Author Archives: femmefrugality

Plutus Season

It’s that time of year! Plutus Award nominations are open!

The Plutus Awards are industry awards for creators who work in independent financial media. In years past, you guys have helped nominate me for so many different categories — some nominations were a surprise even to me!

Thank you for that. Times a million. Getting nominated for these awards have really helped my career, in addition to being a great honor.

This year, if I could ask you for one more favor, it would be to nominate Mom Autism Money for Best Personal Finance Content for Underserved Communities.

How to Nominate

To nominate Mom Autism Money, you would use this form.

At the top, you’ll fill out some very basic info about yourself.

Then, if you scroll down to ‘Best Personal Finance Content for Underserved Communities,’ you should see the Mom Autism Money URL already entered.

If for some reason it isn’t, simply type this in the box: https://momautismmoney.com

If you crush on content from other PF creators, you can enter them in the form for the remaining categories, too. But if you don’t, it’s okay to leave the rest of them blank before you hit ‘Submit.’

Catch Up on Mom Autism Money

Want to check out some of the latest episodes? Here are a bunch of our faves from Season Two! Be sure to follow or subscribe to Mom Autism Money on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc. so you’ll be notified each time a new episode goes live.

How to Successfully Apply to SSI

So far, this is our most popular episode this season! Brought to you by CalABLE, in this episode we speak with Dena Gassner about her proven strategy for successfully making it through the SSI/SSDI application process.

It’s centered around Autism, but her framework can be applied to any disability.

 

Autism in the Latino Community

This one just went live today!

Brought to you by ABLE United, it’s part one of an engaging, two-part discussion about Autism in the Latino community with self-advocate and editor Arianne Garcia and researcher Dr. Kristina Lopez. I learned a TON from this one, personally.

 

Retirement Planning

OMGosh, retirement planning when you have a disabled child is OVERWHELMING. Luckily, Joe Saul-Sehy and Brenton Harrison joined us to break everything down. So much great info that we broke it down into two episodes!

TBH, there are large chunks of these episodes that are great for anyone to listen to — whether or not you have an Autistic child.

More Mom Autism Money

We’ve covered a lot this season, and we’re excited to cover a lot more, too. Here are some of our other Season Two episodes:

Thank you!

Thank you all so much for your support over the years. When I started writing online, I never thought it would replace my day job. But it did. And you all made that happen. I am eternally grateful.

And thank you for taking a couple minutes to nominate today. Your continued support truly means the world.

Lovepop Cards for Mother’s Day

For International Women’s Day, Lovepop reached out to me to see if I’d like some cards on the house. I was thrilled to take the opportunity — Lovepop cards are so beautiful, unique and fun!

The problem? Well, this International Women’s Day, this is what we had to celebrate:

Bummer. I know.

And to a certain degree, I’ve been one of those women. With truncated work hours, I had a hard time getting my order in in time for the celebration.

The good news? A lot of Lovepop’s cards for International Women’s Day can double for Mother’s Day Cards. So I’m here today to share my haul with you. Be forewarned: Everything is super cute!

Savings Tip: Give Lovepop your email address to get 10% off your first order. Also keep an eye out for sale items and 5 for $50 deals. All of the cards listed below fall into one of those two categories.

Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Card

Pop up card of pink cherry blossom tree

Saw this card and fell in love! Which should be no surprise for those of you who remember my love of Japan. The magic of cherry blossom season is real, and I love how it’s captured in this card.

Mother’s Day Dragonfly Pop-Up Card

Dragonfly popup card on watercolor background

This card is specifically for moms! The dragonfly’s wings are so intricate, and the watercolor background is gorgeous.

Dragonfly popup card on watercolor background

Butterfly Basket Pop-Up Card

Popup card of weaved basket filled with flowers and butterflies

Give mom a bouquet of flowers and butterflies with this butterfly basket card! This card is particularly full and has so many tiny details that make it just perfect.

Popup card of weaved basket filled with flowers and butterflies

Mom & Baby Elephant Pop-Up Card

Pop up card with mom and baby elephant. Background popup of horizon line with trees and a watering hole on the ground.

