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By James Burns
In Blog
Mar 17th, 2015
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379 Views

business team giving thumbs upAs a male feminist, I just watched Emma Watson’s live stream from London today on International Women’s Day. The question came up, “What can men do in their everyday lives to help establish equality for women in society?” I came up with four immediate answers to this question.

Don’t buy into the mindset that there is a gender war.

Those men who feel a gut level objection to the word feminism have to realize that they have had the issue incorrectly framed in their minds. Those who object to feminism think that only dominant and submissive positions exist in the world. They think women’s rights means female dominance and male submission in society, which is not the case at all. We need to understand partnership relations, not just hierarchical. Compassion, cooperation, and empathy have to replace authoritarian, competitive, and callous attitudes. Dominant and submissive attitudes are all about imbalance, and it is time to restore balance.

group of business people hands togetherTreat gender slurs like you do racial slurs.

 Do not let people get away with these derogatory remarks or put downs. In the hallways of the schools and the fields of male sports, boys are constantly being told not to be a wussy, pussy, or woman. This is damaging to how the boys see girls. Think about it! Gender slurs are one of the most effective ways to establish women’s second class status in the minds of men and women. Gender slurs should never be tolerated and it is our duty as men to tell our fathers, brothers, sons, and friends that such talk is offensive and makes them sound small minded, ignorant and undisciplined.

 Turn the “bro code” into a “human code”.

If you knew a man at your place of work was getting paid less because of his race, I have a definite feeling that the “bro code” would motivate most men to stand up for their fellow male employees. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s was successful because white servicemen stood up for their African American veterans when it came to Little Rock and Alabama. Well that code has to now become a “human code” so that we stand up against gender discrimination/injustice wherever we see it.

Support paternity leave as an employment practice.

A woman starting a family is said to interfere with her getting ahead on her career path. This is only an issue because men aren’t afforded the same privileges as women when it comes to child rearing. If men were also given paternity leave, then maternity leave wouldn’t be a special consideration in employment hiring and promotions.

He For She

jburns1

James Burns as himself!

If you agree with what I have written and you are a man, then please go to the HeForShe website and sign the commitment to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls. It will take less than one minute to scroll down the front page and click the button to show your support for what is one of the most important issues in all of human history. Thank you!

By Jennifer Crittenden
In Blog
Mar 9th, 2015
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396 Views

Composite image of couple holding hands rear view

According to CNN, couples marrying last year spent an average of $30,000 on the day they tied the knot. In Manhattan, the average cost was $80,000, and those figures don’t even include the honeymoon. In comparison to the cost of middle-class weddings just a generation ago, and certainly two generations ago, that seems astonishing.

What has contributed to this extravagance? Is it social pressure? Excellent marketing on the part of the wedding industry? Bridal magazines?

Wedding-ring and woomen shoes acute coe

Unless you have more cash than you know what to do with, it occurs to me that this is a good time to rethink the wedding-cost-race.

Some ceremonies, guest entertainment, dresses and accoutrements have completely jumped the shark. Imagine how depressed some young couples might be when they wake up the morning after, with a hangover, and think about what else they could have done with the money?

Such excess seems out of sync with the desire of many modern women for a green, simple, and socially aware lifestyle. Moreover, when considering the expenditure in light of a divorce rate of 40 to 50% for first marriages, it seems out of synch with financial wisdom.

Parents and their daughters’ weddings

If the parents are paying for their daughter’s nuptials, some subtle and misguided competition might be in play (encouraged by wedding planners and all those who stand to profit from overspending) to make this day the happiest of their daughter’s life. For example, if Shawna spent $25,000 and Mackensie spent $30,000, well-intentioned parents might think they have to spend the same. And if it runs a teensy bit over, that just shows how much they love their daughter.

Nevertheless, it raises a question about what message they are sending to their daughters when they dispense such a large sum to get her hitched.

A radical colleague pointed out to me the strangeness of such an out-sized celebration of marriage, as though a woman’s wedding day is the most important day of her life. “Why don’t the parents give that kind of money to her when she graduates?” she mused. I could see her point.

Couples financing their own wedding

A lot of money in a glass bottle labeled “Wedding”

If the couple is financing the wedding themselves, an expensive event could cause unnecessary financial stress precisely at a time when they may be considering starting a family or buying a home. When a couple is just starting out, it is a great time to think carefully about finances and talk together about plans. Their mutual approach to this decision could pave the way for similar open and serious conversations after they are married.

Maybe that divorce rate would drop if couples could have better quality conversations about money.

Your determination about how much to spend on your wedding depends on priorities and the importance of that day in the context of all the other days of your marriage. If you have your heart set on an occasion full of lace and wedding cake marzipan, I won’t say that spending a lot on it is immoral or ridiculous, but it is an expensive financial decision that you may regret later.

If you already have doubts about an over-the-top extravaganza, consider discussing the possibility of a smaller wedding, and using the savings in a different way. Your husband-to-be may be relieved if he wasn’t really looking forward to a day of frou-frou. If your parents have offered to finance it, perhaps they would be willing to set up a mini-nest-egg for you in lieu of a huge event.

What to do with the savings

Money and Brick Wall in the Background

Now comes the fun part! Here are a few alternatives that a savvy bride could consider:

Pay off credit card debt.

