It's time to give your finances a spring cleaning. Start with a #FinancialSelfie #WomensMoney

It's time to give your finances a spring cleaning. Start with a #FinancialSelfie #WomensMoney

It's been almost three months since New Year's Eve. The first day of spring has passed, and holidays celebrating reflection and renewal are coming up.  It's the time of "spring cleaning". 

It's also time to get an honest picture of your personal financial condition. 

Here are some quick, cool, and fairly painless ways to get your financial status reviewed:

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Complete Roundup Of Women's Money Week Posts

Here's the complete roundup you've been waiting for.  These are all the posts that were contributed as part of Women's Money Week 2012.  Bookmark the list - you've got reading material to keep you busy for at least a few weeks!

Entrepreneurship and Making More Money

Featured on WMW

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Relationships and Money

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Savings and Investing

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Budgeting

Featured on WMW

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Money in Your Life

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Debt

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Goals and Taking Action

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5 Small Goals (with Huge Impact) You Can Make Today

Lofty goals are crucial to financial success. They motivate you and give you direction. But small goals should also be a part of your larger plan (because a large goal without incremental steps is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.) Here are five small goals you can set today that will lead to your financial success:

1) Goal: Stay Up to Date with Personal Finance

One of the best ways to achieve financial success is to keep up to date on what’s new in personal finance. Here are a few great ways to do that:

Read Blogs and Websites There are a ton of great personal finance blogs and websites out there. Women’s Money Week’s list of participants is a great place to start looking for fresh content to read. I’ll call your attention to Mom’s Money Jar (a shameless plug for my new site) and MoneyCrush (Jackie’s site.)

Subscribe to Newsletters

DailyWorth is a community of women who talk money, encouraging each other to earn more, save more, and spend smarter. They deliver practical tips, inspiring ideas and the occasional kick in the pants…daily to your inbox. Join them & subscribe for free today! Also, make sure to check out DailyWorth’s two newest editions: 1) CreateWorth: for the female entrepreneur who wants to talk revenue, profit and scale, and 2) MoreWorth: for the ambitious woman who strives for more success, more passion, and more purpose.

LearnVest, who we have a special $teal from today, also offers a daily newsletter and has a special section for moms.

I subscribe to both these newsletter as they complement each other well.

Subscribe to Magazines I like getting a physical magazine in the mail a few times a month. Every finance or business magazine has its own style - just like celebrity gossip magazines - so find a style that works for you. Here are my top choices:

1) Consumer Reports Moneyadviser (my top pick for everyone) 2) Entrepreneur (for the entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur) 3) Bloomberg Businessweek (all around interesting business magazine that’s not too business-y. They recently had a fascinating in-depth issue about pro-sports players and money.) 4) Money (lots of graphics, sort of like People magazine, except about money) 5) Kiplinger’s (for the day-trader)

Take away: Subscribe to 1 of the above today.

2) Goal: Increase Your Monthly Retirement Contribution by 1%

If you are currently contributing 5% of your salary to a retirement account, increase it to 6%. If you currently earn $50,000 a year, this small adjustment will be just over a dollar a day - but will quickly add up.

Take away: Stop by your HR office tomorrow and ask them to make the change.

3) Goal: Ask for a Raise

Negotiating your salary from the outset is always best, but if you didn’t when you started your job or it’s been awhile since you’ve gotten a raise, it’s time to ask again. Perhaps this sounds like a lofty goal. But it’s really not. With a few hours of preparation, you could walk away with a significant boost in salary. The worst that can happen? Your boss will say no - but she’ll have made a mental note and will likely reconsider at your next review.

Take away: Make a list of your current achievements. Conduct salary research for similar jobs to yours. Set up a meeting with your boss.

4) Goal: Negotiate a Lower Rate on One Recurring Bill

A good way to practice your negotiation skills and save money is to call and negotiate a lower rate on a recurring bill - like car insurance, cable, or internet.

Lifehacker has a great post from Ramit Sethi about how to negotiate lower rates on 5 of your bills (phone numbers included). Studies show that women are effective negotiators when negotiating on behalf of themselves, so get out their and bargain for a lower rate today.

Take away: Call one company today and lower your rate.

5) Goal: Talk to Your Significant Other about Money

Let’s face it - money is hard to talk about with our loved ones. It’s such a touchy subject that we spent a whole day of Women’s Money Week talking about relationships and money. But in order to have a good relationship, you must continually communicate about your finances.

Take away: Set up a financial date night. Order take-out. And get your financial planning on.

While these are all small goals they will help you achieve financial success. But also remember to establish both larger goals and create tiny habits for personal finance.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Understanding the Debt Snowball

The debt snowball method is a great way to pay off debt, especially if you have several different debts. Put simply, it's a plan that helps you focus on one debt at a time until that individual debt is G-O-N-E. Then you move on to the next one in the list, repeating the process until you can proudly shout "I'm debt free!".

