Articles & Tips

Save Money This Summer By Staying Home

By Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP

Are your vacations so hectic that you need to get back to work to relax once you return?  Are you still paying off your last vacation while booking your next one?  Here’s a way to abandon the stressful vacation payment treadmill, and relax on the cheap this summer.

Get away without going away

Whenever my husband Skip and I moved to a new city, we were always surprised that people never see the sights in their local area.  We’ve met people living outside of Boston who have never been to Paul Revere’s house and people in Colorado Springs who’ve never visited the Denver Art Museum.

Instead of flying to a distant place and paying for a hotel, why not stay home and visit near-by attractions?  Eat out at restaurants you’ve always wanted to try.  Hike in the nature preserve or ride bikes on the municipal trails.  Take the kids to the water-park on a weekday.

Take time-off to tackle nagging chores

My colleague Tina is on vacation this week; she and her husband plan to work in the yard.  “I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m looking forward to it,” she says.  “We have several acres, and we’ve been putting off projects that need doing.”  They plan to mix in some fun, too—playing golf one day and going out to dinner a few evenings.  “If we were away, we’d be stressing over all the things that need doing at home.”

Scale back

“Before our baby was born, we wanted one last fabulous vacation,” my cousin Tom told me.  His wife, Amy, loves beaches and hot weather, so they hoped to have a tropical vacation, but everything was too expensive.

Looking online at vacation spots, Tom hit on the idea of Las Vegas.  “It wasn’t a tropical island, but it was the next best thing,” he laughed, “and at half the price!”  Amy enjoyed the pool and palm trees.  They splurged on a show and took advantage of the many restaurants.  “We had never been to Vegas before, so it was a hoot just walking around in all the glitz.  We have fond memories of our ‘tropical’ desert vacation!”

Relax and reflect

Disney World may be on every kid’s list of dream vacations, but does every family vacation need to include packaged thrills?  How about renting a cottage or camping on a lake with friends or relatives?  Banish the TV and electronic games. Take time with your kids and spouse to enjoy nature and each other.  Swim, fish, play board games, look at the stars.  Relax—that’s what vacation is about, after all.


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Economy Produces New Ex-Middle Class

Fall is one of my very favorite seasons of the year because it makes me feel calm and warm inside. Unfortunately, not everyone is feeling this way.

September produced another 95,000 job losses, meaning more families will have to cut back even further and may find themselves in financial crisis. At a Catholic Charities Board meeting recently I heard a new term: “Ex-Middle Class.” I asked what this meant.

They told me this refers to men and women in our society whose job loss caused them to slip out of a secure “Middle Class” status into the “Lower Class” or even into “Poverty Level.” For people whose employment, education and financial status had enabled them before to feel strong and secure, this is a humiliating fall.

Read More

Women Entrepreneurs Not Waiting Until 2076 For Pay Equity

Pay EquityChallenging economic times do encourage entrepreneurial activity, according to a recent Pepperdine University business report. Bill Gates started Microsoft in a recession; in fact, more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list began during a recession.

The current recession is a very male one, with some experts saying men have lost four out of five jobs shed since December 2007. That’s tough on men’s families, and the lucky ones have a wife to keep the family afloat while they regroup. Today, nearly two-thirds of women work outside the home, according to a 2009 Pepperdine University business report.

Women today earn 45 percent of all household income and seven million families rely mainly — or entirely — on a woman’s income. In the United States, women make 80 percent of discretionary purchases, including 90 percent of food and 55 percent of consumer electronic purchases.

Waiting for Pay Equity?

Despite that significant purchasing power, women have not yet achieved equity in earnings. Women working full time earned 80.2 cents for a man’s dollar in 2009, up from 62.3 cents in 1979, according to Census Bureau data. At that rate, women would achieve full pay equity with men in the year 2037. Maddeningly, the pace of increase has actually slowed this decade, which might mean women managers will not achieve full pay equity with men until around June of 2076

The higher a woman rises in management and pay, the wider the pay gap grows, according to a company that tracks self-reported salary data. Women chief executives earn 71 percent of what equally qualified men earn.

Don’t Just Get Mad

Small wonder increasing numbers of women don’t just get mad, they start their own businesses. As of 2009, there were 10 million women-owned firms in the United States; they employ more than 13 million people and generate nearly two trillion dollars in sales, according to a recent Pepperdine University business report.

If you’ve been laid off, pursue further education to help ensure you won’t get hit next time. Maybe you couldn’t afford to quit to go to school before; now, you can’t afford NOT to. Women are investing in themselves, and schools across the country report increased numbers of women pursuing MBAs and undergraduate degrees in accounting and business.

Weather the Storm

Survival will depend on how well you have prepared and how quickly you react to current changes. These tips can help all workingwomen.

  • Consolidate your debt load and consider refinancing if rates and fees are favorable.
  • Curb your consumption and buy only what you really need, focusing on purchases that provide long term returns, not just immediate satisfaction.
  • Invest in yourself. Earn a degree, add new skills and increase your professional network.
  • Take reasonable risks. Carefully weigh the costs and benefits of starting that new business you have been dreaming of, and don’t be afraid to make the leap if you can make the most of current opportunities.

