Tag: Pop Culture

 

4 Money Lessons I Learned From ‘The Lion King’

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I’m a product of the ‘90s. This means I’m also a product of the 1994 Walt Disney classic “The Lion King.” I grew up on the film’s songs and characters, did my best to take hakuna matata to heart, and even named my pet lizards Simba and Nala.

I recently learned that Walt Disney Pictures is rolling out a new version of my childhood favorite. After getting a little nostalgic (and watching the trailer on repeat), the news made me reflect on what I learned from the original animated classic. 

As a personal finance writer who covers everything from bank accounts with no unnecessary fees to Roth IRAs, it isn’t surprising that money lessons popped into my mind first. Here are 4 financial lessons you can learn from “The Lion King.”

1. Strive for Balance

One of the most poignant scenes in the entire movie (IMHO) is Mufasa and Simba’s father-son moment overlooking the plain. This is when Mufasa famously tells his son that “Everything the light touches is our kingdom” — and also that “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance.”

While Mufasa was referring to ants and antelopes, and life and death, the truth is: Balance matters when it comes to money, too. 

Take the issue of spending versus saving. It’s easy to swing from one extreme to the other: from becoming a FIRE (financial independence, retire early) fanatic and saving 90% of your income to racking up thousands of dollars of credit card debt to keep your FOMO at bay. I’m willing to bet Mufasa wouldn’t think either of those lifestyles exist in a “delicate balance.” 

Put it into action: When it comes to money, look for a balance between saving for the future and enjoying your life. You can try the 50/30/20 rule, which recommends allocating 50% of your after-tax income toward necessities (like rent and gas), 30% toward wants (like concert tickets and vacations), and 20% toward savings (like your emergency fund and retirement accounts). 

You should also “pay yourself first” by automatically transferring savings from your checking account into an investment account every week or month. This way, you can rest assured your future self is covered, while still being able to grab happy hour after work. That’s the kind of balance that would make Mufasa proud.

2. Don’t Run from Your Problems

After (spoiler alert!) his father dies, Simba tries to escape his guilt, confusion, and grief — both figuratively and literally. He runs far into the savannah and grows up away from his family and his pride. 

Eventually, however, Simba listens to Rafiki, who tells him, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Those wise words compel Simba to finally face his problems head on. 

Rafiki (which, fun fact, means “friend” in Swahili) would say the same thing to you: Running from your money troubles won’t solve anything. You can’t fix your problems if you never acknowledge them in the first place. 

Put it into action: If you’ve made financial mistakes, don’t stick your head in the Sahara and pretend they’ll get better. 

If you have credit card debt, commit to paying $25 over the minimum, then slowly increasing the amount by five dollars each month. If you’re struggling to cover your student loans, sign up for an extended repayment plan. If you ruined your credit in your 20s, apply for a secured credit card.

No matter the size of the hole you’ve dug, you can get yourself out. It’ll just take patience, commitment, and a willingness to learn from your missteps.  

3. Focus on the Future

While you shouldn’t ignore your money problems, you shouldn’t let them define you either. Once you’ve created a plan to tackle your financial woes, focus on the future. 

As Timon might say: “Look, kid, bad things happen, and you can’t do anything about it.” So stop feeling ashamed about the past — about how you didn’t start saving early enough, about that pair of designer heels you never wear — and consider how you can change your behaviors moving forward.

You know, hakuna matata!

Put it into action: Think about how you can weave a strong financial safety net for yourself in the future. Focus less on skipping your daily latte, and more on the big expenses, like renting an apartment within your budget or buying a used car instead of a new one. 

Then, slowly build an emergency fund that will cover at least three months of expenses. Ask for a raise at work. Open a 401(k). Switch bank accounts to avoid unnecessary fees. And gather a solid support network of friends (think of them like less-furry versions of Timon, Pumba, and Rafiki) to help you stay the course.

4. Confidence Matters

At one point when Simba is doubting his abilities, he hears the echo of his father’s voice. “Look inside yourself,” Mufasa tells him. “You are more than what you have become.” It was true: Simba’s lack of self-confidence had been hindering him from his destiny. 

Although I’m not going to sit here and say you have a personal finance “destiny” like the king of lions, I will say that confidence plays a huge role in money management, too. And if you don’t feel financially confident, realize it’s not your fault. Since most American schools don’t teach personal finance, many people feel confused and anxious when it comes to money. 

Put it into action: To take control of your finances, you need to build the confidence so that “you are more than what you have become.” The key here is education. Find your financial footing by listening to podcasts like Stacking Benjamins and Bad With Money, reading blogs like this one and books like “Get Money,” and watching YouTube channels like Financially Wise Women and The Financial Diet

The Circle of Money

Although you might wish you could live like an animal in the savannah, and trade in budgeting for, you know, surviving in the wild, the reality is: We live in a world that revolves around financial transactions. 

You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it. And with the help of “The Lion King,” you can hopefully gain the knowledge and confidence you’ll need to rule over your very own financial kingdom. (Just watch out for the hyenas!)

 

Overspending Because of Social Media? Here’s How to Stop.

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It’s hard to scroll through Instagram or any other social media platform and not be inundated with post after post showing you everything you’re missing. And it’s not just the ads that pop up in your feed, it’s the people you know — or the influencers you think you know — that may be causing you to spend. 

