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Making money: Living the freelance life, and more
The top 3 pieces of financial advice — from the cost of a hybrid car to financial peer-pressure
How much should you be saving?
How much should you be saving? ThinkStock/Stockbyte
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inancial peer pressure
If you worry that you're not saving enough, you might want to find out how much your neighbors are putting away, said Carolyn Geer in The Wall Street Journal. New research shows that informing people of their peers' financial behavior nudges them toward making better decisions with their own money — especially when "what they're doing doesn't meet the norm." More than half of respondents to a new survey said they would save more for retirement if they learned that their nest eggs didn't measure up to those of their co-workers and neighbors. But too strident an approach can backfire, said Stanford economist John Beshears. "We've tried, 'You are $5 million behind on your retirement savings! What is your problem?' What happens is people shut down and move on."

Living the freelance life
Demand for freelancers is climbing, said Katherine Reynolds Lewis in Fortune. But before trading in that W-2 and benefits package for the chance to set your own hours, make sure you know the ropes. "Independent consultants must balance the need to pack billable work into every available hour with the reality that many activities won't bring in revenue." So when you bid for a job, make sure your rate reflects all the time you've spent marketing yourself to get it. "Having a clear understanding of what you must earn makes it easier to turn away work that pays less than you need." Negotiate for a project that lasts longer. Spreading the fixed costs of invoicing and account management over more time "can make the project worthwhile."

Gas cars beat hybrids
Hybrid cars may not be the best bet for cheaper driving, said Aaron Couch at CNBC. Analysts say "gas-powered vehicles may now be the biggest bang for the buck." Manufacturers are churning out high-mpg gas cars that are faster and much cheaper than hybrids. "As more and more standard-fuel vehicles are coming out at 40 mpg ratings, it's harder for people to rationalize paying the premium for alternative-fuel vehicles," said Camryn Craig of Kelley Blue Book. One recent study of hybrids found that only the Lincoln MKZ and the Toyota Prius made up for their higher price tags within two years; other hybrids took a decade to pay for themselves. "It's a romantic notion to drop your SUV for a Prius," said Joe Wiesenfelder of Cars.com. "But you've got to do the math."

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