Empowering Women: Four Ways to Improve Your Financial Well-Being

By: Marguerita M. Cheng

As a financial planner, I look back at the generations of women who throughout American history have drawn on their intelligence, imagination, and sense of wonder to make extraordinary contributions, and I am awed.

I’m also not surprised at how far we have come.

Currently, women outnumber men in American colleges and universities. This reversal of the gender gap is a recent trend, noted in 2009, when 57 percent of bachelor degrees, 60 percent of master degrees, and 52 percent of doctoral degrees were awarded to women.

Fortunately for women, this increase in education translates into increased influence—and affluence.

Women are attaining individual wealth through corporate employment, as well as entrepreneurial pursuits. In fact, women-owned business are growing at twice the national rate, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research.

As a working professional mom of three children, I understand that women often have the best of intentions in managing their wealth, but often put themselves last.

The reality is that many financial advisors do not invest the time or energy in attempting to understand the differences in how women view wealth. While it’s not true for everyone, men tend to associate wealth with prestige or power. Women tend to associate wealth with security and peace of mind.

Here is list of strategies that I use with my female clients to help them become more engaged and empowered about their financial well-being:

1. Raise your voice. There is no such a thing as a dumb question. There is no need to talk over people or down to people. Case in point: One of my female clients approached her tax advisor about wanting to pay off her mortgage prior to retirement. Instead of letting her finish her question, he quickly responded, “Why would you think of such a dumb idea?” Fortunately, she decided to fire this gentleman, I wonder how many women have encountered such a negative experience, and stick with advisors who are not listening or paying attention to what they want for their financial futures.

2. Value all of your contributions in the household, not just the financial/economic ones. I will never forget one couple, where the wife was a highly specialized nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She asked me why an advisor once told her that she and her husband should only buy extra life insurance for her husband. She said that I was the first financial professional to validate her many roles of mother, wife and daughter, and started crying. “At last,” she said, “I have financial peace of mind.”

3. Don’t make assumptions or generalizations. Don’t assume that all women are spenders, or that all women are conservative investors. Don’t mistake silence for lack of influence. As an example, in Japan, women usually manage the family’s finances and give their husbands an allowance.

4. Look back with pride. We gain strength and inspiration from the amazing women who came before us. We can thank them for paving the way for us to embrace our growing financial power. Let’s wield it well.

I explain to my children—two daughters and one son—that I am inspired to help women improve their financial confidence. Working with my clients in a financial planning relationship is intellectually stimulating, emotionally gratifying, and socially rewarding. The idea of financial education and empowerment is truly timeless.

This article originally appeared on www.beinkandescent.com


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Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.

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Marguerita M. Cheng

Marguerita M. Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Prior to co-founding Blue Ocean Global Wealth, she was a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial and an Analyst and Editor at Towa Securities in Tokyo, Japan. Marguerita is a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign and a regular columnist for Investopedia & Kiplinger. She is a CFP® professional, a Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. She serves as a Women’s Initiative (WIN) Advocate and subject matter expert for CFP Board, contributing to the development of examination questions for the CFP® Certification Examination. Marguerita also volunteers for CFP Board Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC) hearings. She served on the Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board of Directors from 2013 – 2015 and is a past president of the Financial Planning Association of the National Capital Area (FPA NCA) 


Rita is a recipient of the Ameriprise Financial Presidential Award for Quality of Advice and the prestigious Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship. In 2017, she was named the #3 Most Influential Financial Advisor in the Investopedia Top 100, a Woman to Watch by InvestmentNews, and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise (MBE®) by the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC).


Marguerita’s mantra is “So many people spend their health to gain wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health” (A.J. Reb Materi).

New versus used vehicles: How do you choose?

by Jennifer McDermott

Purchasing a vehicle is a very exciting financial milestone in anyone’s life. It’s a symbol of independence and lifestyle. The tricky question to ask yourself is: should you buy new or used? Both have their pros and cons when it comes to cost, reliability, warranty, and rates (just to name a few!), so how do you determine which will really fare best value?

Here are my tips on what you should consider when deciding whether to buy new or used.

Consider Safety and Reliability

Aside from cost, the safety and reliability of your vehicle should be at the forefront of your mind. What’s the point in investing in something that’s a) not going to last, or b) could be a detriment to your wellbeing?

The benefit of a new vehicle is that they incorporate the latest tech and safety features. For example, it is now mandatory for all cars sold in the U.S. to have some form of tire pressure monitoring, whereas older vehicles may not have these features. This is incredibly important if you’re new to the road or simply a cautious driver.

In terms of reliability, tech incorporated into new cars often have enhanced fuel efficiency, and reduced service and maintenance costs (however, it’s important to note that these can sometimes come in the form of expensive add-ons). If considering a used car, it’s also paramount that you obtain the car’s history. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Compare Loan Providers

As with any expensive purchase, you might need some extra help financing in the beginning. However, with so many auto loan providers available with varying rates and fees, it can be difficult to know where to begin. It’s a great idea to start by comparing providers to find the right financing option to suit your needs.