Charles Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth Survey found that more than a third of Americans admit that their spending has been influenced by what their friends are sharing on social media. And they also say that this FOMO is causing them to overspend. In fact, nearly half of millennials spend money they can’t afford on experiences with their friends. With stats like this, it’s not hard to see that social media can be a barrier between you and your savings account. 

So, what can you do to stop overspending due to social media FOMO? Here are four tips to help you curb the urge to spend. 

1. Curate your feed

It’s time to find balance with who you follow. While it’s fun to follow celebrities or friends who live it up, get in some other #goals. 

Find accounts that make you feel good, without necessarily making you feel the need to spend more. If you’re a runner, following running accounts can help inspire you to run, a low-cost activity. Love baking? There are plenty of social media accounts that will help you indulge in that hobby. I love hiking, so following accounts that show people getting outdoors inspires me to do the same.

If you want to balance some of the flashier accounts that grace your feed with others that will bring you back to reality, try finding money savvy accounts to follow. You’ll find some inspiration by searching hashtags like #debtfreecommunity and #moneymotivation. With these hashtags, you’ll find accounts of real people sharing the things they’re doing to reach their money goals

And remember, if you’re searching for new accounts to follow and Instagram keeps suggesting accounts that will only fuel the need to spend, you can request that they stop showing you those type of posts.

2. Remind yourself it’s a highlight reel

You know your friend who is always posting about a new trip, a new bag, or an epic brunch? That’s a small piece of her life. Of course she’s not going to post about her morning commute or the sad salad she had for lunch.

This an important thing to remind yourself as you start to feel envy over her life: It’s not her entire reality. 

And if you ever find yourself stopping mid-scroll and wondering how someone can afford everything you see, think about this: Maybe he can’t. He may have massive credit card bills, be dealing with debt, or have nothing saved at all. It’s very easy to see someone’s spending, but it’s very difficult to see his savings

3. Remember what you value

With social media, you’re constantly taking in images and information. Sometimes, without realizing it, you can get so caught up in what other people are doing and sharing that you forget what makes you happiest. 

Next time you start feeling pangs of jealousy seeing someone wearing a new outfit, driving an amazing car, or living the life on vacation, take a step back. Think of what you value and what makes you truly happy. Maybe it was the potluck dinner you hosted, or the night you spent on your couch with a friend eating popcorn and bingeing on Netflix. Or, perhaps it was a great walk in the park you took Saturday morning. Maybe none of those things would look so fabulous on social media, but they sure felt great. 

4. Take a break from your apps

How much time are you spending on social media apps? Maybe more than you think. People spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes per day on social media. How does your usage stack up? Your phone can easily tell you. On the iPhone, you’ll find your data by checking the Screen Time section of your settings. On the Google Pixel, you can find it under Digital Wellbeing. 

If you’re spending a lot of time on these apps and they’re hurting your wallet, it might be time to take a break or cut back on your use. 

Or, to avoid mindlessly opening them, try taking them off your home screen or using an app that blocks social media, like Offtime, or an app that helps you curb your usage, like Moment. If that doesn’t help, try scheduling your social media usage during one specific time of the day, like on your evening bus ride home. If you find yourself reaching for your phone mindlessly, download a good book and make a habit of reading a few pages.

If all else fails, delete your apps. You can always reinstall them, but you may find that a few days of space gives you the perspective that you need. 

Final word

Social media can be a great way to stay up to date with friends. But don’t let the lifestyle you see on social media influence you to spend more and save less. And remember: Your happiness is much more important than a social media feed.

 

The New Rules of Personal Finance: Gig Economy Edition

Save as much as you can, spend less than you earn, invest wisely. While these pillars of personal wellness may ring true, there are some financial rules that need a facelift. You could say times are a changin’.

My friend and colleague, Kristin Wong, who is the writer and author of Get Money, recently wrote a thought-provoking piece on the new rules of personal finance. Wong takes a look at home ownership, going to college, debt repayment and investing. Yet, the new rules of money also include other facets of our financial lives and take into account how to save money and earn more in the gig economy.

Take a look at four rules we’ve put together to help you tackle your finances in today’s times.

1. Living on Steady Paychecks

Are you one of the 53.7 million Americans who are freelancing?

Then you know that paying your bills on inconsistent income is real. Cyndi Lauper might think that “money changes everything,” but in my humble opinion, variable income changes everything, my friend.

When you have a steady flow of money coming in each month, you can create a spending plan without any issue.

Instead: If your paychecks hit your bank account at different times of the month, consider syncing up paychecks to different bills. For instance, your largest paycheck, which might be relatively the same each month, could go toward rent. Maybe another paycheck from another gig could go toward your student loan and credit card debt.

Jot down when each bill is due, and how much it is. Next, assign income to bills. While some payments from jobs drop at different times of the month, the money you receive from other clients might be more consistent. In turn, this might be able to help you stay on top of your bills.

Want in on another tactic that has been a budget-saver for me? I aim to get one month ahead. So, I try to have enough in my bank account at the end of the month to cover the next month’s expenses.

Pro tip: If you’re a Chime member, try auto-saving a percentage of your paycheck every time you get paid.

2. Budget Monthly

Budgeting monthly makes sense for those who have a steady paycheck and get paid twice a month. But how about those who are gig economy workers or freelancers?

It’s hard to create a spending plan when your income changes constantly, let alone drum up a monthly budget.

