Work from Home Online…without selling your soul for pennies to marketing surveys or spamming all your friends on social media.

In one of my very first posts, I mentioned the wide variety of odd jobs I have worked trying to make ends meet and pay off bills. Finally, I am posting the list of gigs I have personally done from home, all through the wonderful, awe inspiring power of the internetz. This isn’t just some random list of things you could maybe do to make $3 posted by a spambot trying to get you to click on a monetized link… I can verify that there is real money to be made and it is worth the effort.

I have ordered the list from greatest to least earned income for me personally, but that will vary greatly depending on what kind of person you are and the things that interest you. Keep in mind, these were all side gigs for me, but some definitely have the potential to float you full time if necessary.

  1. Teach English Online: In case you haven’t read any other posts in this blog, I work for VIPKID teaching English to Chinese students. On my best months, I was pulling in $1500/month working 20 hours a week. Lots of teachers work many, many more hours so the earning potential here is immense. Also, there are many more companies in the market now, and many only require you to be a native English speaker. They will pay anywhere from $10-$28 per hour. I hear many people also do online tutoring, but I haven’t ventured into that sector yet. Here are some up and coming Online English Teaching Platforms to  research: Magic Ears, DadaABC, SayABC, Haowj, TutorABC, Open English, and Palfish (app). These are almost all in the Asian market, but many other regions are developing similar programs. The only real downside to this type of work is the crazy hours…and you are designated as an independent contractor so you better brush up on your tax laws.
  2. Grade Essays for a Standardized Testing Company: Companies like ETS offer great work from home jobs, but usually require at least a four year degree or equitable experience in education. Your hourly rate will vary depending on what tests you qualify to grade, but I never saw a posting for less than $15/hour, with shifts of 4 or 8 hours per day. The work is also somewhat seasonal, but can be sustainable if you qualify to grade multiple tests. I can honestly say this is an opportunity I really blew. I had gotten qualified to grade multiple tests, pretty much guaranteeing some cash flow year around, but I missed a shift when I went into labor with my first child and somehow got myself blacklisted from being scheduled as frequently.  I am still employed by ETS, but I never open my schedule because I rarely get chosen for teams and I can’t stand the disappointment.
  3. Real Estate Photography: I worked part time for a company called Velocity REOS doing BPO photography for several months…which is basically creeping around taking pictures of houses that were going into foreclosure. You don’t need a degree or anything to qualify, just a cell phone, a car, and the ability to follow their photography template. It’s a little shady, but I rarely had to get out of my car to do it. Bigger jobs would require me to enter vacant properties and take pictures of the inside as well. Pay is structured by the type/size of the project, with bonus pay for short notice or rush orders. The hourly rate fluctuated wildly depending on how many houses I had in a day and how far apart they were distance wise, but I was usually able to make at least $10/hour on a bad day and as much as $30/hour on a good day. Keep in mind gas costs and travel expenses. You will get a ton of work here if you are always on time and submit photographs correctly. You must follow their guidelines explicitly when completing a job, or it will get sent back and they will ding you on whatever secret internal rating system they use. If this happens more than a couple of times, you will start to notice you are not getting any work, and it’s almost impossible to get back in. Start strong and stay strong. This is also a job that you will only do well at in a medium to large city.
  4. Transcription and Captioning: REV used to be a great, low stress, fun job. The application process is pretty thorough, and they require you to study and pass a test before considering you (although you do not need a degree). They offer transcription and translation jobs as well, but I didn’t have the patience for those projects.I would make $8-$10/hour watching videos and adding subtitles. I even got to pick the content so it didn’t get boring.  However, the pay structure has changed a lot and pay rates fluctuate constantly, so these days I would be pressed to make $5/hour. It’s not worth it for me at this point, but the option is always there if I am really in a bind. There are other companies that hire for this type of work but I haven’t worked for or seriously researched any of them, as I hear pay is even less for other companies.
  5. mTurk: Amazon’s mTurk offers some unique ways to earn money doing microjobs. See my full post on the company here.
  6. Monetize Your Blog: While I loathe spammy blogs and websites with a million random affiliate links, I don’t see anything wrong with recommending products that I have actually bought and found to be useful. You will notice a couple of my blogs here have affiliate links, and yes, they do make me a little money. I usually get about $50/month just by maintaining this blog with a few Amazon Affiliate links. It takes time for it to start flowing, but it is nice to get that little Amazon gift card each month. I am sure I could make more, but I just don’t feel comfortable pushing items unless I really think they provide some value. I also don’t post regularly enough to generate the following many successful bloggers have. This is one of those opportunities that has as much potential as you put into it.
  7. Freelance Anything – What skills do you have? What hobbies do you have? Get creative. It takes more legwork, but if you have a skill, find a way to market it. Build a website. Make a blog. The best product you have is yourself, and it feels good to get acknowledged for it. I can almost guarantee there is a freelance job out there waiting for you. I have freelanced independently for many years as a designer and photographer through old school methods…you know, walking around handing out business cards, promoting my personal website, and responding to Craigslist ads. I very recently got accepted at an online freelance job posting site called Upwork, but have yet to apply for anything because I just haven’t had the time. There are many, many, many websites that post freelance jobs ranging from editing, social media marketing, design, and so much more…it just depends on what your skills are! Get on the Google and see what’s out there.

