Tag: Money Manners

 

Money Traditions Celebrated for Lunar New Year

Growing up Vietnamese-American, Chinese New Year is important to me. Instead of busting out bottles of bubbly and watching a ginormous ball drop at midnight, festivities include dragon dances, lion parades, and offerings of fruit baskets and moon cakes.

The best part of celebrating Chinese New Year? The money traditions. And while the date changes every year (it coincides with the new moon of the first lunar month), here are a few ways the dollar is used to ring in every Chinese New Year.

Lucky Money

Fact: Money doesn’t grow on trees. But it does (sorta) during Chinese New Year. Red envelopes containing money are given to kids or unmarried folks. If you’re an established couple or are bringing in the Benjamins, you’re expected to gift grandparents and other respected elders with these red envelopes. If you live in China, your boss might even hand you a red envelope with a small amount of cash.

The color red symbolizes good things: energy, happiness, prosperity and good luck. And the dollars inside – which should be crisp – are a sign that you wish goodwill and success to the recipients.

So how much money should you give out if you celebrate this holiday? It really depends on your relationship with the recipient. If you just got married, for example, you’re typically not expected to include as much money in a lucky envelope as someone who has been married for two decades.

This is a favorite money tradition for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t like free money?

What it teaches you about money: If you are gifted with red envelopes of cash, figure out how this can help your financial situation. Maybe you can sock some money away toward your e-fund, or use it toward debt repayment. I typically spend part of the money, and the rest goes toward savings.

On the flip side, if you’re expected to dole out cash, make sure to save for it well ahead of time. Figure out how much you’ll need, and auto-save so you can meet your gifting goals. If you’re a Chime Bank member, you can automatically put aside a set amount on payday.

Games

We’re not talking about mind games or outdoor games or kiddie games. We’re talking about games of chance, like Blackjack or Mahjong. Vietnamese folks like me play Bầu Cua Tôm Cá, a gambling game involving three dice. It’s pretty common to play these games during Chinese New Year, and at least in my family, it’s certainly more about the camaraderie than winning.

What it teaches you about money: Gambling is a big no-no for obvious reasons. If you want more money, you’ll need to save it, perhaps by using a money-saving app. You should also earn it or maybe invest it. But the idea is: Do the right thing with your money, and you’ll be more apt to increase your net worth after many years.

The Year of the Pig and Money

While you’d like to think that your Chinese Zodiac year is going to be 100 percent awesome sauce, the truth is: It can go either way. This year – 2019 – marks the year of the pig in the Chinese Zodiac system. If you were born in the year of the pig, which is the twelfth year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, this means you were born in 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019 – you get the point. It also means you’ll want to be cautious with your money as those born in the year of the pig tend to stress about money big-time.

You may also experience a stroke of good luck and get a windfall of cash, perhaps in the form of a donation, inheritance or bonus. And if you had a bad time with investments in years past, things might turn around for you in 2019. If we’re talking about which periods are best for those born in the year of the pig, it’s February, March and July. The least favorable period is the month of May.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Whether you were born in the year of the pig or not, it’s always important to make the most of your money, and treat it right. After all, you can’t depend on the Chinese Zodiac, fate, or the cosmos to work in your favor. It’s up to you to take steps to boost your finances.

 

Good Credit Scores vs. Bad Credit Scores

Your credit score is a huge indication of your financial health. In fact, your credit is so important that lenders refer to it when you apply for a line of credit, a home mortgage, a car loan or even a new credit card.

But, in order to be approved for loans and credit cards you often need a “good” credit score. That begs the next question: What makes a good score vs. a bad score? Before we jump in, let’s go over the basics.

What is Credit and How is Your Score Calculated

Your credit score is a three digit number that helps lenders determine how credit worthy you really are. In other words, it’s a tool lenders use to determine if you are a good borrower and thus most likely to pay off your loans.

The three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – collect information on you to help determine your credit score. For instance, whenever you open a new account via a loan or line of credit, this information gets reported to the three bureaus.

The bureaus then use a credit scoring model to determine what your score is. The two most popular credit scoring models are FICO and Vantage. FICO is used widely by lenders, but you’ll want to aim for a high credit score no matter which scoring model is being used.

What Makes a Good Credit Score?

There are a few important factors that help contribute to your credit score. These factors include your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, credit mix (how many different types of account you have,) and new credit.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Good credit scores fall in the 670 to 850 range. Anything below 670 is either considered a fair or bad credit score, according to FICO.

If you want to raise your credit score, it’s important to prove that you’re a responsible borrower and not a risk to the lender. Why? Lenders don’t want to give money to people who won’t pay them back. This is why the most crucial things you can to do improve your credit are:

 

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Keep credit card balances low

To help you do this, you can create a detailed budget and set up reminders or automatic withdrawals to ensure you pay bills on time. The longer you keep up with this habit, the better your score will get. For example, say you have a student loan with a 10-year term. You’ve made on time payments for about eight years so far. Good for you! This will improve your credit and show lenders that you can be trusted to pay back a sum of money over time.

Here’s another pro tip: When it comes to credit cards, never spend more than 30% of your credit limit. Remember, credit is a tool, and it will not help your score if you max out your credit cards. So, if your limit is $2,000, only spend 30% of that limit, or $600. Then, pay the bill on time. If you continue this habit, your credit score should improve.

