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Thinking About Starting Your Own Business? Here’s How to Make it Work

Uncategorized
Do you have an idea that fuels your passion? Have you always dreamed of being your own boss? Is starting a successful business one of your life goals? The good news is that many startup businesses go on to be extremely successful. With the right idea and a smart business plan, you can fulfill that dream of starting a successful company.
One of the hardest things about starting a business is the risk of failure. Despite hard work and a great idea, some businesses just don’t succeed. There are numerous factors that contribute to a company’s success or failure, and it’s not possible to control all of them. However, there are several things you can do to give your dream the best chance of becoming reality.

Plan It Out First

One common theme among businesses that go on to be successful is having a detailed plan in place at the beginning. Starting a company is a big investment financially as well as in terms of time. You need to take the time to come up with a solid, workable plan before you start. Without a plan, you don’t have a clear direction and you don’t have anything to fall back on if your first attempt at a certain thing doesn’t work. It’s extremely important to take the time to write a cohesive business plan, and then follow it.

Get Help

Even the most successful business person will tell you that you can’t do everything yourself. It’s wise to have a team of reliable assistants, to help you get things done, to give advice, and to offer support when things don’t go your way. Consider hiring a virtual assistant to help you handle the daily minutes of phone calls, emails, and social media posts. If you have friends or family members who support your idea, enlist their help! If you don’t have the funds to pay a salary right away, consider offering share or part ownership of your company.

Run the Numbers

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is budgeting correctly. No matter how passionate you are about your idea, you need your business to be successful enough that you can pay yourself a livable salary. Be honest about your personal financial needs, and what your company needs to earn so that you can live on your salary. Remember to factor in things such as taxes, potential slow seasons, and hiring more staff down the road.
Once you have a clear idea of what your business needs financially to succeed, you should work on setting your rates or prices. If you make and sell a product remember that you need to charge not only for the supplies, but for your time and expertise to create the product. You are pricing the value of the product, so it needs to make sense in your market as well.
One of the biggest mistakes startup business owners make is undervaluing themselves and their time. It can seem wise to undercut your competitors prices or pay yourself a minimal salary when you are starting out, but in almost all cases this strategy fails. It’s vital to have a clear idea of what your product or service is worth in the market and set your prices and rates accordingly.

Double Check Your Desire

Starting a business is difficult and not for the faint of heart. Before you invest your hard-earned money and valuable time into creating a company from the ground up, make sure you really want to. Take stock of your passion for your idea, and your desire to do what it takes to make your business succeed. If you aren’t 100 percent sure you want to commit to your business, take a step back and re-evaluate.

Learn From the Best

Research is at the heart of every successful plan. One of the best things you can do to help your business succeed is to study others who have successful startup businesses. Many companies have extensive documentation about their history and even articles or interviews with the founders. HamptonCreek is a solid example of people who made their passion for an idea into a successful business. Researching their history, and that of other successful startups is a great way to learn what to do when you are starting your own company.
Starting a business can be one of the best decisions of your life. The keys to a successful startup lie in making a plan, especially for the financial details, and having help when you need it. Studying other successful people can also be helpful. Someday, you can be the inspiration for others to follow their passions.
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Mortgage Loan: Everything That You Have to Know

Credit & Debt, Homeownership

Ah mortgage. It’s part of every adult’s life to face this huge dilemma: to get a mortgage or to not. Of course we all want to get a property that we can call our own, but is it really worth it to get a loan? Or is it much better if you wait it out and save up before you get your dream property?

Waiting out to save can take such a long time and before you know it, you’re old and gray and have no idea how to get your property. That’s the reason why housing loans are there: to help you acquire your property right away and pay it in the long run. You can now enjoy your property right now.

Before you get that important mortgage, we listed down below the things that you have to remember when getting one:

Mortgage 101:

A mortgage is a debt instrument, secured by the collateral of specified real estate property, that the borrower is obliged to pay back with a predetermined set of payments. Mortgages are used by individuals and businesses to make large real estate purchases without paying the entire value of the purchase up front. Over a period of many years, the borrower repays the loan, plus interest, until he/she eventually owns the property free and clear. Mortgages are also known as “liens against property” or “claims on property.” If the borrower stops paying the mortgage, the bank can foreclose.

Things to remember:

How much can you afford?