Instead: Consider budgeting weekly. Seven days is a lot easier to budget for than 30 days. I personally plan out my discretionary spending a week ahead. I give myself a certain amount each week to spend on food, going out, and personal items. Then I figure out an amount I can spend each day. It’s a fun game I play. So, if $30 is my daily amount, I try to have “no-spend” days or spend less than that. By the end of the week, I’ve have “extra” money to spend.

If that’s too much math and money nerdiness for you, consider assigning an amount each week, and spend it until you reach zero. Hopefully you won’t have to replenish until the following week.

3. Save Three to Six Months in an Emergency Fund

While this remains a solid rule, it’s hard to start an emergency fund when you’ve got bills to pay, a debt load to manage, and other competing financial priorities.

Instead: Start with a rainy day fund. What’s the difference between a rainy day fund and an emergency fund?

A rainy day fund can have different rules. While you might take money out of an emergency fund for say, a major car repair or an unexpected medical bill, you can tap into a rainy day fund when you’re having a lean month and need to cover your bills.

Also, a rainy day fund typically has a smaller balance in your account than an emergency fund. Whereas a rainy day fund might have one to two months of living expenses, an emergency fund has anywhere from three to six months — sometimes more. This might seem like a Herculean task, but try auto-saving small amounts each week into a rainy day fund. Once you’ve got this down, you can work towards saving more into an emergency fund.

4. Save 10 Percent of Your Retirement

To piggyback off of Wong’s advice, it’s hard to say you should save for exactly 10 percent of your retirement, when you aren’t able to save anything at all. According to a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security, about two-thirds of folks between the ages of 21 and 32 have nothing saved for retirement.

Instead: Save what you think you’ll need in retirement. But also, save when you can. As a freelancer, after my living expenses are covered, I save a percentage for my retirement. And there’s no hard and fast rule that you need to save monthly. You could save every quarter or once a year if you need to. As long as you save something, that’s the important thing.

And keep this in mind: We live longer and carry more debt. Semi-retirement seems to be the new norm. So, you might want to consider continuing a side hustle, at least part-time, in retirement.

Take Positive Steps Today

While the same old financial rules will always ring true, it’s important to follow new money rules as well. Hopefully these four new rules of personal finance will shine a light on how you can approach your money differently and still achieve financial wellness. Godspeed!

 

4 Things Daenerys Stormborn Could Teach You About Money

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She walks through fire. She frees entire cities of slaves. She has dragons at her beck and call.

Without a doubt, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons is the fiercest character on Game of Thrones.

She’s also one of the most complicated, and one of the most admirable. While I don’t agree with her every decision, I do believe she can teach us something about life — and about how to get paid, even when it requires some blood, sweat, and tears.

Here are four ways to rule your money like the Mother of Dragons.

Believe in Yourself

So many of us have self-doubts when it comes to our finances. We think that we’re doomed to be “bad with money.” Or that being “comfortable” — wealthy, even — is for other people, but not for us.

If you’re nodding along in agreement, take a page from Dany’s book. “So many men have tried to kill me, I don’t remember all their names,” she told Jon Snow. “Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself.”

Unless you believe in yourself and your abilities, you’ll never find financial success. The best way to empower yourself is through education. By devouring podcasts, newsletters, and articles, you’ll eventually develop the financial confidence you need.

To fast-track your knowledge, I recommend the books Get Money and Broke Millennial. Since both were penned by kickass women authors, I’m pretty sure Queen D would approve.

Build a Team

Although Daenerys exudes confidence, she’s also smart enough to know she doesn’t know it all. Along her journey to power, she’s amassed a slew of advisors to help guide her decisions.

As she once said, “It takes courage to admit fear… and to admit a mistake.”

The same goes for your finances. While it’s essential to build confidence, it’s also essential to create a strong financial team as backup. You don’t need to be rich to do so, either. Here are some potential members of a 21st-century financial team:

  • Apps, apps, apps: All of us have a team of financial advisors in our pocket. Between apps for budgeting, paying and trimming bills, and managing money with a partner, embrace the wealth of technology available.
  • A trustworthy bank: Make sure your bank’s got your back. The Breaker of Chains would never stay with a bank that nickeled and dimed her — in fact, she’d probably burn it the ground. So choose banking with no hidden fees that prioritizes you as a customer.
  • A robo- or human financial advisor: This one’s not as vital as the others, but it can certainly help. Get robo-advising for your investments through apps like Wealthfront or Personal Capital, or seek human assistance with a fee-only advisor through the XY Planning Network.

When you surround yourself with high-quality people and products, you’ll find the support you need to achieve financial success. (Even if nobody on your team loves you quite as much as Ser Jorah loves Khaleesi.)

Listen to Your Values

“Our fathers were evil men,” Dany told Yara and Theon Greyjoy. “They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.”

Daenerys lets this sense of justice guide all of her decisions — even if it means slaying thousands of slave masters. While I’m not suggesting you follow those specific footsteps, I do think you can consider your values when making financial decisions.

One way is through “sustainable investing,” which encompasses a range of different strategies, including:

  • Divesting: Pulling your investments out of companies you don’t support, such as those in the fossil fuel or firearms industries.
  • ESG monitoring: Investing in companies with high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores, or in ESG-focused index funds.
  • Impact investing: Funneling your money toward specific causes like renewable energy.

Just like the woman who would become “Mhysa” to many, you can also let your moral compass drive your financial moves.

