Month: February 2017

He Said, She Said: What Adulting With Money is Really Like

Honest hour: Adulting isn’t easy. And when it involves a significant other and money, it becomes a thousand times harder. Let me give you an example: In 2016, the self-improvement industry raked in almost $10 billion, according to neuroscience site Brainblogger. My purchases of podcasts, books and membership sites accounted for 10 percent of that figure. I’m may be exaggerating a little, but one thing is for sure: Advice books tell you to keep communication channels open and discuss issues, concerns and, most importantly, “feelings” when navigating your financial map in marriage, but they don’t tell you how wildly different your perspectives on spending can be from your spouse. Seth Herzog is a successful NYC comic, actor and producer. He is also my husband. I am an author, built a booming retail research business and have a production company.  What follows is an oral history of a week’s worth of spending and financial transactions in our household: What does it mean to be “poor?” My take is very different from Seth’s. Seth: You are talking …

How Making More Than My Husband Almost Ruined Our Marriage

Growing up, my father controlled the finances in our family. And when I say he controlled the finances, I mean that he left my mother completely in the dark. Though she had a good job as a special education teacher, he had a higher-paying job as an attorney. That created a power dynamic that allowed him control over their finances until the day he died last year. It was only a few months before his death that my mother realized he had spent most of their savings, taken out a second mortgage on their house (without telling her, forging her name and spending the money without her consent) and had made no plans for her financial well-being after he was gone. She’d allowed the discrepancy in their earning power to give him control over her life, and it cost her dearly. Watching the two of them provided my first lessons in financial planning and marital survival, but not before I had the chance to make mistakes of my own. When my husband and I got …

10 Ways to Keep From Retiring in a Cardboard Box

I’ve never had access to a 401(k) plan — I’ve been working full-time freelance since 2006. I’ve always wanted to retire, no matter how anathema that sounds in workaholic America. Maybe it’s because I’ve also lived in countries where people actually look forward to — and many can afford — a labor-free later life: England, France, Mexico and my native Canada. Not coincidentally, fear of medical bankruptcy  — the greatest single destroyer of Americans’ finances — isn’t an issue there either because they offer single-payer government healthcare from cradle to grave, working or not. I’ve been saving hard for years. I’m married, so I do have the advantage of an additional income and shared costs. If I were single, I’d probably sell my home and rent or use a reverse mortgage. As a journalist who’s been covering personal finance for years for outlets like The New York Times, Reuters, Investopedia and others, I’ve learned a lot about the common financial mistakes people make. I’ve also handled my own money for decades, moving out of my …

tuenight retire talk parents lauren young

How to Have the Money Talk with Your Parents

Even if you began planning for your Golden Years at an early age, there is one thing about retirement that no one ever warns you about: You might be on the hook for some (or all) of your parents’ retirement. How, you may ask? Well, there is a high probability your parentals will outlive their savings. The median household approaching retirement has a nest egg of just $10,000 to $20,000, according to the Government Accountability Office. Among folks who have saved for retirement, the median amount of their savings is about $104,000 for households age 55 to 64 and $148,000 for households age 65 to 74. That’s equivalent to a payout of $310 and $649 per month, respectively. That’s not even accounting for inflation. And you shouldn’t count on Social Security to give Mom and Dad much of a safety net. Social Security coverage is minimal at best – this year, the average monthly benefit is $1,341, which equates to $16,092 for the year. That’s barely enough to stay out of poverty. [pullquote] The average …

How a Finance Pro Saves for Retirement After Leaving Her Job

As the author of How to be a Financial Grownup, I am the original Financial Grownup. Right after college, I got my Certificate in Financial Planning so I would know enough to ask the right questions. Yeah, I’m that kind of person. I’ve been researching and dishing out advice for as long as I can remember. But now, I needed to give a little advice to myself.  How do I keep investing in a retirement fund after leaving corporate America? This week was the first week in my entire post-college working life that I did not contribute to a retirement fund. I’d recently left my job at Thomson Reuters, a place I’d worked for 16 years as an anchor and personal finance columnist. It was time – I was burned-out to a crisp. I’d run the numbers on what leaving would mean for my new self-employed lifestyle, and things would be fine financially. I had opportunities as part of the release of my book, several paid speaking engagements, offers for freelance writing and anchor/reporter fill-in …

