Thursday, February 26, 2009

College Stimulus Plan

New benefits for college students which include an increase in Pell Grants and a higher education tax credit. Maybe this is the time to go back to school and learn new a school or further develop and existing one?



News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STIMULUS PLAN OPENS COLLEGE DOORS TO MORE STUDENTS AND MAKES HIGHER EDUCATION MORE ACCESSIBLE

“And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
—President Barack Obama, Tuesday, February 24, 2008

IMMEDIATE RELEASE—During his address to Congress Tuesday evening, President Obama urged Americans to lead the world as the country with the largest proportion of college graduates by 2020. These remarks came after the recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (also known as the Stimulus Plan), which includes two provisions that will provide immediate impact and benefit to college students — an increase in Pell Grants and a higher education tax credit.

According to George Fogel, Rasmussen College, Inc. Vice President of Compliance and Financial Services, the new stimulus plan will benefit college students directly in several ways.

“The stimulus plan includes a $17 billion of additional funding for Pell, which increases the amount that an individual student may receive. Beginning July 2009, students will be eligible for up to $5,350 per academic year, which is up from $4,731. Additionally, in July 2010, Pell will go up again to a maximum of $5,550,” Fogel said.

Fogel explained the Higher Education Tax Credit as a tax credit plan that gives students a $2,500 tax credit every year for paid tuition, which is 40 percent refundable.

“The stimulus plan is opening doors to people who never thought they could afford to go to college,” Fogel said. “President Obama is making education more accessible to Americans, and our responsibility as educational providers is to offer options that will truly benefit our students and the country’s progress.”

Rasmussen College is currently evaluating potential new programs that will support President Obama’s vision for the future of the United States as an economic leader.

“Rasmussen College has been a leader in career-focused education for 109 years,” President of Rasmussen College Kristi Waite said. “We have seen the economy move in cycles, and we are able to consistently deliver academic programs that meet the needs of today’s changing careers. We will continue this progress as our economy evolves under President Obama’s leadership.”

Currently, Rasmussen College offers online and residential programs in the top leading employment markets including Technology and Design, Business, Education, Allied Health, Criminal Justice, and Nursing.

To schedule an interview with a Rasmussen College official, or to get more information on the Stimulus Plan and its impact on higher education, please email Media@Rasmussen.edu. For more information on Rasmussen College, please visit www.Rasmussen.edu. To read the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, please visit http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/RecoveryBill01-15-09.pdf.

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ABOUT RASMUSSEN COLLEGE
Founded in 1900, Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited institution of higher learning dedicated to the growth and development of its students, employees and the communities it serves. Rasmussen is a premier provider of career-focused educational experiences serving more than 12,000 students through a network of 15 Rasmussen College campuses in the Midwest and Southeast and virtual campuses operated by its Deltak Edu division. Through these campuses, Rasmussen is able to offer students a broad range of quality programs ranging from certificates to Master’s focused on the areas with the greatest occupation opportunities. To learn more about Rasmussen College, please visit www.Rasmussen.edu.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years

Did you catch the headline in USA Today about Obama limiting executive pay to $500,000 a year for companies receiving federal assistance? I was just about to write yesterday about how livid I was reading how Citibank spent $50M on a private jet after receiving $45B in federal bailout funds of our tax payer money. Since I helped pay for their jet, do you think they will give me a lift to New York for my next business meeting?

I read this Wall Street Journal article yesterday titled Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years. My husband asked me when Atlas Shrugged was written because he started to get the eerie feeling that it was a prophecy of our current time. So I googled it and the WSJ article appeared.

I am starting to a feel a bit torn between two sides: those of the brilliant minds and those on the side of socialistic fairness. I can't exactly articulate what that means right now without setting off a series of flame-mails. And some coming from my dearest friends who seem to have sworn off personal wealth in the name of fairness. Being Ms.Money means I will never do that. If I make less money does not mean the world will be better off. In fact, the more money I make, the more money I give away. For every $2 of disposable income I spend personally on myself for my own gratification, I give $1 to charity (to help make the world a better place).

Let's suffice it to say, I have been an entrepreneur for most of my working career and if the government started to limit how much money I made, I might stop being an entrepreneur and go live in an Ashram. After all, why take the big risks if there is no big rewards. I think there is a lovely little community nestled in the hills of Colorado (with Harry Potter's visibility cloak covering it up so no one can find me and the other creative fun entrepreneurs) just waiting for me to go flip tofu burgers and do yoga all day in peace and quiet versus the chaotic stressful life of an entrepreneur helping to advance the world in a myriad of ways.

Ok - I would be happy making $500,000 a year and still be an entrepreneur so those executives better not be whining about any pay cuts during these tough times.

Atlas Shrugged was the most influential book of my early 20's as I was starting my entrepreneurial life. The heroin was a woman too. Read it ... it might change your opinion about "fairness" and "brilliance" in a way you never thought possible.

Globat.com Fraud - Do Not Give Your Credit Card Number

Globat.com advertises they will register a domain names for $7 and then illegally uses your credit card to charge you $49.95 several times a month for what they call upgraded hosting whether you signed up for this service or not. I was charged $49.95 twice in one day and $49.95 a week earlier. I am sure they would have continued charging if I had not seen it on my statement and complained.

Call Visa International to file a complaint: 800-847-2911
Call Mastercard to file complaint: 800-622-7747
Call Your State Attorney General to file a complaint also. You can get their number online.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy


I finished the book last week: Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage, a timely book by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston. The authors have captured the most effective ways to "green" your business and stay ahead in the environmentally conscious business trends.

With the depressed economy wearing heavily on the minds of business leaders, there couldn't be a better time for this book to come out. A common misconception is that going green consumes a lot of green backs to accomplish. This doesn’t have to be the case. Executives who can see the forest through the trees realize there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They only have to creatively devise a strategy to create conditions that cause rainbows. Though it may take time, energy and research, it doesn’t necessarily have to consume a lot of cash.

We know how difficult cash is to come by with the credit crunch not only hitting consumers, but also affecting companies. As consumers turn greener and greener they are demanding the products they do actually open their wallets for should be consciously produced. One way for companies to gain a competitive advantage in the minds and hearts of consumers is to pay attention to their environmental footprint on the earth and to minimize their overall detrimental impact. In the end then, everyone wins: the company, the consumer and Mother Earth.

I have included an excerpt from the book below that outlines ways in which companies can jumpstart their greening process through smart partnering.

The Leading Guide to Driving Growth and Profits Through Green Strategy -- Now Revised and Updated

Two experts from Yale tackle the business wake-up-call du jour-environmental responsibility-from every angle in this thorough, earnest guidebook: pragmatically, passionately, financially and historically. Though "no company the authors know of is on a truly long-term sustainable course," Esty and Winston label the forward-thinking, green-friendly (or at least green-acquainted) companies WaveMakers and set out to assess honestly their path toward environmental responsibility, and its impact on a company's bottom line, customers, suppliers and reputation. Following the evolution of business attitudes toward environmental concerns, Esty and Winston offer a series of fascinating plays by corporations such as WalMart, GE and Chiquita (Banana), the bad guys who made good, and the good guys-watchdogs and industry associations, mostly-working behind the scenes. A vast number of topics huddle beneath the umbrella of threats to the earth, and many get a thorough analysis here: from global warming to electronic waste "take-back" legislation to subsidizing sustainable seafood. For the responsible business leader, this volume provides plenty of (organic) food for thought.

Eight Lessons Learned on Partnering
by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston,
Authors of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage


In analyzing dozens of partnerships, some successful -- and some less so -- we've identified the following series of fundamental lessons.

1. KNOW YOUR OWN SITUATION WELL BEFORE PICKING AN APPROPRIATE PARTNER
Be clear on your environmental issues when you sit down with others. AUDIO analysis is a good place to start. Then educate yourself on your business's key problems, and learn which groups specialize in the issues you face.

2. KNOW WITH WHOM YOU'RE DEALING
All partners, especially NGOs, are not created equal. Sustainability expert John Elkington has developed a playful, but useful, typology of NGOs. He breaks them into sharks, orcas, sea lions, and dolphins. Sharks are always on the attack, smelling blood and weakness from miles away. Orcas use fear and bullying. Sea lions play it safe and stay close to issues they know well. Dolphins are intelligent, creative, and can help fend off sharks. The point is that some NGOs are easier to work with than others. Avoid the sharks.

3. BE PATIENT
If we could share only one lesson, this would be it. Trust builds over time. It can take years to make the case internally for reaching out. As Chiquita's Dave McLaughlin says, "We aren't making Tang here. It isn't just 'add water and stir.'" Nurture long-term relationships.

4. LEARN EACH OTHER'S CULTURE AND VALUES
IKEA spent six months with World Wildlife Fund just discussing values before launching a partnership. The differences between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations can be large, but different values and cultures are not insurmountable. Still, it takes effort to learn to talk the other guy's language.

5. SET WORKABLE GOALS
Partnership goals need to be carefully developed and specified. They must achieve environmental progress that satisfies all the partners but also be relevant to and supportive of core business objectives. Set modest short-term goals and exceed them. And never overpromise publicly.

6. ESTABLISH CHAMPIONS
Each partner needs a clear operational leader for the project and relationship. Backing from the highest level is also vital. IKEA reports regularly to the CEO on its World Wildlife Fund partnership. You also need critical line managers to climb art board. McDonald's work on its supply chain took off only when the supply chain managers, not just the corporate responsibility people, stepped into the process.

7. THINK BIG, BUT START SMALL
The commitment to green the supply chain is a worthy goal, but it can't be done overnight. Pilot programs provide a way to test assumptions, establish trust, and build base for bigger and broader future partnership initiatives.

8. COORDINATE COMMUNICATIONS
Great partnerships can turn sour very quickly when one side prematurely declares victory. NGOs see greenwashing and companies hear gloating. You can't assume that the way you would talk about an issue is how the other side would. In the same spirit, don't announce environmental breakthroughs until you have credible evidence of progress.

Copyright © 2009 Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston


Author Bio
Daniel C. Esty, co-author of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 978-0-470-39374-1), is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University and Director of the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale (www.yale.edu/CBEY). Author and editor of nine books and dozens of articles, Dan is one of the world's leading corporate environmental strategy experts with twenty years of experience working with companies of all sizes and across many industries worldwide. He served as senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1990s and is presently Chairman of Esty Environmental Partners (www.EstyEP.com).

Andrew S. Winston, co-author of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 978-0-470-39374-1), advises some of the world's leading companies on how to profit from environmental thinking. He is also a highly respected and dynamic speaker, exploring the business benefits of going green with audiences around the world. Andrew's earlier career included corporate strategy at Boston Consulting Group and management positions in marketing and business development at Time Warner and MTV. See www.andrewwinston.com for more information.

Reviews
"Green to Gold provides the definitive thinking on how business leaders can address environmental issues."
--Michael E. Porter, Professor, Harvard Business School

"The future of our country depends on getting on a sustainable track . . . Green to Gold blazes a trail for businesses of all kinds to follow."
--Michael Morris, CEO, American Electric Power

"Rich with both big-picture thinking and practical suggestions."
--Larry Linden, Advisory Director, Goldman Sachs

"A compelling blueprint for how companies can address critical environmental problems."
--William K. Reilly, former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"Green to Gold is a must-read for the twenty-first-century CEO."
--Tensie Whelan, Executive Director, Rainforest Alliance

"No executive can afford to ignore the Green Wave sweeping the business world. This book shows how to make sustainability a core element of strategy -- and profit from it."
--Chad Holliday, Chairman, DuPont

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Legal Guide for Busy Parents



Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parentsis a terrific book written by California lawyer and mom, Alexis Martin Neely (and fellow champion of women financial empowerment).

The book today launched at #1 in all their categories and #2 on the Movers and Shakers list. It is a must read for you.

Alexis's heartbreaking depiction of what will happen if you don't designate guardians for your children is enough to make you cry. In fact, that is exactly the type of story people need to read to propel them into action. You love your children and want them to thrive not just survive if you don't. Stop procrastinating and buy this terrific book to learn what to do in case the unthinkable were to happen.

For less than $15, you will not only get the straight information on everything you need to know to legally plan for the care of your kids and your money, but you will also get over $3000 worth of bonus gifts that Alexis has put together for you. But, to get the bonuses, you've got to buy the book TODAY!

And, don't think this book is going to be depressing, hard to read or full of legal jargon. It's just the opposite! As you can tell from the title, Alexis has made this topic entertaining,interesting and, yes, even a little bit fun.

By using an easy to read story-based format, Alexis walks you through three stories that guide you to all the right answers for your family.

Her book is a fast read and when you are done, you will know the exact next steps on what you need to do to make life as easy as possible for the people you love most if you were in an accident.

By the end, you will know exactly how easy it can be to legally plan for your family and she even gives you tons of free resources to get you started or fix what you've already got in place. This is a book you must read even if you think you've gotten everything taken care of.

Alexis discovered that of the 30% of parents who have taken action to legally plan for their kids and their money, most have made at least 1 of 6 common mistakes.

So, whether you've done legal planning or not, get a head start and order "Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly - and Essential - Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents" right NOW by following this link to Amazon:

Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents,

Monday, March 03, 2008

America Saves Week & Wachovia

Photos: Dr. Melveaux catching money for charity.

I had the chance to speak with Dr. Julianne Melveaux, who is an economist, author and commentator, and President of Bennett College for Women. She was at the Wachovia America Saves Week event in Union Square San Francisco. I was inspired by her passion to help under-represented communities such as men and women of color build wealth.

America Saves is a national campaign involving more than 1,000 non-profits, government and corporate groups that encourages individuals and families to save and build personal wealth. www.americasaves.org

I went down to Union Square to partake in some of the activities for America Saves Week last Thursday. It was one of those gorgeous and sunny (nearly 70 degree days) where you just don't want to be sitting in the office. Wachovia made a big splash there with their money machines, giving participants the opportunity to catch as much money as possible to win $2,000.

The charity that Dr. Melveaux caught her money for was EARN. I has the opportunity afterwards to interview the founder Ben Mangan. I had been hearing about this new non-profit startup for years from my friend Alissa Lee who joined their Board of Directors. EARN breaks the cycle of poverty by matching the savings (2:1)of low-wage workers and helping them invest in assets that build wealth, creating a cycle of prosperity across generations. Catch my interview clips of Ben on YouTube: (less than a minute each)
EARN1, EARN2, EARN3

Wachovia gave EARN a $5,000 check. This was on top of $150,000 they gave to EARN last year. Thanks Wachovia! I truly believe in EARN's misson and Ms.Money is donating content to help educate their communities. Watch the video clip of the head of community banking presenting the check to Ben.

I also interviewed Jim Foley, a retail banking executive with Wachovia who described Wachovia's Way2Save(SM), a new savings program that makes saving automatic by allowing you to set up to a $100 a month to be automatically transferred in addition to $1 for every time you bank online or use your ATM or Visa card.

Jim talks about the savings crisis in America in this video.

Jim also discusses the results of Wachovia's survey on American's savings and how women differ from men and what Wachovia is doing to address women's needs specifically.

I feel one of the best ways for Americans to save, who normally have trouble socking some money away, is to do it automatically. If you don't have the money in your hands, you are less likely to spend it. Wachovia's product is a great way to get the savings ball rolling and on the path to financial prosperity for millions of Americans.

Thanks also to Wachovia for recognizing that women's financial needs are in fact different from mens'! (And offering services to meet those needs). You can read Wachovia's survey below.

________________________________

MEN MORE LIKELY THAN WOMEN TO SAY
THEY ARE SAVING ADEQUATELY

Women Less Likely Than Men To Cite “Impulse Spending” And
“Spending To Feel Good” As Barriers To Saving

Washington, DC – In survey research recently undertaken by Wachovia and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), more men than women said that “impulse spending” and “spending to feel good” were barriers to saving.

“We were quite surprised to learn that men are more likely than women to believe their impulsive shopping hinders saving,” said Kathryn Black, SVP and Savings Director for Wachovia. “After all, there is a powerful stereotype in our society that women are least likely to exercise restraint in shopping.”

The survey was designed and analyzed by Wachovia and CFA from data collected by Opinion Research Corporation in interviews conducted November 8-12 of more than 2,000 representative adult Americans. The margin of error was plus or minus two percentage points.

Men More Likely Than Women To Report They Are Saving Adequately
Men are more likely than women to say they are saving adequately. Forty-eight percent of men, but only 43 percent of women, reported that either they are “saving adequately to meet all their financial needs” or “have already saved enough to meet their needs.” Moreover, 20 percent of women, but only 14 percent of men, say that they “cannot afford to save at the present time.”

When asked how adequately they have saved for specific goals, again more men than women report that they are saving adequately:

• 72 percent of men but only 64 percent of women say they have adequate savings to pay for unexpected expenses.

• 62 percent of men but only 55 percent of women say they have adequate savings to pay for several months of regular expenses if a job is lost.

• 55 percent of men but only 51 percent of women say they are saving adequately for retirement.

The key factor accounting for these differences is disparity between economic status. More women than men cite, as barriers to saving: low or unreliable incomes (48% versus 40%), large regular expenses (39% versus 34%), and unexpected expenditures like car repairs (39% versus 34%). Other research indicated that these economic differences are not just perceived but are real.

“The correct perception of women that their financial status is less secure than that of men explains much of the differences in saving adequacy,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director.

Women Less Likely Than Men To Cite Social And Psychological Factors As Barriers To Saving

The perception held by some that women are more likely than men to be impulse shoppers was not supported by the Wachovia-CFA survey. Thirty-nine percent of men, but only 34 percent of women, said that “impulse spending on things like entertainment and clothes” was a reason they have difficulty building savings.

And women are also less likely than men to say that “spending to feel good” is an important barrier to saving – 26 percent of women but 34 percent of men. Moreover, fewer women than men (6% versus 10%) reported that playing the lottery or gambling discouraged saving.

“There are two competing stereotypes about differences between women and men in their shopping habits,” noted Wachovia’s Black. “One is that many women have more trouble than men restraining their impulse to buy things while the other is that women are the ones most carefully managing family expenditures. Our research suggests that the second stereotype is more accurate than the first.”

Research Supports CFA-Wachovia Savings Education Program To Be Launched During America Saves Week

The survey’s findings of savings inadequacy among both women and men support a new savings education program that CFA and Wachovia will launch throughout Wachovia markets during America Saves Week beginning February 24. This program will be one of many savings activities undertaken by hundreds of government, non-profit, and business groups during the Week. The 2007 America Saves Week last February was a pilot program in which national organizations, such as the Federal Reserve Board, Department of Defense, Internal Revenue Service, Cooperative Extension, and United Way, participated.

“In 2008, we are expecting significant participation in the Week by hundreds of national, regional, and local organizations,” noted CFA’s Brobeck. “In several years, we hope that during America Saves Week, thousands of organizations will persuade and assist millions of Americans to evaluate and improve their savings capacity.”

*****************
Wachovia Corporation (NYSE:WB) is one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services companies, with assets of $754.2 billion and market capitalization of $95.3 billion at September 30, 2007. Wachovia provides a broad range of retail banking and brokerage, asset and wealth management, and corporate and investment banking products and services to 13 million household and business customers.

CFA is a nonprofit consumer organization that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy. It manages the America Saves organization and, with the American Savings Education Council (ASEC), the America Saves Week.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ready to buy that $700 Gucci Purse?

My original emotional response when I heard that Gucci was opening its largest store in the US was that they were being insensitive to the crisis so many American's are facing right now as worries of the economy weigh heavily on everyone's minds.

Whether you are a stock trader on wall street wearing Gucci shoes or a Gucci Purse toting soccer mom worried about making your mortgage payment, the economess is making you think a little more about where you are spending your money (and how others are spending theirs). You don't want to be bragging about your $10,000 shopping spree at Gucci when your neighbor just lost six figures in the stock market that day.

It appears that Gucci recognizes the backlash from the public of promoting the frivolous of their luxury goods at a time when America is deeply pensive about the problems it faces from electing a new President, the war, and the economy. As a result they are promoting their big 46,000 megastore launch in conjunction with a celebrity party featuring Madonna, Sting, Alicia Keys and dozens of Celebrities to raise money for Madonna's charity Raising Malawi and UNICEF.

Otherwise I think the attending celebrities, who are more in tune with America's national situation than a French Conglomerate touting an Italian Brand, would be more reluctant to celebrate the superficiality of this luxury super-brand knowing the distaste it might leave in their fan base's mouths because the timing is so off.

With Gucci's sales last year in China being up 130%, you have to wonder why they would choose New York as the destination for the largest store. With bonus cuts and job losses not just in New York, but across the country for what I might call the low to mid-wealthy, you have to wonder if they are really going to be in the mood for the Gucci warehouse of goods. The uber-wealthy are certainly recession proof when it comes to luxury goods but that only makes up a fraction of Gucci's overall sales. Even I have a Gucci purse and I certainly am not uber-wealthy.

Even Mark Lee, Gucci's CEO, when he talks about the launch of the Gucci department store is sure to focus the attention away from the glamour of the launch party onto the charitable reasons of solving some of the world's global problems. Mr. Lee points out that he understands Gucci is in a position to give back charitably and therefore they do the right thing.

But is he doing the right thing? Not just from a business perspective but from a public perception perspective. Just because they are selling a Limited Edition Gucci I love NY bag for $700 where 100% of the profits are going to Central Park Conservancy, doesn't mean they diffuse all the negative sentiment around the timing of their store launch.

Gucci's CEO says that he doesn't feel Gucci is reliant on American sales as they used to be because of emerging markets like China and India. I am not so sure. I think foreign companies underestimate the global market impact if we enter a recession. I believe everyone will suffer, including luxury brands whether they have strong international sales or not.

It is a wise choice for Gucci to focus on China and India where the population isn't as interested in being as socially responsible or "green" as we are in the US since Al Gore popped on the green scene. Well at least I like to think we are becoming more socially conscious. We are - aren't we? I know I am. What about you?

Developing countries are still seeking out ego fulfillment and are building their own identities as a people by associating with already identified world brands. The are probably thinking, if I wear Gucci, Prada, Boss, that I have "arrived" to the coveted place of International success.

With America's focus these days on solving the climate crisis and other social issues, it is becoming cool to shop responsibly. Which might mean instead of buying 4 Gucci purses customers might only buy 3 and make sure one of those purses has all the profits go to charity. That still leads to a 25% drop in sales (3 purses vs. 4). Or they might not buy any at all. And where would that leave the new Gucci warehouse? Probably looking for an even bigger space in Dubai or Delhi.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wealthy Girl Summit a Huge Success

If you missed it this past weekend, no worries. You can buy the entire 4 days of audio and video from the conference and receive dozens of hours of expert advice on how to jump start your career, manage your money and start on the path to a million dollars.

I was impressed with the lineup of speakers that shared the panel with me. Below are just a few of these superstar women.

Christine Comaford-Lynch author of Rules for Renegades

Loral Langemeier author of The Millionaire Maker.

Sanyika Calloway Boyce creator of the "Beyond Money Principles"

Adryenn Ashley - an asset protection specialist (I Like that!) and now a promoter of business women helping turn them into celebrities.

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein - founder of The Wealth Spa.

Gina Stern - the brainchild behind d-parture spa - a spa created to meet the mind-body needs of time-poor and world-weary travelers making their way through airports.

Alexis Martin Neely - transforming family law by teaching her Family Wealth Secrets.

Maryanne Comaroto - A Relationship Advocate author of Skinny Tan and Rich.

Special thanks to Alicia Dunams Founder of the Wealthy Girl Summit 2008, Alicia Dunams is a successful model and single mom turned entrepreneur, real estate investor, author and success coach. She’s the author of Goal Digger: Lessons Learned from the Rich Men I Dated, www.goaldigger.com.

Buy the DVD collection today at Wealthy Girl Summit.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dangers of Au Pair Care

I have been writing about the hidden costs of Au Pair, as well as the dangers of leaving your child with a stranger that may have not been properly screened by the international hiring agency or the American agencies. It appears to be standard policy with many Au Pair agencies to NOT inform new families of any problems the Au Pair had with a previous family, which could lead to a dangerous situation and in essence hold the Au Pair care agency liable for any damage done.

If you read through the nearly 100 families that have commented to my previous blog The High Cost of Au Pair Care, you will see that the system isn't working very well and could use a reform.

I think one of the main problems is that families pay the Au Pair agency all 12 months of the Au Pair fees up front, instead of monthly when they pay the Au Pair. The agency fees are roughly equivalent to what the Au Pair receives. If it was a pay as-you-go-model then it would create an incentive for the agencies to better manage the Au Pair/family relationships and prevent a lot of the problems that are occuring and we read in the posts.

However, this hasn't happened yet.

I felt that a post by Monica Briens to my previous blog should be highlighted

Monica Briens is calling for more governmental reguation, which might solve the problem another way. If you are interested in participating please contact Monica directly at monica.briens@gmail.com. Please keep this post updated with any of your comments so that the public can stay aware of the progress.

My goal is to help the Au Pair system THRIVE and allow Au Pairs, Families and children to build loving relationships. Perhaps this blog will help figure out a way for that to happen. As it is now, the Au Pair system appears to be flawed. However, with a little help, we can work together to fix it so everyone benefits.

Monica's Post:

I just found this blog now, and would like to ask if anyone would be interested in commenting on a piece we are putting together around some of the systemic issues across au pair programs. Some of the issues are serious.

Specifically, this is a piece on a number of federal government regulators and how they lack the manpower, authority, and management required to govern the entities they are charged with overseeing. The State Department and the cultural exchange program is my beat. With the election year, politicians have addressed the program issues regarding illegal immigration for which the au pair program has been identified as a path for illegal immigration.

Additionally, other systemic program issues have been raised such as child welfare issues, negative impacts to U.S. diplomacy and false advertising practices locally and abroad. Questionable profit driving methods that compromise child safety have also been raised. Many charge this a money making program, quite in contrast to the cultural exchange program for which the agency's receive a privledged status of from Congress.

There is talk on the hill regarding changing program status and this is the motivation for the coverage.

If you would like to comment in any way, or have any information you'd like to share, please email me at:

monica.briens@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tiffany Bass Bukow Joins Marci Shimoff, featured in The Secret at Wealthy Girl Summit

If you would like to join in the Webinar at the Wealthy Girl Summit for this Sunday only from 6-8pm, I was able to get a special rate for my MsMoney readers of only $97!

This will allow you to view the 2 hour event and give you ...
drum roll please ... $2,500 in Bonus Gifts, including something from yours truly.

Buy Tickets through this link only Wealthy Girl Summit and use the MsMoney Promo Code: LIVE

Here is the Ms.Money Press Release that went out today about the event. You can also find here: http://www.shinemedia.com/wealthygirlsummit.htm.

For_Immediate_Release:
January 23, 2008 -- Tiffany Bass Bukow, a 4-time entrepreneur who has raised millions from the venture capital community to create successful companies, is joining a panel of wealthy women revolutionaries who have transformed the way American Women look at wealth building.

Ms. Bukow joins Marci Shimoff, featured in The Secret, to share her beliefs in how you can use the laws of attraction to obtain abundance and achieve the life of your dreams. Ms. Bukow shares her story about how she turned her vision of having the First Lady Hillary Clinton at the launch of MsMoney.com into a reality and a multi-million dollar PR benefit.

Ms. Bukow also joins other successful women entrepreneurs who will share their stories on how they attracted their first million for their business and their lives.

All this takes place at The Wealthy Girl Summit, hosted by Alicia Dunams, the Author of Goal Digger, in San Francisco from January 24th-27th, 2008. Participants can view online or attend the live San Francisco taping on Sunday January 27th.

Tiffany Bass Bukow will be speaking 3 out of the 4 days at the conference on the strategies, tips, and tools to help you on your path to accomplishing your financial goals, how to get retirement planning on track, and on building, creating, marketing and leveraging your business to become a millionaire.

You can purchase tickets for the Wealthy Girl Summit at www.msmoney.com

______________________________________

About MsMoney.com
MsMoney.com teaches people the fundamentals of financial health, wealth building, career expansion and life skills that relate to money issues. MsMoney.com Inc. not only provides content on consumer Web site, www.msmoney.com, they also offer specialized consulting services and customized content to others who want to build online financial education centers. MsMoney's clients include Wells Fargo, Peoples Bank, Guardian Insurance, Patelco Credit Union, Harmoney.com and others.

About Tiffany Bass Bukow
Tiffany Bass Bukow is an experienced social entrepreneur whose businesses have revolved around positive societal metamorphosis. She has focused her attention on empowering women and families to live healthy, happy, peaceful and financially secure lives. In the last 10 years, Tiffany has raised money from investors within the venture capital community to implement her life's passions into self-sustaining companies that have a philanthropic focus.


# # #

Monday, January 21, 2008

Listen to Ms.Money Speaking Online Jan 25-27

Tiffany Bass Bukow is speaking this Friday January 25th and Saturday January 26th, 2008 and then a live video presentation Sunday January 27th. Buy tickets today.



Have you ever wanted to become your own millionaire?

ANNOUNCING: Wealthy Girl Summit, January 24-27, 2008

This 4-day virtual conference features the most successful wealth experts and strategists, all of whom are women, who will reveal the critical components and strategies of wealth creation and how they all work together to bring tremendous riches in all areas of life.

This event equips you with both the mindset and knowledge to get what you want, financially and emotionally.

Visit http://www.wealthygirlsummit.com/ to buy tickets right now.

Here’s just a sip of what you’ll learn:

How to invest for your retirement based on your individual circumstances so that you’ll be prepared for abundance in your retirement years.

How to clean-up your debt, improve your credit ratings and access money-saving loans so that you have the financial leverage to invest in what is most important to you.

The nuts and bolts of setting up a company so that you can stop trading hours for dollars and begin making money while you’re on vacation.

What it takes to become a savvy real estate investor with no money down, using other people's money and other real estate investment strategies.

The simple keys already at your fingertips that are the foundation to building all wealth.

January 25th - Friday 6pm - 8 pm PST - 2-hour Live Teleseminar

Personal Finance
with Tiffany Bass Bukow, Sanyika Calloway Boyce, Adryenn Ashley, Alexis Martin Neely, and more

You will learn:

The importance of FICO scores and how to clean up your debt to access money saving loans.
The strategies, tips, and tools to help you on your path to accomplishing your financial goals.
How to protect your assets from your future husband's ex-wife and other pre-nup must-knows.
Estate Planning?!? But, I'm only 35! Secrets of the Old Rich Guys Revealed

January 26th - Saturday, 4pm-6pm PST

Financial Planning
with Tiffany Bass Bukow, Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, and Michelle Alberada

You will learn:

How to self invest for your retirement based on your personal circumstances.
About 401Ks, IRAs and other tax-deferred vehicles that will prepare you for abundance in your retirement years.
Day 4:


January 27th - Sunday, 6-8pm PST Recorded (LIVE 12-2pm PST)

2 Hour 'Entrepreneurship' Webinar “Million Dollar Entrepreneur”
Virtually sit in on a round table discussion with our outstanding speakers: Christine Comaford-Lynch, Loral Langemeier, Tiffany Bass Bukow, Sanyika Calloway Boyce, Michelle Alberda, Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, Adryenn Ashley, Alexis Martin Neely, and Gina Stern as they discuss the critical components of entrepreneurship and making your business a million dollar business.

You will learn:

Business basics, like how to write a business plan, how to find investors and what type of investors are right for you, and how to set up a company.
Brand development and marketing strategies
How to develop a leveragability model and a financial exit strategy
The nuts and bolts of setting up a company so that you can stop trading hours for dollars and begin making money while you’re on vacation.
How to work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ your business
Plus, much, much more.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What Does a Weak Dollar Mean?

We need to keep a sharp eye on inflationary pressures even though the economy might be slowing down. The reason is that foreign goods will become more expensive for us and we all know how much we are addicted to Walmart and those Chinese Lead Laced Toys (I should say former "lead-laced")

Inflation is the number one enemy to bonds investors since rising prices chip away at fixed-rate returns. When choosing stocks, it might be wise (talk to your financial advisor) to favor companies that derive some of their revenues internationally (assuming their businesses are not hurt by the weakened dollar). If Europe is offering higher interest rates in some of the financial vehicles and the US is still at the bare bottom, talk to your financial advisor about putting some of your cash there.