Don’t Let Anything Stand In Your Way

Throughout Game of Thrones, people have scoffed at Daenerys and her lofty goals. The Dothraki warlords laughed when she said she would rule them all. Then she burned them down. Others said the Dothraki would never cross the sea. Then they did.

Khaleesi never let the haters get to her. “I am not your little princess,” she declared. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the blood of old Valyria and I will take what is mine, with fire and blood I will take it.”

Using that as inspiration, think about your money goals. How can you Mother-of-Dragons them by making dramatic changes?

If you want to retire early, for example, move to a new, more affordable city. If you want to accrue a six-month emergency fund, calculate how much to set aside each week, and set up an automatic savings contribution right now. If you want to earn more money, walk into your boss’ office and ask what you need to do to get a raise.

The bottom line: If you have a financial goal, don’t make any excuses. O.K., maybe don’t burn down an entire city with your dragons (#dracarys), but you know what I mean.

How the Mother of Dragons Can Help Your Finances

While Daenerys’ strategies may be a little, well, unconventional, we can still learn a lot from this powerful character.

By sticking to your values, educating yourself, and creating a solid financial team, you’ll gain the confidence to crush all of your money goals — no dragons required.

 

What To Do Now That You’re Broke From Coachella

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It was worth it.

You paid a steep price to make all of your Childish Gambino-Grande-Solange dreams come true. And witnessing Idris Elba fulfill his lifelong dream of scoring the Coachella DJ gig. Well, that was priceless!

Yes, the three-day music festival event may have drained your bank account – at least that’s how you felt in the moment.

Now, however, the music has faded away and it’s time to start saving money again and get your finances back on track. But how do you do this?

Luckily for you, we’ve put together a four step guide to shoring up your financial situation. And, if you play your budgeting cards right, you may even have enough cash for your 2020 Coachella trip. Read on to learn more.

1. Assess the Damage

It’s time to look reality in the face. How much debt did you rack up to pay for Coachella? How much money do you have left in your bank account?

To get started, calculate all the expenses you will need to cover from now until payday. Get real about your financial situation. You may have to cancel after work drinks or eat dinner at your parents’ house three times this week. But, whatever you do, don’t get behind on your bills.

The faster you get back on track, the better.

2. Create a Bare-Bones Budget

A bare-bones budget is your old budget with all of the extra perks stripped away.

Basically, you can include money for groceries, but don’t you dare think about that Cloud Macchiato from Starbucks. You had your fun, now it’s time to get back to adulting. Plus, you only have to live with a minimalistic budget until your bank account is back in the black.

Make a list of essential, non-negotiable expenses, such as your rent/mortgage, car payment and insurance. These bills get priority. Next, write down all of your other expenses. What can you cut out temporarily, like eating out or your Hulu subscription?

Get creative with flexible expenses like groceries. Make a game of it. What new meals can you come up with from leftover food in your pantry? Adjusting your meal plan to feature cheap staples like rice and beans can cut your food bill for the month as well. Other quick ways to save over the next month or two include:

  • No shopping other than groceries
  • Use cash for groceries. No backup payments to save you at check-out
  • Cut or pause all subscriptions, like Netflix, your gym membership and Prime
  • Carpool or rely on public transportation to save on gas
  • No eating out
  • Minimize utility usage – i.e. shorter showers and shutting lights off
  • Return anything you recently bought that is still returnable

3. Get Extra Money Fast

Now is the time to sell anything and everything that you no longer need. You can list small, valuable items on eBay to make shipping easier. Large items can be sold through local marketplaces, like Craigslist and OfferUp. You can sell the rest of your stuff by holding a yard sale.

Here’s another idea to raise cash fast: See if you can put in a few extra hours at work or pick up more shifts. Try offering babysitting, dog walking or cleaning services to family, friends and neighbors.

Devote every penny you earn towards debt payoff and balancing your budget. This is not the time to reward yourself with extra splurges.

4. Save for Next Time

Already making future Coachella plans? Money.com estimates that festival costs about $2,347. Start saving now by putting $200 into savings each month if possible. Automatic savings makes this part a cinch.

If you’re a Chime member, you can take advantage of automated savings in two ways. First, you can choose to have 10 percent of your paycheck automatically transferred on to your Chime Savings Account. Secondly, you can have every purchase you make on your Chime Visa® Debit Card rounded up to the nearest dollar. The round up amounts are automatically transferred to your Chime Savings Account. Cha-ching.

Plan Before You Splurge

Life without trips and adventures is kind of blah. And, while Coachella may have put you in a tough spot financially, hopefully it was a wonderful experience that you’ll remember for years to come.

You can have the best of both worlds, though. Every new adventure or splurge doesn’t need to derail your budget. By following the guide above, you can effectively plan and save for Coachella, as well as other fun experiences.

Are you ready to start saving and budgeting so that you can achieve your financial goals and treat yourself to special events?

 

10 Best Money Books to Improve Your Financial Literacy

Some people seem to be naturally good at managing their money – they’ve always had cash in the bank and they actually enjoy budgeting.

On the other hand, there are those people who struggle with money. Maybe it’s due to a lack of financial knowledge, a drastic amount of debt, or simply feeling overwhelmed.

If you identify with the latter, you are not alone. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Student Loan Hero, just 43 percent of respondents stated they feel like they are financially successful. This means that a whopping 57 percent said they’re not financially confident. Yikes.

