First, let me introduce you to The Feminist Financial Handbook, written by yours truly! If you’re tired of reading money books that pretend like you’re already rich — or ignore the kyriarchal economic systems we all live under — this is the book for you. Here are some more in-depth reviews of The Feminist Financial Handbook.
That’s an understatement. And I know a lot of you are right there with me.
One of the things that helps me get through times like these is practicing gratitude. Even when the world is a steaming hot pile of garbage.
So today, at the conclusion of a particularly difficult year and what I hope is the dawn of a much, much better one, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the good things that happened between the summers of 2021 and 2022.
Some of these things are Femme Frugality adjacent. Some of them are totally unrelated wins and accomplishments of my peers in the PF space.
All of them have brought me great joy. I hope they bring a smile to your face, too.
1. Mom Autism Money launched & nominated for awards.
Joyce Marrero and I launched a podcast! Mom Autism Money has a pretty self-explanatory name: We talk about personal finance for parents of kids on the spectrum.
We’ve gotten to speak with some pretty amazing guests, and have covered topics you don’t often hear talked about in the personal finance space, like:
We’ll be launching Season 3 sometime this Fall, so it’s worth subscribing now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you listen to podcasts. That way you’ll automatically be updated when we start releasing new episodes.
This year I was introduced to a new-to-me content creator, Shalese Heard, AKA the Autistic Travel Goddess. And I’m so glad I was.
Shalese primarily covers travel content. But within that, there’s a whole lot of personal finance content. Because what better way to help you travel the world than establishing some financial freedom for yourself?
Shalese has used tons of creative and outside-the-box ways to fund her travels, which we did discuss a good bit on an episode of Mom Autism Money.
She’s had a TON of wins this past year, from speaking at huge conferences to launching new courses. Be sure to keep up with the latest from Shalese on Instagram and YouTube.
3. Pauline got her CFP.
Pauline and me in Dallas back in 2017. I need to get better about taking pictures with people when we spend time together!
My good friend Pauline from Reach Financial Independence spent much of the first part of the pandemic studying away to earn her CFP. And in December, she got it!
Pauline is now using her CFP to work with active duty military members, and doing some charity work on the side.
Pauline is one of the most money-savvy people I know. She’s found incredible ways to use her finances to explore the globe, and has made sure to also use her wealth to support others in all of her communities along the way.
She’s a wonderful, compassionate person, a personal finance genius, and someone you’re always glad to see succeed.
4. Nicole Lynn Perry continued to change the world in new capacities.
I had an opportunity to chat with Nicole Lynn Perry this year. You probably remember Nicole’s story from The Feminist Financial Handbook. At the time the book was published, she had just secured a job at Amazon. Which was great.
But in the time since, even better things have come her way. Nicole has been working as a paralegal and mitigation specialist for the Lavender Rights Project out of Seattle. This year, her advocacy work and insights have been featured in many major publications, like the Washington Post.
I continue to be impressed by and grateful for all of the change she makes in the world — whether it was her work back in Texas or in her new role in Seattle.
If you’re an editor or writer and want to get in touch with Nicole for like media features, I’d be happy to put you in touch.
5. Rebecca Neale received the Nery Arrano Award.
I have so much respect for Rebecca not only because she’s a talented, skilled attorney, but also because of her phenomenal character as a human being.
This year, the head of Bedford Family Lawyer received the Nery Arrano award for pro bono work from the Women’s Bar Foundation of Massachusetts.
I have witnessed Rebecca dedicate so much of her career to survivors of domestic violence. I have seen her raise her voice to bring awareness to economic abuse, which almost always accompanies these cases.
It is so nice to see someone who does so much good being honored for their work.
I met Kiersten Saunders of Rich & Regular in the Spring of 2019, and her perspective on FIRE (financial independence/retire early) blew my mind. I was instantly impressed and wanted to learn ALL THE THINGS from her.
Her approach to FI wasn’t about hustling away your 30s and giving up all the luxuries, but rather about leveraging corporate systems — and then walking away from them — in order to buy back more of your life for yourself. It was also about decidedly making these goals less exclusively white.
This year, she and her husband Julien released the book Cashing Out, which covers all those topics and more. The book teaches you how to quit your job within 15 years without burning yourself out along the way.
They’ve been featured on Good Morning America, Marketwatch, and had a super successful book tour. (More dates may be added — keep up here so you don’t miss one in a city near you!)
I am so happy to see Julien and Kiersten get so much attention for their phenomenal work, and happy for all of us that we get to learn from them with this new tome.
It’s a funny, engaging way to learn about personal finance, especially if you’re new to the investing side of the equation. It takes complex topics and breaks them down in a way that will actually keep you turning the pages rather than falling asleep. Hilarious analogies and pop culture references abound!
Emily and Joe have had a lot of success with this book, and you LOVE to see it.
In fact, both Stacked and Cashing Out are both finalists for Best New Personal Personal Finance Book from the Plutus Awards.
8. Jackie Cummings Koski was featured on Rachael Ray.
Jackie‘s story, which she generously shared in The Feminist Financial Handbook, is so inspiring. It shows how you don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire to become a millionaire. You can retire early without sacrificing ALL the things, even if you make an average income.
One of her long-term goals has been taking the time to focus on giving back with her knowledge, and it’s been really cool to see her achieve this in such big ways over the past year!