The average age of an American bride in 2013 was 27 years old. MagnifyMoney.com estimated in 2014 that the average credit card debt for millennials was $8864 each. There may not be complete overlap between those lovebirds and those with credit card debt, but I would guess that there is some.

Paying off debt and avoiding the punitive credit card interest rates would demonstrate lots of money smarts.

Pay off student loans.

According to the Huffington Post in 2012, graduates under 30 carried an average of $20,835 in student debt. Although interest rates on student loans are not draconian double-digit shockers in comparison to credit card rates, it would make more sense financially to preserve your hard-earned income instead of spending it on interest fees when a better alternative exists.

Invest in stocks and bonds.

All investments are risky, and no one can guarantee a return, but even the worst investor in the world will do better than throwing the money away on flowers and canopies. On average, in most years, investors gain about 10% a year in the stock market. In ten years, your $30,000 could be worth $78,000.

Advisors estimate that you can be 80% confident that you would have between $45,000 or $60,000. That’s a pretty good bet. It’s not a sure thing, but when you’ve got an over 40% chance of being divorced by then, I’d play the odds.

Save the money.

Say, thanks, Mom and Dad, and put it away. Who knows what might happen in the next ten years? Maybe you won’t be able to have kids, and the marriage will end in divorce. Maybe you will have kids. Did you know that becoming a mother is the biggest contributing factor to poverty in old age? It may be very prudent to have some rainy day funds set aside.

Buy something else.

Don’t purchase something that will ultimately cost you more than $30,000. Avoid assets that depreciate significantly immediately like cars and boats. However, one option would be to invest in something that might appreciate, something you can enjoy in the meantime – a painting or cabin, for example. Or you could invest in other hard assets as an alternative to the stock market, such as gold or silver.

Some things to consider

結婚イメージIf you’ve started planning your wedding and are finding it very stressful, there may be a good reason for that. Divorce rates for second and third marriages are even higher than for first marriages—74% of third marriages end in a breakup.

I wonder (only somewhat facetiously) if wedding planners, bakers, florists, and caterers may actually try to make the process painful and contentious. It could be to their advantage to sow as many seeds of friction between the bride and groom as possible, so long as it doesn’t backfire and the couple splits before the big day. Maybe consider eloping, just to save your marriage!

If you work up some calculations before you get swept into wedding madness, you may decide to spend less. See if you can use some of the money more thoughtfully. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful or exceptional celebration.

Although everyone pays homage to the notion that what’s important is that “the two of you enjoy your day,” those who profit from weddings don’t really want you to think like that. Google reports 157 million results for the search term “planning your wedding” compared to 53 million for “choosing your major.” One wedding planning website actually stated, “Choosing a wedding cake is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.” That strikes me as insulting in this day and age.

I encourage you to be skeptical of those who stand to profit. Think for yourself, and contemplate what financial alternatives you have. With a bit of creativity, I know you can plan a truly special day that you both will remember with pleasure, and maybe even work in a little lace and marzipan.

By Michelle Baker
In Blog
Mar 5th, 2015
Comments
201 Views

super hero woman

Happy Women’s History Month!

Yes, it is crazy that there is just one month dedicated to women and all our contributions. Nevertheless, it is awesome and necessary to celebrate, honor and learn about all the women – worldwide – who have directly and indirectly contributed to our vast history.

Now, depending upon where you are from, hearing the phrase “marching orders” might raise concern. You might think it means pack up your things, and go. However, for those of us in the U.S., it means here are your instructions for getting the job done.

children dream

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to hear your stories: the stories of the women in your lives – alive now or centuries ago – who changed the course of your history in one way or another. It doesn’t have to be some huge event like your mother was the first astronaut – though if so, PRAY TELL!

Share the stories of women that history has not written about, the ones who influenced you and the course of your life in meaningful ways that might otherwise go untold and unacknowledged. For me, my top three are my grandmothers. Yep, I had three of them. One worked for the Democratic National party in Washington, D.C in the early 1930s. In her spare time, she played a washtub bass in a jug band she started with a group of girlfriends. That gig kept going for 30 years. In the same decade, my step-grandmother put herself through nursing school, joined the Navy and served in two wars. She retired as a Lt. Commander, and sold diamonds and silver wedding sets to newlyweds. And the other? She was a member of the LPGA, and taught golf to kids for 50 years. She was a vocal advocate and proponent of women earning livings as professional athletes.

CHANGE, BY NATURE, IS RADICAL

New life

Each one of us has the power to change consciously the course of our lives and, whether we have children or not, the lives of future generations by choosing to do something to advance our education, earning power or savings account. For the most part, change is small and incremental but no matter the size or timeframe, change is always radical.

IN A NUTSHELL

Superhero Girl FlyingAt the risk of stating the obvious, all of us born in the U.S. during the 20th and 21st centuries have mothers who have the right to vote, and the right to discuss and participate in politics and finances. Our mothers had, and have, the freedom to laugh, drink, wear pants, and have their own money to spend. I cannot pretend to be an expert but I do know two things: in 1920 the 19th Amendment ratified the right for women to vote, and almost 100 years later, the United States still has not passed an Equal Rights Amendment. For the 21st Century, that’s kind of a big deal, right?

