Category Archives: Money Management

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'

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'

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.

I’m a Black Disabled Woman. My Identity Has Been Stolen More Than 6 Times During the Pandemic.

This latest installment in the Intersectional Money Series is by Heather Watkins.

Black woman wearing a yellow sweater typing at her laptop. Coffee, a notebook and pen are in the background.

“Oh no, not again.”

I thought after receiving a letter about yet another attempt to steal my identity to get credit or compensation in some way.

In the past 18 months while in pandemic lockdown and loosening stages, scammers have tried to:

  • File for unemployment in my name in two different states.
  • Ordered food using my debit card info on both the east and west coasts of the country.
  • Tried to buy clothing from online retailers.

The latest scam involved taxes being e-filed in my name.

We’re all living in desperate times during this coronavirus wildness and many folks are experiencing far more disparities depending upon where you live, socio-economic status, marginalized identities, or lack of access to opportunities that might connect you to increased quality of life.

So many of us who live gridlocked with low-income tied to health insurance, food and housing security, transportation, childcare costs, etc have also had supplemental income and secondary support systems dry up overnight.

Many have had to pivot and get their quick footing by eyeing new ways to survive and stay safe, fed, and housed. There are scores of folks who may have run out of options and then there are quite a few who prey upon unsuspecting others for sport without a care about the carry-over.

According to this recent article, scams like these have cost Americans more than a half billion dollars since early 2020.

My lived experience makes me hyper aware of my finances.

As a Black disabled woman who doesn’t live too far past the poverty level, I know this sense of anxiety all too well. I’m cautious about how I spend my money and keep a watchful eye on my finances.

My state-sponsored health insurance is income-contingent and loss of coverage would interrupt the continuity of care needed. I have a physical disability that impacts not only my mobility but my respiratory muscles also. When resting at night, I require the use of mechanical ventilation to assist my breathing otherwise I could risk respiratory failure.

My health insurance covers the costly rental fees of this much needed durable medical equipment (DME) or else I would not be able to afford it since it exceeds my monthly income. Any fraudulent financial claims can quite literally affect my access to healthcare, and can affect other areas of my finances, too, since I am required to live on a limited income.

That lived experience and disability lens perspective has informed my work in advocacy in many ways. I’m empathetic to social conditions and failed systems that impact quality of life particularly where race, disability, and gender may intersect.

As a person in need of care, a caregiver, and community-builder all at once, I know many women who live in this continuum, especially Black women and other women of color. We often have little choice not to do so pulling double and triple duty in terms of responsibility.

Even places of rest like our bedrooms become office command centers; I’ve run board meetings and the whole house from atop my bed, managed healthcare, grocery delivery, and family finances. Disability may dictate staying in place for the day and/or many days.

Here in the U.S. one out of four persons is estimated to have a disability and that includes apparent, non-apparent, and chronic illness. That’s about 25% of the population, and Black people number at around 14% of the population.

When we consider the nexus of being Black and disabled as this recent Atlantic article attests, the percentage of disabled Black Americans is 14% and disabled Black people who live in poverty number at 36%.

Black people typically don’t have the cushion of generational wealth that might soften the impact of financial damage incurred from injury of identity theft and fraud. Multiply-marginalized populations like disabled Black persons have even less of a financial safety net because of factors like racism and ableism.

Being better-informed doesn’t shield me from the effects but does help shape my worldview beyond doom and gloom to a more expansive one. Think more context not just consequences; more proactivity instead of being reactive only.

Still, it’s unnerving that hackers gained access to my private information and used it in nefarious ways. So right after being initially upset, I made sure to activate better security measures.

Handling Unemployment Scams

First, I made sure to call both state’s unemployment offices and let them know that I didn’t initiate those claims. Thankfully, both times they confirmed that claims had not moved further because they had been unable to verify all information.

Addressing Debit Card Fraud

Next, the debit card claims were handled by the bank and the funds were immediately returned pending investigation. If the claims were found to be account holder’s responsibility then the funds would have been paid back to the bank. This usually happens by automatic debit.

I’ve since placed alerts on my bank accounts so that every time funds were moved I would get notifications, which would allow more time for an immediate response if something were found to be amiss.

The fraudulent online purchases were caught in time and were still “pending,” so I alerted my bank that the purchase was not initiated by me. It was denied and the retailer was blocked for my bank account.

If I want to purchase anything from that site in future, I will have to contact the bank to have the block lifted.

Tax Identity Theft

Lastly, after receiving notification in mail regarding tax filings, I contacted the IRS and it was  confirmed that just a few months ago someone had filed taxes using my information. I was urged to file an identity theft form for them to investigate and have on record for my own protection.

Also, contacting the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report is another proactive measure that raises the red flag. It adds another layer of scrutiny for creditors to consider before granting applicants lines of credit and loans. You can either call or apply online.

Once you alert one of the credit bureaus they alert the others. The alerts can be temporary and last a year or as long as 7 years.

More stringent measures are security freezes and credit locks which place holds on your reports. They differ slightly and are explained in greater detail here.

The emotional labor of dealing with fraud during the pandemic.

It’s a lot of work to stabilize finances and find balance in such trying times. It can be a tough challenge especially when you may not have the physical and mental wherewithal to stay afloat without additional support.

Even now during festive times of year, it’s hard to muster up enough cheer when yet another strain of coronavirus is dominating the news. You start to wonder about further impact to marginalized communities. It’s complex, layered, and can feel overwhelming.