I love these next two for new moms especially. The mom & baby elephant in this card are so cute, and the added horizon line in the background really makes it.

Mom & Baby Bunny Pop-Up Card

Baby white bunny riding on mom brown bunny's back in a popup card. Background popup is a grassy knoll with painted bunnies peeking out of their holes.

Another adorable card for new moms! Again, the background adds a lot, with bunnies peeking out of their holes and bunny ears peeking out from behind the hills. Baby white bunny riding on mom brown bunny's back in a popup card. Background popup is a grassy knoll with painted bunnies peeking out of their holes.

Have you ever bought Lovepop cards before? Share your favorites in the comments!

The Economic Pressure of Being a Pandemic Mom

This has been a really hard pandemic, friends.

And I feel like it’s been particularly difficult for parents. Anyone with aging parents. And all others who are high-risk for other reasons.

As a mom, I often feel like all the responsibility — societal and familial — has been pushed onto my shoulders. It’s a crushing weight none of us mothers volunteered for. And while I keep hoping the burden will get lighter, over time it only seems to compound.

The first time we watched Encanto, I got chills when I heard this song.

Okay, fine, I got chills every subsequent time we watched Encanto, too.

I felt seen. I don’t often feel like I can talk to many people about this pressure, but here were all my emotions in animated form:

I mean, just look how she grabs Hercules’ sword midair without thinking. If that isn’t a metaphor for what mothers have been doing these past two years I dunno what is.

Talking Pandemic Motherhood on So Money

I’ve been toying with the idea of talking about this for a while. The truth is, it’s hard.

There are so many expectations on us as women. From the responsibilities we must shoulder to the degree to which we’re allowed to be angry and frustrated without social consequences. I mean, in some work environments I worry that even just talking about the fact that I’m a mother at all will negatively impact my opportunities.

Because these expectations are widespread, though, I know I’m not alone. So I decided to start talking about the past couple years, as scary as that may be.

I recently sat down with Farnoosh Torabi for an episode of her podcast, So Money. We got real  about the past two years, how that has impacted my career as a working mom, and solutions we could explore in an effort to make a better tomorrow for everyone.

Be sure to give it a listen.

Too Ambitious

Farnoosh and I initially got to talking because of an article I wrote for Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez’s Too Ambitious bulletin. You can check it out here.

Too Ambitious is a phenomenal, thought-provoking read each and every time. Here are some other features you should check out:

 

Latest Episode of Mom Autism Money


Okay, so this might not necessarily be related to motherhood for everyone.

But it is an important listen for just about everyone.

For the latest episode of Mom Autism Money, Joyce and I sat down with social work expert Dena Gassner to learn the best ways to successfully apply for SSI or SSDI.

One of the reasons you may apply for SSI or SSDI is when your disability impacts your ability to work a full-time job.

Having SSI or SSDI isn’t only a matter of cash payments. Sometimes receiving SSI or SSDI is a necessary step before you can get health insurance that will fully cover your needs, or other related programs you may need to get by.

The process of securing SSI/SSDI isn’t transparent and can take years. In fact, Dena thinks they do it that way on purpose.

But she has created a system that has helped countless families successfully work through the application process. And she shares it with us this week.

We obviously talk about it in context of Autism, but this overarching framework applies to all kinds of disabilities, including those who now find themselves with Long COVID.

Give it a listen. If you don’t need this information in the near future, there’s a high likelihood you’ll know someone who will. Whether that’s your aging parents or your bestie who ‘only’ had a ‘mild’ case of Omicron.

COVID Numbers

I want this pandemic to be over.

So.

So.

Badly.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my life, it’s that just because I want something to be true doesn’t mean it is. Optimism can be a good thing, but only when it’s buffered by some somber realism.

The CDC has been putting out some real surprising maps lately, showing the entire country is green or low-risk. But that’s incredibly misleading.

Less than two months ago, the CDC changed their metrics. This whole pandemic, we’ve been measuring risk by the amount of positive cases in our communities — or community transmission.