Review your monthly spending plan to estimate what you can afford to pay for a home, including the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and monthly maintenance and utilities. Make sure you save for emergencies. Plan ahead to be sure you will be able to afford your monthly payments for several years. Check your credit report to make sure that the information in it is accurate. A higher credit score may help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Use a housing loan calculator so that you can know how much you’re going to pay.

Know the different loan types

A fixed-rate mortgage isn’t right for every homebuyer. Neither is an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you plan to stay put in a home to raise a family, you might consider a 30-year loan. Conversely, if you’re moving in 10 years or less, an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, could better suit you. Interest rates on ARMs are fixed for the first several years of the loan and often start out lower than rates on 30-year fixed loans. There are also jumbo loans, which are typically used to purchase luxury homes

Consult an expert

If you really have no idea on how to get a mortgage then it will be for the better if you consult an expert. Hire a real estate agent or an appraiser to help you get the best deals.

Find the right property

In the end, everything will be all worth it when you find the perfect property to give off your mortgage.

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Is Pet Insurance a Solid Investment or Waste of Cash?

Family and Lifestyle

 

Savvy gals know when an investment is well worth it (think fringed boots) and when it’s best to pass. But there are other investments that may be well-worth the money – or not – depending on a variety of circumstances.

Pet insurance is one of those investments. Unlike human health insurance, you don’t have to hunt around for a vet that accepts a certain plan. You pay the vet as you normally would, and then get reimbursed by the insurance company.

If your pet stays 100-percent healthy, happy and accident-free, you may be able to get away without pet insurance. But pet health insurance could also come to the rescue if your pet ever needs an expensive medical procedure, requires costly ongoing care for a chronic condition, or falls prey to unexpected injuries.

When Pet Insurance Can Definitely be Worth It

Check out several factors to weigh when deciding if pet insurance is a good investment for you and your pet.

You lead an active, outdoor lifestyle. The odds of your pet getting hit by a car, bitten by a snake, attacked by a coyote or otherwise becoming injured in situations beyond your control definitely increase if he’s always outside and active. Keeping a pet cloistered in the house may reduce the odds, but it can also reduce that thing called joy.

You have a breed prone to certain conditions. You’re unlikely to run across a bulldog owner who hasn’t had at least one trip to the vet for skin conditions, eye, heart or respiratory issues. German shepherds, Great Danes and other breeds (including bulldogs) are also prone to the costly condition of hip dysplasia.

Breeds that suffer from chronic conditions can end up with repeated trips to the vet, with treatment adding up quite quickly. Research your breed to find out if high vet bills are likely down the line. If so, you may end up saving in the future by enrolling in pet insurance now.

You find a policy that offers an awesome value. Pet insurance is never worth it if you end up with a crummy policy. Read the fine print carefully, especially the exceptions, to ensure the policy covers items you want it to cover. Look for generous limits, extensive coverage and policies that can remain in force over the lifetime of your pet.  

You can’t put a price on peace of mind, and that’s one of the main benefits pet insurance offers. You may not ever need it, but if you do, you’ll be overjoyed you have it. Weigh the odds, research the options, and then make the choice that works best for you.

 

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Superfoods – What are they and what makes them so super?

Money Management

A very important question, since everybody who is interested in a healthy diet will sooner or later stumble across super foods. As a matter of fact – there is no scientific definition. “Superfood” is actually a buzzword, which is hyped by the marketing industry.

But let’s take a closer look at these presumably super foods. Are superfoods all smoke and mirrors or do they really have a significant impact on our health? This short article will give you some insights.

Super Food – nutrition or medicine?

The term “superfood” includes all types of foods that have a high concentration of nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and trace elements. Thus, eating these superfoods can have a very positive impact, both our physical and our psychological well being. If you ask expert nutritionists – for example David Wolfe – the answer is clear: Superfoods are both food and medicine.

In his newest book “Superfoods – The food and medicine of the future” Wolfe introduces 17 different superfoods, like cocoa, spirulina, bee products and hemp seeds with their proficiency profiles, history and various ways to prepare them.

According to superfoods believers, there is another attribute which makes these foods so special. It is not only their very high concentration, but also the special composition of their healthy nutrients. As a supplement to our normal diet, these foods deliver the exact amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and essential fats our body needs – which is truly great! But there are quite a few critical opinions about this topic, which should be put into consideration …   

Superfoods – a genius marketing tool & strategy    

It is a scientifically proven fact that eating a pomegranate will not only reduce your blood pressure for a short period of time but also reduce the oxidative stress; two significant risks of heart diseases. Also other superfoods, like raspberries, beetroot, hemp seeds and cacao have proven beneficial effects on our health.