Margit’s Note: Discretionary Dollars

We renovated our apartment recently and I look at my geriatric cat who has a penchant for puking or crapping on beloved sections of new carpet and I think why on earth ever spend money on any thing. Things are silly aren’t they? I mean, things do not bring us joy, no matter what Marie Kondo says. These days, I’d rather spend any “extra” cash that doesn’t go towards food, bills, laundry, doctor bills or this website on things that make a difference in my life and in other people’s lives. Experiences, travel, a trip to Austin with my friend Shelly for my 50th, giving back to people who need it. The state of our country has made me — and a lot of folks I know — regularly spend any extra cash on people asking for help, giving back to worthy causes, setting up monthly contributions, subscriptions to endangered newspapers and not as much on stuff. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a cute pair of jeans, and that’s saying something. …

This Is What the American Dream Actually Looks Like

My late father-in-law was an immigrant. He was also one of the most American guys I ever met — if you believe that what defines our national character is a willingness to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, a love of family and community, a thirst for knowledge and, of course, a really green lawn. Boen Tong — known as “Tong” or “BT” to his wife and friends, “Dad” and “Grandpa” to his kids and grandkids and “Tom” to the slightly deaf old Jewish ladies with whom he played bridge in his later years — was born in Indonesia in 1919. He spent his childhood working in the family batik business, pedaling his bike through the Javanese jungle to pick up the beautifully dyed cloth for which Indonesia is known. He spoke Malay and Javanese, but when his parents sent him to study at Dutch schools, Dutch became the first of four foreign languages in which he would eventually become fluent. By age 19, BT showed signs of grit and determination that would put a …

I Invited a Refugee Family Home to Dinner, and It Changed My Life

Over the course of the past election cycle, I was taken aback at the backlash against refugees. I also realized I didn’t personally know any refugees. I decided that if this was an important issue I was going to care about, I needed to better understand and know the refugee community. My family, if polled, would likely say I have never met a cause I didn’t support. I fell into working at a nonprofit in my early 20’s. I was unsettled and without a career path when a mentor suggested I would make a good fundraiser and offered me a job. I took her advice and flourished. I spent most of my career in a variety of nonprofit roles but took a sharp turn this past fall when I decided that I wanted to work directly with refugees. I started with a fairly basic understanding of refugees being people who were forced to flee their homes and their countries because of persecution or danger to their lives. As a researcher, I like learning and knowing …

When The Only Trump Supporter You Know Is Your Dad

I know several people who can say “I don’t know anyone who voted for Trump.” And I don’t necessarily consider that a good thing nor a badge of honor (nor would I if someone told me they don’t know anyone who voted for Hillary). I just know that I’m not one of those people who can say they don’t know anyone who voted for Trump because I do know someone: My father. Yes, I’m still talking to him. Yes, I’ve heard the endless entreaties of “You should stop talking to him!” No, it’s not that easy. I’ve turned around, dissected and diagramed his reasons for voting the way he did, and I still don’t understand any of them. We share a gene pool, the same body type, the same skin and hair color and even the same missing adult incisors that never grew in. We share a similar sense of humor. But we don’t share the same political beliefs — particularly the belief that your vote should be cast to help advance the greater good, …

I’m Canadian, And I Think It Might Be Time To Go Home

When you travel by rail between New York and Ontario, there’s a bridge over the Niagara River where the train, briefly, lies in mid-air between Canada and the U.S, the mist from Niagara Falls drifting toward the train windows, tantalizingly out of sight. On one side of the river, the Stars and Stripes flutters in the wind, on the other, Canada’s red maple leaf. It’s an odd feeling, every time, to hang suspended between my two nations, my two identities. They’re so close, but – especially now – so very far apart politically. Now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, I wonder, daily, why, with a perfectly good, safe country to return to, I haven’t moved back home. A place where the nation’s best universities cost less than $10,000 a year, sometimes much less. Where single-payer government-run healthcare keeps millions of people healthy, whatever their age or employment status. Unlike many immigrants – who arrive fleeing weak economies, religious persecution, political strife, even war – I chose to leave Canada for the United …

A Stranger on the Road: A Syrian Woman Finds a New Home in Connecticut

It’s been a volatile time for refugees trying to get to America, especially since January 27 when Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the judicial system’s fast reversal of the ban created a window of opportunity — and something of a roller coaster ride — for refugees who had been previously cleared for entry. Syrian refugee Fradh Alfaawri and her four children rode that roller coaster last week. The back story: Alfaawri escaped war-torn Syria in 2013 after her husband died in police custody. The family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp for four years before they heard the good news: The U.S. would accept all five of them as refugees. But less than a week before they were to leave, Trump imposed his ban, leaving them stranded, “shocked and very, very sad,” Alfaawri told the press through an interpreter. And then another phone call: If the family could board a plane in three hours, they would, they were told, be admitted after all. Some days …