What Makes a Bad Credit Score

There are a few things you can do that will result in a bad credit score. They include:

  • Not paying your bills and loan payments on time
  • Not paying your loans at all
  • Keeping a high balance on your credit card
  • Applying for multiple credit accounts regularly

For example, let’s take a look at your bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, companies can report you to the major credit bureaus and this will result in a negative mark on your credit report. Keep in mind that this can happen for medical bills, utility bills, and even your phone bill. If you just stop paying altogether, this is even worse. Your account will become delinquent and it will reflect poorly on your credit reports.

Keeping a high balance on your credit cards is another common mistake that indicates you may not be able to pay back what you borrowed. The takeaway: Borrow only what you can afford to repay in a timely manner.

Ways to Improve Your Credit

If you want to improve your credit, focus on improving your standing with each of the five factors that impact your credit score. Here’s a breakdown of those factors and how much each one contributes to your score:

Payment history: 35%

Amounts owed: 30%

Length of credit history: 15%

New credit: 10%

Credit mix: 10%

Ideally, you’ll want to focus on improving your finances in the two areas that hold the most weight. This means you should pay bills on time and keep your balances around 30% (or lower) of your overall limit.

You should also avoid applying for new credit too often. Each time you apply for credit, it adds an inquiry to your report. Too many inquiries can hurt your score.

Over time, your credit history length will increase as long as you keep accounts open. If you close an account, your credit history will die with it. This is why it’s better to keep credit card accounts open even if you aren’t using them regularly.

Here are some other tips: If you have existing debt, you can boost your credit by paying it off. You can also establish positive borrowing history by getting a secured credit card and paying off the balance in full each month. With this type of credit card, you have to put money down first to establish your credit limit. Then, you borrow against it and repay it responsibly.

Lastly, consider establishing a no-fee bank account and emergency fund so you won’t be tempted to use credit to help you cover unexpected expenses that you can’t afford.

Know the Difference and Protect Your Score

In order to improve your credit history, you’ve got to start somewhere. A good place to begin is to know what makes a good credit score and a bad credit score. Ultimately, improving your credit score boils down to your spending and money management habits.

Are you ready to develop better money habits? Follow this guide and over time you will watch your credit score move into the “good” range.

 

Money Manners: Should you Stage a Money Intervention for Your Family?

Talking about money with trusted pals and your boo may be hard enough. But, envisioning a holiday sit-down for a mature pow-wow with your family over finances? Well, that may feel like a far-fetched, unicorn scenario.

But, what should you do if you have a relative who is royally screwing up his finances, especially if you know this mess may have a ripple effect on other loved ones? You may need to step in and intervene.

Take a look at our tips for determining whether you should stage a money intervention with the fam bam during the holidays, and our shortlist on how to proceed.

Assess the Gravity of the Situation

Communicating about money matters is well, extremely complicated. Add to the mix deep-rooted resentment, history and family dynamics, and you may feel like you’re precariously tip-toeing over landmines.

To gauge whether you should set up a money intervention, figure out exactly how serious the matter is. Is someone committing an act of financial infidelity, such as running up credit card debt, hiding bank accounts, or keeping a huge sum of student loan debt under wraps from a significant other? Or, maybe you have a teenage cousin who has no idea how to manage her finances and constantly spends everything she has. This can turn ugly once she hits college.

If it’s a serious matter, think about what would happen if nobody stepped in to intervene. If doing nothing can lead to debilitating, long-term consequences, a money intervention may be in order.

Figure Out If It’s Appropriate to Stage an Intervention

On the flipside, let’s say your sister has been complaining about how her money habits don’t align with her boyfriend’s. Perhaps she’s a saver and he never puts enough in a savings account. This would perhaps be considered a minor “flare-ups” and may be better handled between the two of them. While you feel inclined—or may have even been asked —to have a “little talk” with the couple, it may heighten feelings of tension and cause resentment.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around the types of money matters you’re comfortable discussing with your relatives. And, perhaps you can simply suggest resources such as a money management app or a mobile wallet that can help them with some of the issues they’re facing. Maybe this is all that’s needed to point your family members in the right direction.

Determine If You’re the Right Person

Let’s say that you’ve looked at the facts at hand, and determined that a money intervention is appropriate. If that’s a given, it’s time to decide whether you are the right person to facilitate this type of discussion.

Ideally, the facilitator should be an unbiased person who can remain calm throughout the intervention. Maybe a family friend who knows both parties would better suited. Or, you may want to bring in an experienced, trained professional, such as a financial therapist. Someone like this has no emotional ties to your family and may be the best person for the job.

If you’re the one handling the intervention, here are a few dos and don’ts to get started:

Don’t: Make Assumptions

Most of the time you only know one side of the story. For example, you may only hear from your Uncle Bill about how his wife Jane neglects to pay the bills on time. But to be fair, you may not have gotten wind from your Aunt Jane that Bill is no money saint, either.

It’s tough to do, but leave your assumptions at the door. Go into the situation with an open mind, and get the facts and details from everyone involved. If you take an unbiased, balanced perspective, you can then stage a more effective intervention.

Do: Time It Well

Just like it’s a major faux paus to ask for a loan during someone’s birthday party (yes, I’ve been guilty of this), a holiday gathering is not be the best time to stage a money intervention.

Instead, choose a time that works for everyone involved, and pick a private space so you can discreetly discuss touchy matters.

