Category Archives: Family Finance

The Feminist Financial Handbook

This book is so needed! Excited to be one of the first to get my hands on The Feminist Financial Handbook. Fighting the patriarchy and kyriarchy while building my wealth.

I’ve mentioned in passing that I’m writing a book.

Well, I can now say that I’ve written a book.

That’s right, guys. It’s getting real up in here.

Now that the manuscript is done, I wanted to tell you guys a little bit more about the project, what it entailed and what comes next.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

Even before I was blogging about money, I was interested in personal finances. I’d read book after book on how to make my money better. There were some crazy great hacks. Like opening CDs before the Recession. Or investing your money starting young so you could take full advantage of the power of compound interest.

And I was all, “I can’t wait until I can do this stuff!”

I wrote out goals and future budgets, but something was missing. That missing thing was an income which met more than just my baic needs so I could do things like save and invest. I was great at money management; I just didn’t have enough green to do all the responsible things I wanted to do.

I now recognize that there were some systemic road blocks in my way at that point in my life. I also recognize that there are women out there who face far larger and more frequent road blocks than myself.

And that’s the piece of financial advice that seems to always be missing: When you’re motivated, disciplined and hard-working,  yet you can’t seem to get around these massive obstacles, what do you do next?

That’s what The Feminist Financial Handbook is about. It’s about recognizing oppression and its  effects on our day-to-day personal economies. Without minimizing these struggles, it looks at ways you may be able to get a leg up so you can do all those fun things like watch your wealth explode over a period of 30-40 working years through diligent investing.

It’s about being real about the real-life situations so many of us struggle with every single day, and finding ways to take action despite them.

Defining Wealth

The first part of the book looks at how we define wealth. Does money actually  make us happier? I don’t want to spoil too much, but the answer is sometimes.

In this part of the book, we also take a deep dive into the things that actually can make us feel more content, and counting them holistically in our personal wealth equations. Because while money scarcity is no good, a relentless pursuit of cash isn’t healthy, either.

Earn More

It’s no secret that women tend to earn less than men. The gender wage gap is real. But I tend to think the commonly cited reasons behind it are sexist and fictitious. Some of these arguments include:

  • Women gravitate towards lower-paying fields.
  • Women don’t negotiate.
  • Women carry babies in their wombs.

These are all poor justifications for paying women less, and some are straight up untrue. in the book, we tackle each one of them.

Gender is not the only reason for lower pay, though. Whether you’re a single mother, disabled, a woman of color, transgender, gay, or bi, society is going to punish you economically. It’s not right. But there are some workarounds for financial success, even within a system that would have you believe you’re worth less.

You’re not worth less, by the way. And this whole section of the book outlines why that is and what we can collectively and individually do about it.

Save More

Not only is there a wage gap, but there is also a gender-centric investing gap. This gap starts young, and can result in poverty in old age. We take a look at some of the basics of financial planning and how to become more aware of any internalized sexism that may be affecting your investing decisions.

We also look at how you or your child can go to college for free–or sometimes even get paid to go back to school. I promise this is real. These strategies have worked for me in real life, and are backed by a professional in the higher education industry.

And, of course, we look at budgeting. Not just budgeting, but judgement-free budgeting. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to spend the money you earn, or that you can’t stash it all away in pursuit of financial independence. But to do either one of these things, you’re going to need a budget.

When One Thing Affects Everything

Ladies, we put up with some intense experiences in our lives. Because of the normalization of sexism and other -isms, we suffer much higher rates of mental illness and domestic violence. Both of these areas have real, long-term affects not just on our mental health, but on our finances.

We also tend to make less money than our male counterparts when a child is diagnosed with an illness or is pronounced differently abled. And that’s on top of the gender pay gap.

This final section of the book looks at all of these things, offering up solutions for living a wealthy life in spite of the effects oppression can take on our bodies, minds and finances.

Pre-Order The Feminist Financial Handbook

Believe it or not, these are just some of the topics covered in the book. The pages take a deep dive into so many issues–issues not typically discussed in the personal finance sphere. Because they’re hard issues to tackle, and there aren’t always easy solutions.

But at the heart of the matter is hope. Hope that we can fight the system to build a successful career for ourselves as women in business or a fat e-fund as homemakers. Hope that you can build a wealthy life even when the system would stunt your cash flow. It affirms that you are worth it and capable no matter what society tells you, because there is no “right” way to be a successful woman with motivation.

Now that we’re getting ready to launch, you can pre-order today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I’d be so grateful if you could hop on board and join the waitlist so you can be one of the first to get your hands on a copy!