But here’s the good news: There are plenty of educational resources available, including excellent books that can help you gain more insight on your finances. Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save more money, or start investing, there is a book for you.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 10 books that can help you improve your financial literacy.

1. Best book for millennials: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you’re relatively new to the financial scene, there are tons of quality books to help teach you everything you need to know. Yet, Erin Lowry’s book, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, stands apart from the rest.

Lowry’s simple, conversational tone is certainly helpful, as she walks you through the basics of budgeting, picking the best bank for you, dealing with debt, preparing for retirement, and more.

2. Best book about student loans: Bye Student Loan Debt: Learn How to Empower Yourself by Eliminating Your Student Loans by Daniel J. Mendelson

Author Daniel J. Mendelson and his wife once had nearly $150,000 of student loan debt due to many years of graduate school and hefty interest rates. By creating and sticking to a simple repayment process, the couple became debt-free within five years.

In Bye Student Loan Debt, Mendelson walks you through his simple debt repayment system. And more importantly, the book will give you hope if you are feeling like you’ll never pay off your student loans.

3. Best book on frugality: 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money by Trent Hamm

Frugality is one way to fix your financial situation. By living on the cheap, you have more money for the things that are truly important to you.

Trent Hamm, founder of the blog The Simple Dollar, knows how to be frugal. Hamm credits frugality and mindfulness for overhauling his formerly dire financial situation. And, his book, 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money, offers some easy ways to save money in your day-to-day spending.

4. Best book for investing: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by John C. Bogle

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is the classic guide to getting started with the stock market. And, while you may not recognize the author by name, you certainly know of him – John C. Bogle is the founder of the investment company Vanguard. Bogle believes investing is for everyone, regardless of your education, income or experience.

While the stock market has its ups and downs, Bogle’s book has withstood the test of time. It is now on its tenth anniversary edition.

5. Best book for increasing your income: Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money by David Carlson

While most financial books focus on saving, Hustle Away Debt offers a fresh perspective by teaching you about the importance of increasing your income.

Author David Carlson is also the founder of the popular millenial financial blog Young Adult Money. In his book, he details his secrets to getting out of debt by increasing his income through side hustles. If you’ve ever wanted to increase your income while learning new skills, then this book is a must-read.

6. Best book on budgeting: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman

Suze Orman is one of the original financial gurus. She has seven New York Times best sellers, but you may recognize her most from her television show, The Suze Orman Show.

Orman provides to-the-point, no frills financial advice. For those just learning to budget (or learning to stick to a budget), look no further than The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. Orman walks you through everything you need to know.

7. Best book for couples: Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money by Talaat and Tai McNeely

Relationships and money are often a neglected topic. In fact, in a study by CreditLoan.com, over 30 percent of men and women hid a financial secret from their partners.

To say there is room for improvement is an understatement. That’s where Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money comes in. This book hits on a sometimes sensitive topic. Not only does it provide valuable communication tips, but it teaches you how to set and achieve financial goals as a couple.

8. Best book for general financial advice: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is one of the top financial writers out there. His book, Total Money Makeover, shows you how to take control of your finances in a simple 10 “baby-step” process, which includes paying off debt, saving for an emergency fund, starting to invest, and other financial goals.

Total Money Makeover provides foolproof, no-nonsense advice for anyone looking to improve their financial situation.

9. Best book for saving: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

In the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, author Robert Kiyosaki outlines the lives of two men: his father, who was constantly broke, and his father’s friend, a wealthy entrepreneur. He believes “street smarts” can often be more valuable than a more traditional education.

Rich Dad Poor Dad challenges the conventional ideas of saving by providing information on how your current view of money can affect your future finances.

10. Best book for early retirement: How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less by Robert and Robin Charlton

At the age of just 43, Robert and Robin Charlton were able to retire from their full-time jobs. They had worked a collective total of just 15 years. They now run a website, WhereWeBe.com while traveling the world.

Their book, How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less, is designed to help others do the same thing they did. They outline repeatable steps that anyone with a full-time job can implement. Overall, they aim to communicate that retirement is not just a dream. It’s achievable.

 

5 Money Management Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

In our digital age, podcasts are the continuation school for busy grown-ups. They’re snack-sized audible lessons packed with digestible information.

What better way to learn about the world and satiate your curiosities? Consume them during your morning commute, your lunch break, or listen to them while doing household chores.

For those wanting to level up on their money management skills, an easy way to go about it is to check out a podcast. Want to know what are all the money nerds listening to these days? Here’s a roundup of our favorite shows about the mighty dollar.

Harsh Truth

Art and money is rarely talked about. For artists or creative freelancers such as myself, you may want to learn the ins and outs of art as a business. The Harsh Truth podcast, co-hosted by artists Gondek and Frankzilla, does just that. How do successful creatives make a living and what money struggles do they face? What changes are taking place at the intersection of culture and commerce? Plus, there are also some amazing stories on how guest artists developed their craft and unique styles.

What it teaches you about money: Most artists aren’t trust fund babies. And contrary to popular belief, they don’t hate money. In fact, they want more of it, and don’t typically struggle with the fears of being a sellout. It turns out that most artists think hard about how to make a dollar and run their own businesses. Making money is an important sign of career validation. An artist’s journey is tough and they run the risk of getting ripped off, both in terms of money and intellectual property.

HerMoney

Sorry, boys. But Jean Chatzy’s HerMoney is one for the ladies. Featured topics and guests run the gamut from how to earn more to money and relationships to overcoming your fears about investing. Chatzy taps into her powers of being a personal finance celebrity and has some big-deal guests come on her show, notably Jen Sincero, Daniel Pink, and David Bach.

