March is Women's History month

Do we have something to celebrate? This year marked a milestone in the movement for gender equality and the advancement of women. The world has recognized that gender equality is critical to the development and peace of every nation. Women are not only more aware of their rights; they are more able to exercise them. This includes being empowered to make strong decisions about financial issues. Unfortunately, there is not one country where women are truly equal with men. Where are the best – and worst – places for women to live? The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. The worst countries for women to live in – by our standards at least - are likely to be poor and war-torn, or unsympathetic to women’s rights. However, it is surprising to find that the gap between the haves and have-nots makes the US “shocking” for many women, says a University of Adelaide academic, Barbara Pocock. Many women are being left behind because of the low minimum wages, a welfare system aimed at pushing people back into work, and expensive health care.

As women, there is a natural fear of money. We learn so much about healing and restoring other aspects of our lives – such as relationships, body image, parenting - and yet we are sometimes afraid to tackle anything to do with the business of financial reality. We are afraid of not having enough, of losing what we have, and of having more than enough.

So how can we find serenity in all that financial angst? We can start by being honest with ourselves. Compare notes with your friends; untangle some of your economic package; figure out the specific symbolic nature of your relationship to money versus the reality of what you need for you and your family to get by; and isolate the lies you’ve bought into about money.

It’ll be scary and painful at first, but it’ll get easier as you continue to learn and embrace the topic of money. If we are to change the past that put women at a disadvantage in most societies, we must implement what we have learned on a larger scale. It is fundamental to create more economic opportunities for women. Promoting gender equality and facing financial reality, is not only women’s responsibility -- it is the responsibility of all of us. Let us rededicate ourselves to making that a reality.


Reduce Stressful Decision-Making

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

My brain short-circuited today at Subway. Did I want tuna, or turkey, or veggies, or chicken? I’m sure you know the feeling. Your head spins with what-ifs and doubt and anxiety until you can’t think at all. And this was only a lunch sandwich!

Moving into finance, decisions can be extremely stressful – and rightfully so. While it is true that you can’t buy happiness, doubtlessly, where, how, and when you invest your money will have a huge impact on your future. Taking a wrong turn can cost you your dream home, or chain you to your office chair for another couple of years. So what’s the secret to worrying less?

First of all, accept the old words of wisdom “embrace change, because it’s inevitable”. Not only does your life situation change continuously, but so does the economy, the business world, and the laws and regulations that affect personal finance. If the thought of spending hours every week staying up to date with all these changes makes you sweat – don’t worry about it, just find someone who can do it for you. Politicians all rely on trusted experts for decision-making, and so do most successful business people. A financial advisor could be the solution for you, or a friend or family member with a flair for all things financial. You can appoint anyone you want, as long as you feel comfortable and trusting this person takes stressful financial decision-making off your shoulders.

Another tool that can be of great help is the good old-fashioned gut feeling. Your intuition is always there for you – and it is always right. If you learn to filter out noise and really listen to it, there is no better advisor. And when you act from a point of clarity, results are never far behind.

Should all this fail, there’s always what if/so what if-thinking. Whenever a what-if keeps you up at night, turn it around and instead ask yourself “so what if?” Most of the time, you will find that the worst-case scenario isn’t so scary after all.

No scarier than a sleepless night, anyway.

1 Comment

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.

Celebrity Inc

As part of her MoneyZen series, women and money expert Manisha Thakor highlights every day personal finance lessons that can be extracted from Jo Piazza's new book Celebrity, Inc. 

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Are Your Bonds Safe?

by Manisha Thakor

"Last year I invested in a bond fund and now I've lost money. What happened? I thought bonds were supposed to be safe investments!" 

Recently several people have asked me this same question. Given the turbulent economic times we're (hopefully!) coming out of, it's understandable that folks want to find a "safe investment" to hunker down in.

Alas, the phrase "safe investment" is an oxymoron. The whole point of investing is taking on some risk with the hope, but not the guarantee, of earning a higher return than you'd get from doing something risk free.

So how did bonds get the reputation of being "safe?" Well, at their core, bonds are loans. You lend money for a pre-determined period of time. In return you receive interest at specified intervals. When your loan (a.k.a. bond) matures you get back the money you originally loaned - if the entity hasn't gone bankrupt.

It is the return of that original investment that has caused people to view bonds as "safe" investments. Alas, there are always risks with any investments. The two classic ones for individual bonds are:

  1. Credit Risk: This is the risk that the entity you lend to goes belly up and can't pay you back.

  2. Interest Rate Risk: Bonds are like seesaws. When interest rates go up, the price of bonds go down. If you hold your bond until it matures, the impact is all on paper. But if you are forced to sell your bond before its maturity date and interest rates are higher than when you bought that bond, the price you'll receive will be less than you originally invested.