While the holidays are one of the few times during the year when all your family members may be in the same place, avoid discussing money matters over the dinner table. If you must have an intervention the day of a holiday gathering, schedule it before or after the festivities in a separate location.

Don’t: Go for the Jugular

While you may know what the main issue is, consider starting out by having a general conversation about money. This can lead into deep-seated matters, such as financial infidelity, debts that have remained long unpaid, issues with gambling or bouts of overspending.

The key here is to harbor healthy and respectful communication. Otherwise, it can escalate into a shouting match and reflexive rounds of pointing and blaming.

Do: Defer to a Professional If Necessary

As I mentioned above, it may be easier to bring in a pro, such as a licensed therapist or maybe even a money coach who works with couples or groups.

A money intervention can cause tension, and dredge up deep-seated, bad feelings. Without proper training, a well-intended conversation can quickly go south.

Handle the Situation Gently

When trying to decide whether staging a money intervention is appropriate and necessary, just keep this in mind: For every action, there is a reaction.

Do your best to create a safe space before bringing out the elephant in the room. And whatever you do, tread with care. If executed properly, facilitating a family financial intervention can shift your family’s money situation in a positive direction. It can also foster deeper communication and trust.

 

Too Broke to Date? How to Handle Relationships and Money

As student loans and housing costs have risen over the past 15 years, you may have accumulated your fair share of additional financial baggage. Indeed, millennials are struggling to meet traditional markers of financial success.

Whether you are in debt or have an apartment you can’t really afford, you’re not alone. And, while you struggle to pay your bills and get ahead, you may not feel comfortable discussing your financial sitch with a new romantic partner.

Here’s the deal though—studies show that conflicts about money are related to divorce. While you may be far away from wedded bliss, learning to talk about money—the good, the bad and the ugly—with your romantic partner is a smart skill to practice. Here’s everything you need to know about how and when to share your financial truth.

Understand your money

If you don’t understand your own financial situation, it’s impossible to talk about money. Period. Because of this, the first step to discussing your financial status with a romantic partner is to make sure you know what you’re talking about. This doesn’t mean you need an MBA in finance, but it does mean that you need to understand the basics—including what’s on your bank account statements and credit card bills. You should also have at least a rough monthly budget and be able to stick to it. From here, you can then opt to make a few quick changes that will boost your confidence and your bank account balance. Here are 3 suggestions:

Step #1: Switch to a bank with no fees.

Step #2: Cut out unnecessary expenses (like subscriptions you never use).

Step #3: Track your spending and earnings.

The changes may feel minor, but being proactive with your finances is an important first step. Now it’s time to get clear about how you feel about money.

Own your emotional baggage

The more you understand about your own relationship with money, the easier it is to confidently talk about it with a new romantic partner.

For Jeff Proctor, a 28-year-old entrepreneur in Blacksburg, Virginia, it was his own self-doubt that made it difficult when he started dating his girlfriend more than two years ago.

“At the time, I was at a low point in my first attempt at entrepreneurship. My income was effectively zero. With business expenses mounting and my own personal cash reserves running dangerously low, it definitely had an effect on our relationship, but not in the way you might expect. We were both perfectly content with being frugal and not making fancy dates the norm, but what was hard for me was my own self-perception of being inferior,” says Proctor.

“My girlfriend was on a very upward career trajectory, so I almost felt like I had to hide my current lack of success. Since our relationship was so new, I was very self-conscious about that,” he recalls.

When you start dating someone new, you may be under pressure to impress that person. And, this can bring out your own internal insecurities. To help combat this, remember that trust is more important than perfection.

Honesty is key

When you feel self-conscious about something—student loans, debt, low income—it’s tempting to hide it, but that’s actually the worst thing you can do when you’re getting to know a new romantic partner.

Debbie Todd, CPA, and CEO at iCompass Compliance Solutions, LLC and 1 Hour Impact, says:  “Be honest with yourself about your real financial picture. Don’t ‘puff and bluff’ your way into seeming to be in better shape than you are. Pretending and lying only makes it worse.”

If you potentially see a future with someone you’re dating, it’s important to be honest because the truth will eventually come out, says Todd. With this in mind, it’s infinitely better to mention your financial baggage on the third date than to mention it three days before you’re getting married.

Here’s the deal: if a romantic partner is worth your time and energy, then he or she is going to be understanding about your financial situation. If not, you’re probably better off without that person.

“It sounds cliché, but you really do need someone who loves you for you, and doesn’t care about your financial situation…When I hit entrepreneurial rock bottom and had to go back and get a full-time job, my girlfriend still supported and believed in me,” says Proctor.

“Fast forward to now, and I am 100% full-time in my business and making more than I have ever made before,” he says.

If you’re doing the work—paying your debt, saving what you can, working hard at your job and taking positive financial steps—then you don’t have anything to be ashamed of. The right boyfriend or girlfriend will understand. The likelihood is that he or she also has some financial regrets to share with you.

Sooner is better than later

Disclosing your financial status to a new romantic partner is hard because it requires vulnerability. But the longer you delay the conversation, the harder it will become.

“[Disclosing your financial status] is probably not a topic for a first or second date, but if you both think the relationship has significant potential, then the ‘money talk’ should commence shortly after,” says Todd.

“One of the key reasons why relationships (and marriages) end is squarely pointed at money issues. You don’t have to be financially rich to be happy, but you do have to have a rock-solid foundation of trust, honesty and willingness to address major life areas of the relationship. Money is surely one of them,” she says.