The next step is to consider how much the loan would cost for a new car or a used car. The average auto loan rate for a new car sits at 4.74% and 8.50% for a used car, with an average loan term of 68 months for a new vehicle and 63 for a used vehicle. If we then look at the average cost of a new vehicle ($36,400), against a used car ($19,232), when factoring in total interest, the interest for a new car only totals to $502 more than a used car. Although this is only an example, it pays to conduct a proper analysis when weighing up your options to be sure that you’re making the right decision.

Factor in Depreciation

Once you drive that brand new car out of the lot, it’s already lost value. It’s not ideal, but that’s just how it is. New cars lose their value quickly – a significant proportion within the first few years alone. If you’re worried about losing value on your investment, the good news is that with a used car, depreciation is slower. The dramatic loss has already occurred, which is what makes them a cheaper purchase in the first place.

With used cars, you don’t need to be concerned about immediate depreciation after your purchase. In terms of physical dings and dents, you’ll stress less about them with a used car, as it’s likely that the first (or even second) car-owner added some character already.

Assess Rates

When it comes to insurance rates, there are pros and cons no matter which way you look at it. If you’re considering a new car, insurance may actually be cheaper due to enhanced safety features, therefore lowering the rates. However, as it’s a newer vehicle, and therefore more desirable to thieves and vandals, insurance rates are often driven up higher.

That being said, it really does depend on the situation. For example, older vehicles are often targeted as they lack the modern anti-theft devices as featured in newer models. This makes them an easier target. However, if taking the used car route, insurance rates are usually reduced to accommodate the lower value of the vehicle.

When it comes to insurance, the amount you get covered for is ultimately up to you, to an extent. Although liability insurance is required more often than not, you can always opt for additional extras, like collision insurance, or comprehensive auto insurance, covering things like vandalism and damage not related to an in-car accident.

So, Which Route?

Deciding whether to opt for a new or a used car is sometimes a tricky decision, and there is no definitive answer. It depends entirely on the situation – the model, the make, the optional extras, the rates and fees at the time… there are so many factors. However, if you do your research, compare the options available to you, and most importantly, trust your gut, you’re sure to feel great about reaching this financial milestone!


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Jennifer McDermott is Consumer Advocate at personal finance comparison website finder.com. She has more than 12 years’ experience under her belt in the finance, lifestyle and travel industries where she’s analyzed consumer trends. Jennifer loves to uncover interesting insights and issues to help people find better.

Six Financial To-Do’s (and Don’ts) of Wedding Planning

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by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

From choosing decorations and centerpieces, to deciding on the dream tailor-made dresses for you and your bridesmaids, weddings are one of the biggest and most memorable milestones in our lives. While wedding planning can be exciting, we don’t always take into account the financial toll “the perfect wedding” can have on the pockets of you and your significant other, but never fear, by following these six tips you can be financially savvy on your big day and long after!

1. Have the money conversation!
Sit down and discuss your goals, values, interests, and relationships. This will help to determine how finances will be prioritized and the roles and responsibilities within the marriage. Be sure to continue going on money dates and speak openly about finances, post-nuptials. If you are in need of further financial consultation, there are professionals who specifically meet with couples to go over conversations to create financial expectations within the marriages.

2. Open a savings account, specifically for money for your wedding, and develop a budget!
Save, save and save some more! First, you need to determine how much you can afford to spend on your nuptials. If you need to have a long engagement to stick to your budget, do it and understand the costs associated with what you want.

3. Don’t accumulate debt from financing your own wedding and don’t tap into your retirement savings
With money already a stress on a relationship, overspending on your big day could lead to deeper debt that will not be beneficial to the health of your marriage. I would suggest saving for your wedding, rather than borrowing. This can help you avoid paying the interest associated with loans and credit card debt. If you do not have the cash to pay either a loan or credit cards, then avoid financing your wedding with these payment methods. If you borrow from your 401(k), you must repay the loan within five years or else you would have to pay taxes on the amount that was withdrawn as well as a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

4. Save for the big things in life and look for bargains when you can!
When furnishing your home or saving for a first deposit on a home – it will be important to save and find some good deals when you can. When planning for your wedding, there a million ways to find exactly what you have been dreaming of as a little girl. There are plenty of DIY crafts you can use for favors, bridal showers, and wedding décor. Pinterest will be your best friend!

5. Meet with a financial advisor
A financial planner will put a comprehensive plan in place to help prepare you for all financial matters that may arise in your marriage. If you or your significant other are concerned about how financing your wedding will affect your financial future, sitting down with a financial expert can help you plan for your special day and all of the special days to follow.