Another problem with individual bonds is you often need a pretty hefty chunk of change to buy them. This is where bond mutual funds come in. For example, if you had $10,000 to invest you might be able to buy one bond. But by pooling your money with other people's money, bond mutual funds enable you to take that $10,000 and spread it out over many different bonds. That helps you spread out your risk.

However, when individual investors decide to take their money out of a bond fund, the portfolio manager may be forced to sell bonds at less than desirable prices to give them back their money. You could call this liquidity risk. Over the past year, as interest rates have inched up and there have been concerns about credit quality, the price of some bond funds has declined as these risks all reared their heads.

What does this mean for you? It means that like stock funds, bond funds also have some risk associated with them. They should not be thought of as "100% safe" substitutes for FDIC insured savings accounts. Rather, they are intended to be part of a well-balanced portfolio. Another way to keep your risk low is to invest in bond funds that have average maturities of 5 years or less because they seesaw around less violently as interest rates move.

What additional questions do you have about bonds or bond funds?


Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor.

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.

Shocking Statistics on Women & Retirement

by Manisha Thakor

"Do you ever worry about ending up old and poor?"

For many women, becoming the proverbial "bag lady under the bridge" is one of their worst nightmares. Myself included. I literally sit down with my husband and our financial planner twice a year to re-confirm that we are doing everything we can to make sure we do not outlive our retirement savings!

Unfortunately, this fear of ending up old and poor is actually a very rational one for a high percentage of women. 

Recently, I had the chance to hear Karen Wimbish, Head of Wells Fargo Retail Retirement Group, and personal finance guru Jean Chatzky present powerful data collected in a Harris Interactive poll in conjunction with the launch of a new website to help women prepare for retirement, Beyond Today. I'm always looking for useful resources to direct women to, and I think this site can help a lot of folks.

First up, the data: (Put your seatbelts on. The numbers are stark.)                

  • Nearly 1/3 of women between the ages of 40 and 69 are “can’t estimate” how much money they can withdraw annually from their retirement accounts and about 32% of women in their 40s and 50s estimate they will withdraw between 11% – 30% of their savings annually. These are unrealistically high annual withdrawal rates - leaving them vulnerable to outliving their savings.

  • While both men and women are under saved for their retirements, the women polled had saved less than men - with a median retirement savings accumulated to date of $20,000 for women surveyed versus $25,000 for men.

  • Worse still, despite longer expected life spans, when asked how much they were aiming for in retirement savings women aimed lower with a median goal of $200,000 versus $400,000 for men.

    A savvy, 30-year industry veteran, Karen was kind enough to speak with me about some of the factors driving this dreary data - and what women can do to improve the odds that their golden years really will be golden. 

    A couple of key themes kept coming up during out chart. First, while many women are absolutely at the table on a day-to-day basis for bill payment and major household expenditures, when it comes to financial planning or investing – women are more likely to report ourselves as a “joint decision maker” than are married men who are asked this question.  Men are more likely to see themselves as “the primary“ decision maker in financial matters – so there is a disconnect between men and women in terms of the role they see themselves playing.  The survey data also showed women to have less confidence in the stock market as a long-term tool for retirement planning.

What does all this potentially mind-numbing data mean for your life? 

  • If you are in your 20s and 30s: The best action step is to max out your tax advantaged retirement plans (401k type plans and IRAs). Karen points out a great way to do this is to commit to saving a set percentage of your income, rather than a fixed dollar amount, so as your income rises, so too do your contributions.

  • If you are in your 40s: That data shows that this group, which I'm a part of, are the most stressed-out set, sandwiched between entering our peak earnings years while trying to juggle family and elder care responsibilities. In this life stage, the key action step is not to put our heads in the financial sands.

  • If you are in your 50s, and 60s: You are heading into the "red zone" the critical years leading up to retirement where small shifts in how much you save and what you invest in can make the difference. Understanding the gravity of this period is key.

The key takeaway:  At all three stages making sure you are actively engaged with your finances and seeking to self-educate yourself is key. Reading blogs, visiting websites like Beyond Today, and engaging the services of a trusted financial advisor to meet with you on an annual or semi-annual basis can go a VERY long way towards increasing your financial confidence, sense of optimism for the future, and even household harmony.  Just as with your health, no one will ever care about your financial fitness as much as you do. 

What steps are you taking right now to plan for your retirement?   


Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor, and enroll in her innovative new online personal finance course called “Money Rules.”

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.

Have Less Holiday Financial Stress

by Manisha Thakor  

Does holiday shopping & spending stress you out?

