Gamification is all the rage because it works. Turn just about anything into a game with decent rewards, and you'll be able to convince anyone to do just about anything. And this is all because we really, really, really like playing games.
Gamification, to put it simply, is the use of an app or some other external service to reward you for completing tasks. Some of these rewards are tangible, but others are just there for bragging rights. There are tons of apps out there to gasify your daily task list, your gym visits and even your involvement with political campaigns. All of these apps exist because gamification actually works.
On a psychological level, humans respond much better to positive reinforcement than negative deterrents. We would rather be rewarded when we do something right than punished when we do something wrong. This is because when we are rewarded for something, our brains produce dopamine. This chemical is what appears when we experience pleasure of any kind, including praise for a job well done. Gamification works because you are even more motivated to complete a task when you know there is a reward at the end waiting for you.
One example of real-world gamification is the productivity app Forest. This app keeps you from using your phone while working by planting a virtual tree. It grows while you're working and if you use your phone for any reason during that time, the tree dies. But if you complete the set amount of time without using your phone, you're rewarded with a fully grown tree and a few coins you can use to unlock different plants.
Another more surprising use of gamification is in politics. During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton's campaign had its own app that rewarded users for sharing messages from the campaign on social media and with your friends. Similarly to Forest, users received coins for completing tasks and could spend those coins on in-game items. The app's creators said the design was intended to encourage supporters to help out the campaign by making involvement seem less intimidating.
And and unintended consequence of the success and popularity of Pokémon Go is the gamification of exercise.
However, it is important to keep in mind that gamification won't solve all of your productivity problems. Rewards like these work best when you already have some motivation to complete the task. If you have none to begin with, working for a cute digital badge or coin is probably not going to change your mind. Could you imagine any conservatives or Trump supporters opening the Clinton campaign app daily? But if you are already set on completing the task, having a small reward at the end might be enough to push you forward.
So how do you get started with gamification? If you're having difficulty staying off your phone at work, try out Forest. For more general productivity, you can use Habitica or Beeminder. Have a big project or goal you want to complete? SuperBetter is your gamification pal. And a great way to motivate the family to complete household chores is Chore Wars.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.