Category Archives: Money Management

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

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.

First-hand account of disableism impacting your money situation from an autistic woman.

How Disableism Has Affected My Finances

How hard is it to get a job when you're autistic? And then, once you have a job, how hard is it to keep even if the quality of your work is excellent? Read this important and eye-opening post--and then pass it along to the HR manager at work.

Intersectional Women's Finances

Overcoming Financial Obstacles as a Black Woman

Black women in America face double the wage gap, work more for less pay and incur more stress as a result. Join us as Chonce Maddox shares her experiences.

Stranger in My Native Land: Asian American Money

Asian-American women face racism and xenophobia on a regular basis. Along with it comes the need for hypervigelence around career and financial matters.

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 MomAutismMoney.com"

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!

Financial Pitfalls Aren’t Always About Money

Today’s piece is contributed by Robyn of A Dime Saved.

A photo where it looks like a woman is falling to the ground on her back from the top of some springtime trees

At first glance, it appears financial problems are primarily about money. But in my experience, most financial mistakes often point to other obstacles. It is usually not about the money.

We all have our experiences and frameworks that have gotten us to where we are. Sometimes our choices are from ignorance. Other times, the reasons behind our behavior may not be as apparent.

How we spend and interact with money is often a symptom of more significant issues. These problems can either lead us to make sound financial decisions or lead us to make terrible choices with our money.

For example, maybe we struggle with talking about money with our partner, or we find that when we get stressed, we eat out more, or, conversely, we struggle with spending money on anything.

To tackle our money problems, we have to get behind the behavior to see what is going on. Creating a budget and living frugally can only get you so far: you must get to the root of the issues.

Behavior Management

Most people can change their money habits temporarily, but the focus should not be on only doing what we think we should be doing.  Soon things settle down, and when the original motivation wains, we will revert to what comes more naturally to us.

True change can only come when we understand the reasons for our behavior. Merely changing our actions will not lead to lasting change.

This is why figuring out the reasons behind our behavior can help us change our actions permanently.

There might be areas where we lack knowledge, and we should pursue educating ourselves on what we don’t know. However, most core money issues are not caused by what we don’t know.

  • Most of us know we should not spend more than we make, and yet on average most of us have large credit card balances, whether because of behavior or necessity.
  • We know that to retire, we need to start saving. However, few people are investing in their 401k’s.

How do people make healthy financial choices over the long term?

Maybe the best place to start is to “fake it until you make it.” But this will not last long-term if we don’t realize our actions result from other feelings/ideas/problems that we need to focus on to change our trajectory.

But to change our behavior permanently, we have to eventually move from the “fake it until you make it” mentality to a place where good money decisions result from a lasting change in our lives.

What Matters Most

There is always a reason behind our choices. We don’t live life doing random things for no reason.

One way to tackle money problems is to take a look at what we want. When we are old and wrinkled, what kind of choices will we be happy to have made?

Things that will matter the most:

  • Our relationships: How connected we are to the closest people in our lives.
  • What we accomplished: Have we worked as hard as possible to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish?
  • Enjoying life: Did our experiences cause us to enjoy life?
  • Memories: Having tons of great memories will help us have a positive perspective on our past.

Things that won’t matter as much:

  • Stuff we purchased: Material possessions we want and don’t “need” can only give us a certain amount of value.
  • The house we lived in: We often get used to the house we live in and learn to enjoy wherever we end up living.
  • How much we earned: How we use our money is more important than how much money we earned. Obviously, earning more money can give us more options, but only if we choose to exercise those options. Likewise, how you spend is more important than how much you spend.

Prioritizing

Looking at what we want to accomplish can help us determine what choices are not leading us down the right path and which choices lead us to what we truly want.

When I think purchasing an expensive TV that I can’t afford will make me happy, it becomes easier to justify spending more than I make and going into credit card debt.

But when I realize this item is not going to add much value to my life and limit my options, it can provide the power I need to make smarter financial decisions.

When I realize that spending money on certain aspects of my life- such as health, education, memories, and things that bring me joy — I can budget for those things appropriately and truly feel at peace with my spending.

Financial problems ultimately come down to us being confused about what we want in our lives and what is worth pursuing.

Weigh the Pros vs. Cons of Our Financial Choices

Asking ourselves this question will help us determine whether this financial decision is worth it:

Will I regret making this decision in the future?

We can’t 100% know for sure how our future self will feel about our present financial choices. But previous decisions can help us determine how repeating those choices will make us feel in the future.

So, in my opinion, this is the best option to figure out how we should move forward right now.

Another way to look at this is to make a document with two columns. In the first column, put the questionable things you want to buy right now.

Then, in the second column, describe things you could do with that money that push you towards your goals instead of purchasing the items in the first column.

By comparing and contrasting the choices directly, we encourage ourselves to think about these decisions from a more logical perspective.

Get Emotional About Your Dreams

Emotion often drives us to make decisions. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as having emotions is human.

The trick is to understand the emotions that we experience and how they push us to make certain decisions, and harness those emotions to help us achieve our goals.

We can tap into the power of emotion to push us towards what we really want by getting emotional about our dreams.

Often this is a matter of focusing our energy and time on what we want to achieve and where we want to go in the future.

But you have to know what those dreams are and envision yourself experiencing the emotion of achieving those dreams to tap into this power. This process does the following:

  • Focuses our time and energy on what we want.
  • It helps us make choices that we will not regret in the future.
  • Refills our “energy bar” in pursuing what matters most to us.

Once you truly understand WHY you are acting the way you are, you can change HOW you act. By understanding the emotions and feelings behind our money decisions and using them to make better money choices, we can truly feel happy with the financial decisions we are making.

 

What methods have you used to tackle your financial problems, and what you want to achieve?