Remember: there’s no set timeline for talking about money, but the rule of thumb is simple – sooner is better than later.

Bottom line

Money is complicated and everyone makes mistakes and has regrets. With this said, large student loans, credit card debt and other financial situations don’t define who you are as a person or who you are as a life partner.

Take time to review your finances and check-in with your emotions. After that, follow the advice here. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to take the plunge with your new love interest and come financially clean.

 

Relationships and Money: 5 Financial Questions to Ask Your Partner

First comes love, then comes…financial discussions?

Sure, talking about money may not be the most romantic thing in the world, but it is important in any relationship. Whether you are just starting to get serious with your partner or you’ve been married for years, there is no better time than the present to talk about cash.

Let’s back up a bit. This doesn’t mean that you should ask financial questions on a first date. Yet, if things get more serious, it is vital to know where your partner stands financially. In fact, according to a recent Experian survey, 59 percent of those who have been divorced say finances played a role in the breakup of their marriages. Furthermore, 20 percent of these people went on to say that financial conflict was a significant factor in their divorce.

To avoid major financial issues with your partner, it’s important to be the same page when it comes to saving money and prioritizing financial goals. Ready to talk about money with your love interest? Here are 5 money-related questions you should ask your partner – starting right now.

1. What are your financial goals?

Asking your partner about his or her financial goals is a relatively broad question, and this makes it the perfect conversation starter. Once you understanding your partner’s goals, you’ll then have a better idea of how to support him.

So, ask your partner about his or her short-term and long-term financial goals. How does he or she envision the future? What type of lifestyle does he imagine? As long as your partner is willing to open up and share information, this is a great starting point. It will hopefully offer up a way to naturally guide your conversation.

2. What’s your current debt situation?

Before you become serious with your partner, it’s vital to know what you’re getting yourself into. Down the road, if you want to get married, your partner’s debt will become your own. While this may not be a big deal for some people, it may be a make it or break it factor for you.

So, find out if your partner has debt. If so, what actions is he taking to pay it off? Does he have a solid debt-repayment plan?

Debt doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker. If your partner has a realistic plan to pay it off, then you can rest easy. On the other hand, you may want to think twice before you get too serious with someone who is taking no action to pay off $100,000 of debt. This type of monumental debt can put a serious strain on your relationship.

3. What leisurely spending do you refuse to give up?

We all like to spend money in different ways – and in different amounts. This means we don’t always agree when it comes to spending choices. Failing to understand and accept how your partner spends money can create a major barrier in your relationship.

For instance, when my husband and I were dating, I couldn’t understand why he spent so much money on his favorite hobby – golf. Secretly, I was upset at how much he was spending. It wasn’t until we talked about it that I understood the importance of personal spending priorities. Golf was important to him.

Once we discussed this, we both understood the concept of individual spending freedom. Although we have since merged our finances, we still each get to spend a certain amount of money each month – on whatever we want.

4. Do you have plans to return to school?

Graduate school isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a huge time commitment, not to mention a large financial obligation. In fact, according to Peterson’s, the average cost of graduate school is $30,000 at a public university, or $40,000 at a private college.

Many people desire to go back to school for one reason or another, but the decision can’t be made in the spur of a moment. Why? It takes two to tango when you’re in a relationship. Graduate school may require you to live on your partner’s income while you work toward a degree.

In short, graduate school is more than just a financial decision – it’s a lifestyle choice. If your significant other is considering graduate school, it’s time to start preparing.

5. How can we handle our finances together?

As a committed couple, you undoubtedly have many shared expenses. Do you have a plan in place to manage your finances – together?

For instance, how can you manage money together so you both reach your financial goals? How will you pay for dates? What about shared expenses, such as travel? If you live together, how should you best split rent and utility payments?

To avoid future frustration or resentment, talk about how you would like to handle finances together. Whether you split everything 50/50 or one of you pays more than the other, make it a point to create a system that works for both of you.

Happy Finances Lead to Happy Relationships

As a couple, you want to ensure that you meet your savings goals and financial commitments – together. By having money conversations on the regular, you’ll have an opportunity to talk through financial challenges and figure out how to achieve your money goals.

Just remember to be honest. This way you’ll avoid resentment and be on your way to a healthy and happy financial relationship.

 

How to Bring Up Money With Someone You’re Dating Casually

So you’re doing the whole Tinder thing.

It’s sort of a given that a “Netflix and chill” situation doesn’t necessarily dictate a deep dive into personal money matters. However, depending on the circumstances, you may still want to bring up finances with the person you’re dating.

And we get it. No matter the dynamic of the relationship, talking about money is no easy feat.

Here are some pointers on how to dredge up—er, bring up—the topic of money with someone you’re dating casually. This way you’ll better gauge how much you want to reveal about your financial situation.

Scenario #1: Someone You’re Just “Hanging Out With”

This is the person that you may hit up to get a round of happy hour drinks at your local watering hole. Or, maybe you need a date for that summer wedding, and you’re *this close* to renting a friend. (Yes, this is an actual thing.)

In this situation, you can approach the money talk in the same way that you’d approach it with a new friend. For example, you can get to know each other by commiserating about shared money woes, or how much ATM fees suck. While you’re at it, this is a good time to work out who is paying for what, or how you want to handle the bar tab.