Scenes from a Visa Application Process

The man standing behind the counter said to us in his thick Indian accent “I’m sorry, but your visa won’t get approved.” Walking into the Abu Dhabi US Embassy was in itself intimidating. The place looks like a fortress. A massive culmination of stone that looks like an angular piece of rock jutting out of the sand. There are barriers up and Marines on guard. Past three separate check points was the consular services center. It was a dark modest room that had rows of chairs and our President and Vice President’s pictures hung on the wall. On the far side was a long counter spanning the whole length of the room. We made our way to a man behind the counter who gestured us over. I had met my husband years earlier, practically the moment I stepped foot in the Middle Eastern country I was going to call home. Since then, our lives became a whirlwind of change. Falling in love, new jobs, moving in together, my conversion to Islam, and getting married. We …

Margit’s Note: Yearning to Breathe Free

We were going to do an issue called Love for obvious (Happy Valentine’s Day!) reasons. But then, as the news about the Muslim ban, immigrants — both legal and illegal — being detained or deported, refugees trying to find a home here in the U.S. started pouring in, we felt we had to do an issue about Immigrants. Plus, embracing those that just want a chance at a better life? Now that’s love. As Americans, every one of us has an origin tale, how our ancestors came to live in America and the struggles they endured — whether it was last week or hundreds of years ago; whether it was native-born, by boat or by force.  It’s not always a joyous story; more often than not dire circumstance brought us here. Thanks to my genealogist mother, I’m lucky enough to know a bit about the first folks in my bloodline who made their way to America, with the sole intention of eventually creating me. Ok, ok, they had other reasons too. There was Mennonite Jacob Detweiler, who was sick …

Sleepless in Suburbia

All my life, I have put myself to sleep with a novel—eyelids pulling down, dreams wending vine-like into whatever story I am reading. Sometimes I startle awake and, when I attempt to start reading again, I find that the words on the page don’t match the version of the plot my dreams invented. Proust writes about this in one of his interminable Remembrances novels, this being the only thing I remember about them. I’m sure I fell asleep to him as well. Presumably he would be forgiving. More recently, I’ve switched to getting in bed with my laptop. I watch the red Netflix page download and, soon enough, delight to the introduction: Previously on Damages. No matter how cold-bloodedly conniving Ms. Close is, I can fall asleep to her too. But then, at some wildly inconvenient hour — 2:53, 3:21 or 4:02 — I am wide-awake. Not the dozy, semi-wakefulness I recall from the time my kids were babies and wanted to climb into my bed, having peed in their own. No, I am hyper alert, …

Training the Gray Dog to Finally Fall Asleep

NyQuil. Ambien. Valium. Diphenhydramine. Melatonin. Gabapentin. These are the treats that I’ve been feeding the beast. The sock drawer full of scooby snacks that I’ve been resorting to for weeks and weeks now. Insomnia. Is. The. Worst. I’ve never been a good sleeper and recall much of my childhood spent either tossing and turning in anticipation of sleep or quaking under the covers after waking from yet another bad dream. My nightmares were epic pageants of the anxieties of youth. I can still recall a particular dream of being kidnapped that continued for three nights in a row — an actual mini-series of the psyche. I’ve been drowned in poisoned grape juice, hunted through city streets, trapped under a giant glass dome and pursued by oversized hats with eyes (I watched a lot of Lidsville for a time and never quite recovered from Sid and Marty Krofft’s dystopian vision of a world populated by both gigantic hats and Charles Nelson Reilly.) They call depression the Black Dog, and I’ve been fortunate — that particular cur …

TueNight Live: We Party with Our Sisters [Photos]

Whee —  our seventh TueNight Live event, people! This thing is becoming real, real. Once again we brought our issue to life, this time with the theme, “Sisters,” honoring both our biological sibs as well as the many women with whom we feel so close. We gathered at The Wren Downstairs, a lovely, cozy room below a charming restaurant on Bowery and Great Jones Streets in Manhattan. Tasty cocktails paid homage to some of the badass sister matchups of our era. Margit started us off, talking about the sister-filled Women’s March and what it meant to her — excerpts from her Margit’s Note. Adrianna read a piece from her own sister, Lindsay El Tabsh, about how sisters can help us through even the saddest of days. Penny Wrenn described the joy and heartbreak of being a black woman with a white sister. Then a quick break to eat some delicious empanadas. We came back to nary a dry eye in the house as artist/activist Abby Dobson sang of the unremembered black women lost at the hands of police violence, inspired by AAPF’s #SayHerName campaign. Here’s a brief video of Abby …