A weak dollar could lead to inflation. Inflation can then lead to higher interest rates in an effort to control business activity, however there is a balance that needs to be maintained between stimulating growth and controlling it. How much does the Fed need to cut rates to stimulate growth without sending inflation through the roof? Perhaps another full point, since the last full point didn't do much. As a 4-time entrepreneur, I know I want to be able to get my hands on "cheap money" when I am expanding my business or starting something new and so far I haven't been very motivated to make a big expansion leap.

The upside to the dollar's downslide is that are the US trade deficit is the lowest it has been in years. However, the high price of oil is dampening the overall rise or exports. China has purposely devaluated the yen in order to spur more of their exports. It seems to have worked for them hasn't it? Can you find anything not made in China? Now as more Chinese are looking to obtain the American lifestyle, it will be interesting to see how they manipulate their monetary policy.

Retirement Savings a Challenge for Most

We are of the most educated countries in the world and yet we are severely lacking in financial literacy. As a result most people have no idea how much money they need to save for a retirement. Here are a few of the common mistakes that people make:

* Overspending
* Not putting together an automatic savings plan that goes straight into a savings account you don't touch until you retire
* Not maximizing their IRA or 401k's (especially those that match funds)Thinking they will live shorter than they actually do
* Assuming the government will take care of them
* Assuming their family will take care of them
* Underestimating the impact of inflation
* Underestimating how much money they will need
* Underestimating what their health care costs will be during retirement and what coverage they will have

* Not diversifying their portfolio to allow for more risk early in their savings career
* Not working with a financial professional
* Not providing for a spouse after their death

Who is to blame?

* Those with scant nest eggs should blame themselves when it comes to poor savings habits.
* The government could have stimulated more saving early on with additional tax incentives.
* Corporations could have motivated more people to save by matching 401k funds.
* Educational systems could have provided more personal finance education during our learning years.
* Financial service companies could have spent more money educating their customers about retirement and selling the correct basket of products that would help them create this goal.
* Corporations could have left pension plan funds alone during
bankruptcy (instead they siphoned them off leaving seniors in the lurch).

I don't think it is ever too late to right the ship. One might not be sailing at full speed and be able to retire early or all, however with a good holistic financial plan matched with one's life goals, it is possible to live a happy life. It might mean cutting back to some of the bare necessities in life and foregoing the extras. With a good attitude, a savvy shopping strategy and the ability to courageously make some serious life changes, one can turn a bad retirement situation around.

By 2044, the ratio of workers to retirees could be 2:1. In 2000 it was 3:1.
This will be a heavy burden on the Gen-X/Yer's to cover retirement benefits,
health care coverage and nursing homes for the elderly.

My hopes are that Gen-X/Yer's will rise to the challenge and start socking away more money than their parents did at an earlier age so they can see the benefits of compounding interest and have the ability to take a higher risk. However, we just are not seeing that happen. They are trying to save for their children's college and caring for their parents at the same time as saving for their own retirements. With the rising costs of college and health care for their families as well as the financial burden of elder-care, they aren't coming up with a whole lot of money left over at the end of the month.

These generations did not grow up with the thought that government would take care of them and will most likely treat Social Security as a bonus, if they receive any at all. This should be a big motivator for them to take control of their own financial situation and take advantage of the tax incentives for long term saving and investing. I think it general this crowd is able to adjust to change better than previous generations and will treat retirement as an opportunity to explore new less demanding careers that will still bring in some sort of cash flow during those golden years (since they probably won't be able to afford not working at all).

If you want to see my one hour presentation on Retirement (and powerpoint) I
did a few months ago in front of a live audience of 300 visit:
http://www.msmoney.com/harmoney1.htm

Affordable Health Care for Everyone?

Ahhhh Healthcare ... one of my favorite topics as Ms.Money. I just finished a month long investigation into the world of health care insurance and was shocked by what I found. It is not unusual for a 3-person family to pay $1,500 a month for insurance (and not very good insurance at that). That is $18,000 a year. Post Tax! This means many families have to make $30,000 extra just to be able to afford health insurance. I am a proponent for tax credits. It is no wonder 44 million Americans don't have access to health insurance.

I think a hybrid system between the government and private business would work well. Private companies can't be trusted alone, and government doesn't have the expertise to manage the humongous operations of Universal Healthcare. Operating revenue for Kaiser alone is $10B a quarter.

California State health regulators fined Health Net Inc. $1 million Thursday for lying to investigators about paying employees bonuses based on the number of contracts they canceled after those policyholders got sick. Also fined were WellPoint Inc., the parent of Blue Cross of California, $1.2 million and Kaiser Permanente $325,000 for improperly canceling policies. The biggest offender is Blue Shield (my main insurance carrier for the last decade) California State's insurance commissioner is seeking a $12.6 million penalty against Blue Shield, claiming the health insurer unfairly canceled members' medical coverage and improperly processed claims.

An examination of data released i by the Department of Insurance revealed more than 1,200 alleged violations of law, resulting in more than 200 people losing their coverage after they submitted claims for medical treatment.

"Blue Shield committed serious violations that completely undermine the public trust in our health care delivery system," Commissioner Steve Poizner said in a statement.

I filled out the forms for Kaiser and Blue Shield and they are very confusing and open to multiple interpretations. I could see how they purposely keep the questions vague so that they have a case to discontinue health insurance if a big claim comes in.

You might think you have health insurance, when in fact, when it comes down to it and you have a life- threatening illness and you need treatment, you may be denied and have your insurance cancelled.

If the costs are not kept down - somewhere below $1,000 a month per month, American's still will not buy it, so it is critical to come up with a price point people can afford.

I like the idea of what San Francisco is doing with its Universal Health Care plan:

Healthy San Francisco is the first of its kind in the nation and is widely viewed as a model for local and state efforts to expand health coverage in the absence of national legislation.

When fully ramped up, the plan is expected to cost $200 million a year and is due to be paid for with a mix of city and state funds, quarterly premiums and co-payments paid on a sliding scale by participants, and contributions by employers who don't offer health insurance.

As written, San Francisco's ordinance would require private employers with at least 20 employees and nonprofits with at least 50 employees to provide health coverage at certain minimum levels or pay a fee to the city.

I also like the idea of creating a network of Minute Clinics (Your Sick, we're Quick) or similar type clinics, that are covered by a Universal Health Plan. The costs of these types of operations are less than traditional hospitals. An emergency room visit for pink eye could cost $300 and at a Minute Clinic - just $50. Everyone saves.

With electronic patients records, and improved technology for diagnosis, and a wider range of places to receive medical attention, medical costs overall should go down and make a Universal Health Plan more of a reality.

As a society, we can not afford people to drive up the costs of healthcare because they are not willing to handle their own health issues. In the same way we can't sit back and watch consumers create an economess with their reckless spending and saving habits.

Corporations should become more actively involved in promoting theiremployees health. I support what Scott's Miracle Gro company is doing in Ohio with its employees and encouraging them to take an active part in preventative health care measures by employing health coaches and other strategies to get their employees to live healthier lifestyles. Theirtactics should help reduce Scott's overall healthcare burden which wasseeing a double digit rise every year. They were paying over 20% of their profits straight to health insurance companies. Why? Over half of their 6,000 employees were overweight or obese and at least a quarter of them
smoked.

Consumers have this sense of entitlement in this country that they can do anything they want with their bodies regardless of how damaging and society will take care of that damage and fix it. I consider that akin to crashing my car in a tree and then asking my employer to pay the auto body shop to repair it, and doing it again and again. If I drove safer - drove my body a little safer, I wouldn't have to worry about running into tree - or getting sick. With a company plan, I pay the same amount each month being a health-nut who goes to the doctor only once a year, as the obese, smoker, diabetic employee who is the hospital every month for lifestyle induced problems.

Clarian Health Partners, an Indiana hospital chain (I went to high school in Indiana and have a lot of family members there), started fining their employees $5 for smoking, $10 for being overweight and $5 for high blood pressure. It could add up to $780 a year for bad habits. This seems fair to me. If people want to continue their bad habits that lead to high health premiums for everyone, they should contribute to offset the costs. My hope is this will finally be the last straw to inspire them to positively change their lives.

What Does $100 Oil Mean?

With oil hitting $100 a barrel and gas heading to $3.50 a gallon - don't you wish you were driving a Prius right now? Especially if you buy a tank of gas every week.

This isn't the first time we have seen $100 a barrel of oil. In 1980, the inflation adjusted price was equivalent. We also had an economic recession in the early 80's, which we are desperately trying to avoid now.

At $100 oil, you can expect your gas prices to go from around $3 a gallon to $3.50 a gallon this spring, not $4 - however I don't see that number to far off in the future. The prices of oil and gas will rise and fall based on demand, so if the economy slows down and people are using less, prices will drop. Pretty simple. If people start car-pooling (a quick solutions with some nice social benefits), they will save money on gas and overall buy less gas which will drive prices down.

Big Oil is profiting tremendously as a reuslt of high oil prices. Exxon Mobile made $10B last quarter - the largest quarterly profit EVER by any US company and almost double what they made 3 years ago. What are they doing with all that money? Stockpiling Euros as they watch the US market tank? Cruising around on the Super Yachts in the Caribbean and taking their Lear Jets to Italy for a Cappuccino for Breakfast, and then off from escargot and cavier in Paris for dinner?

Perhaps they should take those profits and like Oprah - start giving away cars? $10B should buy around 500,000 Priuses a quarter and 2 million a year. Come on - who doesn't want a nice cute little new blue Prius parked in their driveway? What would their shareholders think of that? We could even give them a few tax breaks for all their generosity. Ha!

Just for the reecord ... I don't own a Prius. If they made a convertible, I might consider it. I only drive a few miles a day so gas mileage isn't as important to me as someone who might commute 30 miles a more a day. I know people in the Bay Area that commute 120 miles a day. Yikes! I bet they aren't too happy about has prices doubling recently.

I don't think higher gas prices is enough to send the economy into a recession on its own. We spend about 6% on average of our paycheck on gas versus 8% a decade ago. Owning a car is expensive - period! From insurance, to registration, maintenance, parking tickets (which I always tell people to budget something for) and of course gas. If you are lower income, like I was in college and around my grad school years, I would suggest not owning a car (like I did) and instead ride-sharing when you need one, taking the bus, train, etc, or finding alternative local activities you can bike to. When I moved to San Francisco, I sold my car and rode my mountain bike all over and had the added benefit of staying in excellent shape as a result (after all I had all those hills to tackle). For me then, it was less about the gas prices, and more about not being able to afford the tickets and parking garages where I lived downtown.

When it comes to flying, if you fly Southwest, you might not see any increase at all. Why? Because a very smart CEO (and one of my favorite) Herb Kelleher bought hedges against higher oil prices (through 2009) when it was just $51 a barrel. What is that worth to Southwest? And to you the flyer? To Southwest over $2B. To you - a much cheaper ticket on Southwest than it will be on most other airlines.

We can all ease the energy burden by using a heck of a lot less energy than we do now. I just survived several days without power due to the big storms here and it wasn't all that bad. Granted, I don't like to hang out in 48 degree weather in my own home, however I do normally keep the temperature at 61 degrees since I have a
fairly large home and keep the unused areas even cooler. I am also hoping to have solar installed this year so I can raise my temperature to 64 degrees and not feel guilty about that giant oil sucking sound from Mother Earth.

I could go on and on about other ways to ease the energy burden on the planet, but why do that will Nobel Peach Prize winning Al Gore does it so well? Climatecrisis.net.

Should the Government Solve Our Debt Crisis For Us?

Is it the government's job to stop us from having one more drink at that New Year's Party? No. It is just their job to stop us from having that drink and then getting in our car and driving drunk where we could actually hurt someone else with our irresponsible drinking. Yes!

In this case drinking is akin to reckless spending, shopping, retail therapy (whatever you call it), and driving is the equivalent of using our credit cards to achieve the goal ... to get you there. When consumers recklessly rack up their debt and can't pay their bills (including their mortgages), as we can clearly see, the whole economy suffers. This crazy behavior could plunge us all headlong into a recession.

So now think about it ... if consumers can't control themselves and become responsible citizens and are causing harm to others with their behavior (like drinking and driving), isn't it the government's responsibility to force them to stop?

You can't tell an alcoholic to have a few drinks less, or an obese person to just eat less and lose 100 pounds, anymore than you can tell a shopaholic to stop spending and pay off their $100,000 debt.

Our culture has a spending illness and needs to check itself into rehab. But is this really going to happen? No ... so now what should we responsible citizens, who hopefully know better, do to prevent the deleterious economic effects of those of us less responsible?

I remember the old days of lending when banks considered your debt to asset ratio before handing out a credit card or loan. And now ... what happened? Free credit for all? Free candy for all - go gorge yourself and take an antacid in the morning and then do it again over and over. It's fun.

I think it is time to use legislation with market economics and stronger consumer education to put a plan together to curb credit card debt. If the government disallowed usury (excessive interest - which I consider anything over 18%), then credit card companies would be much more careful in screening who have they gave credit cards to and would assess how much debt a person has before they gave them more rope to hang themselves in the debt jungle.

I think it is ridiculous that credit card debt is over $4 Trillion (that is 5 times more than the GDP!). What is even more terrible is that there are millions of Americans who can't ever seem to pay off their credit card debt. A tiny bit of legislation, which I am sure will anger some (mostly those with bad credit), could solve a lot of our debt crisis.

I have never left a balance on my credit cards except for once after graduate school when I was looking for a job. I hadn't worked in several years and was living on student loans and towards the end of the my college career, I charged a little more on my credit card than I could pay off. I quickly corrected the problem in a few months after I started working.

I challenge my readers today. If you have credit card debt, put together a plan to pay it off (or at least pay it down) in the next 3 months and talk to a financial advisor or money coach how you can start living your life debt-free. (A mortgage is ok).

Fed Cutting Rates Again

The Fed is ultimately trying to protect the American Way of Life by cutting interest rates with the hope of stimulating the economy and preventing a recession.

Let's take a moment to think about over-indulgent American way of life and decide if the status quo is worth keeping. What are we really protecting here?

1. 1/3 are obese and 2/3 are overweight
2. 25% don't qualify for prime lending because of irresponsible money habits
3. Most spend more than they make and don't plan for the future

Maybe something is needed to shake things up and snap people into reality that they just can't keep spending money they don't have and they can't keep eating calories they don't need. Where is the self-restraint?

I think American's need a dose of inspiration and a sprinkling motivation to get their lives turned around. Perhaps a new President will do just this by offering hope for change. Go Hillary! (How could Ms.Money not vote for a WOMAN President, especially one who was at the Ms.Money offices for our official ribbon cutton and launch of Ms.Money to the world.)

What will a rate-cut mean for your mortgage? If you have an ARM, expect your monthly payment to get more affordable and you just might be able to stay in your house a little longer. If you are one of those speculators (25% of home foreclosures are on investment properties), this is a good time to take a deep breath and assess the damage and put a plan together for either selling or renting those properties.

To your credit cards? Start negotiating a lower interest rate today on your outstanding balances, if your issuing bank doesn't lower them automatically with the fed rate cut. If you missed a payment or two or have a very low FICO score, don't expect a Fed rate cut to impact you much. I have heard consumers paying up to 36% interest on their balances. Yikes! If this is the case, I would cut up all my credit cards, except one of emergencies (and to rent a car) and pay down that debt immediately.

Your money? If you have stocks, typically there is a rise in the market after the fed cuts rates, however with the housing crash distorting everything, it is hard to say what will happen over the long haul even if rates continue to drop.

Even after a full point rate cut this last quarter it didn't seem to stimulate the economy much or stop the unemployment rate from rising. The unemployment rate is 5% overall, though only 2% in the professional job sector.

Who Caused the Mortgage Crisis?

If you leave a kid alone in a room with a bowl of Halloween candy, do you think he is going to eat just one piece?

Lenders were giving out the candy: sub-prime mortgages and lines of credits to irresponsible consumers who were known not to be able to pay their bills in the past, and wonder why they gobbled them up with nothing left over to pay. What were they thinking? It is a billion dollar travesty learned the hard way that led several lenders into bankruptcy.

They not only deserve a scolding, so does the investment community for snatching up this sub-prime mortgage securities and as a result had to take billion dollar write-offs.

25% of the US falls into this sub-prime market and has some sort of adverse financial situation that would not normally qualify them for the prime market. That is a very BIG market for lenders to ignore, especially as they are jockeying for the biggest pieces of the mortgage pie. So they threw conventional economic wisdom out the door and started competing fiercely in this market space to the demise of everyone.

Lenders thought the risks would be worth the rewards, with interest rates being at record lows they had no way to go except up, so why not lock in these attractive looking adjustable rate mortgages and reap the benefits when rates rise. What they didn't realize is that Mr. and Ms. Consumer were taking full advantage of all this fabulous lending they didn't previously have access to and were going on a spending spree. Not only were they maximizing their mortgages, and lines of credit, they were also maxing out their credit cards. Oooops! What do you mean my mortgage payment went up another $500 because of the interest rate rise? I don't have $500, I already
spent it. Where am I going to put new my flat screen TV if you kick me out of my house?

How could banks think consumers would all of sudden become ultra-responsible in saving for the future or for unexpected interest rate hikes, when they never showed a capacity in the past for this kind of forward thinking monetary behavior.

If you give the car keys to your son and he crashes the car not once, or twice, but three times, you eventually stop giving him the keys to the car. Don't you? Common sense right?

Well with the lending crisis, consumers were crashing their credit histories left and right and no one seemed to care and lenders kept lending. Now, we have George Bush scrambling to negotiate a plan with these sub-prime lenders to give consumers another chance by asking lenders not raise the interest rates on some ARM's for 5 years. Is this really going to help?

Who is ultimately to blame? The consumer! Stop spending more money than you make people. Really ... just stop it. Take a free personal finance education
class
, learn to budget and save for the future. You can do it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Time for Some Stocking Stuffers

I wanted to get this blog out there in time for Christmas and especially by the New Year when those credit card bills are showing up.

These are Brand New Money Books for your reading pleasure and educational enhancement. I have copies of all of them sitting in front of me right now.

The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing, by Jason Kelly.
With a title like that, how can you go wrong?

Get Real Get Rich. Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You From Success, by Farrah Gray
Time to get real and get rich in 2008 don't you think? And stop making excuses.

Living Rich by Spending Smart. How to Get More of What You Really Want, by Gregory Karp
One of my favorite topics - smart spending and living your life at half the price.
I know what I want ... a 4 Hour Workweek! Hey - that is the title of another book, which I read and thought it was unrealistic for most people, especially because there aren't a lot of risk takers willing to do what it takes to get a 4-hour work week. However, if you are the entrepreneurial type, like myself, this should be your business manual 101. The gems you find in here are a treasure chest of very valuable information. Thanks Tim! And yes, for some a 4-hour work week is possible. I have done this at various times of my life and it panned out with financial abundance.

The Retirement Savings Time Bomb and How to Defuse It, by America's IRA Expert Ed Slott
Yes, there is a bomb ticking and most people are stuck like a deer in the headlights and not doing anything about it.

The Naked Truth About Your Money. Straight Talk About You and Your Finances, by Bill DeShurko, CFP.
Too many people think saving for the future is too hard and complicated. However, when you pull back the layers and get to the naked truth, you start to figure out, Yes you can do it.

And finally the 23rd Edition of The Ernst & Young Tax Guide for 2008
If you have tax questions then this phone book size tax guide is for you. All the latest tax changes at your fingertips.

Pick up a copy of one or ALL of these books for yourself for Christmas ... or give someone the gift that keeps on giving - a book on how to make money.

Regift or Resell Those Unwanted Gifts

Really? You might ask Ms.Money is it really ok to sell the Christmas gifts I didn't want? Sure! I agree with the eBay folks who provided the article below.

Those looking to recoup lost holiday dollars, they need not look further than the gifts underneath their tree.

With 83 percent of adults receiving unwanted gifts during the holidays, according to a recent eBay survey, disgruntled recipients can turn “not my size” and “what were you thinking?” into cold hard cash.

More popular than ever, 65 percent of all adults view re-gifting or reselling gifts more socially acceptable now than it was several years ago. About a quarter of adults (23 percent) have resold their misfit holiday gifts in the past, and afterwards, more than half of them (53 percent) feel satisfied while 36 percent feel relieved.

_____________________

AMERICANS LACK THE KNACK FOR HOLIDAY GIFT-GIVING, ACCORDING TO EBAY SURVEY

Polite Pretenders: Eighty-five Percent of Adults who Receive Misfit Holiday Gifts Pretend to Like Them

Add one part clueless gift-giver and two parts resourceful recipient and voilà, a recipe for a re-gifting masterpiece!

No one understands this recipe better than eBay which today unveiled the results of its annual re-gifting survey conducted by Harris Interactive, which found that 83 percent of U.S. adults receive unwanted gifts during the holiday season. Nearly one-half of those adults (47 percent) typically re-gift or resell items that are not on their wish lists.

Yet for many, unwanted does not mean unappreciated: nearly one-third of all adults (32 percent) would rather get a present that they could re-gift or resell than not get a present at all, the survey found.

“Re-gifting or reselling on sites like eBay are great ways to let someone else enjoy a gift that isn’t right for you or to earn some extra money,” says Marsha Collier, bestselling author of “Santa Shops on eBay” and other eBay books. “My tip for re-gifting: know the receiver. Not everyone wants a tracksuit or a CD collection, but others may love it.”

Key Findings

· Best in Show: If given an unwanted gift, U.S. adults would be most likely to re-gift items such as food and drink (35 percent), beauty and bath products (23 percent) and trinkets or collectibles (18 percent). Top items to resell include electronics and appliances (18 percent); DVDs, CDs and books (11 percent); and event tickets (11 percent).

· Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Among adults who re-gift during the holidays, women (50 percent) are almost twice as likely to re-gift than men (30 percent).

· Time After Time: According to 65 percent of all adults, re-gifting or reselling gifts is more socially acceptable now than it was several years ago. About a quarter of adults (26 percent) say they are now more likely to re-gift or resell unwanted gifts than they were last year.

· Re-gifting Remorse? Not so. The study finds that more than half of re-gifters and online resellers (53 percent) feel satisfied after they have re-gifted or resold an unwanted gift online. Twenty-seven percent feel relieved after re-gifting and 36 percent feel relieved after reselling. Conversely, upon discovering that someone has re-gifted or resold an item they had originally given, 46 percent of all adults say they would feel indifferent while 26 percent would feel amused.

· Managing Misfit Gifts: Sixty-nine percent of all adults agree that re-gifting or reselling is a form of recycling.

· Matchmaker: Seventy percent of adults who have re-gifted a misfit gift have done so because they feel the item is a better match for someone else. Only eight percent have re-gifted because they were too lazy to purchase another present.

· Friends Forever: Of the 44 percent of adults who have ever re-gifted, the recipients have most often been friends (67 percent).

Fun Facts

· Fruitcake accounts for 15 percent of the food-and-drink items that people would re-gift.

· Trouble with the in-laws? About one in four married women (26 percent) has re-gifted or resold one or more items received from her mother-in-law compared with only 16 percent of men.

· About one out of five adults (19 percent) anticipates re-gifting or reselling holiday gifts even before he or she receive them.

· Thirty-three percent of adults who have ever re-sold an unwanted gift would feel less guilty doing so if they donated a portion of the proceeds to charity.

Survey Methodology

This re-Gifting survey was conducted online within the United States between October 12 and October 16, 2007, among 2,711 adults ages 18 and over.

Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income. Propensity-score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error that are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to be invited to participate in the Harris Interactive online-research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

4 out of 5 Not Saving Adequately Says Wachovia

I included an article from Wachovia bank below. Kudos to any organization that takes the time to help solve our country's savings crisis by educating consumers.

The problem with saving is many people think it is just too difficult so they don't save anything. To help overcome this hurdle, I ask them if they can save $1 a day. And if they can do that for a year, can they sace $2 a day the next year. And then $3 a day the following year. If they start at age 25, by the time they are 35, they would be saving $10 a day and have a nice habit of savings. $10 a day is $3,520 a year, which is a nice IRA deposit and will provide for a healthy nest egg at the end of one's working life due to compounding interest.

Wachovia Article:

Holiday shopping season spending increases and consumers head into the New Year with resolutions to do better in 2008, more than half of Americans (52%) say that they currently cannot afford to save or are saving inadequately, according to a comprehensive survey released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Wachovia this morning (full press release and survey results below).

This in-depth survey examined how Americans view their savings adequacy, major barriers to savings, and successful savings strategies planned. Today’s research reconfirms what Wachovia has learned about consumers’ savings attitudes and behaviors over the past couple of years:

We know from other studies that people don’t feel they’re saving enough, but we were surprised with the data that shows that 4 out of 5 believe that Americans are not saving adequately. Consumers know they should be saving, but they don’t know how to get started. Other consumers have told us they don’t make enough money to cover their short-term financial obligations or they’re not willing to change their lifestyle to set money aside in savings.

Today’s study provides fresh insights around the mindset or psychology of savings – including what keeps people from saving and what would motivate them to save

For young people particularly, “Spending to Feel Good” and “Impulse Spending” were the two biggest hurdles in saving.

We also got additional insights into the factors that would encourage or motivate people to save:

When survey respondents were told that “saving $200 a month for 40 years at a 5% rate would accumulate over $300,000”, 80% said they would be motivated to save more thanks to a better understanding of the miracle of compounding interest.

Other motivating factors are access to attractive saving accounts and help getting started.

These findings provide new insights and opportunities for Wachovia and the banking industry. Based on the insights from this study, Wachovia is looking at ways to help consumers get started, make it easy and fun to save. In partnership with the Consumer Federation, Wachovia is launching a series of savings seminars that kick off during America Saves Week February 24, ’08 in association with employers and our community partners—with the goal of reaching as many consumers as possible.

We believe everyone can get on a pathway to savings – no matter what their financial situation or stage in life.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Joy in Christmas Renewed

Last night we bought a potted Christmas Tree from Home Depot after driving all around our neighborhood visiting the various tree farms looking for one. I thought, what better time to teach my son about helping protecting Mother Earth than buy a tree we could plant in our yard after Christmas.

At this time of the year I tend to become more introspective and like the sun that stays out of the peak of the sky, I feel that my life coasts a little closer to middle ground. I enter the winter of my soul, a time for reflection, hibernation of my normal hyper activity, and a time to curl up with family by the fire place and just be a human BEing not a human DOing.

Christmas isn't my favorite Holiday. Partly because of my role as Advocate for Financial Health, I have a tough time watching the shop till you drop media inundating my brain space and everyone else's. Americans already have a negative savings rate and Christmas makes many go even deeper in the red.

Yesterday my thoughts shifted a bit. My son said to me, "Mommy, Christmas is my favorite time of the year." With all the enthusiasm a 5 year has. I asked why - assuming it was because of the presents he receives from Santa. He responded "Because it is all about the SPIRIT." My eyes lit up brighter than the fire we were nestled next to and I gave him a big hug and kiss and said YES! Then I repeated various thought morsels all night. Christmas is kindness. Christmas is the love in your heart. Christmas is joyful times with friends and family. By the end of the night my excitement about Christmas was renewed.

We spent the rest of the night making homemade Christmas decorations, including stringing popcorn and making paper chains. We hung the 8 wood ornaments that he painted a few weeks ago on our little potted tree and my husband and I smiled at our little angel who sees the beauty in this special Holiday beyond the materialism.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ease Holiday Stress by Spending Wisely

Personally, I do my Christmas shopping throughout the entire year so that I can find the perfect gift at the perfect price way in advance and don’t have to do the Holiday scramble.

I bet you didn't know that the average American buys gifts for around 15 people and spends an average of $75 per person. Americans who admitted to preparing a budget for holiday shopping, half of them exceeded it by 22%. Those were the findings from a WingspanBank.com survey, which also confirms that Americans have been known to overspend by $20 billion a year. Great news for retailers, certainly, but a loud warning signal for discipline-challenged shoppers. What's more: Around 75 million people will wait until Christmas Eve to complete their shopping. Certainly not the best time to save money.

Decide this year to live your life at half the price during this Christmas season, especially when it comes to gift giving. If you normally spend $75 a person on gifts. Decide to spend $37.50 per person. It is important to spend only what you can afford, and only you know what that number is. If you aren’t sure then get a financial health checkup at: http://www.msmoney.com/mm/financial_health/finhealth_index.htm, where you can discover how financially fit you really are. From there you can put an overall budget together for Holiday spending. This doesn’t just include gift giving, it also includes travel, hotels, meals, holiday outfits, decorations, tree purchase … essentially everything you would normally spend during the Holiday season.

Once you have put together your main Holiday spending categories, you can allocate your funds. I personal use my rewards credit card so I reap the extra benefits a rewards card bring. Keep in mind, I always pay my credit card bill on time so I don't get hit with large interest charges.

If you have concerns you might not be able to pay off your Holiday shopping bills at the end of the month, then I recommend buying with cash. You can still use your credit card for ease of use, however, you need to track your spending and put cash the correct cash aside as you make your purchases. Just label envelopes for each category and put the correct amount of money inside of each. When you buy something on your credit card, just mark it on the envelope and deduct it from the total amount, so you have a running total written on the front.

When it is time to pay the bill, you just take the money out of the envelope that you safely put aside beforehand and take it to the bank. If you decide to carry envelopes of cash around and not use a credit card this is no problem, when you get home just write the amount you spent on the envelope. When your envelope runs out of money, you are finished shopping. This way you don't have to contribute to the $22 Billion dollars in overspending during the Holidays.

You can also track your purchases on a spreadsheet or in a money software program like Quicken or Microsoft money so you know exactly what you spent and don’t go over budget. It can be quite fun to see how all the budget pieces of the puzzle fit together. This is a good example for what you can do for the rest of the year. You can easily spend 50% less if you have a little time and are creative.

Here, then, are a few shopping and gift giving ideas to help you save time, money, and sanity.

* Decide how much you have to spend, and then stay within that budget. Overspending tends to set a standard for gift giving that you'll be expected to live up to year after year.

* If you overspend on one line item on your budget, under spend on others in order to make up the difference.

* For an older family member, create a calendar with special dates highlighted when you'll visit or call him or her.

* Get the whole family involved in baking breads, cookies, or candies as gifts for teachers, co-workers, and neighbors.

* Shop alone so you'll stay focused and avoid distractions.

* Buy gifts from church bazaars, craft shows, and fundraisers at your child's school.

* Spend only what you have by using either cash or a debit card.

* For the person who has everything, consider a donation to a charity (preferably one he or she would support) in his or her name.

* Avoid impulse buying--shop online and through catalogs.

* Create personal gift certificates offering your services for babysitting, pet-sitting, car washing, cooking, or giving computer lessons.

* Give flower bulbs to the green thumbs on your list; they're inexpensive and bloom year after year.

* Invite your neighbors to a potluck supper instead of exchanging gifts.

* Have your children make your holiday card this year and send out color copies to friends and family.

* Give rain checks, and then go on a family shopping spree the day after Christmas to purchase sale items.

* Shop for bulk items such as nuts and cheeses at warehouse stores like Sam's or Costco; then fill and decorate individual bags.

* Fill stockings with practical items, such as dental floss, socks, pens, or scotch tape.

* Send cyber photo cards by e-mail and save on postage.

* Have children make a piece of art and frame it as a gift for relatives.

* Make a gift certificate that offers baby-sitting, dog-sitting, or even a shoulder massage as a gift.

* Buy in advance when items are marked down 50-75%.

* Throughout the year keep your eyes open for items that are a great value. You might consider buying 10 of the same thing as gifts, if it is an amazing well priced item or on a special sale.

* Shop the week after Christmas for the following year when you can buy Christmas ornaments at 75% off – the make great stocking stuffers.