Why It's Called a Debt Snowball

When something snowballs, it quickly gains momentum or increases as it goes. Naturally you don't want that to happen to the debts themselves! Your debt, of course, goes away as you work through it. A more appropriate name for this plan might be the payment snowball method, because it's the payments you send toward your debt that snowball that increase, but that name wouldn't be as catchy. So debt snowball it is.

Still, the snowball concept itself is what matters. Basically, that means the amount you're able to shovel toward your debt grows larger and larger as more and more money becomes available for debt reduction. (And more money becomes available each time you pay off a debt.)

What typically happens next is pretty cool. You get inspired by dramatic progress on your debt reduction, and so you start sending even more money in each month -- knocking out debts faster than you'd ever imagined you could. All of that's a big part of what makes this such a great way to get out of debt.

Setting Up Your Debt Snowball

Setting up your debt snowball is easy. Here's how to do it.

  1. Make a list of all your debts.

  2. Put them in the payoff order that you want. (The recommended order is usually from the smallest balance to largest balance, regardless of interest rate. There's a good reason for this, too. And I promise, it has nothing to do with this. But of course, there's nothing stopping you if you'd rather do something like putting the debt to your mother-in-law at the top of your list.)

  3. Make minimum payments to all the debts in your list, except for the first one. That becomes your target debt; the one you're going to pelt with payments until it's gone for good.

  4. Pay your minimum payment plus as much extra as you can scrounge up toward your target debt. (You can even send extra money as you get it -- just be sure to mark the extra payments as being for "principal only".)

  5. When you've wiped out your target debt, take the money you'd been sending to it and start sending it to the next unpaid debt in the list instead.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you've paid off every debt on your list.

  7. Celebrate!

Why It Works

The debt snowball works because it's highly motivating — especially if you organize your debts in the traditional lowest-balance-first order.

Use that order, and you'll typically make quick work of the first debt in your list. That's because instead of sending in (for example) a regular minimum payment of $20 and watching the balance decrease by $5 (because most of your payment went to interest), you'd send in $40 and see the balance go down by $25.

In other words, you make real progress.

You can see that it's working, and that your efforts make a difference. So you keep at it. By the time you get to the larger debts, you already know you can do it. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you're committed to getting to your debt-free destination.

It’s a great way to get out of debt. Get started today. You'll be glad you did.

Money In Your Twenties

Your 20's look very different today than they did even 10 years ago. Sure, you graduate from college and hopefully get out on your own. But these days, you're lucky to get a job, and you may be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. But there is hope. Here's what I wish I'd known about money in my 20's.

What I Wish I Knew in My Teens and College About Money in My 20's

Growing up, I was always the saver. While my brother spent his money on action figures and N64 games, I stashed away my allowance in my dresser and eventually opened a savings account. In high school, I did admin work part-time and dutifully deposited my paychecks in my bank account.

But in college I strayed from being fiscally responsible. With the freedom of living away from home, I was suddenly spending with little regard for the long-term value (or lack thereof) of my purchases. I stopped trying to save and even overdrew my bank account a couple of times. Only by $5, but still.

When I got a job waiting tables at Red Lobster (my uniform was a tableau of marine life - are you jealous?), I became responsible again. I stashed away my tips in my checking account. After I studied abroad in Russia my junior year, I traveled around Eastern Europe on the wages I earned that summer.

In early my teens, I knew the importance of saving; I had understood that since childhood. I just wish I had carried that knowledge with me to college instead of disregarding it.

What 20-Somethings Should Plan For (And Why)

In this economy, 20-somethings should plan for periods of unemployment -- both right out of college and between jobs. They should consider unpaid internships to get experience relevant to their desired line of work, and come to terms with the fact that they may have to work at a coffee shop or bookstore until they land a job.

20-somethings should save for travel because it's the perfect time to do it. When I was 24, I quit my job in DC to travel around Argentina and Belize for 4 months. I didn't have a job, kids, or a house and it was amazing. I had saved enough to travel for a year, but decided to spend some of it on travel and some on a house. You don't have to wait until you retire to travel. Do it now.

20-somethings should also know that student loan debt will attempt to swallow them, but they can fight back by making monthly payments and sticking to a long-term payment plan.

20-somethings should plan for expenses that seem far off, because they'll sneak up on you. Before you know it, you might want to get a car, buy a house, get married, or have a baby. All of those are massive expenses and the less debt you take on, the better. Your late 20's and early 30's are really just around the corner. Start saving now for expenses you'll have 5 or 10 years down the road.

Three Best Things You Can Do for Your Money in Your 20's

  1. Save. Put money in your retirement account, especially if your employer matches your contribution. If you don't, you're just throwing money away. Retirement may seem far off, but if you don't save for it in your 20's, you'll get behind. Save for the short-term, too, in a savings account. You don't have to deposit huge sums every month; every little bit gets you closer to your savings goals.