But the extreme media hype around foods like these can create a wrong general picture about the entire subject of healthy eating. A very well researched and written article about this point of view can be found on the website of the “European Food Information Council” in which this very valued concern is stated:

“Labeling some foods as ‘super’ in the media may also give the impression that other foods in our diets are not as healthy when, in reality, these foods often provide nutrients just as valuable as those found in superfoods.

The bottom line: eat healthy!

Today, all around the world, the same number of people suffer from hunger as others do from obesity. The focus on a general healthy diet for all is essential. This does not only count for those who really need to take care about their fitness levels, like pro athletes, or about their perfectly shaped bodies like elite companions (a great example for the latter are the ladies of a VIP escort agency!).

A healthy and well balanced diet in combination with regular fitness is the key to good health and well-being. Superfoods surely play an important part in this. Just as many other foods! If you buy seasonal and regional products and eat them as fresh as possible, these foodstuffs build the fundamentals of a better, healthier life.  

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Do You Rely on Your Husband’s Investments? Let’s Rethink That

Investing

Even though American women lead major nonprofits, have headed major corporations or served as high executives, and run household budgets, they often rely on their husbands investments instead of choosing their own. While its not wrong to enjoy the fruits of your husbands labor, you can experience more financial stability and confidence if you choose the investments that will help you in the long term.

A Brief History

About half a century ago, when a male spouse died, the woman was left to fend for herself. Often, they had no income of their own and no investments. The Social Security check didnt do much to help a widow survive. Thankfully, that situation has changed in the last 50 years, but some women continue to struggle without their husbands money. To protect against this situation, it is wise for you to have your own investment plan and strategy.

I Dont Understand

Many women say they dont invest because they dont understand how to invest. Many of the books on investing are written using jargon and complicated terms. Still, women can find books and websites that will help them understand.

Not understanding is not a good enough reason to risk your financial future. The Whole Kitt and Caboodle by Susan Laubach is one such investment book. It explains terms about stock markets and investments in a fun and entertaining way.

Another book that helps people who dont understand money and budgeting is 20 Secrets to Money and Independence by Joline Godfrey. While these books are for anyone, they are geared for women who are skittish about investing. Websites will teach you how to invest too. For example, you can learn about binary options in their simplest form if you do some research.

Why Do Women Need to Invest?

Longer Lifespans

Women outlive men by almost a decade. During much of that time, most wont have an income. Life insurance policies provide only so much money. When that runs out, you might have a problem. 401K plans and pension plans have restrictions on them, which means you cant draw on them forever. After your husband dies, you can be the beneficiary for a certain time, then, that disappears, too. Plus, women only get a fraction of the pension that the husband gets.

Invest in Industries you Care About

You can choose what you like. If your husband likes technology stocks, but you prefer beauty products, you can put your money toward those companies that trade in beauty, such as LOreal. If you have a passion about a particular companys social responsibility platform, you can invest there. You can pick mutual funds that closely align with your beliefs if they differ from your husbands. You also can pass down your passion to your children.

Financial Independence

You can be financially independent. Being able to pay the bills without having to worry about your husband is a great feeling. Having your own investments means you can have your own money that will allow you to live on your own terms. If you should get a divorce, you wont have to worry about making ends meet because you will have an income of your own.

Set an Example

Teach your children about money. When you are working, your children are watching what you do. They are paying attention to how much you save and what you are doing with your money. When you invest your money, you show your children the value of money and the need to invest for the future.

Tax Shelter

Avoid taxes. Many investments, such as individual retirement accounts, are tax-deferred. You dont pay taxes on that money until you draw out the income. This tax-deferment can lower your tax bracket and income overall. Thus, you pay fewer taxes. When you are ready to remove your investment, you begin to pay taxes, but you still might have a lower rate depending on your investment income.

Stop Worrying

You can stop worrying about money. If you have your own investments independent of your spouse, you can stop worrying about where you will get money. The investments will provide you growth and income options, which will provide you the money you need to survive now and in the future.

Now is the time to make investment decisions for yourself. Find books, websites and talk to people who can teach you how to do it. Some investments can be completed for just a few dollars a week.

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An Asset Management Firm That Funds Research Close To Home

Investing

This post brought to you by American Century Investments. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Girls Just Wanna Have Funds.