6. Combining finances and keeping some separate
If after your money conversation, you find that you may have different goals, consider having a “Yours,” “Mine,” and “Ours” account. Have an account for shared household expenses and keep your own accounts for personal expenses and discretionary spending, so you can buy those shoes and he can buy those tickets for the game.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Instead of Spending, Teenagers Can Turn to Saving

by Samantha Cueto

When Should Teens Start a Savings Account?

As soon as a teenager begins to spend the money that they earn, they should start considering opening a savings account. According to an ING Direct study, a surprisingly large percentage of teenagers amounting to approximately 83% admit they are clueless when it comes to how they should be spending their money.

How Teenagers can Earn Money for Their Savings Account

Around 35% of teenagers attain jobs, according to a graph from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a moderate percentage considering how most teenagers focus on educational classes or internships for their resumes during the summer. Teenagers can attain their money inside homes through some of these popular options:

  • Some teens can receive small allowances each week, in return for completing chores throughout the house. Yet there are fewer parents who have been giving their teenagers money, and may even consider the prospect of chores as something that is more of a responsibility rather than an optional task nowadays. Therefore, this option may not be the easiest opportunity to earn money, and can only depend on what a parent’s perspective of allowance is.
  • Teens can babysit or tutor their neighborhood’s children, if there are any parents actively searching for either a babysitter or tutor. Teens who enjoy being in the presence of young children may find this option the most appealing, but it does require knowledge on the academic subjects the child may be having trouble with, and how to take care of children in general.

Teens who desire to work outside of a home can consider other viable jobs to earn money, such as:

  • Some retail stores or fast-food restaurants are willing to hire any teenagers vying for the occupation. Teens can learn some basic skills such as how to operate a cash register or how supplies can be properly stored. Retail stores and fast-food restaurants offer small salaries and a daily schedule that can help any teen become slightly more organized.
  • Any small tasks teens can complete around their local neighborhood can help them earn some extra cash. Some conventional examples do include, but are not limited to: washing neighbors’ cars, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, and offering cool refreshments to anyone passing by that may look dehydrated. This option does not earn as much money for a teenager than the other aforementioned ones, and are more of temporary solutions.

Teenagers who earn the money from these jobs end up spending it rather than saving. Teenagers who are interested in their future should open a savings account to pay for their dream college and the expenses that eventually come when they reach adulthood, such as purchasing an apartment or paying their bills.

Why Teenagers Should Open Savings Accounts with Their Banks

Once a teenager signs up for a saving account with their chosen bank, they can begin depositing the money they earn into their account. A savings account can even limit the number of withdrawals to six per month, which can keep teenagers on a reasonable budget instead of splurging most of their money on shopping sprees. Savings accounts also come with interest rates.
An interest rate can be beneficial to a teen if they earn it correctly. Savings accounts add a certain amount of money to the current balance if it has been deposited there for a certain period of time. The amount of interest a teenager can earn in their account depends on how much money they have deposited into their account, the bank they created a savings account with, and the general interest rate of that aforementioned bank. A teenager must also keep in mind that they would have to pay a fee if they do not maintain a minimum balance on their account that some banks can require, but not all.
A teenager who has just commenced the process of searching for the right bank may be encountering some trouble. There are hundreds of different banks offering several different options that can be overwhelmingly confusing to a teenager. Not all of these banks offer the best deals or have a teenager’s interests in mind, but there are three options that have been narrowed down so a teenager can begin their search:

  • Capital One 360 Savings Account is a superb option for a teenager because there is no minimum balance or deposit that can come with most banks. Teenagers can also find their Automatic Savings Plan extremely helpful, which transfers money automatically to the account and can be adjusted or stopped at any time. The interest rate is only 0.75% per year, which may sound small but will have money growing in no time.
  • The Barclay Dream Account is an online banking account option that will earn the most interest. If deposits are made continuously for six consecutive months, there will be a 2.5% bonus on the interest earned. If no money has gone through withdrawal for six consecutive months, another 2.5% bonus will also be added on the interest earned. It also promises no monthly service fees have to be paid and there is no minimum deposit number to open the account.
  • All of Ally Bank’s accounts can be opened as a custodial account, meaning that a parent will have control over the account until the child they’re saving for becomes 18. In-trust accounts can also be opened, meaning the income can be split between a parent and their child once the child reaches legal age as well. Ally Bank doesn’t require a minimum balance when opening an account and no fees have to be paid monthly. The interest rates vary depending on which account a teenager and their parents decide to choose. CDs, or certificates of deposit, are also a viable choice in Ally Bank.

Samantha Cueto is a teenager herself. She is a rising sophomore at Dominican Academy in Manhattan.

What Type of Spender Are You?

