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Guidelines for an Emergency Fund

Perhaps you had to tap into your emergency fund during the past year or so. Or maybe the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has you thinking that it is time to start an emergency fund. Real Simple offers “5 Rules for an Emergency Fund That Will See You Through (Almost) Anything.

You might wonder why you even need “rules” for an emergency find but guidelines can help you as you try to save enough to keep you afloat should you need it.

The conventional advice from financial experts is that your emergency fund should cover 3 to 6 months of expenses. For some people the thought of saving enough to cover what they need to spend in half a year is daunting. You can start with trying to save enough to cover one month of expenses and then keep going.  Expenses include: housing, bills, travel expenses for everyday commuting, and food. The article points out that while it may be tempting to raid your emergency find for something fun like a vacation, you really need to leave that money alone because you don’t want to have nothing for unexpected expenses or little left to cover you if you lose your job.

Some people know that they have a difficult time not spending and consider investing their emergency fund. Investing the money would keep it out of reach but you really need to make sure that you can get to your emergency fund. If it is invested, you will not be able to access the money right away should you need it. As the article observes, “You do want to make sure that money isn’t at any risk (as it would be in the stock market, for example). CDs, low-risk investments, Roth IRAs, and the like are all popular picks for emergency fund storage…” A savings account will  also give you quick access to your money but not just any savings account. You can find a high-interest savings account so that your money is working for you as you leave it unused.

Investing Lessons from a Fun Sport

In “What Pickleball Can Teach You About Investing,” Jacob Schroeder, writing for Kiplinger.com, demonstrates how you can apply everyday lessons to your investing and financial planning…if you pay attention.

Photo by Joan Azeka on Unsplash

Pickleball isn’t tennis but it has some things in common with tennis. In pickle ball, the players use paddles to hit a small plastic ball over a net. And if you didn’t know, pickleball is popular with retirees. There are pickleball tournaments at community centers and most players are in their golden years. The author of this article played the sport outdoors as a way to get some recreation and follow pandemic precautions. The writer warns pickleball players to be mindful of risks, just as investors need to be aware of what is at stake. Any sport can cause injury. The plastic ball used in pickleball is much lighter than a tennis ball, and this is one factor that makes the game good for certain retirees. The same goes for investing: you do have to consider your age. A Fee-Only financial planner can help you create a plan for investing that suits your age and other personal factors.

Schroeder compares the fact that pickleball mixes elements of three sports (badminton, ping pong, and tennis) to having a diverse investment portfolio. Sometimes combinations can lead to better results. Retirees could play any one of the three sports mentioned but they are drawn to pickleball because it combines elements of all three.

The price of entry into pickleball is low; you do not have to spend a lot of money to play. The article also says that investing should not cost a lot. If there are cumbersome fees and trading costs, it is not as fun and there are diminishing returns.

The writer says he is not sure what it took so long for him to try pickleball since it is not a complex sport. He admits that investing isn’t as simple as pickleball but he addresses hesitancy. People who are waiting for just the right time to invest are missing out as he missed out on playing a fun sport.

He also says that “Chasing after an errant whiffle ball that takes an unexpected turn midflight or an unusual bounce is a waste of energy.…it’s better to follow a game plan and ignore the occasional fluke. Likewise, the market can move wildly on any given day.” and that you should not let that get you off track.

Turn to a Fee-Only Financial Planner When You Inherit

When someone uses financial planning services to transfer money or assets to beneficiaries, that is a wealth transfer. Many people believe that in the United States we will see a great wealth transfer as Baby Boomers age and leave money for those who are younger. “The impact of inheritance” on Vox.com ponders whether the anticipated wealth transfer will be enough to help a number of Americans maintain middle-class status.

Author Meredith Haggerty writes, “….a transfer of wealth can be a lot of things: freeing and stifling, a relief and a burden, a windfall and a pitfall. It depends on one’s circumstances, which is really just to say that it depends on a person’s family, and their money.” She interviews a number of people who have inherited money and/or assets and finds that their emotions surrounding this gain are more complicated than one would imagine. In some cases, people feel guilty about their inherited wealth. In other instances, no matter how the person may feel, the additional assets create strain because of the complex tax laws in the United States.