What it teaches you about money: Achieving financial wellness requires looking at the big picture, such as earning more, learning how to negotiate, and mastering your money mindset. It also means you’ll need to focus on the nitty-gritty, like the importance of auto-saving for your goals and keeping tabs on your account balances with a bank app. There’s so much to get your head around. It requires an open mind, focus, and commitment.

Bad With Money

Those who live, eat, and breathe money get a bad rap about living in an echo chamber. As nearly half of Americans struggle to save $400 for an emergency, the “I am going to retire at 30” and “I have half a million saved for retirement” leads to many an eyeroll.

That’s why voices like Gaby Dunn are so important. Her podcast Bad With Money views money from a feminist and queer perspective, and chats about finances for those who suck at money. By offering a platform for different voices to share their qualms and struggles with money, Dunn’s show helps you you face your money woes and improve your relationship with it.

What it teaches you about money: Many people are bad with money. Don’t be fooled by the swarm of personal finance blogs and tales of success. More people are drowning in debt than touting positive net worths. There are more underemployed folks than those earning six-figure incomes. That being said, there’s room to better your situation.

But avoiding thinking about the topic altogether won’t help. By being honest with where you’re currently at, you can take the steps to form positive habits and learn how to make improvements.

Afford Anything

I’ve long been a fan of Paula Pant and her motto: “You can afford anything, just not everything.” Pant’s podcast Afford Anything is an extension of this truism, and she explores topics that run the gamut from strategies for saving for retirement to how to live a meaning life.

As Pant is well-known for escaping her day job and achieving financial independence through rental properties, you can find a handful of episodes on FI/RE (financial independence, retire early) and house hacking. But beyond how-tos, Pant also delves into quandaries people might face: How to give to charity while achieving financial independence, and how to be happy with less.

What it teaches you about money: As someone who is financially independent, Pant offers a unique perspective on what money represents. What happens after you’ve worked hard, and were clever enough to aggressively save so you can retire early? For Pant, it’s not having fancy things, or slaving away at an office job. It’s about spending time with your loved ones, and doing what you enjoy, whether it’s traveling, spending time in nature, or reading a good book. How you spend your resources, particularly your time and money, defines how you spend your life.

Beyond the Dollar  

As the name implies, Beyond the Dollar takes a deep dive at the emotional aspects of money. How does debt affect mental health? And can one create a money-life manifesto? Entering its fourth season, I’m eager to check out new episodes as Sarah Li Cain is flying solo – sans former co-host Garrett Philbin – as the host of this thought-provoking, soul-digging show.

What it teaches you about money: Financial wellness just isn’t about information, numbers and math. There’s an emotional, even a spiritual component with money. Li Cain’s show helps you understand the role your emotions and mindset play in to your decisions, and what might be getting in the way of reaching your goals.

Learn More, Improve Your Money Situation

There’s no shortage of ways to consume information, and these podcasts make it easy to learn more about money.

In turn, you can form positive habits, change harmful money mindsets, and educate yourself on how to save for your goals and build wealth. Dig in!

 

This International Women’s Day #BalanceforBetter by Closing The Gender Wealth Gap

Today, and every year on March 8th, we celebrate International Women’s Day.

This is a day when we highlight the achievements of women and issue a call to action for progress toward gender parity. This year, the theme #BalanceforBetter tackles the importance of creating a gender-balanced world in a range of areas like business, employment, government, education, media coverage, and wealth.

In addition, working toward a gender-balanced world means eliminating the wealth gap between men and women. Don’t confuse the gender wealth gap with the gender pay gap. While the pay gap measures what is earned, the wealth gap measures what is owned. And, get this: Single women only own 32 cents to every dollar that single men own.

 

So, how can we strive for gender balance when it comes to building wealth? Here are four things we can do to #BalanceforBetter this International Women’s Day.

1. Ask for a raise

According to research from The World Bank, the lifetime earning disparity between men and women is causing a global loss of wealth of $160 trillion. While it may seem difficult to grasp a loss of that magnitude, you may experience some sort of small pay disparity in your own paycheck.

 

That’s right. Women are still paid 80 cents to every dollar that a man is paid. Even when you factor in race, education, experience, and location, the Economic Policy Institute reports that, on average, women are paid 22% less per hour than men.

 

What can you do about these scary statistics? For starters, ask for what you’re worth.

You can do this by regularly assessing your salary and asking for a raise. Before you negotiate, however, spend some time practicing your pitch so you feel confident with your ask.

While asking isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get the raise, if you don’t ask, you will likely get nothing. So, why not give it a try?

2. Invest

An important component of building wealth is investing.

Unfortunately, according to a survey from Wealthsimple, women invest far less than men. Why? Because they are less confident when it comes to investing, even though they are just as confident as men in other financial areas, like bill paying and budgeting, according to a Merrill Lynch study.

This is where the gender wealth disparity compounds. If women are paid less and aren’t investing as much, they’re missing out on opportunities to build wealth.

 

Yet, there’s a silver lining: When women do invest, their investments outperform men’s investments.

So, it’s time to start seriously looking at ways you can invest. If you’re nervous, there are a number of ways you can get started. You can start with an employer-sponsored retirement plan, like a 401(k), or open your own Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Even if you don’t have much cash to start investing with, you can also begin investing with as little as $10 via robo-advisors like Betterment.com.