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

One of my hubby’s friends works with statistics. He’s one of those people who take an honest interest in how many pets we have per capita in different states, and how many more children families produce in Arkansas than in New York. His latest thing is spending habits. I perked up when he told me his findings. After spending years and years analyzing who spends how much on what, he has started to divide spenders into six different categories.

1. The frugal spender. I know it sounds like an oxymoron. My hubby’s friend defines a frugal spender as “a person who spends as little as possible.”

2. The impulse spender. This person aims to be frugal, but can’t resist pulling out the plastic when he or she spots a good deal.

3. The indulgent spender. While this person may keep tabs on money spent on staples, he or she loves the sweet things in life: spas, vacations, designer clothing, five star restaurants, etc.

4. The balanced spender. This person buys mostly cheap things, with a few luxury items thrown into the mix.

5. The continuous over spender. This is the most dangerous kind of spender. Always in the red, this person fails to learn from his or her mistakes and continues to rack up more debt.

6. The guilt trip spender. This person is often a divorced parent or a cheating spouse. He or she often tries to mend a bad conscious by shelling out the big bucks.

Any of these sound familiar?

For additional reading on the topic of money personalities, check out What Is Your Money Personality?

Stacy Francis is president and CEO of Francis Financial, Inc., a fee-only wealth management practice dedicated to investment advisory services for women, couples and those experiencing divorce. She is also the founder of Savvy Ladies®, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers women to take control of their finances.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

15 (Frugal) Ways to Date Your Mate

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Maybe you have a date with that special someone on Valentine’s Day or a romantic dinner with your significant other. Whatever the situation, below are some ideas for a great cheap date with your honey that will save you lots of cash without skimping on the romance.

  • Eat a simple, nutritious dinner at home, and then go out for a truly decadent dessert.
  • Pick wildflowers together.
  • Go for a bike ride, hike, or run together.
  • Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park or the zoo.
  • Take a class together in something fun and creative: glass blowing, pottery, drawing, creative writing, or photography.
  • Browse in a bookstore together.
  • Attend a local high school or college sports game.
  • Take a road trip to a nearby town, or even another neighborhood in your own city. Stroll around, talk with locals, have a drink at a local café.
  • Read aloud to each other from a favorite novel, poem or short story.
  • Attend a theater performance by your local college or community group.
  • Go to a flea market or garage sale.
  • Attend a local lecture on a subject of interest to both of you.
  • Send the kids out to someone else's house and stay in and cook together.
  • Visit a museum on a free or pay-what-you-wish day.
  • Have a water balloon fight in the park. Or play on the swings.

You might also want to check out NYC on the cheap and healthy.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

The Best Time to Shop for Bargains

While the holiday season may be over, there’s no need to feel depressed. Now is the best time to shop for bargains! Here are a few tips on how you can take advantage of the year’s best sales. When to Shop. Sales begin promptly when stores open on December 26th. You’ll typically save 50% the day after Christmas, progressing to 75% the week after, then up to 90% in January. However, the longer you wait, the more picked over things will be.

Where to Shop. You’ll often find the best deals in the most out-of-the-way places. The key is to use your creativity when shopping. Where do you think most shoppers in your area will be? Try to go elsewhere.

Buy for next Christmas. Seasonal items like holiday kitchenware and decorations will have the deepest discounts. If you ran out of gift wrap or cards this year, stock up for next year when these items go on sale for 75% off. Buy discounted solid colored wrap to use on other gifts throughout the year. Holiday fabric for tablecloths and next year’s craft projects is also a good deal.

Buy gifts for all year round. Toys on clearance are great for birthday parties throughout the year. Shop after-Christmas sales for gifts to give to your loved ones on their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Store them under the bed or in the closet labeled with your friend or relative’s name. Make a note on the new year’s calendar that you already have a gift for their birthday.

Watch expiration dates. Pre-packaged gift sets like ice cream sundae toppings or barbecue sauce packs are great gifts to give during the year as long as they are free from holiday markings and expiration dates.

Don’t buy what you don’t need. Even if it's on sale, if you just don't need another set of lights, don't buy them. Also skip items that, although on sale, are still over-priced or not useful. If you won't use it within the next six months, pass. Buying what you don’t need is never frugal.

Examine sale items carefully. After being handled by many Christmas shoppers, some items may show their wear. Be sure they are not damaged. This is especially important if seconds or irregulars are mixed in with the clearance sales.

Get the 411. Find out the store's policy on returns and exchanges. Most sales on after-Christmas clearance merchandise are final, but the store should still settle complaints on broken or defective products.

Come early or stay late. Consider shopping at the beginning or end of a clearance sale. You will generally find the best selection when the sale begins but the lowest prices as the sale ends.