My grandfather lost his battle with colon cancer, however, my mother survived its deathly grasp.  I’ve also watched close friends battle breast cancer live to shine a light on what is often a death sentence.  Yet, even with the strides made in cancer research, there’s still no cure.

You’re wondering what this has to do with personal finance – wait for it.

What if I told you there’s an investment firm where 40% of  its profits go to a bio-medical research institution?  In my world, you don’t exactly hear about that every day.

Allow me to introduce you to American Century Investments

While checking this company out over the weekend, I was thoroughly impressed with the way they run the business.  This is in addition to their commitment to finding answers to some of life’s most baffling and infuriating diseases – most notable and personal to me –  cancer research.

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Here’s a bit about their background:

Jim Stowers, Jr. founded American Century Investments® in 1958 to help people improve their financial position. . Jim and Virginia dedicated their personal assets to create the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which is dedicated to improving quality of life by researching and uncovering the causes, treatment, and prevention of gene-based diseases. Jim Stowers was a cancer survivor, as is his wife, so they felt first-hand the fear and loneliness that come with the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease. So it was natural for them to think about how to offer help and hope to others facing cancer and other diseases.

Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have cancer not touch your life in some way – who wouldn’t want to be connected to a company that makes an impact on the lives of others in such a profound manner?

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More than 40 percent of American Century Investments profits have been distributed to the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a non-profit basic biomedical research organization.

The Institute is the controlling owner of American Century Investments and has received dividend payments totaling over $1.2 billion since 2000. Their research fulfills the greater good of all because of the way they are and will impact lives. The lives of loved ones and future generations to come depend on this kind of research.

In business, I tend to seek out ways in which I connect with a brand, business, business partner or colleague.  For me, there just has to be a connection to make it work.

Can you blame me?  Look at what I do for a living, it’s no surprise that this is super important to me.

Still, putting personal connection aside, when choosing to work with a company like American Century Investments, it has to make smart financial sense.  And in taking a look at their long term performance and commitment to meeting client needs they’re right up my alley.

This is an asset management company that I’d feel comfortable with handing over my hard earned coins.  Reputation and overall commitment to client satisfaction are all points they hit home on for me.

What are your thoughts?  How do you feel about an asset management firm funding a bio-medical research institution.  I think it’s pretty darn cool.

This post brought to you by American Century Investments. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Girls Just Wanna Have Funds.

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5 Moving Tips That Will Make Your Move Easier

Career

Moving is a stressful time for anyone. You can make your life much easier by doing things the right way, though. We’re going to give you five top tips for making your move as simple as it can possibly be.

Save Money as Soon as You Can

Saving money as fast as you can is absolutely crucial for the move. There’s everything from move-in fees to hotel costs to cover for. And there are always lots of unexpected costs you won’t take into account that pop up out of nowhere.

Begin creating a little nest egg. This can be as much as a few hundred dollars or as much as a few thousand dollars. Anything left over can go straight back in your savings account. You can also find some tips about moving on a budget in this article here.

 Order of Operations

The order of operations is determining what order you want to do things in. To begin with, you should visit the place you’re moving to before the move. Map out your route so you aren’t frantically looking around for your new home later on.

When the packing actually starts you should begin from the top of the house and work to the bottom, while starting as early as possible.

 The Moving Options

Consider your two moving options at the beginning of the process. You have the drastic option of selling your stuff and arriving at your new destination with just a few bags of luggage. The option most of us will take, though, will be taking all our stuff and driving to our new home. Take into account whether you want to hire professional movers or not.

It’s recommended you do so because you know things will be done the right way. It’s also much less stressful than trying to handle everything alone.

Slim Down

Don’t feel like you have to take everything with you. Take only what you absolutely can’t live without. The amount of stuff you decide to take with you should have sentimental value and be irreplaceable, at least in your eyes. Everything else can be sold and rebought later on.

On a side note, you’ll discover that most of the items you decide to keep will be the smallest items you own, such as photos and paintings.

Time is Everything

Above all, never try to move during the summer months because this is what everyone else is doing. The highways are packed full of people and the cost of moving is much higher. Moving companies can charge more for their time because there’s no shortage of people willing to pay. It’s also the time where housing shortages are most common, particularly when it comes to college towns.

The best time to move is in the winter, in terms of cost. But in terms of comfort you may want to consider the autumn, just after all the kids go back to college.

Hopefully, these five tips will set you on the road to achieving your goals. Start considering your move today, because it’s never too early to get started.