I can’t wait to hear what you think. It’s been a huge effort to produce, and I hope it opens up a lot of conversation about what we can do to make the economic plight of women better, whether we’re talking about society as a whole or ourselves as individual females.

This book was very much a collaborative effort. Because I cannot speak with experience to all the different issues women face, it largely features the experiences of others. These are the amazing women who gave so much of their time and heart to the effort:

 

Spend Less Time Budgeting with Toshl (In Canada, Too!)

This post is in collaboration with Toshl Finance. All content has been generated by Femme Frugality, and opinions are 100% honest and my own.

So true! I feel like social media has taken over my life, but I love using Toshl as my budgeting app.

A few years ago, I was at a conference for mothers. One of the speakers was the founder of a very large and very successful realty firm started here in Pittsburgh. This lady was bad-a, rocking the working mom gig back in the 70’s before it was cool.

Her words were inspiring, but also surprising. At a certain point in her talk, she told us how she did not envy us; how everything was a lot easier when she was going through what we were experiencing now.

How could this be in an age where women are more empowered today than they ever have been in US history?

As it turns out, she wasn’t talking about the difficulties of being a woman in business. She was talking about the difficulties of being a woman–specifically a mother–in the age of the internet.

I wasn’t sure what to think initially. Yes, we now have Instagram and email. But why did she think these things make life harder?

As she delved further into her talk, she explained that today, we have no time. Especially the mothers among us. We still carry the bulk of household responsibilities at home. Many of us work outside the home. And then there’s all this internet nonsense on top of it.

If you’re unlucky, your boss may expect you to be checking your inbox all weekend. While my mom sent out pictures of us once per year except on rare occasions to very close family members as was normal in the days of Windows 95, I get guilt tripped if I’m not emailing or uploading one of the thousands of pictures of my kids the day after I take them.

We connect with friends on apps rather than picking up the dang phone, and I can’t tell you the last time I was actually bored. There’s always so much to do, and I can and therefore feel obligated to do it from the convenience of my handheld computer–which is with me at almost all hours.

Oh, and on top of all of this, you’re supposed to manage your money well. Hit all the due dates. Don’t overspend. Always know how much is in your bank account. Optimize, optimize, optimize.

It’s overwhelming for a lot of us. And a lot of personal finance blogs and apps will teach you how to do a total overhaul all at once. It’s a time-consuming process, and we all know that time is something we have in short commodity.

It’s not just time-consuming; it’s also emotionally draining. To do a complete 180 on your finances overnight means killing bad habits. Learning new ones. And staying on top of it all in perpetuity.

If that sounds unrealistic to you, I have good news which I present with a spoonful of irony: there’s an app for that!

Toshl Encourages Better Money Habits Gradually

toshl finance

These adorable monsters guide you through the budgeting process!

Toshl is a budgeting app. At first glance, it may not seem as robust as similar apps on the market, but don’t let that fool you. While some apps try to give you a money makeover in 24 hours, Toshl’s developers realized that changing your habits can be daunting and take some serious time.

That’s why they ease users into the process. If you’re a first-time budgeter, you’ll be able to start out just by building a budget. Once you get more comfortable with that, you’ll be able to track your spending by category. Got that down pat? Now try focusing on the categories where you routinely spend more than you should be, shaving your spending down so you can have a healthier financial life.

Because everyone’s needs and styles are different, Toshl offers three different plans:

Toshl Free

toshl monsters

 

The free plan contains the basics. You’ll manually enter your income and spending as you track up to two financial accounts via up to two budgets. (The ability to use multiple budgets makes this app great for couples who have separate finances or families.)

You’ll be able to export your data as a .CSV file.

Toshl Pro

With Toshl Pro, you’ll still be manually inputting your money data, but you’ll be able to set it up for unlimited financial accounts and establish unlimited budgets. You’ll also be able to export as not only .CSV, but also PDFs, Excel files, Google Drive files and Evernote.

On top of that, Toshl will start giving you graphs to help you plan your future spending, remind you about upcoming bills and payments, allow you to enter certain expenses as recurring, and let you upload pictures of your receipts.

Toshl Pro is $1.67/month.

Toshl Medici–Now in Canada!

toshl budgeting app medici

Toshl Medici is the top tier plan. It includes everything Pro gives you, but it will also sync with your bank and credit card accounts so you don’t have to mess with the manual entry anymore. Super convenient–and only $4.33CAD/month or $3.33USD/month.

This plan has been available in the US, but I have great news for all you Canadian readers–it’s now available in Canada, too!