For more savvy tips on shopping, check out:

Great Ways to Shop More and Spend Less The Savvy Guide to Coupons 5 Common Saving Strategies… That Can Lead to Overspending Shopping Triggers

'Tis the Season for Savvy Spending

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stretching your holiday budget doesn’t mean you’ll be giving lumps of coal as gifts this holiday season. Smart shoppers have always known that the holiday season doesn’t have to cost a lot to be fun.

Here are a few tips to make your holidays brighter but not budget busters.

Determine the total amount you can spend and don’t go over budget. Track what you have spent by keeping a tally of your purchases in your purse.

Simplify gift giving. Ask people what they want and need. You'll be able to choose more wisely from their lists than your perceptions of what they want. Encourage family to create a wish list on popular Internet websites such as Amazon or Barnes & Nobles.

Go shopping with your shopping list in hand. Don't succumb to impulse buying. Many holiday shoppers end up busted budgets by purchasing expensive gifts for themselves and spending more than planned on friends and family.

Give your family a gift everyone can enjoy, such as a museum or aquarium yearly pass.

Subscribe to a high-quality magazine everyone will read.

If someone gives you a gift you don’t like or need, save it to give as a gift later on or donate it to a charity for a tax deduction.

Ask family members to set a price limit on gifts. Insist everyone stick to the agreement.

If you're really stuck for ideas or cash, consider giving your time as a gift, including free babysitting, housecleaning or lunch out every few months. Seniors would be especially appreciative of help around the home. The gift of time is the most precious gift of all.

Happy holidays!

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Spring Cleaning Your Financial Closet

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Spring is a time of renewal, which means there’s no better time than now to dust off your personal budget, dig the change out from under your sofa, and clean the cobwebs off your savings plan.

So how do you get started?

Begin by reviewing your income and expenses for the past several months. It is best if you use a software such as Mint.com. Mint pulls all your financial accounts into one place. You can set a budget and track your goals.

Make sure to review all cash, checks and credit card transactions. This will also help you identify a majority of your spending. Keep in mind that credit card expenditures do count. They are expenses that you will have to pay – ideally, in full, when the bill arrives.

The hardest part is tracking your cash outlays for your daily coffee and lunch at work. Mint.com will only show your ATM withdrawals. You will need to track how you spend that cash.

Once you have your income and expenses down, you’ll actually be able to see where you are spending your money. You may be surprised to find out you are spending more than you realized. Once your budget is in Mint.com, you can’t hide the fact that you spend $20 a week on Starbucks' coffees.

Armed with knowledge about what you’re spending your income on, you can begin to make lifestyle choices that help reduce your spending on a regular basis.

The difference between your income and your expenses (assuming the first number is bigger) should be looked at as your “opportunity money.” This money can be used for additional investments and savings and help speed your way down the path to financial prosperity.

Once you're done cleaning your financial closet, you may be ready for a spring makeover of your finances.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

Are You a Tortoise or a Hare?

by Jillian Beirne Davi

Today’s article is about why budgets and diets don’t work. And how to manage the Holiday Hangover you might be feeling.

When people decide they’re going to lose weight, or stick to a budget, or finally pay off their credit cards, typically they dive into the action mode.

The pain of being where they are jumpstarts into DOING things to feel better.

They start calculating expenses.  Cutting things from their budget, throwing out the cookies and pulling out the old exercise gear.  They join a gym. They hire a coach.

THIS YEAR, they think, is going to be different.

And yet, most people have dropped their new habits by January 28th.  Oh well, they figure. Maybe next year.

The reason why most people have trouble creating lasting change in certain areas of their life is because they jump right into Step Two – the action phase – without ever spending enough time in Step One.

This is what I call the “mindset stage.”

Your mindset determines which actions you take, which actions you ignore, what you pay attention to and what you gloss over. Your mindset is the filter for all the tiny decisions you make on a daily basis that turn accumulate into BIG things over time.

And if your mindset is flawed from the beginning, it will be difficult to sustain any lasting progress.

Ultimately there are two types of mindsets that I see when people come to me for help with their finances. The Tortoise mindset and the Hare mindset.

If you come from the Hare mindset, you are looking for a quick fix, someone to “save” you. You want instant results. Immediate gratification.  If you have this short-term mindset, it’s going to be difficult to make long-term change because you expect fast results. And when you don’t see them quickly enough, you get frustrated and you quit.

The problem with the Hare mindset is one of unrealistic expectations. New habits and behaviors take time to start and even longer to become automatic.  If you are expecting to lose five pounds overnight, or looking to put every last dime of your paycheck to pay off the first of many credit card bills, you are setting yourself up for failure.

If it took you a year or more to get into debt, or blow through your savings, or to gain the weight, then  plan for it to take about that long (or more) to reverse your situation.

Accepting this fact before taking any action is the best way to shift out of Hare thinking.

