Category: Personal Finance

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This week is America Saves Week, and did you know the scary fact that 1 in 3 Americans has more credit card debt than savings? In my younger days I would have been part of that 33%, but now I view savings not as a luxury, but as a necessity. As a parent, it’s not always easy to save, but there are some easy tweaks that you can make in your daily living that will help you grow your nest egg.

It’s time to do some math!

Let’s say you could trim just $10 a week off of your expenses. That is less than $1.50 a day, and if you saved that money throughout the year, you would end up with a nice wad of cash – $520 to be exact. If you took that money, threw it into a savings account or other investment vehicle that earned 5% interest, compounded monthly, you would have $2,323 after 30 years. That’s not bad for just trimming a measly ol’ $10 bucks a week!

Now let’s say you did that again next year. Your original $520 would have turned into $547, and if you add another $520 to it you’ll have $1,067. Using the same variables as above, in 29 years you’ll have $4,535. You can do the math to figure out the rest, but suffice to say, if you can save just $10 a week each year, in 30 years you’ll have a nice chunk of change.

So what are some ways that you can trim $10 a week for your expenses:

1. Coffee – drink less, make your own, or (if you’re lucky), get work to pay for it. Daily coffee runs are a budget killer; trust me I know! I used to go multiple times per day when I worked across the street from a cafe. Now it’s a bit more of a walk so I just make a cup in the morning at home. Since I drink regular brewed coffee, that was a saving of $2.00 a day. If you are a latte drinker you can easily save more.

2. Buy local, eat in season – Seasonal food that is grown locally is a lot cheaper than stuff that has to be shipped in from further away. Plus, it’s better for your health! If you live in an area that offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), then sign up pronto! Each week you will get a box of fresh fruits and veggies at prices that are usually less than at your grocery store. And it’s a lot of fun for kids to open up the box each week and see what’s in it. I subscribe to both Terra Firma Farms and Full Circle. Or check out your local Farmer’s Market.

3. Eat more meals at home – As a working Mom it’s not always easy or quick to get dinner on the table after work, but I try to minimize the number of times our family gets take out or goes to restaurants. Each Sunday I plan our meals for the week, usually around what veggies we have on hand, and I involve my son in this process. He gets to pick at least 1-2 dinners a week, and having a plan usually means we are less tempted to go out to eat. Usually, I can do any prep work the night before.

4. Don’t buy what you can make – Do you enjoy yogurt in the morning? Invest in a yogurt maker and make your own. It’s cheaper to buy milk than it is to buy single-serve yogurt containers, and you can control what ingredients you add. Got a craving for chips? Take some potatoes from your pantry, slice them with a mandolin and pop them in the microwave for a quick snack. Love soup? Make a big batch of soup on the weekend, divide into individual portions and you’ve got lunch for the week.

5. Have “date night” at home – As much as I love spending time with my son, it’s fun to have a date night with my husband every now and again. However, when babysitting costs anywhere from $15-20 an hour, that night out can quickly become very expensive! Rather than going out every time, we came up with date night at home. After D goes to sleep, we put the computers and mobiles to rest, and we do something fun together. Sometimes we queue up a movie from TiVo, play a board game or nosh on some wine and cheese. What’s important is that we spend time together having fun.

Now that I have shown you a few ways to get started, what other ways can you save $10 a week?

I can still remember the day my parents gave me my very first credit card. I was still in High School, and they made me a user on their credit card. Since I had a part-time job I earned money every week, and they told me that I was free to use the credit card as much as I wanted, as long as I paid off my portion of the charges by month-end when they were due. My parents never were, and still aren’t the type to carry credit card debt; any purchases put on the card are paid off as soon as they receive the bill.

Looking back, this was a huge amount of freedom which they gave me, but it also helped to teach me a lesson in very practical terms. They showed me that they trusted me enough to be a responsible young adult, and I, of course, wanted to prove to them that I was one. Every time I used the credit card I wrote it down in my journal, and at the end of the month, I gave them the cash to pay off my purchases. It was a win-win for both of us and I learned very quickly the concept of “don’t’ spend money you don’t have.” Though I was still young, I envisioned replicating this same scenario with my own children someday.