Looking Ahead

The holiday crunch is a good time to assimilate lessons you've learned in the past, so don't forget to apply what you learn to the future. For example, experts recommend you save 10% of your paycheck and squirrel it away all year to help pay for holiday expenses and the ensuing credit card debt.

Not only that, but don't forget to shop the after-Christmas sales this year for items you'll need next year, such as trimming, lights, extension cords, and wrapping paper.

Finally, track your expenses this year to help you budget for next year. Store this data with your decorations or gift list, if necessary, making it easy to find next year. Then make it your goal to decrease spending by a certain percentage or dollar amount each holiday season, and brainstorm year-round on creative gifts that will require more time and less expense.

Take a less materialistic approach to this season’s shopping and instead focus on building community and strengthening friendship and family bonds. Try to establish new family traditions--such as reading aloud a special story each year, with relatives taking individual parts or go retro with a game of Twister--to give people more to look forward to and share than opening gifts.

With all this Holiday practice, you can continue living your life at half the price by reading more tips in my free ebook titled Live Your Life at Half the Price at: www.msmoney.com

(Specifically at: http://www.msmoney.com/2004/12/live_with_flair.htm)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Stay-at-Home Moms lose $1 Million

The author of Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million, and I have something in common, we both couldn't imagine in college that we would work our tails off to achieve success just to hang it all up and stay home with the kids once we started a family.

And now here I am so many years later after taking some time off to do exactly that. Stay home with my son. Who would have ever imagined?

As Mary Snyder, co-author of You Can Afford to Stay Home With Your Kids, told the author, “It's a total priority shift. Women don't want the Supermom Syndrome. It looked great from the outside, but once you were in it, you were miserable and you couldn't excel at anything.”

Exactly Mary! It did look great from the outside when I was setting up my multimillion dollar company with 30 employees, 50 contractors, a dozen large corporate partners and having the First Lady Hillary Clinton there for my launch.

Then the hard part of actually running it kicked in and took its toll on my mind, body and spirit and my world turned upside down. All of a sudden that life-long dream of being a CEO wasn't as important as my health and well-being.

Plop in some fertility issues, which I found is very common with overworked women, and everything started running amok. I wrote this segment; The Path to Success, after my first year as a CEO for the book:
Inside the Minds:
Leading Women
What it Takes for Women to Succeed and Have it All in the 21st Century

It covers some of the topics many women will face who think they can do it all. Here are a few samples you may enjoy:
What are some good ways to relieve stress that often arises when women try to do too much?
Is there any way to have children and still be on an "executive track?"
How do you go about doing this?
What advice do you have for women who are our striving to succeed and have it all?

OnRamping for Your Encore

A friend of mine was considering returning back to work after a long hiatus raising her 2 boys. She said she would do anything to start getting back into the work world. "Perhaps, I will start walking dogs," she said. This is a woman who has a Master's Degree and is certainly capable of something more challenging.

I told Millie Froeb and Catherine Clifford this same story and they weren't at all surprised. They said they hear women all the time sell their abilities short, which is why they created YourOnRamp.

YourOnRamp is a community of professional women who balance their work and life with flexibility and creativity. Whether a woman is onramping, offramping, or just managing the day-to-day at home or at work, YourOnRamp provides the networks, resources, and job opportunities to succeed.

My mother, my honorary content researcher for women's issues, sent me an article by Newsweek titled - Getting Back on Track. "Women who take career 'off ramps' to raise children often have trouble finding 'on ramps' when they are ready to work again. Now companies in need of talent are finally addressing the problem."

In response to so many talented, highly educated women leaving the corporate ladder climb to stay home with their children, companies are devising new strategies for women workers. Lehman Brothers, Booze Allen and other large firms are seeing a drop off in interest from women who have said no to the 60 hour work week, instead they are saying yes to flex-time and telecommuting. In order to retain and attract new talent, they are learning to adapt to the needs of these woman and offer them a respected place within their ranks.

Read my article Financial Women Pioneers about women whose trail blazing paved the road for this new generation to demand more flexibility and options.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Women Wanted as Financial Advisors

Why are top firms such as Securian Financial Group actively recruiting women to become Financial Advisors? And why is this a benefit to women?

Women control at least half of the wealth in this country, 80% or more of the household purchases and often prefer a woman financial advisor to a man by 3 to 1.

By 2010, just a few years away, it is predicted women will control 60% of the wealth in this country. With only 20% of the financial advisors of the female gender, there is a shortage of women to fill these "wealth holders" needs.

A Financial Advisor career is a good option for women because it provides high pay, great flexibility (for those soccer moms), and a high level of control. You don't even need a degree in finance. Sherri DuMond, national recruiting vice president for Securian Financial Group and a former financial advisor, says good listening and communications skills are the most important qualities to possess. And we all know women are better at those than men.

Read below about some upcoming opportunities to learn more about how to become a Financial Advisor.

**********************

Women Wanted: For great careers as financial advisors

Flexibility, unlimited earnings potential and the opportunity to positively impact lives.

Those are job attributes that should be especially appealing to women. And they are indeed the attributes of a career as a financial advisor – yet only 20 percent of the nation’s financial advisors are women.

A 2006 survey from Money magazine and Salary.com ranked “financial advisor” as the third best job in America, based on growth, compensation and job satisfaction, yet the playing field in this industry is dramatically uneven for women.

One company is working to change that. Securian Financial Group (www.securian.com), based in St. Paul, MN, with affiliated firms across the country, is hosting recruiting events in various cities to raise awareness. Upcoming events are being held October 9th in San Mateo, California (call 650-227-0364 for information or to register) and October 17th in Houston (call 713-622-1150, ext. 153.)

“Most women don’t even know about this career option, so we are working to spread the word and introduce them to this career,” explained Sherri DuMond, national recruiting vice president for Securian Financial Group.

“Women are naturally good at this job because they usually have good people skills and good listening skills,” said DuMond. “There is tremendous opportunity for the right people to be successful.”

Especially when you consider the tremendous potential in the marketplace. Women will control an estimated 60 percent of the wealth in the United States by 2010 and we currently influence more than 80 percent of financial decisions in the household, according to the Insurance Advisory Board. In addition, there are 10.6 million privately-held, women-owned businesses in this country.

Couple these statistics with the fact that women often prefer to work with a female financial advisor, and you have incredible opportunity. A survey by Opinion Research Firm and Securian Financial Group documents the demand. Women surveyed who are currently without advisors and who have a gender preference indicate that they would prefer a female to a male advisor by almost three to one (27 percent versus 9 percent).

So those of you who are looking for a career change or are just starting out in your working life should give this job a good look. My hope is to some day report in a future blog that 50 percent of all financial advisors in the country are women.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Elder Care at 25% of the Cost.

With 40 million Americans providing elder care for our seniors and the cost of nursing homes rising to $6,000 a month, it might be time to start considering other options.

My Father-in-law paid for 20 years of nursing home care for his mother, who passed away a few years ago at 98. Could this be why he waited to retire until he was 79 (instead of 65) and now is an entrepreneur starting a new business?

Seniors head south to Mexican nursing homes - USATODAY.com
It almost sounds to good to be true: a beautiful serene landscape on a pristine lake with your own studio apartment, three meals a day, cleaning and laundry service AND 24/7 nursing are. WOW! How much did you say that cost? $1,300 a month? No wonder almost 80,000 Americans have already headed south of the border.

Of course Mexico is just one option, there are developing countries around the world ready to take in our seniors for a lucrative steady cash flow - even if it is just a quarter of the price of the US market.

It occurred to me, why don't we just import nurses from around the world (like we do technology workers) to help our country with our aging population at a price the average family can afford? Elder care is not only depleting of their children's pocketbook, it reducing their children's overall ability to earn (estimated they lose $500,000 in income caring for elders) and it is incredibly depleting of the care-taker's own health, who sometimes die before their elders do.

I am not the first one to think of this solution of bringing nurses in from abroad. The U.S. has been trying for years to fill nursing positions. In 2003 there were 120,000 open positions for registered nurses nationwide per the 60 Minutes story: Nursing Shortage In Critical Stage - Poaching From Overseas?.

CNN states in their recent article, U.S. nursing shortage 'going into crisis', that by the year 2008, another 450,000 nurses may be needed to meet demand, according to government projections.

OH MY! ... makes you want to have a plan for your retirement and elder years doesn't it? Perhaps that really expensive Long Term Care Insurance doesn't seem so out of the ball park now.

Or perhaps you are just now realistically thinking about venturing into other countries for better care at a better price (and often better weather.)

For an additional $140 a year, this American nursing home resident living in Mexico gets complete medical coverage from the Mexican government, including all his medicine and insulin for his diabetes.

Come on - really? If you haven't figured it out already the International market for U.S. drugs can pay as much as 10 times less.

Drug manufacturers figure insurance companies will pay the premiums in the U.S. but not in places like Mexico, or even Canada. There is whole Internet business that revolves around selling drugs at a huge discount to U.S. customers that are shipped from other countries at their prices. Is it legal? You will have to research that yourself. I can tell you one thing, there is a lot of political pressure from the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to make it highly illegal. Otherwise ... how will they and their investors make huge profits from desperate consumers?

Ok - I shouldn't say that. Afterall, I do own stock in a biotech company that will be manufacturing one of those new cancer treatments. And yes, I can only assume they will be expensive for Americans and less for other countries. Considering this company spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing this treatment, the investors (and shareholders - that is me), are hoping to get some return on our investment.

I guess I have a balanced view of the situation. It seems unfair on the surface (to charge Americans more), but below the surface, it probably is what is needed to drive innovation in medicine and risk taking by investors. Without innovation we will keep dying for the same old diseases and we won't be developing the technology to protect ourselves from these new superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics and can kill you in the blink of an eye.

Maybe I should go buy some more biotech stocks!

Can I Use Regular Gas in My Premium Car?

Experts say YES! I can't believe it. All these years of paying 20 cents more when I really didn't have to. When I first read this, I just didn't register so I did some extra research online and provided below.

I teach people that investing can start with as little as saving $5 a day. I wonder what the cost would be for gas guzzlers to switch from premium to regular. Maybe those drivers could find $5 a day pretty easy to plop into their IRA?

USATODAY.com - Why use premium gas when regular will do?

Edmunds.com - Do You Really Need Premium?

Consumer Energy Center - Regular Versus Premium Gasoline

Need more proof? Google it.

Buying a Home in a Better School District

I stopped by Great Schools this evening to look at my son's school and compare with nearby schools and town. These are things you start thinking about once your child enters the public school system. Of course, ideally I should have thought about this before we bought our home and chose to buy a home based on where the good school districts were. However, we had a very good sense for our community that our town was an excellent choice for finding good schools.

We are lucky, when it comes to California schools in general, of having a good district with a lot of parental involvement. I volunteer once a week to work in my son's kindergarten room, as well as many other parents. It is this kind of participation that improves overall education for the children in his school and schools in our community.

I went to the 3 year planning committee meeting a few months ago and was surprised to be the only - yes the only parent there not already affiliated with the school in some capacity as an employee or contractor. It was open to the public and yet no one showed up.

As parents it is not only our right, but also our responsibility to take action to help evolve our school system to the learning academies that will help our children prosper in their lives. I was a big advocate in the meeting for "greening" the schools, reducing homework, and relying less on test scores and instead on more well-rounded activities that would produce children with life balance (something I teach).

Since no one else from the general public was there I was able to speak for 45 minutes. This is in a district of 5 elementary schools. I would have rather have spoken 10 minutes and had other passionate parents there with me who had wonderful ideas for improving the schools.

I was surprised to learn that on average schools in California(including my son's school) receive between $10,000-$11,000 a year per student in funding from the state and fundraising activities. Our community raises $1.5 million dollars from private donors to fund art and science in our district. You would think those should be a part of the curriculum and funding, but they are not.

East Coast schools have an average of $18,000 in funding per student. That is almost twice as much. A big difference. I thought my friend who lived in Connecticut was joking when she described her son's public elementary school. It sounded like a posh country club. Wouldn't I just love to spend an extra $7,000 per student in our commuity on enhancing the schools and curriculum. However, I don't have that option - well the school administrators don't.

For those of you parents whose children are in the public school system in less fortunate states than Connecticut (ie: California), know that you can help make a differnce, even it means just volunteering an hour a week at the school, in the classroom or at a fundraiser. Every heart and hand counts.

It takes a village to raise our children and WE ARE THAT VILLAGE.

Is Organic Food Worth the Price?

Experts say Aspargus, bananas, onions and sweet peas rarely have pesticide residue so you may choose not to spend the extra money on the organic version. Save it for bell peppers (my favorite), apples, strawberries and spinach.

What does organic mean?

It is free of most pesticides, sythetic fertilizers, genetic engineering and sewage sludge (yuk). I will definately pass on the sewage sludge, whatever that is. Before it can be certified organic it must be inspected by government officials. Visit the USDA Standards definition online.

Labels that say Cage-Free or Free Range or Grass-Fed are not certified organic and many of the claims can not be substantiated, so they may be not worth the premium.

Paying for College Without Going Broke


Sometimes a title sums everything up. A picture is worth a thousand words ... so is this title.

A must read for parents who are scared to death of the 6 figures they will have to save to put one child through 4 years of college. It provides insider strategies on the when, why, where and how to apply for student loans, grants and tax breaks. As well as a host of other important information about the financial aspects of college.

Paying for College Without Going Broke 2007.

Marketocracy

Taking Stock Market Games to a new level. Tired of just playing around with monopoly money on investing game sites and think you ready to play with the big folks? Then sign up with Marketocracy. From their website:

Searching for the Best Investors in the world
Could you be one of them?

Manage virtual stock portfolios
Improve with our portfolio tools
Find out how good you really are
We rank & pay for performance

The site has 55,000 users and now has $44 million dollars in real assets. Through Foliofn.com and $10,000 you can invest in Marketocracy's best portfolios. Of course, do your research and know it is always best to talk to a certified investment professional to determine the level of risk before investing your hard-earned money anywhere.

PosiPalooza Your Way to Wealth

I returned last week from speaking in Pittsburgh and the Quad cities (Illinois/Iowa). My presentation title was HarMoney: Create More Wealth, Health and Well-Being. You can watch the video or powerpoint slides.

What made this speech different from most, is the fact that I focused on how your wealth is tied in closely with your health and well-being.

What I didn't include, which I will have to in my next speech on this topic, is how to surround yourself with as many things as possible that carry a positive tone. Unfortunately, for you news junkies, it is hard to find these days. Even watching prime time TV can leave you in the doldrums as you contemplate the tumultuous lives of fictional characters. This is why I am starting a positive media company called Shine Media.

Part of the reason I am an Executive Producer for a positive music label, besides the love of music, is the desire to make people a little happier - even if it is one song at a time. You can buy the CD Levity, that I supported. It was produced by Scott Johnson - the founder of Positive Music Association.

Positive music is a great way to impart the kind of messages your mind, body and spirit needs to embark on a new outlook on your life. We all know it isn't easy to change old habits. Especially when those habits involve our money. We have record level home foreclosures so something isn't quite working right. We may KNOW what to do when it comes to spending and saving, but we can't seem to break out of our mold. Why not try something new and begin thinking out-of-the-box?

Change the world around you for a month and see what happens. Turn off the TV news and catch the highlights in email so they are less depressing and sensationalized, and turn on plenty of positive music.

Scott Johnson presented the award a few days ago for Best Personal Transformation song to John Smith and Tanya Leah won for their song "Heart Wide Open." Imagine ... a song can help you transform your life. Give it a try. Start by watching highlights of the PosiPalooza concert.

Once your well-being is improved, you will have the positive outlook on life to invest the time and energy into your financial life and things will start spiraling up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The True Cost of Happiness

One of my favorite tasks for Ms.Money is to review books. My most recent, The True Cost of Happiness by Stacey Tisdale and Paula Boyer Kennedy. Stacey tackles in this book what I most often think about as founder of Ms.Money - how to move people from awareness about financial bad habits into inspiration to make a change.

It is one thing to educate someone how to do financially planning and money money management, and an entirely another thing to motivate them to actually take on the task themselves. People are filled with the best intentions when they start something but often once the excitement of something new fizzles, so does the resolution to complete the task.

Millions of people every year make it their New Year's Resolution to be smarter about their money and come February as they start opening their credit card statements a fog of disappointment sets in around their goal and they begin to feel like a failure before they have even begun.

What they don't realize is that they should plow through and they will find sunshine on the other side. Happiness does lie on the other side of too much debt. And though the authors were very careful to point out that money does not buy your happiness, they do say (and I agree) that the removal of debt can remove a lot of unhappiness and grief.

This is an amazing book and one of the few books that completely resonates with my vision right now of empowering people about financial health. We both agree there has to be that aha moment before one if ready to implement lasting change. I believe reading this book will provide that kind of experience for many and it is well worth the small price tag to purchase it.

Some of my favorite chapters were:
The Songs we Play in Our Heads
Teach Your Children Well
The Truth About Change
Staying on Course

Pick up a copy today of The True Cost of Happiness at Amazon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word

The publisher sent me this book a few months ago and I was immediately drawn to it. I put it, cover facing forward, on my book shelf because I knew it was something I should read soon. Due to my very busy schedule though, I didn't pick it up until a desperate moment of feeling out of balance by working too much.

I feel blessed to have a pretty amazing life. Most of the time I get to do what I want and pursue a career in line with my passion. Because I have the ability to manifest work opportunities easily, I often generate more work than I can handle. I create something and then it arrives. And a lot has been arriving lately, which has made life very exciting and sleep and rest a thing of the past.

Okay ... breath Tiffany. It was the right time and I picked up the book. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically as I read the inside cover. It was so true of me in particular.

"Do you feel need to do everything yourself and can't ask for help? Has it become so extreme you feel like you are on a runaway train and don't know how to use the emergency stop? You are not alone. Author Peggy Collins, is a reformed self sufficient, so she understand exactly what you are going through."

Then my favorite part ...

"This is the first life-enhancing guide designed to help people like you who can't or won't ask for help: ... the overwhelmed super-mom who picks up the kids while closing the biggest sale of her career on her cell phone."

Haha - that is me! I really did close one of the biggest sales of my career on my cell phone while volunteering at my son's Co-op preschool and trying to find a quiet spot away from the kids loud play. Too funny!

I read on. And my laughter turned to tears. Oh goodness, this is me and this is a problem I need to solve. Thanks Peggy for the tips. My life did improve a bit after your slap in the face to wake up and stop doing so much.

This is a description of the book by the publisher. Buy it today if you are an Over-Self-Sufficient (and what mom isn't?).

It's great to be self-sufficient, isn't it?Not if it's costing you your sanity.

Okay, so you're responsible, hard working, and independent. But you're also stressed out, overwhelmed, and reluctant to ask anyone for help. Why should you? You're perfectly capable of juggling work, family, and other obligations all by yourself, thank you very much. But ask yourself-and be honest:

Are you constantly trying to “do it all,” all by yourself?
Do you avoid delegating work because you don't trust others to “do it right”?
Are you afraid you'll look weak if you ask someone for help?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be suffering from Self-Sufficiency Syndrome--and you might be heading for major burnout. The good news is: Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word. This groundbreaking new book by professional speaker Peggy Collins will show you how to recognize the signs, ease the demands you put on yourself, and start enjoying your work, your family, and your life.

Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word helps you:
Identify the signs and symptoms of Self-Sufficiency Syndrome
Break the cycle of extreme self-sufficiency
Ask for help when you really need it
Learn who and who not to ask for help
Balance your personal and professional life

Friday, May 11, 2007

Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconvential Places

Michael Mauboussin's book Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconvential Places appeals to the inquisitive sleuth inside of me that is always questing for answers to life's bigger questions. Figuring out the underlying psychological patters that cause economics shifts - including the mood swings of the stock market - isn't for the faint of heart.

If you consider yourself to be a serious hands-on investor then this is the book that your financial analyst is reading to see if they can make better decisions with your money. Mauboussin sees patterns in gambling and evolutionary biology that relate to successful investing strategy. He examines Warren Buffet's investing process for additional clues.

With chapter titles that include: All I really Need to Know I Learned at a Tuppeware Party and I Fallen and I Can't Get Up, Mauboussin tried to interject some humor into an otherwise complicated subject.

Young, Fabulous & Broke Meets the Budget Fashionista

Thank you to all the publishers who send me their latest money and empowerment books. I try to read as many as possible and review them here.

I especially was thrilled to get the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman right after How to be a Budget Fashionista showed up in my mail. Those two are a match made in heaven for women under 30 and on the Ms.Money required reading list.

From her book How to Be a Budget Fashionista: Kathryn Linney teaches women that they don't need to sacrifice style to pay their electric bill. She opens her Prada bag of shopping and style tips to make you fashionably frugal, with change to spare. It is as easy at 1-2-3.
1. Know your Budget: Learn innovative, money-saving ways to increase your clothing funds
2. Know your Style: Get helpful hints from fashion insiders and use them to develop your own mode of self-expressions.
3. Know your Bargains: Discover the art of scoring exclusive friends-and-family coupons at your favorite department stores.

Once our under-30 set has finished off this read, they must turn to The Young, Broke and Fabulous book by Suze Orbman who does an excellent job of painting a pretty picture for even those in the most dire of money circumstances. Her thoughts are that anyone can escape the poverty syndrome and put a plan of action together that will give you financial freedom.

With it's off-the-hip friendly style, it will definately appeal to the Generation X crowd. It was simple and easy to read and captivated my attention like few money books do. I loved the clean layout with the Problem and Solution boxes that are right on target with the issues the just-out-of-college generation faces.

For additional material read my free eBook: Live Your Life at Half the Price
and checkout The Budget Fashionista's website http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

With a Broken Wing She Carries Her Dream

Watching Jordin Sparks this week on American Idol brought tears running down my cheeks. It wasn't just her phenomenal singing, it was the message that she was bringing to millions of Americans. You can watch the video on AmericanIdol.com.

Musicians are our modern day poets and bring us messages of hope, peace and unconditional love. They also tell us stories of struggle and despair that are overcome by a faith in something bigger than yourself.

When I heard the lyrics to Martina McBride's song Broken Wing sung by Jordin Sparks, I couldn't help think they were relevant to women and men alike, especially those who have tackled major obstacles on their path to huge career and financial success.

The emotional chord within me sang loud and clear that I am still carrying around some emotional baggage from those who didn't believe in me when it came to my career and monetary aspirations. Afterall, I came from very humble circumstances and was the first in my family to graduate from college. There were few expectations for me and I had no role models on how to achieve my goals. Yet, from the time I was 16 years old, I knew I wanted to be a CEO, to go the best business graduate school in the country and pursue my dreams. I was seldom taken seriously, and usually by those who knew me the most.

To be the top player in the game, whether that is in business, sports, medicine, etc., people naturally assume "the best" have their life scale heavily weighted only to the side where their work lies. It is hard for people to understand that keeping your life balanced, can actually produce better results overall and propel you to the leading position quicker.

I was always so friendly, outgoing, happy and fun, that people had difficulty believing that I could be incredibly smart, intelligent, business savvy and ambitious. When I started telling people about these grand aspirations I had, they just politely grinned at my unusual over-confidence.

I was the fun, perky cheerleader, not the gray-suited CEO. I was even described as the "cheerleader" in one of my first interviews for MsMoney.com. This was an image I tried to dispel my entire 20's while seeking business approval. I started wearing blue suites and pulling my long blond hair up in a twist, as well as wearing conservative glasses. I even thought it might help me if I dyed my hair brown, perhaps people would take me more seriously.

Luckily I don't have to dress the part anymore and I can be my own petite, perky and colorful self because I have a track record that shows what I can do. I can finally let me hair down and wear pink! Whewwww!

The reason the song touched me is because I spent part of my life with people telling me "you’re crazy for believin’ you’ll ever leave the ground - only angels know how to fly". It never occured to me before that I had a bit of a broken heart or a broken wing. When those dearest to you don't believe in you, it hurts. This is why in one of my first blogs, I wrote how everyone needs to have their cheerleading squad behind them when reaching for the stars, because we certainly have enough naysayers around.

Regardless, of being emotionally injured or not, I wouldn't let anything get in my way of achieving my dreams. In a way ... I was rebelling against the idea that I couldn't do it. By 27 years old, I was the President of my own consulting company with Fortune 100 clients, and by 32 years old I was the CEO of my own corporation and had raised millions of dollars and achieved a million dollars in revenue in my first year of operation. I had the goal of having one of the most powerful woman in the world involved in my company and being featured in the top 5 business magazines: Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal and USAToday (not a business magazine - but well read). I achieved that goal in just 6 months when the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was live on TV with me Launching MsMoney.com and the press picked up the story and I was featured in not just those 5 magazines but many more.

If my dreams can come true, so can yours.

Believe in your dreams and they can manifest with positive and committed action on your part. Stay the course even though strong headwinds may try to blow you off your path and the "voice of reason" may be telling you to turn back. It isn't true that only angels can fly - we can all fly! The belief in yourself will raise you up high enough to glide to your destination - whether that is a financial goal, a personal or professional one. It gets easier once you hold on to your faith and don't let go.

Martina McBride - Broken Wing

She loved like he was the last man on earth. gave him everything she ever had.He’d break her spirit down, then come lovin’ up on her. give a little, then take it back. she’d tell him about her dreams - he’d just shoot ’em down. lord,He loved to make her cry. "you’re crazy for believin’ you’ll ever leave the ground." he said "only angels know how to fly."

And with a broken wing, she still sings. she’ keeps an eye on the sky. with a Broken wing, she carries her dreams. man, you ought to see her fly.

One Sunday mornin’, she didn’t go to church. he wondered why she didn’t leave.He went up to her bedroom, found a note by the window, with the curtains Blowin’ in the breeze,

and with a broken wing, she still sings. she keeps an eye on the sky. with a broken wing, she carries her dreams. man, you ought to see her fly. with a broken wing, she carries her dreams. man, you ought to see Her fly. (with a broken wing oooooh)

Friday, April 06, 2007

$110,000 a Year for a Nursing Home in SF?

I was reading the San Francisco Chronical this week, while lying in my hospital bed wondering what people do in the hospital (except for being woken up every 2 hours by the staff to make sure you are still alive - if you thought it was a place to get some rest - boy are you wrong). I figured reading my Blackberry didn't feel quite right so I turned to 2 day old newspaper lying around.

A story caught my eye about the high cost of nursing homes in the San Francisco. These days it will cost you $110,000 a year to check into a full service nursing home in the city. That is around $300 a day. WOW! Who has that kind of money lying around?

This is certainly a good reason to start looking at Long-Term Care Insurance.

It is shockingly expensive so prepare yourself. MsMoney.com is focused on Life Planning when it comes to financial success. If you want to live out the remaining of your golden years in style and not put the burden on your family, this might be something for you to start saving up for right now.

If you are the daughter of a mother or father who doesn't think much about their financial future, perhaps this is something you should consider for them. Otherwise, you will be footing the bill if they run out of funds, or like so many women in their 50's and 60's you will staying home doing elder care. Women on average take 11 years out of the workforce to care either for children or aging parents.

This is important for women to consider when planning their lives and their financial futures. To not factor it in is irresponsible and could cause financial problems in the long run.

Too often we go through our lives just expecting things to fall into place ... and then WHAM! someone is on their way to the hospital and they might not come out the same way they went it. That could mean you ... or a loved one. Either way - it is a huge financial burden to pick up if that ailing person needed a lot of medical attention and can't live their lives as they did before.

This might be a good time to start thinking about Insurance in your overall Life Plan.

Stop by the MsMoney.com Insurance Section.

Nurses Make More Than Doctors?

Since I had my first hospitalization this week (not including the birth of my son) - I will be spending some time on the financials of health care.

I was speaking with my neighbor a few weeks ago - who is head of Pediatrics for one of the Bay Area Hospitals and he said that his new staff doctors (those who just finished their internships) ...

(by the way my emWave just hit GREEN! I must like this topic).

made less money than some nurses. He went on to include that a lot of doctors in other countries are coming to the US to be nurses because of the great pay.

Simple equation here ---> high demand = high pay

My husband, Hans Bukow - CEO of www.eWork.com sells software that manages a flexible work force like hospital nurses. He says he has seen top nurses make $200,000 a year. I am assuming they get paid around $50 an hour and do A LOT of overtime. Not a bad living. Except for the fact you have to "live" in a hospital which has it's share of negative experiences.

I know about the negative vibe at hospitals - I just came out of one where I spent the night. I certainly don't want to go back there any time soon. Not because of the staff - almost everyone was terrific and enjoyed their company. It was the fact they tend to want to take a lot of blood (all the time) and like hooking you up to IV's not just one arm but 2! And then the reality that they won't let you sleep.

I remember when I was 16 years old and I was deciding what my college major would be, I looked down a list of professions and saw the one I wanted to be -- "professional dancer" which made an average of $8,000 a year and decided that just wasn't going to cut it for me. So I went to the top of the list and saw computer engineer. Guess what I enrolled in at college? Yup - computer engineer. And even though I didn't complete that degree, computer information, design and programming have been the cornerstone of much of my business success.

So I have to wonder, how many young ladies (and men) are looking at that list of professions right now and deciding nursing might even be a better option that medical school?

I think I read somewhere that we still have a shortage of 100,000 nurses. With an aging population, that number is destined to get even larger. Hans says the bottleneck is in the accredited nursing programs - there just aren't enough schools to churn out nursing graduates to meet the high demand.

Now don't let me give you the impression you should pick a career just for the money. I am still a big advocate for following your heart and your passion and sticking to that and the money will come. I didn't decide to be a computer engineer just because it paid the most, I also chose it because I had a real love of all things cool and electronic. In a way ... I was following my passion. Even today - I still get an endorphin high when a new piece of technology arrives at my home, whether a video iPod, a new sleek computer , the latest graphic software or the totally cool emWave.

emWave Your Way to Peace and Performance

Finally plugged in the emWave machine and gave it a whirl. Since this was my first time I am using it, I wanted to see how long it would take to set up. I love a product you can get rolling with in just a few minutes and the emWave offers this with a fast read of the quick start guide. I attachied the sensor to my ear (like a clip on earing) - or I could have put my thumb on the sensor, and off I went.

Blue blinking light on the left says it is reading my heart rate (good I am alive), and moving blue lights across the top (reminded me of ocean waves) gave me an indicator of how to pace my breathing.

Hey - there is a red light on the right which said I was "normal" - which is apparently low coherence. I am guessing that means most people are just a little stressed. I didn't feel that stressed, however given what happened this week (one of the most stressful of my life ... tell you later) I should be.

So I read the sheet and it says breath with the blue moving lights and start thinking about something that makes you feel good, a positive memory of someone you love or an event that made you really happy. I thought of my son's birth and all of a sudden the red light starts turning blue. Yippeee! It really works. I haven't gotten to green yet - which is optimal coherence, but I have only been doing it a few minutes now and typing this.

I really could have used the emWave in the emergency room on Wednesday just before I fainted from all the pain. I wonder if it would have helped me control the pain and prevented the black out. I will have to ask the emWave folks that.

Give it a whirl yourself and pick one up at www.emwave.com for $179. Once you start mastering your coherence levels and start living in the "green" it will more that pay for itself with improved performance.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Feeling Helpless? Then Help Someone.

The main chorus of the song I heard at dance today was: If you feel helpless, then help someone. There isn't a time in a woman's life, no matter how successful she is, that she hasn't felt completely helpless. Due to my fertility challenges the last 3 years, I have felt totally and utterly helpless not only in that arena, but it has extended to other areas of my life.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I extend out to others and help them. It makes me realize that I do have gift to share, that I can make a difference in the world, and this gives me the courage to enjoy the amazement of another day instead of focusing on the deep sorrows of loss.

The experts say that women with infertility have much higher depression rates than those who have cancer or AIDS. I have my own theories, and even though I wasn't "depressed", I wasn't my super-successful-bubbling-with-enthusiasm-self. It is as if I have been living in a bit of a fog the last couple years where my magnificence was not able to shine through.

