Archive | money management for women RSS feed for this section

Flash to Fallow: Falls 5 Financial Lessons

4 Oct

This post originally appeared on blogher’s ‘Diary of a Single Professional Woman’

Nature is rich – in resources – just like I want to be.

I often say ‘Everything I need to know about the economy and life I learned from Mother Nature’.   As fall sends nature’s flash into fallow (or dormancy), it’s the perfect time to learn from her (save, spend, grow) sustainability plan.   After all, she’s been around a long time – so what does she know that we don’t?  And more importantly what can we learn so we spring open along with the crocuses come April?   Here’s my simplistic, and metaphoric thoughts on ‘environmental economics’ to kick around with the leaves.

seedling

Fall may feel like an end rather than a start – look out the window and nature looks like it is dying.  Ha!  Mother Nature is transitioning from her extroverted spring/summer flash to a well-deserved introverted fall/winter recovery time.  Her withdrawal of energy allows time to reflect, rejuvenate, and save for spring’s big bloom roll-out.

Shorter days likely darken our mood.  Especially as color leaves our external environment.   Green, in particular colors our thoughts – and the U.S. dollar or greenback, that universal currency.  Simply:

Lush, rich, life = Green

Green = Money

Green = Nature

Nature = Resources

Resources = Money

Money = Nature

Nature = Resources = Life

Yet, when it comes to linking the economy with the environment, it seems we are colorblind, too often living in the red.  I think we need to ask: which resources are needed for life?

For a brief period of time, I thought it was a ‘red handbag’.  As you’ve read,  it was a temporary want.  Sure, I love ‘stuff’ that makes my apartment home.  But honestly, I don’t need it – I just want it.   The only resources any of us really need for life are oxygen, water, and food.  Resources only nature can provide

(contrary to ingredient lists on many packaged foods.)

I say our challenge is working with Mother Nature for our needs while satisfying our human nature with our wants.

It’s asking:  What Would Mother Nature Do (WWMND) for economic success?   She’d say begin with her 5 steps.

1.  Balance:    Mother Nature has obviously spent plenty of time on a playground seesaw.  She understands the need to maintain balance even while going up and down.   She uses what she has – while saving a little for the future.    Mother Nature foregoes debt, once her bottom line turns from green to red, she catapults into endangerment/extinction.

Lesson:   We may become morally, emotionally, financially bankrupt overusing resources, causing our internal peace (balance) to become extinct.  Live under your means to keep your personal seesaw going.   Debt drives your energy, emotions, finances and goodwill into the red.  And remember: There is no plastic – no credit cards – found in nature.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child's play.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child’s play.

2.  Save:   Mother Nature saves everything including those piles of leaves in your yard.   This is not hoarding.  She reduces those dead leaves/blooms by recycling (decomposers de-clutter causing decaying leaves to smell like a frat house bathroom on a Sunday morning) and reusing (notice those leaves are gone by spring – broken up and back into the soil like using old clothes to make a quilt).  All this saving leads to new blooms – and a reminder that the future is no predictor of the past.

Lesson:  use what you have to grow your future – like with an IRA.    And don’t bother raking those leaves in your yard!

3.  Spew seeds:  Seeds are nature’s C.D.’s (certificates of deposit), little packets of possibility to ensure future growth.   They even sound similar!   Seeds, like C.D.’s only open at the right time, in the right place, and the right conditions – and they are supported by all those unused seeds and leaves that ‘die’.  There are even special seeds that open during a forest fire to ensure that tree species survival.  Kinda like emergency C.D.’s/funds.  

Lesson:  save for emergencies as well as the future – though the stock market provides better returns than C.D.’s.

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already  open (like all CD's should be!)

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already open (like all CD’s should be!)

4.  Diversification: The healthiest forest and gardens are filled with diverse trees that play host to lots of different bugs, and are called home by lots of birds.   Having only one species like Dutch Elm (on decorative paths) found one ‘sick’ tree caused them all to die.

Lesson:  Diversification of your holdings maintains balance and growth so even if your ‘Dutch Elm’-like stock tanks/dies, other stock species survive.

5.  Be sustainable:  Mother Nature thrives because everything she has is used and supports everything else, even though it may seem to be in conflict.

Lesson:  Invest in things that feed your future.  Material things that overwhelm you and end up in landfills throw you off-balance and leave nothing to decompose – unlike the leaves left in your yard that will decompose to nurture spewed seeds.  Experiential investments always leave you with seeds or kernels of thought and growth.

