All posts tagged: Money

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 …

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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. …

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What No One Tells You About Planning for Retirement

I put at least 10 percent (or is it 15 percent?) of my salary in my 401K every year. I contribute to a ROTH every other year (or so). I own my home — or will in 28 years. I have enough in stocks to carry me at least a few weeks. Financially, I’m not that bad off… am I? I ask this of my financial advisor, whose primary value seems to be telling me that I should save more. Disappointingly, he can’t make magic of what I have put away thus far. We meet annually to review where I would be financially if I were to retire at an age that increases with every meeting. He routinely poses questions that start with “If you plan to ever stop working…” or “If you’re serious…” My current retirement plan seems to be not to retire. But then, as I’ve seen with my parents, retirement can come unplanned and earlier than you think. They did everything right — scrimping and saving, counting their pennies and on their …

I Bank at McDonalds: Confessions of a Personal Finance Writer

People assume that I’m good with money because I write about it. I’m better than most. I’ve managed to keep my housing costs below-market in one of America’s most expensive cities for the past two decades. I dutifully sock away 15 percent of my salary (amplified by that oh-so-nice company match) in a retirement plan. I’ve paid off my loans for grad school as well as a car. But I do make questionable financial decisions. Here are four of my deepest, darkest money secrets. 1. I bank at McDonald’s. I know where every McDonald’s is within a 20-block radius from my office. And it’s not for the Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish or French Fries. While I rarely (maybe one out of every 100 visits) consume any food at Mickey Dees, aside from the occasional black-and-white shake, it’s where I get cold, hard cash. That’s because I bank at a credit union which has limited brick-and-mortar locations. But the credit union’s banking network allows you to use ATMs at any New York City McDonald’s, surcharge-free. If I need …

Ditching the “Sorry” When it Comes to Getting Paid

In the board game “Sorry,” two players cannot occupy the same space at the same time. You roll the dice, and if you land on a space where another player is already standing, they’re knocked back to where they started. Their progress is lost, and you’re left apologizing. “Sorry!” you say — with or without sincerity. Sorry, because I took up space that someone was using. Sorry, because I went and put myself out there, rolled the dice, and got somewhere. Sorry, I got in another person’s way. This game made perfect sense to me as a girl, because I was taught to move through the world in pretty much that same way. It was impolite to take up space, even metaphorically, because somebody else might need it. “I’m sorry,” was the all-purpose reply if I drew too much attention, made too much noise or did anything that might possibly annoy anyone. [pullquote]You’re not greedy if you want to be paid well. And you’re not stealing from the women next to you by speaking up.[/pullquote] …

Why I Paid My Son to Learn

Last week, my son returned from visiting a school he may attend next fall and said, “Mom, they all know multiplication and I don’t.” I replied, “You can learn multiplication in a snap. Why don’t I teach you?” His response: “No, that’s okay, I just want to play Minecraft.” I’m not concerned with video games. As a young girl, I played many hours of Nintendo a day. Now as CEO of DailyWorth, I attribute much of my entrepreneurial prowess to skills I acquired maneuvering technology, facing death (“game over”) only to start again. But if there’s one thing I hate about modern video games, it’s that they sell “upgrades” within games. They charge actual money to advance. I find this grotesque and vehemently deny my son’s requests for purchased advancement. It’s a ridiculous thing to spend money on. I stand by that. But this night, when my son asked for a $30 upgrade pack, an idea hit. What if I was able to use this perfect storm (money! video games! multiplication!) to show my son how …

Margit’s Note: It Ain’t Easy

It’s a Masters jacket, it’s a smoothie with healthy stuff in it, it’s an envious glare, it’s a recycling bucket, it’s cold hard cash and it’s tomorrow. (Oh, crap!) This week we’re going #Green. We’re being smarter about our cash and putting plastic forks in the right receptacle. Earth Day (April 22 officially) and Tax Day (I’m not hyperlinking you) are both about giving back, sigh. And sustainability isn’t just the grass on your roof, it’s having a stable economy, being able to raise a family, having money in the bank, saving for retirement. — and women really need to save. Today is also Equal Pay Day. So consider this week your lime-colored, give-back mash-up. It’s weird to think that our perception about taking care of Mother Earth has shifted in our lifetime. It wasn’t that long ago we were throwing out cans with the cat food — now I might even have a bin of mulch-making worms in my very own apartment. OK I didn’t say I did, just that I might. Ok, I …