That’s right–you can now sync accounts from Canadian financial institutions, making your life less of a panic attack as you lay awake at night wondering if you actually logged all of those little purchases you made throughout the day.

Visualizing Your Money

Some of us are good with numbers. Others words. And yet others are visual learners.

That’s why these apps come with charts; they allow you to see where your money is going rather than giving you a list of digits.

The monthly overview chart gives you a big picture view of your money habits:

The river flow chart is super helpful, too. If you need another way to visualize how you’re doing on your budgeting goals, this option can definitely help:

 

While working on cutting back your spending, you can look at expenses charts, which will even allow you to group several line items together. For example, child #3 might be costing you money in diapers, daycare expenses and supplemental formula.

budgeting expenses

Open Up Space in Your Schedule

I’m a big fan of Toshl’s Medici option. It automatically tracks your spending and savings, notifies you of due dates, and helps you plan future spending with ease. When the app does the work, that frees up a good chunk of time in your schedule.

Just be sure you don’t spend all that extra time on Twitter scrolling through all the bad news du jour.

Use it to do something useful–like being bored.

Garage Sale Gems

She got a lot of amazing stuff for under $60! Definitely hitting up garage sales in my area this season using these tips.

A few weeks ago I moved into my new place. I’m doing it slowly, which means it’s been low-stress, but I’ve also had a few moments of, “Crap, why do I not have anything in my house that I need?”

Some of those things are coming. But some of those thing I straight up need to purchase. Like tables. The only table I own is now home to the TV.

Well, that is until this past weekend. I was super lucky in that I moved into the neighborhood a few weeks before the neighborhood garage sale. I was determined to only buy the things we needed, and the kids could get one toy/bauble each. That didn’t exactly work out the way I planned, but we got some cool stuff and met our budget without going over.

Living Room Table

fushimi inari souvenir

I needed to set some lamps up, which is why tables were so important. This one is actually a sewing machine table that I found at the first house we went to for $10. I may get ambitious and bust out the sandpaper to stain it black like the rest of this furniture by the end of summer. But I might not. It would be cool to have them all match, but I’m trying to spend my limited free time doing things I actually enjoy, and inhaling stain fumes isn’t necessarily one of them.

School Desk

winne the pooh lamp

Another lamp situation! For this one I got an old school desk from the same lady for $5. Right now we’re not storing anything inside because little fingers. But it is working really well for giving that lamp a home–and some of the child’s display items. We actually got that truck thing (they know way more about it than I do) at the garage sale for $5. With a mint condition box and all.

Outdoor Tables

two for ten dollars

I picked two of these up for $5/each. I already have a chair out on the patio, but now I’ll have somewhere to set drinks or food when entertaining. Or my mouse pad when I’m working outside.

Crazy Glass Table

glass table swiveling arms

This one was $10, and is going in my room–which I don’t completely have figured out yet. I know I’m going to need a nightstand, and this one is just super cool. The two outer circles swivel, so they can curl up for a compact table or spread out at various angles to accommodate all your stuff.

Stuff like this globe I got for $2. That’s for both me and the kids. They like seeing where I travel, and I like encouraging them to learn more about the world outside our own borders.

Indulgent Vase

beautiful vase home decor

I was at this one house and they had a bunch of vases from India, where the couple was from. They were gorgeous. I got caught looking, and asked how much. Five dollars.

Too much for an indulgent purchase. As I was walking away, I got an offer for $3.

It’s beautiful, so I coughed up the money. He told me it’s supposed to be a Chinese scene. He may have even gotten more specific, but I unfortunately don’t remember.

All About that Cello

cello for five dollars

My one kiddo couldn’t stop playing with this child-sized cello every time we walked by it. The second time, I found out it was only $5. The third time, I decided to buy it. It came with a bag, looks to be in functional shape, and supposedly orchestra lessons are offered next year in school. Now I just need to find out how expensive a bow would be…

Budget Kept!

We literally came in right on budget–sixty dollars. Five hundred points to us!

This is a really great time of year to hit up neighborhood garage sales. You can find them online, or even just keep an eye out for signs as you’re driving around. To get the best stuff, you’ll want to wake up pretty early. Most start at seven or eight, but my sibling has turned up even earlier than that before to catch people as they’re setting up.

Before you go to the store for that one thing you truly need in your home, be sure to pick through you’re neighbor’s stuff first.

 

Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Monday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that people with autism face and achieve. When they are children, these things also tend to affect their family’s finances, as well.

