Money a la the Jetsons

JetsonsjpgYesterday, on the heels of Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and smartwatch, The New York Times elevated the “digital wallet” as the most important feature of those two pieces of hardware. Really?

The article, “The Digital Wallet Revolution,” by Edward Castronova and Joshua A.T. Fairfield, described the digital wallet as “allowing users to eschew cash and credit cards for a quick swipe of their device at the register.”  As so many commenters attested, the concept of a digital wallet is not new. This digital wallet could, according to the authors, aggregate retail points and other perks, bringing all the currencies together.

And that would be fine. I’m all for new technology—I’m blogging, after all. But what we all need is simplicity, not more complex methods of keeping track.

Simplicity—what money is coming in? what’s going out? how much can I spend on my favorite things… after all the bills are paid, I’ve been prudent about saving, and am not spending beyond my means?  There are digital apps for managing this kind of spending.

Keeping our eyes on our money is so key to a healthy money relationship. Being aware of where the dollars are going is the only way to end up with some in hand. It doesn’t take a digital wallet.

We don’t need more complex methods, we need to simplify and nurture our money lives.

How do you keep track? Share it here.

Why a Personal Finance Blog?

“Why write about money?” friends have asked.

CarRomance6_14Since rebounding from a major financial knockout, I find the how’s and why’s of personal finance fascinating. Other people must agree as this photo of a bumper sticker, “You Can’t Have Any Finance w/o Romance,” was snapped by my son on a California highway.

Plus, I wish I had had Romance Your Finances when I was in the thick of my money crisis. I wish I had had the trusted friend who could’ve taken me by the hand and shown me how to get my life back. If you’ve read My Story, you know my money life crashed and burned spectacularly. It makes for a fascinating read so stay tuned for my memoir, Bankruptcy: A Love Story.

Well before we were in crisis, my husband and I went to a debt consolidation company.  I walked through that office crying out for help, like a suicide victim. I wanted those folks to show me how to manage day-to-day. Not investment advice, for which financial planners a-plenty will welcome you. But someone willing to show me how to live within my means and make a spending plan work.

At the end of our meeting, the nice debt consolidation folks said we were in good shape because we were making our payments. They claimed we didn’t any help. After that, things nose-dived. My husband continued to debt and ended up further in the hole.

So Romance Your Finances is my attempt to bring readers back to personal money basics—to give back. So many people helped me.

Being healthy around money, which includes having a spiritual, nurturing attitude towards our dollars and ourselves can be achieved by anyone. But you need to be willing to look at your numbers and make courageous changes in your habits. You don’t have to be a math genius to have a sane money life. You just need to know how to add and subtract.  And if you’re struggling with debt, I urge you to try Debtor’s Anonymous.

So let’s get back to basics. Let’s breach the personal finance taboo and start talking about our money lives. And abundance and prosperity will find you.

Subprime Mortgages Ready for Another Whirl?

Good home6_14Just when the U.S. economy is getting back on its feet, so are subprime mortgages. As reported in today’s Times (“In Home Loans, Subprime Fades as a Dirty Word”) these once-sketchy loans are being offered to those who might not otherwise qualify for a traditional mortgage.

My husband and I took out a subprime mortgage in 2005. It resulted in the loss of our home. So, buyer beware. (Read My Story for a glimpse. Better yet, wait for my book, Bankruptcy: A Love Story, in rewrite.)

If you don’t know what a subprime mortgage is, the Times definition is helpful:

Traditionally, any loan to someone with a credit score below about 640 (the highest possible score is 850) has been considered subprime. During the housing bubble, when lenders were hungry for loans to package into securities for resale, the subprime label expanded to describe all manner of schemes, including loans with low or no down payments, “liar loans” with no proof of income and loans with a monthly payment so low that the principal actually increased over time.

I’m blogging about this today because knowledge is king (or queen). If you’re shopping for a mortgage, know what you’re signing onto. These new subprimes, which only represent a tiny portion of the market today, extract interest rates that top double digits.

Talk, share, know. We’re responsible for our own money lives.

 

Make Gratitude Work for You

file6211283872981“Gratitude is a tool,” I heard someone say the other night when we were talking about money.

Hearing that gave me pause.  I’ve been so used to hearing the platitudes about gratitude—how important it is to be grateful as a means of appreciation and positive energy that I hadn’t really thought about gratitude as having a purpose.

But gratitude does have a purpose. Gratitude has saved me. For example, whenever I start to feel sorry for myself—for whatever reason—loss, not getting what I want, disappointment, a down day, I have a tool: I can write a gratitude list:

  • A roof over my head
  • Delicious, nutritious food
  • A good job
  • My health
  • Delightful, kind children
  • Loving family
  • A sense of humor

When I look at my list, I feel wealthy.  And it makes me just want to say thank you.

My gratitude list helps me put my needs in perspective and has the side effect of strengthening my connection with my Higher Power and other people. I feel more loving and compassionate when I am grateful

I believe you can be grateful for just about everything. So often the thing we are dreading or think we’re going to hate becomes a blessing in disguise. To see the breadth of things to be thankful for, read the wonderful poem, Thanks, by W. S. Merwin, one of my favorite poets.

Yes, gratitude is an attitude but it is also a tool. So let’s put it to work.

Please share your thoughts about gratitude. We’ll all be grateful.

And if you enjoyed this post, please share it!

My Mother, My Money Guru

As a girl, I watched my mother, Anna, pay bills at our kitchen table. The vinyl tablecloth, a neat stack of bills with their envelopes and stamps nearby and a pile of money orders she’d sign in her neat, flowery penmanship.