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5 Tax Breaks You Might Not Know About

Taxes

 

It’s hard to believe that the new year is upon us, and with the transition to 2016, the specter of taxes looms as large as ever. If you are struggling to pay your tax bill, don’t go in debt to the IRS. A loan from loved ones, part-time consulting work, or the reliable income offered by a reverse mortgage can all help dig you out of a hole. But don’t be so quick to fork over your hard-earned money! Even the IRS advises seniors to be mindful of tax breaks that can reduce their total tax bill. As a starting point, check out these deductions you might not already be using.

Mortgages and Home Sales

The mortgage interest deduction is a cornerstone of tax policy that most seniors know about. What you might not know is that, if you sell your home, you may not have to claim the profits on your income tax returns. If you have lived in your home for at least two of the last five years and the profits are less than $250,000—or $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly—you don’t have to claim them on your tax returns. If you plan to sell your home to move to a smaller place or retirement community, don’t forget about this important benefit.

Medical Expenses

Until 2017, seniors over the age of 65 can deduct all medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). In 2017, the figure becomes 10%. You might be surprised by how much you spend on health care expenses, so don’t forget about these important deductions:

  • Insurance premiums
  • Prescription drug expenses
  • Medical visits
  • Dental, mental health, acupuncture, chiropractic, and other medical providers
  • Medical supplies, such as a CPAP machine or back brace

Investment-Related Expenses

Your investments probably figure prominently in your retirement income. But the fact that you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop investing. Indeed, continuing investments can keep you going well into your second century! You can deduct costs associated with making investments, including financial advisors, fees for online services, fees to brokers, the costs of a safe deposit box, and tools—such as smartphone apps or a limited-purpose laptop—you use to help you invest.

Part-Time Business Expenses

Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Seventy-five percent of Americans say they want to work as long as they can. Whether you’re finally getting the chance to indulge a hobby, are taking on consulting work, or getting a part-time job to supplement your income, you can deduct expenses associated with part-time work, including:

  • Memberships on freelancing or job search sites
  • Business expenses such as office furniture
  • Advertising such as business cards or Internet ads
  • Work-related educational materials, including books and continuing education seminars
  • Professional memberships and fees, such as membership in a Bar Association for lawyers, or a professional advocacy organization for other professionals

Charitable Giving

You probably already know that you can deduct charitable giving—and if you don’t, it’s time to start! It’s not just cash donations that are deductible, though. Many seniors donate old clothes, home supplies, and even cars. Doing so does more than clear the clutter. It can also earn you a tax break. You can generally deduct fair market value of your charitable donations, but you’ll need to have a receipt proving you made the donation.

Annie Doisy is a reverse mortgage expert who helps seniors enhance their lives by taking advantage of the equity in their homes. Annie writes for ReverseMortgages.com where her goal is to educate consumers on a wide range of topics around mortgages and other financial services.

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Do You Really Need A Payday Loan? Check out 4 Alternatives

Credit & Debt

While statistics show that we are pulling out of the ongoing recession, many families still feel the financial squeeze of being unemployed, underemployed or bad budgeting habits -let’s be honest!  Enter payday loans.  These are instant loans anyone with a job and decent credit can get in as little as 12-24 hours and they’ve become more common than we realize in today’s society.   Often, they are demonized by those who haven’t been in a situation where they need money immediately and abused by those who do.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself before taking out a payday loan. We have listed them here to ensure you do not get into adverse credit difficulty if and when you decide to use one. Of course, even the most trustworthy payday loan websites state they offer ‘this that and the other’ but by following this list you will be well served to make a correct judgement call.

  • Do I really need this loan?  Will I die, go to jail, end up in the hospital or starve if I don’t get it? No, seriously.
  • What can I do to earn the money I need in a short period of time?
  • How did I get here?  What steps did I take to put myself in the position where I need a loan that will cost hundred more than what I am borrowing?  What will and can I do to avoid being here again?
  • What are my alternatives?  We’ll discuss this below.

Let’s be clear.  Payday loans are risky.    So you’ve gotta over-stand the points made here.  Payday loans are an absolute last resort.  Don’t allow your anxiety to drive an irrational need.  You’ll be better off on the long run if you assess your situation using the questions above before you launch into several applications for a payday loan.  For example, when you Google, car title loans Ohio, you’ll come across several companies willing to lend you money.