  2. Spend Thoughtfully. At my second job out of college in Washington, DC, I worked with a bunch of fresh-out-of-college 22-year-olds. Every day, they spent $12 on sandwiches and chips for lunch. They could have packed the same lunch at home for $2. They also went out to bars at least 4 nights/week and racked up debt with their $10 drinks. And -- surprise, surprise -- they were all drowning in student loan and credit card debt that they couldn't manage to pay each month. Make sure that doesn't happen to you by deciding what your priorities are, and spending in moderation on those things you really care about.

  3. Pay Off Your Debt. "Oops, I forgot to pay my credit card bill again! Ha," A seemingly responsible friend of mine said, amused. She didn't rush to pay it; she was simply making an observation. I was shocked. Didn't she realize she was destroying her credit score? That she'd have to pay ridiculous fees that could have easily been avoided? She did understand, but she had an air of early-20's disregard about her when it came to finances. Don't fall into the same trap. Pay off your debt -- little by little -- and don't miss payments. You'll be glad you did in the long run.

What do you wish you knew about money in your 20's?

What Women Need to Think About in Saving for Retirement: 4 Considerations

Planning for retirement is different for men then women. Here are 4 major considerations to keep in mind:

Life Expectancy

Women, on average, live longer than men. In the US, the preliminary data for 2007 from the CDC shows that for all races, women have a life expectancy of 80.4 years while men have an average life expectancy of 75.4 years. That means that chances are you need to save for an additional 5 years of retirement than a man in the same position would save for. For Black or African American women (as categorized by the CDC) the life expectancy is different by nearly 7 years.

How much more you have to save will vary by your current age, expected rate of return, and the expected rate of inflation. So, removing those variables for a moment, if Man A died today, Woman A who theoretically spends $45,000 a year during retirement, will live 5 more years. So, she will need to have saved $225,000 more than Man A. That’s a lot of money.

Being Out of the Workforce

Women are more likely than men to take time out of the workforce - be it for extended travel, to raise kids, or dare I say it - to be a housewife. I don’t judge. I think we all wish we could just up and leave the workforce at times. But, if you leave the workforce you’re giving up retirement savings. Your contribution towards social security will be less and your ability to commit to retirement savings will be less. Suba has an awesome post on the effects of being out of the workforce and here are some calculations she ran:

For example, if Sarah earns $100,000, maxes out her 401k and her company matches 100% up to 5% of her salary, every year she misses the opportunity to save $22,000. At the end of 5 years with 5% ROI, her investments would have been at ~$125,000. This $125, 000 nest egg, in 30 years with 5% ROI will have provided her with $540,242 and if the market is good and she averages 8%, her $125,000 will get her 1,257,832, which is otherwise lost!

The reality is that if you are considering leaving the workforce, you should have a backup plan for saving for retirement. Starting your own business is a great option. Spousal IRAs are another option for some women. Either way, before you leave your job, have a plan to recoup the retirement loss.

Earning Less

Women still earn less, dollar for dollar than men. How to this factor into retirement savings? There are two ways earning less money plays out in saving for retirement.

  1. Just Plain Earning Less
    If you earn $50,000 while your male co-worker earns $61,500, you have less money available to you can save for retirement. It’s that simple. If you both want to save $7,500 a year for retirement, it means you have to work harder to save the same amount of money. Either you have to spend less, earn more or the side, or both.

  2. Work Matching Programs
    Most workplaces that match or simply contribute some amount of money towards your retirement typically do so on a percentage basis. For instance, I worked somewhere where the company automatically contributed 10% of my salary towards a 401k plan. Another place matched, dollar-for-dollar 5% of my salary.

    What does this mean? If, at a 10% contribution rate, I earned $50,000 per year, while Joe earned $60,000 per year (for the same job), I would get $5,000 per year towards retirement while Joe would get $6,000 a year. Sure, after one year this might not be a lot of money. But at the end of 30 years (assume the salary didn’t change in 30 years and a 7% rate of return) I’d have $510,365.21 in retirement savings. How much would Joe have? $612,438.25. That’s a difference of over $102,000!

Divorce

Saving the most depressing topic for last - women also need to be conscious of the dreaded “D” word - “divorce.” No one likes to think about it, or plan for it, but the reality is that it happens. A lot. You should not take into account your significant other’s retirement savings in planning for your own retirement. If you can do that, you’re in the clear. Divorce disproportionally affects women. And the most prudent thing you can do is plan for your own retirement, as though you were going to be living it on your own, without anyone else’s assistance.

What else should women think about in saving for retirement? Have you planned for retirement taking these factors into account?

How Divorce Affects Your Money

Like death, divorce is a topic most of us would prefer to avoid. While divorce doesn't have the 100% occurrence rate that death does, the statistics are still sobering.

According to a paper published by the CDC on Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States, "The probability that the first marriages of women and men will survive to at least 10 years was 0.64 (or 64%) for women and 0.66 for men in 2002; the remainder of first marriages dissolved through divorce or separation within 10 years."

Put another way, that essentially means the probability of the first marriages ending in divorce prior to the 10-year mark was 36% for women. So if you're married or considering getting married someday, you quite literally can't afford to ignore the possibility that your marriage might not last.