How I Survived a Month Without Takeout

During the month of January, I spent $30 on “takeout.” I don’t feel bad about that. Those were lattes and scones and slices of pumpkin bread that on snowy, sleety, generally awful days I could not resist. I also spent $1,500 on groceries. For the record, I didn’t count the convenience foods and drinks that were means to an end — another $100 or so over the course of the month that bought me a few hours refuge at a coffee shop to get through some email on a Saturday morning; or got me access to a “free” play space for my toddler; or work meetings with colleagues at cafés or restaurants. A little compare and contrast: In previous months, I’d spent approximately $800 in groceries and $1,000 in takeout. So, $1,500 vs. $1,800. THIS WAS NOT THE $1,000 WINDFALL I WAS EXPECTING. SHOUTYCAPS. [pullquote]Fridays, I have learned through this exercise, are not cooking days. Candy Crush and Seamless are what I need on Friday nights.[/pullquote] For $300 in savings, I cooked like a maniac every …

Takeout Takedown: Saying Goodbye to Delivered Food

I am giving up takeout. This is not about health. This is not about calories. This is not about honing my kitchen skills (they are great, thankyouverymuch). This is not about family time. This is not about putting a pause on my all-out consumerism. This is about money. According to my AmEx statement, last month my husband, Gabriel, and I spent $590.88 on restaurants. Since we didn’t go out for a date night in November — too much holiday and work travel, plus the cost of a babysitter, plus really, cozying up at home when the kid is asleep is a pretty blissful date — I know that that $590.88 is pure takeout. Wait a minute. The great sushi place on the corner doesn’t take AmEx. Neither does my neighborhood Thai, or burrito joint. Crap. My Visa takeout bill: $351.56. So, last month, we spent $942.44 on takeout. This is not included the random cash spent for a coffee or bodega snack here or there. Let’s just pretend that money wasn’t spent. Does cash even …

The Embarrassing and Inventive Ways My Dad Saved Money

Dad was a Depression-era baby. My siblings and I always assumed this was the reason for his notoriously thrifty ways. But now that I’ve  considered it further, I’m beginning to believe that it was a result of both nurture AND nature. I think Dad was actually born cheap. While my family had natural financial ups and downs, Dad continued to live as if we were still in the Depression, no matter how flush with cash we might have been. My family ran a small chain of Hallmark stores. Which was ironic since Dad saw the one-time use of greeting cards a foreign and unnecessary concept (we don’t think he planned to resell them, but no one knows for sure.) Every card we received from Dad, since the opening of the stores in the mid 1970s to his death a few years ago, was signed in pencil. After the occasion, he would erase his sentiments, with the intent to reuse the card. My sister Julie calls him “The Original Repurposer.” Hallmark carried a lot of fun …

Here’s Everything Women Could Buy if They Got Paid the Same as Men

What would happen if the wage gap finally disappeared? We know women would be making more money, but how much more would they be bringing home? By now, you’ve probably heard depressing statistics like this one: For every dollar a man earns, a woman makes 77 cents. You might even be sick of hearing it. But here’s another way of thinking about it: If you add all those pennies up, the gender gap will cost the average American woman more than $400,000 over the course of her professional life. What could that buy? A lot, as it turns out. With that money, a woman could buy a house, put two kids through college, buy more than 21,000 gallons of gas and feed her family for almost seven years. Care about the gender wage gap now? Now that we know how much pay inequity costs women, let’s look at how it affects men. Thanks to the gender gap, life is 33% cheaper for a full-time, year-round male worker than it is for the average woman. In …

How I’ve Taught My Kids to Give, Save and Spend

The “Give Save, Spend” system is something many parents use — it’s a great technique for kids (and heck, anyone) to learn the value of money. We ran this piece over on the WhatsYourSystem.com site back in 2010. We thought we’d republish it and check back in with Valerie and her girls to see how things had changed four years later.  2010 Who: Valerie (the mom), Maya and Rachel Gardner Job: Singapore denizens, world travelers. My sister-in-law and nieces. The System: Valerie introduced the concept of “Give, Save, Spend” to her two daughters a few months ago. The idea is that each girl gets an allowance equal to her age (Maya is 8, Rachel is 3) and then they allocate the money in three envelopes – one to give to charity, one to put in “savings” and one to spend. “They can do any allocation they want,” says Valerie, “but at least one dollar has to go into each category per week. So, yes, Rachel then only has one discretionary dollar but it’s just to get her used …

Spending on Sunny Days: What My Mother’s Diagnosis Taught Me About Money

Growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1970s, I learned a few things: jobs can go away quickly, chronic unemployment can cause entire towns to wither, and the Steelers, unlike the industry they were named for, were invincible. During those years, steel mills closed one after another, but fortunately my family remained unaffected. My father worked for a nascent Allegheny Airlines, which became USAir, now US American Air (or whatever ultra-patriotic name they’ve now chosen to give it). Still, I remember the beginning of each school year when we’d go around the room and state our names, neighborhoods and other fun facts (like where your father worked). Sadly, the question was never where your mother worked; and for a couple of years, there weren’t many fathers working at all. Given that environment, I grew up with the understanding that money was a limited resource that should be saved, put away for retirement and rainy days. Like, Russell-Crowe-in-an-Ark rainy days.  My parents made it clear early on that my choices for college were to either get a …