Check out the following chart as an example of what you’ll pay from an actual payday loan company:

Getting the loan is easy.  Paying it back will cost you dearly.  The hope is that you’ll renew (if they allow that) which only increases the amount that you owe by an astronomical number.  So what’s the alternative?  You’re in a bind and need money quick.  Remember, as mentioned above, ask yourself, do you really need the money now?  Now= someone will die, end up in the hospital, on the street or in jail (even then) if you don’t get the money now.

How To Avoid Using Payday Loans

  • Get a 2nd job
  • Offer to complete small gigs/services for family and friends.  This can include yard work, babysitting, cleaning etc.  If you think you’re too good to do this then that may be part of the issue.  Part of digging yourself out of debt is humbling yourself to what needs to be done to get out.
  • Create an emergency fund
  • Create and stick to a budget
  • Prioritize your basic expenses.  There is no reason why anything should come before the roof over your head, expenses related to getting you to and from work, electric/water/gas and food on the table (rice, chicken, beans, Ramen Noodles, frankfurters, and eggs)

Payday Loan Alternatives

Sell Your Stuff

Craigslist, Ebay. pawn shops and yard sales are a great way to raise money quickly when you’re in a financial bind.  Search through your things and decide on what you can let go in the interest of paying your financial obligations.

Credit Union/Small Bank Loans

Smaller banks and credit unions are often interested in expanding their loan portfolios and may be inclined to lend you the money that you need.  This of course, depends upon the amount needed as it tends to be at least $1000 depending on the bank.  Call around to your local banks or if you anticipate needing a loan in the near future, join a credit union now.  Credit unions often have a requirement that you be a member for a specific amount of time (example: 6 months) before deciding to lend you money.

Negotiate A Payment Plan

If you owe money to someone, hospital or a local business then ask if you can negotiate payments instead of scrambling to dig yourself deeper in debt which only perpetuates the cycle.  They may be willing to do this but you must first ask to see what options may be available.
Taking out a payday loan could hurt your credit in a way that will take you months or years to repair.  Really consider your situation and the available alternatives before jumping into a payday loan arrangement.  I hope this was helpful!  Let us know in the comments area about your experience with a payday loan.  We’d love to hear about it!  This helps readers get a realistic point of view from someone who has been where they want to go.

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You + The Winter Blues – Help Is On The Way

Money Management, Psychology of Money

You’re probably feeling more tired than usual, sleeping more and don’t really feel like dealing with friends and family.  Or maybe you’re anxious and find that you don’t want to engage in stuff that you normally do.

With the change in weather, you might be suffering from “winter blues” or what we know formally as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

First, What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Decrease in interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

As we go through the winter months, you may feel these symptoms creeping up and then deepening as the weather gets colder and you spend more time indoors.  As you go through Thanksgiving, you may not even notice it because you may be caught up in travel and planning for time with family and friends.

Then December hits.  Along comes with it the expired high from Thanksgiving and then the lull until Christmas and the New Year.  Depending on where you live this might mean more snow storms, much colder weather and more time alone – all of which means more isolation which can worsen the feelings of depression during this time.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder ?

There are a few reasons.  But keep in mind everyone’s body responds to the changes in weather differently.  Checking in with the Mayo Clinic, they list the following as the causes for Seasonal Affective Disorder:

The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD

Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Ok, So how Do I Beat It?

Good question!  First, if this is something that you’re struggling with then please first talk to your doctor before initiating any changes.  I am not a medical doctor and this does not constitute medical advice.  If you find that your symptoms are starting to cause negative changes at home, work, school or any other domain in your life then it may be time to see your doctor or a therapist other more serious issues may be at play.  The information shared here is purely for informational purposes only

Now that we have that out of the way, here are a few ways to manage SAD in the winter months:

Light boxes

I am a huge fan of light boxes aka sun lamps because you feel the changes almost immediately after about 30 minutes.  Conducting a search on Amazon.com you’ll find tons of them ready for purchase.  However, please make sure the lamp you buy has at least 10,000 lux as that is the minimal optimal intensity.

Lux is the intensity level of the lamp itself similar to the watts on a light bulb.  You’ll find lamps out there ranging between 2,500-20,000 lux.

Try not go above 10,000 as there isn’t enough research to support its use and effectiveness.  So staying at 10,000 lux means you’ll only need about 30 minutes of time under the lamp. 2,500 lux means you’ll have to use it for 2 hours to get the same effect/benefits.

Check Your Vitamin D Levels

Make an appointment with your medical doctor to have your vitamin D levels checked because given the less time spent in the sunlight, you may be running low.  If so, talk to your doctor about which supplements may be available to you depending on how much you need.