My advocacy work has expanded my awareness and reminds me to stay grounded as many of us are just trying to do the best we know how. There is such connective tissue that binds us all, and being mindful of that helps to keep my focus on building a better world where more of our basic needs are met, rather than focusing solely on blaming the wayward few who stay trying to break down individual and community morale.

I’m grateful that I didn’t incur much loss and hopefully don’t discover any more attempts in the future. But I’ll be ready and think I’m pretty well-buffered from all the gains, life hacks, and insights I’ve learned along the way as a Black disabled woman active in the disability rights community.

Woman in grey coat, blue and white blouse and blue earrings smiling at the camera.


Heather Watkins is a disability advocate, author, blogger, mother, graduate of Emerson College with a B.S. in Mass Communications. Born with Muscular Dystrophy, loves reading, daydreaming, chocolate, and serves on a handful of disability-related boards. Her blog, Slow Walkers See More, includes reflections and insight from her life with disability.


More from the Intersectional Money Series

Black woman wearing a yellow sweater typing at her laptop. Coffee, a notebook and pen are in the background.

I’m a Black Disabled Woman. My Identity Has Been Stolen More Than 6 Times During the Pandemic.

You know how there's been A LOT of identity theft happening during the pandemic? For disabled communities of color, the impacts can be far more devastating. Here are some steps you can take if you've had your identity stolen.

Black woman sitting in an altered background that looks like a vortex of wind, inhaling deeply.

How Your ACE Score Affects Your Money Habits

Our past can unconsciously influence our decisions. Paying attention to behavior patterns with money can help create reflective money habits.

Black woman wearing a white shirt with black trim smiling. Background is blurry trees.

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you can be successful is seeing just one person who looks like you represeneted in the media.

Black woman wearing black sweater typing at a blue keyboard

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

When I first heard of the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. I connected with that assumption, but learned that I was wrong.

Let’s talk trusts, boundaries and scams.

It’s been a minute since I updated you all on Mom Autism Money!

First of all, thank you to each one of you who has tuned in and listened. Each download really does make a difference, and we hope that it’s making a difference in your life, too.

Let’s take a minute to get you all caught up on the latest episodes.

How EVERYONE can protect themselves from financial scams.

white block with green and pink decorative dots. Picture of a man with text reading "Mom Autism Money Episode 4 Pattern Recognition for Financial Scams with Bob Sullivan"The first episode I want to show to you guys is this great feature with technology journalist Bob Sullivan. We had a mom ask how she could better protect her kid from financial scams, and as it turns out, the tips are the same whether you’re Autistic or not. In this regard, we’re all in the same boat.

Bob has been reporting on financial scams for nearly three decades. His tips for pattern recognition are so important — give it a listen!

Teaching Boundaries.

Green square with pink and green decorative dots. Picture of person. Text reads "Mom Autism Money Episode 3 Teaching Boundary-Setting Skills to Autistic Children with Morenike Giwa Onaiwu"If you do have an Autistic child, you may want to listen to this episode first. We sit down with Morénike Giwa Onaiwu to discuss boundary-setting skills for Autistic children. Morénike is an educator, professor, advocate and an Autistic person themselves, so they provide great insights into the best ways to teach these important skills in conjunction with your child’s neurology.

We also review some great financial literacy resources with Morénike — give it a listen here.

Special Needs Trusts.

Pink box with green decorative dots. Picture of a woman and a man. Text reads "Mom Autism Money Episode 2 Special Needs Trusts with Brenton Harrison & Jillian Zacks" Special Needs Trusts are complicated. They’re an important tool to protect your child’s inheritance from disqualifying them from SSI, Medicaid, and any other number of life-sustaining social programs. But you have to do them right, otherwise they could be subject to Medicaid clawbacks, which allow the government to take your child’s own legacy and force them to repay them for medical care they received in their lifetime.

We were so lucky to have two experts join us to break down this complicated topics: financial planner Brenton Harrison and attorney Jillian Zacks. They even delved into ways parents with kids on the spectrum may want to plan their retirement differently, and ways you can still leave money for your child even if you’re not pulling in a huge income.

We learned so much, and are going to try to have the two of them back in the future to learn even more on this important topic! Listen here.

On deck.

We come out with new episodes of Mom Autism Money every Tuesday, and we’re excited for the one that will be released tomorrow!

Be sure to tune in as we talk to Autism mom Shanté Nicole, credit expert and owner of Financial Common Cents, as she teaches us about credit myths and misconceptions, and how to get your score up!

It’s launch day!

Picture of a man (Paul Curley) speaking at a conference podium. Text reads: "The very basis of ABLE accounts was to allow people to have assets and actually control them. This is a population where historically they weren't allowed to have any type of access or training on this topic. I think it's to be celebrated, to actually let them have more than $2,000 and then manage their own money. That was the inner brilliance of it. -Paul Curley, CFA on the Mom Autism Money Podcast, Episode One"

Today’s the day!

The very first episode of Mom Autism Money launched today! In it, we sit down with Paul Curley, CFA to discuss ABLE Accounts. We cover things like:

  • Using an ABLE account to shelter your savings from asset tests.
  • Tax benefits to opening an ABLE account.
  • The ABLE to Work Act.
  • 529 rollovers.
  • Addition of debit cards, which make account access easier.
  • How to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act at the federal level.
  • How to support the removal of Medicaid clawback provisions at the state level.

Here’s where you can currently listen to Episode One:

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your platform of choice!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering Special Needs Trusts, teaching boundaries to Autistic children and pattern recognition strategies for financial scams.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!