Expecting the Unexpected…again: Baby No. 2

Life always throws us for a loop when we least expect it, and this time I am expecting…again. Just as I had my life in order, bills whipped into shape, and a toddler I could ALMOST handle without pulling my hair out, that little blue line showed up on the strip in February. I am a science teacher by day, so naturally I SHOULD know how this sort of thing happens…but seriously??? Come on. Two under two? What kind of cruel joke is this???

That being said,  with one month remaining before my due date, I have come to terms with this unexpected addition to my life after almost having a nervous breakdown. Preparing for this little one has not been as stressful in some ways since I have a lot of stuff left over from the first go round.

Things I HAVE done to prepare for the new baby:

    1. Traded in my 2013 Elantra for a 2011 Santa Fe. Yea, I downgraded…BUT I get more room, lower monthly payment and insurance, and decent gas mileage. I am in LOVE with the storage space, and I don’t have to hunch over to get the babies in and out of the car seats. Winning!
    2. Completely reorganized my closet. Got rid of 5 garbage bags of clothes we don’t need. Instead of disorganized chaos, I now have one side for my stuff and one side for the boys’ clothing, complete with basket systems to keep it all separate so I don’t go crazy looking for the right size onesie. Plus, moving all of the clothes to my room form the nursery makes it easier for us all to get ready in the morning after I go back to work.
    3. Stocked my freezer with ready to go meals for the first month post-partum. I never got around to doing this last time, and I desperately wish I would have. Lesson learned! Menu includes: Chicken Doritos Casserole, Eggplant Parmesan, Jambalaya, Deer Chili, Macaroni and Cheese, Rotisserie Chicken Sandwiches, Bacon Egg Cheese English Muffins, Pork Roast and Veggies, Pancakes….and I then I ran out of room for more stuff. If it sounds completely random, it’s because it is. I took the opportunity to thaw and cook everything that had been sitting in my freezer or pantry for too many months to make space for the meals (and that included a 5 pound slab of unsliced bacon that may have been stolen from my husband’s job…long story).
    4. Weaned baby boy number one to give my boobies a break. I really wanted to let him self-wean, but it wasn’t as traumatic as I anticipated. Oh…and he sleeps TEN HOURS STRAIGHT THROUGH THE NIGHT NOW. Totally worth the three days of crocodile tears to get some much needed, uninterrupted rest. Getting him into his own bed…not there yet. But that’s why they call it baby steps.
    5. Invested in some ACTUAL nursing shirts. Now I can just whip the boobs out easily since I imagine I will forced to baby wear A LOT. Also, I keep remember the first time we went out to eat after my first baby was born, and how I almost smothered him trying to nurse discretely in public in my regular clothes. These are my favorites..super comfy and actually kind of flattering! The best part is they look like clothes I wear already, so no one suspects my nipple is one inch away from being exposed.
    6. Created baby registries with mostly just diapers and wipes. I have all of the toys, clothes, and accessories we could possibly need, and I can’t imagine the number of wipes I will need this time around after how quickly we blew threw my ridiculous hoarder stash last time. (Check out my first Expecting the Unexpected post here to see some budget saving tips!) Don’t forget to collect the free swag from Target and Amazon registries! They actually have some GREAT items. Collectively, I received 2 Brown’s bottles, 2 Advent bottles, 3 onesies, 1 blanket, and tons of sample nursing pads, diapers, wipes, and baby toiletries. And coupons if you’re into that sort of thing.
    7. Goodwill, Goodwill, and more Goodwill. Also some 5miles, LetGo, and OfferUp…Though I have most things I need, I decided to invest in a double stroller and scored a Joovy Caboose for $35 on 5mile that looks brand new!!! I had also donated my first baby’s swing and bassinet after the hurricane, and I picked up a gently used Mamaroo for $30 and a bassinet for $15 (also via 5miles). Do the math…that’s like $500 worth of baby accessories for less than $100.
    8.  Made some sensory boxes for my toddler. I am a realist and I know things won’t be the same for my toddler once the new baby gets here, but I want to make sure he has some activities that are special and engaging for those times when momma just doesn’t have time. Now…don’t get me wrong. I used to roll my eyes at all those Pinterest toddler activities, but they are actually on to something. Just find a bunch of random crap and stick it in a box…Wahlah! I made 7 different boxes to rotate through each week, and he loves them. Keeps him occupied at least twenty minutes, often times more…and that’s like an eternity in toddler time. Cleaning out my closet, I found a set of 5 smallish Tupperware containers with lids (Score!) that were the perfect size for some sensory boxes. Then I used cardboard boxes for two additional ideas. Everything I used came from my house or Dollar Tree.  Here are a couple that have been wildly successful.