How we act as catalysts for change or react in the wake of it absolutely impacts our present and future history. So go on, name three women who changed the course of your life. And then, add yourself.

These words from Ann marie Houghtailing stand out most for me: “Suit up, and be your own damn super hero!” Some very determined and smart women, and men, gave their lives for us to be where we are today. Don’t misinterpret or squander this opportunity; history is every moment. Every action. Every day. Be the hero.

By Jacqueline Vinaccia
In Blog
Mar 3rd, 2015
Comments
515 Views

sex, sleep  together

Let’s be honest. Our daughters are not likely to be virgins on their wedding night. The days of awkward discussions about what to expect on the wedding night are long over. We should have discussed sex, pregnancy, and other truly uncomfortable topics long before our daughters think about getting married. However, just because these discussions are unnecessary, does not mean our daughters do not need our advice on a whole number of potentially awkward topics. Finances and financial intelligence are topics I wish I knew more about before I got married; both times.

If I had the financial intelligence I encourage my two college-age daughters to pursue, I would have made several decisions throughout our lives differently. I have made it a priority to encourage my daughters to learn about their financial future and take control of their own finances.

 THE TABOO OF MONEY AND WOMEN UNDERSTANDING IT

Just as girls are not encouraged to excel in math and science, young women are not encouraged to learn about money and financial planning. Often, the first large scale financial decisions our daughters make relate to their own weddings. Too often, they make these decisions with a lack of knowledge of the effect of those decisions on themselves and the future of their marriage. Thus, the wedding and the cost of the wedding is the perfect opportunity to address this important subject.

Financial stress remains one of the most common causes of marital discord. Encouraging our daughters to understand finances and develop financial intelligence may be the best advice we can give them before marriage. Letting our daughters believe that they should not seriously consider the cost of their “one special day” and its potential effects on their financial future is irresponsible, if not reckless. I certainly do not want my daughters to depend on the men in their lives to “take care of the finances.” Very few of our daughters will be stay at home mothers, and even those who are, owe it to themselves and their families to be fully engaged in financial decisions affecting their families.

“CAN’T BUY ME LOVE”

Sea weddingThe Knot wedding planning website claims the average cost of a wedding is $28,858.00. Another website, www.costofawedding.com, states that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,200.00. In San Diego County California, where I live, the average cost of a wedding is $34,154.00. I think these statistics are low. I know couples who have spent between $65,000 and $75,000 for weddings in the last ten years. (Middle class couples, not wealthy couples.) My own experiences, as a bride, a mother, and a businesswoman, have led me to advise my daughters to do their research, create budgets, and prioritize all decisions affecting their financial status.

Our daughters are encouraged to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one day without knowing where that money to pay for that day will come from, and without comparing the costs of that day to their own ability to earn money. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ September, 2014 published Salary Survey finds the average starting salary of a 2014 college graduate is $48,707.00; slightly more for business and engineering majors and slightly less for just about everyone else. Our daughters could rack up a wedding cost equal to or more than the salary they make in a full year without even realizing it.

 

The old adage that money does not buy happiness is true. A “dream wedding” will not make a perfect marriage. But, financial intelligence can provide our daughters some peace of mind, psychological, and financial freedom.

WHAT KIND OF FREEDOM?

  • Freedom to live where they want to live.
  • Freedom to decide that her boss’ questionable behavior does not have to be tolerated.
  • Freedom to decide that her spouse’s questionable boss does not have to be tolerated.
  • Freedom to have that baby without a job with paid maternity leave.
  • Freedom to leave that marriage that didn’t turn out the way the fairy tales told her it would.

This kind freedom can lead to happiness.

A DAUGHTER, A COLLEGE, AND MANHATTAN

 group of graduates holding diploma

One of my daughters is in college in Manhattan. She is in love with the City and may stay there after she graduates. The average cost of a rental home is between $2,000.00 to $2,500.00 in San Diego and Los Angeles (where I live), and $3,000.00 to $4,200.00 in Brooklyn and Manhattan (as of September 2014, according to the website rentbit.com). The average cost of a home in the U.S. currently hovers around $300,000 to $350,000. (The average cost of a three-bedroom two-bath home in my neighborhood in San Diego is about $600,000. You cannot buy a home in or around Manhattan for $600,000.) A home bought at the national average calculates to a monthly mortgage payment in the $3,000.00 range.

If we assume our daughters and their spouses each make the average college graduate salary at the time of their wedding, after taxes, they will each bringing home roughly $3,000.00 or a total of $6,000 per month. Thus, approximately half of the new couple’s monthly income will be spent on living arrangements.

Our daughters need to understand these financial facts in order to plan for and live where they would like to live.

CURRENT EMPLOYMENT CLIMATE: THE REAL DEAL

Whether our daughters, their spouses, or both, are employed throughout their marriage, the reality is that the days of going to work at a company, staying with that company until retirement and, receiving a gold watch for 25 to 50 years of dedicated service (never mind collecting a pension) are gone. The current employment climate includes companies regularly reorganizing, cutting programs, and laying off large portions of their work force. Our daughters may not find their career in their first post-graduate job. A working knowledge of finances and financial intelligence provides our daughters with the tools to prepare for and weather these employment uncertainties.