Then I got to college, and THAT was a different story.

My part-time job went away and I no longer had discretionary income coming in weekly. My parents sent me money to cover living expenses and the sort, but that was to buy food, books and other items that college students needed. It certainly wasn’t enough to keep shopping or going out, and there were things I wanted. Not that I needed, but wanted. At first, I used my credit card for small things, like dinner out or some new clothes. Somehow I scrambled and managed to make the payment at the end of the month. But then it started getting bigger and bigger until one month I ended up spending a few hundred dollars on cosmetics at the department store, and when the bill came due, I couldn’t pay it.

My dad could have just paid it off or asked me to pay it in installments, but I don’t know if that would have had a great impact. Instead, he made me gather up everything that I bought, marched me (and the items) back to the store and told the clerk that I purchased them without having the means to pay for it and that they needed to be returned. I was mortified and horribly embarrassed, but it was the last time I used their credit card for a frivolous purchase.

Now that I am a parent, I plan to do the same with my son. I know that credit card companies actively pursue college kids on campus, but I plan to make him an authorized purchaser on my credit card long before then. I want him to understand cause and effect, how to responsibly use credit and be able to live by the motto – “Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have!” Then, when he chooses to establish his own credit, I will have hopefully instilled good habits!

I recently came across an article about things not to say to a working mom, and I found myself nodding my head at each and every statement. I have to assume that these comments are made by either stay-at-home moms, or by people who don’t have children. It’s true that the grass is greener on the other side, but I am completely envious of all of my SAHM friends. Not that I don’t love my job, but I would much rather be spending my days with my child (especially before “D” was in preschool) than going to the office. Even though my son is my best friend and we have a great relationship, I still struggle with the guilt over working and missing out on those hours during the day. Maybe that’s why I am glued to his side from the second I get home until he falls into bed!

Since the article was about things NOT to say to a working mom, I started to think about the positive statements that are said to me, as a working Mom. One of the first things that popped into my head was, “You are so lucky to work for a company that lets you bring kids to work!”

Shout-out to Ubiquity because it’s true. Sure there are many reasons, but one of them is because we foster a culture that is accommodating to working parents, both in the flexibility to work off-site, but also to bring our children to work. It’s a win-win for both sides, really. During school vacations, I don’t have to worry about finding daycare, and they don’t have to worry about me missing work or having diminishing productivity. If my child is sick, I can stay home and take care of him and still get my work done. And now that I am losing my Friday daycare and I have a few months before “D” starts school full-time, I can alter my schedule between working at home and bringing him with me to the office.

Does having this flexibility make me extremely happy? You bet it does! And with happiness comes loyalty to the company, with loyalty comes pride in work, and so on and so forth until it’s a love-fest all around. Plus, my son is happier because he gets to spend more time with me, and he is also learning that a positive work environment makes for less-stressed parents.

So if you are an employer who is looking for a way to motivate and retain employees, I strongly encourage you to look at ways to make the life of a working parent easier. If your office can accommodate children, then bring them in once in a while. If you don’t have a work-at-home policy, think about creating one. If you are an employee who wants to change your company’s culture, propose some ideas to your HR department, they might agree to give one a try.

The original article can be found here.

So, as I alluded to in my last post, I upped my contributions to 10%. Now, based on that, I am still going to fall short of the roughly $1.5 million I need to retire comfortably by about $579K.

It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? $1.5 million seems like a huge amount. But considering that I would like to retire at age 67 and that I intend on living pretty similarly to how I live now—lots of travel, a little house on the beach, etc.—that’s what I’m going to need. And that $1.5 million suddenly seems really low if you are considering unforeseen medical expenses or who knows what, and where the heck are things going to be in 29 years? That’s what I’ve got. 29 years. Maybe 32 if the job market still loves me when I’m 70.