When my son was asked during a preschool video this week what his mom does for a living, he said: "She helps people." I felt so blessed that he understood that. Perhaps he will grow up knowing when he feels helpless that all he has to do is help someone become empowered and he will regain his power.

Thank you world for letting me help you and I accept your help in return.

Women of Hope, Women of Courage, Women of War


Photo: Fort Bragg 1966
Left- me looking shocked that may dad may be shipped off to Viet Nam, my dad Albert Bass III and my brother Bob Bass.

During my dance meditation class this morning, the DJ played a thought provoking song about war. Not something I normally want to listen to during my peaceful class. I immediately reacted and felt pains in my body. One of the lyrics was about women waking up in the morning to find all their children murdered during the night.

Yikes! BREATH! I still react now even writing it. For someone like myself who has had several pregnancy losses, I can't imagine having my live children killed by war. Sometimes, I forget we are a country at war. I don't listen to the news because I WANT TO FORGET. I don't ever ever ever want to think of my son dying in a senseless war.

On September 11, 2001, I woke up mortified and felt as if I had been blown to bits inside. Instead of sitting their crying, which I did plenty of, I drew out that activist inside of me and built a website about the 911 trajedy that same day that focused on peace and forgiveness and promoted my pacifist views of life. I bet you didn't know I was a web designer in a previous time.

It has been almost 6 years since the event and that site still gets over 500 visitors a month. In total, I have had at least 100,000 people visit it. Who says a single person can't make a difference from their living room!

Why am I a pacifist? You see ... I was born at Fort Bragg in 1996 during the peak of the Viet Nam war. Fort Bragg was one of the US's most combat ready and active military intallations and my Father, at the young age of 22 was drafted and being trained as a Green Beret in the Special Forces of the Army. He comes from a long line of heroic Fathers who fought in WWI and WWII and he felt it was his duty to defend our country.

As a daughter who could have lost her Father in another senseless war (you would think our country would learn), I think about the grief and pain I would have suffered my whole life if this happened. I thank those lucky stars, and the wisdom of my parents (mostly my mom) that prevented my dad from re-enlisting, so that it didn't happen. When I visited Viet Nam, I was able to do so with peace in my heart. I still wept at the war memorial in Viet Nam for my Father's friends who died there and the Vietnamese soldiers who never had the chance to grow up with peace in their hearts.

Part of the reason I want a woman President is because I can't imagine a woman would ever send our sons to die in war. We spend our whole lives nurturing our children and praying they turn out to be responsible citizens, the last thing on our mind is to imagine them dying in a senseless death. We must try to find peace before we jump hastily towards a war.

A war that has cost you billions of dollars.

A woman President would much rather put the cost of the Iraq war - that $411 billion dollars of taxpayer money (mounting daily) towards:

  • sending 54,448,641 children to attend a year of Head Start Preschool or
  • insuring 246,160,098children for one year or
  • providing 19,928,613 students four-year scholarships at public universities or
  • 124,197additional public school teachers for one year.
A woman President would be like the lyrics of the song today. She would be a
a Woman of hope,
a woman of courage,
a women of war ...

Women who know what war is, would do everything in their power to stay out of war. Not take any opportunity they can to get into war. For war doesn't just have a tax-payer cost it takes a huge financial toll on those who lose the head of the household in a war.

If my father would have died in the Viet Nam war my life would have been completely different and I probably wouldn't be here blogging to you right now. There would be no Ms.Money. I may have not gone to college. My mother would have had difficulty making a living while trying to financially and emotionally support 3 children. I just don't know what she would have done. Hopefully, other women would have risen to the chance to help her.

My mother would have survived though, because she is a woman of hope, of courage and war. She would have pulled through, but thank goodness she didn't have to. And I would have ultimately been ok also, though my cards would have landed on the table much differently.

Let's take a moment to think about all those women who did lose their husbands in war and think about how we can help them emotionally and financially. And let's think about how we can prevent future deaths.

Links:
Military Widows Unite
National Society of Military Widows
Army Widows Association

Hillary Clinton - an Ambitious Woman - For President

Hillary and I after the MsMoney.com launch at the WTC.

I know, I know ... this is my 3rd post about the Debra's Ambitious book, but it really affected me. I always say - change your thinking and you can change your life. Well this book helped me change my thinking and my life has really improved the last few days because of it.

This time the topic is about Hillary. Chris Rock did a Saturday Night Live skit on the Presidential Campaign in which is said that white women don't like white women. That really struck a chord with me and it supports some of the theories Debra has in her book that women do NOT like ambitious women.

Who is more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? Carly Fiorina (HP's former CEO) and Martha Stewart probably rank in the top 5 and look how the public treated them. Not good.

You can't deny that Hillary is ambitious, so what kind of campaign should her managers put together to downplay her ambition (because women don't want to think about that) and instead focus on improving individual lives.

Chris also said, what kind of plight has a white women ever suffered, compared to a black man. He jokes that women were never burned at the stake like a black men. I guess he is forgetting about the tens of thousands of women persecuted and "burned at the stake" by the Inquisition during the Middle Ages. And just because a woman might have been a little less ordinary than the gal next door. It wasn't just the men that were "turning" these innocent women in, women were also persecuting their neighbors if they broke out of the norm ... anyone who - let's say was a little bit ... "ambitious".

Thank goodness that era has ended. Or has it completely? In India it is estimated that about 7,000 women a year die by being doused with gasoline and set on fire by their husbands because their family didn't provide a large enough dowry (in other words for money). It is even a Wikipedia entry called Bride Burning.

I am sorry for writing that, I don't like be confronted with the "inconvenient truth" anymore than the next person. And this one makes my stomach turn. Especially since I don't know how to contribute to fixing that problem. I didn't know about this when I spent a month in India visiting over a dozen cities. I loved the country and the spirituality and who knew there was a dark side?


So what is the moral of these stories?

Ladies ... let's start playing nice and support each other. Hillary is a woman that needs not just our vote, but our attention. She isn't perfect, nor are we. Though she has the courage to take on the world and make a difference. How many of us would stand up there at the podium and take the criticism she faces if we didn't feel we could make the world a better place.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, I applaud you and will support your ambitious ways any way that I can. Even if it means talking to one woman at a time until they understand why having a woman President is just what this country needs right now. And that ambition is not a dirty word.

Sign up and become a financial supporter today of Hillary's Presidential Campaign at HillaryClinton.com. I did today and plan to make monthly contributions!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

emWave: The Personal Stress Reliever


Yeah! My emWave showed up at my house today. I can't wait to start using it. What is it you ask? Well it is smaller than a breadbox and has interesting flashing lights. Not helping you figure it out?

Imagine a high tech mood ring. A cool ipod looking gadget that tell you when you are stressed out and helps you regulate your stress levels so you can maximize performance. And that can add to your financial bottom line if you perform better at your job. I can imagine Sales Managers snatching these things up for stocking stuffers for their brood of Sales Execs.
Hey - maybe it will help me in my high wire act (see previous post).

I have done a little marketing consulting for leader Deborah Rozman and the emWave team. So I am apt to be very enthusiastic about the product since I offered to help them market to the world.
Let me give it a whirl in the next week or so and I will let you how it helped me.

In the meantime, stop by www.emwave.com and learn about it. It could be the wave of the future you don't want to miss riding!

Ambition - Not a dirty word today.

My previous post this week was about the book Am-BITCH-ous. I would like to extend my thoughts on it. On Tuesday night I read the first 100 pages and it changed the way that I looked at my ambition at this period of my life.

Ok - it also sparked up some of those feminist issues that caused me to start MsMoney.com. Debra had a section on women who "gave up" their high profile careers, cardiologists, investment bankers, marketing execs, etc, to stay home with the children for 5-8 years. Each one of these women had gotten divorced after that time period and guess what happened? Their careers didn't just start where they left them. They had to struggle to make ends meet while they crawled their way back to the top with a lot less energy then they had when they were young.

Anger is a great catalyst. And I did get angry. Angry that the women are so often left with the short end of the financial stick because they are the loving and nurturing ones who feel the right thing to do is to "care" for their children at home.

Heck, I am one of those. And has my career and income suffered as a result? Absolutely. Does that make me a little upset? Well, only if I imagine that I will have to go it alone in the future. Fortunately, I don't see that as the case, however I have empathy for the women who will have to.

So what did I take away from the first part of the book? Well, I was incredibly motivated to get things done the next day and powered through my to do list, personally and professionally. The message I got from the book is to STOP FEELING GUILTY about my ambition. If I can release that negativity then I am more apt to thrive in every aspect of my life; family, community and work.

And she was right! No matter what, my ambition hasn't died because I have taken time off, I still have very big plans. Now the goal is to embrace those while being happy with my role as a mother and wife. Balancing the work and family does seem a lot easier today because I am not carrying that heavy weight of guilt on my shoulders as I walk the tight rope between the two.

Thanks Debra! Maybe I need to call you for some coaching sessions if I can't sustain the high-wire act forever.

Ms.Money content on Family.com


Disney has launched a beautiful new useful website, www.family.com, that is targeted to mothers with young children and families. One of the best features is the ability of mom to write their comments about the articles and connect to others with similar interests.
Disney properties are some of the most successful on the Internet and rank in the top ten of all Internet websites. Ms.Money's focus is to find avenues for publishing our content on popular sites like Family.com. With the potential to reach millions of families in Disney's database, Ms.Money will be able to educate a much bigger audience.
You can check out my updated and concise Living Your Life at Half the Price article series at Family.com today.

In the future, look for me to start blogging on the Family.com site where I will be providing a wide array of articles on money, career and life.

The High Cost of Au Pair Care

I am doing an article on the hidden costs of Au Pair Care. After my personal experience and reports of dozens of people, I feel the public needs to be alerted to the negative financial impact using an Au Pair agency can have on their bottom line. I will also be discussing the personal dangers a family is exposed to by inviting a stranger into their household.

Though we were personally spared some of the biggest problems, such as an Au Pair leaving 1 year old twins asleep in the home with the door unlocked while she went bike riding, we still have some of our own stories. Other have theirs about the lack of professionalism on the part of executives at some of the agencies.

As a mother, a business woman and a community member, I feel it is imperative that the public be aware of the consequences of the Au Pair Care system. Perhaps by our combined efforts we will be able to get Au Pair agencies to change their policies and be more client friendly and understanding of the financially difficulties families face when agencies put all the burden on them when something goes wrong.

And trust me, things go wrong. Our Au Pair said every one of her 7 Au pair friends had switched households at least once and some of them had illegally left the program and stayed on here illegally while leaving their families in the lurch. This is more common than the agencies will ever let you know. Guess who has the foot the bill for the extra cost of getting a new Au Pair? The family ... not the agency, even if it is was the Au Pair's fault. And the family can lose thousands of dollars, which for some is a hefty sum.

If a family has an Au Pair who illegally leaves the program, does something tragic ,or is just not a good fit, the Parents generally do not get their pre-paid money back from the agency. You see, families pay all 12 months up of the agency fees up front. The agency gets paid the same amount as the Au Pair. I wonder how many Au Pairs really understand this.

Au Pair agencies are staffing companies that take 50% of the Au Pairs first year salary up-front and is usually non-refundable, regardless of the situation works out or not.

Also the parents have to pay a registration fee, education costs for the Au Pair and possibly air fare too. So if the Au Pair leaves or the family decides the Au Pair is not a good fit for their family, they often will not receive their money back. I personally lost $2,000 and my Au Pair lost $1,000 that the agency wouldn't give back because she illegally left the program to travel around the U.S. A good friend of mine lost $3,000 that Au Pair Care refused to give back. What is happening here?

If the Au Pair rings up a $1,000 in long distance charges to their homeland (it happens!). Who pays? Not the agency, the family has to burden that cost. I would recommend turning off your international long distance service if possible and using Skype instead.

By speaking about this online we can require that these agencies (and our government) to REQUIRE better screening of Au Pairs before they become part of the program and enter our country and our homes. And also require better screening of parents by the agencies to make sure their home and their expectations are a good fit for an Au Pair. As well as checking Parents references to ensure the Au Pair is safe.

One Au Pair's references we checked said they would never trust their child in the care of this woman, who was their Au Pair in London, nor should we. And this reference was on the Au Pair's application she sent to us. How in the world did she get into the program then and why didn't the agency check her references? I asked and the agency said they did check her references. Interesting ...

On a positive note ... our Au Pair experience overall was terrific for our son who loved our Au Pair like a sister. We also treated our Au Pair like a daughter (she was only 18 years old when she arrived from Ecuador) and enjoyed having her along on all our family events and sharing our life with her. It was a shame that after 8 1/2 months she decided she didn't want to work anymore and wanted to travel the U.S. with her girl friends, some who were also illegally staying in the U.S.

She left one day with any notice, just a note left behind I found a day later after worrying endlessly where she had gone - just a like a mom would if her 19 her old daughter didn't come home one day. And just like a mother, worrying about the impact of one child leaving on another, I was saddened beyond words when I had to explain to my son that his "sister" had disappeared.

Luckily she did come back in a few months on her way back to Ecuador to say goodbye to our son and to wish us all well in our life. However, I don't think it will ever remove the sting of her unexpected departure with myself or our son.

I invite other parents who hosted au pairs, au pairs, or au pair agencies to comments to this blog. However, please keep it a postive otherwise your post may be removed.

This is a forum to provide solutions in a polite way to parents who are looking for quality au pairs and for au pairs who are looking for quality parents.

Please avoid the "complaining" syndrome and instead offer an opportunity for growth and change for the Au Pair Agencies, for Parents and for Au Pairs. Often problems begin because of a lack of awareness, you can point out potential conflicts and problems without being negative. You must have an open mind to invite change.

Au Pair care offers many advantages for all parties involved. However, it also has many risks. To minimize the risks, one should research as much as possible, check references (whether you are the Au Pair or the Parents) and set your boundaries with the Agencies with the terms you are willing to accept.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Horse Industry Bigger Than the Radio & TV Industry?


My niece was in town this week from Chicago (where I grew up) and I helped her create www.TheHorsePro.com. I am usually surrounded by technology geeks so I know a geek when I spot one. I use the word Geek affectionately. In fact, it was my husband who called my niece a horse geek. A geek to me is someone who has such driving passion for one particular thing that they eat, sleep and breath it. Ok - maybe they aren't always the most balanced people when they are young, but often that is what it takes to make their big break.

This is the case for my niece when it comes to horses. Since she had her first pony ride at age 5 she has had a relentless fascination with all things equine. So of course, once she graduated high school, I thought it a perfect time to help her follow her passion. I knew the money would eventually arrive so she could support herself with her business, I just had no idea how much of the money would come!

Check this out:
The horse industry directly produces goods and services of $25.3 billion and has a total impact of $112.1 billion on U.S. gross domestic product. The industry's contribution to the U.S. GDP is greater than the motion picture services and employs more people than radio and television broadcasting (from the Horse Council).

So what started as a hobby and a love for horses could turn into a very big business opportunity for my 19 year old niece. I told her that some of the most powerful and successful people in the world have been the most laser focused on their particular passion and expertise (think Bill Gates, Martha Stuart, Oprah, Warren Buffet). They never started their careers because they wanted to get rich, they were only following their bliss and love for a particular business niche.

I would have to attribute my success with Ms.Money to this obssessive desire to fix what was wrong with women and money. I really felt that it was my mission to help improve women's lives with financial education so they could fulfill their dreams. As a result, my success came rather easily and I was never held back by the fears and doubts that plague many people for venturing out on their own. With that passion came monetary success and financial stability.

So my mantra for today ... follow your passion and the money will come.

And with my niece ... we shall see won't we?


Reclaiming Ambition as a Virtue for Women


Debra Condren has a new book called Am-bitch-ous that I was interviewed for. I just received the copy in the mail. Her definition of am-bitch-ous is a woman who 1. makes more money 2. has more power 3. gets the recognition she deserves 4. has the determination to go after her dreams and can do it with integrity.

Hmmmmm ... sounds a little like someone I know. So I have to wonder, do some people think I am a BIT_ _ ? I guess I never slowed down enough to think about it - or I guess even to care, after all I was pursuing my dreams. Since my dreams meant helping others it would have never occured to me some people may not like me.

After reading her book, I would bet there are plenty of people in this world who still consider ambition a dirty word and therefore associate other dirty words with me. Women are STILL making 25% to a 33% less than men for the same job. Ok - I wasn't. I would never ever let that happen. I grew up with 2 brothers and 3 boy cousins who I spent all day every playing and whatever they could do, I said I could do better. So unequal pay later in life wouldn't be an option.

Debra says it isn't the men holding us back now, it is the women who are holding themselves back to try to fit in to the stereotypical role model of what a women should be. This would support the trend of women MBA's checking out of the board room into the nursery room. Add me to the list of women who have to put the career on hold to spend time with kids. And for the some of the same reasons she outlines in her book that this fear of ambition has forced women to leave the best part of themselves - their dreams, their great talents - by the roadside, rendering them half of what they should be in every area of life.

YES. Makes me sad. I do feel like I checked my dreams at the hospital door when I brought my son home. I had every intention of powering on in my career, but something about those baby blue eyes and tiny little smile melted my heart and left me fascinated in a way no board meeting or business deal ever could. It has been 5 years now and I can't help but feeling a little frustrated between the push/pull of career/family.

The magic is still there for me to create companies and make a difference in the world, but there is also this strong pull by the men in my life (my husband and son) to sit still. What is a smart, savvy business gal to do? Is is a struggle. And the answers are not easy. Those who were the most hard driving early in their careers are having the most difficult time taking time off.

Debra comes up with some concrete and innovative soultion for women to integrate ambition into their value system and give it a piece of the pie the same way the husband, children and friends get a piece.

Buy her book Am-bitch-ous

For additional reading on how to balance work/life read my book "The Path to Success".

You find out more about Debra at her website


Friday, March 16, 2007

The Money Mammals

My son loved the DVD The Money Mammals created by Snigglezoo Entertainment. With a name like that you know it is kids appropriate. Joe Lanza, Vicki Ariyasu and Sarah Harden brought together their financial, marketing and technology strengths create an entertaining and educational piece about saving, sharing and smart spending.

It is reminiscent of Sesame Street and has its own brand of kid goofiness that makes them want to watch it over and over. Since I was product testing (in a way), I wanted to see what my 5 year old son thought. After watching it 3 times in a row, I finally had to turn down his 4th request. I don't want the little guy glued to the TV when he could be out riding his scooter.

As you can see, it was kid tested and mom approved so go out and buy it. Parents don't realize it is never to early to start teaching your kids about money. With so little education available for our wee ones, this piece really fills the gap.

If you are looking for additional material on how to teach your children to be money-smart, take my online seminar (that I wrote) at MsMoney.com titled: 6 Steps to Raise Financially Responsible Children

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What is the Alternative Minimum Tax? Is it FAIR?

The AMT exemption amount has increased for 2006 to $42,500 ($62,550 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er); $31,275 if married filing separately). So keep that in mind as you are putting together all paperwork for your 2006 taxes and don't be surprised if you too have to start paying it.

What is AMT you ask? And is it really fair?

It is was enacted by Congress in 1969 to guarantee that ALL tax payers pay their fair share of a minimum amount of tax. Higher income households that take advantage of too many tax breaks (such as passive losses from tax shelters) may have their tax bill severely lowered. If it goes down too low the government now makes them recalculate it with a more limited amount of exemptions so they pay at least some amount of tax.

When it was created it was to prevent a very small minority of wealthy individuals (3-4% of households) from paying taxes. Now it hits at least 15% of households - almost 20 million people. Now you don't even have to be wealthy to have it erase all those write-offs you worked so hard for. I know I get irked when it hits my tax return. Even though my family is considered high income, we live in one of the most expensive places in the country (San Francisco) and our income doesn't really go that far in this market. Not when single family homes start at $1,500,000.

I don't think the AMT is fair at all. It seems to me the government should limit some tax shelters instead of creating a rule to work around them. Because the legislation was not created well, it hurts the average tax payer who has never used any of those so called tax dodging strategies that the AMT was designed for.

By 2010 if we don't do something to curb it, it could affect 2 out of 3 households. So you too, if you haven't already, will start paying it. If we need to balance our national deficit, why don't we create a tax that is more fair across the board instead of this problematic workaround?

For up to date information on any Tax Code, visit www.irs.gov.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Should You Prepare Your Own Taxes?

You can certainly prepare your own taxes, however keep in mind you want to know your strengths and weaknesses. If you aren't normally the organized numbers oriented person, you might consider getting some help.

I did my taxes the first few years when I started my Internet Consulting Business and they were quite complicated. As a result I spent a lot of time learning and organizing. I am glad I did it because I learned the ins and out of running a small business and how to maximize the tax benefits. I don't know if I would have received the same education from a Tax Advisor. I also saved a lot of money by not paying one at the time.

Now my taxes are so complicated with multiple businesses, marriage, kids, investments, house, etc, that I leave it up to by trusty accountant who is always just a phone call or email away. In fact I just used him for some questions on leasing a car. A future blog on leasing is coming up.

Here a few paragraphs from MsMoney's article on Preparing Your Taxes


Preparing your own taxes can provide valuable insight into your financial life. Keep in mind that if you decide to prepare your own tax return, there are many effective software programs such as TurboTax, Kiplinger's Tax Cut, and Web-based tools that help you track your finances, prepare taxes, and file online. Preparing even relatively complicated tax returns on your own is becoming a common, and entirely doable, practice.

Getting Organized: How to Prepare Your Own Taxes

Before preparing your taxes, take the time to organize all the documents you will need. These documents include all W-2 forms sent from your employers and tax statements sent by bank accounts and investment holdings. To learn more about getting your tax documents organized, see our Getting Organized section in Financial Health.

Read On >>

Tax Season is Upon Us Again

With April 15th right around the corner, I would imagine some of you still have to do your taxes. If you think you are getting a refund it is best to file early. If you owe money no need to rush, you can certainly wait until the due date. Why pay the money out when it could be earning a little bit of interest.

Interest bank rates have been fairly low the last couple years. If you want to shop around for a better bank than yours is offering you, I suggest stopping by BankRate.com for the best CD rates around the country. Today Net Bank is ofering a 1 year CD at 5.31%.

Stay tuned because MsMoney.com is updating our Tax Section this week with a plethora of tax tips your can use for filing. In the meantime, stop by our Tax Area within our Life Planning Section. After all the two do go hand in hand.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Salary Calculator

This is a cool tool to play with. For those of you who live in towns like San Francisco with a high cost of living, it might be really fun to see how far your money would go in a place like Tucson, Arizona!
Cost of Living Calculator

If you want to find out if you are getting paid what you are worth, you might use the Salary Expert Web site as a source of information to go in and ask for a raise.

Want to find out what homes cost in your area or anywhere in the US? Try Zillow.com. Not always accurate but does provide a general picture of what prices average at. Plug in your own address and see if they hit the value on the head.

Have FUN!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Self-Worth or Net-Worth?

Should a woman’s net-worth determine her self-worth? The obvious answer would be no, however, in our male dominated business society this is often exactly what occurs.

Men often view their success by the number of zeros they can write at the end of the check. A woman is more likely to view her life success by how she has contributed to making the world a better place or how she created a happier family life.

Woman take an average of 11 years out of the workforce (often during their prime earning years), earn up to a third less than men and live 5 years longer. This has a tremendous impact on the number of zeros they can write at the end of their checks.

Women are likely to be the caretakers in the family. In fact, 72% of the time, women take responsibilty for elder care. Many of these same women also care for children at the same time. Not only that, but they have to balance the demands of their workplaces. For almost 20% of working caregivers, the demands are so great that they must take a leave of absence or stop working entirely to meet their family obligations. Add a health crisis to the situation where a woman has limited insurance coverage and the financial ramifications can be devastating.

All of above contains clues why 75% of the elderly poor are woman. They place more value care-giving than on financial success.

A woman friend of mine, who is on the Board of Directors for a global non-profit organization, told me that she was being overtly pressured to donate a huge sum of money to the company this year. She was told, after being on the board for several years that the board member standard was to donate six figures. Since the other 4 male board members had contributed large sums, she also needed to.

They said if she was unable to do this she should consider moving down to be part of the advisory team instead of on the Board of Directors. They also included, that writing a six figure check, let’s say $100,000 or $250,000, would show her level of commitment to the organization like nothing else could. The value wasn’t on what skills or mentoring advice she could bring to the table, only on what cash she could produce to fund the non-profit.

Imagine – Ms.Money’s surprise (my surprise) when I heard this story and the gasp of amazement when I learned the founder and CEO of this non-profit is a woman herself. By focusing on money only, she would effectively be removing the only other woman from her board. A bad strategic move I thought.

This non-profit’s beneficiaries are often women and/or their children around the world who need help because of their limited financial resources. The CEO of the non-profit must be a philanthropist at heart, however when it comes to business she takes a male dominated approach that board members are distinguished by their financial contributions.

My Board Member friend would have liked to write a six figure check if she had that level of financial abundance. However, due to a health crisis which prevented her from working the last few years and time taken away from work for family reasons, she was spending more than she made just to meet her current financial obligations, there certainly wasn’t six figures lying around. She was sad that she was being told by a woman she supported for many years that her overall worth on the Board was no longer being valued. She was also even more disappointed to step down from the organization, since she was very passionate about the cause.

Remember women make less than men - even in the non-profit world. The Non Profit Times Salary Report shows that male executive directors of non-profits were paid $108,555 on average last year, while females holding the same position received $77,086. Please note the words “holding the same position”. I would assume that the woman CEO of this non-profit earns about a third less than her male peers.

Since women make less money and take time off of the workforce to care for others, they have less time and money to donate. Yet, I would bet that the % of women who donate to charities is higher than those of men since they understand more deeply the plight of the underserved.

Which brings me to an issue that I have been very passionate about since I was 16 years old. At this young age, I decided I would become a CEO of a company and would not let this so-called glass ceiling phenomena hold me back from proving I would be as good as any man could be at the job. Underneath this brewing feminism anger was a driving need to light the way and inspire other women that they could do the same.This passion for equality of men and women in the workplace is part of the reason I started MsMoney.com.

Here are the facts: in 2005 only 15% of Board of Directors seats at Fortune 500 companies were held by women, in 1995 there were 10%. At this rate of change, it would take 70 years for women to reach parity with men, if it ever gets to that level.

With women making 85% of the household purchase decisions, and a large number of Fortune 500 companies marketing to or effecting woman’s lives, it would seem an obvious choice to add more women to the board. However, it hasn’t been easy.

When my friend pointed out the fact that this non-profit CEO would be removing the only other woman board member, it didn’t seem to affect her decision. She said she had tried to find other women to be on the board but couldn’t. Apparently it is quite difficult to get women to pay a six figure check to help your organization. I am not surprised, with women being so busy taking care of family and earning less money, they don’t have the disposable income or time.

So perhaps the bar for women Board of Director’s members is being set too high. Why should women only be measured by their net worth instead of their overall contributed worth to the organization and the society as a whole from being included in the highest echelons of business management?

Below are some strategic points for non-profit or for-profit leaders to consider when building a board. There are also 7 other reasons on the website, why adding women to a board is a smart business decision - including the fact that you have to go beyond the status-quo and break some of the more tradition rules if you want a balanced board of equal male and female contributors.

2005 Catalyst Consensus


“To ensure long-term sustainability and to represent all company stakeholders, corporate boards must adapt to today’s realities and anticipate tomorrow’s marketplace,” said Lang. “Companies must position their boards in the same way they position their businesses. Diverse boards yield crucial breadth of perspective and expertise, provide role models for future talent, and promote good governance.”

Catalyst research reveals there are many qualified women in the pipeline who are excluded from the key leadership positions and development opportunities that lead to corporate board
selection. Companies must, therefore, strategically and operationally address the issue of board diversity by assessing broader business needs and looking beyond the traditional candidates.

My advice to the CEO of the non-profit who is looking for six figure checks from her Board Members is to focus more on what unique skills each Board member brings to the table and how she can best use those to further her business objectives and serve the world at the same time. A woman’s worth is not determined by her net-worth and perhaps it is time to look beyond the numbers.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Can You Be Wealthy & an Environmentalist?

I had an acquaintance 2 years ago ask me how I could call myself an environmentalist and still drive an SUV. This was after I did a bout of fundraising for an environmental agency and invited dozens of people to their big fundraising luncheon. I was a little surprised at his comment.

I said that first of all – I don’t call myself an environmentalist. Second, I am a windsurfer, a soccer mom and I drag a lot of stuff around in my car so I need something large. Third, I barely drive 5,000 miles a year, and fourth, I bought the SUV over 10 years ago when gas prices were just a blip in our pocketbooks.

Shortly afterwards, while parking in my neighborhood downtown, someone left a note on my car window that said - Save the planet, stop driving your SUV! I was left feeling guilty and inadequate - essentially shamed.

Then just a few months ago I was talking to a landscape gardener about my yard (or lack of one at this point) about landscaping. I said I definitely don’t want a grass lawn since they aren’t very eco-friendly. I had taken a natural environmentally friendly gardening class many years ago and learned this. He asked why I even cared about not having a lawn given the cars I drive (an SUV and a Porsche.)

Here I go again, I thought, having to explain myself all over. I said the Porsche Boxster gets 24 miles to the gallon and my husband I combined do not drive over 10,000 miles a year. That is about 3 times less than the average family. I had difficulty dealing with the series of emotions that followed.

Why was I being judged? I was one of the most environmentally friendly people I know – and yet because I wasn’t a perfect environmentalist others were still very critical. I honestly have to say it didn't inspire me to lean more in their direction, if anything it made me angry and pushed me farther away.

Earlier this year the magazine The Week's cover story was titled “Is Environmentalism Dead.” The article was about the strong “us” verus “them” mentality that environmentalist push out to the rest of the world. That if you aren’t perfect in everything you do for the environment than don’t bother trying at all because it is insulting to “us” as a group. Granted – this does not occur with all environmentalists, however it does for those extremists who happen to get into the press.

I don’t look at environmentalism as black or white, but as shades of gray. Certainly you shouldn’t throw your trash out the window driving on the freeway (that would be a shade of black), but you also don’t need to live in a commune and share a household with 30 others (that might be considered a shade of white). There all kinds of beautiful shades of gray in the middle. It doesn’t matter if you are dark gray or light gray, what matters is that you understand the consequences of your actions on the world, and then make your own decisions on how to contribute to restoring the earth back to equilibrium.

As the Buddha would say, the path to enlightenment comes not from rowing near the banks of life’s river, but maintaining a course down the center. That is how I live my environmental life – a nice average shade of gray – helping in many places, yet not being perfect in all circumstances. Most importantly is that I am ok with my decisions.

As a result, I feel less shame, which provides me the ability to live a more fulfilled life. This keeps me psychologically well rounded, which allows me to go out into the world and create abundance. The financial rewards that I reap not only benefit me and family, but they also benefit the world because I have the time, energy and inspiration to help make the world a better place.

If I were wondering how I was going to pay my rent every month, or even pay off my Visa bill, I wouldn’t have the energy to give to others.

It is very common in my community (the San Francisco Bay Area) to have this “us” versus “them” mentality when it comes to money also. The perception by some of those without money is that if you have money, which I do from 20 years of good financial planning (and not from birth since I grew up in very modest circumstances), is that you are using too many of the earth’s resources by being a consumer – buying a large home, sports cars and SUV's, designer clothing, gourmet food, etc. The message give by this group lacking money is that you are fundamentally flawed if you are wealthy.

This is the exact type of thinking that causes people to stay in their patterns of poverty; this thought that money causes harm in the world or harm to their purist earth conscious reputation. Don’t we already get enough messages from the world that we are born flawed? Some folks seems to think there is a limited suppy of money and if they have too much of it then other's won't have enought. Do you think these same thoughts about your health? Maybe I should take a break from being healthy so other people can be healthy. You would never say that, why say it about money?