Now, let’s compare this to the Tortoise Mindset.  The Tortoise mindset goes slowly and steadily, plodding along daily and celebrating daily wins. (No matter how laughably small.)  The results are small at first – in fact many times they’re barely noticeable on the outside.  But eventually these small daily wins accumulate and take on a life of their own.

When you adopt this mindset you’re not expecting fast results from the beginning.  And because you don’t expect fast results, you don’t get frustrated as easily when the results aren’t visible yet. You are more likely to stick with your plans, trusting that you can’t NOT get there as long as you trust the process and keep going.

So, if you want your New Year’s Resolutions to “work” this year, spend some time changing your mindset.   Change doesn’t happen overnight and there may be looooong stretches of time where it seems like you’re not making progress.  A mentor, coach or mastermind group can help you stay on track even though it seems like “nothing’s happening.”

When you can really accept this, THEN you’re ready to move to Step Two with realistic expectations and get into action. From there, you’ve set yourself up for massive success!

 

Comment

Jillian Beirne

Jillian Beirne Davi is a Financial Turnaround expert and the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner).   After digging herself out of $30,000 in debt and saving tens of thousands of dollars, she decided to share her strategies with others who struggle in this area.  Turns out:  They work! The Abundant Finances community continues to grow with conscious women who are committed to making RADICAL changes in their financial lives.   For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit http://www.AbundantFinances.com and sign up for the high-content, high value FREE newsletter today!

How To Avoid The Pressure Cooker

by Jillian Beirne Davi

It’s not how you act when the pressure is on that determines your success. It’s how you act when the pressure is off.
— Jill :)

Today we're going to talk about a common habit that keeps people stuck financially for years or even decades and it's something you absolutely want to avoid if you want to achieve financial stability in your life once and for all.

It's called the "pressure-cooker" dynamic and it's a concept Tony Robbins teaches around diet and exercise but I see the exact same pattern happening with people and their finances.

So first, let me set up the scenario for you. Let's say your finances are a mess. Let's say you've been ignoring the problem, ignoring the problem, ignoring the problem.

Then something happens in your life and you are forced to deal with it. You can't ignore it any longer. Your bills come due, the creditors call, you get stranded somewhere with your credit cards maxed out. You finally total up how much you owe. You've reached zero in savings. Whatever the situation is, you wake up and decide that you have to make a change.

(By the way, I find that Life will ask you nicely several times to make a change before finally grabbing you by the collar and demanding that you change. So it's up to you to make an empowered decision to change before things get so bad that you're backed into a corner. But that's a topic for another day.)

So now, you're frustrated and you feel a sudden burst of energy to start taking action and change. And this lasts for a little bit. Now you're not AS frustrated as you once were. Maybe you've paid off HALF of your credit card debt. Maybe you've saved up a little bit of money. Maybe you've stuck to a budget for a few weeks. Or a few months.

What happens next is fascinating. Once the pain starts to subside, we slowly start feeling "okay" again. And we start to give ourselves permission to fall back into our old ways.

We justify with all sorts of reasons, too! (Trust me, I've been there -- that's why I'm aware of this.) We say: "Well my debt's not AS high anymore." Or, "well I've got SOME money in savings, it's not as bad as it used to be." Or, this one: "I've been working so hard on this, I deserve to take a break."

And then we take our eyes off the prize, we backslide, we go unconscious and the next thing we know we're right back to where we started. We go back into debt, we've spent our savings, we're back to our old spending habits. And this goes on until we get upset again, we get motivated to make a change, and the cycle begins again. Out of debt, right back into debt. Save $5K, spend $5K.

The reason this happens is because we're usually only motivated to take action when pain is really high. Once the pain goes away, we fall back into our old ways. Because without accountability, we tend to quit. We stop taking action.

So how do you end this cycle? Well, I teach this to my private clients and it's something that a great coach can call you out on when they start to see this happening in your life in real time. Not months or years later when the damage is already done.

One way to end this cycle is to make sure that when you make a decision to get rid of the pain, that you back it up with a plan that you can stick to long term. Not one or two things that you do in the short term to ease the pressure. But instead you use that motivation to create a plan that includes small daily rituals that become automatic over time and keep you moving forward once the initial motivation wears off.

Trust me. The initial motivation WILL wear off. So when you accept this up front, you can make a smarter plan.

Another way is to keep your focus in front of you on a daily basis as a reminder of why you're making this change in the first place. I call this knowing your "Big Why" and connecting with it often.

By understanding this dynamic, you can use your frustration and convert it into a long term plan that includes daily actions that you use consistently with your vision in front of you. When you get support you increase your chances exponentially of breaking the pressure cooker cycle and make lasting change.