PARENTAL LEAVEWhile the days of a woman losing her job because she chooses to have a baby should be over, unfortunately, there are still far too many jobs that do not provide paid maternity leave. Family Leave Laws provide that women who take time to have a baby may return to their jobs, or an equivalent job to the one had when they went on maternity leave, after a proscribed period. However, very few such laws require paid leave. Many of our daughters will be limited to state sponsored disability insurance while on maternity leave. I have advised my daughters to prepare and plan for a growing family when they are ready to have that family, not when they can find a job with paid maternity leave.

AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS AND OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HAVE THEM

Adult and young women with documentsWe have pointedly taught our daughters that the days when a young woman was expected to stay in an unfulfilling or even abusive relationship because “even a bad husband is better than no husband” are gone. Teaching our daughters to maintain a sense of financial independence could relieve them of one of the most compelling reasons they stay in unsatisfying relationships; they simply cannot fathom the financial implications of leaving the relationship.

Though the topic of discussion has changed, our responsibility as parents to prepare our daughters for both the joys and the hardships of married life remain. I am no expert at this discussion. I advise my daughters to take control of their financial future, to figure out what things in life are important to them (family, travel, etc.), to learn to invest money, and to learn how to leverage their companies’ 401K plans. My advice is not always appreciated. One of my daughters knows where she is going and how much money she will need to get there. The other is vaguely aware she has a paycheck and a bank account; though she still hasn’t entirely figured out how the bank account gets overdrawn.

Each one of these topics is potentially awkward, controversial, or contentious. Yet, these topics are each as important to helping our daughters prepare for marriage as the “what to expect on your wedding night” discussion was to the daughters of the Victorian Era.

***

Jacqueline S. Vinaccia is the mother of three millennials, twin 19-year-old girls, and a 17-year-old son. She is a partner and head of the litigation department at Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak LLP, a boutique law firm in North San Diego County. And she is a proud member of the Millionaire Girls Movement. Contact Ms. Vinaccia at jsv@lfap.com.

By Morgan Steele
In Blog
Feb 25th, 2015
Comments
1399 Views

vanessanewman_banner

I know I’m not alone when I say that as a young woman, I’ve spent many hours daydreaming about having a baby, and more specifically, what it would be like to be pregnant. Carrying a baby comes with physical changes and complicated notions of autonomy, but for female-bodied people who are more comfortable dressing in a masculine way, it can also come with an identity crisis. For someone who is more comfortable dressed in an oxford button-down and baggy jeans, the idea of wearing a floral maternity dress with poofy sleeves and ruffles can be unsettling at the least, and traumatizing at the worst.

Cue Vanessa Newman. At 20 years old, the Maryland-based entrepreneur is already making waves with her new company, Butchbaby & Co. Vanessa calls Butchbaby “alternity wear” — maternity wear with a boyish twist. The first Butchbaby line won’t be released until much later this year, but the online world is already buzzing about Vanessa’s innovative approach to pregnancy style. I gave her a call to learn more about her entrepreneurial spirit and the process of launching her revolutionary clothes line.

MGM: Tell us about Butchbaby & Co. is and your role at the company.

vanessanewman_butchbaby

Vanessa Newman, Founder/CEO, Butchbaby

Vanessa: Butchbaby & Co. is the first ever alternity wear company. Alternity wear is a term that myself and the people at Butch Basix created; it essentially means all-inclusive pregnancy wear. It keeps in mind whatever gender or sexual orientation you are and however you present. I am the CEO and founder of the company.

MGM: In an interview with Colorlines, you explained that you first came up with the idea of a butch maternity line while imagining what you would wear if you became pregnant one day. Describe the moment when you decided to turn that idea into a reality.

Vanessa: Last July, I was at this LGBT Innovation Summit at the White House. We had a 30 second opportunity to pitch an idea to the group. I had been thinking about the idea for a while, and I figured this was my market. I did my pitch, and out of about 30 pitches I was the only one who got any applause. I got a lot of positive feedback afterwards. I realized that this was something that I should really do. That was my turning point, realizing that it was time to make this happen.

BYE-BYE COLLEGE, HELLO ENSTITUTE

MGM: According to the biography on your website, you forgoed a traditional college experience and instead attended Enstitute. How did your educational background influence your approach in starting this business?

Vanessa: My first two years of college were really rough for me. I was always a hands on person, more interested in extracurriculars than being in the classroom. I started getting antsy. In my sophomore year, I had an internship with a media start up/radio show. Working with them, I realized this is what I want to do right now and I feel like I could do it right now.

I found Enstitute, which hooks up people ages 18 to 25 with CEOs of start-ups. You do a paid, year-long apprenticeship. While I was going through that program, I got a really strong support system of people dedicated to putting work first, learning by doing, and who have a vision to create for themselves. Being in the program has really facilitated my confidence and made me feel like I could start a business at 20 years old.

DUE DILIGENCE

MGM: What steps did you take in planning out what Butchbaby & Co. would be like?

Vanessa: I started by doing market research. I was getting a lot of surveys and feedback from moms about their maternity wear experience. I moved on from that to people who identified as LGBT, mostly masculine women who were planning on having kids. I surveyed a couple of lesbian couples in which one or both partners were masculine presenting. I interviewed over 30 people across the board.