3. Talk about money

Learning about money can be intimidating and that intimidation can deter you from discussing money matters with friends and family.

You may think everyone else knows more about finance than you, or that your family handles money better than you. But don’t let those worries stop you. While it can be difficult to talk about money, it’s important to do so. Why? Discussing money with someone you trust can help you both improve your financial knowledge.

For example, talking about budgeting can help you set realistic expectations about what you can spend. And, sharing your favorite financial products — like a bank account that automates your savings — can help others discover things they may not know about.

 

If you’re not yet comfortable talking about money with people you know in real life, there are plenty of online sources you can turn to like Ladies Get Paid, Bogleheads, iFundWomen, and Reddit Personal Finance.

4. Lift others as you climb

As you make strides in your own financial life, look for other ways to invest your time or money in other women.

For starters, you can mentor other women as they climb the career ladder, and this can have a direct impact on their earning potential. For example, you can encourage a female friend to ask for a promotion or figure out a new career path.

 

If you can financially support other women, consider investing in women-owned businesses. While women own 30% of all small businesses, they only account for 17% of Small Business Association loans and 2.2% of venture capital funding. So, female founders can use your help. In fact, according to PitchBook, the investor side of things is also lagging behind when it comes to gender equity: Just 11.3% of all partners at venture capital firms in the U.S. are women.

Where to find new companies run by girl bosses? You can begin by checking out start-up projects on the iFundWomen crowdfunding platform. IFundWomen, also a female-owned start-up, helps women raise funds for their businesses through coaching programs and access to a community of female entrepreneurs.

Celebrate progress

While we have our work cut out for us when it comes to achieving wealth equity, this International Women’s Day is a great time for you to help. In the meantime, let’s all celebrate the progress women have made thus far as we work together to achieve #BalanceforBetter.

 

How to KonMari Your Money

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For a 4’ 7” human, Marie Kondo is huge.

More than 11 million people have bought her books, and still others are binge-watching her Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” People are drawn to Kondo’s philosophy: You can change your life by getting rid of all the things that don’t “spark joy.”

Want to give it a try? You don’t need to limit yourself to clothing or books or Beanie Babies. In fact, nearly all of us could stand to tidy up our finances, too. Here’s how to “KonMari” your bank accounts, credit card purchases, and investments — and maybe even spark financial joy.

Envision Your Ideal Lifestyle

As Kondo wrote in “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

So, take a moment to reflect. Do your expenditures and money habits reflect your ideal lifestyle? Or, are you, say, spending your money on bar tabs when you actually want to travel the world? Or living in an expensive city, even though you dream of retiring early?

Think about how you can align your finances with your ideal lifestyle.

“Start with the vision of your best financial life to help you shift your mindset and shape your criteria for what sparks joy,” says Kristyn Ivey, a KonMari Consultant who co-hosts the Spark Joy podcast.

Make a Money Mountain

If you were organizing your wardrobe, Kondo would tell you to make a “clothing mountain” by removing everything from your closet and piling it on the bed. This way, you’d get a full picture of what you own — and can therefore make better decisions about what you do or don’t need.

The same goes for your finances. While the results won’t be as physically impressive, collecting a mountain of data about your money habits will hopefully have an even greater long-term impact.

The most accurate way to assemble this information would be to track your spending and income for a few months. (That’s especially true if you often use cash to make purchases.) If you’re in a hurry to KonMari, however, you can get a decent overview by compiling your credit card, bank, and investment account statements from the past year.

“The reason we ask you to gather everything in one category all together is so that you see all that you have at the same time,” says Jane Grodem, a KonMari Consultant in the Bay Area.

“This is an opportunity to consider the state of your finances with clarity, and ultimately the goal is to let go of those [expenses] that do not serve you in your current or future life.”

Decide What Sparks Joy

Once you’ve created your money mountain, analyze the information.

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Where are you spending the most money? Did those purchases spark joy?
  • Do you have enough saved to cover at least three months of expenses?
  • What have you saved for your future goals?

Unlike physical objects, finances are tricky because saving money often doesn’t spark joy in the moment. So, to help you feel that joy in your bones, visualize your financially secure future — whether it’s holding the keys to your first home or treating your grandkids to all the ice cream they desire.

You can also note the financial data points that definitely don’t spark joy, like an ATM fee from your bank, a spartan retirement account, or an expensive takeout meal.

Now that you know which financial behaviors do and don’t spark joy, you can look for ways to augment or disrupt them. For instance, you can spend more money on plane tickets instead of shoes, or you switch to a fee-free bank.

According to Liv Cloud, who blogs at Funding Cloud Nine, viewing her life and finances through the KonMari lens has saved her “thousands” of dollars.

“I no longer mindlessly spend money on unnecessary things,” says Cloud.

“I have become more intentional with my spending and with the items that I bring into my home. If it isn’t something that I really love, then I simply leave it at the store,” she says.

View Your Budget as Plentiful

Kondo is all about what your woo-woo friend might call an “abundance mindset.”

“The biggest mistake people make is to focus on what to discard instead of what to keep,” Kondo told Mic. “If you focus on this, you look for flaws… and cannot appreciate the things you own. The correct mindset is to keep what you love instead of throwing out what you don’t like.”

Although she’s talking about physical items, that’s the perfect way to look at your budget, too.