For example, Haggerty spoke with a tax professional who concluded that one of the women interviewed for the story had misinterpreted how tax law applied to her situation. By agreeing to be interviewed for the story, the woman gained access to knowledge she might not have had otherwise. The writer was seeking an expert opinion to add in her reporting. However, she also understands that people like the woman she interviewed who had inherited a house with her siblings might be reluctant to seek expert help if they believed that it would be costly.

Please do not try to figure out how to handle an inheritance on your own. Find a way to get expert advice. Even if the person who left you money or property had expert estate planning assistance, you will also need expert help to manage your inheritance. A Fee-Only financial planner can aid you. If you feel a lot of emotions about being a beneficiary, you could use the neutral counsel of a financial advisor who does not receive commissions for their recommendations.

Women’s History: Saving, Strategizing, and Spending

This month we have highlighted women in business who have excelled for facing tough challenges and beating the odds. However, we do not want to forget that there are untold numbers of women who do not make headlines that are also doing the same thing within their own households.

In “Women’s History Month: From Pin Money to Modern Budgets,” Forbes.com states, “In a perfect world, budgeting would be an entirely gender-neutral topic.” and delves into the unfair stereotypes of women that portray women as people who spend too much while portraying men as people with better financial management skills.

When women’s spending habits are examined, there is sometimes evidence that women spend more in on things like healthcare and clothes but this needs further analysis. 

It is possible that some women go to the doctor more often than men do.  That idea may also be a stereotype but more doctor’s visit would likely mean more x-rays, lab work, and prescriptions. And in some instances, there are medical and healthcare products designed for women that cost more. As we have observed: “The Pink Tax Affects Women’s Financial Planning.

The article points out that the idea that women spend more on apparel has its roots in “…gendered expectations for appearance” since “A man might get away with wearing the same suit every day for a year, but a professional woman must have a more varied wardrobe.”

Looking and comparing spending categories also does not account for how women save and strategize their spending on a regular basis. If a woman needs to spend more in one area, she may cut back in another. And when she does spend, she may research carefully to ensure she is spending wisely.

No matter your gender, it is worth it to take time to consider if you are letting societal expectations sway you from making sound financial decisions. Seek help if you need it. Clarity Financial Planning is trusted by savvy women, men, and families in the Washington DC Metro Area and will guide you along the path to financial independence and help ensure that you can provide for yourself and the people you love.

Olive Ann Beech Took Her Aviation Company to Great Heights

Olive Ann Beech (SDASM Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Olive Ann Beech (1903-1993), highlighted in the Mental Floss article “8 Daring Female Entrepreneurs from History” demonstrated her interest in financial matters from an early age. This woman entrepreneur had her own back account by the time she was 7 years old. At the age of 11, she was managing her family’s finances too. All this was before she enrolled in college to study bookkeeping and stenography. She worked as a bookkeeper for Travel Air Manufacturing, an aviation company after college.

Beech helped the company grow; she not only handled the company’s finances; she also oversaw its records and communication. She was promoted to office manager and later became personal secretary to company co-founder Walter Beech. The two married in 1930 and together founded Beech Aircraft Company.  As a trailblazing woman herself, Beech recognized the need for women to be seen out in front. According to NationalAviation.org:

“She convinced her husband Walter that winning a 1936 Bendix coast-to-coast speed dash would be even more impressive if the aircraft, a Staggerwing C17R, had a woman as its pilot. Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes flashed across the Los Angeles finish line to win the Bendix trophy in a record 14 hours and 44 minutes after departing from New York.”

Olive Ann became the company president when Walter died in 1950. She was the first woman to lead an aircraft company of that size. She was able to help the company transition from manufacturing aircraft to working with NASA. She was also able help her organization triple its sales. When her company merged with Raytheon, Beech remained chair of Beech Aircraft and was also elected to Raytheon’s board of directors. So, while you may have heard of Raytheon, you may not have known how Olive Ann Beech’s efforts to build and sustain her company eventually added to Raytheon’s continued success.

Finding Success in Entertainment and Entrepreneurship

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com for Unsplash

The Latin Way saluted women entrepreneurs who are either from Latin America or of Latin descent in “The most successful Latina entrepreneurs.”  Many of the women mentioned are known as entertainers but they have also had success in business.