I was finishing this process when I was connected with designer, Michelle Janayea, through a friend. After we went over the research, she went straight into design. I went more into creating the vision: what’s our name going to be,  what’s our mission, what are we trying to provide. I made our website so that I could flesh out my ideas. We’re wrapping up design now, finishing the actual sketches and we’re about to go into researching fabrics, sourcing materials, and planning for summer events. It’s all in preparation to actually start making clothes in May and kicking off our crowd-funding campaign in August.

MGM: Your first line hasn’t been released yet, but Butchbaby & Co. is already making waves in social media and news websites. How did that happen? How does it feel to be getting so much press?

Vanessa: It’s been interesting. I made that website for myself and sent it to a friend, who sent it to another friend and it kind of built up from there. I was not expecting the reception that we’ve had. I feel like it’s kind of backwards — we got a lot of hype before we had products.

Overall it’s been very validating. There are people out there who want this and who need this. I’ve gotten so many thank you messages. I think this is what motivates me to do this more than anything.

MGM: Where are you finding support for yourself and the creation of your business?

Vanessa: I get a lot of support from my girl friend and from my mentors. My mentors are Danielle and Ayisha Moodie-Mills, this DC lesbian power couple who are the Chief Creative Officer and Chief Executive Offier of Politini, their radio show.

INSPIRATION and CHALLENGES

MGM: From where do you draw inspiration?

Vanessa: I’ve gotten inspiration from other lesbian or masculine businesses like Saint Harridan. They’ve facilitated that inspiration by showing that 1) it’s normal and it’s okay and it’s cool and it looks good to be a woman and look a certain way, and 2) these have all been really successful businesses. Saint Harridan has raised over a $100,000. Seeing that is like, “Wow! I can do that because they’ve done that too.” They inspire me fashion-wise and business-wise.

MGM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Vanessa: Communicating with my designer remotely. She’s based in Chicago and I’m here in MD/DC. It’s not the same as sitting in a desk next to someone where you can be constantly bouncing ideas off each other. I have a full time day job and she is a full time student. There can be times when I want to get feedback right now or see what she’s doing right now or vice versa and it can be hard to work out the kinks.

MGM: Besides looking great, what do you want your clients to gain from your product?

Vanessa: Mostly I want them to be comfortable. When you look great, you feel great. In pregnancy there is a lot of stuff going on with your body. You shouldn’t have to worry that your clothes make you feel ugly. It shouldn’t be a stress point for you. I can’t guarantee that people won’t have identity issues during pregnancy but I want to minimize that as much as possible.

We also want to be affordable. It would be easy for us to price our clothes at a very high point, but my objective isn’t to sell only to upper class, white lesbians. Black LGBT families are twice as likely to have children than white LGBT couples. If you are a woman, you already face a pay gap.

If you’re gay and presenting as so, you may face barriers. If you’re a person of color, you may face a pay gap too. If you’re all three of those things, you’ve got 3 strikes against you. And then if you’re married to a person who looks like you but you still want to have a family, you can face greater challenges.

We want to make comfortable, affordable clothes that make this one step a little easier. Anyone who wants to have a baby should be able to do so and feel comfortable.

NEW YORK TIMES, FASHION AND DIVERSITY

MGM: The New York Times just published an article about fashion designers of color. It says that only 12 out of 470 members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America are African American. How does it feel to be entering a field with such a striking lack of diversity? What advice would you give to other people with minority identities looking to break into the field?

Vanessa: For me, I’m very comfortable with making people uncomfortable. I’m not one to ever be silenced or have someone make a decision on my behalf without fulling knowing why or shut me out. There are times when I’ve been the one black person in the room of 20 or 30 white people. For me, walking into a space like that is more exciting because I believe I can overcome. The way I carry myself proves it.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give, it’s this: when you walk into a room or that meeting, if you don’t see someone else who looks like you, don’t let that deter you. It all starts from within. You just can’t be afraid. You need to be very comfortable in yourself and very comfortable with speaking up and making people uncomfortable. It’s important to know when to hold your ground.

MGM: Tell me something about you that might be surprising for other folks to learn.
Vanessa: I’m a writer. I try to spend just as much energy in my work as I do in my writing. I specialize in haiku, and I have a haiku blog that I’ve been running for 3-4 years now.

 

 

By Jessica Williams
In Blog
Feb 17th, 2015
Comments
431 Views

Filing

You’re smart. You’re driven. You’re lighting the world on fire with your brilliant ideas. But the truth is, being disorganized may be holding you back from being even more successful. Do you realize that a lack of organization could actually be costing you money? Here are 10 ways that your home or office being in disarray may be sabotaging your ability to hold onto your hard-earned cash:

 

