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.


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.

The Rise Of The "Sugar Mamma"

Money expert Manisha Thakor discusses the rise of the female breadwinner and co-breadwinner in America. In particular she highlights the growing interest in financial education by working women seeking financial freedom and financial security.

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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.

Ladies, Should You Ask For It?

by Manisha Thakor

Quick - what was the first thing that came to your mind when you read the title of this post?

What about "Gentleman, should you ask for it?" Would this change your response? For many people the female-oriented title raises sexual connotations while the male-oriented iteration conjures thoughts of money and power. 

For the record, in both cases I am talking about asking for raises at work. This is a subject that has long made my stomach churn.  As a natural people-pleaser-and-avoider-of-conflict, I've preferred to work hard and hope my results will speak loudly for themselves. Turns out I'm not alone in this. 

Recently I talked with Carnegie Mellon Professor Linda Babcock, coauthor of "Women Don't Ask" and "Ask For It," two fantastic books on why and how working women should negotiate salaries.  (Professor Babcock is also very involved with motivating young girls. Thanks to her, the Girl Scouts now have a badge for negotiation skills).  Here are two of the many eye-popping statistics from Professor Babcock's work: 

  • Avoiding negotiating your first salary can cost you $500,000 by age 60 (oh, and men negotiate their first salaries 4x more often than women).

  • Women who consistently negotiate their salaries throughout their careers typically earn $1 million more in lifetime career earnings than women who don't.

So what motivates negotiators? Locus of control. Professor Babcock observes that people who negotiate tend to have a worldview that is more "optimistic than fatalistic, malleable versus fixed." Psychologists have noted that men consistently - across countries - have a higher propensity to see "the world as their oyster" than women.  Ergo, more men negotiate than women.

Alas, her research also shows that, "Men can behave anyway they want when they negotiate, but people have a strong preference for how women negotiate. Direct and aggressive doesn't work." For women a "more cooperative and relationship oriented" approach tends to be more effective.  When women adopt a bold can-do attitude they are often met with a "visceral reaction to strong women" and perceived as being not nice. Clearly, for women to achieve lasting pay parity, this has to change... but that's a whole 'nother topic.

Let's get back to how this discussion can improve your life now

This gut-wrenching economic environment may not seem the obvious one in which to rock the boat. But it's also an environment when employers can't afford to lose their best people. An innovative new website called GetRaised.com can help you make the most of your current situation.  With a few mouse clicks it will tell you if you are underpaid and for an additional $20 it will prepare a custom raise request that you can use to negotiate.  If you don't get a raise in 6 months you'll get your $20 back.  The company currently pegs the average raise received by users at $3,078. Not a bad return on $20.

What about you?  Have you ever asked for a raise and if so, how did it go?


[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.

Daring To Be Ourselves... Financially

by Manisha Thakor

 Do you have enough money?

 Last week I wrote about the high cost to women of not speaking up for ourselves financially in the workplace.  One statistic from that piece keeps floating through my head like the Goodyear blimp:  Women who consistently negotiate their salaries throughout their careers earn $1 million more over their work lives than women who do not.

This struck me for two reasons.  First, during my 15 years in corporate America I never once asked for a raise.  Why?  When I'm 100% honest with myself it's that I was afraid to "Just Do It" as the Nike commercial says. I didn't want to sound pushy, greedy, or heaven forbid:  "Not. Nice."  Second, 57 women were kind enough to take a short survey I put together about their feelings around money.  By far the number one phrase that popped up was "not enough money."  Some of it was frustration about not having enough money right now due to job loss, health issues, lack of understanding about personal finance and/or poor spending habits.  Some of it was fear around not having enough money in retirement.  But over and over that same phrase, "not enough money," kept coming up.  So I asked myself to what degree our fear about not having enough money and ending up old and poor can be transformed by our own actions.

For inspiration, I decided to turn to Feminist.com founder Marianne Schnall's inspiring new book, Daring To Be Ourselves: influential women share insights on courage, happiness and finding your own voice.  Schnall's book is a delightful compendium of quotes from women ranging from Maya Angelou to Madeleine Albright to Margaret Cho.  While these insights extend to broader issues, I find that they can also be applied to money.  For example, if you are feeling like you don't have "enough money" and that the root cause might be that you are not speaking up in the workplace and/or daring to be yourself financially, here are a few of my favorite abbreviated snippets from Daring To Be Ourselves to use as money mantras:

... no matter how hard it is to do it, it’s harder not to do it.  Then you’re stuck with wondering, ‘What if I had said...?’ ‘What if I had done...?
— Gloria Steinem
Get over the feeling that the two words don’t go together - women and power... We have to own our personal power...
— Jane Fonda
Stop living your life as if you’re going to be rescued... and you will transform whatever pain is inside you.
— Eve Ensler

What about you - do you have any money mantras that help you speak up and own your financial power?


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.