This may lead to the next conversation: are you going splitsies or who will treat the other to those drinks? In this case, this opens the door to discuss money-saving apps. And that’s totally cool. Perhaps you’ll end up swapping some useful knowledge. Beyond that, keep it low-key and light.

Scenario #2: Friends With Benefits

So, this could get complicated. Besides worrying whether the other person has serious feelings for you, you may wonder if you should pay for the meal, or go Dutch? What would that signify? Fair warning: things can get a bit tricky. If you want to play it safe, ask yourself, “What would friends do?” From there, proceed accordingly.

Another thing: Venmo with caution. Sure, this popular app is essentially a fun way to go splitsies with pals when out on the town. It’s also a great way to share the rent. Yet, it can also offer a revealing peek into someone else’s friend network, activities, and social interactions. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets FOMO when I see my pals’ transactions for brunches and poolside parties. So, be prepared. You may learn more about the other’s social life than you should—or want to.

Scenario #3: Booty Calls

If you’re an inveterate booty-caller or are just going through a phase, you may want to keep things as non-intrusive as possible with hook-up partners.

To be honest, there really isn’t a compelling reason to talk money with this person, unless you’re a money nerd like me (I’m only half-kidding.) Take it from me, keep topics as light and easy-peasy as possible.

Scenario #4: Netflix and Chill

Are the two of you keeping it super casual? If all you want is to get cozy on the couch and binge-watch on Netflix, then splitting the costs of GrubHub and a bottle of two-buck chuck may be the extent of your money talk. The deepest it may go is engaging in light banter over how you’re saving up for that summer vacay or went a little crazy with the spending last weekend.

If you ever need to chat about something more serious, just be sure to do so when you’re both awake and sober. Otherwise, it’ll prove unproductive or just plain disastrous.

Scenario #5: New Date With Potential

Maybe things are moving beyond merely FWB or the Netflix and chill stage, and you’re both experiencing mutual feels. How do you get “financially naked” and bring up more serious, sensitive money matters?

Try sussing things out, says Jodi Scott Elliott, a 36-year-old LA-based freelance writer who once ran a blog about her experiences as a serial dater.

“If you feel like money is something that is important to the person you’re dating, you need to bring it up,” says Scott Elliott.

As it’s a touchy subject, coming at it from a calm matter-of-fact way is best, she says.

“Any relationship worth having, you should be able to communicate needs and issues,” she says. “Acknowledge that it’s an awkward conversation and address only what is necessary, but I think the sooner you do address it, the better.”

Talking About Money? Handle With Care

Why make the casual dating game more difficult than it needs to be? No matter what the arrangement, handling money talks with kid gloves is the way to go. Otherwise, it’ll just lead to awkwardness or frustration.

 

The 10 Golden Rules of Money Etiquette

We know how awkward – and frightening – talking about money can be. Yup, it’s oftentimes considered more taboo to chit chat about the “M” word than about sex and politics.

While shooting the hay about your job may be less anxiety-inducing than your debt situation, having convos about financial matters is super important.

Yet, as the saying goes, “there’s a time and place for everything.” If not well-timed or in the proper context, chatting about finances can simply create tension. To avoid socially awkward situations, money faux paus, or full-on blow-ups, here are the 10 golden rules of money etiquette:

1. Thou shall not inquire about one’s debt during family functions

 That’s right. No meddling about Uncle Harold’s outstanding credit card balance or cousin Ave’s student debt load in front of spectators at a 4th of July grill-out or during Thanksgiving dinner.

Or even worse, it’s probably not a good idea to start a convo about how much debt is owed to you. What’ll most likely happen? Probably nothing productive. Instead, you’ll probably painfully endure mad-dog glances for the duration of the meal.  

What to do instead: If a family member’s debt involves you (can you say authorized user, or long-overdue loan?) carve out some private time to suss things out. If the person is in a bad financial situation, see if you can talk to him one-on-one about how to build solid credit card habits. But tread carefully! You don’t want to set off any landmines.

2. Thou shall not ask to split the bill afterward.

Does this sound like a likely scenario? You’re enjoying a lovely patio brunch with some pals. Your meal companions order double espressos, bottomless mimosas, while your frugal self meagerly gulps on tap water. When the check drops, your friends say they’re too tipsy to do math, and suggest splitting the bill evenly. You know, for the sake of convenience.

What to do instead: Oy vey, this is one of my personal pet peeves. Figure out the payment sitch beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll be tasked to be the “uptight one” who wants to divvy up the bill according to what each person ordered. Note that you may be expected to be the one that has to calculate the tab. This is far better than paying more than you budgeted. You can also decide ahead of time to use a payment app to split the tab. Easy peasy.

3. Thou shall not text about serious money matters with your partner.

This is a money faux paus I’ve ashamed to admit to. This happens when I’m feeling particularly brave and resolute about having “a talk” on budgeting or how to best split bills. I’ll then send my partner a mini-novella of a text. In turn, he gets agitated or feels blindsided. A likely reply: Let’s discuss IRL.

What to do instead: It’s simply not in good taste to bombard your partner with long-winded texts about serious money topics. Instead, carve out some time to discuss spending habits or your financial future. It doesn’t have to involve a five-course dinner. You can chat en route to the supermarket, or during an evening walk around the neighborhood. Just make sure it gets done.

4. Thou shall not outright ask about another’s salary.

While discussing salaries isn’t always a social no-no, it’s deemed outright rude to ask someone how much she earns. Why? It can easily lead to feelings of inadequacy, or cause your friend to go into “compare and despair” mode.