A few years ago I stopped doing the holidays. My corporate job had me on a plane every 3 to 4 days. My daily work hours were in the double-digits, and the mere thought of picking out - let alone sending - holiday cards was enough to throw me into tears. Shopping for presents... forgetaboutit. I didn't have the emotional energy to face the crowds and stores.

Ironically, saying "Ba-humbug" to "traditional" holiday habits increased my happiness. How? It caused me to reboot my ingrained thinking and come up with a new game plan for how to joyfully participate in the holiday season in a way that felt right to me. If you are reaching a holiday excess breaking point, here are three steps to help you have less holiday financial stress:

1.     Set a shopping strategy & a specific dollar amount. This time of year there are a number of excellent news stories on how to "Avoid Holiday Spending Hangovers" and "Tips For Keeping Holiday Spending In Check." They almost always start by saying set a budget. That's excellent advice. Yet very few people do it - perhaps because "budgeting" sounds like deprivation. So instead, strive to create your own shopping strategy and assign a total dollar amount that you will spend in executing that strategy.  Will you go wide and shallow (low priced gifts for many people) or narrow and deep (few incredible gifts for a handful of people)?  Unless money is no object the key here is to avoid... wide and deep!

2.     Measure your progress. It's an oft-quoted axiom of business that "what gets measured gets managed." An easy way to see how well you are doing at executing your shopping strategy is to write at the top of a piece of paper your total holiday spending budget. At the end of any day in which you shopped for the holidays just add up our receipts, write that number on your tracking sheet and subtract from the total. You'll then have a simple way to know how much you have left with which to enjoy spreading holiday cheer. You can also take this up a notch to spreadsheets and online resources, but the key is it to get it down in writing.

3.     Don't be afraid to think out of the holiday box. The slow grind of this rough economy has caused many friends and families to reset gift-giving practices. But if you haven't yet, this is a great year to ask questions like these:  Should we only give gifts to kids under 18? Should we do a one-name-one-gift holiday grab bag? Or do we want to rethink gift-giving all together and instead donate time or money to charitable causes and enjoy ourselves by simply spending time together? Writer Francine Jay (MissMinimalist.com) has wonderful advice in her upbeat "Gift Avoidance Guide."  Blogger Leo Babauta (ZenHabits.net) shares some wonderful non-traditional thoughts in his "The Case Against Buying Christmas Gifts."

I'm still in the early stages of figuring out what new rituals work for my family, and its been a fun process. What about you? What changes are you making to have less holiday financial stress this year?


[Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /ManishaThakor.]

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.

5 Ways To Eat Out For Less

by Manisha Thakor

Tough economic times present an interesting financial conundrum for our tum-tums.

During rocky periods it’s natural and healthy to want to seek out friends and companionship.  Breaking bread and having a good chat is a wonderful way to release work/life stress. But given our busy lives many of us end up spending time with others while eating out… which can really add up.  So here are 5 simple things you can do to eat out for less.

1.    Share an entree or make a meal out of appetizers: In modern America food portions have become so super-sized that the average meal can feed at least 2… and sometimes even 3 people.  To avoid any surprises when the check comes, be sure to see if the restaurant charges a split entree fee. On a related note, some appetizers are so large they could easily fill you up as an entree and they generally cost half as much as a main dish.

2.    Be sure to ask how much the specials cost before ordering: This a major hot button of mine.  How many times have you found yourself in a restaurant when the wait staff describes a succulent sounding dish?  You go for it, only to find yourself fighting the urge to hurl when you see the bill and find out the price.  Personally, I think it’s a sign of financial self-confidence to politely ask “and what do those specials run?” so you can make an informed decision. It can be awkward to do it at first – but trust me, the whole table will appreciate it, and you’ll be a trendsetter.

3.    Soup, it does a body good: A nice bowl of hearty soup (think gumbo, beef stew, tortilla soup, or chili) often costs a lot less, contains healthier ingredients, and fills you up as much as a regular entree.

4.    Think before you drink: Beverages – alcoholic and even non – are very high margin products for restaurants.  At a minimum, think twice before doubling down.  If you can, savor one drink throughout the meal.  And if you’re really trying to cut back, go to nature’s best… a glass of tap water.  Doing this can easily shave 20% or 30% off your bill (not to mention pounds off your waist line!).

5.    Do lunch: If you have a really strong urge to meet friends at a fancy new restaurant, try doing it at lunchtime instead.  Prices are much lower, portions are more realistic, and you’re less likely to run up a costly alcohol bill.

What about you – any other suggestions you’d add to this list?

 


Want more financial love? You can follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor or on Facebook at /MThakor. Manisha Thakor, personal finance expert for women, can be reached via her website, MoneyZen.com.

Comment

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.