Pinning for my nephew. They don't have Medicaid coverge in his state and it's really hard because of the services he needs with autism. Maybe another state could help them out better.

 

When you’re raising an autistic child, the largest expense you shoulder is healthcare. You learn that “healthcare” isn’t just doctor’s visits and the occasional dramatic visit to the ER. It’s therapy. Adaptive equipment. Communication devices. And more.

None of it’s cheap, and if you don’t have a good healthcare plan, a lot of it’s not going to be covered.

Even if you do have a good healthcare plan, some benefits will still not be covered. In many states, the most comprehensive way to get your child the services and equipment they need is through Medicaid, and many states allow disabled children access to Medicaid even if their parents’ income exceeds eligibility limits.

Want to find out how to shelter some of your savings from asset tests? Check out ABLE accounts.

Medicaid Coverage Saves Everyone Money

Medicaid coverage keeps kids out of institutions. Until the 1980’s, one of the only ways to get children with complex needs the services they required was through an institution. Whether a parent wanted to part with their child or not, they were often forced to.

This was also extremely expensive. Providing a child Medicaid benefits so they are able to live and thrive at home is far less costly than having them live in an intermediate care facility or nursing home.

Luckily, things have changed, but not all states are equal. Today we’ll be looking at Medicaid coverage options for children with autism across all fifty states–and Washington, D.C.

Before we get started, there’s some vocab I want to review.

State Plan

“State Plan” simply refers to the Medicaid coverage that anyone gets if they apply for benefits with their state. Eligibility is dependent on income limits–not disability or lack thereof.

ABA Therapy

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, is the most proven method for successful early intervention for children with autism. There’s just one problem: it’s insanely expensive.

Until recently, most insurers denied the evidence in favor of this therapy. Some still do because of its cost. But most states have enacted laws recognizing, and forcing insurers to recognize, it as an evidence-based therapy.

That doesn’t mean all states provide coverage. There was a mandate issued by the Federal government in 2014 that arguably required its coverage under Medicaid, but some states have interpreted this mandate differently.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge that not everyone is behind ABA–even within the autistic community. There are some autistic adults who are opposed to ABA therapy when it’s practiced with extreme rigor. However, there is also a general acknowledgement that there are ethical and non-ethical ways to practice ABA from the autistic perspective. You can get both sides of the argument here.

Level of Care

Required “level of care” indicates where a child would have been cared for prior to our culture’s shift towards keeping autistic children with their families. There are three levels commonly recognized in most states. In order from the least care needed to the most:

  • Intermediate Care Facility– Many parents may be surprised to learn that their child would have been institutionalized not so long ago. This level of care can, in some cases, be equivalent to the child who goes to outpatient therapy several times a week and has behavioral therapists in their home or community setting.
  • Nursing Home– This level of care would require skilled nursing/medical care on a regular basis. Today, you may have a nurse come into your child’s home and/or school to help provide these services.
  • Hospital– This level of care is required when you need more than a nurse. There may be monitoring of a condition or simply more advanced care needed on a regular basis.

In this guide, the lowest level of care required is listed. For example, if a state lists the required level of care as an intermediate facility, that will typically mean that those at a nursing home or hospital level of care are eligible, too.

Conversely, if the listed level of care is “nursing home,” those who are at an intermediate care facility level of care would not qualify for the listed program.

Waiver

A Medicaid waiver is simply a program that grants specific services to those who do not typically qualify for the State Plan. There are also waivers that provide services in addition to and including what’s available on the State Plan.

Wait List

You may notice that for most states, there is no reference to the wait list. This is done for two reasons.

  1. Medicaid programs are in flux at the moment. A wait list–or even a waiver–could change suddenly. It’s information we don’t have the capacity to update continuously.
  2. We want you to get in touch with the agencies that provide these waivers. Even if the wait list is too long for your child, state agencies may know of other programs or community organizations that could help in your unique situation.

Download Your Free Copy of Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In an attempt to make this guide thorough for all 50 states plus D.C., it is much longer than typical Femme Frugality content–11,000+ words. As such, we’ve turned it into a PDF for your browsing convenience. You’ll be able to find your state in our table of contents and easily jump to the appropriate page to get the information you need.

>>Click here to get your free copy of the PDF<<

 

 

This information in the above PDF is accurate to the best of our research as of April 22, 2018. It will be reviewed and updated annually. Intensive research was performed for each state program. The majority of states had a governmental agency or independent advocacy group provide information regarding their programs.

Start Saving for Your Child’s College Education Today

Today’s author–Dr. S–is a dad, husband, and finance professor. He discusses personal finance and financial independence on his site, Bull in Captivity.