Too many people live their lives without self acceptance. Tara Brach in her CD Radical Self Acceptance talks about how we have this invisible backdrop of shame, which prevents us from living a fulfilled life of happiness. I would say it also prevents people from having the financial security they deserve.

This country has a negative savings rate. People spend more than they make. They aren’t thinking about their financial future or their children’s. If they aren't thinking about their own future, they probably aren't thinking about yours or even the earth's. As a result of being financially incompetent, they are in a state of permanent shame. As a popular coping tactic, they avoid talking about their money problems and therefore don't make efforts to fix them. The goal should be to start thinking about their family's financial future first with some good financial planning. Once they have their building blocks in place and their food and shelter needs covered, as Maslow says in his hierarchy of needs, they can then go out and help make the world a better place.

With a healthy attitude around money we can easily attract abundance into our lives. When our cup runneth over, we are especially motivated to helping the earth restore balance. With all our combined efforts living a life released of shame, and by rowing near the center of the environmental river, our future generations will enjoy the natural beauty of our fragile little blue planet.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Awake in the Wild ... an Inexpensive Way to Relax

How many of us have spent hundreds of dollars at the spa or thousands of dollars on the exotic vacation in hopes of escaping our hectic lifestyles and finding some sanity. Only to refresh for our next barrage of self-induced over-the-top busyness?

There is a better way to get the sanity check you need while not losing your mind when your visa bill shows up. You just need to take a walk on the wild side. And no I am not referring to the song. Instead I am pointing you to a new book, by a friend of mine, called Awake in the Wild. It was written by meditation teacher Mark Coleman with the foreword by Jack Kornfield (one of my favorite writers).

I have used nature as a way to reconnect to Mother Earth and become centered and grounded in my consciousness. By looking at the big picture of the Universe and my role in it, I have discovered my personal power. This has allowed me to adventure out into the world and take some pretty big risks. With risk comes failure ... and I certainly haven't succeeded at everything. For every big success I have had there has been just as equal of a failure in something else. But since I don't focus on the failures and instead view them as an opportunity for learning and growth, I have continued to think and act BIG. As a result I have accomplished many grand things in my life that I am very proud of.

Today after reading part of Mark's book last night, instead of rushing through my day and my to do list (which included the monumental task of cleaning out my garage), I took a few minutes to watch a beautiful Blue Jay bird frolic in my yard outside my door. It was a reminder how sometimes I need to slow down and just breath in beauty. As I result I changed the way I spent my time today and I was more refreshed and productive than usual (which is so important for us entrepreneurial independent types who tend to work alone a lot.)

Mark Coleman, in his book Awake in the Wild, provides dozens of easy to use meditations for readers to practice in many areas of their life. They are a blessing for someone like me who needs to just take a moment and breath sometimes.

Just think how much money you will save if you go for a hike instead of a massage. On a smaller scale, if you forgoe your $4 daily coffee, and instead do one of Mark's 5 minutes meditations outside of the office, you would save $1400 a year! Don't get me wrong ... I love a massage or Starbucks as much as the next person, but if you are looking simply for a quick way to refresh so you can be at the top of your game during the day, there is no better way than a walk in the wild. Even if it is just a quick trip to soak in the sun, bask in the glory of a beautiful flower or find amazement in the flight of a bird.

New Book Exchange Site Saves You Money and Time

I love this concept of book exchange. Kudos to the woman founder who is providing an opportunity for people to read more in an easy, convenient and inexpensive way. I can only imagine that it will be as easy to use as Netflix is for DVD's. You check books out online after you traded in your books.

It only costs $5 to send a dozen books through their service. Even when you aren't using their service and want to send books to family and/or friends, make sure when you send any books via U.S. Post Office that you ask for the book mailing price which is at least half to a quarter of the regular price.

Here is the basic idea and some key features of the site - provided by the Founder Dianne Deneton.
Novel Action, Inc.
Changing the Way Book Lovers Share Books
www.NovelAction.com

Novelaction.com is a new online book exchange store with a centralized inventory of books. Rather than purchasing books, members select any books they desire from the store’s website and send in an equal number of their books in exchange. We have mysteries, romance, literature, thrillers, etc. It functions like a store so you select the books you want, add them to your cart, check out and you’re done. You send your books to us and after receive them, we ship yours the next day. You get a confirmation email from the post office with a tracking number. A 12 month membership with unlimited exchanges is only $25.

*Members get $4.80 flat rate shipping for up to 6 pounds of books (about 13-17 paperbacks), and there are no transaction fees or hidden costs, so there's an incentive to read more/get more books.

*There's a consistent set of quality guidelines so members get the book quality they expect.

*Every book is treated equally - members can exchange paperbacks for hard covers if they want. The books they get are theirs to keep, or they can exchange them at the site again.

*A portion of the proceeds from Novel Action goes to support Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and The Girl Scouts.

*The site has a chat room, and also a "novel fun" page with book-themed puzzles for members.

Through November 30th, all new members get 3 book bucks which are good for any 3 books - members can use them anytime and don't need to send any of their books in exchange to use them - for those who can't wait to get started :-)

Ease Holiday Stress by Spending Wisely

Personally, I do my Christmas shopping throughout the entire year so that I can find the perfect gift at the perfect price way in advance and don’t have to do the Holiday scramble.

I bet you didn't know that the average American buys gifts for around 15 people and spends an average of $75 per person. Americans who admitted to preparing a budget for holiday shopping, half of them exceeded it by 22%. Those were the findings from a WingspanBank.com survey, which also confirms that Americans have been known to overspend by $20 billion a year. Great news for retailers, certainly, but a loud warning signal for discipline-challenged shoppers. What's more: Around 75 million people will wait until Christmas Eve to complete their shopping. Certainly not the best time to save money.

Decide this year to live your life at half the price during this Christmas season, especially when it comes to gift giving. If you normally spend $75 a person on gifts. Decide to spend $37.50 per person. It is important to spend only what you can afford, and only you know what that number is. If you aren’t sure then get a financial health checkup at: http://www.msmoney.com/mm/financial_health/finhealth_index.htm, where you can discover how financially fit you really are. From there you can put an overall budget together for Holiday spending. This doesn’t just include gift giving, it also includes travel, hotels, meals, holiday outfits, decorations, tree purchase … essentially everything you would normally spend during the Holiday season.

Once you have put together your main Holiday spending categories, you can allocate your funds. I personal use my rewards credit card so I reap the extra benefits a rewards card bring. Keep in mind, I always pay my credit card bill on time so I don't get hit with large interest charges.

If you have concerns you might not be able to pay off your Holiday shopping bills at the end of the month, then I recommend buying with cash. You can still use your credit card for ease of use, however, you need to track your spending and put cash the correct cash aside as you make your purchases. Just label envelopes for each category and put the correct amount of money inside of each. When you buy something on your credit card, just mark it on the envelope and deduct it from the total amount, so you have a running total written on the front.

When it is time to pay the bill, you just take the money out of the envelope that you safely put aside beforehand and take it to the bank. If you decide to carry envelopes of cash around and not use a credit card this is no problem, when you get home just write the amount you spent on the envelope. When your envelope runs out of money, you are finished shopping. This way you don't have to contribute to the $22 Billion dollars in overspending during the Holidays.

You can also track your purchases on a spreadsheet or in a money software program like Quicken or Microsoft money so you know exactly what you spent and don’t go over budget. It can be quite fun to see how all the budget pieces of the puzzle fit together. This is a good example for what you can do for the rest of the year. You can easily spend 50% less if you have a little time and are creative.

Here, then, are a few shopping and gift giving ideas to help you save time, money, and sanity.

* Decide how much you have to spend, and then stay within that budget. Overspending tends to set a standard for gift giving that you'll be expected to live up to year after year.

* If you overspend on one line item on your budget, under spend on others in order to make up the difference.

* For an older family member, create a calendar with special dates highlighted when you'll visit or call him or her.

* Get the whole family involved in baking breads, cookies, or candies as gifts for teachers, co-workers, and neighbors.

* Shop alone so you'll stay focused and avoid distractions.

* Buy gifts from church bazaars, craft shows, and fundraisers at your child's school.

* Spend only what you have by using either cash or a debit card.

* For the person who has everything, consider a donation to a charity (preferably one he or she would support) in his or her name.

* Avoid impulse buying--shop online and through catalogs.

* Create personal gift certificates offering your services for babysitting, pet-sitting, car washing, cooking, or giving computer lessons.

* Give flower bulbs to the green thumbs on your list; they're inexpensive and bloom year after year.

* Invite your neighbors to a potluck supper instead of exchanging gifts.

* Have your children make your holiday card this year and send out color copies to friends and family.

* Give rain checks, and then go on a family shopping spree the day after Christmas to purchase sale items.

* Shop for bulk items such as nuts and cheeses at warehouse stores like Sam's or Costco; then fill and decorate individual bags.

* Fill stockings with practical items, such as dental floss, socks, pens, or scotch tape.

* Send cyber photo cards by e-mail and save on postage.

* Have children make a piece of art and frame it as a gift for relatives.

* Make a gift certificate that offers baby-sitting, dog-sitting, or even a shoulder massage as a gift.

* Buy in advance when items are marked down 50-75%.

* Throughout the year keep your eyes open for items that are a great value. You might consider buying 10 of the same thing as gifts, if it is an amazing well priced item or on a special sale.

* Shop the week after Christmas for the following year when you can buy Christmas ornaments at 75% off – the make great stocking stuffers.

Looking Ahead

The holiday crunch is a good time to assimilate lessons you've learned in the past, so don't forget to apply what you learn to the future. For example, experts recommend you save 10% of your paycheck and squirrel it away all year to help pay for holiday expenses and the ensuing credit card debt.

Not only that, but don't forget to shop the after-Christmas sales this year for items you'll need next year, such as trimming, lights, extension cords, and wrapping paper.

Finally, track your expenses this year to help you budget for next year. Store this data with your decorations or gift list, if necessary, making it easy to find next year. Then make it your goal to decrease spending by a certain percentage or dollar amount each holiday season, and brainstorm year-round on creative gifts that will require more time and less expense.

Take a less materialistic approach to this season’s shopping and instead focus on building community and strengthening friendship and family bonds. Try to establish new family traditions--such as reading aloud a special story each year, with relatives taking individual parts or go retro with a game of Twister--to give people more to look forward to and share than opening gifts.

With all this Holiday practice, you can continue living your life at half the price by reading more tips in my free ebook titled Live Your Life at Half the Price at: www.msmoney.com

(Specifically at: http://www.msmoney.com/2004/12/live_with_flair.htm)

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Price of Privilege

I just picked up a copy of a local newspaper and was drawn to the front page titled The Price of Privilege and the Poverty of the Soul. The new book The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, alerts us that the more privileged a child's life is, the more likely they will be unhappy.

The author, Marin Psychologist-Madeline Levine, would know, she lives in one of the most affluent communities in the world, where the cost of a 2,000 square foot starter home is $1,500,000. She paired up with Columbia University researcher, Dr. Suniya Luther who studied the differences in socioeconomic classes. She thought that those with less financial means would be more troubled than those with more money. This just wasn't the case. It turns out that money can't buy you happiness after all.

I remember reading somewhere that a psychologist said she would rather treat clients with more personal wealth because she said at least they understood that money was not the cause of all their problems.

The article says that 22% of girls in affluent communities are clinically depressed. What is happening to our youth? Dr. Luther thinks that she would find that same incidence of depression with these girl's mothers too. Something about the affluent looking good on the surface with all the trappings of wealth, but having shallow personal growth underneath.

I feel that a lot of this disconnection comes from an addiction to stuff; wearing the latest fashion, driving the coolest car, vacationing in the best locations. When your life revolves around things and looking good, it is harder to be connected to the more important things in life such as building bonded family and friend relationships that are based on love, trust and respect. If you have a solid support system that loves you no matter what you look like, wear, drive, say, etc., then it is much easier to feel good about yourself and it less likely you will be depressed.

I met a young woman in her early twenties last month who told me she went to Berkeley (one of the top Public Colleges in the country) and now she is a software engineer for a startup company. I asked her how she slept. She said great now that the pressures of college were over and she was corporate. Which made me think a lot of the reason children are so disconnected and morose is because of the extreme pressure that wealthy parents put on their children to succeed, especially at school.

And for what? You might get a few accolades for saying that you went to Princeton, recently rated the #1 school in the country, but that won't translate much into a larger check at the end of the week.

I have a 4 year old boy and want to make sure that he grows up well rounded - not angry, depressed and skirting over the psychological edge. Someday it would be great to have a little girl too. I know I will have my challenges cut out for me. Articles like this provide me the education to make better parenting decisions. Though I know I am not perfect, I realize that some choices are better than others.

A few years ago a friend asked me if I would encourage Max to seek a certain profession. I said, yes - business. At that time I felt if he acquired business skills that it would translate into any profession he sought and that he would be financially secure. Now, I am not so sure about that answer.

Now, I am trying to step back from that view and remove some of the pressure for my child to be the best at everything. Instead I will look for ways to help cultivate his own interests (not mine) so that he follows his heart and passions and does things that truly bring him joy. If that were the case for me, I wouldn't have majored in MIS and Marketing in college, I would have majored in Dance and Humanities. I wonder what path that would have taken me on ...

For tips on how to provide your kids with money skills, take the Ms.Money online seminar 6 Steps to Raise Financially Responsible Children.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Retirement Scare: Listen Up Ladies!

Women and Investing for Retirement

If you have been following me the last 7 years, you will know this is not the first time I have talked about women and retirement. As a matter of fact, I bring it up whenever I can because the facts are just so alarming.

* Women live an average if 5-7 years longer than men
* Women Earn 25-33% less than men
* Women Take an average of 11 years out of the workforce to have children and care for others (which sadly often bankrupts them).

Therefore, women have different investment needs and retirement savings needs than men. Our Women’s Money Corner addresses all these issues.

What does it all mean to you and why should you be worried if you are a woman? And trust me YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED.

If women want to maintain their middle class life style in their retirement, then they should have invested $50,000 in their retirement account by age 35. Men on the other hand, to maintain their status quo later in life, need only around $15,000 because they make more money later and will live fewer years.

So how many of you ladies out there have reached that goal or are planning to? I would venture to guess, not very many. The women I know making $50,000 a year (a solid middle class income and the average 2005 household income in the US) are barely able to squeak by in San Francisco and often find themselves $50,000 in debt with $0 in savings. Same goes for other big cities, like Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, and Chicago.

Obviously metropolises do not provide an unbiased selection of individuals, however I have contact with women all over the country (yes, in small towns too) and I would guess that only a fraction have saved this amount by age 35. In fact, I would bet women don’t start saving any money until their late 20’s and early 30’s. If you weren't aware, there is a negative savings rate in this country, which means Americans in general spend more than they make.

Most of the money women do manage to save usually goes into an IRA and 401K. I would guess the average amount a woman, who is committed to saving and investing in her twenties, is around $2,500-$5,000 a year. This still is not enough to get them to that awfully large $50,000 number by 35 years old, even if they started at 28.

This period (28-34) is the time women are most likely to be married and start having children, so their lives become more serious and focused on long term goals. This is also the time women college graduates may have paid off part of their student loans and are ready to think about investing. That is if they only received an undergraduate degree.

The average student loan debt for undergraduates is around $20,000. Those with advanced degrees can find themselves in up to $100,000 in debt and are looking at a 20 year stretch or more to cover the payments. They also have taken 2-4 additional years out of the workforce. The average MBA debt is around $65,000 and obviously more for 3 or 4 year programs like Law or Medical School.

Women are much more likely to carry student loan debt because they graduate at a higher rate from college than men. They also forgo the work world after high school and finish their degrees sooner (40% vs. 33% of men graduate in 4 years). Women now make up about 50% of Law and Medical Students, yet rarely fill such role as Partners and Judges that carry a high salary.

In 2005 women received 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 59% of Master’s degrees, however, not as frequently in the higher paying fields such as business and technology.

This is part of the reason I have been an Advisor for The Women’s Technology Cluster. Since women only receive 5% of Venture Capital Investment, they often need assistance breaking into the networks and learning the business skills to thrive in a venture funded company.

One more reason women in general may carry more debt than a man is because she is more likely to apply for financial aid. The American Council on Education says that in the last 10 years, many more women than men, who come from households making less than $30,000 a year, attend college.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women 25-34 earn 85% of men's salaries, and that gap increases with age. Women therefore spend more of their salaries paying off debts (versus investing). In 2004, in this age group, 23% of women with bachelor's degrees spent over ten percent of their income paying off student loans, while men only spent 16%.

In general, women incur more college debt than men, yet aren’t making as much money to pay off their loans. Even for the same job, women still earn less money. This is part of the reason a woman starts investing for her future so much later in life than a man.

With all this red ink from their student loan debt looming over them, and their salaries remaining relatively low in general, women aren’t thinking too much about their retirement(especially in their twenties). That $50,000 figure they should saved by age 35 appears a cruel joke. They need to be saving more than men for retirement, but it feels so difficult because they carry more debt and earn less money. This means they have to be more diligent about it than men and really rethink the way they live their life.

Look at the chart at the bottom to see why saving $5,000 a year from age 25-59 will allow a woman to live in middle class style with an inflation adjusted income of $50,000 a year for 30 years (from age 60-90). This is pretty amazing. To have a terrific cash flow like $50k coming in every year for 30 years in retirement. Something every woman should be aiming for.

I have to ask myself this question. Why are so many of my very successful and well educated single (or even married) women friends having so much difficulty making their financial lives work? Besides the reasons described above, I believe their spending habits contribute to the problem.

These career-minded women have spent a lot of time, money and energy to craft their perfect image of success. They buy designer clothing, spend top dollar on hair and makeup, eat out at the best restaurants, vacation in exotic places, and drive expensive cars. They look, feel and act like celebrities, except they don’t have the income to support the expensive habits. Instead they rely on credit cards to make up the difference. Women in general carry more credit cards than men and tend to leave a balance. As a result, the high interest fees add more to their problem and widen the gap between financial security between men and women.

If you look at the typical millionaires, it isn’t who you think it is. They aren’t wearing fancy clothing and driving the latest sports car. Typically they are:
* Not very fashion conscious (I put myself in this category since I refuse to spend gobs of money on clothing - in fact I am wearing a pair of very comfortable used jeans my neighbor gave me this week)
* Practical (for example; drive the same car for 10 years – I owned my previous car for 11 years and my recent one for 8 years and bought both used)
* Accomplished yet doesn’t drive herself over the edge with work. Stress can take its toll in creating expensive habits that are hard to break and cause a slew of health issues that take a toll on the pocketbook (and ability to work).

The point I am trying to make is that women have a serious problem and I would venture to guess most of them don’t even know it. They just can’t afford themselves and are heading for a collision course to poverty, unless they start saving TODAY.

In 2005, men age 65 and over had an average income of about $30,000 while ladies brought in around $15,000 a year. Ask yourself this, could you live on $15,000 a year? College students barely live on this and they often share a tiny dorm room and survive on a lot of cheap fast food. An unhealthy diet is not something a senior citizen wants to be subject to when maximizing their health opportunities is a top priority. College students also aren’t thinking what their insurance co-pay is going to be for their prescription medicines.

In 2005 Retirement Confidence Survey (sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the American Savings Education Council) only 20% of women stated that they were very confident that their retirement savings would last throughout their retirement. If your retirement money doesn’t last, then what will you do?

If women put away $100 a month from the time they were 25 years old, they would have a million dollar nest egg at 65. (Based on a 12% return - which means ladies you have to start taking a little risk and get those funds out of low paying bonds and into some smart stocks). If women wait until 30 years old to start investing they will have to put in $200 a month to have the same amount at 65. That is twice as much if they waiting only 5 years. Quite the incentive to start early isn't it?

$100 a month doesn’t seem so bad does it? Who can’t spare $100 a month? If you see chart)

If we put a 3% average inflation rate in our handy dandy inflation calculator we see that in today’s dollars, $1M is only worth $295,712.29.

The average women will live around 15 years in retirement after age 65, so that means she will have about $20,000 a year to spend. With life expectancy increasing, soon that same money might have to stretch 25-30 years. I think of my two maternal grandmothers, in their 80's (who outlived their husbands)and still seem to have many vibrant years ahead of them without requiring nursing care. Luckily they have some income coming in so they won't be a burden on their family. However, this is more the exception then the norm. If they required nursing care it would be financially difficult for everyone because of the exhorbitant costs associated with it.

This $20,000 a year figure I mention above (or the $15,000 a year that is the average for women now in retirement), doesn’t allow much room for unforeseen circumstances, such as needing expensive nursing care, which is highly likely for most women after 80. If this happened it would shatter any beautifully nurtured nest egg in just a few years. Very sad.

The average daily cost of a private room in a nursing home in the United States is $70,080 a year, or $192 a day, according to the 2004 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home and Home Care Costs. In 40 years you can expect that cost to be at least triple. Now you can imagine where all your money will go. If you want to be fully protected I highly recommend looking at long term care insurance. It is expensive, however I would rather pay the money up front, then worry about not having enough at the end of my life. You can read more about long term care insurance in our article titled "How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?"

You might think that if you are married that your problems will be solved because your husband’s savings will help you survive. I will dispel that myth right now. In 2000, only 40% of women over 65 were married, compared to 74% of men. Single women in this demographic are most likely to be living in poverty. Every decade our average life expectancy increases. The over 85 group is expected to double in the next 30 years, which means that the amount of elderly women living in poverty will increase dramatically also.

Those odds don't seem good to me, and never being much of a gambler, I would rather rely on myself for the future than on someone else's income or charity that can be rather unpredictable.

So ladies, I hope you were paying attention, because regardless of your age, you can take control of your financial future and live your golden years not only in dignity, but also with beauty, grace and financial freedom.

If you don't have the money right now to start putting away, don't worry, by making some life adjustments and reading my free eBook, Live Your Life at Half the Price you should have plenty of money to invest in your retirement and make up the difference from not starting ealier at the young age of 25.

For additional reading about Women and Investing on the MsMoney.com website:
The Female Finance Factor

Face Your Financial Fears

On Being a Woman - How Our Differences Shape Our Investment Techniques

Out of the Supermarket and Into the Stock Market

Risky Business: Don't Let Fear Keep You Out of the Game

Going Clubbing: Laugh, Eat, Make Money--What Could Be Better?

CFO of the Household: A Job with Limitless Growth and Opportunity

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Retirement Savings Chart

Retirement Estimations
Inputs
Required Yearly Income During Retirement Years(Current Dollars)
$50,000
Required Yearly Income (Future Dollars - Inflation Adjusted)
$136,595.26
Number of Years Until Retiring 34
(based on ages 25-59)
Number of Years After Retiring 30
(based on age 60-90)
Annual Inflation (on Required Income)3%
Annual Yield on Balance 7%

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your $5,000 a year investment after 34 years will yield a
$2,488,824.21 Nest Egg at age 60

Year Beg Bal Withdraw Interest End Balance Age
1 2488824.21 136595.26 164656.03 2516884.98 60
2 2516884.98 140693.12 166333.43 2542525.29 61
3 2542525.29 144913.91 167832.80 2565444.18 62
4 2565444.18 149261.33 169132.80 2585315.65 63
5 2585315.65 153739.17 170210.35 2601786.84 64
6 2601786.84 158351.34 171040.48 2614475.98 65
7 2614475.98 163101.88 171596.19 2622970.28 66
8 2622970.28 167994.94 171848.27 2626823.61 67
9 2626823.61 173034.79 171765.22 2625554.04 68
10 2625554.04 178225.83 171312.97 2618641.18 69
11 2618641.18 183572.61 170454.80 2605523.38 70
12 2605523.38 189079.79 169151.05 2585594.64 71
13 2585594.64 194752.18 167358.97 2558201.44 72
14 2558201.44 200594.74 165032.47 2522639.16 73
15 2522639.16 206612.59 162121.86 2478148.43 74
16 2478148.43 212810.96 158573.62 2423911.09 75
17 2423911.09 219195.29 154330.11 2359045.90 76
18 2359045.90 225771.15 149329.23 2282603.98 77
19 2282603.98 232544.29 143504.18 2193563.88 78
20 2193563.88 239520.62 136783.03 2090826.29 79
21 2090826.29 246706.23 129088.40 1973208.46 80
22 1973208.46 254107.42 120337.07 1839438.11 81
23 1839438.11 261730.64 110439.52 1688146.99 82
24 1688146.99 269582.56 99299.51 517863.94 83
25 1517863.94 277670.04 86813.57 1327007.47 84
26 1327007.47 286000.14 72870.51 1113877.84 85
27 1113877.84 294580.14 57350.84 876648.54 86
28 876648.54 303417.55 40126.17 613357.16 87
29 613357.16 312520.08 21058.60 321895.68 88
30 321895.68 321895.68 -0.00 -0.00 89

(These are just an estimate taken from the retirement calculator at www.banksite.com ... please don't plan your future on this chart or any other similar tool. You should work with a certified financial advisor.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Your Money or Your Health

I have a book on my shelf called Your Money or Your Life, which I think is a catchy title that makes you think. It inspired me to write this blog about Your Money or Your Health.

How many times in your life have you put off taking care of yourself because you were too busy or didn't want to invest the money in a cure for something bothering you. Come on ... I know everyone out there has probably done this at some point.

I know I have and sometimes still do. Let me give an example. After a bad chiropractor adjustment a few months ago, I had terrible neck pains and headaches for almost 2 months. It was awful and it brought my normally productive days to a screeching halt. Could this have been a sign from the Universe to slow down? Nevermind that right now (another discussion entirely).

I called my traditional osteopath healer, Rick Williams, to try to get a tuneup to fix the body knocking, but he moved his practice to an hour and half away. And with the price of gas these days and the amount of time it would take to get there I decided to wait out the pain.

Just a year prior, I did the same thing. While on vacation in Cabarete with my family, I thought dancing with my 35 pound son in my arms swinging him around was a great idea. We were having so much fun afterall! However it slipped out one of my back joints and caused this horrific pain for the next 6 weeks. I thought I ruptured a disk in my lower back. Something I was terrified of since I had ruptured 2 disks in my neck 15 years ago and couldn't work for over a year (another story). I am good as new now - even better than new - so don't let any doctors tell you will only get worse with age after that type of injury because you can get much better. I am living proof. You can heal yourself even when the odds are against you.

Anyway ... here I go rambling again. So the back problem I created in Cabarete was scary. I should have gone to see Rick immediately, but no ... I waited ... and waited ... and suffered until I couldn't stand it anymore and then got an appointment. It was $115 afterall and not covered by insurance (since rarely do they cover alternative healers). After 1 visit I was back to normal. Silly me to wait so long.

And yet, I did the same darn thing a year later with my neck pain. Rick had moved away so I have a small excuse. Don't we all make excuses for ourselves even though we are the only ones who suffer from them? My acupuncture clinic, Wu's Healing Center, founded by the Goddess of Mind, Body, Spirit Healing - Dr. Angela Wu (also a friend of mine) recommended I see her son Devin Wu to help my neck.

Devin spent an hour with me pinpointing the problem and carefully working on my neck so as to gently coax it into a healing state. After a little direction from this talented healer, I was on a path to recovery. In a week my headaches were gone and I could work again.

So what is my point? That we choose to not spend our money on our health unless we are in dire circumstances (like broken bones or cancer), and as a result our overall financial picture suffers. An investment in taking care of yourself and the money spent on holistic healers is well worth the time and money, because in the long run you will increase your financial abundance and your quality of life will be much higher.

Your Personal Finance Coach - Mark Rothstein

I listened to a friend's money radio show Saturday morning on KQKE 960 (The Quake) in San Francisco. Mark Rothstein who calls himself Your Personal Finance Coach, also was known as Mr. Money in his widely popular radio show a few years back in Los Angeles. How could Mr. Money and Ms. Money not hook up?

Synchronicity brought us together because Mark was interested in buying my domain name Harmoney.com and contacted me without knowing about MsMoney.com. When I bought that domain 7 years ago, I had plans of creating a second website (to MsMoney.com) that would focus on the emotional issues surrounding money that have prevented people from realizing their dreams. My aim was to teach people that their dreams matter and to show them how to harmonize (get it - harMONEY) their financial goals with their life goals in order to achieve peace of mind. Also to learn to face their financial fears and start living the life of their dreams by attracting abundant prosperity.

At first I thought it was too much of a soft and squishy topic for the very practical financial planning website of MsMoney.com. Now I realize that it is an integral component to the process (especially for women) and to leave it out would be a disservice to my community. So now I talk about all of these issues right from www.msmoney.com.

Mark has done a phenomenal job of making Harmoney.com a personal finance site for your everyday needs. He should be launching it soon so be sure to click over and check it out.

His accompanying radio show is now aired in most major California markets and in Vegas. Don't fret if you are somewhere else in the country, he is rolling out to you soon. On some days in the future you might even find me co-hosting the show with him.

What I loved about Mark's show is his enthusiasm about money matters. How many tax experts do you know practically are jumping out of their chair with excitement to share with you the latest tax rules? And are bubbling with joy to help you create the best financial plan possible to maximize your wealth? Mark is not your typical wealth manager.

What is great about Mark is how he makes planning your financial future sound so simple and fun. I find myself listening to his show even though some of the questions and answers are not directly applicable to me. He is as enjoyable to listen to as the Car Talk guys. And trust me, auto maintenance is not high on my todo list - but those men can make anything entertaining.

Mark isn't just one of the most talented wealth managers in the country he is also actively involved in giving back to his community. Just the kind of person I love to be around.

LOS ANGELES -- Mark Rothstein, founder and CEO of a new Web-based personal financial solution and support service called Harmoney Financial(TM), received prestigious honors from the Brandeis-Bardin Institute Thursday night, May 4th, in Los Angeles. Rothstein received the accolades at a special invite-only dinner hosted by the Institute, which is one of Southern California's leading Jewish educational outreach resources, for his more than 20 years of local business and community leadership in the area of personal financial planning.

Rothstein is recognized as one of the nation's top Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) and income tax specialists. He has been actively engaged in personal finance and investment-related businesses for more than 20 years. In addition to directing Harmoney Financial, he is the founder and president of TriStar Financial Services, one of the largest comprehensive wealth management firms in Los Angeles, California, which he has grown through multiple acquisitions/integrations of independent tax planning firms.

A seasoned personal financial planner and strategist, Rothstein also serves as current president of the Certified Financial Planners Association (Los Angeles region) that presides over thousands of CFPs throughout the area, and he is also on the Board of Governors of the National Institute for Estate Planners.

Our Deepest Fear

Our Deepest Fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?... Your playing small doesn't serve the world..."

by: Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love

I found this today on a friend's website - Tor White. A high-tech worker who found there was more to life than 80 hour weeks. Sounds familiar ...
http://home.earthlink.net/~quantum_brilliance/

A few weeks ago I was writing about self-sabotage and wanted to continue on that discussion. I started Ms.Money because it broke my heart to see so many people with financial lives and spending out of control. It was as if they were looking for a way to cause their own demise. I thought, if I could just teach people the fundamentals of financial health, that they could then put together a good financial plan and go on to thrive.

Boy was I wrong.

It isn't knowledge of financial planning that is preventing their money problems. Though they might blame it on that. It is a much deeper problem that people don't think they deserve greatness. It is one thing to educate people and entirely another to inspire and motivate them to make a change.

My husband wrote this in an instant message to me last week and it has stuck like glue in my brain. It is my most poignant quote this year.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
- Darwin

Let's all just take a moment to reflect on that. Most people resist change because it can be very scary with all its unpredictability. We might instinctively know that when a window closes a doorway opens but we fear the long dark hallways that get us to our goal. And secretly we are terrified we might never escape.

I try to embrace change and even invite it into my life, instead of resisting it (which brings even more trouble). Perhaps this is something you can do too. If you are being held back in some area of your life, whether financially or not, think about ways you can welcome change with open arms and begin a new pattern to prosperity and healthy living.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Live Long and Thrive

Have you heard the Kaiser commercials about Live Long and Thrive? I love these ads and the approach they are taking. I had met with them before they launched the campaign because of the synergies with my company Thrive Media.