What are some tips for getting prepared for a new baby from you other moms out there?

Magic Ears: Making the Jump

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As many veteran teachers have noticed, VIPKID is not the lucrative side job it once was. I am almost done with contract #3, and currently am only getting booked about 3/45 slots each month. VIPKID is still great for some people, but it seems I am on the unspoken list of teachers getting phased out. I was really counting on VIPKID this summer for extra income because I am due with baby #2 in September, so needless to say I am quite disappointed.

Fortunately, as VIPKID grows, so does its competition. Power house teachers like Hope Williams are even jumping ship, and the most popular destination for the VIPKID alumni seems to be Magic Ears. I have decided to give it a try, and recently submitted my application.

Magic Ears has a very similar class and pay structure to VIPKID, except you teach four students at once instead of one on one. There are no minimum hours but you need to be available at least three days a week. Classes are 25 minutes, and Magic Ears places the students rather than allowing parents to choose. The available time slots are somewhat limited compared to VIPKID, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For more detailed information, check our their website here.

The initial application is simple and to the point. Make sure you have a copy of your resume and teaching certificate available. I also recommend recording a short introduction video to expedite the interview process. Nothing fancy, just a “Hi, I’m so and so, and this is why I’m awesome” type of thing. Mine was 30 seconds. After that, you will either be able to immediately schedule an live interview or recorded demo, or if you did not upload an intro video they will make you wait a couple of days before they send the invitation to schedule. You then are able to download the Magic Ears teaching platform to begin preparation, which honestly, looks amazing. Clean, simple, interactive, and clear instructions on each slide. You will need to download Skype to get through the rest of the interview process, so make sure your computer is compatible.

I have my interview in two days, so I will update more then on the rest of the process…Stay tuned!

How do I set up my VIPKID classroom? Part 2: PROPS

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When it comes to my VIPKID classroom, I am a minimalist. I have found that the longer I teach, the more efficient I get with consolidating my prop usage and cutting the classroom clutter. I also teach mostly L3 and up, so it is not as much pressure to be  a nonstop  dog and pony show. Many of my props came from Goodwill, but my particular brand of laziness requires easy props that might not always be found thrifting.

Some absolute necessities that are usually easy to find at the dollar store are a couple of dry erase boards, markers and some alphabet flashcards. You could literally get by with just those items, but here are a few things I spent a little extra for and I am glad I invested in.