  1. Lost receipts – not being able to return a purchase (or file a travel claim at work) because you can’t find the receipt means money down the drain. Keep a basket or envelope to hold receipts where you regularly empty out your purse. Purge this receipts container once month. Some stores like Target will offer refunds if you can produce the credit/debit card you paid with as long as it’s within their return window. Receipts that you’d like to hold on for an extended period of time can be filed by store name in an A-Z according file for easy retrieval later.files
  2. Late fees on bills and credit cards – bills lost in stacks of paperwork don’t get paid on time, resulting in extra fees and may negatively affect your credit score. As you sort through your mail each day, put bills into a designated folder or basket and create a recurring event on your calendar to remind you to pay bills at regular intervals (ie 1st and 15th of each month). Or take it one step further and set up automatic payments and paperless statements that get emailed to you.
  3. Uncashed checks – rebates, tax returns, gifts and other uncashed checks that are buried in your clutter expire and often cannot be reclaimed. As soon as you receive one of these checks, put it in your bills basket so that you will remember to cash it at bill-paying time. Better yet, deal with it right away using the electronic deposit feature via your bank’s mobile phone app.
  4. Duplicate purchases – a client and I once uncovered 8 calculators in her home. She could never find one when she needed it, so she kept buying more. Sound familiar? Keeping your work space uncluttered will allow you to readily find items and reduce unnecessary duplicate purchases. Five minutes of tidying up at the end of the work day means a more welcoming environment greeting you the next morning.
  5. Storage space rental – Did you know that Americans spend $24 million per year on the self storage industry? Doesn’t letting go of items you don’t actually love or need and creating order in your home so that you can keep that money in your own pocket sound like a better investment?
  6. Tax-time headaches – missing the documentation necessary to file your taxes can result in being unable to legally claim all the deductions you are entitled to, or even result in penalties if you file your return late. Create a bright red file folder at the beginning of the year to place receipts and documents in as you go so you won’t have to frantically dig come tax time. In fact, having even a very basic filing system setup with broad categories of files such as medical, utilities, investments and banking would allow you to find items more readily later. And here’s a secret: having a filing system doesn’t mean you have to become a maniacal weekly filer. Having a basket near where you open your mail will keep those pesky papers corralled until you make time to file as infrequently as once a quarter. While you’re at it, create an “action” file where you open your mail that will hold incoming non-bill and non-filing items that still require you to do something to them before you toss. Keeping a shedder in this same location allows you to shred personal information and offers of credit right away.
  7. Grocery bills – failing to plan out meals once a week and keep food staples on hand results in too many impulsive trips to the grocery store or eating out more often than your budget (or waistline!) can really handle. Print out a grocery store list to keep on the fridge or use an app on your phone like www.outofmilk.com.
  8. More clutter = less income – a disorganized work environment means you are wasting time searching for items when you could be focusing on productive activity that helps you make money instead. The average American spends 55 minutes a day (or 12 days a year) looking for misplaced items? Wouldn’t you rather be busy generating income to go on vacation for those 12 days?
  9. Missed appointment charges – if you misplace your medical appointment reminder and don’t show up at the doctor’s office, you can rack up expensive “no show” fees. Write the new appointment in your calendar before you even leave the doctor’s office. Then ask for your doctor to call you with an appointment reminder the day before. Calendar reminder apps on smart phones can be life savers as well.
  10. Mental health – the anxiety of being disorganized can take an emotional toll on you and those who care about you. Your mental health is priceless!

 

In short, being disorganized means lost time. And we all know that time equals money. Invest 10 minutes into implementing one of the ideas above today. And if you’re really serious about getting your home or office in order, but could use a little hands-on help, contact a professional organizer through the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) at www.napo.net

 

By Michelle Baker
In Blog
Feb 10th, 2015
Comments
333 Views

Woman's hands holding a heart shaped box

February is here, and talk of love is everywhere.

Undoubtedly, there is deep joy in letting those important to us know how much they are loved and appreciated. But I ask you, what have you done for yourself lately?

Whatever your relationship status, I invite you to spend some time thinking about and cultivating ways in which you express love for yourself. Whether it is taking a walk by the ocean or taking time to strategize higher compensation, these acts of love will serve as the starting ground for how you engage with the rest of your life.

love letter

Do what you love.

If you do not do what you love as a profession, be sure to cultivate time outside of your work to do the things you love. The juxtaposition between biding your time at a job that drains you and doing things that fulfill you might become the catalyst for pursuing and cultivating work you love.

By doing this, you just might find the bigger acts of love, like negotiating a raise, become more obvious and manageable.

Broaden your sphere of influence

Take a moment to write down what it is you love about yourself and your life, and what it is you love to do. Pick one thing on the list. Do it today, and every day forward.

The love you have for yourself and your life will influence and inspire those around you because our personal and professional lives are intrinsically connected. Simply put, we broaden our sphere of influence by loving ourselves.

Go ahead – don’t let it begin and end with Valentine’s Day. Spread the love: start with yourself. Your life is yours to live and yours to love.

Need some ideas? See below.

Young woman down the stairs of the stadium.

Let’s inspire each other – let us know how you do it!

  • Take a walk outside.
  • Help someone carry groceries.
  • Look up at the night sky and identify a constellation…or two or three.
  • Skype with a friend who lives far away.
  • Smile at someone. Smile at yourself.
  • Dance alone to your favorite song.
  • Call your career coach – brainstorm and strategize your next steps.
  • Open a retirement account even with the minimum needed. Commit to depositing at least $50 each month.
  • Remember what you dreamed of doing when you were a child; if it is relevant, research and take action to make it happen.
  • In the words of Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford of Parks and Recreation, go out by yourself or with a friend and “Treat yourself!” Ahem, as your budget allows.
  • This is your life – live it and love it!
By Susanne Romo
In Blog
Jan 20th, 2015
Comments
300 Views

protect and insurance real estate concept  - home coveredI often hear people say California has no seasons. I disagree. We have Summer, Earthquake, sometimes Winter Storms, and Wildfire Season. Here are some steps your family can take to be prepared. It is not comprehensive, just a checklist to get you started.