Comment

Jillian Beirne

Jillian Beirne Davi is a Financial Turnaround expert and the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner).   After digging herself out of $30,000 in debt and saving tens of thousands of dollars, she decided to share her strategies with others who struggle in this area.  Turns out:  They work! The Abundant Finances community continues to grow with conscious women who are committed to making RADICAL changes in their financial lives.   For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit http://www.AbundantFinances.com and sign up for the high-content, high value FREE newsletter today!

3 Reasons We Overspend

by Manisha Thakor

Have you ever set a financial goal only to find that your actual spending significantly surpassed your budget? When you have the best of intentions to create financial health, why is it so darn easy to sabotage your progress? As a female financial advisor and confirmed personal finance junkie here are three factors that I think contribute to this (all too common) phenomenon.

Reason #1: We are bombarded 24/7/365 by media images of “average lifestyles” that are anything but. I love watching police and medical dramas on TV. But have you ever noticed how it appears that each policewoman and nurse has had a fresh mani/pedi and professional blow out right before arriving at her 7am shift? I didn’t have hair that frizz-free and skin that flawless on my wedding day, let alone before heading out for a day at work. It would be interesting to add up the costs of what it would take to replicate look of these “average” lives. My hunch is that the costs would equate to a total price tag that was 20% more than those positions pay. With unrealistic comparison like that, is it any wonder we overspend?

Reason #2: Most of us were never taught what “healthy spending” looks like – so we don’t realize how much we are over spending relative to our incomes. I’ve yet to meet a single person who sat down and said, “Hmmm, how can I blow my budget”. The much more common response is a shocked, “But I was doing the same thing as everyone else!” Frequent readers of this blog know my favorite budgeting rule of thumb comes from Elizabeth and Amelia Warren’s book, All Your Worth. It’s 50/30/20. That’s the percentages of your take home pay that would go towards needs, wants, and savings in a “balanced spending” plan.

Reason #3: Social media has created an alternative universe where we can “stage” our lives and then share those images the same way a magazine might stage a layout. So yes, a photo of an amazing brioche French toast with crème fraiche and Vermont maple syrup is no longer just a meal. It’s a statement on Who. You. Are. In short, the internet has super-sized and turbocharged the long standing human desire to keep up with the Joneses. In many cases, it has led us to view our lives as if we, too, are watching them through a lens. The things we do – the money we spend, the experiences we have – become the way we “focus” that lens to create the image of ourselves we’d like others to see.

And if those aren’t reason enough, in today’s modern life we are So. Very. Busy. Having people over to our homes requires that we shop, clean, prepare – so often it’s much easier to just go out, which can lead to…you guessed it: overspending.

Ultimately, our vulnerability to overspending strikes at the heart of our sense of worth and identity. In order to protect our net worth, we have to learn how to unconditionally value ourselves, instead of buying into the mass media driven notion that, to improve our lives, we must accumulate more “stuff”. Because usually it is… just stuff.

For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /ManishaThakor or sign up to receive Manisha's MoneyZen blog via email.]

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

The Beauty of a Budget

by Manisha Thakor

Many people think budgets are about deprivation. As a financial adviser, I feel they are about liberation. Here’s a simple three-step plan to create a budget that you will feel excited to follow.

Step #1: Understand the real purpose of a budget.

It’s not necessarily what you might think. The benefit of a budget is that it establishes boundaries. Importantly, these boundaries can set you free to focus on what is most essential. Let me explain. Because we live in a world with so many choices, people often think of budgeting as a constraining, joy-restricting activity. But when done correctly, budgeting actually creates a protective financial haven around you (by simplifying your set of choices) to help you make spending decisions that will enhance your joy.

Step #2: Learn what healthy spending looks like.

If you ask the average person, “What is a healthy mix between spending on needs and wants versus savings?” you will likely get a blank stare. That’s because very few of us were ever given straightforward guidelines to follow in this area.

Back in the early 1990's when she was a Harvard Law School professor specializing in bankruptcy, Senator Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia wrote a delightful book called ALL YOUR WORTH. In it, they identified an optimal “balanced spending formula” of 50/30/20.  It is simple, powerful, and after all these years it’s still the most effective healthy spending rule of thumb I've come across.

The “Balanced Spending Formula” Looks Like This…

•  50 percent – the ideal amount of your take-home pay that goes toward needs

•  30 percent – the ideal amount of your take-home pay that goes to wants

•  20 percent – the ideal amount you set aside for savings

Step #3: Adjust to fit your specific situation.

While I agree that 20 percent is the ideal amount to strive to save, in this era of sky-high student loans and above average unemployment it may not be obtainable for many people right now.

For this reason, I have temporarily adjusted my thinking. Any amount you are paying for reducing student loan debt or credit card debt counts toward that 20 percent savings, if you will commit to channeling those dollars into savings after the debt is paid off.

Setting up a healthy budget with this ideal spending formula empowers you to take the first step in creating a life lived from a place of financial strength. It enables you to find that vital intersection between what is important and what you can control. Focus on that sweet spot and find your joy.


[Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, sign up to get her email updates delivered right to your inbox here.]

 

Comment /Source

Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.

Budgeting for Wealth: How to Create a Spending Plan You Love

by Jillian Beirne Davi

Six years ago I was depressed, broke and deeply in debt. I had nowhere to turn.  At the time, there was no such thing as a "Money  Coach" (that I knew of...).  But let me tell you, if that person existed, I would have hired them on the spot to help me.

Instead, I had to figure it out on my own.  And it took such a long time to get into the groove of turning my finances around and I made many mistakes along the way. Eventually, though, I paid back every cent I owed. But that wasn't the big accomplishment.

The big accomplishment was feeling like for the first time, I was in control of my money. Not the other way around.  It was a great feeling to be debt-free with abundant savings, but most importantly I knew that no matter what amount of money came in, I could manage it well, be generous with others and still have money left over for myself.

One of the best tools I used was a Spending Plan (aka "Budget") that helped me plan my finances out in advance.   Here’s how it works.

The Dirty - B Word: How to Create a Budget That Works!

In order to get a hold of your finances,  the first step is to know your numbers.  You must create a Balanced Budget that you can realistically stick to long term -- a budget you love.  (Yes! It's absolutely possible to love your budget.  Trust me on this.  I had one client call it "The Magical Spreadsheet" for a reason.)

The first thing you want to understand is that a budget does not mean deprivation. In fact, don't call it a budget at all.  Call it a "Spending Plan."  The truth is, once you receive your paycheck, it all gets "spent" somewhere, even if you're saving it.  So the plan just tells you exactly WHAT to do with the dollars that come on Pay Day so that you feel good for the next two weeks.

The best way to create a budget you love is to make sure that every time you get paid, you divide your paycheck into three buckets.  The Wealth Bucket, the Living Expenses Bucket and the Play Money Bucket.

Wealth Bucket:  These are the money habits that set you up for wealth long term – becoming debt free, saving money and making generosity a habit. This bucket makes the practice of Wealth Consciousness a habit in your life.    Here are the three things that go in this bucket:

Debt Repayment:   Credit card payments, student loans, personal loans, car notes are all examples of what goes in this bucket.

Personal Long Term Savings:  Like attract like in the money game. When you have personal savings, you feel more at ease. When you feel more at ease, it gets you out of survival mode thinking. When you are at ease, you attract more opportunities for new money to come into your life.  Personal savings is a must.

Tithing/Charitable Giving:  You also want to include some sort of regular tithing or charitable giving in this bucket. Why? Because this keeps the energy of money circulating in your life.

Living Expenses Bucket:  Fixed living expenses go here.  Fixed living expenses are the predictable expenses that do not change month to month.  Rent or mortgage payments, transportation costs, utilities, cell phone bills, cable, any recurring subscriptions, groceries are all examples of what goes in this bucket.     These are your fixed costs of living.

Play Money Bucket:  This is everything else.  I believe you must have a chunk of money left over from every paycheck that you set aside to simply ENJOY. Money is a tool for you to live well.  For many women that are paying down debt, struggling to stay afloat, or have little savings,  this bucket is the hardest to understand. They feel guilty: how can I have Play Money if I’m so deeply in debt?  Shouldn't every penny go towards debt or savings?

I believe the answer is no.  Deprivation is not a long term strategy to achieving your money goals.   If you deprive yourself for too long, you will begin to feel resentful and will rebel against your own rules

So, it’s important to make sure that you have some fun with your funds, too.   Reward yourself often with things that you love and that make you feel good.  This is the definition of good self-case.  If you do this, you’re less likely to go into "deprivation" mode with yourself or with others.

Quick coach’s tip:  Just go one paycheck at a time. Yep!  I'm advocating living paycheck to paycheck at first.  Create your budget and then focus on sticking to it for one pay period only.  If you accomplish this, then reward yourself on your next Pay Day with something that makes you feel really good.

This doesn't have to be expensive, but it must be something that really feeds your soul (For me, it was taking myself out to a sushi lunch on pay day and buying myself a brand new book a few days later).  Build meaningful rewards into your plan to keep you going!  

Comment

Jillian Beirne

Jillian Beirne Davi is a Financial Turnaround expert and the founder of Abundant Finances, a service that helps you get yourself out of debt and start amassing abundant savings in record time (without deprivation or eating cat food for dinner).   After digging herself out of $30,000 in debt and saving tens of thousands of dollars, she decided to share her strategies with others who struggle in this area.  Turns out:  They work! The Abundant Finances community continues to grow with conscious women who are committed to making RADICAL changes in their financial lives.   For more helpful money strategies to turn your finances around, visit http://www.AbundantFinances.com and sign up for the high-content, high value FREE newsletter today!