What to do instead: If you suspect you make more than your friends and family, it’s easy to be the one mouthing off about how much you take home. It’s quite a different story if your friend earns more than you. But please, don’t be the clueless one who lives in a self-absorbed, more financially-astute than-thou bubble.

If you’re dying to talk salary, start by broaching topics with lighthearted money topics. For instance, mention a great deal you nabbed at a sample sale. Or how you’re trying to cut back on eating out. Or… you might even start out with a general discussion on career planning or investing in your professional life. Then feel things out, and take it from there.

5. Thou shall not hide important financial information.

If you have outstanding debt, or made a money boo-boo in your younger years, you’ll need to let the cat out of the bag eventually. You loved ones deserve to know the truth. Plus, remaining silent is a borderline act of financial infidelity, and can lead to feelings of hurt and betrayal.

What to do instead: Be upfront with those who could be negatively impacted by information you don’t share. Otherwise, this may just lead to more problems down the line.

6. Thou shall not ask for one’s credit score on a first date.

…Or net worth for that matter. A relative of mine once had his date ask him what tax bracket he fell into. The proper response? “None o’ your business.” You’ll probably want to make sure you have similar interests and values before prodding about someone’s net worth. Just sayin’.

What to do instead: As you know, talking about money matters is a super sensitive topic. When you’re just getting to know someone, you want to be extra careful. When on a date, I’ve learned to look for subtle cues on how my date manages money. Granted, as a personal finance writer, many times my date will outright express an interest in money management or flat-out admit they’re terrible with money. It’s a start, and will lead to more serious discussions as the relationship progresses.

7. Thou shall not ask for money during a friend’s birthday.

Sad but true: I have been guilty of this. Granted, I was a broke college student at the time. My good friend checked out some books at the university library using my card. He lost them during a bad breakup, and I was fined three hundred dollars.

On his birthday, I brought up the topic and suggested coming up with a repayment plan. The lighthearted chit chat in the room dramatically faded into dead silence. #majorfail

What to do instead: Approach the situation with kid gloves. In private with the help of Chime’s payment app. You really don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life. My friend eventually paid part of it of back, only to have his car towed, and he needed the moola to get his car back. We were both riding the broke student train. While three hundos was nothing to scoff at, especially at a time when I subsided on mac and cheese, I realized it was best to just let it go.

8. Thou shall not push your frugality on another person.

Yup, this was former me. I used to assess people’s capacity for frugality with a harsh, critical stare. And just like how some youngins would only choose friends who drove certain cars and carried certain brands of handbags, I picked my friends based on how good they were at scouting a killer deal.

What to do instead: While hanging out with frugal folks can help you stick to your budget, it’s also great to have friends with different money philosophies and habits. It’ll not only help you be more open-minded and compassionate, but you’ll build your resistance to FOMO.

9. Thou shall not judge others on their money decisions.

There’s no point in harshly judging others on how and why they spend their money. People have varying relationships with money, mindsets, and ways of being. Just because you may decide to do something differently doesn’t mean what they’re doing is plain wrong.

What to do instead: If you really want to help others with their finances, be the cheerleader or accountability buddy they need in their life. Only help out if they ask for it. Sure, you’ll want to tout the benefits of auto-transferring a portion of your paycheck, or saving for an emergency fund. But, put a lid on it – for the time being. Otherwise, you’ll come off as intrusive, which will just lead to ill feelings of resentment.

10. Thou shall not debt shame.

Debt shaming can feel just as bad as looking down on someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. You just don’t know what kind of situation someone is in, and what factors led them to their current state of affairs. Debt can create a lot of stress, anxiety and depression.

What to do instead: Be a pal. If someone shares tales of debt woes, nod and commiserate. Offer up resources and tips if you think it would be useful.

Bottom Line

Stick to these golden rules of money etiquette, and I assure you, you’ll be a well-regarded money nerd. It sure beats being the insensitive, out-of-touch one who just doesn’t get it and is privy to an eyeroll – or two. Trust me, your relationships and social life will be better off for it.

 

 

5 Outdated Money Manners That Don’t Belong in 2018

Back in the day, it was commonplace to refer to a man as “sir” and a woman as “madam.” And, arriving fashionably late was actually considered polite.

Times have changed, and we’ve come a long way from those old-fashioned customs. Yet, oftentimes, we still approach our finances in the same way we did 20 or even 50 years ago. Isn’t it time you adopted modern money habits?

To help you change the way you approach your finances and kick your old money habits to the curb, take a look at 5 money matters that no longer apply today:

1. Tipping your server 15 percent

Tipping 15 percent is an unspoken money rule that still persists to this day. To boil it down further, once the check arrives, the common knowledge is this: tip your server 15 percent for good service, 18 percent for slightly better service, and 20 percent for excellent service.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with tipping the lower amount, but sometimes this just isn’t enough, says etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith.

Alexander Lowry, a finance professor at Gordon College, says this money myth persists in part  because some states have enacted higher minimum wages. Plus, some restaurants may pay servers more to discourage tipping from customers. But keep this in mind, even if waitstaff earn a higher hourly wage, their livelihood often depends on tips.

“Know your circumstances before assuming (tipping) 15 percent,” says Lowry. “And certainly add more if you’ve had exceptional service.”