I had some health comments in my previous blog and it got me thinking about why your health is so important to your financial future.

Nothing will drain your pocketbook more than an unexpected illness that isn't completely covered by your insurance. Even worse, dare I say you might not have insurance. I have a bright and talented friend with an MBA from a top Grad school who made a poor financial decision - he let his insurance lapse and ended up in the hospital with an emergency appendicitis and a $45,000 bill. GASP! At least that is what I did when I heard this happened.

Why is Kaiser spending $40 million on a campaign to convince their patients, and potential customers to eat their broccoli and exercise? Isn't it obvious? Healthier patients cost them less money. And being healthier saves you money too.

If you are healthier, you are more productive. A few months ago I had a bad chiropractor adjustment and ended up with neck pain and blinding headaches for almost 2 months(all better now thank you). Do I even need to tell you what that did to my productivity at work? You will notice, I didn't blog even once during that time. It took all my energy just to make it through the day, let alone try to be a creative and interesting person.

I used to do a lot of extreme sports when I was younger; downhill skiing, waterskiing, even barefoot waterskiing, and windsurfing. Now I take it much easier. I know what breaking an arm or hurting a knee (which I have done) can do to my career and my bank account. Insurance might cover the cost of resetting broken bones and physical therapy, but it does not cover my lost income from not being able to work at maximum capacity. And when you are an entrepeneur like me, you are responsible for generating your own cash flow.

So folks, eat your broccoli, exercise, avoid those death defying sports and try to find a little zen time while avoiding going crazy (by obsessing over your health)!

Crazy with Gnarles Barkley

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that phase.
Even your emotions have an echo
in so much space

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Possibly

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice
That's my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you're in control

I heard this song every day while in Germany (a big hit out there and here in America too). It makes me want to scream the lyrics out loud.

Have you ever felt this way? Crazy that is ...
I think the women that I wrote about in my previous blog, who had financial situations out of control,would attest that they felt crazy with fear and paralyzed from taking the reigns and getting a handle on their financial world.

That is what fear does. And financial fear can be the absolute worst. Nothing will keep a person awake at night more than thinking they might end up homeless on the streets because their money flow as stopped. My advice would be to take a moment from "having the time of your life" and instead sit down and do a little dirty work weeding through your emotions about your finances and ook at how you are spending your money. This will allow you to put a financial plan together so you can embark safely on the waters of Financial Health and be protected from those unexpected storms.

Part of my need for financial security translates over to my quest for health security. However, it doesn't work as well because you have a harder time guaranteeing your health, as you can your financial future. (Hey - we all have our issues).

For me the Barkley song has some symbolism. The line "But it wasn't because I didn't know enough - I just knew too much" really resonates with me. I have been on such a quest for knowledge my whole life that I feel like I know too much about some things (especially related to my health). For example, every time I see food that comes from a package I worry - does that have high fructose corn syrup in it or preservatives, does that milk have hormones, is the meat full of antibiotics, what is that glass of wine doing to my health. I could be a nutritionist with all my knowledge. I sometimes wonder if I am worrying too much.

I think it is probably similar to the person who counts every single penny and is obsessive about their spending (not a good thing either.)

So the question is -- can too much knowledge be a bad thing?

When it comes to personal finance, I would say the answer has to be no. You need to know where you spend your money, spend less than you make, and have a clear plan to protect yourself from unexpected events in the future. This way you don't have to be overzealous managing every bit of cash that flows through you life. As long as you are mostly sticking to your plan you should be alright.

This is what I do with money. I don't even balance my checkbook (never have). You might think that is really strange, but it works for me. I never (well usually), spend more than I make and have a good solid plan for my financial future. I should start following my own advice when it comes to health and stop watching every single ingredient and instead enjoy food a little more. This should help stop be from going crazy!

As Buddha would say ... happiness comes from taking the middle path of the stream, not from swerving back and forth between the banks of life. The path to enlightenment comes from moderation.

Namaste,
Ms.Money

Women and Financial Health

As I left dance class this morning one of my friends introduced me to a woman whom she thought I could help. This woman lost her partner of 10 years suddenly to a heart attack last month. She was being supported by him and living in his nice home. Now she is on our own and must financially make things work on her small salary (and large student loan debt) because he had not included her in his will. He had a strong fear of death and never wanted to talk about it and prepare for the future. So his assets automatically went to his grown children and there was nothing for her.

This is not a surprising event. I hear about this happening all the time. Another woman in my town lost he husband suddenly to cancer and she was left with little life insurance and not enough money to support her young daughter. She had to move out of her beautiful home of 10 years and rent a room from a friend to be able to make ends meet. You can imagine that she was devastated.

Another woman I know unexpectedly lost her job and was unable to make her mortgage payments or meet her student loan obligations. She had a young son to support on her own and had difficulty figuring out a way to survive.

What is common amongst these 3 women (all near 50), is their incredible amount of fear around the process of managing money. They have no experience with it and have often relied on the men in their life to handle that task. I tried to explain to each of them that it is much easier than they think. I told one woman that putting a plan together isn't much harder than cleaning a toilet. It is a dirty and messy job and you might dread doing it, but it can be done by rolling up your sleaves and doing a little scrubbing. Ok - maybe I was exaggerating with that analogy - but I did get her to chuckle and see the lighter side of the necessary task she will have to tackle.

Women especially have a lot of fears and deep rooted physiological issues around money that stem from their relationships with it since they were children and how they parents addressed the issue. My mother was the CFO of the household and was a wise money manager so she passed those skills on to me. Now I can share them with you.

If you lose a loved one, are going through a divorce, or are having other types of financial difficulties, have the confidence that you can still financially thrive with some good planning. Stop by our Women's Cornerfor information on how to get started. Take a deep breath and say to yourself - I KNOW I CAN DO IT!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Self Sabotage

What causes a world-class soccer player to get himself booted out of a game? In World Cup Soccer it means he not only misses the game he is playing, he also misses the next game. The stakes are so high and yet it doesn't seem to matter. With potential success right around the corner, the players still do really stupid things to ensure they can't be part of that success.

Most of the acts of digression are quite small; pulling on someone's shirt or inapproriately using their body. Though this won't give them a red card, two of these will give them a yellow cards and cause them to get thrown out of the game.

I have seen many people in the game of life do something similar. They might not be all-star athletes, however they do have attributes that make them a star in their own fields. This self-sabotage is more common than you can imagine.

Think about your life and if there is any time you might have self-sabotaged yourself from reaching your goal. I read somewhere that 75% of American's are on a diet at any given time. I have seen many of my friends start diets with a sense of optimism with their weight loss goals. A month or two into their diet as they are about to reach their goal, they suddenly give up and start eating foods that will cause them to gain all their weight back quickly.

I find myself doing this when I am on my yeast-free/sugar-free diet. I did it once for 3 months 5 years ago and it had tremendous benefits for my health. And yet, knowing how successful it can be, I can't seem to stick to it for any lenghth of time. Half-way through I sabotage the whole plan and go back to my previous way of eating.

What is going on? I ask myself this all the time and I am sure some of you do the same. Not just with eating of course, but with other areas on your life too. People self-sabotage with their work-life, love-life, home-life and especially their financial life with overspending.

It can stem from a lack of self worth. We somehow don't believe that we deserve success and by purposely causing our demise, we ensure we don't get it. I have trouble believing this is the reason for my own diet self-sabotage since I think I have a high degree of healthy self-love. However, somewhere deep in the trenches of my psyche there has to be something holding be back. My goal the next few months is to figure out what that is. I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, you might ask yourself if you have ever self-sabotaged or even if you have found yourself in that pattern. If so, you might go on the same journey with me.

Additional Reading:
Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Overcoming self-sabotage requires looking inside

Your Own Subversion:
Overcoming Self-Sabotage


Self-Improvement: Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Let the Blogging Begin

It is Tuesday - a beautiful sunny day here in the Bay Area and I am inside blogging. Why? Because of my commitment to blog every day for the next 30 days. Earlier in the year when I did this, I couldn’t seem to find the time until after midnight. But now … I am blessed with a new Au Pair that lives with my family and helps take care of my son and other things. Whewww! It has been tough to get work done this past year without much childcare assistance. Now I will have free time to dedicate to empowering people in their lives. Yipppeee!

So … where to start? Hmmmmmm.

I did promise I would write some things about the World Cup and how it all relates to our every day worlds. Let’s start with Zinedine Zidane. An obvious choice since his headbutt hit all the major media in the U.S. after the France lost in the final.

The question is: Did France lose because he lost his temper and got thrown out? Would Zidane’s teammate had more confidence to make the penalty shot if Zidane didn’t create that headbutting spectacle that flabbergasted the audience. I was sitting in the English Garden in Munich Germany watching the game on giant TV’s with a crowd of thousands. There was such a sigh of disbelief when that happened and we watched him get thrown out of his last professional soccer game. He walked by the World Cup without even looking at. Very sad.

Throughout the tournament I have noticed a lot of this type of behavior in our male superstars. They have the championship title and millions of dollars on the line as well as an obligation to their fellow players to behave, and they still can’t seem to control their ego aggression. Whether it is the captain of the Brazil team - Cafu - yanking on opposing team player’s shirt to bring him down, or the English soccer star Rooney stomping on his competitor’s privates, or another player slide tackling his opponent, these men seem to have difficulty controlling their emotions in the heat of the game with all the testosterone flying around.

I think part of the draw for soccer is all these shenanigans. I caught a snippet of a hockey game last night and it was really brutal with all the fighting. My husband said that why a lot of people like to watch hockey. So I figured it could be the same thing with soccer. Have we really evolved that much from the Gladiator days in the Coliseum?

If you are new to soccer, you will laugh out loud the first time you see a player “draw a foul”, which means that the competitor barely touches them and they go reeling through the air and land with a quadruple twist roll screeching in pain as if they were just shot through the leg with a ten foot spear. Their gymnastic skills would give Paul Hamm a run for his money. The funny thing is (or not so funny if you are rooting for the other team) – is that a lot of time these fake antics work. That means the player gets a free kick at the goal because the ref believe the other player must have really hurt them. I have seen many World Cup games won because of this.

I ask myself, is this really fair? The good looking Portugal player Ronaldo was booed every time he was passed the ball after he pulled these drama tactics and then laughed at the TV cameras when his opponent got redcarded out of the game. When interviewed by the press, he said he didn’t care – he was pleased he was booed.

We give these superstars too much credit. We have the perception that because they make millions of dollars of year that they are somehow these demo-gods – all knowing, all powerful. When in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a society we equate money with knowledge and even more so with happiness. Money doesn’t bring either. If anything, it could exaggerate the negative personality traits because the owner of all that cash gets the feeling that they are superior.

When you have a billion eyes watching you compete how do you sleep at night? What is it like to be a sports superstar of this magnitude? I only have a tiny bit of an inkling after receiving a little media attention with MsMoney.com and I know that personally I didn’t sleep well. Fame has its own set of problems attached with it. The money that comes with fame or success might help solve some issues in the short-run (like being able to pay the mortgage), but in the long-run it is replaced with an exponential number of new problems and things to think about that keep you up at night.

We are a celebrity society in the United States. We love to watch and read about the stars and how they spend their enormous wealth. Then we try to emulate them and buy what they buy. The problem is most of us can’t afford their lifestyles or anything close to it. However, we delude ourselves in the short term and buy a little piece of the dream on credit. And then the bills come and our smile turns upside down. Until we get a chance to enmesh ourselves into the life and times of another celebrity even if to just forget our troubles for a little while and dream a little dream.

Soccer stars are celebrities on a global scale and attract attention like nothing else in this world. (even more than Bradgelina) The good news is that most of the time the players from different countries all over the globe get along great. I love it when I see a player hold out his hand to lift up his opponent. Germany this year really focused on the say no to racism and this is a time to make new friends.



The World Cup theme song played at all the games was “Be the Love Generation” by Bob Sinclair, which strangely enough was my favorite song before the World Cup.

Right now I have a tear in my eye as the video runs in the background of me writing this. The words are so powerful. On that note, I say goodbye for today. Thanks for your patience with my rambling on without always having a cohesive theme to tie it all together. I am not writing for the New York Times afterall. The great thing about a blog is the informality.

Be the Love Generation
by Bob Sinclair

From Jamaica to the world,
this is just love,

Why must our children play in the streets,
broken hearts and faded dreams,
listen up to everyone that you meet,
don't you worry, it could be so sweet,
Just look to the rainbow, you will see
sun will shine till eternity,
I've done for much love in my heart,
No-one can tear it apart,
Yeah,

Feel the love generation ...

Don't worry about a thing,
it's gonna be alright,
Don't worry about a thing,
Gonna be, gonna, gonna, gonna be alright,

Friday, July 14, 2006

World Cup Photo Slideshow

I created a slideshow with 125+ pictures from the 2006 World Cup in Germany. What an adventure! I captured some amazing moments on camera.

If you would like to see the photos you first need to sign up for a Shutterfly account. It takes 10 seconds to do and is FREE.

Go to Shutterfly.com to get 15 free prints when you sign up.

Afterwards you can go straight to the slideshow.
2006 World Cup Photos

Enjoy!
Ms.Money

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Best and Worst of the World Cup

Greatest Things About the 2006 World cup

1. You get to say Zinedine Zidane a lot (fun during the 1998 World Cup too)
2. A great chance to meet people from all over the world.
3. Very well organized (the Germans are good at that)
4. Wasn’t as crowded as you would expect
5. Chance to watch soccer fanaticism at its finest
6. Fan Fests in all the cities were awesome
7. Australians and Brazilians still party whether they win or lose
8. Seeing the enthusiasm in my son playing soccer outside the games
9. Beautiful places around Germany to visit in between the games
10. The weather – sunny and warm almost every day the 3 weeks we were there
11. The stadiums were all wonderful and the new ones gorgeous
12. Germany was a great host for the World Cup
13. Affordable housing (we rented an apartment and had a cheap hotel)
14. We got tickets from FIFA for 3 games and only had to pay face value.
15. Chinese Tower Beer Garden in the English Garden – the best place to watch the final match (and you could actually buy grilled fish and hear an oompa band!)

Worst Things About The World Cup

1. $500-$5000 tickets for matches if you didn’t get them from FIFA
2. Only Budweiser beer at all the games.
3. Police at games give you WWII nightmares
4. Munich failed with transit to semi-final game and parking.
5. Difficulty finding healthy meals (for us vegetable focused folks)
6. Expensive to fly there if you waiting until last minute (we used FF miles)
7. Watching Brazil fizzle out during the France match
8. Expensive transit $2.75 one way to ride a bus or train
9. Official sponsors on everything (even cologne)
10. When Zidane headbutted the Italian player. (my instincts said the Italian guy must have said something really aweful to him for that to happen)

At least the Good outweighs the bad.

Top Ten Germany List

Top Ten Great Things About Germany

1. German beer & sausages
2. BMW’s and Mercedes
3. Gummy bears
4. Transit system
5. Konigsee (Lakeside town nestled in mountains)
6. Octoberfest (actually in September)
7. Theatinerkirche Church
8. The autobahn
9. Old German houses
10. The fairy tale castle (Neuschwanstein Castle)

Top Ten Worst Things About Germany

1. No one tips (which means bad service)
2. Police remind you of the Third Reich
3. Smoking everywhere (and cigarette dispensers everywhere too)
4. Lack of convenience stores
5. No bottle recycling bins (you have to take back to store)
6. Few people speak English
7. Giant Bavarian Pretzels (you can’t stop eating them)
8. Expensive (the Euro is 1.3 to the dollar)
9. German music
10. People don’t smile much

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Attending World Cup Soccer

June 28, 2006

Attending World Cup Soccer Games 2006: Reporting from Frankfurt Germany

My first game was Italy vs. Australia in 2nd row center field seats. Imagine 50 yard line seats and at the Superbowl and that would be the closest equivalent to the excitement around attending a match. Over a billion people (yes billion) watch World Cup Soccer – compare that to the mere 90 million watching the Superbowl (and to think those ads go for millions per minute.)



I was hoping it would have been the US playing, however they lost in the early rounds. It was still a great game with Italy winning in the last 30 seconds of play on a penalty kick. Somehow I sensed this was going to be a goal and I turned on my digital camera for a few second and captured it on video.

When we walked into the field, my 4 year old son was captured live on TV with his eyes wide in a sense of awe. This was not only his first soccer match but his first big time game of any kind. As far as I could see, he was the youngest child attending both games. With tickets so high priced, ranging from $72 low end face value if you were blessed to win the FIFA lottery online (probably harder than winning the California lottery), to over $5,000 scalp prices for a final match, I am not surprised. You would expect to pay between $400-$900 for most elimination games.

You don’t sense the same level of aggression on TV as you do with just a few yards between you and the players. The players play as if their lives depend on it. Why all the obsession you may ask? Especially if you are American and a soccer mom living in the suburbs like me. Well, I am going to try to take a shot at it (pun intended), though I am a neophyte when it comes to World Cup Soccer. I did attend 5 World Cup matches in 1998 while living in Paris for a month, so I have a little more foundation than the average mom.

After interviewing my husband Hans who grew up in Rio De Janeiro playing soccer barefoot on the beach in Ipanema (the boy from Ipanema) and then living in England, Germany, and being an All-American soccer player with an Olympic tryout offer, I figured he was a good place to start, especially since he has attended over 6 World Cups and over 30 matches there.


Photo: Brazil going for the goal against Ghana in elimination round.

Here are my thoughts why Soccer is the most popular world-wide sport. It is:

Action packed – Players running at full speed passing back and forth. It isn't about the final score, it is about the exciting shots on goal - which can be in the dozens.

Low Injury – unlike some other sports such as rugby or football. Players are quickly thrown out because of aggressive play. Some experts would say that an overzealous red-carding ref was the demise of the US in this World Cup (having thrown 2 players out of the game - and like other sports, you don't get to replace them).

Skill Based – passing the ball, heading it, kicking around others to go for the goal, bicycle kicks, etc.

Team focused – you can’t succeed without the help of your other players.

Support of the masses - huge fan base means all those little boys in hundreds of countries dream of being a multimillion dollar soccer star.

My husband informed me that the organized soccer federation (FIFA) was founded in the early 1900’s and has more member countries than the United Nations (207 vs 191). Which makes me think … could we solve the disagreements between our countries through soccer instead of war? If that were the case then the US would not be the world leader by any means. Brazil would be the dominant rule-maker since they have won 5 World Cups, more than anyone else. What would it be like to try their philosophy for a little while?

I have spent a few months in Brazil and enjoy their peace-loving, party filled atmosphere. Ok maybe not it San Paulo, the business center, but most other places. Poor or not, they thrive on living in the moment and take joy in almost everything they do. Attending a Brazil match is totally different than any other match because the fans have a different perspective. It isn’t if you win or lose, it more important to have fun playing the game. (and like Australia fans... the party afterwards is as fun whether you succeed or not - afterall you are on vacation and a long way from home.)

Don’t get me wrong, Brazil wants to win – maybe even more than the more developed countries like Germany, Italy, and England, because it one of the few things the country can be proud of on a world scene.


Photo: Brazil goal against Ghana

The Brazilian players are much more likely to be found smiling on the field and appear to be being having fun versus the more intense players from Germany or France. Is it this sense of playfulness and living in the moment that makes them such successful winners?

I have been focusing my life the last few years on exactly this and things seem to go much smoother. Perhaps this is a life lesson that you can follow your bliss, take it easy in your expertise having fun, and millions will still pour through your door. Ronaldinho, the Brazilian superstar makes over $20 million dollars per year. In fact, the average professional soccer player superstar makes millions per year. You can build a plush nest egg on that stream of cash.

Winning at the game certainly has it's advantages too. Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that a World Cup defeat on average had led a country to sizeable stock market fall. Winning the Cup normally adds around 0.7 percentage points to the victor's economic growth (reports Dutch Bank.)


Here I am with a couple Germans who are Brazilians fans. A recent survey showed that soccer fans voted Brazil as their #2 favorite team after their own country.

>>> more to come in the days ahead. Right now we are trying to secure tickets to the Brazil vs. France match this Saturday. Brazil has a score to settle with French, since the French beat Brazil 3-0 and took home the 1998 World Cup. I was in Paris for Brazil vs. France and for Germany vs. USA (just before I was interviewed on the Champs Elysee by German TV - my very first time on TV).


Photo: My family with the players greeting us at Frankfurt airport.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Commitment to Blogging

June 14, 2006

Hello to all my readers out there in Cyberspace and thank you so much for your interest in my Blog! I am thrilled with the number of people who have stopped by.

I feel a bit guilty about falling off the blogwagon this last month. My apologies. You know - life happens - and oops all of sudden I forget who I am! (Ms.Money who cares so much about financial empowerment.)

I am off to the World cup in Germany (Go Brazil! and US too ... though things aren't looking rosy for them right now). I will try to write a few unrelated money notes about the soccer spectacle from the other side of the pond - though no guarantees.

However, I do promise next month to do another 30 days in a row of blogging about my favorite topic (any many of yours) - MONEY! I have so many interesting things to talk about; for example: cruising in San Francisco in a Limo with a bunch of Oakland Raiders Football Players (I know you have to wonder what the heck that might have to do with money --- trust me it does and I will explain later), and hanging out in the San Francisco Giants Sky Box at PacBell Park, as well as spending time with the Up For Grabs (Barry Bond's Homerun Ball Sale Story/Movie) producers.

Hmmmm ... looks like this is Sports month. The World Cup has inspired the athlete in me. And we all know Sports is one of the most lucrative money industries there is (not just for the players who make millions, but also for all those in the inner circle) ... so stay tuned on how I tie it all together and what it means to you and being inspired to manage your financial world.
hugs,
Ms.Money

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gaia Think Tank

May 3, 2006

I said I would create a women's think tank and here it is:

Gaia Think Tank
Revolutionary women thinkers for social change.

The Gaia Think Tank is a group of multi-disciplinary theorists and intellectual women who provide advice and ideas on how to help solve the world’s problems. Our mission is to think global and act local by helping develop programs in our communities that can be adopted throughout world. GTT partners with community government and other organizations who share the goal of creating a sustainable and peaceful world where all people and Mother Earth can thrive.

_________

The ideas to get it started:

The goal is to get 100 Bay Area members in the first year, inviting select women who are already serving as leaders in their community as CEO or President of a company, non-profit or other organization. The longer term goal is to get 100 members each in 9 other cities within the first 3 years for a total of 1,000 members.

The plan is to physically bring our members to key organizational community events (such as the Mayor's luncheon on SF Connect) to see how our collective mindshare can have a larger impact. We would hold an annual retreat where we can network, collaborate and share in a relaxing environment (somewhere warm like Hawaii and the Bahamas).

I plan to set up a rich online social online networking environment for the group using a new amazing tool called Plum, www.plum.com(a friend of mine started the company). It is like Yahoo Groups meets myspace on steroids. Our group can post information relating to our mission that can be read by the world. Outside parties can also build their communities and posts around our forum.

Strange thing is after I created the premise for it I read a Time Magazine article about how the world is one giant think tank and corporations should consider shutting down their R&D departments and asking the world at large about how to create their products and market their services.

How funny and synchronistic, because part of my plan was to get corporations to pay GTT (Gaia Think Tank) for our collective mindshare to help them with their business strategies and questions. They would pay GTT a fee so GTT could serve non-profits for free. The money would go to paying expenses to fly our members to various strategic socially conscious events where are live participation will have critical impact.

Know anyone interested in joining who has held a President or CEO title? I already have 25 potential members in the Bay Area.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lunch With Mayor Gavin Newsom



April 27, 2006
Yesterday I had lunch with Mayor Gavin Newsom and a group of women leaders in San Francisco. I was so inspired about what my dear friend Andrea Bornstein is doing with City Hall and Mayor Gavin Newsom with a new initiative called SF Connect and Project Homeless Connect that it got the mind swirling. I am going to start a Women's Think Tank to help solve community problems. I will keep you posted on that.

In the meantime, I thought you might find my emails to my group of friends inspirational as we begin to band together for the common good.

From: Tiffany Bass Bukow: MsMoney.com / Thrive Media
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 11:12 PM

I want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to learn about how Mayor Newsom is working to make the world a better place for all. Like me, some of you don’t actually live in San Francisco, and instead are coming from Marin, Silicon Valley or the East Bay. As we know, this isn’t just about helping San Francisco thrive, though that is a worthy goal, since it is the hub to most of our business worlds. This is about creating projects that work in our own community and then spreading it across the world. Gavin has already done this very successfully with his Homeless Project which is now being instituted in 31 cities all over the globe.

The reason I invited you to such an intimate lunch is because I felt each one of you had the spark inside to have an impact in your community. It is one thing to theorize about how things could be better, it is entirely another to have the education and skills to know how to put a plan of action together that will really work.

Most of us are at an age in our life where we have achieved some greatness in our career and can apply that experience to a broader sense where the community can benefit from our personal rise to the top. I love the fact that Gavin decided to have a women’s luncheon only. Women tend to be more collaborative and work well in groups to solve a common goal. What better place to bring them together than for the sake of one of the best cities in the world – San Francisco.

I have done the majority of my networking over the last 15 years with women’s groups and attribute my success to women who have inspired and helped me along the way. I have chosen to dedicate my time to helping other women excel in their careers and life, not just through MsMoney.com, but also on a more personal scale. This is the reason I included everyone’s bio below that I invited to the luncheon. We won’t have much time to chat there since the goal is really to learn more about Gavin’s SF Connect.

A good way to connect between each other is to spend some time reviewing the bio’s below and you might find someone you would like to arrange a coffee date with that shares common interests. I tried to sum up your whole career in 1 or 2 lines. Quite a feat since so many of you have accomplished so much. Most of your bio info came from Google so if there are any errors blame the web.

Now back to the mission and why I personally chose to attend this luncheon and invite you. I admire a political leader who uses business tactics for social change. Gavin came from the business world and has applied his masterly of strategy and implementation into community projects that not only work well, but also are adopted by others. With so much of the country in dismay with our current political leaders, I really feel like I can look at this leader with pride. I feel he is a role model for what the future of politics should steer towards.

He started with Homelessness and is now beginning to tackle other issues, such as improving our parks and public spaces, provide job opportunities for at-risk youth, and connect low-income families to technology that can create economic empowerment.

Those are some lofty goals. What makes Gavin an effective leader is that he knows he can’t accomplish this alone. It doesn’t just take financial resources to attempt to address those problems and others, it takes the mental resources. That is where our mindshare comes in. Within each of you is something special that can be tapped into to contribute to making our communities a better place for all. A little brainstorming with some of the brightest minds in the city can go a long way.

Whether it is taking a weekend to plant trees for Earth Day, counseling a troubled teen, or providing a computer for a family in need, you can choose to be part of the change revolution by being hands-on. Or you can be part of a think tank, with that fabulous brain of yours, and come up with a plan of action that can be implemented by the tens of thousands of volunteers who have already committed their hands to help.

San Francisco has a unique place in the global community. We are some of the most liberal and out-of-the-box thinkers there is. You ladies are also big thinkers too. Just look at what you have already accomplished in your lives. At some point at the beginning of your careers you asked yourself, what if. What IF, I became CEO of a corporation, What IF I got my Master’s Degree, What IF I started volunteering.

It all started with What IF. Gavin is asking, WHAT IF we brought some of the most talented minds together in the city (a small select group which includes you) and came up with a plan of action to solve some of our communities biggest issues. He has a big dream and it is one that I share. Big goals have never stopped me before (otherwise I would have never raised millions of dollars for Ms.Money or had the First Lady arrive to help me launch it.) I can’t imagine Big goals would stop you either.



Take a look into your heart and listen to where it is telling you to go. The wisdom of the sages is found within you and you just have to open yourself to the possibility that you have something very important to contribute to the greater good. The world awaits our answers …

Namaste,

Tiffany Bass Bukow

One of my favorite quotes

“If you thought you were too small to make a difference then you have never been in a room alone with a mosquito.”

Luncheon attendees in my group:

Tiffany Bass Bukow – CEO MsMoney.com Inc. – Money & Life Skills Education, Founder of Thrive Media: positive media, on Board of Universal Giving, Advisor to Women’s Technology Cluster.

Jennifer Anastasoff - CEO Building Blocks International: sets up corporate service fellowships like a “peace corps”, formerly at Teach for America, Analyst in the California Legislature

Tracy Ferguson – CEO A Brighter Today: non-profit foundation and center for children with disabilities, on Board of Directors for the United Way SF.

Jennifer McFarland – CEO Women’s Technology Cluster: entrepreneurs have raised over $100M in the last 2 years, former Investment Banker at Salomon Brothers and Dean Witter Reynolds – raised $300M.

Amber Nystrom – CEO Social Fusion: incubator for socially conscious sustainable non-profits, consultant for multi-national infrastructure projects for economic development and women's rights for World Bank.

Gwen Edwards – former CEO of Middlewire, former President of Pacific Bell Network Integration: $300M networking business unit of SBC Communications, Advisor to Women’s Tech Cluster, CEO Coach.

Linda Alepin – former CEO of Pebblesoft Learning, former VP of Corporate Strategy at Amdahl: $750M turnaround, currently with Global Women’s Leadership Center at Santa Clara University.

Julie Farris – former CEO of Scalix ($25M venture funded linux email company), Founder of OneBox, 2Bridge and Portola, previously at IBM/Lotus.

Mona Lisa Wallace – former CEO Shop Eco, President SF NOW, former Executive Director of East Bay Non-Profit Coalition, currently private Law Practice,

Elana Auerbach – former President Collaborative Visions, now with www.peacexpeace.org, former Investment Banker & Management Consultant, focuses on women empowerment.

Lindsay Allen – Production at Current TV: formerly with Evening Magazine, KQED/Spark, Thrive Media. Olympic Torch bearer as United Way Hero, active with National Golden Gate Parks Service.

Sandra Amat – Marriage and Family Therapist using Gestalt, Transpersonal, Tantra, and Dance Therapy, etc. Focuses on women’s issues, former therapist with SF Family Service Agency for low income families.

Katherine Bini – International Business Consultant

Priya Sanger - Senior Law Counsel at Wells Fargo Bank, on SF Human Rights Commission, former President Barristers Club of SF, on Board of Bar Association of SF, former President SF Bank Attorneys.

Kristin Bowers – VP at Harper Collins: manages Amazon.com relationship and Western US.

Sophia Amargi – Marriage Family Therapist focuses on crisis management and overcoming adversity. Book author “Radical Joy”. Volunteers with The Center for Attitudinal Healing.

Katherine Noeson – former Technology Executive at Palm (3COM )and Website Pros, former Director Business Development at Paul Allen's (Microsoft) Interval Research Corporation.


_________

From: Tiffany Bass Bukow: MsMoney.com / Thrive Media
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 11:10 PM

Hello Ladies Who Lunch,

It was wonderful to see all your shiny happy faces at the event today. Thanks so much for taking the time to hear what City Hall has brewing in the big dome about our lovely San Francisco City.

I don’t know about you, but I was fighting back the tears as Gavin was talking about the places our city has left remain in ruins and the effect that must have on the children. My goodness, it just breaks your heart how the disparities of the world can be so severe even in one of the most affluent cities in the world.

Being a mom of a 4 year old has really softening me about other’s less fortunate situations. It has made me a stronger person and more committed to really help others overcome the circumstances of their life.

Below is a poem I sent out in a newsletter for Max’s preschool that talks about children. It is quite touching. The reason I include it is because so much of the Mayor is trying to do is to create a better place for all children to grow up in. Whether it is providing tech resources for their family so they can get a better job or school, or creating more parks for them to play in, there is an opportunity of many of his initiatives to improve the lives of families. When you touch a child’s life, you touch everyone in that family and give them hope.

I will keep you posted as opportunities arise with the Mayor’s Team and SF Connect.