I know I’m not the only one who missed J in his absence. He’s done so much to further the accessibility of financial literacy education. He also does so much to give back to the community. If you think the stuff he posts on his blog is kind, you would be so impressed by the goodness he shares with the world when no one is looking. And by the fact that he never mentions it.
Having him back is cause for rejoice.
10. Shanté became a screenwriter for PBS.
Last Fall, Shanté’s music video was featured at the Plutus Awards!
And her artistic vision and successes didn’t end there. This year, she became a screenwriter for the PBS show Two Cents. Check it out here! New episodes are forthcoming.
Joyce and I were lucky to sit down with Shanté for an episode of Mom Autism Money this year, too. She’s such a brilliant educator, able to break down even the most super complex financial topics and turn them into digestible lessons. If you aren’t already a member of her Financial Common Cents community, you’ll want to change that fast.
11. Personal finance and public policy intersected at Plutus Voices Philly.
I was honored to speak at Plutus Voices Philly this year alongside the brilliant Courtney Richardson.
We talked about the different ways public policy and personal finance intersect. We touched on some pretty deep and important topics, and I’m hoping to have a video for you all soon.
I have been taking extra care with COVID, so this trip was something that was carefully considered and planned out. I encourage you to be COVID safe, too. For others, if not for yourself.
It was so nice to see old friends again after so long. Especially such compassionate and inspiring ones like Harlan of the Plutus Foundation, Miranda of the Plutus Foundation and the Freelance Writer Academy(<— for any of you looking to break into that field), and Jason Vitug of Phroogal, the YOLO book, and various other financial literacy projects.
It was also really great to meet new people in real life, like Courtney. Who, have I mentioned? Is absolutely brilliant across so many domains. I have learned so much from her, especially in recent months, and I’d highly recommend following along so you can learn from her, too.
I found out that Jason is coming out with another book soon, so be sure to follow him to stay on top of that news!
What good things have happened to you this year?
Obviously, more than 11 happy things happened in the world of personal finance this year. Whether you’re a writer, media producer, or just an individual who paid off the last of their debt this year, I want to hear all about it!
Leave your win or someone else’s win that brought you joy in the comments. Or @ me on social media.
The world can feel so tenuous lately. Let’s point out the things that are definitively celebratory.
Not to ignore the bad. But to give ourselves one, brief moment to recognize the good.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for somewhere to give this Giving Tuesday?
After the holiday weekend where we all took a moment to contemplate our gratitude, it may be a good moment to contemplate something else: That the Thanksgiving holiday narrative many of us white people grew up with was distorted, and very far from the truth.
The holiday, and much of our country, was built upon exploitation, colonialism and continued oppression.
Hálito Im a black native trying to get into medical school. I need help paying for my medical college admissions test because I’m not working rn due to studying. My cashapp and Venmo is TaySBB thank you!
Diné Mama to 2 & I’ve been struggling to make ends meet due to making sure my Dad gets his meds & see the doctors
I have no money to pay for my own rent,car note,bills so
Any help is appreciated for my kids+I 🙏🏽
↪ Vnmo me @ Raven-7 pic.twitter.com/P8kgskiZHZ
Halito! 🦃 i’m an NB chahta living ion tribal land needing help with some basic necessities this thanksgiving and #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth like groceries and bill money since we used almost all of it to feed our 75+ size family. yakoke 💛https://t.co/7vaDMSC9I4
This is for my parents, they’ve been slowly recovering from Covid financially and my Dad has been making great improvements health wise but has kidney failure 💔
I’m hoping they reach their goal of $5k today.
Ahéhee for the help!https://t.co/fkvVaRr3Cy
Hello! I am a native mom of 2 💙 i also am a caregiver to my mom w MS. We are a family of 5 & could use help w bills & groceries 💕 Venmo: Bebaamaazhidikwe-1 Cashapp: $bebaamaazhidikwe PayPal: https://t.co/QXSHtJTMKv
Hello! I’m C, and I’m hoping today I’ll finally raise the funds to buy myself a bed! I haven’t had one of my own since I was fifteen and it’d be nice to have one on chronic pain days and colder days since winter is coming. Anything helps! Thank you! https://t.co/RoJwVyuYY7
Tay now needs $311 to make her goal of finally getting housed fir the first time in years! Don*te literally anything. The sooner and more Tay received, the more likely she’ll be housed next month! v: Taliyah-DeCoteau
Sucks I have to drive thro 3 different cities just get proper dental care I’ll be raising money again for an Uber as I will be sedated for the tooth extraction and won’t be able to take public transportation afterhttps://t.co/EqaECGgUyE
I’m accepting emergency commissions too
Single native mama out on the rez. My baby just turned 1 so she eats a ton, I need to save up for oral surgery in Phoenix, catch up on bills so anything helps and is greatly appreciated thank cashapp $savagegume414 https://t.co/TBN79ywl5h
Hi everyone, I made a fundraiser to help me train my service dog. Since thanksgiving is tomorrow it would be great if some settlers with resources could contribute to helping me 💖 If you can’t help please b00st! https://t.co/Cc4Giuz4AH
I love this one for weddings. It makes me think about other areas of my life as well, such as my partnership with Joyce on the podcast. We probably couldn’t do it alone, but together, we can both tackle the work so much more quickly!
6. You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
This can apply to so many areas of life, but absolutely personal finances. You’ll never reach your goal if you just vaguely daydream about it; you have to take action. Only then can you see your goals and dreams fulfilled.
7. Life is like a cup of tea. It’s all in how you make it.