I've made some really good stock calls in my day, through comprehensive stock analyses on picks I've considered for my portfolio, like the stock that topped my list back in '08 in my final year of business school, Allergan (AGN). It was a thoughtful investment idea that made a fortune on paper. Unfortunately, it amounted to no real gains because I never followed through. Instead, I took a professor's advice, and put ten grand into ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury (TBT), an ETF that double shorts the U.S. Treasury Bond Index. “Interest rates have to rise," my professor said. “They can't stay at these lows for an extended period of time." I didn't know then that this specific professor was a Lehman Brother's layoff, and high interest rates were the finance world, as he knew it to be back in his short-lived career on Wall Street.

Allergan allergan-web-cdn-static-prod.azureedge.net

Allergan

Allergan (AGN) was trading at $30 at the time, and its current 52-week high is well over $300. As we now know well, interest rates fell lower, and stayed at all-time lows for the next 8 years. TBT continued to drop, before reverse splitting 1 for 4 in 2012. I was left with $1k to show for my shares purchased for $10k, which had invested in Allergan at the time would have matured to $100,000. Of course, we can all go over ideas we failed to execute—scenarios that made us miss out on some serious cash. Yet even with all the worthy calls I've made since then, I'm still hesitant in my trading until I consult with someone I believe knows more. Knowing who to trust is important, and taking just anyone's stock advice was a mistake I'd never make again.

Recently, I mentioned one of my stock ideas to a close friend who made his millions at his hedge fund. He understood my reluctance to trade, as it's a common theme among all investors. He shared with me one of the resources he used to gain a competitive edge both as an individual investor, and in his professional endeavors to benefit his fund and its clients, Real Money, a membership-based website headlined by Jim Cramer.

Jim Cramer fm.cnbc.com

Cramer's Real Money

One of Cramer's biggest philosophies is that you have to pull the trigger, and Real Money would soon become my biggest ally as it provides me with the assurance I need to take the right course of action on great ideas. It's a place where you can consult with professionals on your ideas and theirs.

Real Money members are privy to specific actionable investment ideas and the insights of more than 30 site contributors, who are not just journalists; they're chartists, financial advisors, day traders, economists, and money managers who have clients of their own, and winning track records on Wall Street. All of the contributors are handpicked by Jim Cramer through his experience with them in the industry, and most of them are still professionally investing in the ideas they share with you in real-time.

The site features exclusive stock market information that individual investors would not be privy to otherwise. Take sell side technicians and chartists, for example, who have disappeared from investment banks because of the downward pressure on costs and commissions that drove Wall Street away from transactional business. They still power their hedge funds and mutual funds, but of course there's absolutely no visibility there. Real Money's in-house chartist, Bruce Kamich has a 40-year career with a number of bulge bracket firms. He's spotted some huge trends he shared with us and executed on, like the gold stocks, where he recommended NovaGold and Yamana Gold, both for some very big gains. His charts also showed aggressive accumulation in Joy Global ahead of a very large takeover bid. His writing is breezy, and palatable with visuals that make sense.

Make the most of your money s.thestreet.com

You can follow along in the Real Money Ideas section to see which contributors' ideas pan out, and decide who to follow. Members often weigh in with their opinions, or ask questions on the site, and the contributors reply to us inline. You can even contact any site contributor via email, including Jim Cramer. I haven't emailed Jim yet, but Roger Arnold always responds. (In case you haven't heard of Roger Arnold, he's an accomplished economist currently serving as chief economist for ALM Advisors, a money management firm specializing in income-generating portfolios.)

Now, I only take investment advice from professionals who know what they're doing, and exercise transparency in the returns they have to show for it. Not Lehman Brothers' layoffs or the ones responsible for the financial crisis of '08, but rather the money managers that prevailed even during times of hardship, who give us an inside look at what they're trading day in and day out with real money on the line.


Update: The folks at TheStreet are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to get Real Money FREE for 14 days with no obligations! (It's also discounted to just $3/week if you choose to continue with membership.)

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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