Ignorance Starts Out as Bliss

Despite that, that's exactly what many of us do. We plan our weddings with the utmost care, worrying about relatively meaningless (but fun!) details like what types of flowers would go best with the bridesmaid dresses we've selected.

If someone dares to bring up the idea of a prenup, we bristle indignantly or blow them off -- unless we're very, very wealthy and already used to the idea.

We don't believe in divorce. Our love is so strong, it can withstand anything. Sometimes there's this fleeting, superstitious feeling that by even mentioning the fact that divorce exists, we are inviting it to happen -- so we quickly reassure ourselves and dive back into more pleasant stuff.

And I get all that. Really, I do. We're nesters, and nesting is a huge part of creating a household. And who wants to think about divorce when we're in love and/or not even married yet?

I sure didn't.

But I got divorced after being married for more than 10 years.

And it absolutely had an impact on my money.

Ignoring Divorce Doesn't Make You Divorce-Proof

The fact is, ignoring the possibility of divorce doesn't make you divorce-proof. And if you do end up being in a marriage that ends in divorce, it's a whole lot better to have done some simple things ahead of time that will at least leave you in a better situation than you might have been in otherwise.

Think of it like being on an airplane and learning about what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing. Preparation doesn't hurt, but it sure can help if you do need it!

Major Areas of Impact (And How to Safeguard Against Them)

There are three major areas where divorce can hit you especially hard money-wise if you haven't taken steps to protect yourself and your future. These are:

  • Assets (Including Retirement)
  • Standard of Living
  • Credit

If you've never thought about how to set up your finances to make sure you are protected in the event of divorce, don't worry -- you can still do things to protect yourself even if you're already married.

Your Assets (Including Retirement Funds)

Let's take a look at assets first, because those will likely be the one of the earliest things you'll deal with in the event of divorce.

Assets include everything that's worth something, no matter how little those things may be worth. Even if you rent and have no money at all set aside, you'll still have to divide up household goods so that they can be divided fairly. At a certain point in the process, you may be tempted to just let your ex have it all; either out of frustration, guilt, or just a desire to get the whole horribly emotional process over with. But doing so can be costly.

Even if you're only dividing up household junk, remember that you'll have to pay to replace what you need but no longer have. So sure, let go of the stupid things or the things that don't mean anything to you -- but don't get carried away. Protect yourself by making sure things come out reasonably fair. And if you do have more assets...

Know Your Stuff You should know exactly what your family's assets are -- even if you never get divorced. Make a list of them, together with your partner. After all, what if one of you dies? It's important to know what you've got.

Then make sure both your names are on any joint property. (And by make sure, I mean physically look at the deeds and verify that for a fact.) An estate planning attorney can advise you on the best way to hold property jointly for tax purposes. And yes, of course you trust your spouse. But we've all thought that we did something, only to find out later that we forgot. Your spouse could have made a mistake, or the paperwork could have been filed improperly. Trust, but verify.

If you're holding any property as separate property (such as an inheritance or business) make sure that is clearly indicated too -- and never, ever mingle those funds. You want your property to stay yours. Mingle and that probably won't happen, unless you end up with a very nice ex who either doesn't seek legal advice or ignores it.

Your Standard of Living

One of the most obvious effects of divorce is its impact on your standard of living. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, women's earnings were 77.4 percent of men's in 2010. Basically, women are typically paid less for the same work. Get divorced, and you have less money -- which means your standard of living absolutely has to drop if you don't want to end up deeply in debt or bankrupt.

What makes the issue even worse for women with children is that they often go from say, living in a two income, 4-person household with $60,000 a year to live on to a one income, 3-person household with $31,000 a year available to make ends meet. In other words, they have less money and it has to stretch further. Yes, you may receive child support, but let's face it, it's rarely going to cover enough of the actual expenses you'll have for your kids -- and that's IF your ex does pay it on time and in full.

The Child Trends Data Bank states that "Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1994 to 47 percent in 2007." Get divorced, and you may find yourself driving an old economy car and struggling to scrape by while your ex drives a flashy new car. And did you catch that "among custodial parents with a child support award" bit? It turns out that, according to data in the 2009 report on Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support, of the 13.7 million custodial parents in 2008, 46% of custodial parents didn't even have an agreement or court order about child support.

Protecting Yourself If you're happily married, it may seem weird to think about doing things now to protect your standard of living in case of divorce. But several of those are things you should think about doing anyway.

  1. If you're employed, make sure you're paid what you're worth by negotiating a higher salary and asking for raises regularly. Being paid what you're worth will at least give you a better base to start with if you do get divorced, and if you don't, it'll give you and your family more money to work with.

  2. And whether you work for an employer, yourself, or are a stay-at-home mom, make sure that you're aware of exactly what your family's financial situation is. Don't leave handling the money all to your spouse. Of course, one person may be more comfortable handling the money than the other, but even if that's not you, you should be aware of what your family's income, outgo, investments, and assets are. You need to be able to answer questions about your financial situation without having to refer to your spouse -- and that includes things like how much money you've each got socked away for retirement.