Columbia’s Sofia Vergara is known for her work on the televisions show Modern Family. She also is the co-founder of Latin World Entertainment (LWE), a company that focuses on production and marketing. It is a top-tier talent management agency for Latin performers. Vergara not only appears before the camera herself; she also helps to give others that same opportunity.

Mexican actor Salma Hayek has appeared in film and on television shows. She also co-founded two companies that focus on wellness.  Food Brands Cooler Cleanse offers organic juices while Blend It Yourself offers smoothies that can customers can either drink or put on their faces as a mask.

Latin American actor Jessica Alba has had great success with The Honest Company. She started with environmentally friendly baby products and then the company expanded to offer beauty products and an array of household goods.

Mexican-born Kat von D left school at 16 to become a tattoo artist. She has appeared on reality shows. The attention she gained from reality TV, was useful when she decided to launch her own brand of makeup with Sephora.

One important lesson to learn from most of these women in business is the idea of having different streams of income.  When times are tough, it helps to have income from more than once source. When times are good, you can enjoy or save the surplus. Rather than solely rely on the entertainment industry to earn a living, these women took their money and invested it in businesses. You may or may not want to start a business because being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. However, you can invest your money and a Fee-only financial planner can help.

Investing Advice from Mellody Hobson

Photo: Starbucks.com

The Motley Fool highlighted investment advice from Mellody Hobson. Hobson is known as the the co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments, where she had worked for almost thirty years. Late last year, Starbucks names Hobson as its board chair making her the first African American woman to hold that position.

The financial difficulties Hobson experienced growing up had an effect on how she views investing. She was the youngest of six and grew up in a loving home but there were some challenging financial issues. What she saw motivated her to learn more and understand how financial systems work. Instead of shying away from money matters as people who face financial hardship can, Hobson went into finance.

The article notes that Hobson is a fierce proponent of having a long-term perspective…” and that her “disciplined, long-term approach to investing is seen in Ariel Investment’s motto “slow and steady wins the race”, which uses a turtle to symbolize the firm’s investment philosophy.”  In 2020 graduation speech, the 1991 Princeton graduate says that if someone from her graduating class had invested $1 a day or $30 a month, that money could have grown to being almost $40,000 by  2020.

While Hobson’s advice to graduates spoke specifically to the advantages of patience in investing over many years, her overall philosophy can be applied in other ways. As The Motley Fool points out, investors pay less in taxes when they hold on to investments longer. In this instance long term can be a period of over one year and not decades: 

“If you invested for the long term (over a year), you’ll unlock lower tax rates  of 0%, 15%, or 20% depending on your income and filing status. By holding your investments over the long-term, you have the potential to make more money and pay less in taxes.” 

Women Entrepreneurs Overcome Pandemic Challenges

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com for Unsplash

Women entrepreneurs reveal lessons from the pandemic and how they dealt with unprecedented times” focuses on women entrepreneurs in India. It highlights their businesses and the lessons they’ve learned as they navigate the pandemic as entrepreneurs.

Several entrepreneurs used a word we hear a lot in these times: pivot. Depending on your business and area of expertise, a pivot can be somewhat challenging or seem almost impossible. While some people found it easy to deliver their services online others may have had to revamp their entire business model to meet pandemic conditions.

Saying No: Some might say being inundated with opportunities and requests is a good problem to have…but it is not so good if you find you cannot say no. In the uncertainty of a pandemic, it could feel like you have to say yes even more than before since you cannot be certain of repeat business. However, if you quality of life or the quality of your work suffers, you will need to turn down some opportunities.

Relating to employees: Entrepreneurs who were used to talking to employees in person have had to find ways to work with employees remotely. A pharmaceutical executive spoke about how her industry has previously been slow to digitize and this provided challenges but she concluded, “Our people truly came through in all aspects and proved yet again the importance of hiring the right people and empowering them!”

Continuing despite challenges: One of the main lessons these women entrepreneurs have taken away from the pandemic so far is the need to keep going. They have had to remain flexible and e creative as they rose to the challenge of staying in business.

No matter what you have been doing, whether it is growing a business or maintaining your family finances as best you can, do not look down on all that you have accomplished. As the HerStory.com article suggests, “The skills developed during this period will help us navigate the next few years after the pandemic scare has passed.”

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