When you’re deciding which expenditures spark joy, don’t agonize over what you’re cutting out. Instead, delight in what you get to keep: rent for your (hopefully tidy!) apartment, groceries for next week’s potluck with friends, a splurge-y fancy coffee every Friday.

Organize Your Financial Paperwork

Being overwhelmed by paperwork is totally normal. In fact, Kondo devotes an entire clutter category to it, with her baseline rule being “discard everything.” (What a relief!)

Of course, some paperwork, like the past three years of tax returns, must be kept. Which is why Kondo recommends three folders, each with a different purpose: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or kept indefinitely.

You should also make a “pending” folder for papers you haven’t had time to organize yet. And then get in the habit of recycling paper as soon as you get it, so it doesn’t ever have the chance to — horror of horrors — pile up.

Be Grateful for What You Have

Before Kondo embarks on any decluttering mission, she sits on the floor and thanks the house. Before discarding an item, she thanks it for its service. Although it might sound loony, numerous studies have suggested that gratitude can vastly improve your outlook.

So, while you’re in the midst of KonMari-ing your finances, take a step back — and be grateful for what you have. Maybe you don’t have the latest designer handbag, but you have enough to eat. Maybe you don’t have enough money to take a vacation this year, but you have a job.

“I now surround myself with things, people, and experiences that bring joy to my life. Instead of focusing on what other people have, I focus on what is going to make me happy and make me the best person I can be,” says Cloud.

 

What Instagram Influencers Are Teaching Us About Money

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Unless you’re living underneath a rock, chances are you’re no stranger to envy-inducing Instagram influencers. You know the ones. They’re always cavorting to exotic locales,  sipping on Mai Tais underneath a breezy palm frond, or enjoying Sunday brunch at a picturesque polo lounge surrounded by besties.

Truth bomb: Some influencers are spending a pretty penny to keep up these appearances. Yup, they’re not being compensated by corporate sponsors. And the cost to look like an influencer can cost a small fortune. According to Fashionista, you’d have to spend about $31,400 a year “to maintain the physical standards of beauty represented daily in our Instagram feeds.”

Case in point: An Instagram “star” racked up $10,000 in debt trying to make it seem like she was living a glamorous life while still living with her parents.

So, how can you keep it real and stay grounded with your finances despite the illusion that permeates your social media feeds? Here are some money lessons that can be gleaned from Instagram influencers:

Don’t: Keep up with the Joneses

Bleeding money just to keep up with your peers isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s just that it’s hard to escape Insta feeds filled with those who are “living their best lives” and “living large.”

For example, I have a friend who is married to a popular Instagram influencer. My pal once admitted to me, “it’s all empty.” I’ve also witnessed behind-the-scenes actions of a social media power couple who have 250,000 Instagram followers and sponsored ad campaigns. It turns out the couple spends a lot of time and money carefully curating their feeds. Plus, they’ve experienced massive burnout and growing pains.

The truth: Nobody has their situation figured out, financial or otherwise. We’re all struggling. It’s just that some of us are better at making it look like we have it all together.

So, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, live a life that works for you and a life you can afford. If you’re feeling stretched or having trouble staying on top of your bills, it’s time to recalibrate.

Don’t: Wear your wealth on your back

If the price tag of your Christian Louboutin ankle boots is higher than what’s in your bank, it’s time to think twice. Remember: Your worth isn’t defined by the type of car you drive or the swath of designer threads in your closet. It’s how much money you have sitting in your bank and investment accounts, and the value of your assets.

To figure out your net worth, enlist the help of a money-saving app or financial management software. Look at what you own and have saved up. Then, subtract all your debt – student loans, credit card debt, car payment, house payment. Whatever is left over is your net worth.

Don’t: Compare and despair

You’ve probably experienced pangs of pain from comparing yourself to others when you were a child. Who had the yummiest snack spread in their lunch box? Who was the smartest, prettiest, most athletic in your class? Sadly, those internal head games we play with ourselves don’t disappear when we become adults.

As they say, comparison is the root of despair. There will always be someone who is faring better than you. But guess what? Instead of focusing on what you don’t seem to have, practice gratitude. You’re probably doing well, and even better than most. Be appreciative of what you do have, and know that you have enough to be content.

Do: Assess the value of a purchase

As someone who tends to be super frugal, I’ve recently leaned toward focusing on the value of what I buy versus just how much it costs.

For example, I have made some “spendy” purchases, but the value was high. For instance, I bought $300 pair of leather boots. That’s more than I’m used to spending, but I wear my boots nearly every day. That’s a good value for the price.

So, take a page from my book: If you’re concerned about going into debt for a large purchase, consider setting up a savings account, and auto-saving on the regular for a splurge fund. Then, when you can afford that purchase, make sure it’s a good value and give yourself permission to splurge.

Do: Be realistic

When it comes to spending money, timing plays a huge part of whether you can or should buy something. As nerdy as it sounds, I have a list of questions I run through before I make purchases I’m on the fence about:

  • Is it the right time? Do you have enough money in the bank? Are there other purchases that should take priority?
  • Can I afford it?
  • What is the trade-off?
  • How many times would I have to use that purchase for it to be worthwhile?
  • What is my gut reaction/feelings telling me?

You do you

There’s no benefit to spreading your finances thin and digging a deep debt hole just to live like an Instagram influencer. So, live within your means, be realistic with what you can afford, and be in sync with your values.

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