If You Do Get Divorced If you do go through the divorce process, the best thing you can do to retain as much of your standard of living as possible is to make sure you get everything you are entitled to.

I will tell you that it's hard to make yourself do that, and that I didn't do a good job of that. If you're like me, you may end up so emotionally exhausted by that point that you just want to get it over with. Whatever is easiest or most expedient ends up being what happens, but that isn't smart. Or you may not want to be seen as "the horrible ex wife" -- but guess what: unless your divorce is very amicable, you're likely to be painted that way no matter what you do. If you have children and you don't feel comfortable getting what you're entitled to for yourself, at least do it for them. There's a difference between being nice and being a doormat. Stand up for yourself.

Keep in mind too that getting your fair share isn't about being mean or a jerk. You shouldn't do that either. (And it'll cost you too, in lawyer's fees, time away from work to make multiple court appearances, and your emotional health.)

Get legal advice so that you know what you're entitled to in your area and in your situation, and then calmly make sure you get it. Be sure to ask about things like retirement funds and pensions -- you may be entitled to a portion of them, and you can get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to enforce that. You may also be able to stay on your spouse's health insurance plan for a certain length of time, and your children should be able to stay on it just as if you were still married.

You'll notice that it's rarely men who throw up their hands and say "Oh ok fine take it, I don't care." just to make the whole thing go away. (And I'll tell you a little secret: that doesn't really work anyway.) Make sure, also, that you don't end up taking all of the bad stuff along the way. Which brings me to...

Credit

Depending on your financial situation right now, getting divorced could either harm or help your credit.

Let's talk about the less likely scenario first: divorce improving your credit. That situation can arise if your spouse is very irresponsible with money but you're not. In that case, if you get divorced -- AND you take care of preexisting debts (like your mortgage, car payments, and credit card debt) correctly -- your credit will gradually improve post-divorce. That's because your credit score is based on your history with money, which is recorded in your credit report. Recent history generally counts for more than things that happened in the distant past.

And now for the more likely scenario: your credit score could sink like a rock. That can happen for a couple of reasons. First, while your score and your ex's score are not tied together directly, they will both be impacted by the loans that you both share. And while your divorce decree may say that one party or the other is responsible for Debt A or Debt B, the court isn't the party that you signed the credit agreement with. And make no mistake, a credit agreement is a contract. If you both signed it, you're both liable. So if your ex is assigned Debt A by the court and your name is on Debt A too, if it doesn't get paid that reflects badly on you too. The creditor will almost certainly also try to get the money from you if they can't get it from your ex. They don't care that you're divorced.

If your ex is bad with money, consider protecting yourself by taking on more of the debt in exchange for him giving you more of the assets. That way you can control what gets paid, and make sure it gets paid on time. But only do that if you can truly afford to do so. If your name is on the mortgage and your ex will continue to live there afterward, he'll need to refinance before the bank will remove your name from the mortgage. (And vice versa.) Do NOT sign a quit claim deed without having proof that your name has been removed from the mortgage. A quit claim deed is a way of giving up any claim to the property, but it doesn't release you from any responsibility for the mortgage. So you could end up having to pay for something that you don't own. If either of you do refinance to get the other's name off the mortgage, you'll probably have to meet at the mortgage company to have the quit claim deed signed.

Remember

The most important things to remember about divorce are: stay on top of your finances now, and get legal advice to make sure you're not hurting yourself during the process if you do get divorced. Getting legal advice doesn't have to mean that things will turn into some kind of court room drama with dramatic revelations and private eyes; it just means that you'll know what your options are, and how best to protect yourself. And staying on top of your finances is just plain smart no matter what your situation.

A Case For Maintaining Separate Accounts

Dave Ramsey, who is my personal finance guru, argues strongly for a joint checking account. He explains that money becomes one when you enter a marriage and that you become fully a team. While I completely agree with being a team, sometimes it’s not always best to throw your money in one pot. This is such a taboo subject, but I find it so utterly important for women to know that they have options other than a joint checking account. A separate checking account may not be for everyone, because let’s face it, personal finance is personal, but let’s consider the pros.

Household Expenses Can Still Be Shared -- Go Teamwork!

How many times has someone paid all of the bills and then grown resentful towards the other carefree partner in the relationship? "No one knows how hard I work to budget! No one understands how stressful it is to pay all of the bills on time!"

With separate checking accounts, you can now delegate household expenses. Each one of you can be responsible for paying certain household expenses to lessen the burden financially and mentally. Each partner is contributing and no one feels like they are doing more work than the other one.

A Separate Checking Account Forces You to Be Responsible

It’s quite easy to slack off on personal money management when you have a joint checking account. Don’t feel like balancing the check book? Oh, let the other person do it. Running low on funds to spend? Oh, your partner is getting paid this Friday.

A lot of the time, we don’t communicate between our partners how we’re handling money -- which happens to be the number one reason couples divorce. How many times have you been upset because your partner has bought something without your consent, out of "your money?"