1) Magnetic Tin Sets

I love love love these. I have a set for faces, clothes, shapes, and furniture. I use them in lessons and as reward systems. I think these were one of my best investments. They are easy to keep together and don’t take up much space.

2) Magnetic Tape

I soon discovered that I could save some serious money  by creating sets of magnets myself for various units that I couldn’t find sets for. I also made some pretty sweet rewards. I printed them out, glued them onto index cards to make them less flimsy, cut them out and stuck some of this magnetic tape to the back. I like this tape because it is a good width and you can tear it off of the roll just like regular tape. I have made several sets of magnets and still have over half the roll. I found these AWESOME FREE graphics from Mimicry that made making these sets so much easier. They have everything from food to faces. I particularly loved the ice creams and cupcakes for easy rewards.

3) Supplemental Flash Cards

You can get by with just the basic alphabets, but with Target’s dollar spot and cheap Amazon cards, there’s no reason not to splurge a little. I have flashcard sets for wild animals, farm animals, colors, time, multiplication, and division. I ALSO have a couple of sets for early finishers like “spot the difference” and “complete the word” style cards that are easy to integrate into lower and higher level conversations. Here are a few sets worth taking a look at.


4) A puppet!

Even upper level students can be coerced to smile with a halfway decent puppet from time to time. They are great for encouraging role playing with younger kids and setting up conversation patterns for those little stinkers that won’t stop repeating. I personally love the selection from Manhattan Toy Company because the mouths are quite obvious when they move. And they are a little wacky looking. AND you can find them for as little as $7.95 on a good day.


5) A super duper awesome low effort reward system.

This was probably one of my most frivolous splurges, but it has paid off big time. I use this reward every single day and it doesn’t get old. It works for young an old. I use these emoji magnets, and number them 1-12 on my white board. I printed and taped a huge cellphone with a blank screen on the whiteboard. They get to choose an emoji number to add to the screen as they get rewarded. Zero effort and prep time, and the kids love it. I have two separate sets so I can switch it up.



So there you have it. I like props that don’t take up much space and don’t require any real thought or explanation. You REALLY don’t need that much stuff. It is hard not to go overboard at first, but you will find as you go along less really is more. I hope this helps!

Did you miss my first blog about setting up your lighting and background? Check it out HERE.

VIPKID: Is Chinese Social Media for you?

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WeChat and Weibo are taking the VIPKID groups by storm. Teachers are gushing and gloating…and pleading  for followers and friends. I will admit I am getting slightly annoyed with it all. It is setting up an unrealistic precedent for many of us teachers who enjoy making our wages WITHOUT all of the extra curriculars dragging down our hourly pay rate.

It is bad enough that we have the Facebook hole and Hutong trap to fall into. Now we are being pushed into the expectation to also spend what little free time we have entertaining the parents and students OUTSIDE of the classroom. Nope.  No thank you. Not for me. Here’s why.

First of all, VIPKID HIGHLY DISCOURAGES THIS. I have been here for almost a year, and it was the policy when I was hired. They have also stated it time and again in numerous ticket responses about the issue,  and it is for the very same reasons I am against it. Everyone keeps saying “Oh, but we’re independent contractors.” Yes. This is true. But we work for a company who has expectations of our conduct, and they can still FIRE YOU if they don’t like what you are doing.

Next point. You are putting yourself in a place of vulnerability. VIPKID can’t (or probably won’t) protect you if a parent makes allegations of inappropriate conduct because you went against their recommendations..and…oh right, you are an INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. For me this is a common sense thing. You would not chat with your students outside of class on a social media platform in a real school, and it is not appropriate now just because VIPKID an online program. I took virtual classes in middle school and high school. Do you think I had access to my teachers personal contact information? Of course not. All communication was done through the framework of the course for my protection and the protection of the teacher. It is unfortunate, but this is the world we live in.

I see a lot of teachers saying, “Well, I am just adding parents so I don’t see a problem.” It is a huge problem, especially from the company standpoint. Now you run the risk of being asked to tutor outside of VIPKID (whether free of charge or for money). How many businesses want to keep a contractor who steals it’s clients?  I know that is not what the majority of teachers are DOING, but I have seen more than a handful allude to this already, and it will only continue to grow as a problem as more teachers take the plunge into Chinese social media.