Beware. Scary statistic ahead.

I mentioned this horrible statistic in a previous blog: American workers are falling short of what they need to retire by about $6.6 TRILLION dollars. Because we aren’t saving enough, we have this nasty thing called elder poverty. Can you imagine, living, learning, and working your derrière off for 67+ years, only to find yourself struggling to make your next meal?

DUDE. There is no way that is going to be me.

I’m consistently impressed by young peeps like my friend MattBrown, who has been saving since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He’s also a 20-something, so he’s sure to have that retirement cash cow to rely on, and he may even be able to retire sooner than 67. I’ll tell you what. I am going to continue to be aggressive about saving. What’s the next goal for me in contributions? I want to raise the roof to 15%. With that, I’ll have more than is anticipated for me to retire, and that beach cottage in a foreign country with 365 days of sunshine? SECURE.

The Fiscal Cliff of Retirement

Andrew Answers / 24 Jan 2013 / Personal Finance

Are you as sick as I am about hearing the term “Fiscal Cliff”? Thanks media for killing me with that news every two minutes. Maybe we should rephrase it as the “Fiscal Apocalypse of Retirement”. Maybe that’s what the Mayan’s were talking about!

In all seriousness, people are going nuts. I have a friend who sold off all of his stock in Apple (which is his retirement) the week before the deadline because of crazy fear of said cliff. Here’s the thing. Your retirement plan takes something that Americans are no longer experts at. It’s this thing called “patience”.

Time + Patience = MONEY

We have officially moved into a “microwave society”—this term coined by my dear friend Chad Parks. We want what we want and we want it RIGHT NOW. In the game of retirement dollars, this behavior will—how do I say this nicely? Screw you over in the long term.

We need to talk.

No one—and I mean this—no one can predict the future of the markets (not even those pesky Mayans). You need to go about saving with the idea that the money you put away is untouchable. Don’t rob your future self. Your future self wants to have a great life when things are winding down. Put money in. Be patient. Don’t cash out for a new car or a house. And stop thinking that your house is a retirement plan. It’s not. Your retirement plan needs to be a separate entity that you love and care for and it takes PATIENCE!

Make a resolution. Stick to it!

There is a fiscal cliff of retirement (enter your retirement age here). If you don’t save, you will not be able to live comfortably. Depending on your age, Social Security may or may not be there for you—according to the Social Security Administration, it’ll be insolvent by 2034. Scared? And Social Security is not enough to survive on. You don’t want to have to choose between meals, medication, or a roof over your head!

So, what are you going to do in this New Year? I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m raising my contribution to 10% (which means I have a lower taxable income—double win!). I’m cutting back on frivolous things, and am securing my retirement future so I can sit on some foreign beach for the rest of my days, drinking wine and eating olives and cheese.

As soon as my son was born, my husband and I opened a saving account for him. We felt this was important because we received many cash gifts for him, and we wanted to keep this money separate from ours; after all, it’s HIS money. He is four now, and since his birth, we have deposited all of his cash and checks into this account, and it’s grown quite a bit (far more than mine!). Once he was old enough to begin to understand the concept of money, we introduced him to what we call the 50/40/10 rule.

Quite simply, 50% of all the money he receives (either earned or gifted) must go into a savings account. Period. No questions asked. His age prevents him from completely grasping the concept of savings, but I know that repeated reiteration of just the word “savings” will help integrate it into his vocabulary and hopefully will become standard practice for him as he gets older. When he becomes an adult maybe the percentage will change, but it’s my goal to teach him that he has to incorporate savings into his overall money plan.

The 40% is what we call the discretionary piece. Though D is still too young to need discretionary spending, I believe when he gets older, 40% of what he either earns or is given should be determined by him. Maybe he will choose to save that money (great!) or maybe he’ll use it to buy something he wants. Either way, I am trying to equip him with the right mentality that he shouldn’t just spend everything he receives as a gift. Half of it has to be saved, and some of can be used for fun.