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

Keep following Mother Nature’s 5 lessons through all the seasons:

  • This holiday season, stay green and out of the red by matching  spending with your values (https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/) and keep you growing.
  • Make every day is your special Valentine’s Day by making black the new red.  Love yourself by loving your finances and living under your means to live fully in the future.

And really, just one more thing to think about:  We may say money is the root of all evil, and, resources are the cause for conflicts personally and globally...

Meanwhile, what steps will you take to support your spring blooms?

Advertisements

The Red Handbag’s 5 stepping stones to ‘there’

24 Sep

I was introduced to the fabulous term ‘financial meddler’ on LearnVest.com.    Mostly because that’s ME.  Though I prefer to be called a  financial Yenta:  I meddle in your finances (I also take friends bra shopping), telling you what you should or shouldn’t spend.   Or more like, why and how you should save.

Last month, I had great fun ‘Yenta-ing’ into your closet, urging you to search for your own ‘red handbag’ (https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/6-steps-to-com…-to-retirement).   Uncovering those somewhat pricey, forgotten, items huddling in your closet and are horrified to find.

Did you look?  Think of it as your own early Halloween scary house exploration.

What extra money is lurking in your closet?  Like this Pottery Barn jan-o-lantern?

What extra money is lurking in your closet? Like this Pottery Barn jan-o-lantern?

Are you working toward saving your $1000 to open (or contribute to) your Roth IRA?   My friend J. was ‘Yenta-ed’ into saving $80 last month for her existing fund.  How are you doing?

Not convinced?  

Look at all those 60+ folks who don’t have the funds to retire – even if they want to.   Sadly, they had no financial Yenta.   And btw, while I’ve suffered through embarrassing explanations of  why a red handbag is my iPhone screen saver, my credit card is now gathering dust and I’ve saved $50.

Fall is the perfect time to begin saving.  Nature is spewing seeds for spring blooms.  We can invest money for retirement blooms.

So read and take action as I walk you through  (last month’s) 5 steps to get from ‘here’ to retirement ‘there’:

1.  Create a long-term dream:  Let’s face it, the only reason to save for an unknown future is because your dream is more enticing than that ‘red handbag’.   Hopefully you love what you do now (if not, you are due for a change).   The next phase of your life should be equally thrilling.  Let  your imagination go wild as you play over fantasies about ‘what you would do if…’.     I plan on running a middle-aged hostel in Eastern Europe;  my friend M. wants to retire to Central America to use the Spanish she’s been learning for the last ten years;  G. and A. have moved to be close to their grandkids.   Create that vision, then tell people about it.  Talking makes it real.  When they ask how you will fund your dream, proudly tell them about your Roth.
2.  Identify your values fulfilled by your long-term dream:  As a Yenta, I can tell you your values direct every aspect your life from finances to love.  If you haven’t identified them, do it NOW! https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity.   Here’s why your values must match your dream: without interest in saving –  no interest will accrue to make that dream come true.  And accrued interest, aka compounded interest is how saving helps your money grow.
3.  How much will it cost?  Let’s assume a lot.  Keep in mind:  Starting when you’re 25 and saving $5500/year at 6% interest you could save approximately $902,000.    (Check out LearnVest.com to learn more about compounded interest – which grows beanstalks like magic beans)   If you don’t have that much, if you’re older, that’s no excuse to not save.  Do what you can.   But do it NOW to get you on your way.   For my dream, even if I can’t own my hostel, I confidently have the financial freedom to manage one.
4.  Get to ‘there’ starting with YOUR red handbag:  No excuses.  There’s money in your budget somewhere.  Take an afternoon and go through your closet, your bank and credit card statements.  Stay focused on that long-term dream and what you want.  Get rid of ‘crap’ literally and figuratively.  And find yourself a financial Yenta to put her hands on her hips and ruthlessly support your saving.

5.  Open (or contribute) an account:  Remember you have till April 15th.  $1000 will open an account with Vanguard, Fidelity, and T.Rowe Price, or a local bank.  I admit to liking a brick and mortar place.  Remember you can always change where you keep your money so don’t get hung up on finding the perfect place now.  Some banks or brokerage houses will offer money to open an IRA as tax day approaches.  (Take it – why not!)   After you’ve saved it gets easier:  Write your check for the $1000;  Walk into the bank or brokerage house (i.e. Fidelity);   Fill out a form and hand over the check;  If you don’t know which fund to invest your money, ask to speak with someone and in ten minutes they will advise you.

It’s that easy to get to ‘there’ from here.  If it still feels overwhelming, start saving anyway.  And I’m always available to be your financial Yenta!

Dream big!  Many say life gets even better in your 60’s.  I’m looking forward to the experience and want you to join me!

What’s your dream?