But less than two months ago, the CDC changed those metrics to something along the lines of ‘low-risk means we have enough beds for you to die in.’

That’s a problem. Because death and/or hospitalization is a lagging indicator. The people that are in those beds when we finally get to a ‘red’ zone under these metrics? They will have caught the virus weeks to a month ago ish.

I’m not an epidemiologist. Please do your own research and learn how to vet traditional or nontraditional media outlets for any biases they may hold. And for the love of Pete, do not listen to Leana Wen.

That means that for two weeks prior, when everything was supposedly ‘green’ and people were running around inside with no masks on, the virus was probably raging.

Spread of this thing works exponentially.

And by the time we arrive to the ‘red’ point, there would be a critical shortage of hospital beds for all those people who got infected when they  thought everything was ‘green.’

This is not a guaranteed outcome. I pray that’s not what happens.

But it is one very real possibility. Given our track record with mortality rates with this virus in our country, it’s one we should be preparing for.

The tiniest silver lining is, at least for the time being, the CDC does provide a map using the old metrics.

Reporting of positive cases is sorely lacking right now. But even so, you can see that there are parts of the country that are actually very, very red if we were to measure by the metrics we had been using from the beginning: Community transmission.

The metrics that they switched out on everyone two months ago.

Map of the US showing that small parts of the country in the midwest and Rocky mountain range may be lower risk, but New England, nearly all of the non-contiguous US, and parts of the Southwest may be very high-risk in terms of community transmission. Most of the rest of the country is a mixutre of county-to-county low, moderate or high risk. Case rates represented are for April 2-8, 2022.

 

Please be careful, everyone. Even if you’re up to date on boosters, there’s still a chance you could get Long COVID even after a ‘mild’ infection.

And there’s definitely the possibility that you could remain asymptomatic and spread this thing to someone who is immunocompromised or otherwise high-risk. Or to a parent of a kid under 5 who still can’t get vaccinated.

And their outcome might not be as good as yours.

So at the absolute least, please wear a mask. Even if you’re not ‘required’ to.

Because it’s not just about our own, individual personal risks. It’s about how our decisions affect the personal risk of others.

 

March Money News

Coming to you today with some of the latest money news. It’s chock full of COVID-related money stuff, because the pandemic is still happening.

But we’ll kick things off with some podcast updates.

Buckle up.

Launch Day for Season 2 of Mom Autism Money

Picture of a tatooed woman wearing glasses and a black shirt. Background is abstract shapes and flowers in shades of pink, green and white. Text reads 'How to Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month with Lei Wiley-Mydskey MomAutismMoney.com'

We’re baacccckkkk!

Today is launch day for Season 2 of Mom Autism Money.

In a couple days, Autism Acceptance month will start. With it, you’re probably going to see a TON of fundraisers for various autism-adjacent organizations.

Joyce and I sat down with Lei Wiley-Mydskey –  the founder of the very first neurodiversity library – to learn about which types of organizations many Autistic people would prefer you support, and how to spot them.

And if you’re not going to give money, that’s okay, too. Lei lets us in on other productive ways to celebrate. You can listen to this latest episode here.

More Mom Autism Money Episodes to Look Forward To This Season

Selfie of a woman overlooking a dramatic, canyon landscape. Background is abstract shapes and flowers in shades of pink, green and white. Text reads 'An interview with the Autistic Travel Goddess featuring Shalese Heard MomAutismMoney.com'

Joyce and I are pretty excited about Season 2. We’ll be releasing new episodes every Tuesday for the near, foreseeable future.

You can keep on top of the latest by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcast platform – whether that’s Apple Podcasts or Spotify or pretty much anywhere else.

Another good way to stay updated is by subscribing to the email list.

We have some phenomenal upcoming guests covering super interesting topics. A sampling of some upcoming episodes include:

Interested in sponsoring an episode? Get in touch!

ABLE Age Adjustment Act

Oh, hi. Here’s some more disability finance stuff.

Are you over the age of 26?

Did you get long COVID?

Or do you love someone who got long COVID?