Lastly comes the 10% and this is another non-negotiable. This portion of his money must be given to charity, and it’s with this part that we really get to have fun. My husband and I kept track throughout 2012 and at the end of the year, we told D how much he had to give. Then we asked him to choose three charities to whom he wanted to contribute. He asked us for suggestions, and we gave him some based on both his and our interests. It was really warming to see him ask questions about each charity – about what they did and who they helped. It’s so important to me that D realize that there are many who are less fortunate in this world and that it’s up to him and his generation to step up and make a change. At his age, contributing money toward these causes is how he can help.

In the end, D chose three different charities. It’s important to let your child choose for themselves to whom they want to give because it teaches them they have a choice over where their money will be spent, even if not over the amount.

Remember that many of these values that you instill in your child from an early age will stay with them their whole lives, so start talking about money now!

315,218,264 – US Population

(The population of the US according to the US Population Clock from the US Census Bureau.)

If you are like me, all of the talks about the national deficit, our taxes, spending and spending cuts, the debt ceiling, and our fiscal health as a nation, means so little out of context.

The numbers are enormous and they are incomprehensible to me.

To help make sense of it, and to personalize it, in these series, I will take a look at the numbers that our media and government throw around when discussing our fiscal situation and translate these into what it means for each of us.

I am comparing the big numbers to what it means to every man, woman, and child in the US and to a family of four.

In this volume, I take a look at a hot topic, the Sandy Relief Package. The bill had passed the US Congress. I am not saying this is not important; it is obviously for so many. What I am showing here is how this affects you personally, even if you live in Kansas.

So that storm that you heard so much about, that affected millions of your countrymen, affects more than just those in the northeast.

Put in simple terms, our out of pocket cost for each person in the US is $192, or $768 for a family of four. If asked, I would probably donate $192 to the cause. Would I donate $768? Probably not. But that’s how it works!

How many ‘Sandy’s’ can one family take, how many special interests can one family support, and how much is too much? Just some food for thought as our Congress goes back to the well one more time.

What do you think about this? Did you know this is how much Sandy is costing you? Do you have other examples we need to talk about? Tell me and share with your friends.

315,218,264 – US Population

(The population of the US according to the US Population Clock from the US Census Bureau.)

If you are like me, all of the talks about the national deficit, our taxes, spending and spending cuts, the debt ceiling, and our fiscal health as a nation, means so little out of context.

The numbers are enormous and they are incomprehensible to me.

To help make sense of it, and to personalize it, I will take a look at the numbers that our media and government throw around when discussing our fiscal situation and translate these into what it means for each of us.

Let’s start with our national deficit. In an earlier blog, I talked about what our national budget looked like when thought of as a household budget. The national deficit was one component of that.

Let’s think about that for a minute.

My little family of four has been burdened with $205,297 of debt that we did not ask for. If that were a mortgage, the payments would be about $1100 a month, or $13,200 a year for the next 30 years. I can think of a lot of things my family could do with that $205,297 if we were given the option.

Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, this is the math. Of course, in our progressive tax system, the more you have, the more you pay, but that is a whole other discussion.

When you walk down the street, I want you to see a number over everybody’s head: $51,349. That is how much of a debt burden has been put on each of us, and we let it happen.

How can we possibly expect every man, woman, and child in the US to come up with and pay off $51,349 when the average household income in this country, pre-tax, is $44,000 a year. Rich nation indeed.

So, when you hear talk about screwing our future generations, this is what it means.

Challenging times. Is it any wonder why we are facing a looming retirement crisis when so many workers do not even have access to workplace savings, and no leadership when it comes to personal and fiscal responsibility?

What do you think about this? Did you know this is much of the national debt is on you? Do you have other examples we need to talk about?