Prepared Concept

  1. Reverse 911 Registration for your cell Phone. Fewer and fewer people are using land lines, but that is the only way the Office of Emergency Services (OES) can warn you to evacuate. Unless, that is, you register your cell phone. Logon to www.oes.ca.gov or www.readysandiego.org and register every family member’s phone number.
  2. Have a Plan. Where do you meet in case of an emergency? Who do you need to contact? Have an emergency kit for each family member already prepared. Go to www.ready.gov or www.oes.ca.gov to find checklists on what to have in the kit. Kits are also available for purchase at these websites as well. Also logon to www.firefacts.org for kid-friendly games and plans and parent homework to help put your plan together.
  3. Practice your Plan. Do your children know if you have dowels in the windowsills to protect against burglars? If they don’t, that could be the difference in being able to open a window and escape, or not. Do you have a ladder for second story bedrooms? Where will you meet outside if there is a fire? More firefighters are killed in the line of duty going into houses to rescue people who are already outside. Practice, practice, practice.
  4. Water, Water Everywhere, not a drop to drink. The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person, per day. Don’t forget water for toileting and washing needs as well. Go to www.fema.gov for more tips.
  5. When was the last time you changed the backup batteries on your smoke detector? An easy way to remember to do this is to change them at Daylight Savings time when you reset your clocks. Don’t forget your flashlight batteries as well.
  6. Documents and Photos. You can replace furniture and buildings. Photos are irretrievable. Take a home inventory. Keep a copy in a safe deposit box, on an off site internet storage site. Have a filing storage container ready to go or you a pre-setup one such as www.docbox911.com sells. Have a small fire safe for valuables. Take your photos and scan them onto an internet storage site. Store negatives in the same safe deposit box ad you put the home inventory and documents.
  7. Create and maintain Defensible Space. Trim tree limbs back off roofs and sides of house under the eaves. Clean out the rain gutters. Clean out the garage and take all chemicals and flammables to your city’s Public Works Center or drop them off at a local Household Waste event. Check at www.epa.gov/. Clear space at least 100 feet from our house. Clear up clutter.
  8. Eliminate Hazards at your home. Install Fire screens on eaves and outside pipes. Have a fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen. Never leave candles burning, and ALWAYS burn them in containers. Use soy candles instead of paraffin. Invest in a gas shut-off valve. Check fire alarms regularly. Secure your furniture with straps you can purchase at the local hardware store.
  9. Learn CPR and First Aid. Contact your local Red Cross at www.redcross.org.
  10. Remember your pets and those with special needs. For your pets, make sure you have food, water, leash, a crate, medicines, toy, blanker. Go to hsus.org and www.ready.gov for more ideas and lists. Also the National Council on Disability at www.ncd.org to make sure you have the right supplies for the disabled and elderly.
  11. Visit your local fire station during their Open House.

The bottom line is the more you plan and prepare in advance, the easier it will be for you to act instead of react, in an emergency.

 

By Michelle Baker
In Blog
Jan 10th, 2015
Comments
455 Views

It's January card with colorful backgroundIt’s the beginning of a new year, and everyone is talking about losing weight…admittedly, myself included. However, it dawns on me that what really needs to be lost is “wait”, that thing that makes us hesitate and loiter, and drift-off onto the sidelines somewhere.

To quote one of the great thinkers of the 20th Century, Theodor S. Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss:

“You can get so confused

that you’ll start in to race

down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace

and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,

headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…”

Impulsive decision-making aside, the beginning of a year marks a good time to assess, prioritize, and strategize any changes you would like to make this year. When it comes to professional changes, implement these steps to help facilitate a transition, and support you through your decision making process.

WHAT KIND OF CHANGE DO YOU WANT TO MAKE?

When it comes to your profession, first figure out what it is you want to do. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to change your career?
  • Do you want to find a part-time job?
  • Do you want to a different position within your current company?
  • Do you want a different benefit/compensation/retirement plan?
  • Do you want a raise?

WHERE TO BEGIN?

Due Diligence:

For most entrepreneurs, there is a process of due-diligence: reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement, especially when buying or selling something.

But this term can be used to describe career research: the process of talking to people who are doing what it is you want to do or who can help you achieve your goal.

The value in this is learning from the experience of others. Certainly, it is essential to know how to wade through people’s subjective experiences, and understand not everyone has the same experience.

However, if your dream is to own a restaurant, and not only do you not know how to cook but you do not ever want to cook, you might be hard pressed to find an owner who has never had to prepare a dish in a pinch. Cooks get sick; servers don’t come to work; and you as the owner are the only one there when the customers walk in. There is nothing like talking to someone in the field to learn how to deal with those kinds of unplanned circumstances.

Career coach:

Not everyone has the finances to hire a personal career coach but there are many online services that provide this service as well.