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I learned about money from my mother—how to be afraid of not having enough and how to stretch a dollar. Once I heard a commercial jingle for HFC Finance, a well-known lending company at the time, on the radio, its song punctuating the company name with the strikes of a xylophone. I said to my mom, “Why don’t you call them, mom, they’re giving away money.” She laughed. “They don’t give you money for nothing,” she said.

When my parents bought our house in Brooklyn, a big deal for my Depression-era folks, she went to work nights at a candy factory to help pay the mortgage. “I told your father,” she said, “how else are we going to pay our bills if I don’t go to work?” And my father told me later when I was an adult, “If it wasn’t for your mother, we’d have nothing. I would’ve spent it all.” My mother had a clear-eyed focus on our family finances.

My mother was an exceptional role model when it came to money and so many other things. Whether I chose to absorb those lessons was another matter. In fact, I discarded her simple “don’t spend more than you have” approach in place of a freewheeling “ain’t no stopping me from having what I want” recklessness. But eventually, when the ice water was thrown in my intent-on-denial face, my mother’s common sense rallied to my side like a long-lost friend. The foundation my mom had laid was there under all the debris. All I had to do was sweep the junk aside and allow her guidance to take over. Just like in the photo of me at age 1, where she’s propping me up, hidden, behind the scenes.

Though my mom has been gone for almost 15 years now, she left a legacy of care. Her lessons of strength and common sense had been there for me all along. I just needed to listen to my still, small voice inside me right alongside hers.

Tell me what your mom taught you about money and life.

Are You Comfortable Talking About Money?

Message StonesDiscussing finances came up as a topic on Linked In last week. I was astonished at the number, passion, and variety of responses.

Some people brought up never discussing salary with co-workers. Others wrote of being extremely comfortable within their families and with spouses as if to say, isn’t that what everyone does? And yet others admitted dread at the mention because no one ever talked about money in their families growing up.

I contend that money, sadly, is the last taboo. People will talk about sex, their affairs, their mothers, even death but will zip the lip when it comes to the almighty buck.

Like all things, a discussion of money needs to be appropriate, i.e., not bragging about your Mercedes purchase or the new wing you just added to your mini mansion. Not in today’s economy.

An aversion to any discussion of money can, perhaps, be the result of fear and shame (being judged), questioning self-worth (feeling like you don’t measure up), and lack of knowledge (feeling uneducated in these matters). But the truth is, we use money everyday and breaking the taboo can be freeing and expanding, if you are willing.

A healthy discussion of money is paramount because how else will you learn? We need money to live.

A few trusted friends or a group can help. I am a grateful member of a wonderful Debtor’s Anonymous (DA) group. I get to be part of an amazing circle that meets weekly to discuss the money relationship. It can be a touchy subject but we manage it in the confines of the 12 steps.

There’s a lot to say on this topic. Check out my colleague Barbara Stanny’s site and comment about the money taboo here.

What do you think?

Women and Money Series on NPR

Women and Money” was a featured segment this week on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

One segment,”file471300323851Why Women Don’t Ask for More Money” lent crisp, fascinating insight into how women comport themselves when it comes to salary. “All the women she spoke to said they hated advocating for themselves at work. But they had no trouble speaking up for colleagues.”

Maggie Neale of Stanford Business School advised women to stop thinking about negotiation as “adversarial, putting on the armor, getting ready to do battle.” Instead, she says, think of it as solving a problem.

Check it out here.

Spring Cleaning Your Financial Papers

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How long do you hang onto receipts, tax returns, and other pain-in-the-neck financial papers?

Here’s some helpful, straight-forward advice to cataloging your finances in How to Organize Your Financial Documents: A 4-Step Plan on Women & Co.

The tips suggest going paperless, using credit cards, paying bills online, and tossing the sheets and receipts. While the author recommends credit cards to keep tabs on expenses, I use a debit card because I don’t want to incur debt. But you can choose your plastic depending on whether or not you want to take advantage of card rewards or wish to refrain from overspending. If you faithfully pay off your balance at the end of the month you probably don’t have a problem with debt.

This site is maintained by Citicorp—and you’ll see plugs for their services. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile place to frequent.

Four Hardest Money Words To Say

Money crying

When I got to work the other morning, my co-worker told me how she stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to get coffee.

“I had a coupon,” she said. “But I couldn’t just get the free coffee. I felt like I had to buy something else.”

I wondered…why do we buy things that we really don’t need? I believe it has something to do with facing and saying the four hardest money words in the English language: “I Can’t Afford It!”

Why are these simple words so difficult to accept and say aloud?

It’s not like I haven’t found myself going along for the ride when I should’ve mantra’ed I Can’t Afford It! Yet the reluctance is partly wanting to indulge the wish that I can afford it—denial of sorts—and embarrassment and shame at feeling like I don’t measure up if you say no.

I’ve noticed, however, no one will challenge you when you say the four hardest, and bravest, money words.

“Wanna get tickets for Bruno Mars at the Barclay Center? Two hundred bucks?” “Damn, can’t afford it!”
“Oh, too bad. I understand” was the response.

“Wanna catch dinner at that brand new Italian restaurant?”
“You mean the one with the expensive wines?”
“Yup.”
“Wish I could but I can’t afford it.”
“Okay. No problem. Let’s find some place cheaper.”

“Wanna shuffle over to Saks Fifth Avenue to buy a few baubles?”
“Gosh. Wouldn’t I love to? But can’t afford it! Why don’t we stroll over to TJ Maxx?”

I have never encountered anyone saying any response that wasn’t supportive. When those words come out, it’s like hitting a brick wall. No one can argue with it.

Saying I can’t afford it is honest, prudent, respectful of self, and a stress-buster so you don’t get swept away into a “what the hell” approach that could blow your weekly budget.

There is no shame in saying I Can’t Afford It! None. Now practice.