Hugs,
Tiffany Bass Bukow

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of
sneakers,
who never 'counted potatoes,'
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at
their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never
rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the
phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and
whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for those who want to be carried
and those who must,
for those we never give up on and for those
who don't get a second chance.
For those we smother...and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

-Ina J. Hughes

Ladies - that is what we can all do … offer a hand to those in need. And the littlest ones in our city will be the first to grab it. I hope to see you all out in field taking a few hands and bringing a glimmer of a brighter future to a few lives.

Hugs,
Tiffany

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Over 50,000 Web Pages Link to MsMoney.com

April 25, 2006
Can this really be correct? That there are 28,700 Pages on Google Linking to Ms.Money. I was doing a little research trying to figure out why our traffic jumped five-fold this last month to up to 160,000 visitors a week. That is a lot of traffic for our little ole site. Well little compared to the millions and millions of visitors Yahoo Finance gets every week. We have gotten millions since we started but certainly not every week. Though I do have my ambitious goals. Considering I haven't spent 5-6 figures on ads (or any ads for that matter) - a gal has to wonder where did all these folks come from.

Which takes me to Google and the fact that 28,700 web pages really do link to www.msmoney.com.

Yahoo's search engine lists over 50,000 web pages that link to MsMoney.com. Although you can only see the top 1,000. Afterall, who would really want to look at 38,000 links? Except me! (just kidding, even I get a bit cross-eyed after staring at the first few hundred).

Thanks to the thousands of websites out there that think so highly of us that they want to tell their community about us. And thank you to the readers who visit us!

All this great news inspired me to put out a Press Release today. Ok - so it is 1am, but that is what us entrepreneurs do. We really can't turn the brains off just because it is entering the middle of the night.

I still haven't figured out where the traffic came from, but I know the increase wasn't from the web. And because there was a huge jump spread out over a few weeks, I think it came from one of the magazines I was interviewed for. Maybe Cosmopolitan.

One of the favorite sites I ran across that sent almost a thousand folks over to Ms.Money is the Budgeting Babe Blogger. Nicole is from my hometown of Chicago. So hats off to her for having such a strong personal finance community that supports her writing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who Wears the Money Pants in Your Family?

I love the name of this website www.moneypants.com. It reminds you of smarty-pants doesn't it? I will tell you one thing for sure - they are synonymous.

It was created by three women who learned about money by doing. Their frustration about money brought them together. Anne is a writer and debt specialist -- for years, if she got out of debt, she'd be back in before long. (We teach what we need to learn ourselves - right?) Julia is an entrepreneur who loves to bring ideas to people but doesn't like to focus on dollar signs. Komal is an attorney and stand-up comic--she swears there's a difference--who's been counting cash all her life. Ironically, MoneyPants taught her how to count on people.

Anne, Julia, and Komal. They met, they talked and unlike most friends, they talked honestly about money. And you know what? It was amazing. After every meeting, they all felt lighter, freer. . . and smarter. Sharing their financial goals helped bring them closer. so they decided to pool their talents and design the same kind of experience for their website audience.

Check it out, it is well worth the visit:
www.moneypants.com.

Rolling the Boulder Up The Hill

No matter how often I read about myself I other people's websites, I never quite get used to it. The profile of me seems to describe someone else. Though it is my life, it sometimes seems too good to be true. Perhaps never believing what the press writes about me is what keeps me on my toes and pursuing more greatness.

I read an interview about Howard Stern last month in Esquire. No I am not a fan of his, however I think it is important to study someone who raked in a half a billion dollar media deal. Not million - billion. I could write a whole book about how Howard's rise could be our demise as a society. But today I won't go there.

What Howard said the secret to his success was that regardless of how much fame and fortune he assessed his ego just didn't find it enough. Instead, like Sisyphus in Greek Mythology, he rolls the huge boulder up the hill for eternity - always struggling. Howard attributes this personality flaw to his unquenchable childhood desire to please an absent father.

I wonder ... is this my problem too? Who am I trying to please? Am I doing too much and sacrificing myself in the process? Is the boulder too heavy for my soul to bear? Is my desire to change the world so strong for the world's sake or my own? Doesn't a part of me (maybe that little girl looking for approval) really need to have the fame that goes with all the good that I do? Does that make the goal any less worthy because it is attached to my ego?

Maybe it is time to give the boulder a break and let it just sit on the ground for a while. Isn't there someone else out there who will pick up it? Someone with more socially redeeming goals then Howard. Someone?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Just Trying to Matter

I loved Reese Witherspoon's Oscar acceptance speech. There were four elements that send a positive message to our parents and our youth.

1. "Whether I was making my bed or making a movie, my parents were always proud of me. They never hesitated to say how proud they were of me. And that means so very much to a child. So thank you, Mom and Dad."

People underestimate how important it is for children to grow up with a sense of accomplishment and worth. No one can offer this foundation more than a parent.

2. "I want to say thank you to my wonderful husband and my two children ... for loving me so much and supporting me."

Without the support of those closest to you, it is difficult to achieve greatness. It rarely arrives on your doorstep without a team effort. While you rise to the top others may be sacrificing their goals for your happiness. Keep that in mind and be thankful.

3. "I want to say Johnny Cash and June Carter had a wonderful tradition of honoring other artists and musicians and singers, and I really feel that tradition tonight."

Giving gratitude and thanks for others, even the competition that keeps you on your toes, is a great way to stay on top of your game and be spiritual at the same time.

4. "And I want to say that, my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter. People used to ask June how she was doing, and she used to say -- "I'm just trying to matter." And I know what she means. You know, I'm just trying to matter, and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody. And you have all made me feel that I might have accomplished that tonight. So thank you so much for this honor."

Wow thanks Grandma for helping raise such a hometown little girl into an amazing woman. It takes a village and often parents just don't have the life experience or education to provide the kind of wisdom that can only come from Grandma.

June Carter and Reese Witherspoon I am your soul sister and I too understand your quest to JUST WANT TO MATTER. If we could raise all our children with the values that they should strive to make contributions to society that will matter, then the world will be a better place for all.

Amen ... or should I say ...
Namaste - the light in me honors the light in you.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Brighter Today

Women are like teabags. We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water!
Eleanor Roosevelt

What am I grateful for today? Being blessed with having a loving husband and father to a healthy son. It might seem such a simple thing, but when you don’t have any one part of that equation, things can get mighty tough.

I have felt an iota of what it is like to be a single mom these last few weeks since my husband has been traveling on business trips. It is difficult to raise a happy well adjusted little boy with just one parent providing all the mental and spiritual nourishment (let alone financial support). After the 800th time they have refused to eat their vegetables, won’t take a nap, or are incessantly crying over the torn sticker, you might not be feeling very Jesus-like and could probably use a little support. Thank goodness for all the Buddha statues in my home and my Yoga practice, to keep me a calm and sane mother (at least most of the time.)

My husband was marveling on the phone on how much I managed to get done when he was away. We agreed that it takes a big list to get people motivated to get going and once they start they don’t stop. Something about the adrenal running through you veins that propels you for 20 hours straight just plowing through the tasks. I have gone to bed at 2am the last few nights.

One of the busiest bees I know is super-achiever-single-mom Tracy Ferguson. You can’t help but shed a tear when you read her son Cooper’s miracle survival story. Here is a woman who had a great job, got married, had a baby and then her life was turned upside down on a dime. But somehow she managed to make some pretty dam strong tea out of the situation primarily based on her overwhelming and consuming love for her son.

I don’t think men can feel that same love for a child that a woman can. Afterall, we carried the little beauties in our belly for 9 months and bore them through our bones. Divorce rates are high in couples who have special needs children. There is an enormous amount of emotional and financial stress, and just when men are needed to pull it together and take the reins, they seem to be taking the wrong reins and hopping on that white horse emotionally out of there.

Sad. I must let out a big SIGH for this one.

So where does that leave mom Tracy who thought her life was all roses with a successful career, husband and family. It leaves her devastated, that is what it does. And at the ripe age of 29. At this age I was going to wine parties and traveling the world and can’t even imagine being in her shoes.

Tracy wears her shoes well and they are quite stylish (unlike my own). She had to take control or risk losing the one person in her life that mattered most, her son. Tracy’s scenario reminds me of why women are such good credit risks for micro-lending in places like Bangladesh and other third world countries. If you ask some women in these countries they will say that if you give money to the man he will spend in on liquor and gambling, if you give it to the woman, she will create a sustainable business so she can feed her children. Their survival depends on her and she knows it.

Tracy knew that for Cooper. She knew she wasn’t alone in her situation and felt if she could create a place for children to go, even just a few hours a week, to give parents a break so they could reconnect and in some cases save their marriage, that the world would be a better place. It would be a brighter tomorrow. Or even better, a brighter today.

Now she has a full time Special Needs Day Care Center for infants and toddlers that employs only teachers who have masters degrees, and experience with kids who have epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Parents can feel confident that their children is in good hands when they are at work, or the all-important date night out.

Tracy is a friend of mine and are sons are the same age. I wish her all the success and happiness in the world for her and Cooper and that special man that will come into her life one day and see what a magnificent woman she is and what a miracle Cooper is. I am attending her annual Black Tie Fundraiser this Saturday that is raising money for her non-profit – A Brighter Today. If you can’t attend, you can still make a donation.

A photo of Tracy and Cooper.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Virgin’s Guide to Everything

I was watching American Idol tonight; one of my few television indulgences. I had to chuckle when Kellie Pickler, a darling contestant on the show, was talking about losing her virginity to a calamari and spinach salad this week in Hollywood; both experiences of which she did not enjoy. When is the last time you were a virgin at something?

If you are a virgin investor this might be a great time to break through that barrier. If you haven’t invested in the stock market yet then start an Investing Club and pick some stocks with friends after doing some research. You only need to put in $50 each to the fund if you are financially limited.

If you are farther along the investing path, try losing your virginity in the stock market in a new way by trying some more advanced options like buying on margin and shorting stocks, or explore other investing techniques. The wise one shorted Google stock this month since it lost around a quarter of its value; worth billions of dollars.

I lost my virginity to most things a long time ago. So how does one keep fresh and youthful when you feel like you have done almost everything? I think I will make it a plan to try something new each month. What a great way to keep one's life exhilirating.

I was recently selected as the Go-To-Girl for a new book - The Virgin’s Guide to Everything. They included my words of money wisdom for virgins everywhere. It is a funny read even if you have covered all the bases long time ago. The book would make a great gift for someone starting out their career – or certainly someone as naïve as Kellie Pickler from North Carolina (where I happened to be born). There are few things in the book even I could learn from.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sand in my Bra

It is about this time of year I start desperately seeking a vacation. We all need time away from our To-do lists and our busy stressful lives to just BE. However, traveling can pose its own kind of strain and aggravations getting to, from and around our destinations. Especially if you are prone to wing it like I am.

There would be nothing better than adding some vacation time reading to help laugh your angst off that might come from any travel mishaps. I ran across in this in my email this week.

Laugh Your Angst Off:
Tips For Healthy Travel From Funny Women On The Road

When the stress and strain of travel is intensified by unforeseen hassles, delays, and aggravations, the chance of getting sick – not just of the travel itself but in the medical sense due to a weakened immune system – is significantly increased. Terrorism fears and gas shortages have made travel a little less fun than it used to be. The public is more anxious about safety and less satisfied with customer service while in transit.

Seasoned travelers understand the importance of traveling light, but also say it helps if we can lighten-up a little bit while traveling, and healthcare experts agree. While on the road, a positive outlook and a good sense of humor can be just as important as sufficient rest and a balanced diet. Modern clinical studies show that laughter helps to lower blood pressure and stress and fortifies our health. By encouraging the body to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins, along with pleasure inducing and painkilling endorphins, good humor provides preventive medicine.

To address this phenomenon, award-winning author Jennifer Leo has published just what the doctor ordered, three informative and hilarious anthologies of real-life travel mishaps by women. Her funny “Leo Trio” began with the two bestsellers Sand In My Bra and Whose Panties Are These Now a third release entitled The Thong Also Rises is available, and includes more real life misadventures, or as she likes to call them, Ms-adventures.

Those who contributed stories include luminaries such as writer Susan Orlean, whose book The Orchid Thief was the basis for the blockbuster movie Adaptation;; and novelist Jill Conner Browne, who wrote Sweet Potato Queens. Along with numerous other wild women, they tell their hysterical true stories in candid detail. One writer explains why she intentionally walked stark naked into a crowded beach bar to buy her husband a beer. Another forgot her fashion sense and rode a camel across the desert in a sand-filled thong; and yet another found herself at a taxidermy convention discussing glass eyes with really weird guys.

Although written exclusively by women, the books are equally popular with both sexes, as evidenced by the feedback on Jen Leo’s websites and blogs. They are so popular in fact, that Leo plans a fourth volume What Color is Your Jockstrap?, a “coed” version of her other humor books.

Leo’s books provide laughter, but also an important lesson for both travelers and non-travelers alike. By laughing at our mishaps and mistakes, we are better equipped to put negative experiences into perspective. And even if we don’t encounter any problems along the way, a lighthearted book makes the ideal travel companion.

Sometimes we just need to hide our nose in a book to get away from less than ideal seatmates. And although laughter may not cure nausea on a cruise ship or malaria during a trek into the rain forest, it is still the best – and the cheapest – form of medicine.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gratitude and Abundance - A Daily Practice

Life is full of challenges that are designed to make us grow as spiritual beings and appreciate the goodness we have in our lives. Without the dark how can we see the light?

When times seem tougher than usual, I like to do the toast of gratitude game. I open a bottle of fine wine and fill 2 glasses for myself and my husband. Then we take turns toasting what we are grateful for in our lives.

I also do something similar with my son before he goes to bed. I say … “What are you grateful for today?” and he says things like the sunshine, my friends, good food, playing with mommy, etc. Sometimes when he can’t think of anything he asks me; “Mommy what am I grateful for today?” I then refresh his memory what he enjoyed doing that day.

During dinner time, we often go around the table and ask each other - What was the best part of your day? This helps remind us that there is goodness in every day.

Times when I am feeling a bit lower than usual, I look around and find everything that makes me happy; sunshine, green grass, no traffic, beautiful music, time to reflect, financial abundance, healthy family, wonderful friends, etc. After 10 minutes doing this I usually raise my self up to a much higher level.

I believe there is a reason that Sunday was originally designed as a day spiritual for focus and reflection. As a human race we need to take time out to think about our lives. Ruminating on what we are thankful for will help attract even more abundance into our life. Not just abundance in the financial sense (though that is worthy goal), but also abundance of love, abundance of health, and all other types of abundance.

When I take time away from my spiritual practice, I find myself getting caught up in the world and can lean towards cynicism and short term thinking. Just watch how your mood is prone to plummet after watching a typical news broadcast. At times when the spiral seems to be going only one way, downward, I can find solace in reading my spiritual books. They get me back on track and the negativity is cleansed away.

Take time out of your life for a daily or weekly practice that can keep you spiritual grounded. To sign up for a weekly inspiration message on prosperity, which I receive in email from a friend of mine and love to read every week, go to www.receiveyourlife.com

SPIRIT DRIVEN, INC. is a publishing, teaching and training company dedicated to promoting the principles of true prosperity. They support people in living authentically so they can experience both spiritual and financial freedom.

Founder Janice Campbell has an extensive background with money having first worked as a CPA and Certified Financial Planner for fifteen years. In 1993 she took her business further, tackling the prosperity issues underlying symptomatic money concerns. That work -- assisting individuals and businesses to uncover and share their full potential and unique gifts -- has culminated in the launching of SPIRIT DRIVEN, INC.

In addition to her CPA and CFP credentials, Janice is also a licensed Minister with the Center for Spiritual Healing.

Here is an example of Janice’s Weekly Messages:

Giving thanks is an important state of your consciousness that keeps you in an awareness of oneness with divine flow.
-From the book Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth

When we think of giving thanks it is usually because something has come into our awareness and we give thanks for it. In this way gratitude is treated as an effect, an energy we express after an event occurs. But Butterworth says, gratitude is not just a reactionary emotion, it is a causative energy.

We don't have to wait for something to happen before we choose to activate our good from within. Living in a state of gratitude is a very powerful prosperity principle. It aligns us with the flow of Spirit's abundance. When we are in the current of gratitude our consciousness is raised to see beyond our perception of lack. The practice of gratitude strengthens our ability to see.

Make a conscious choice to spend some time looking through the lens of gratitude. Then notice the abundance that begins to flow your way.

Affirmation: I choose to give myself the gift of gratitude.

One other way to keep abundance and prosperity top of mind is to carry it with you all the time - literally. Another friend of mine, Judith Gruber has created a deck of Abundance and Prosperity cards that you can carry in your pocket and pull out when needed to look at the message each card contains.

Here are a few of my favorites from the cards:

As I save money, I am a magnet for more possibilities and more money.

I follow my passion and the money follows me.

I go for progress not perfection

As I release my resistance to money … money flows into my life

You can buy them the Abundance and Prosperity Cards
www.moneyandempowerment.com/cards.html

Visit Judith’s site at and learn more about her practice:
www.moneyandempowerment.com

Time Poverty

Last year I made a commitment to be a human BEing, not a human DOing, which I have spent most of my life as. I have always been one of those people that didn’t know how to just sit on the coach and BE. I had to be embarking on something new, managing something old, or just filling my moments with miscellaneous activities.

I am proud to say that has changed. At least a little bit. I am still working on it. Now, I take moments for leisure and reflecting time. I don’t feel compelled to be filling every moment with some sort of productive activity.

Productivity in the last 25 years has increased by 70%. If you aren’t saying WOW – you should be. Think about your parents and how they used to fill a typical day. This might help get you in the mind frame to slow down a little bit.

Why slow down? Because it is good for the mind, body and spirit. Living life in the fast lane could lead to a full on collision and wreck your life. It is no wonder heart disease, obesity and cancer are the rise. People are cramming every moment of time with fast food, fast driving and fast communications. Our immune system can't handle being in constant state of fight or flight.

Take a deep breath, look at your life and start planning your vacation for this year. 25 percent of Americans will not take any vacation, so if you take one you are already ahead on the leisure game.

Save 40% on your Vacation with LastMinuteTravel.com

You might be thinking you won’t be getting ahead in the work game if you are lounging by the pool. You couldn’t be more wrong. It isn’t how much time you spend at work, it is the quality of time. Make your time more efficient and you can work less and live more. Your body needs a chance to refresh, so some time away will give you the fuel you need for success.

Read my article at MsMoney.com: Can You Really Double Your Income and Your Time Off? I give examples on how I achieved this myself early in my career.

Here are 2 other experts that will help you address the Time Poverty syndrome in their books.

Dr. Quain, known as “The Time Doctor,” says he is the first person to really solve the time problem. His book,
Overcoming Time Poverty: How to Achieve More by Working Less
, doesn’t cost much or take much time to read. But it explains a system for gaining not only more free time but also more wealth, with less work.

Conventional wisdom says that unless you’re rich you should work full-time to age 65. But millions of Americans are surprisingly close to something even better than retirement—early semi-retirement. Using the secrets in Work Less, Live More: The New Way to Retire Early, they can stop working full-time now—and start living more.

A growing tribe of audacious early semi-retirees have stepped off the treadmill of full-time work. Instead, they uncover meaningful second careers and avocations, working part-time or volunteering, while restoring a healthy balance between work and life. As a result, they tend to enjoy improved health, relationships and personal growth.

Work Less, Live More shows how you can join the tribe. Author Bob Clyatt draws on his own experience and that of hundreds of others, distilling their collective wisdom into four main strategies:

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Big Fat Legal Ego

I saw an excellent documentary this last week called Up For Grabs. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you get the DVD - coming out in April. Not only is it entertaining, but it also gives us a clear insight into the human character and what can go wrong when large amounts of money are at stake.

The story is about a custody fight that erupted over Barry Bonds' record-setting 73rd home run ball. Imagine you caught this million dollar ball in your hand, but then you dropped the ball, and someone else picked it up. Is it finders keepers losers weepers? What if the property in question could be worth millions? Still think finders are keepers?

Baseball has been called the Great American Pastime. I know one other great American pastime; suing each other. The loser in Up For Grabs filed a lawsuit against the finder. Not any ordinary lawsuit mind you; a ridiculous multi-year extravagantly expensive lawsuit. One that could have cost more than the prized possession.

I don't want to give the story away because you will be riveted to the screen as you see the greediness unfold. Anyone who has ever hired a lawyer, which I would say is 75% of all Americans, will be dying to see what the legal bill was at the end. Once you discover the number, you will probably laugh your butt off at the loser.

The moral of the story is don’t let your ego blind you to the realities of the situation. Just because you think you have been wronged, does not mean it is the wise financial choice to hire a lawyer to prove you are right. Especially when doing so may cost you more than what you lost. Not only could you lose your shirt in a lawsuit (even if you filed it), you could also exhaust your spiritual and physical reserves that could leave you emotionally bankrupt in the end, whether you win or lose.

I highly urge you to meet with the opposing party and try to come to terms yourself. Make an effort to take an objective business like attitude and remove the emotions. If you can’t manage that, then avoid costly lawyers and get the other party to agree on an independent arbitrator or even a team of arbitrators that can decide the outcome for you after hearing both sides of the story.

I have learned the hard way that allowing your ego to drive the legal battle is a bad way to do business. The best way is to treat it like a game of Risk. The opposing player has just wiped out one of your countries and is threatening to take the rest. What do you do? Stop them in their tracks by calling in the United Nations, ... well at least the Peace Brigade. You can negotiate a war settlement yourself. Pretend like you are a Peace Activist and just want to bring an end to all the destruction. Really put yourself in that mode. You will have to give up some of what you want, but in the end you can fly your flag and walk away in peace not misery. Bringing in more troops to fight will only cost you an arm and leg and you could still get shot in the face.

In the end you will win, regardless of the outcome, if your ego takes a backseat to your more rational and logical mind.

Whenever anyone asks my advice on filing I lawsuit I say: Don't do it. LET IT GO! And get on with your life! Frankly, most of the time it is not worth the time, money or energy to go through the tedious process.

Insurance Woes in Tent City

Home, Renters, Auto, Life, Health, Long Term Health, Disability, Earthquake, Flood, Famine … wait there isn’t any Famine insurance. You would think there should be though – we don’t want to go hungry do we? If you don’t play your cards right you could. Keep in mind what happened to the Katrina victims.

I call them Victims with a capital V because of the horrendous way that the insurance industry and the government have treated them. Not only have they gone hungry, but they continue to be deprived of what many Americans would consider inalienable rights, such as clean water and inhabitable land to live on… even if living means residing in a tent.

Yes, I said tent. Many of the Katrina victims are still living in tents on bacteria infested lands 6 months later. There is barely a squeak of cleanup going on. What are politicians doing? Hunting quail in the forest or something?

New Orleans has a new attraction called Tent City. It is the opposite of Disney Land. Try Dismal Land instead. It should be attracting the attention of those in charge to turn on a bulldozer, rally some volunteers and start rebuilding a once glorious city. Heck, if Oprah can rebuild a whole neighborhood in a few months, complete with toasters and fashionable bedding, you think the local government could scrape some of the bacteria off the mud.

In case you don’t realize, there isn’t any running water in tents, so transport yourself back to the 1800’s and it will give you a sense of what life is like for many people in the south. This is no weekend camping trip in Yosemite. Pretty soon people could start dying of cholera. Well, not really, but stranger things have happened.

You are probably thinking that would never happen to me because I have insurance. Well you couldn’t be more wrong. Just because you have insurance does not mean you are protected. There are so many loopholes in insurance that you could end up like some insurance holders in New Orleans and have an insurance company offer you $7,000 for your entire house. Not kidding. I won't even talk about the value you might get for your flooded car, if any. I hope you didn't just buy a brand new Mini.

I think the best way to protect yourself from famine and despicable living conditions is to have money set aside in the event of emergencies. If you have a year of living income you could afford to rebuild your life somewhere else … a cleaner place with running water at least. When you are lacking funds, even the minimum amount, you have no freedom, no choices, to change your circustances.

Think about the life you want to live and if safety and security (and a warm bed) are something you always want to have, then start putting a few dollars a day away for your emergency fund. You then can be assured you will have money when you need it and a few dollars extra for those in desperate need.

You might think it takes more than that to be secure, but it doesn't. Just pass on the bottled water and the bagel every day and you will have the money you need to survive. If you are really feeling a strong urge for a saftely net, forgoe the fancy jacket and put that in your emergency fund too.

Read Ms.Money’s article about Saving For the Unexpected.

Make a cash donation and help Oprah’s Angel Network rebuild Katrina homes. 100% of your money goes to directly to the Katrina sufferers. At least someone (Oprah) is paying attention to what is going on down there, the government certain isn’t. Just another reason why I feel the pull to the political arena, to help ensure that help goes where it is needed most.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ouch - That Hurt!

I used to love watching the Olympics, especially ice dancing. I grew up in Chicago on ice skates in the winter. Our backyard was converted to an ice rink at least 4 months a year. Can you say brrrrrrr! I used to fantasize I was the next Katrina Witt. For those of you who don't know, she won the gold in ice skating in 1984 - the peak of my ice skating career. I moved to the desert after that in search of warmth and sunshine.

Now, I have a tough time watching the Olympics because I can't help but think how imbalanced all these little girls grow up endlessly pursuing the perfect routine. Ice dancing, gymnastics, swimming ... you name it. In order to become an Olympic athlete you have to be single minded and driven after the gold. You have to be in pursuit of perfection.

But the problem is … there is no perfection. I think the essence of life is to get comfortable with our own imperfection. Because if we don’t we are going to fall. And like the ice dancer who had to be rushed to the hospital this year, it is really going to hurt.

February is a reflective month for me. After 3 months of dim lighting and cold weather, I can’t help but feel a little gray myself. I spend a lot of the winter month contemplating my life and where I want to go. I usually have all the answers (or at least I used to think I did). Now I am not so sure.

With the personal challenges I am facing I can’t help but rethink some of my goals. The problem is they seem to shift every day and I can’t get a handle or a clear vision. Maybe that is what fear does to people. I have never really been afraid in my life and now it is edging it's way into my brain. How strange for me to feel so lost in a world that used to feel pretty perfect.

The good news is that spring is here and like a flower blooming, my attitude on life will perk up a lot. The more I remember that life isn’t perfect and that challenges bring dimension to my life and make me stronger, the more I will be happy with the outcome of my circumstances regardless of what happens.

Blessings,
Ms.Money

Read Ms.Money's Keep Your Life in Balance Section so you can focus on priorities and maintain a healthy perspective on what it means to be successful.

Monday, February 20, 2006

$1,000,000 Prize

Did you know that a college degree will net a person $1,000,000 more in income in their lifetime? With costs of college education rising each year, I would hope so. The average private school now is around $40,000 a year. Certainly mom and dad want some return on their $160,000 payout. Kidding. I am sure that is not the reason parents set aside the money for their kids education. In fact, too many parents aren't even thinking about it. With a negative savings rate in this country, many young adults won't be able to afford to go to college unless they pay for it themselves.

Don't despair, there are loads of ways to get yourself into student loan debt up to your ears to help cover the costs. Did I just write that? I guess I am still thinking that Americans have to go on their debt diet and anything with the word loan conjures up fear and loathing. Keep in mind that student loan debt and home mortgage debt is the best debt to have because it is an investment in your future. Buying a new fancy car is not. (I didn't own a car in college or grad school so as to save money.)

If you decide to go heavily into student loan debt make sure you stay on top of your spending so you can afford your monthly payments. I chose to forgoe the Ivy League MBA and $50,000 in student loan debt for a local Master's Degree in a topic I loved -Instructional Technology and only racked up $15,000 in debt. Because I had a lower monthly payment then my MBA buddies, I had the freedom to start my first company on a shoestring budget. Within a few years I paid off all my student loans and was thriving.

I was smart enough (hey - afterall - I am Ms.Money) not to rack up any credit card debt. That is the debt that should keep you up at not until you get it paid off. I can't tell you how angry I get when I hear people are paying 30% interest on the credit cards. For some, if they only make the minimum payment it could take them 50 years to payoff. It should be illegal for credit card companies to charge that. What happened to laws against usury? I feel like I want to get involved in politics now just so I can lobby for laws again usury.

Anyway ... enough of my Monday night rant. Stop by Ms.Money's College Planning Section for tips on how to set aside money and ideas on how to secure low interest student loans. We are talking 7-8% not 30%. If you paid out $250,000 in loans and interest for a college education - you would still make out by bringing at least $1,000,000 more in your lifetime. An additional investment in an MBA or Master's program could net you almost double that if you play your cards right.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Women Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists Honored

The Women’s Technology Cluster incubated MsMoney.com and continues to serve as a business accelerator offering services, resources and connections to women entrepreneurs with a technology focus who want to rapidly grow their businesses by raising venture capital.

Being part of an elite prescreened community of women who are at the top of their field was an empowering experience for me. Much of my success can be attributed to the WTC and their members.

During most of my career, whether it was starting my first Internet Consulting company 10 years ago, growing MsMoney.com or working on Thrive Media, I have relied on networking with women in women’s organization to enhance my skills and give me that extra ounce of confidence needed to reach for the stars.

Join the WTC in Celebrating Investment in Women-Led Companies.
On April 4th in Mountain View, California, eight venture capitalists will be awarded for their leadership in investing in women-led companies in 2004 and 2005.

157 companies with women CEOs received venture funding in these two years.

The WTC will be congratulating these Venture Capitalists and the companies they invested in.
ARCH Venture Partners
Cargill Ventures
Draper Fisher Jurvetson
Enterprise Partners Venture Capital
Menlo Ventures
New Enterprise Associates
Versant Ventures

These Venture Capitalist had the:
- Largest Percentage of Investments in Women CEOs
- Highest Number of Investments in Companies with a Woman CEO
- Highest Number of Investments in Companies with a Woman Founder

Book tickets for the event or make a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit WTC so that they can continue to support women ventures and create diversity in the technology and business world. The WTC focuses on women with companies in Technology, Bio-Technology and Clean Technology.

The WTC's recent Stem Cell Research Conference was a huge success and one of kind. Leaders from academia, government, and the bio-tech industry discussed the opportunities for the commercialization of stem cell research and strategies for the successful creation of an industry.

Over 30 internationally renowned panelists (US, UK, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, etc.) explored the potential challenges to commercialization and make recommendations for a successful and time effective transition from lab to patient. Speakers investigated how to effectively build alliances across key research and industry groups in the US and internationally.

I am a huge fan of the medical advances that stem cell research will bring and am thrilled to know that the WTC is has made one of the pioneering efforts to bring together the expert bio-tech community to facilitate collaboration that will go down in history.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

America's Debt Diet

An alarming fact I learned from my friend David Bach who was on the Oprah show this week with 2 other experts. 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck! If that doesn't worry you it should.

Spending has been out of control for awhile in our country and is getting worse. There have been more bankruptcies, home and auto possessions than any other time in history. We are spending more than we make and credit card companies are contributing to our own demise.

The government has stepped in and tried to reduce some of our reliance on credit by urging credit card companies to double the monthly minimums. This will help but it won’t solve the problem.

What America needs is a Debt Diet – exactly what Oprah titled her show. Sign up at Oprah.com and get your life back!

Read Ms.Money’s Debt and Credit Section.

Design Your Life Month

I have just decided that this month in blogland is Design Your Life Month. I discovered Cathy Bonner, an amazing woman, who has dedicated her life to helping people design their lives.

Fortune Small Business magazine named Cathy as one of the “most influential women entrepreneurs in America,” hailing her as “smart, gutsy and innovative…as interested in making a difference as in making money.”

Woman’s Day magazine honored Cathy for her leadership in raising $32 million and creating The Women’s Museum saying she pushes herself to “extraordinary limits to make the world a better place.”

What is that? A Women's Museum!!! Hip, Hip Hooray! Way to go Cathy! I can't tell you how many times I have been watching Nova or other educational shows and wonder where are all the women? I have always thought it would be terrific to have a place that just honors woman's achievements. And guess what? It exists. She created it based on a dream she had. Heck, it has been a dream in my mind for a long time. So thanks Cathy for making it happen.