Well, when you have a combined checking account; it’s technically money belonging to the both of you. When you have a separate account, you have to take responsibility for your actions and spending. You are responsible for how your money is being spent on your behalf.

A Sense of Relief

With you being in charge of your money, it brings about a sense of relief. No longer do you have to worry about someone spending money on something you find of little to no value. You no longer have to worry if there is enough in your account to cover items you might need. Your partner does not always agree on what you’re going to spend your money on and vice versa.

This helps relieve some of that stress and analyzing of where every penny of their money is going. If bills are being paid and the financial goals you may have as a couple are being met, there is no reason to judge what the other person is spending their fun money on.

This can also be a relief if someone you love has a spending problem but you still want peace of mind that there will be money left over for you.

Separate Checking Accounts Are For Different Financial Pages

Sometimes, couples are not always on the same financial page. I was a spender and an impulse shopper, while my fiancée was a saver when we first met.

It was hard for me to fathom how he could have so much in his checking account and not help me for what I thought I needed, like money for tuition and a new car. To him, it was hard for him to fathom where all of my money was going while he paid living expenses for us and to help pay more for a nicer car when I already had enough to buy a decent one. We were on different financial pages. Now, we’re getting there but slow and steady does win the race.

Husband has a bad habit of spending money while you like to save? Separate checking accounts may be just the thing to help you guys out.

Fairy Tales Are Nice, But Let’s Consider The Reality

This is the most important reason I feel women need their own checking accounts, yet is probably the most negative. Although I would love to believe that everyone is going to have a fairy tale ending, that is often farther from the truth for a lot of us.

All women should be prepared and financially comfortable just in case something should happen to their partner via a death, separation or an emergency that perhaps leaves their partner unable to work. Financial security does wonders for the mind.

Also, being independent of your partner might be worth more than you realize it could be. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard of women staying in a situation because they felt that had nowhere else to go, or in some cases, no means. You should never allow yourself to be treated poorly, and if you stay because of not having the financial means to leave, it makes you more depressed. You should be able to get up and go.

Conclusion

I’m not saying separate accounts are for everyone but I’ve had a separate account for my entire relationship and I feel comfortable. Some might argue that having a separate account is preparing for the worst, but I can honestly say for me, it’s helped me grow as a person and become a financially responsible adult.

I know where my money is going, I know I’m contributing to our household and I’m still able to work on financial goals that pertain to me at this time. I would never rule out opening a joint account with my significant other, but I would still keep my separate account with some of my cash flow kept in there for me. No one is going to take care of you unless you take care of yourself first.

A Case Against Separate Accounts: 7 Reasons Shared Accounts Are Better

There are a lot of great reasons to have separate accounts, but they are not for every relationship. In fact, I’d argue that most couples would be best with only shared accounts. Here are 7 reasons why. (Note that in this post I use the term “significant other” interchangeably with “spouse.” When I use the phrase “significant other” I really mean: extremely super significant other - such as a partner, spouse, or whichever term you use to describe the person you’ve made a commitment to spend the rest of your life with.  By “significant other” I don’t mean “whatever person you’re randomly dating who you aren’t 100% sure about.”)

Having Separate Accounts is Against the Values that Relationships Are Built On

What is a relationship built on? Trust, honesty, respect.  Sharing an account with your significant other shows that you respect their financial choices.  You’re not going to berate them for stopping at the Diary Queen on the way home because you respect them enough to allow them to make purchases that you don’t have to agree with 100%.

It also promotes trust and honesty.  Let’s say that your spouse does prefer that ice cream run on the way home from work. Would you rather he hid it from you? Of course not.  Relationships are built on trust, honesty, respect and sharing an account upholds these values. When you share an bank account, you’re sharing all the intimate details of your life - just like you should in a relationship.

Shared Accounts Ensure a 100% Shared Approach

Just because a shared account means that you’re 100% privy to the other person’s purchases, doesn’t mean you have to be 100% on the same page about everything.  It just means that you have to be willing to share. Remember when you were little and you had to share your toys with your siblings and friends?  None of us actually liked sharing - we wanted to keep what was “ours”. But, sharing and a willingness to compromise shows that you love and care for someone.

 communication

communication

Shared Accounts Promote Communication

Let’s say your spouse is stopping for ice cream every day on his way home from work. It’s better to know now, and to be able to sit down and talk about it, rather than months later, discovering the stash of napkins in the glove compartment and finally understanding why he was never hungry when he got home from work.

In order to be successful at sharing an account, you have to be successful at communicating. And when you’re successful at communicating you’re going to have a better relationship.

It’s Less to Keep Track Of

When you have two (or three or four) accounts, that’s a lot to keep track of. If you’re splitting the bills you each have to do your own accounting - which takes twice as much work.