Taking Off and Waking Up

I take a lot of long-haul trips, the kind where I’m trapped in the coach seat of a jetliner for a dozen hours or more. So I’ve learned to sleep on planes. Within a half hour of slipping the plastic off my airline-issued blanket, I’m dozing deeply, head nestled against my bright pink travel pillow. I used to fight it. I found the whole experience unsettling. One minute, I’m in New York, closing my eyes on the snowy tarmac of JFK, and the next thing I know I’m surrounded by the desert heat and social restrictions of Abu Dhabi. It’s surreal, emerging as the lights get brighter and the rustling of people and baggage brings the cabin suddenly to life, unsure for a moment where or when I am. The control freak in me took years to accept that I was OK being totally, vulnerably asleep in such a public place, under a blanket that wasn’t mine, with total strangers – and not ones I’d chosen to sleep with – reclining next to me. At …

How I Found My Tribe in an Insomniacs Facebook Group

Facebook is many things to me. Up until the election, it was mainly a fun distraction, a place to see sweet shots of my friends’ kids and adorable animal videos. More recently, I’ve been acting as town crier, sharing the latest outrageous act by the new administration and rallying the troops to battle against it. But first and foremost, it has been the place where I’ve found my tribes. First, I found groups for autism parents, people who “got” what I was experiencing – the day-to-day joys and challenges of raising a child on the spectrum. Several years later, I found another tribe: writers. These wonderful, talented women share their work and support one another. Through them, I met my third tribe: insomniacs. We found each other in the predawn hours, posting and chatting with kindred spirits in the dark, our rooms illuminated only by the light of our phones. I knew I wasn’t supposed to look at screens after I went to bed. I had been schooled in the ways of good sleep hygiene: …

How to Build the Perfect Bed

Sleep, that elusive and temperamental beast. I’ve spent my adulthood seeking it like Godzilla hunts Mothra, or the way that perimenopausal women look for sleep. Thanks to better living through chemistry, I’ve come to a mighty-fine agreement with sleep: Leave me alone for 14 hours a day, and you can have all of me the other 10. Ish. Having your own issues? Try calming lavender sachets or spray, melatonin, warm milk, calming music or Ambien (at your own risk). Surely something will stick (fingers crossed!). And once you’ve conquered getting sleep, it’s time to turn your attention to the quality of your sleep, which very often begins with building the perfect bed. Mattresses Start with foundation: A stellar mattress begets a perfect bed. The tough part? It’s completely subjective. I have some friends who swear by their “green” latex mattresses. I’ve loved my crazy-expensive, wrapped-coil Stearns & Foster, having first sampled it at my Mammy’s house and refusing to get out of it for a day or three. There are benefits and drawbacks to all …

Sleeping in My Clothes: Holding Tight to Impetuous Youth

I woke up this morning in my hotel room wearing a bra and beautiful purple flowered Rachel Roy dress, one that always makes me feel beautiful and yields compliments. It’s the dress I’ve worn recently to an important business meeting and am gearing up to wear at a talk at a library. It’s made of polyester (in China, of course), but feels elegant and classy. It is not the kind of dress one should sleep in, but the kind that should be treated with the utmost care so that it lasts as long as possible. It’s a dress I’d be sad to have disappear from my wardrobe, and yet…I still didn’t take the time to remove it from my body and hang it up, or at the very least, drape it from a chair. But alas, that is part of my vice: sleeping in my clothes, alongside sleeping in my glasses (or having them fall haphazardly onto the floor), sleeping with the lights on, not brushing my teeth or using moisturizer before bed, and generally …

Karen’s Note: Let Me Sleep On It

Insomnia scenario #1: I’m sleeping, but I can hear the freight train that runs through our backyard blasting its loud, low horn. Why is the freight train making so much noise in the middle of the night? And why is it blasting its horn so rhythmically? And how is there a freight train between two apartment buildings in Brooklyn? Oh, wait. I’m awake now. And it’s not a freight train. It’s my husband, on his back, snoring. I shove him onto his side, grab my iPhone and scroll through Facebook, maybe play some Solitaire and pray to the sleep gods for a few more hours. Insomnia scenario #2: I wake in the middle night of the night to find myself fully clothed on the living room couch, after falling asleep watching Scandal or This Is Us or Mozart in the Jungle or The Crown or The Santa Clarita Diet. (Yeah, yeah, I watch too much TV). I brush my teeth, change into pajamas and put in my TMJ-preventing mouth guard, hoping that the hours I …