Category Archives: Money Management

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?

Smart Ways To Pay Less On Your Health Care Costs

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

woman's hand holding a stack of cloth facemasks of various colors.

It’s no secret that health care costs can be astronomical. Whether you require chronic medications and treatments, have an upcoming major or minor surgery, or are only devoted to your annual check-up, health care is a concerning expense for just about everyone.

There are a few smart ways that you can effectively reduce your spending on health care needs.

Opt For The Right Health Insurance Plan

Your choice of health insurance plan will be one of the most significant factors in your overall health care costs.

Opting for just any plan may have you overspending on out-of-pocket expenses. For example, if the plan doesn’t adequately cover your medications, a plan with a lower premium could actually end up being more expensive as you shell money out of pocket every month.

Understand How Your Health Insurance Works

One of the biggest mistakes that most people make when using their health insurance to cover health care costs is not fully understanding how their plan works.

Visiting a healthcare practitioner outside of your provider network may cost you out of pocket, depending on the insurer.

Purchasing OTC medications at the checkout line instead of at the pharmacy can also sometimes cost you money. Yes, some health insurance plans cover specific OTCs when you have a prescription!

Instead of assuming what your health insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, you should assess how your insurance coverage works. You can find out more about health insurance –especially Medicare and Medicaid — at HelpAdvisor.

Update Your Info on Healthcare.gov

If you have an ACA — otherwise known as Obamacare — health insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to update income changes on Healthcare.gov or via your state’s official healthcare marketplace website.

It’s an especially great idea right now because the American Rescue Plan changed a lot about ACA plans in 2021. You might not even have to pay any premiums on certain plans, and almost everyone will experience a steep reduction in premium charges when they update their information.

Seek Out Financial Assistance Programs

If your medical provider is part of a nonprofit hospital system, they are legally required to offer financial assistance programs. These programs are available to the insured and uninsured.

While they do come with income limits, some programs are actually quite generous; even if you don’t consider yourself ‘poor,’ you may qualify under your hospital’s program, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in bills.

Never Skip Your Regular Checkup

Skipping your regular check-up or cancer screenings can be a massive healthcare mistake, as these check-ups give your doctor a baseline for healthy and can help them identify new problems early — before they get worse.

Even though you may sometimes feel as though a regular check-up is not essential as you don’t feel the signs of any ailments, it is best to devote yourself to these as allowing certain conditions to worsen will cost you more later down the line.

 

Health care is essential for everyone, even those who are considered to be in excellent health. When it comes to saving on your health care costs, it is essential to find ways to save without compromising your health.

Therefore, skipping check-ups or avoiding necessary medications is not the answer if you can at all help it, as these decisions will cost you more later on. Keeping yourself in good health and finding the right insurance plan while using your insurance correctly are the best ways to spend less on your health care costs without compromising your health and well-being.

 

May 2021 Money News

Woman's hands holding up a bouquet of flowers shaped like a heart, mostly matching the colors of the rainbow. Pink background. Ladybugs crawling up woman's right wrist and hand.

Happy May, friends!

Can you believe we’re here already?

I have a couple bits of super exciting news here for Femme Frugality, but I can’t share them just yet. Be sure to subscribe to the email list to stay up to date on the latest!

In the meantime, there’s plenty of money news outside this little corner of the universe. Let’s talk about some of it.

Taxes

We’ve talked about taxes for the past couple months. Things keep getting better!

The first think you should know is that the deadline to file your 2020 taxes is May 17, 2021. As in this coming Monday.

However, if you’re receiving a refund and you’re stressed TF out because life is just too much right now, you can breathe a little easier. You have up to three years to file your 2020 tax returns before you’re considered ineligible for your refund.

But I STRONGLY encourage you to file by Monday.

Because here’s the thing:

If the past year has been terrible for your personal economy, the government probably owes  you money that you could use TODAY. Potentially a lot of money. Potentially even if you didn’t have a job through this mess.

Finally get access to your stimulus payments.

Filing your taxes also makes it way easier to get access to stimulus payments. For example, let’s say you didn’t file in 2019. You might have missed out on multiple stimulus payments.

The first two will be accounted for in your 2020 tax return.

The IRS should be able to issue you the third payment after you file your 2020 taxes.

The easiest way to make this happen is to set your refund up for direct deposit into your personal bank account — one that you don’t plan on closing any time in the near future.

Get access to those monthly child tax credit payments come July.

The government has estimated that it will preemptively issue portions of the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year via direct payments to families starting in July.

To get access to these direct payments, the IRS will need to have your information on hand. Filing by the tax deadline makes that more likely to happen.

Expanded Child Tax Credits and Huge Refund for the Self-Employed

Over the past couple months, we’ve talked about a lot of different tax credits that are unique to this pandemic we’re living through. These credits can end up adding up to tens upon tens of thousands of dollars owed to you by the IRS — even if you’re just an ordinary person.

In March, we covered a tax credit that can make a huge difference for the self-employed.

In April, we briefly discussed:

  • The first $10,200 you received in unemployment in 2020 no longer counts as taxable income.
  • There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax credit that both make it larger and make a larger portion of it refundable.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit has also become refundable, larger and claimable for an additional year.
  • There are BIG changes to premium credits for those who pay for an ACA health insurance plan. It is extremely likely that these changes work in your favor no matter how much or how little money you make, and can result in a larger tax refund or lower overall tax burden. Learn more here.

All that giving you did last year? It counts for once.

Last year, a lot of us found ourselves digging into our pockets to support anyone who was doing the hard work of making our chaotic world a better place.

Normally, if you don’t itemize, donations to 501(c)(3) orgnaizations don’t mean much. The standard deduction for a head of household is $18,800, and for those married filing jointly it’s $25,100.

Most American families simply don’t make enough money to justify itemizing. The standard deduction is more than all their itemized deductions — including charitable giving — so there’s no point in itemizing.

However, this year, if you gave to a 501(c)(3), you can deduct those charitable donations beyond the standard deduction. The most you can claim is $300 on top of the standard deduction, and you’ve got to have receipts to back up your claim.

You can file your taxes for free.

For real.

I don’t go into those expensive, inexperienced big-box places. Even in times of non-pandemic.

Most people can file their taxes for free online all by themselves. Here are a bunch of options.

If you have a complicated tax situation, invest in an accredited CPA.

Help for Pittsburgh

If you’re in Allegheny County, there is still an Emergency Rental Assistance Program where you can apply for help with back rent.

Just a couple days ago, the City of Pittsburgh specifically launched a program that offers free legal services to those facing housing challenges a la eviction for renters and foreclosure for homeowners.

A portion of the funding for this program is specifically set aside for residents who are undocumented or are otherwise ineligible for legal services through other programs.

The best way to get a handle on a potential eviction situation is to get legal assistance as early on as you can.

However, if you already found yourself on the other side of eviction, we talked about some steps you can take to improve your situation last month.