One Person Can Take the Reins

Usually in a relationship, one person prefers to do accounting and math and budgeting and all that fun stuff. Why not let that person take the reins? My spouse hates paying the bills. But me, I sort of like it. Same with travel planning and doing things like bidding on Priceline - I’d much rather take care of all of that than she would. There’s no point making her do something she doesn’t like and to be honest, isn’t as good at.  But,this doesn’t mean you should give up complete control.  God forbid something would happen to the primary financial manager or you two split up; both people need to be aware of the full financial picture.

If There’s an Emergency (or Worse Yet, Death) Life Gets Complicated

Let’s say for a second, that one of you gets in a horrific accident or even dies. If the account is not a joint account the only way you will be able to access your significant other’s money is by going to court. A joint account avoids probate. But a separate account? That will have to be probated by the court in order for you to access the money. And depending where you live, probate may be a long, complicated, and expensive process.

You’ll Both Be Held in Check

Does one of you overspend on books and the other on going out for lunch? Having someone else looking over your should at every financial decision can help keep these bad habits in check. Going back to the communication point, above, you and your significant other can discuss your goals, and your strengths and weaknesses. We all have our spending weaknesses and getting help from someone else leads to improvement. You never want this “looking over your shoulder” to get controlling or abusive, but a little bit of accountability is always a good thing.

Having a shared account isn’t for every couple. Any of the reasons listed above can get carried too far. For instance, too much accountability can become abusive. And you don’t want to be talking about money every night of the week. You also never want to give up complete control of your finances. But, for many, if not most couples a shared account makes both sense and cents.

Ask Upfront: Negotiate a Higher Salary and Earn More Money

Negotiate a higher salary, and you'll earn more money over both the short and long term. But according to Women Don’t Ask:

  • Women don’t like to negotiate. In surveys, 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.

  • Women suffer when they don’t negotiate. In one study, eight times as many men as women graduating with master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon negotiated their salaries. The men who negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by an average of 7.4 percent, or about $4,000. Another study calculated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.

  • Women have lower expectations and lack knowledge of their worth. Women report salary expectations between 3 and 32 percent lower than those of men for the same jobs; men expect to earn 13 percent more than women during their first year of full-time work and 32 percent more at their career peaks.

But It Doesn't Have to Be That Way

If you’ve ever been on an interview and held your breath until the final offer only to be disappointed, please, read on.

One of the most frustrating aspects about the job hunt has to be hoping that they will make an offer commensurate with your worth. Not only your worth but taking into consideration what the company has actually budgeted for the position. But how do you know the amount actually budgeted for the position?

You Ask!

Men ask for what they want twice as often as women do and initiate negotiation four times more. Men, socialized in a “scrappier paradigm,” learn to pursue and energize their goals at work and home. The two key elements are control and recognizing opportunity.

– Amazon Review, “Women Don’t Ask

Here’s Your Opportunity! Take Control!

For example, let’s say your current salary is $55k and market salary for your position is actually $65k.

The company you plan to interview with budgeted the position between $65k-75k but negotiates between $58k-$60k with you. I don’t know about you but that would grind my nerves.

The point? Play the game and stop wasting your own time by waiting until the last minute to find out the salary being offered for the position.

Ask For The Salary Range Upfront

  1. Break The Rules: Show Me Yours And I’ll Show You Mine. Ask upfront for the budgeted range for the position during the first phone call with the recruiting manager. This way you get them to break one of the first rules of salary negotiation. This seems innocent upfront because after all, they don’t know if they will make you an offer but you get this information ahead of time. You get them to give you their number first and you know whether it is worth your time to interview and jump through hoops for the position.

  2. Waste Less Time. You waste less time by doing this during the first call with the HR person/recruiter. What is the point of interviewing for a position slated to pay you 5-10% less than what you’re paying now? This also holds them to their word. Get them to name a range and you gain the advantage when it’s time for negotiations. However, if you’re unemployed and desperate for work, then you may want to take it no matter the offer.

  3. You Have The Advantage. Take It. They want you, remember? There is no unwritten rule that says you can’t ask first before you interview. It actually makes more sense to do so rather than being disappointed and exploited in the end when it’s time to talk money.

  4. Maintain salary integrity. Taking a job making less than what you’re paying now shoots you in the foot down the line. During this economy it is understandable why employers may low ball potential employees, but don’t give them a reason by taking a lower salary now. Why? A future employer may look at your salary history and see that you took less than what you were making previously and offer you less thinking you’d be willing to take a hit “for the team.”

Yes, this goes against the grain in salary negotiations, but really, how many of you have gone the safe route only to be disappointed? You have bills to pay and if you know ahead of time the market range and budget for the position you walk in informed with a stiletto up on the negotiations.

More tips

  1. Research your market. Get on LinkedIn and survey your colleagues to determine actual market salary ranges for your desired position.

  2. Find a mentor in your field. They can often shed light on the field and give you more to think about when interviewing for a position. Their experience translates into leverage for you when walking into an interview.

  3. Be confident. Act as though you don't need the position. Positioning yourself as desperate for the job in order to be liked puts you in a position to get low-balled. You'll hate yourself for it when you see your first paycheck.