Managing Your Money As An Entrepreneur

Experts say managing your money is especially critical for a new entrepreneur.  These five tips offer essential guidance.

  • Overcome any lack of information and experience by educating yourself about finance.
  • You’ll have lower savings to start than a typical man, and start-up loans are hard to come by in this regulatory environment. Many women turn to family and friends for start-up loans.
  • Don’t take things personally because this will cloud your relationships with money. Cultivate a dispassionate view of your business.
  • Don’t rip yourself off by undervaluing what you do.
  • Scrupulously keep personal and business money streams separate. If you’re not keeping accurate profit and loss information, you can miss valuable tax deductions. You may even get into trouble with the IRS if you are not tracking your complete business expenses.

Use Feminine Skills for Success

We know women are primary breadwinners, chief purchasing agents, and CEOs of their own businesses. I recently spoke with a wonderful woman who says that women are transforming our world by creating environments that are more cooperative, more collaborative, that allow vulnerability and create a sense of mutuality with each other. I’ll talk more about her in another article.

This feminine — and feminist — enterprise model allows for intelligent risk taking and a collaborative approach that considers wider social values in addition to profits. As economies around the world dig out from the recession, watch for the emergence of the new female model of success. Women can lead by example to change the business environment away from excessively risky behavior and spiraling debt. We can choose for ourselves to build the economy we want for ourselves and future generations.

~By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly

Get The Fitness and Body You Want For Life

Do you feel fit, healthy and strong? If you were asked to take a hike or ride a bike today, are you able and fit enough to do it?  Do you want to stay sexy and strong no matter what your age?  Personally, I am counting on being fit for life. That’s why smart women like us have added strength training to our workouts.

A recent study showed that by age 74, two-thirds of American women can’t lift an object heavier than 10 pounds. That’s a bag of groceries! That sucks, and it doesn’t have to happen to us! We can be unique. Only 21 percent of women partake in strength training at least twice a week. By age 65 it’s only 12 percent.

Fitness is important to me. I am a lifelong exerciser and I do strength training both at home and in the gym. Look at all these options: Read More

Divorce and Your Estate Plan

Protect Your Financial Future

Maintaining your financial security, and that of any dependent children, is one of the toughest challenges you are likely to encounter when facing a separation or divorce. But once you have decided to divorce, there are a number of estate and gift tax opportunities and pit falls that may arise as a result of your new status as an unmarried individual.

As you go through the process, consider the following:

  • Your children’s anticipated inheritance from you and your former spouse can be protected in the event that either of you subsequently remarries. Such protection can be achieved by using certain trusts.
  • If you have done any irrevocable charitable planning, you may be able to divide your charitable trust or family foundation between you and your former spouse. Not only could this step provide you with the closure you desire, but also the opportunity to make future independent charitable choices without the need to consult your former spouse.
  • Remember to coordinate the change of all beneficiary designations pending a divorce.
  • If children are named as life insurance beneficiaries, and one parent dies, the other parent usually gains custody of the children. If so, the surviving parent (e.g., the ex-spouse) could control any money left to the children from life insurance. One strategy for dealing with this problem is to have the insurance policy payable to a trust for the children, or to a separate living trust that you control.

As with any estate planning issue, it is imperative to get the help of legal and tax professionals who are familiar with dealing with the unique circumstances that can arise from the division of marital assets.

Is Your Home Keeping You Together?

By Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA

Is Your House in Limbo?

Home sale prices have dropped, and in many communities the market is moving at a snail’s pace, with sellers outnumbering buyers. That’s not a problem if you aren’t planning to sell your home. But if you are divorcing, sluggish home sales can be a huge obstacle in dividing up your assets.

Your home likely is the largest asset that you and your spouse own, and it is also the most difficult to divide. You have three choices in divorce: keep the house, sell it, or continue joint ownership. If you decide to keep it, make sure you can afford the costs associated with your house, including maintenance, repairs, home ownership association fees, gardeners and other household expenses. You may be able to afford the mortgage, but the other expenses could break your budget.

If you and your co-owning spouse decide to sell, you will share the costs of sale and you can exclude up to $500,000 of capital gains. If on the other hand you become the sole owner of the house in the divorce settlement, when you eventually sell it you’ll have to pay the entire cost of sale and capital gains liability, and you’ll only be able to exclude $250,000 of gain. Anything you pay to your ex for his interest in the home won’t reduce the gain when you sell the home down the line.

Since owning a home can be an expensive proposition for a newly single individual, many divorcing couples decide to sell. But if today’s sluggish market precludes a speedy sale, you may decide to own the home jointly for a few years after the divorce. Specify in your agreement when the home will be sold, for example, when the children are grown, and split the proceeds when that time comes.

If you decide to own the home jointly for a few years, you must get a written agreement or court order granting you exclusive use of the residence and keep your ex’s name on the deed. The house will then be considered your ex’s primary residence as well, and he will preserve his ability to exclude $250,000 of gain when the house is sold.

In divorce you’ll end up with far less than you had before, so decide what is most important to your future. If you give up retirement assets to keep the home, develop a plan to build a nest egg for later in life. A bit of advance planning goes a long way.

Written by

  • Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr
    co-authors of the book: “It’s More Than Money–It’s Your Life! The New Money Club for Women”

Reprinted with permission of the

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