful, but unlike other jobs done from the residence, many companies require a set work schedule. The upside, though, is they may hire customer service agents as permanent employees rather than contractors. This means regular paychecks and benefits.

The downside to being a customer service agent is that companies often require a background check, for which that applicant may have to pay. And, of course, dealing with unhappy customers comes with the territory, so a high threshold for abuse is often a necessity.

‘How may I assist you?’

Job: “Virtual” assistants
Pay: Up to $44,000 per year

Young adults are flocking to virtual assistant jobs, Haaren says. Ads for this line of work vary. Some call for someone who can assist bank customers, others ask for a computer-savvy employee who knows Microsoft Word. Haaren says Internet research jobs such as these are some of the most abundant home-based jobs at the moment.

Another area for virtual assistants to explore is the integration of social media into businesses to get out their message on Facebook, Twitter and other bulletin board sites. “It’s a lot of work, and a lot of people would just rather pay someone to do it,” Truex says.

Indeed.com, a leading online job search site, says virtual assistants can earn as much as $44,000 per year, but there are young people offering their services as virtual assistants on the Internet for as little as $3 per hour.

Exercise your writes

Job: Writer/editor
Pay: 10 cents to $2 per word

Jobs for writers and editors are out there in abundance. Blogging for newspapers that have gone online is one job that’s expanding. If you are more of an editor, that kind of work-at-home job is needed for manuscripts of all types, including textbooks. Recent college graduates and even those still in college can use these blogging and editing experiences to build up their resumes while bringing in some much-needed cash. For those more-experienced journalists and writers out there, this type of freelancing from home could be a profitable endeavor.

Susannah Nesmith, who worked at The Miami Herald for six years, got caught in the crunch of newspaper downsizing but has found freelancing to be highly lucrative. She writes stories for national magazines and newspapers.

While some publications want her skills at a discount, Nesmith won’t work for less than 50 cents a word, and some magazines offer a basic rate between $1 and $2 a word.

The best part about working from home now is the extra freedom she has. “One of the things I like about freelancing is I can fire my bosses. And I have,” Nesmith says.

(Original Article on Yahoo.com here)

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SmartyPig creates online savings plan to reach a goal

By Adam Belz, Special for USA TODAY
(Original Article HERE)

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – A 2008 start-up called SmartyPig has combined social networking and banking to offer a new way to save, and in four years has helped people reach almost $3 billion in savings goals.

Think pig: Social Money President Scott McCormack promotes social-banking system SmartyPig.

  • Photos by Maxine Park,, USA TODAY

Think pig: Social Money President Scott McCormack promotes social-banking system SmartyPig.

The business was created by Des Moines natives Michael Ferrari and Jon Gaskell in 2008 as a high-tech way to encourage people to save for specific goals. Ferrari came up with the idea when his first son was born and he needed to save money for his son’s college education.

He wanted to save for other goals in a program similar to the college 529 plan, and SmartyPig was born.

The program creates an online savings account for goal-directed purchases that can range from travel to consumer goods to a down payment on a house. Money can be transferred automatically from account holders’ savings or checking account at their regular banks. Account holders can then use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to allow friends and family members to contribute to the goal. The deposits are FDIC insured.

Once the goal is reached, the saver can choose from a selection of merchant-provided discounts when making the purchase.

The idea caught on. By the end of 2009, it carried deposits of $212 million.

“They actually sort of jump-started the whole goal-based savings account thing,” said Stessa Cohen, a financial services analyst for Gartner in Philadelphia. “A lot of banks in the U.S. and Canada are looking at providing that.”

Social Money, the company behind SmartyPig, thinks banks are far enough behind, and eager enough to connect with customers on social media, that they’ll pay someone else to do it for them.

Every Monday for six weeks, USA TODAY will look at how fast-growing companies rely on innovation to thrive.

The company is now starting to sell the SmartyPig concept to banks, with the idea of letting them brand it themselves. That product was rolled out this spring. More than 115 financial institutions have approached Social Money about its GoalSaver program, Gaskell said, and the bank has already signed on ICICI, the second-largest bank in India by assets.

Social Money expects to announce new bank customers throughout the year, Gaskell said.

“We’ve basically taken the heart and soul of what we’ve learned at SmartyPig and pointed it at the scale,” said Gaskell.

Gaskell won’t say what Social Money makes each year, but he said the company has been operating on its own revenue for three years. In April, Social Money announced it would hire 35 new employees, bringing its total workforce to 50.

SmartyPig was part of a shift toward savings and personal financial management during the recession, Cohen said. People were ready to save money, when they may not have been three years earlier.

Like Kiva, the online microfinance organization launched a couple of years earlier, SmartyPig also tracks your progress for all to see.

“You can see how far along you are,” said Nathan Robertson, 26, who’s saving for a three-month trip to South America later this year. “It’s a little bit more fun than just a regular bank account.”

By Maxine Park, USA TODAYSocial Money co-founders Mike Ferrari (left) and Jon Gaskell.

Robertson said it’s easier to save with SmartyPig because he doesn’t see the money. It’s automatically deducted, and unlike with a separate savings account at a bank, he doesn’t see it all the time and isn’t tempted to pull a couple of hundred dollars out. He also shares his progress with friends occasionally, though he doesn’t expect anyone to contribute.

“I’ll throw it on my Twitter page every now and then,” he said. “The idea is to share that with your family and friends, and keep up the social pressure to reach your goals.”

Banks might want their own version of it, Cohen said, because it gets them into social media, a world that’s been difficult for financial institutions.

Instead of just tweeting about their earnings or their latest charitable giving using Social Money, banks can get connected to consumers via Twitter and Facebook.

“They’re collecting a lot of information that I give voluntarily,” Cohen said. “I give a lot of information to Social Money about what I’m doing.”

Banks can track their customers better and offer financial products to them when it makes sense for the customer. They can also make deals with merchants based on what consumers are saving for, and tailor advertising to them.

“This attracts non-banks who want to partner with Social Money, who say ‘We want to know what people are saving for,’ ” Cohen said.

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“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” ― Bruce Lee (1940 — 1973: actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, founder of Jeet Kune Do)


Bruce Lee (born Lee Jun-fan; 27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973) was a Chinese American[3] Hong Kong actor,[4] martial arts instructor,[5] philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, founder of Jeet Kune Do, and the son of Cantonese opera actor Lee Hoi-Chuen. He is widely considered by many commentators, critics, media and other martial artists to be the greatest and most influential martial artist of all time,[6] and pop culture icon of the 20th Century.[7][8][9]He is often credited with changing the way Asians were presented in American films.[7]

Lee was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown on 27 November 1940 to parents from Hong Kong and was raised in Kowloonwith his family until his late teens. Lee returned to San Francisco at the age of 18 to claim his U.S. citizenship and receive his higher education.[10] It was during this time that he began teaching martial arts, which soon led to film and television roles.

His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim, and sparked a major surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the West in the 1970s. The direction and tone of his films changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong and the rest of the world.[11] He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei‘s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Warner Brothers‘ Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death(1978), both directed by Robert Clouse.[12]

Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world, particularly among the Chinese, as he portrayed Chinese nationalism in his films.[13] He initially trained in Wing Chun, but later rejected well-defined martial art styles, favouring instead the use of techniques from various sources, in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy, which he dubbedJeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist).

Lee died in Kowloon Tong on 20 July 1973.