Whether entering the job force for the first time or going from one profession to an entirely different one, having support identifying your strengths, weaknesses, interests and non-interests is essential when embarking upon a career or professional transition. As Ann marie Houghtailing says, “It is absolutely just as important knowing what you will not do as it is to know what you would like to do.”

For me, I’d rather work in the kitchen of a restaurant, cursing like a sailor than be out on the floor having to watch what I say. I do enough of that “monitoring” at home around my 9-year old son; I’d prefer a place where I could let my language fly in the heat of being in the weeds! (Yes, I have worked in the kitchen and out on the floor, and it was mutual; I was of better use in the kitchen. Turned out, I was a pretty good cook.)

Decades can pass with so many professionals doing what they believed they should do simply because of the degrees they invested in. However, what if the career you imagined at 23 as being a satisfying profession turns out not to be 15 or 20 years later?

Talk to people who have had to “re-invent” their professional life (either because of lay-offs, changing markets, health crises, or raising a family), and they have an acute understanding of the value of time, how quickly it passes, and knowing we only have one life to live.

WHAT YOU WANT TO LOSE. WHAT YOU WANT TO GAIN.

Goals Are Dreams With a Deadline sign with a beach

Indeed, it is the start of a new year. Ask yourself what it is you really want to lose, and in turn, what it is you want to gain. For me, weight comes and goes but time? That is one thing that never comes back.

Begin now; identify what it is you would like to change, and make your action plan, and then start. Though it is not easy, it really is as simple that.

At Millionaire Girls’ Movement, we are committed to providing you, our readers, with actionable to steps to achieving your professional and financial goals. If you are looking for specific steps for a particular situation, please send your queries to editor@millionairegirlsmovement.com or participate in our private Facebook group. We are committed to a professional community, and will do our best to find answers or provide stories that will serve your highest goals.

Let it begin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Michelle Baker
In Blog
Dec 31st, 2014
Comments
636 Views

caffèI am not big on New Year’s resolutions. Not that I am against them, I just don’t make them. Don’t get me wrong; I do set goals. I set goals all throughout the year. But in terms of New Year’s rituals, I like to reflect on the past year, and think about what I have learned and how I can apply what I have learned in the coming year.

This year has been filled with accomplishments and setbacks alike. From the publication of my first work of fiction and receiving news of being cancer free to the managing of medical debt and financing two major house repairs, I was constantly reminded never to take my eye off the ball, and to make certain I still had my peripheral vision.

Isn’t that the case for all of us though? On any given day, every one of us is over our head at one point or another with life and all it delivers.

Friendship and Fortitude

What stands out for me most this year is the importance of friendship and fortitude. The many women I have interviewed for Millionaire Girls’ Movement, and the articles written by Ann marie Houghtailing and our other amazing contributors have served as a reminder that though each of us is alone living the particular details of our lives, we are all deeply connected by these experiences, and are here for each other to share what we have learned, to remind each other to be brave, and to support each other through the changes.

Without a doubt, your stories and camaraderie gave me the fortitude to move ahead when it seemed like everything was positioned to stop me. And I know many of you have been able to find the courage and identify the steps you have needed in order to live your life more on your terms.

Hello 2015 card with a beach backgroundI share this list as an invitation to you to write yours down and share them. Acknowledge the obstacles in your life, the achievements you reached despite them, and the goals that got shelved because of them.

It is indeed the end of a year. Write down your health, financial, professional, and personal goals. Take time to strategize and prioritize, and tonight, reflect and celebrate. Tomorrow is the start of a new year. Let’s make it one of action!

15 things I have learned just in time for 2015

  1. Always say “please” and “thank you”. No matter how old we are, it is always appreciated.
  2. Be grateful and appreciative for life and all its intricacies, and be mindful of the difference between gratitude and complacency.
  3. Change always happens whether we are an active catalyst, conscious participant or not. Growing with the changes, both planned and unplanned, is essential. Take time to reflect, learn, and apply what you have learned. Life is the best teacher and school there is.
  4. Ask questions. The only answer to every unasked question is the answer we imagine.
  5. Two song lyrics stand out for me this year: “I get by with a little help from my friends”, and…I forgot the other one.
  6. Humor is essential.
  7. Do not underestimate the power of these two words, “cancer free”, and their affect on the person who has heard them.
  8. Time, money, and energy are limited resources, some more renewable than others. Often their renewability is dependent upon each other.
  9. Love and confidence go hand in hand. Hate and arrogance appear to have a similar relationship.
  10. Friendships, money, jobs, homes, cars, clothes – all come and go. We don’t necessarily know how we would cope or who we would be until we are in the trenches of change. Have compassion for yourself and others; after all, many of us are in the trenches but it might not be apparent.
  11. Raising children is the hardest work there is. They are always watching us even when we are not watching them. They learn just as much from our absence as they do from our presence…and I am not sure which of these scares me most.
  12. Love, in all its forms, makes the world go round but so does the sun’s gravitational pull. Love just makes the experience deeply meaningful, hard, and delicious.
  13. We humans are more vulnerable AND more robust than we imagine ourselves to be. Know the difference between holding onto something and clinging for dear life.
  14. Always be ready to lend a hand, and make certain to secure your own oxygen mask first.
  15. Eat cake and ask for that raise: this is definitely not a dress rehearsal.

 

Happy new year, Everyone!

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