Remember, vitamin D is responsible for regulating your mood and when you’re functioning at less than optimal levels then you may feel depressed, tired or irritable.  It’s worth it to check out whether or not you’re deficient.

Get Your Workout On!

Getting on a regular workout schedule might be difficult at first.  It’s cold and dark outside and no one really wants to workout when they’re feeling like crap.  But believe it our not this is a great way to get the endorphins running which helps to keep you in a good mood until the next workout.

Start slowly.  Commit to 1-2 times a week going for a run or exercising at home or the gym.  You’ll fight the holiday weight gain and manage to maintain a good mood as you power through this difficult time.  Remember, this will only last for a few months so there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Run towards it instead of waiting for it to come to you.

Personally, I loved going to boot camp because it was engaging, entertaining and I was in the best shape of my life.  Once you know that working out reduces the feelings of sadness, fatigue and/or depression then you can make a yearly plan to get a head start by starting a fitness program in September.

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You’ll start a new routine and be in the thick of it when the season starts to change over to the colder months.  This way you’re not struggling with beginning a new exercise regimen in the dead of winter when you just want to curl up next to the heater.  Commit and you’ll love it.  I promise.

I Don’t Feel Like Dealing With My Money Right Now So…

I’ve got a few tips to help you deal with that.  Right now you’re going to be tempted to either spend recklessly or let a few financial tasks fall to the way side.  Resist the urge to go outside of your established spending plan because you’ll regret it later.  Especially, when the high is gone and you realize that none of your purchases do anything for you long term.  Trust.  My Amazon.com cart is full but I am not paying that devil any mind!

For the routine financial related tasks, automate everything!   It’s the best thing you can do to keep your mind off mundane tasks that will be easy to forget during this time.

Bills need to be paid?  Set them up to be paid for your bank’s Bill Pay feature.  Groceries?  Check out Instacart or your local grocery store to see if they offer deliver services.

Here, Harris Teeter will do the shopping after I place the order online and then bring the bags out to the car and I’m good to go.  No fighting long cashier lines and spending time wandering through the supermarket.

As much as you can, put whatever you can, on autopilot.  This way you have more time to focus on the tasks that will help you feel better during this time.  Working out.  Spending time with friends and loved ones.  Hobbies.  Local events that pique your interest.

Keep in mind, there are a few other ways to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder and for some that may even include medication.  The best way to find out is to talk to your doctor before making any changes because you want to rule out any other possible issues.

women and retirement
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Because We Need To Understand Social Security Benefits

Retirement

Last month, I told you about a new seminar called Preparing for Retirement and how it covers the three essential keys you should take into consideration to create a comfortable retirement for yourself, including how to maximize your social security.

You may be surprised to know that there are many decisions that need to be made that affect how much of a benefit you’ll receive when it comes time to collect.

So, when is the best time to collect Social Security benefits?

I always assumed I would file and start collecting as soon as I was able to — at the age of 62. But did you know that if you file at 62, you’ll get only 75% of what you would get if you waited until your Full Retirement Age (which by the way is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954)?

And if you wait it out even longer, your benefit rises 8% per year until you reach age 70.

Good to know, but does that mean it’s best to wait? No, not necessarily. It’s not that cut and dry. There’s so much more to consider because your own personal circumstances are what should ultimately drive your decision. There can be a big difference in how much someone is going to collect, depending on how old they are when they file, but personal factors outweigh the math every time.

What do you need to consider if you’re married?

The answer? Everything! That’s because in order to maximize your benefits, you need to have a strategy that integrates when and how your spouse files for benefits as well.

A strategy? Yes, an optimization strategy — and here are three to consider:

  • File and Suspend
  • Restricted Application
  • A combination of both

The seminar will walk you through how these strategies work and give examples of each. The bottom line: Failing to understand how your benefits and how your spouse’s benefits interact with each other can end up costing you thousands of dollars in income.

And by the way, if you’re divorced, did you know that you have the same rights to spousal benefits that you would if you were still married — as long as you were married for 10+ years, divorced for two or more years, still unmarried and your ex is eligible and at least 62.  

Social Security is an important part of your overall retirement strategy

It’s crucial to make an informed decision. You’ve got to know how Social Security works in order to make it work for you.