  4. Sell yourself. Write your resume and cover letter tailored specifically for the position. If you can't do this then don't apply. If you were the hiring manager, would you hire you based on your cover letter? If you have to stretch the truth to apply then don't bother applying.

Have you ever asked about the salary range upfront before interviewing? How did that go over with the recruiter? Did you eventually get the job? Let us know in the comments!

19 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 19 things I wish I knew before I started my own business. 1. Starting a Business is Really Easy You don’t need anything fancy to start a business. You don’t need start-up capital. You don’t need an office. You don’t need a website. Or even your own domain name. You don’t need business cards. You don’t need a bank account. You can just start working.

2. Find Someone Who Will Buy Your Product or Service (Before You Do Anything Else) The only thing you need to start a business is someone to buy your product or service. And then you need the ability to provide that product or service. It’s that simple.

3. Don’t Google for Answers Google can serve up a lot of great tips about how to start a business. But you can waste an enormous amount of time reading posts about whether your business should be an S Corp or an LLC. But guess what? None of these posts are tailored to your business. Don’t waste your time Googling.

4. Instead Visit the Library A better starting point for forming your own business is the library. The small business section of the library has a book for nearly every question you want the answer to and if you can’t find something, the librarians will help you.

5. Or Take People to Lunch Taking a business owner to lunch and asking them questions about how they got their business idea, found their first client, or marketed their first product will teach you more than you could have learned from 25 hours on Google or 8 hours reading a book. Any business owner will do. Then, once you’ve met with them, ask for more business owners who they might suggest reaching out to based on your business idea.

6. SCORE SCORE is a non-profit that offers free small business advice. There are chapters all over the country and the mentors are committed to helping you with your business. SCORE is an incredible resource that every person starting a business should take advantage of.

7. The Government Wants to Help You This may come as a shock, but local, state, and federal resources for small business owners are actually quite helpful. Contact your Secretary of State’s office and ask them for assistance -- they’ll point you in the right direction.

8. You Don’t Need Business Cards There are lots of things that you think you need to run a business. And lots of things other people will tell you you need. But, the best thing to do is to wait until someone actually says “do you have [____]?” until you go out and get that thing.

9. Except When You Do Of course, there are times when you do need [____] before you can proceed. Most of the time whatever that thing is will be a minor hiccup. “I’m sorry, I must have run out of business cards” usually works. But, occasionally you’ll run into a show-stopping disaster -- e.g. make sure you get your USDA and government permits before you close one food processing facility and open another. The best way to avoid these show-stoppers? Talk to people who have been there before and ask them “what do you wish you knew before starting your business in this field?”

10. Figure Out If You Have More Time Than Money or More Money Than Time Most people who are starting their own business for the first time have more time than money. But some people have money to throw at their new business idea, but no time to commit to it. Figure out which one you are.

11. Then Act Accordingly Once you know if you’re a “more money than time” or “more time than money” person, act like it. Don’t hire someone as a virtual assistant if you don’t yet have enough work to pay them. Likewise, do hire someone to reply to your emails if you don’t have the time to respond yourself.

12. Have a Strategic Plan Every business should have a plan. You should have some goals for where you want your business to be in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, and even further out. And you should have a plan of how to get there.

13. But Be Willing to Change Your Plan Your business will never go according to plan. That’s just the way business (and life) works. The best thing you can do is be flexible. Look for opportunities. And make changes as needed.

14. PO Boxes and Google Voice Are Your Friends Once you actually form some sort of business, you’re going to have to put your address and phone number in a lot of places. As a woman, I was concerned about letting everyone know exactly where to reach me. Thankfully, PO boxes are cheap. And with Google Voice you get your own phone number - which you can forward to your cell phone - for free.

15. Get a Partner (Sometimes) Having a business partner can greatly improve business. It increases accountability. It increases your reach. It increases the amount of work you can get done. If you think a business partner might help you, get one.

16. But Choose Your Partner Carefully Once you start working with someone you’ve formed a Partnership. That’s a capital “P” because Partnerships are legal entities. But, you don’t need any legal documents. Partnerships just happen. They happen when you start working with someone. And they are controlled by all sorts of state laws which may be very disadvantageous to you and your business. So, tread carefully when working with someone else.

17. Get a Good Lawyer Once you start making money with your business (or before you start making money if you’re working with a partner), you’ll need a lawyer. A good business lawyer can quickly and efficiently help you figure out everything you need to know. They not only help ensure you’re running your business in compliance with the law, but they’ll help prevent major problems before they would have otherwise occurred.

18. And a Good Accountant Besides a lawyer, you’ll want an accountant on your team. Accountants aren’t nearly as expensive as you might expect. And they’ll save you hassle and money when it comes tax time.

19. Most Businesses Fail, So Have Fun We all hear the statistics about how most small business owners don’t “succeed” their first go round. Success is defined in different ways by different people - so don’t let the statistics get you down. But the reality is that things might not work out, so you might as well enjoy the process along the way.

What do you wish you knew before starting a business?