 Wow, this is a must-read. Really shows the importance of starting to save for your child's college education early--like right now early.

Making sure that our children start their lives off without financial stress is a goal I can get behind. Turning 18 and jumping into reality is tough enough already. Adding the burden of student loans and financial hardship is not a comforting send off.

Unfortunately, college tuition is on the rise, and many students face the reality of not being able to afford higher education without supplementing their part-time income with student loans.

College Board estimates a 2017 annual college budget of $25,000 for state colleges and $50,000 for private schools. Parents seeking to reduce their child’s reliance on debt for college can start saving for their child’s education. But saying, “Start early,” isn’t good enough. It’s important to see the impact of early savings.

Importance of Starting Early

Because of the short time span of fewer than 20 years, college funds have a limited amount of time to take advantage of compound interest. This means that you should start investing as soon as possible. This timeline is equivalent to someone beginning to save for traditional retirement at 45. It’s not impossible, but the timeframe is considerably shorter.

Look at these three examples: Monica, Rachel, and Pheobe. Monica starts saving for her child’s college education as soon as the baby is born. Rachel waits until her child is eight before saving and Pheobe begins on her child’s 13th birthday.

Here are the results assuming that they all contribute $100 per month ($1,200 by the end of the year) and earn 8% on average per year.

compounding interest on college savings

As you can see, Monica has more money in the college account than both Rachel and Pheobe. The higher balance is not only due to the additional contributions Monica saved, but the interest on these investments.

Monica is earning compound interest, or interest on interest, the most powerful force, as described by Albert Einstein.

In its basic form, compound interest means that after year 1, Monica invested a total of $1,200. In year 2 though, in addition to contributing $1,200, she earns interest on year 1’s contributions. In year 3, in addition to another $1,200 in contributions, she earns interest on year 1’s contributions, year 2’s contributions, and (here’s the compound interest) the interest she earned in year 2 on year 1’s contributions.

I know it’s a mouthful, but the interest is acting as another contributor to the account. This is why starting early is so important. The sooner the savings begins, the more chances for compound interest.

Riskiness of Investments

In the previous examples, I assumed a return of 8%. This return is not unrealistic but is a return expected for stocks–which are risky.

As college nears, the account should not be invested in very risky investments. The worst thing that can happen is that the summer before your child starts college the stock market crashes and there simply is not enough time for the account to recover.

To mitigate this risk, the account will be invested in less risky assets as college approaches, for example, bonds. Here is an example of an asset allocation that becomes less risky as college drop-off day nears.

529 asset allocation

The average expected return for the portfolio is highest at the beginning of savings and drops as college gets closer. Higher risk, higher expected return. The lower risk only makes problems worse for Rachel and Pheobe in our example above. Not only do they have a shorter timeline to invest than Monica, but the returns they have available for compounding are less than Monica.

conservative 529 during childs senior year before college

Reusing the same table as before, but with the new expected returns, we see that the results are only amplified. Monica still does better than Rachel and Pheobe, but Pheobe’s account is not looking good.

Is it too late?

There are a few options available if you have not started saving as early as you would like for college education.

  1. Start now!
  2. Increase contributions. Instead of $100, you may have to invest $200 to get to the same goal as if you started saving when your child was born.
  3. Lengthen the timeline. Delaying college for a year or two through a gap year or community college are great ways to give you more time to save.
  4. Remember that every dollar helps. Just because you can’t pay for every dollar of your daughter or son’s college education does not mean you have failed. There are plenty of ways for students to pay for college including part-time jobs, grants, scholarships, and finally loans. Depending on the degree, a few loans are not the end of the world for your child. The loans would be even higher without your help.

College Savings Accounts

A 529 plan is the most popular college savings account. The withdrawals from this account must be used for school or a penalty is placed on the account, so if your child decides not to go to college, this could be a problem.

The IRS has a great Q&A resource on 529 plans.

Many states offer college plans with tax deductibility benefits. You will be able to save for college pre-tax, which helps you increase contributions. Many of the requirements and benefits for college savings plans are state-based so doing a brief search on your state’s options will give you a wealth of information.

Have a disabled child? Check out ABLE accounts.

Other options include a traditional brokerage account which is just an after-tax investment account. There are no tax benefits, but you can use the money for anything including buying your child’s first home or even starting a retirement fund for your child if college is not an option.

At the end of the day, any benefit you provide for your children going to college will be a big help. However, starting early means a bigger account from both your years of contributions and more importantly the help of compound interest.