Or are you just a human who cares that there are people out in the world getting long COVID?

If you didn’t previously have a disability, you might not know that there’s now a high likelihood that you’re going to need to use some social programs at some point throughout the course of your life.

And those social programs don’t just come with income caps. They also come with asset tests.

Asset tests count up certain, well, assets – like your savings account. Cash on hand. Emergency fund. Sometimes the value of your vehicle. Sometimes even the value of your home.

Then, if you have too much saved or own property that’s worth too much money, you won’t qualify for social programs.

For a lot of these programs, we’re talking about a maximum of $2,000 in assets. Sometimes more, depending on your state and the program. But also in some cases? Less.

You might find yourself wondering…isn’t $2,000 not enough for an emergency fund?

And you’d be right. This is actually a huge problem, and frequently keeps disabled people in poverty without a choice in the matter.

Luckily, there’s a solution.

ABLE accounts solve this problem – at least the asset test portion. Any money you put into your ABLE account cannot be counted against you for asset tests, and you can currently contribute up to $16,000/year (more with ABLE to Work.)

For some programs, like SSI, you can shelter up to $100,000 total. Other programs may not have a cap.

Unfortunately, you don’t qualify for it.

Right now you can only open an ABLE account if you were under the age of 26 at the time of onset of your disability.

That means everyone who developed long COVID who was 26 and older at the time cannot open an ABLE account under current law.

So they’re permanently stuck with the asset tests that prevent them from saving money or building wealth.

YAYYYYYY ABLE Age Adjustment Act

Or maybe not so permanently.

Right now, there is legislation in the Senate that would up the maximum age of onset to the day before your 46th birthday.

This legislation is known as the ABLE Age Adjustment Act.

If it were passed into law, it would mean an entire generation of people with long COVID and people with other disabilities (including about a million veterans) could newly access an ABLE account.

In my ideal world, it would be available to anyone regardless of age of onset.

But this would be a marked improvement.

Oh, one thing. Congress actually needs to pass it.

The ABLE Age Adjustment Act has been introduced in Congress. It’s gotten enough support for that.

But now it needs to actually make it into a bill. There’s an opportunity to make that happen right now by including The ABLE Age Adjustment Act in the Senate’s version of SECURE 2.0.

Here’s what you can do to help make it a reality:

In this specific moment, contacting your Senators is of particular importance so The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S331) gets into an upcoming bill – SECURE 2.0.

If you already have an ABLE account…

I recently wrote a story for The Penny Hoarder about ways residents of Pennsylvania and Mississippi could potentially use their ABLE account to make their rent and housing payments effectively deductible on their state taxes.

It also applies to some other states to varying degrees:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Virginia

If you live in any of those states, or are just a curious personal finance nerd, here’s where you can get all the details.

Are you getting your free COVID tests every month?

If you have health insurance, you should be able to get 8 free, at-home, rapid COVID tests per month from your local pharmacy.

Well, they’re technically not free. But they are billed to and covered by insurance. There should be no co-pay required; at least there hasn’t been in any of the cases I’ve encountered.

So while the tests may not be technically 100% free, they should be 100% free-to-you.

If you test positive with an at-home rapid test, ideally you’ll find a way to report your positive case to your local and/or state health agency. That helps community transmission data be more accurate, so we can all make more informed decisions.

Get COVID-19 funeral funding.

I don’t know how I made it this far through the pandemic without knowing about this particular program, but one of Kat Tretina‘s posts alerted me to it recently. Since it was new to me, I figured I should share it with you:

If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, or COVID was a contributing/co-occurring cause of their death, you can get up to $9,000 from FEMA to help cover the funeral and burial costs.

You can even go back and do this retroactively for deaths occurring on or after January 20, 2020.

And if you already used life insurance policy proceeds to fund the funeral? You may still be able to get that money back.

Right now I’m not seeing an expiration date on this program. But it would be great if Congress could pass more COVID funding for a plethora of reasons. I might not wait to apply for this, even if there’s not an end date currently issued.