I don’t believe it is all bad. I understand the desire to build relationships with your students and their families, and to understand their lives better. I also think this is a great marketing tool for new teachers having a tough time filling up schedules and getting followers. HOWEVER, I feel like going through the company and requesting a platform to connect with parents and students is much safer. I don’t think the solution for this is to sneak around and hope you don’t get caught. They listen to us. They really do. Anytime the teachers rise up with something, VIPKID comes up with a solution, and I feel like they will for this as well.

I just don’t see enough benefit to outweigh the risks, but that is just my opinion. I enjoy keeping my hourly rate high, which also means that I like minimal prep, minimal grading times, and minimal outside contact with parents…just like with my own classroom IRL. I am NOT judging other teachers who take this route, however, I would proceed with extreme caution in this matter.


How do I set up my VIPKID classroom? Part 1: Lighting and Backgrounds

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.36.50 PMNow that you are hired, you have some decisions to make. How much are you willing to spend to make the perfect online classroom environment? It doesn’t have to be as much as you think. You will see pictures of teachers with custom classrooms decked to the gills with everything under the sun (that probably cost upwards of $1000). Then there are people like me who may have spent a total of $150 on setup, accessories, and props over two contracts.


One of the top priorities you should have is looking professional in the classroom. Chinese culture is very particular about appearances, and if you look the part you will get more bookings. I know that is part of the reason I have always been so successful in that area. All of us know this world is more forgiving of  beautiful things and people, as unfair as that may be.

This can be done with effective lighting and a nice background. I have many years of experience as a photographer, so this part came naturally to me. Don’t waste your time with elaborate halo selfie lights and 15 lamps set up all around you. All you need is one light. A simple fluorescent umbrella light will give you everything you need. Position your light high and slightly to one side to mimic the way the sun would hit you naturally.

The great thing about these is that the stand is skinny and can fit into tight places. I have mine set up behind my desk. Here is my recommendation for a light that is cost effective and does the job. I have this one and it is perfect (and you can’t beat $23 for the whole set up!). You can also upgrade to a 60 watt bulb if you think you need more juice.

If you are skeptical, there are also kits with two lights that won’t break the bank, but you really don’t need that much light. I recommend this set because it comes with a third, smaller table top stand if you need more flexibility. This set is $43 on Amazon.

This last option is great if you want to get everything at one time and you are too lazy to put together some type of background yourself (Hey, I’m not judging!). It is a two light set up WITH a background stand AND a plain, white wooden background. I am in a space that forces me to hang a background behind me, so if I had not already had the umbrella lights and a stand from my previous photography work, I would have grabbed this up in a heartbeat. It costs a little more at $87, but you are guaranteed to look like a pro.

You may be asking yourself why you are buying photography supplies to teach English online, but it actually makes total sense. You are teaching LIVE ON CAMERA. You don’t just have to look good for one snap…You need to be on your game for 25 minutes at a time. I promise this is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. I am able to teach with my computer’s built in camera *gasp* with high quality just by making sure I had great lighting and a nice background.

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My particular set up is using one umbrella light, an old rolling clothes rack and some large plastic dollar store chip clips to secure my backdrop. I like being able to roll my background away into the closet if I have company coming over so they don’t think I am insane. Another reason I like the hanging backdrop is that I can change it out in about two minutes if I get tired of it. Make sure you get a 4×5 or larger background or it might not fill the whole screen.

There are literally hundreds of awesome “hanging tapestry” options for less than $10 on Wish if you don’t mind waiting for them to come in. There are some nice options on Amazon also, but they cost a little more. I have even seen some teachers save money by using shower curtains!

Here are my top picks for some awesome backgrounds you can’t go wrong with between $8 and $20.



Click here to check out Part 2 about Props!

On another side hustle note….MTurk anyone?

While I have not been faithful to VIPKID these past months, I am always loyal to my hustle. I needed to find something that was low maintenance and not very time consuming that could also be done from the comfort of my room with a laptop or phone or tablet. Enter Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Work so mind numbingly menial they couldn’t even get a monkey to do it. However this couch potato is more than willing.