6 steps to commit: ‘red handbag’ to retirement

20 Aug

I’ve spent years searching for the perfect handbag.  You know, the bag that will hold a ton, sit comfortably on my shoulder, and look beautiful with everything I wear.  Yes, I am the eternal optimist.  So when I recently uncovered the pictured red handbag, bundled away  in my closet since last winter, I shouldn’t have been totally surprised.  But I was not thrilled.  I felt exhausted by one more ‘not quite right’ thing cluttering my closet – and my life.

Yes, this is really my screen saver now.  A reminder to not spend money on what I don't really want and definitely don't need.  Ca-ching!  Money saved!

Yes, this is really my screen saver now. A reminder to not spend money on what I don’t really want and definitely don’t need. Ca-ching! Money saved!

But I live by the motto: Spend/Learn/Coach.  A recent communication coaching session  with my client ‘C’, aged 42 uncovered her financial conflict with saving for retirement.    She looked like she was going to whack me with her beautiful blue and green wedge sandals:  “I don’t have $1000 to open a Roth IRA.  I can barely afford what I need to live now.   It’s too overwhelming to think about how to save for retirement.”

Magically transforming from coach to financial therapist,  I reminded her that like managing any conflict, getting from our financial ‘here’ to ‘there’ retirement plan is understanding the ‘red handbags’.   It is uncluttering to focus on what we really need and want.

I’m working with ‘C’ to create her dream future using 5 steps which I’ll talk about next month:

  1. Create a long-term dream.
  2. Identify which values will be met by your long-term dream:
  3. Determine the dollar amount you’ll need to live your dream.
  4. Find the money to get ‘there’ starting with YOUR red handbag
  5. Open an account

This month let’s talk about the real savings killer: emotion.  I’ve heard from ‘C’ and many others:

“I can’t save for the future while living for today.”

I get it: Things are tight for many of us, so where do we skimp?  The future is uncertain.  Who knows what will happen or what life will be like 20, 30, or 40 years from now.

Because this is true it’s more important to prepare our finances.

Saving is a mindset.  Finding the perfect saving strategy is like finding the perfect handbag – and even more important.  To begin, you have to commit to saving.  Right now, you have to acknowledge it’s important to learn to save.  6 steps to focus your mindset:

1. Clear the information clutter:  We’re bombarded with facts and statistics about retirement savings, especially for women:  How over 60% of us have less than $50,000 saved.  Women, who live longer than men and will need more, have less saved and are less knowledgeable about how much they will need.  Women are hesitant to jump into the stock market and handle accounts.  Worst of all, the shouted message we’ll need a million dollars saved for a comfortable future.  ‘C’  said she’ll never make that cool mil, so for her it’s a ‘why bother.’

Saving is worth the bother.

2. Compounded interest: Save early save often:  Every little bit you save helps, whether you’re 42 or 22.  Though honestly starting at 22 is best.   It’s all about compounded interest, which is like using sunscreen or anti-aging products: the younger you start the greater the benefit.   An over-simplified example:  if you invested $500 a year for 30 years – compounded interest would turn that $15,000 into $61,172.00.      Imagine the dreams come true if you invested $2000 every year!

There is so much information out there, how does ‘C’ know where to begin?

3. Start small.  When a problem seems too overwhelming to tackle, focus on baby steps.    Although ‘C’ has a small 401K from a former employer, I recommended she open a Roth IRA.    (see Learnvest.com for more)   Roth IRA’s are recommended.  The taxes are already paid on the money, so you aren’t taxed when you pull money out for retirement,  to buy a house or for an emergency.  You only need $1,000 to begin.

4. Identify your ‘red handbag’:  It’s August and ‘C’ has till April 15th to open her Roth IRA.  That’s nine months  to save $1,000 to secure her future.  That’s about $110 per month or one ‘red handbag’, or whatever your ‘it’ is.  It’s  that simple.   Saving for the future will realign your current spending on your values.   *Start by looking through your closet for your ‘red handbag’.   Identify what’s eating up your space, and money and not enriching your life.   Pull the ‘it'(s) out and lay them on your bed.   Commit to security and satisfaction.  My pictured ‘red handbag’ above) is  my screen saver and painful reminder when I want to shop.

Do you have a Roth IRA?  If you don’t, plan now to open one by April.  If you do, plan to add money by April.

5. Understand your investment phobia:   Emotionally, ‘C’ moaned about the 2008 market crash, and, how she doesn’t want to lose her money.  Yes, most people lost half  their portfolio’s value then.  It was terrifying.  Today, people have recovered their money, and more thanks to  compounded interest.    Will the market crash again?  Probably?  Will it still be beneficial to invest your money?  Absolutely.  Adopt an investing mindset with the stock app on your smartphone.    Start checking out the 2 year changes in stocks and the market.   You’ll notice they (and your money) like a roller coaster, fluctuate, though you’ll end up on top.