We’ve watched so many of these programs shutter at this point; I can’t help but wonder how long it will last.

You can learn more through FEMA, though I also found this recent press release from Pennsylvania’s EMA to be fact-filled and helpful.

Intersectional Money Series

If you didn’t catch the latest installment of the Intersectional Finances Series, make sure you get caught up!

Another installment is in the works – make sure you’re subscribed to the email list so you won’t miss it once it’s live.

What do you want to see in April’s Money News update?

Having a money struggle you’d like to see tackled in next month’s update? Or just a nerdy PF question?

Leave it in the comments! If you’re a newsletter subscriber, another way to submit your question is to simply reply to the latest Femme Frugality email you received.

If I don’t know how to answer your question personally, I’ll find a qualified colleague who can.

Testimonials and/or tips about your money woes or wins through these past couple years are also welcome!

Stacked: The Best Money Book I’ve Read All Year

Cover of yellow book with black and white print that reads 'Stacked Your Super-Serious Guide to Modern Money Management Joe Saul-Sehy Creator of the Stacking Benjamins Podcast Emily Guy Birken Author of the Five Years Before You Retire'

Some money books come into your life and they’re a total snore fest.

Others come into your life and make you feel seen as an Elder Millennial/Xennial, using humor and analogies baked into cultural references from your childhood to help you understand pseudo-complex financial topics.

Stacked, by Emily Guy Birken and Joe Saul-Sehy, belongs to the latter group. It’s simultaneously funny and practical, and can help you understand topics like insurance and investing well enough to kick your own financial plan into action.

What does Stacked cover?

Stacked covers A LOT of personal finance concepts in an easily-digestible way. The first half-ish of the book covers the basics like budgeting, increasing income, creating long-term financial goals and cutting expenses.

In the larger, second half of the book, Emily & Joe go in depth on long-term financial planning topics, such as investing, insurance, picking a financial advisor and estate planning. It’s valuable info that I’ll be reviewing myself as I reassess my financial plans in 2022.

What is this humor you speak of?

If you listen to the Stacking Benjamins podcast, you’re likely already familiar with Joe’s work. The same sense of humor that makes the podcast so great shines through in Stacked, as well.

If you’ve somehow made it to 2022 without listening in, here’s a sampling, where Joe and Emily talk about the difference between savings and investing:

Your savings are your easy-to-reach booty call. You want to know that it will be around when you need it. Investing is also about setting money aside for the future, but there’s a deeper sense of intimacy and connection than with saving alone. It’s a long- term relationship that you want to treat with care.

They then get into the reasons why the two are different but equally important, stressing the importance of both liquidity and protecting your assets from eroding under inflation.

Analogies you can relate to. Money smarts you need.

Who is this book best for?

If you ever pined over a Snoopy Sno Cone Maker, Stacked is an enjoyable read regardless of your economic status.

However, if you already know how to budget and still have an income problem that won’t allow you to meet your monthly bills, this book might not provide solutions to your immediate problems. While it does contain tips on salary negotiation and encourages side hustles, there’s less ‘how-to’ in this section than in the investment sections.

That does not rule it out as a valuable book to read if this is your situation. The pandemic has made things economically difficult for a lot of us right now. But when we eventually (hopefully?) emerge from this mess, the knowledge contained in Stacked will make it infinitely easier to hit the ground running as you work towards your long-term financial goals.

If you do have enough money to put food on the table, pick up this book for sure as it can help you trim the fat out of your financial life, providing you with a solid education on how to grow your wealth and achieve your money goals, entertaining you all the while.

Where can I buy Stacked?

As you shop for your copy of Stacked, I’d love to encourage you to buy it via my local hometown bookstore, City Books.

City Books is going the extra mile during this Omicron surge by keeping their store open for curbside, but closed for in-person browsing. Here at Femme Frugality, we’re all about supporting the businesses that are working to keep our communities safe!

Pick up your hard cover copy of Stacked via the City Books Bookshop page. If you’re interested in getting your hands on the audiobook, I’d encourage you to consider purchasing through the City Books’ page on Libro.