2. The man pays on the first date.

Historically speaking, men are expected to take the financial lead and pay on the first date. For one thing, this indicates that they’re comfortable being assertive. But, it also hearkens to a time when men were automatically assumed to earn more money than women.

Simply put, this old-fashioned dating etiquette is falling by the wayside as gender roles and romantic expectations change. The new norm? Well, there is no new normal.

According to Smith, whoever asks the other person out should pick up the check on the first date. This doesn’t mean chivalry is dead. In fact, Smith says men and women should simply communicate with each other so that someone isn’t inadvertently stuck with the bill. One way to remove any awkwardness from a dinner date scenario is by agree to go dutch and split the bill with a payment app.

April Davis, president of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, has a slightly different point of view. She thinks the man should offer to pay on the first date, especially if he’s interested in a second date. On the other hand, the woman should only allow him to pay if she plans on seeing him again. Then, if there’s a second date, it’s the woman’s turn to pay.

“Men shouldn’t be expected to pay for everything, every time; both partners should take turns. Women are making more (money) now than ever and want a partnership versus just a relationship, and have no problem contributing to dates,” says Davis.

3. Wedding costs are paid by the bride’s family

Although the bride’s family still sometimes pays for the bulk of wedding costs, this is no longer the norm. In fact, weddings are often paid for by the couple, or both the bride and the groom’s parents can opt to contribute to the costs.

“This tradition dates back to when a woman’s family would pay a dowry, and she would then move straight from the family home to her new husband’s abode,” says Lowry.

In fact, it’s an old-world form of etiquette that’s based on when men were the breadwinners and women depended on their husbands for financial support. The bride’s parents, in turn, paid for the wedding because once she was married off, they would have no further financial obligations.

4. Parents always pay for dinner

When going out for dinner with your parents, they used to grab for the bill and pay the tab. This was the case whether the child was 10 years old or 50. For better or worse, this financial etiquette no longer applies, says Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder of Community Tax.

“In many cases, it’s no longer assumed that parents will cover all expenses,” says Dayan.

“For example, if grown children invite their parents out for dinner, the children pay, as they initiated the meal. If the parents extended the invitation, then it’s perfectly fine that they pay. What this rule comes down to is that it’s not a hard and fast rule that parents always pay, regardless of the situation.”

5. Don’t talk about money with your friends and family

“How much money do you make?” was always one of the most taboo questions you could ask anyone.

Income has always been a highly personal subject, and even if you feel like you’re simply inquiring about what someone earns, it’s historically been perceived as intrusive or overstepping a boundary. But, this doesn’t mean you must always refrain from talking about money and wages. Experts suggest more open communication about pay with friends and family you know well. Just remember to tread lightly and choose your topics carefully.

For example, according to Smith, you should still never ask someone how much money they spend. Instead, turn to Google for your answers.

“Today we can price anything from shoes to cars to houses with a quick search. It is still rude to ask how much someone paid for something,” says Smith.

Final Word

As you can see, money manners have changed over the years. While there still may be some truth to old-fashioned money norms, times are changing and so is money etiquette. Are you ready to move forward and leave behind outdated money habits?

 

You Think Talking About Sex is Taboo? Let’s Talk About Money

Flashback several years ago to my last relationship. The guy I was dating at the time wasn’t open to discussing his “numbers.” Mind you, this was several years into our relationship. Although I disclosed how much I earned and saved, he was radio silent. Needless to say, it didn’t work out between us.

When it comes to talking about money: It’s no big secret: we’d much rather talk about sex and politics than money, according to an article in The Guardian. We despise being defined by our wealth—or our lack thereof. We’re also often taught that talking about money is a faux pas. In fact, 7 out of 10 people think talking about money is rude.

Taking a step back, it’s no surprise that we don’t want to talk about money—a cause of stress for many people. In fact, 90% of Americans are stressed out about money, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. Add to this that saving money is hard and many people don’t even have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency Why would they want to discuss finances?

Yet, in order to break through the money taboo, it’s important to learn how to openly talk about money matters. Here are some tips to break the ice when it comes to discussing money with your significant other or spouse.

Get financially naked

We all have different money values. In fact, your perceptions about money were likely formed when you were young. And, since you were raised differently than your partner, you may even have polar opposite money values. For example, you may have the “scarcity mindset,” in which money is hard to come by. This means you may be a penny pincher. Your partner, on the other hand, may be prone to emotional spending and find it challenging to save money.

Regardless of your different relationships to money, it’s important for you and your significant other to get “financially naked” when it comes to talking about money, according to Time Magazine. Financial infidelity, or hiding your financial matters from your partner, can ruin your relationship.

You can start making money discussions fun by setting up a monthly date. You can keep it casual and perhaps schedule it after a relaxing night after a homecooked meal. Topics you’ll want to discuss may include your net worth or outstanding debts, your short- and long-term money goals, creating a budget, and whether you should have a joint bank account. You can also use this time to discuss future job changes and general concerns you have about your finances.

Keep in mind that if you are cohabiting or engaged, it’s important to get your money matters out in the open before you make any major life changes, like uprooting to a new city, getting married, merging investments or raising kids. By starting now, you can lay the foundation for building a life together.

 

You Think Talking About Sex is Taboo? Let’s Talk About Money

 

Talk about your pain points

When it comes to money, it’s no surprise that many turn to personal finance forums on Reddit and Quora. These channels offer a virtual space where you can disclose details about your financial situation and remain anonymous. Although it seems uncomfortable, why not instead discuss these topics with people you know?