What Happened When I Spent One Month Living on Cash

I have long preferred the simple swipe of plastic to handing over warm bills. (Doesn’t everyone?) Paying for things in cash is physically painful. As it should be. When others have asked, my excuse for avoiding cash transactions has been that using a card means it’s trackable, so I can better account for my spending when I leave a digital footprint. But have I actually tracked my spending? Nope. Sure, I like having the option. But if my money were a dog, it’s been off the leash for a while. So last month, I decided to try the cash challenge. I took out $500 at the start of the month for discretionary spending (meaning rent, insurance and other recurring expenses were excluded) and vowed to try not to spend a cent more. I was actually excited about it. At last! Getting real about money. I’ve been dodgy and defensive about my spending for a while. This was going to keep me honest. Mine was a very low-tech approach: I took the wad of cash and …

Margit’s Note: I Need a Dollar; A Dollar Is What I Need.

Happy Tax Day. I will gladly hand you my hard-earned cash. No, no, you keep it. Enjoy. Make me a smooth paved, pothole-free road and we’ll call it even. This week is all about the green stuff. Cash. Even if you are the kind of person who pays for your latte with a quick scan of the QR code, money is still money. While technology has drastically changed the medium, our relationship to money has certainly not. (And I still find myself occasionally calling ATMs – “Mac Machines” — I know my Philadelphia peeps feel me on that.) We wondered: what have we been we taught to think about money by our parents and how has that changed as we’ve gone off to college, moved into our work lives, paid taxes, created  joint bank accounts (or not), thought about retirement and investments (or not). We can never have too much of it, but we can certainly have too little. It is one of our most intimate companions: it’s that invisible friend we never introduce at …

Money & Business: Women Who Inspire Us

[column size=”one-third”] SALLIE KRAWCHEK By Nicole Hamilton “Instead of retreating in the face of adversity, Sallie found a brilliant next move — helping other women build a ladder up and learn new skills together.”… Read about why she inspires us [/column] [column size=”one-third”] LISA SERVON By Amy S. Choi “New thinking about the urban poor and financial services is (duh) important and supremely relevant, and she’s doing it smartly and respectfully.”… Read about why she inspires us [/column] [column size=”one-third” last=”true”] JANE BARRATT By Jessica Randazza “I admire her ability to methodically pivot in to her own venture, away from those big companies, and focus in on something she believes in. And having pursued a similar path (agency gal now at a fintech startup focused on investments, no less), it wasn’t until I heard Jane’s story that made me stop and think for the first time, “What am I doing to determine my own financial success?” Keep reading… Read why Jane inspires us   [/column]   [hr] SEE MORE IN 38 OVER 38: Arts, Books & Culture …

Women Who Inspire: Lisa Servon

NAME: Lisa Servon AGE: 49 OCCUPATION: Professor, Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Public Engagement WHO SHE IS: I saw Lisa Servon speak at the PopTech Sparks of Brilliance conference in Camden, Maine in 2013, and in a conference packed with amazing speakers, she blew me away. She had flow in on a redeye from Oakland, where she was working at a check-cashing outlet. An expert in urban policy and economic and community development, her current research explores the absence of financial services to the poor and the larger social and economic implications of that absence. But she doesn’t do it from an ivory tower — in order to learn why low-income people choose to use check-cashing outlets, a seemingly exploitative and abusive industry, she worked registers in the Bronx and East Bay, in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. New thinking about the urban poor and financial services is (duh) important and supremely relevant, and she’s doing it smartly and respectfully. Go, girl. WHY SHE …

Manage Your Money, With Feeling

A few years ago, I dreamed of quiet, tree-lined streets, quality neighborhood public schools, a car, a dog, and a yard. My husband and I had had it with city life, so we began hunting for homes in New Jersey. We must have looked at fifteen homes over the course of a year. But after all that, we decided to move just a few neighborhoods over in Brooklyn, where we could get at least 80% of the things we wanted. (We still don’t have the yard or dog. Some day, perhaps.) I always find it interesting to hear why people make homeownership decisions. Some people do a cost analysis and decide that it may be cheaper to own than rent, or predict that it will be a better long-term investment. Some people buy simply because they like the idea of home ownership and they’ve always imagined themselves as a homeowner. Unlike many other types of financial decisions, such as how much to contribute to a 401(k), owning a home is a deeply personal decision since, …