6. Talk ‘investments’ with others:    I recommended ‘C’ begin talking about retirement saving with friends, family, and co-workers.  Talking will increase her comfort level and ease her into action.     BUT, she said, she couldn’t decide which bank or brokerage company to go with.  She  has nine months to decide.  Even better:  she can’t make a mistake – accounts can easily be moved at no penalty.

Now is the time to think and commit.  Till next month.

Tell me about your ‘red handbag’!

What will it take to make that commitment to save $110/month for 9 months to open your IRA?

How would your finances benefit from a financial therapist?  Share your concerns and find out!

This blog also appears on: blogger.com as part of ‘Diary of a Professional Single Woman

Heart, Mind, and Sole: 3 Steps to 3D Luxurious Living

14 May

(this blog originally appeared on  http://www.blogher.com/three-steps-luxurious-living

How do you define luxury?

5 star vacation?  Cashmere?  Jimmy Choo’s?  For me it’s flea market jewelry.  Chances are, we all have something.  The question is:

Can you afford your defined luxury?

I know luxury is typically defined as an extravagance or indulgence.   Yet all this ‘stuff’, including a great pair of shoes, doesn’t add to happiness.  The thing is we may want luxury, and we need financial security.  Especially for the long term.

Gold:  fools or real?

Gold: fools or real?

Here’s a fact: 

Luxury is NOT about money.

Here’s another fact:

Size (of your paycheck) does NOT matter.

Hmm.  Maybe we just need to redefine luxury.  Imagine having all your needs met.  How does that feel?  Imagine this life as the ‘new normal’.    Your life filled with what is most important to you focuses on values.  This is luxury you can afford.

What's growing on your money tree these days?

What’s growing on your money tree these days?

Talking about money is personal – and uncomfortable.  But money is important for security and comfort.  It helps you be your best.  You have to believe you deserve that.

Current statistics about single women and finances show we are not at our best.  For starters, only 35% of single women have a retirement account.  And of those who do, 57% have less than $20,000 saved.  The ‘new normal’ means we learn to be financially independent regardless of where we are and our relationship status.

Is your financial relationship where you want it to be?

I’ve come up with 3 ways to view luxury for building a healthy financial relationship:

  • Heart luxury is all about quality relationships, including with money.
  • Mind luxury is using your skills and talents in work and play.
  • ‘Sole’ luxury is having only quality ‘stuff’ you can touch, feel, or walk in.
Luxury should keep your heart pumping!

Luxury should keep your heart pumping!

These 3 types of luxuries are meant to guide you personally, professionally and financially and lead you to action.

Grab a notebook and apply them in these 3 steps for luxurious living:

1.  Take inventory of your assets. 

  • Start with ‘sole’, and take stock of all your ‘stuff’, daunting as that may be.
  • For heart, make a list of the types of interactions you have with others.  Don’t list out names of people.
  • For mind, write out the types of actions and tasks you do regularly in your job and your life.

2.  Evaluate your ROI (Return on Investment)

Everything has a value or cost, not just ‘sole’ luxuries.

  • Go through your lists, and highlight each item, interaction, or task that feels good and adds indulgence to your life.
  • Put a red line through all items or interactions that drain you or makes you feel bad.

3.  Cut your losses, Bolster your gains

  • ‘Stuff’ that weighs you down makes you feel poor.  This is not the ‘new normal’.  Starting with your ‘sole’ items, get rid of things that don’t feel extravagant or luxurious – regardless of the cost.  Take a picture of things you get rid of.  It will remind you of what you don’t need.
  • Now look at your heart and mind lists.   The plusses are true luxuries.   These add value to your life.  These are what you want more of.

Over the next month, keep track of what adds to your heart, mind and ‘sole’ through these 3 steps.  Take note of what makes you smile.  These are the things that will keep you on track financially.

Keep track of heart, mind, and sole luxuries for success and focus.  www.123rf.com

Keep track of heart, mind, and sole luxuries for success and focus. http://www.123rf.com

In months to come I’ll share specific strategies to balance your heart, mind, and ‘sole’ with your money.   You’ll identify your values and communication style and learn how these can help you decrease debt, save money for retirement and other goals.  They will also help you talk with partners about money.

What is your greatest money concern?

 

How does your finances affect your personal and professional life?

 

What would you like to learn to be financially independent?

 

Share specific questions or concerns about your finances and I’ll address them here.