Check it out: Women’s History Museum.

Cathy Bonner has demonstrated her belief that “you can live a life of your own design.” She believes the future is something you can create instead of just something that happens to you.

YEAH! Have I not been saying that over and over?

She is the founder of two national leadership-training programs and three successful businesses including her marketing firm, Bonner Incorporated.

Cathy spends her time teaches baby boomers(those 77 million folks about to retire) to look to the future with optimism.

We could all use a little more optimism. Pour me a glass half full would you?

Boomers are dealing with their own personal quandaries about how to have a happy retirement, what to do to fulfill their heart’s desires and how should they craft the second half of their lives. With Cathy’s help, retirees can discover their true desires and learn how best to accomplish them.

Cathy has developed a remarkable tool to help America’s boomers answer these questions and included it in her book,
What I Want Next…30 Minutes to Reveal Your Future
. The process is designed to give boomers the power to target their actual goals based on their strongest personal values.

For more information visit her website at: Whatiwantnext.com.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Women Entrepreneurs in the Congo

Just got this email from a friend about her upcoming trip to help the women in the Congo start businesses. Very intriguing and I plan to send her some money to sponsor this excursion. I have provided financial support for her previous microcredit missions.

I have a feeling she doesn't really know what she is getting herself into with this Canoe trip. I have travelled in these carved out trees (called makoro canoes) in Botswana Africa at the Oddballs Camp. It is a scary experience, not just because of the 18 foot alligators ready to nip your arms off, but also the hippos that can practically chop you in two with one bite. Not to eat you of course, they are vegetarians, simply to let you know you are in their territory. Of course, by that time it is too late. So ... my advice Betsy, steer clear of those large creatures and also avoid the smallest (mosquitos) that can knock you off with one little irritating bite. Good luck and may the force be with you!

A couple photos from my Botswana Adventure.

If you don't know about Microcredit - stop by the Grameen Foundationfor some inspirational education on how they are helping poor women around the world start businesses. I became educated about Microcredit lending through Cate Muther, the founder of the Women's Technology Cluster and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are both passionate advocates for the cause.

I urge you to support Betsy's 500-MILE CONGO CANOE CHALLENGE.

______________________________________________________________
From Betsy Brill: A woman who empowers women around the world.
______________________________________________________________

Join me on a journey that is creating opportunities for Congolese women entrepreneurs.

Yes, I am returning to Congo in April 2006. While I will be working with university women in Kinshasa to further develop their business plan competition, this time I also am heading up the Congo River to see the sewing school we helped create in Lotumbe last June. We’re also exploring other opportunities with the women there and in the river town of Mbandaka.

Three mighty river tributaries link Mbandaka and Lotumbe, which are located about 250 miles apart. Dugout canoes carved from giant trees are the only transport for the thousands living in the heavily forested riverbank settlements in this Central African country – and for us, too, it turns out!

Ken has taken up the challenge and will join Lucy, her sister Anne and me in our own dugout canoe, albeit one powered by a small outboard motor -- a 13-hour undertaking nonetheless. We all are paying our own expenses, and he is donating photography to document our efforts and those of the women with whom we are working. We’ll post the pictures if we all survive!

Like the rivers we will travel on, with their whirlpools, rapids, twists and turns, our journey will be filled with challenge, I am told (great, just great) -- one stop in 13 hours, for example. Then there are the mosquitoes, sunburn, yikes… I forgot to ask about crocodiles… and yoga postures will definitely rock the boat… oh my.

Back to the point… those really weren’t second thoughts!

Will you take up the challenge, too?

Here’s how: Sponsor my river journey with a tax-deductible donation, 100% of which will seed microcredit projects. (We are all paying our own expenses.)

Please send your check, of any amount, payable to North American Liaison Bureau (NALB), PO Box 545, Penney Farms, Fl 32079 USA. You will receive a confirmation letter to use as a tax deduction receipt. NALB has 501(C) (3) status.

Yes, I will sponsor Betsy Brill’s Congo Canoe Challenge with a gift of $_______or at $_______ per mile.

Please include your name and contact information (postal address, telephone, email) to ensure that you receive proper thanks and documentation and send to betsyb123@mac.com.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rainbows and Tears

The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.


This Native American Indian saying is one of my favorite quotes to rely on when I am faced with adversity. Life challenges bring us dimmension and character to our personality, and give us the stamina to head through life achieving great things.

Is Your Egg Timer On?

If I had to decide on one characteristic to define my personality it would be optimistic. I can’t imagine accomplishing what I have done in my life if I didn’t paint a rosy picture of the many dire circumstances that have been thrown my way. Where others see a giant yellow dead end sign, I see opportunity to tread where no one else has gone and climb right over the warning barriers. Scrapes, cuts, bruises even broken bones won't keep me from treading forward. Dead End! What is that? There is always something beyond the end. There is no end.

Or is there?

For women there is always an end to your fertile period. Ahhhh … sad but true. One day our adorable little eggs no longer shoot down that slippery slide awaiting friendly swimmers. Our tiny playmates, those tail propelled packets of DNA, never have a useful end to their lives. Fair? Well, we women do live an average of 7 years longer than men, so I guess we make out in the end (well the end to our physical life at least).

In the short run there can be a lot of angst for us sisters as the egg timer starts ticking away. Tick, tick, tick. Should I take that promotion and delay looking for a mate? Tick, tick, tick. Should I continue focused on my career or take some time out to focus on my health and family? Tick, tick, tick. Should I start Internet dating? Should I get married now? Would this guy make a great dad? Tick, tick, tick. If women aren’t thinking about these things as they past 35, they should be.

So here is where the pessimistic side of me comes in. And I really don’t like this part because I believe in the power of positive thinking. But in this case, it surprisingly has not worked out for me. Why? I don’t know. Stay posted in future blogs to see where it all ends up. I have to think there are some very powerful life lessons for me to learn and some to share with the world. It is the first time in my life I have really wanted something and the Universe has not allowed it to happen. I have screamed WHAT IS GOING ON!

When you want something so bad and you are denied over and over and over, what do you do? Even if you are an optimist. Do you continue to struggle after the signs tell you its over – it is the end? Your bell has rung. Or do you keep going? Thinking the rules won’t apply to you. Do you try to buy a new bell?

Luckily I can afford a new bell due to wise financial planning throughout my life, but in this case, will it even help? Am I too late?

When it comes to making a baby, DOB (date of birth) issues can be very disheartening and incredibly expensive. I am surrounding with successful women all near 40, all trying to get pregnant for the first time. By the way … for those of you in the rest of the country that are having babies at the ripe age of 25, know that many professional women at the coastal cities (like San Francisco and New York) often delay baby-making as long as possible to advance their careers and secure their financial futures.

Guess what happens to some of these movers and shakers? The egg timer is ticking louder than ever and for many has gone off. I see a lot of tears and broken hearts from women who achieved the pinnacle of success in their career but couldn’t achieve something that seems such an innate right for all females. Many had no idea they should rush or that there was an egg timer. Most said they would have reprioritized their life if they knew earlier that their time was limited.

I find myself in the ranks of women with fertility issues. I have shared their tears and cried some of my own. All the success in the world seems sidelined if you long for a little bundle of joy to nestle against your bosom. In my case, my hopes are sighted on another munchkin and sibling for my son.

Ladies, if you haven’t thought about the egg timer in relation to your personal career and success goals, I suggest you think about it. After 40, though it is possible to have a child of your own (especially if you use donor eggs), the odds are against you. If children are important to you, I would suggest crafting your life plan around them, versus designing your children around your goals.

This returns to the point I have been making over and over this last month. Have a plan. Certainly leave a lot of room for flexibility and switching paths, but have a notion where you are headed with your life, your family, and the kind of money that you will need to take you there.

I can think of a half a dozen women I know who have spent over $50,000 on unsuccessful IVF attempts. Many of these women simply waited too long. It is a huge financial burden to delay child bearing and though it is possible, even the best fertility clinics, which treat women generally clustered around 40, only have a 50% success rate. For women over 40 the rates go down dramatically.

I currently have a friend who spent the first part of her life building her nest egg and didn’t realize her maternal eggs weren’t growing as well. However, she is pregnant with twins at 45, with the help of a fertility clinic. So keep in mind everything is possible, especially if you have the monetary resources.

If you are ending your fertility cycle and crave the company of gurgling giggling infants, keep the faith (as I have), and know your dream can be realized. For some inspiration read the book Inconceivable, about a woman who overcame the odds and dozens of doctors telling her egg timer went off and it was over. She proved them all wrong after making some healthy life changes and gave birth naturally (with no intervention) to a beautiful child at age 42.

Stop by Ms.Money to read our Life Planning Section .

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentines Day ... nothing says love more than ...

You can't avoid it. It shows up every year and whether you are single, dating, committed or married, it has some sort of affect on your psyche. Typically you are bound to be buying some sort of gift, even if the only loved one is your mother.

Nothing says I love you more than a little stuffed teddy bear holding a heart you can get at Walgreens. Ha! Just kidding, Saturday Night Live did a skit on that. Typically we see commercials with the title "Diamonds are Forever" and then show some giant rock few people can afford.

Ok - I have to admit I have one of those pretty shiny rocks. It arrived at a time in my life when diamonds mattered more. I was young. Now after almost a decade since my engagement, it is inconsequential. Money can't buy you love. A big present of jewelry doesn't tell me you love me. It might tell me either you have a lot of disposable income or you are being irresponsible for spending too much.

All these Valentines ads urging us to buy, buy, buy are a bit irritating. What kind of message are we sending to our society that we have to spend money on each other to prove our devotion? Women - do you really need a big gift? Or would you rather have a poem hand written by your loved one(even if super simple silly), or a massage, even a single rose and a box of chocolates. It is proven that chocolate stimulates the same kind of endorphins as sex - so I vote for the chocolate.

Save on the gifts, and not just Valentines Day gifts, and instead put that money towards your future in an investment account. And for goodness sake please don't charge anything on your credit card you can't afford.

Read about how money can affect your relationship and how to better manage it as part of a couple in our Money and Relationships section. Also visit our Investment Section.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

SuperMom to the Rescue … or NOT!

My husband just carried my shoes downstairs and reminded me how embarrassed I should be that one is a clog and one is a regular shoe. I walked out of the house with them and didn’t notice until we were at the movie theater. This happened to me only once before during the height of the Dotcom craze when I was working inhumane hours with Ms.Money. There it was more embarrassing because I had to spend the whole day conducting meetings with two different shoes.

Tonight, I didn’t care so much. However, it was a strong reminder that I am burning the candle at both ends and need to take some things off my plate to regain my sanity – if not the simple ability for my eyes and feet to recognize one of these things is not like the other.

I can’t help but wanting to get the most out of life. This past week it meant a lot of sleepless nights thinking, strategizing, fantasizing ... all kinds of ing's. My todo list was taking up an annoying amount of space on my dream docket. I do recommend if you are having this problem to get that snarly todo list on paper and out of your head. Ok, I admit it, I don’t always take my advice. I am allowed to get crazy at times - right? Last night it meant staying out late at the party then waking up early for 2 hours of heart pounding intensive dance exercise. I felt like I was floating as I walked out of the gym.

Alright, I was smart enough to take a nap … but it wasn’t enough. I was in a daze as I threw my shoes on and walked out the door. Thank goodness no one was calling for Wonder Woman because my superhero outfit was scrunched up in the laundry bin.

Life is about balance. I can’t stress that enough and provide a lot of information at Ms.Money about this topic. Stop by our site to take our Stress Management Quiz and read other resources. You can also buy the book I wrote a segment in: Inside the Minds of Successful Women: How to Succeed and Have it All in the 21st Century. My tip … you can have it all – just not all at once. I am in the child rearing phase of my life after a very hectic career phase. Soon, I will be deeply engrained on the success track and we will see where that takes me.

All Dressed Up With Somewhere to Go

I attend half a dozen charity balls a year and enjoy dressing up for them. What I don’t enjoy is last minute shopping trying to find that perfect dress that I feel confident and comfortable in. So I typically avoid that scenario and keep an eye for items in advance.

Buying early provides me the time I need to be choosy. I don’t feel compelled to purchase the first thing that looks good. Instead I have the time to look around on sales racks in various stores and avoid full price. This is a friendly strategy for the wallet. I have found some amazing dresses for $25 marked down from $200. One of my favorite dresses is a long red sparkling gown I bought at Nordstrom Rack for $25 and have worn 5 times. One of those times was walking down the red carpet at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Jainero during their famous celebrity driven Carnival Ball. My husband and I had a quite a chuckle at the cost of my gown versus some of the gowns worth thousands of dollars. The only dress I paid that amount of money for was my wedding dress!

I have paid up to $450 for a party dress – well just once, I absolutely had to have it for the Black and White Ball. However that is not a normal scenario for me and I don't feel any less glamorous because of it. I would rather have the money saved set aside for my son's college education or another worthy goal.

Last night at the big fundraiser I had been working on for a few months, I needed a red dress and was thrilled to find one in the back of my closet I had forgotten about. I received 6 compliments in the first 30 minutes of the party on the dress. Not bad for something I wore to a wedding 6 years ago.

I typically avoid fashions that will be out of date after a season so that I can recycle some of these beautiful outfits. This is a great tip for keeping your credit card bill on the lighter side. Part of the reason I started Ms.Money was because I had many good friends in college who racked up huge credit card debt trying to stay in the latest fashion. Ten years later they were still using plastic to pay for clothes they couldn’t afford. I may not be in the latest fashion, but my clothes are still colorful and stylish and define my personality.

You don’t have to sacrifice style and quality when it comes to buying. Read my free eBook, Live Your Life at Half the Price and learn more tips on how to spend less on what you want and more on what you need.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Where Did the Day Go?

You ever have one of those days where you blink and the day flies by? Today was one of those for me, hence why I am writing my post at 1 in the morning Friday night instead of at a more reasonable hour. Sometimes, that is the only free time I have after a day of essential tasks. I know there are many of you out there who feel every day is like this.

I have been fortunate to have a flexible schedule and don’t have to put in 50 hours a week at the office. Wheeewww! Hats off to you moms and dads who do that and still manage a household with kids. I just can’t imagine how you get everything done and still have time for fun.

I have never been one for lists. Well, put it this way … I tried lists during one period of my life and when it finally got to be over 100 things long I had to just throw the darn thing away because it was depressing and overwhelming. That was years ago. Now I find myself to be more reactive than proactive, which means if something is urgent, it gets done first. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease in my internal list. And so far, it seems to work ok.

However, things have been known to accidentally fall off the list. Since I don’t actually write it down, the ole memory goes into to delete mode on occasion. I recommend writing the really important things down, which I do in my blackberry. By the way … I love that machine, jokingly called the crackberry. I couldn’t survive without its organizing capabilities.

I just tested out the browser in my blackberry and I would have to say I am thoroughly impressed on the technology that can take the MsMoney.com website and convert it (without my help) into a really nice readable interface on the blackberry. If you have it, give it a try. So now when you are standing in at the post office, or other annoying line places, you will have something fabulous to read! I am a master multi-tasker so I am always reading every spare moment I get. What better time to sneak it in then while twittling my thumbs in the grocery line.

Read Ms.Money’s article on organizing your home office if you are in the mood to bless the mess and clear the clutter.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Just Don't Do It

Hmmmm ... are you wondering why I am writing a post about not doing it after just writing a post about doing it. Well let me explain. Remember how I said commitment without balance can lead to disaster? Lately I have seen women, mostly moms, who have overcommitted themselves for non-work related activites and have gotten very stressed out as a result. These women find themselves agreeing to do too much work out of guilt.

Andrea Jung said - Show me a woman without guilt and I will show you a man.

Isn't that true. Let's let go of that pesky guilt, focus on our priorities and go after what makes us thrive. If it isn't being the Martha Stewart of a particular project, then reconsider your involvement. You might try to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and say I am not going to do anymore and I won't feel guilty about it.

My lesson this week was to stop feeling the pressure to do more than expected and to say NO to non-essential tasks when I was feeling overburdened. Moms can you try saying NO to others? I am giving you permission to NOT feel guilty. So go ahead say it out loud. No. That is a wimpy attempt - try again - I know we need practice at this so let's SCREAM IT OUT LOUD -- NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Whewwwww - feeling better already?

Now by all means, if you are having fun participating in these extra-curricular activites then just keep on doing it. I have had a great time volunteering for various projects, which is why I tend to do more than the average folk. However, I still have the ability to draw the line when the rest of my life starts to suffer from doing too much.

This is exactly one of those things that I talked about it my previous post. People get caught up in the little things in life and avoid the really important big things like planning for their financial future. Sometimes we have to help ourselves before we can help others.

My point is to get the financial planning finished, like homework ,and then you will know how much free time you can divide between paying work and non-paying work.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No Excuses … Just Do IT!

Last Saturday I sat typing away at my computer doing my blog for the day. My husband was asking for my attention and told me I don’t have to write my blog on the weekends. I said in return that I do because I committed to myself to write every day for 30 days. Trust me, being a mom, a wife, a business woman, a volunteer amongst other things, there are plenty of excuses for me to not write. But if I relied on those, I would never focus on what I am truly passionate about; empowering people about money.

Commitment is one of those key ingredients to a happy successful life. However, commitment without balance is an ingredient for disaster. You can’t possibly commit to everything, so choose very wisely those things that really matter to you and focus on those. Learn how to say no to the time suckers and things that aren’t essential. Too often people let the little things take over their life and lose what it is important to them. This can often lead to a sense of powerlessness. Don’t let that happen!

People tend to put their financial planning on the backburner and create a load of excuses on why they aren't making it a priority. Shouldn't your financial health and your future security be at the top of the list? Before you sit down with your filing cabinet and do some number crunching, take some time to reflect on your lifestyle choices and goals. Those should be driving your financial plan, not the other way around.

Here are a couple great Ms.Money sections to help you focus on your priorities: Finding Balance and Time Management.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Coffee, Computers, TV Lounge … in a Bank?

Today as I was out meeting with bank branch managers trying to raise money for my son’s non-profit preschool, I ran across something I just had to share. First of all, you have to love community banking. Who else cares about your needs (and wants your business more that a community bank?).

I walked into a local bank - Tamalpais Bank (with just 6 branches) and immediately felt like I was at home. It had a big screen TV with two comfy lounge chairs, free coffee, 2 cool looking iMacs for the adults to surf the web, 2 iMacs for the kids at their level to play games, wood toys … and best of all Free checking. WOW! Now that is called service. The other banks look sterile and unfriendly in comparison.

Perhaps the reason we have a negative savings rate in our country is because we aren’t friendly with our local bankers anymore. What would life be like if we spent as much time kicking it back at the bank as we did at our drycleaners? We are probably feel more connected with our local drycleaner and carwash attendant than our banker.

Why? Because we can do almost all our banking online. At least I do. But think about the possibilities if we as a country relied on our local community banks for our financial health. I have to think that we would have a lot less financial demise. So take a tour of a couple of your local community banks and notice how you feel when you walk in. It you get that warm cozy feeling, then maybe it is time to open an account and strike up friendship with the branch manager who you can go to for your financial questions.

Stop by MsMoney.com’ section on Banking and Credit. Also check out our Investing Section.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Top 10 Fundraising Calling Tips

I am helping raise money for my son’s non-profit cooperative preschool this month and was surprised how relatively easy it was to get small businesses to commit to a donation or auction item. However, it can be quite time consuming to get the right person on the phone and do all the follow up phone calls. If I made it my full time job for a month, I have no doubt I would have raised a nice sum of money. However, trying to squeeze it in between my normally hectic day makes it more challenging. I offer some tips on how to streamline the process.

For those of you out there involved in fundraising, the best place to start calling is in your local community. Here are a few ideas when dialing for dollars. The principals are the same whether you are asking for a donation, looking for a job, or trying to raise money for your business.

Top Ten Tips for Asking for a Donation

1. During each call, imagine that you talking to a favorite friend you respect and admire that loves to support worthwhile causes such as the one you are supporting. They want to give you money, however you just need to clearly state why you need it and how they will be helping the community thrive by their donation. If you capture the feeling of familiarity then you will be much more relaxed and are likely to be smooth at that all important point when you for their donation commitment right there on the phone.

The person you are calling will be very receptive and will take the time to hear what you have to say if you are confident in your speech, are pleasant and friendly. Remember you are practically neighbors and they want to make a good impression so that they can get your business in the future.

2. Write a script on what you will say with a decision tree for each question you ask. Remember it often takes 7 times asking before you will get a yes. Be sure to ask some questions that they can reply yes to so they start feeling receptive.

3. Companies are always actively looking for positive ways to promote their business in the communities they reside. What better way than to sponsor a local non-profit in exchange not only to feel good about themselves, but also for valuable advertising offered by the charity. You are doing them a favor by allowing them to give you money and making it easier for them to reach out and touch someone. Wouldn't you be more likely to be customer of a business that was active in your community than one who wasn't.

4. You will want to reach the person who can make a decision about donations live on the phone. If you don't reach the decision maker find out who that is, what time they are usually available, and their direct line. Also ask the person who spoke with to mention to the decision maker that you will be calling directly this week.

5. Make sure that you have your call list right at your fingertips printed nicely out with room to write notes on who you talked to, what time/day, when to follow-up, and where to pick up the check.

6. Do not leave a message because people are very busy and it is unlikely that they will call you back (unless they know you personally - even then think about how long it takes you to get back to friends). If they don't answer on the first try, continue to call them for a few days throughout the day to see if they pick up. If not, since time is of the essence, just cross them of the list and move on to the next candidate.

7. Most small donations under $250 are closed on the telephone during the first call. You should plan to ask for a donation right on the spot once you have their attention. If they must have a copy of our materials before they can make a decision, the best way to get it to them is via email. You then ask if you can call them tomorrow after they had to time to look over the materials. Faxing is also a quick option.

8. Once you get their commitment to make a donation, ask them if you can stop by tomorrow and pick up the check. Do not delay picking up the money or auction item.

9. If you must send an email, fax or mail, before they make a decision, be sure to send prompty right after your call and then follow up the day after you know they received it when they will then be ripe to make a decision. Make sure you customize their email letter with their name and reference the conversation that you had during that day. Because spam filters are effective and weeding out email, it will be important to have a well titled subject line. I recommend: "XYZ Fundraiser: follow up materials from our conversation today.

10. Take a deep breath and smile before you pick up the phone each time and remind yourself of the points above. You are an excellent fundraiser and people are waiting to hear from you. Granted some people you call may say no, but that is okay, you can try to convert them to attending the event or just ask them if you can call them again next year. Just count each NO as one step closer to a YES, since it is a numbers game. You may hear 9 no's for each yes, but you did get that 1 yes. If you call 100 people, you might hear 90 no's but the good news is you will hear 10 yeses and will get closer to your goal.

Fundraising is a great way for moms who may have taken a few years out of the workforce to get back into the swing of things. It will help you get your feet wet talking to the business world and you will see how nice most people are if you stay relaxed and happy on the phone. People want to talk to happy people so keep smiling.

Take Ms.Money's 6 Steps to Getting a Job for ideas on exploring your work options. Ms.Money also has an excellent entrepreneurship section for those of you raising money to start a non-profit or for-profit business.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Just Don’t Buy Stuff

You have to laugh sometimes when mainstream comedy pokes fun at American’s weaknesses like obesity, bankruptcy and porn. All of these behaviors are caused by our excessiveness of wanted more, more, more. Our media engine and consumer product companies force feed us with ads saying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or sexy enough, and then show us how buying their product will fix it. A little chocolate will help us feel divine, a new car will help us feel sexy and our bodacious video buddies will help us feel at the top of the mountain.

The problem is you can’t feed a spiritual void with a materialistic fix.

People are having trouble saying no to the things that are bad for them and yes to the things that are good for them. It is so simple that if I were to write a book, it could only be 1 page long and say STOP BUYING STUFF!

In fact, that is exactly what Saturday Night Live did last night. I have been watching this show since the 6th grade and still laugh out loud at their ironic comedy. They ran a fake infomercial for a free get out of debt guide called “Stop Buying Stuff You Can’t Afford.” The announcer kept trying to explain to the middle aged naïve couple that if you want to get out of debt you have to stop buying things you don’t have the money for, that you haven’t saved for, etc. The couple just kept quizzically staring at him saying I don’t get it. I can’t buy things if I don’t have the money in the bank? That just doesn’t make any sense … that is how you get out of debt? What about credit cards, can’t I use those?

Apparently Americans aren’t the only country with a troubling IQ score when it comes to financial intelligence. England also has a negative savings rate in their country and not surprising a similar advertising barrage to America. I learned how familiar their problems were when I hosted the pilot for a TV show in London called, Live Your Life at Half the Price, and served as the Dr. Phil for money relationships.

If people could actually live their lives like a 50% off sale, then they wouldn’t have all these financial problems. They would have the money they need to leave the jobs they hate, and from what I hear most American’s hate their jobs. How can that be? Life is too short to work most every day doing something you can’t stand.

If people had more cash they could leave bad relationships that are holding them back from greatness. Money empowerment would give people opportunity to develop more life skills. Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you freedom. The freedom to live the life you want, when you want, doing what you want, with who you want. If that sounds appealing then read my free eBook, Live Your Life at Half the Price and visit the Ms.Money Savings Corner.

And – oh – yeah – STOP BUYING STUFF!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Who the Heck are the Joneses?

It is not often in my community that we feel like we have to compete on a financial level. Some of us are dotcom millionaires, some are fledging entrepreneurs bootlegging their way to success, and others are trying to make ends meet as artists, and yet we can get along so well. There is something about San Francisco and Marin that brings out the best in people. As a ‘tribe’ we tend to be more tolerant of each other eccentricities and allow each other the freedom to live their lives as they wish.

So it surprises me, after living here for 15 years and surrounding myself with these spiritually grounded people, how different parts of the country can be. I have heard from many the strong pressure to keep up with the Joneses. For those, It seems more important to strive to have the right clothes, car and house, than to focus on something more spiritually rewarding.

I found it takes a lot of energy to be mired in the superficial. I can’t seem to keep up on the latest fashions no matter how hard I try. I just donated by 20 year old car to charity, www.cars4kids.org, and am not replacing it with a new fancy one. I don’t want a car payment because that would just weigh me down. In fact, keeping up with the Joneses is quite taxing, not just on the mind, but also the wallet.

What I find exhilarating is not having my house appear in Architectual Digest (fat chance on that one), but to live a simpler life and use all that freed up energy to put into helping others or nurturing my soul, either through mentoring, donating or creating.

Save yourself from Af-flu-en-za : the epidemic of stress, overwork, and debt caused by pursuing the American Dream and tune into my article on Simple Living because less is more.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rock Stars the Other Gender

I was walking with a friend the other day talking about our childhoods and what we wanted to be when we grew up. When I was 8, I wrote in giant block letters, taking up a whole page in my diary, I WILL BE A STAR!!!!

I had been dancing on stage since I was 3 and it was all I knew. I had no clue what people did at corporate jobs. There weren’t any women business leaders or ladies who lunch, discussing powerful ideas, in my neighborhood. Few people from the south of Chicago made it out of the region and those who did were big dreamers with a plan of action like me.

At 16, I realized that being a professional dancer might not net me enough cash, so as my fallback career, I decided to study computer engineering, get a Stanford MBA and become a CEO. Oh yeah - and single handedly break the glass ceiling for all women while doing it. Ha! I had no idea how hard it would all be.

My parents didn't give me strong sense of reality (thank God!) and instead raised me to believe I could do anything in life I wanted - even be President (they probably didn't say that exactly but alluded to it, however I can't imagine they believed it themselves, instead they thought it was the right thing to say to children.) However, I believed it and isn't that all that matters?

Who would have ever guessed that I would have the First Lady of the United States (who may be President soon) show up to launch one of my companies. My parents are still blown away by that. They keep my picture with Hillary prominently displayed in their den.

A friend of mine once said, you probably did it (started a company, raised money, had Hillary show up, etc) because you didn't know you couldn't do it. And that is true. I really thought I could do it and wouldn't fail. This was an attitude I developed as a child.

From the time I was 12 years old I knew education would be my ticket out of dodge. I didn’t end up at Stanford, or get an engineering degree, but I was the first in my family to get a college degree and even went on to get a Master’s. Education brought me out to San Francisco, practically the birth place of entrepreneurship, and full of smart savvy women role models.

The Bay Area put the cool in geekiness and gave me the opportunity to shine in a new way. I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of being a star, but more as a star role model for young women. I could have never known at 8 that my so called Stardom would come from a whole new kind of stage performance; public speaking about money empowerment and MsMoney.com

I am forever grateful for the hard work, lessons learned, and synchronicities that brought me here. I am thankful for all the publicity and to fellow techno-biz-geek Angie McKaig (whomever I have never met), that included me within the ranks of Oprah Winfrey, Carly Fiorina, Margaret Whitman, and Madeline Albright in her blog Rock Stars the Other Gender. It just shows all those little girls out there that dreams do come true.

Remember you can be anything you want when you grow up.Even if growing up means from age 30 to 40. Haven't I shown you that? Your dreams matter! Whether they are career goals, financial goals or family goals – DREAM BIG and then go after them! MsMoney.com can help you on your road to success, wherever it might lead you.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Be a River Not a Dam

I posted a link to an article on the MsMoney website last week titled Lessons of Abundance: Be a River Not a Dam. It is a terrific analogy about opening the flow of money into your life. Yesterday I stood in front of a magnificent waterfall and marvelled how the water was flowing so effortlessly regardless of the many obstructions it needed to move by.

Like a waterfall, or river, you have to remove the obstacles that are preventing the smooth flow of abundance into your life. Financial fears and a feeling you don't deserve greatness are two big ones that hold people back and dam up the energy. Identifying the problem is usually the first step to knocking it down. So take a deep look at the layers in your dam that are keeping money out of your life. If you consciously direct your energy to open the spigot of abundance then, like the waterfall, it will find a way to you (even if it has to amble over a couple of huge boulders on its' way).

I know it has for me. Having come from humble beginnings, I never had much money as a child. As an adult I kept a healthy attitude towards money and always kept myself open to the possibility that it would appear when necessary- and it has. Whether it was needed for going to graduate school, taking a trip around the world or starting my companies, I always had the cash when my goal was important.

If your old money habits are preventing you from having the wealth you desire, it is time for some new habits. You need a new habit to break an old one so here is one great idea. Instead of focusing on the lack of money, focus on prosperity.

Just imagine the largest waterfall you have ever seen and picture each droplet of water flowing by you is a dollar flowing into your pocket. Imagine yourself absorbing the mist and spray into your pours where it will change your brain chemistry and wipe out all your money fears - like a car wash clearing away the dirt and old scripts you keep in your head. After practice you may emerge with the brand new thought patterns needed to draw success your way.

misty thoughts,
Ms.Money

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Who is Your Cheerleading Squad?

I believe that to overcome money issues it is important to remove the obstacles that are preventing the flow of money to enter your life. If you can't extract those obstacles because they are bigger than boulders, then get some help. There is no one better to help you overcome what seems to be monumental barriers to success than a life coach.

If a life-coach isn't financially in your budget then enlist a dear friend to serve as your personal cheerleader. You could line up a whole cheerleading squad of personal friends and family members who care about your success. Let them know their job is to listen and NOT give you advice and to cheer you on your path to success.

You know instinctly what you need to do to make a change in your life, regardless of the task you face. Think of something that is holding you back and sit down with a pen and paper. Take a few breaths and tap into that inner guru and then write down 20 possible solutions to your problem. Just let the ideas move freely even though they might seem outlandish. Some of our best ideas are born of what might be deemed crazy thinking. Once you are finished you will surprise yourself at the amazing options you have now created.

If you are having a bit of trouble with motivation, you know who to call. Your cheerleading team. Set up a daily 5 minute phone call first thing in the morning with one of your rah rah's and tell them your plans for the day to reach your goals and let them give you a few words of encouragement to keep you on track. A little pep talk goes a long way.

Read my article:
Focus Your Life and Achieve Financial Prosperity