I know it seems strange, but sometimes being the first in a group to disclose your money matters can pave the way for others to do the same. This way, you can all support and help each other achieve your financial goals. For instance, I am usually the first one in my circle of friends to discuss my savings goals and the financial resources I’ve stumbled upon. I’m also not afraid to talk about my biggest challenges.

If you don’t want to talk about anything big, start by discussing a small win, like how you saved money at the grocery store last week or earmarked some of your bonus toward your summer vacay. By doing this, you’ll let your social circle know that “hey, I’m comfortable talking about money, and you’re welcome to do it, too.” My friends and I now talk freely about saving for retirement. I also receive texts when someone made a final car payment or paid off his student loan.

Going beyond your immediate social circle, it’s also a good idea to practice discussing money with family members or roomies. This will make it easier to broach topics like splitting a dinner tab or dividing up household bills with mobile payment apps.

Know your worth

Knowing your worth in the working world and asking for greater compensation is a crucial part of climbing the corporate ladder. When you know the value you’re contributing to the job, and just what it takes to level up to the next rung, you can feel confident asking for a raise. While it still remains taboo to ask your co-workers what they earn, you can still discuss this with your boss. This way you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to earn more, and what it takes to perform to move up the pay scale.
Likewise, in order to net higher rates as a freelancer, it’s important to know what others earn so that you can effectively raise your own rates. As a self-employed writer, rates vary and it can be challenging to determine how much to charge clients. To help me out, I often reach out to other freelancers to talk about what rates I should charge a client.

Regardless of how you decide to get your money matters out in the open, keep in mind that money is a tool. That is, money is a resource to help you achieve your goals so that you can live your preferred lifestyle. By openly discussing money, you’ll be more apt to align your money goals with your values. And that, my friends, is the sweet meat of having heart-to-heart discussions about money.

 

10 Stats You Should Know on Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day always falls during the second week of April to symbolize how much longer women have to work in order to earn what men earned by December 31, 2016. There’s no single cause for the pay gap, which means there’s no silver bullet to closing the gap. But we can start by getting educated on the issue and who it impacts.

1. Women earn 83% of what men earn

In 2017, women earned 82% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time U.S. workers. The 18-percent difference between men’s and women’s earnings means that women are paid less than roughly $4 for every $5 paid to men.

According to the Gender Pay Inequality Report put out by the United States Congress, a woman working full-time earns $10,800 less per year than a man, based on median annual earnings. This disparity can add up to close to a half million dollars over a career.

2. The pay gap is even worse for mothers

According to the American Association of University Women, Mothers must work an extra 155 days to catch up to their male counterparts.

Women with children are often pushed out of the workplace due to a lack of sufficient parental leave policies and flexible schedules. Those who do stay in the workforce are subjected to the “motherhood penalty” with which we will lose 4 percent in lifetime earnings, a figure purely attributable to bias against working mothers.

3. The gender gap grows with age

Women today begin their careers earning almost as much as their male colleagues. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 earn approximately 88 percent of what their male counterparts earn. After 35, the median earnings for women are 74–82 percent of what men are paid. Men are also 85 percent more likely than women to be VPs or C-Suite Execs by mid-career.

4. Women of color are most affected

The pay gap affects all women regardless of age, background, or education, however, women of color are disproportionately affected. According to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, Black women earn, on average, only 63 cents for every dollar paid to a man, while Native and Latina women earn even less, at 58 cents and 54 cents respectively.

6. The financial industry has the worst pay gap

Women who work in highly paid fields such as finance, public service, and medicine feel the most economic pain from the pay gap. According to PayScale, finance and insurance showed the largest pay gap with women earning 29% less than men. Healthcare and social assistance had the fourth highest gap, even though women held 80% of the jobs in this industry, illustrating that even female-dominated sectors can have a gender pay gap.

7. Education doesn’t impact the gender pay gap

While advanced education can be a path to increased earnings, it does not appear to mitigate the gender pay gap.  At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s, and in some instances, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education.

Women’s median earnings are lower at every level of education. In fact, women are often out-earned by men with less education: the typical woman with a graduate degree earns $5,000 less than the typical man with a bachelor’s degree.

8. The gender pay gap means more student debt for women

According to AAUW’s research report Graduating to a Pay Gap, between 2009 and 2012, men who graduated in the 2007–08 school year paid off an average of 44 percent of their student debt, while women in that group managed to pay off only 33 percent of their student debt. The gap in student loan repayment is even larger for black and Hispanic women with college degrees.

9. We’re still a long way off for pay equality

Although the gender pay gap in the United States has narrowed over time, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will not close until 2059, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.  Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.

10. Despite less pay, women-led companies perform 3X better than the SP500

Quantopian, a Boston-based trading platform based on crowdsourced algorithms, pitted the performance of Fortune 1000 companies that had women CEOs between 2002 and 2014 against the S&P 500’s performance during that same period. The comparison showed that the 80 women CEOs during those 12 years produced equity returns 226% better than the S&P 500.

Conclusion

The impact of women in the workplace can be seen at a broader level as well. According to the Council of Economic Advisors, women’s increased participation in the paid labor force has been a major driver of economic growth in recent decades. In fact, they say the U.S. economy is $2 trillion bigger today than it would have been if women had not increased their participation and hours since 1970. That’s a lot of zeros! Imagine how much more our economy will grow when we close that gap once and for all.

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