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First of all, lower your expectations. You’re not going to get rich turking by ANY means. The concept is this. Perform a multitude of short tasks for pennies that eventually add up to dollars. You will have to push yourself to hit minimum wage. BUT here’s the thing. I do this during time I would normally be jacking off on my phone looking at Facebook anyway when the baby is asleep.

Some of the tasks are actually fun. Sample work so far includes: detailing shopping receipt prices and items; looking at pictures of faces and deciding what emotion they are portraying; coming up with questions in relationship to verbs in a sentence structure; and my least favorite so far, creating bounding boxes around shipping label codes and tracking numbers. You can find anything from transcription work to university study participation. I enjoy the variety. I also enjoy that most tasks only take a few minutes, so in the event of an upset baby it is easy to finish quickly OR just set the damn computer down.

The more you turk, the more turkey you can make…Wow that was bad, but I can’t bring myself to delete it. If you are unable to decode my terrible pun, that just means the more jobs you do, the more access you get to higher paying work. Anyway, I say there is no harm in it if you are interested. I think of it as little mind exercises and only try to take jobs I find somewhat interesting. There are thousands of tasks available at any given time so there is bound to be something that tickles your fancy.


Taking a break from VIPKID: Why did you do it?

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So many of my previous blogs outlined my glorious life and work schedule as a VIPKID teacher…and then it went silent for awhile. Being a full time teacher in real life with a new baby finally caught up with me. For the months of October and November I racked up a total of two classes. Yep. Two. I took a break. I needed it.

Over the summer I had been completely consumed with the cult like nature of the company. It is still amazing, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like I was starting to neglect other more important aspects of my life. I did not feel comfortable with how often I had to choose between a “one apple rating”  or letting my kid cry.

I really put on the breaks back in September when the company announced “little helpers” were not welcome in the classroom. That had been a saving grace for me when my baby woke up crying unexpectedly at the end of a class and I could just pull him on my lap and finish the lesson. VIPKID made it very clear that it did not look kindly on those of us that kept our kids too close during teaching, and unfortunately, we just aren’t there yet with leaving him alone in his room. Sorry. But not sorry.

It also didn’t help that my little man has been sick as much as he has been healthy these last couple of months. Every mom knows that a baby’s unpredictable sleep pattern is even more unpredictable when they don’t feel good. He needed me more than I needed the extra money.

Now that I have had some time to recover from the exhaustion of the past 10 months, I am recharged and ready to dip my toes in again. The next few weeks I am going to start easing my baby boy into his own bed (still in my room) and try to add a few classes each week. Naturally the holidays have slaughtered what was left of my finances, so it feels like a good time to get back in it.

My advice…if you are feeling burned out, just step back. Step away from the computer. Stop clicking those 24 hour slots. It will all be there when you get back. I promise. It won’t make you any less of a teacher or person. I had to step away from a lot of the VIPKID social circles as I took this break, because they have an uncanny way of making you feel inferior when you aren’t logging a hundred classes a week. Whatevs. My baby is only a baby once, and I only have this one body to take care of him with. As I always say, do what works for you.

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Donations for Hurricane Relief: I want to help, but what do I do?

Donations…During an event like this, most people want to help in some way, and usually the most convenient way is a monetary donation…However, I want to encourage my fellow humans to choose how they donate with care…Do your research please. Make sure you are putting money into the community, not into the pockets of those who are already wealthy. When I see on TV that the Red Cross is asking for monetary donations instead of supplies, that makes me concerned. It is BS. You need to know where your money is going…if you can’t physically buy and take supplies somewhere, check out some of the Amazon Wish Lists from local organizations, donate money directly to a local organization, or at least choose a national one with a good reputation of doing what they say they will do. There are so many ways to help, and the need is not going to go away anytime soon. Be smart with your money and donations, and don’t let your kind hearts be taken advantage of.

As a Houston resident, I feel extreme guilt for the massive media attention to our city, and the lack thereof for the smaller communities affected by this disaster. Don’t forget the little people. They need it more than anyone else. My personal favorite is the Texas Diaper Bank…I know that my donations will  help families all over Texas.

Here is a good place to start. Notice that the Red Cross isn’t mentioned on this…or many other lists of places to put your money…Just saying…