Well, that’s just great. Here I was, relying on the Apocalypse to happen on 12/21/12, and it didn’t, so now I have to behave responsibly and save for retirement and such, for the foreseeable future. Which sucks because I seriously was planning on becoming a debt-free planetary being in my super sleek, sexy, and all paid for interplanetary spaceship. The bumper sticker on said spaceship would read:

“Thanks Mayans! That’s one way to get out of paying taxes.”

Since the debt-free spaceship idea is out of the question (for now), I’ve got to really start thinking about where I can cut back in order to start saving. I’ve got some calculations for you, based on my current age of 39 and wanting to retire at age 67. Now, we’ll have this calculator for you soon, so I can’t reveal it to you just yet—but in the meantime, here are a couple of my habits and what they could mean savings wise at retirement, if I cut them!

By the numbers:

What I’m CuttingRetirement Savings
3 glasses of wine per week ($6 per – think more like a bottle)$100,831
4 meals out per week ($25 per)$420,128
2 packs of cigarettes per month*$12,927
Impulse purchases per month (at $40 a pop)$155,124

*Look. I’m trying to quit, it’s a start. Right?!

Over a half a million dollars. Shut up. Okay, seriously. SHUT UP!

Now, if you are a coffee drinker, you might be taking that top number that is wine, and instead of saying you’ll cut out 4-5 lattes a week. That is a lot of lattes. And think, this is me here, who is 39. If you are, for instance, 25 and retiring at 67, those 3 glasses of wine or 4-5 lattes per week would add up to a hot $295,068, give or take a latte.

It doesn’t take a genius (clearly, I’m the one doing the calculating) to realize what small goals and small changes can do for your bottom line.

So what small changes can you make?


My son goes to school four days a week, and my husband and I split the days that we pick him up. Recently, D has started running down the stairs and opening the garage door to greet me. “Mommy!! You are home! I have missed you!” he screams and he runs around the car to give me a giant hug. It’s the best part of my day when I see his smiling face at the door.

The other day, after we had our Mommy and son hugfest he asked, “Did you bring me a surprise? Is there something in your bag?” Coincidentally I did pick up some food from the store that day, so I answered with honesty, “why yes, yes I do have a surprise for you!” He got so excited and as he ran back upstairs he kept asking me what it was and promptly told Daddy that I had brought a surprise.

I barely put my bag down before he shoved his little hand in there and brought out a container, asking what it was. I deflected the question back at him. “What do you think it is,” I challenged.

Burrata!” shouted my son and quickly asked if he could have some. Okay, okay, I know most four-year-olds don’t have a very advanced palate, but D really loves cheese, and burrata is one of his favorites. The store that I buy it from doesn’t always have enough in stock, so it is kind of a treat when I bring it home.

The next night we had a repeat of the same scenario in the garage, and once again D asked if I brought home a surprise. This time I didn’t have anything material, but I told him that I had a surprise nonetheless. He got all excited and looked in the direction of my bag, but I quickly intervened and told him that it wasn’t something tangible. Instead, his surprise was a hug. I wasn’t sure just how he would react, but he smiled a huge smile and gave me a huge hug. Then he told me that it was a great surprise. And you know what, it didn’t cost a thing! Surprises don’t have to cost money, and sometimes it’s the free surprises that are worth more. Take the money you would have spent on a small surprise, throw it into a savings account and reap the rewards later.

D and I now have our own little game where we randomly ask each other for surprises. On a rare occasion I will actually give him a little gift, but the majority of the time it’s just a sign of affection, like a hug and kiss or a song. Sometimes I find something from outside, like a rock or a leaf and I give that to him. What I learned from this whole experience is that it’s not the actual object that is important, and certainly not it’s cost. What matters is that my son knows that I am thinking of him, and also vice-versa. I can see that he gets very excited and proud to show me the surprise that he got for me, whatever it is. Plus, I am teaching him happiness and thoughtfulness are not tied to material objects.

What kind of little games do you have with your kids, to show them you are thinking of them?

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Privacy Policy
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 3060
San Francisco, CA 94104
Support: 855.401.4357

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