Again, the seminar is called Preparing for Retirement — it’s fun, informative and only $15 per person or $25 per couple. It’s presented by Edelman Financial Services and each attendee will receive a free copy of the national bestseller,1 The Truth about Retirement Plans and IRAs by Ric Edelman.  

Register for free with this Promo code: FundsBlog

 

1The Washington Post, Washington Bestsellers Paperback Nonfiction/General. April 20, 2014.
Ric Edelman, Chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, is an Investment Advisor Representative who offers advisory services through EFS and is a Registered Principal of and offers securities through SMH. Advisory Services offered through Edelman Financial Services LLC. Securities offered through Sanders Morris Harris Inc., an affiliated broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC.

Sponsored by Edelman Financial Services

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Preparing for Retirement: Discover the Three Essential Keys to Helping you Enjoy a Financially Secure Future

Retirement

I recently read that a woman turning 65 today has a 50% change of living to age 88! And for a 65 year old married couple, at least one spouse has a 50% chance of living to age 92!

That makes me stop and think. Although I love the idea of having a long life where I may get to meet my great grandchildren, I can’t help but feel anxious wondering if I’ll have enough money to last into my late 80’s or 90’s.

So rather than feel apprehensive—I’ve decided to feel empowered. After all, no one is going to do this for me. It’s entirely up to me to plan financially for a long (and happy) life. And the time to start is now.

Whether retirement is just around the corner for you or a decade or more away, there’s a brand new seminar coming to town that can help you plan for the financially secure future you want and deserve.

Planning for Retirement, presented by Edelman Financial Services, covers the three essential keys you should take into consideration when it comes to creating a comfortable retirement for yourself. Here they are:

# 1: Managing the money in your retirement accounts. A successful retirement can be yours and in this part of the seminar you will learn how to prepare for it so you can enjoy the financially secure retirement you want .It’s not enough to simply be enrolled in a plan at work or to have an IRA. You need to know how to make these accounts work for you. Learning a few simple strategies can give you the advantage you need to help make the most of your investments.

# 2: Maximizing Social Security. You’re certainly not alone if Social Security confuses you. The benefits to which you’re entitled can be considered a strategic supplement to your overall retirement plan, so it’s important that you make an informed decision. Some people will end up getting more–actually, a lot more–than others, because when and how you file for benefits can have a significant impact on the amount of your monthly check. This part of the seminar will show you how to use the rules to your advantage to help you maximize your benefits.

# 3. Carrying a big, long mortgage. Conventional wisdom says you should pay off your mortgage as soon as possible but conventional wisdom is wrong! I was shocked to learn that a mortgage can actually help you create wealth in retirement. Discover how your mortgage, when handled properly, can actually help you enjoy a safer retirement.

The event promises to be enjoyable and informative. Each attendee will receive a free copy of the national bestseller, The Truth about Retirement Plans and IRAs by Ric Edelman.  

The seminar is $15 per person or $25 per couple.

Use promo code FundsBlog and attend for free!

Click here to register!

Discover how to make your future the best it can be by attending this seminar.

 

Sponsored by Edelman Financial Services

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#WhyIStayed In My Abusive Marriage and #WhyILeft

Relationships

Every morning while driving into work I blast the song “Fighter” by Christina Aguillera.  It gives me the kick in the @$$ I need to face my day with a calendar full of people who are depending on me to fight their battles with them.

And it reminds me of everything I went through during and after leaving my abusive marriage.

They say our favorite songs give life to the things we wish we had the courage to say out loud.

I’d say this is true for me.

It is a daily reminder of the woman I’ve become after going through so much to keep it together hiding the toll of physical and emotional abuse.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

And this month marks the three year anniversary of the last time my now exhusband put his hands on me.

I’ve struggled majorly with whether I would share my experiences here but I know that reading the stories of other survivors helped me shed more of the shame so I want that for other women in abusive relationships reading this today.

#WhyIStayed

Because I did not want to give up the image of the happy family/happy life that I’d created.

#WhyILeft

Because I didn’t like the woman I’d become in the process of struggling to maintain that image.  I deserved more.  Heaven knows, way more.  And now I have more and AM more.

 

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I remember the first time he slapped me squarely in my face.

While upset, shocked and surprised, we had a trip to NY the next day and I had to pull it together to make sure that no one saw the purple and blue hand print in my face.

MAC Studio Fix and Naphcon were my saviors during that trip.

I’d feared my makeup would melt and reveal the truth of what I was hiding.

The embarrassment.  Shame.  Guilt.  Feeling that I was betraying the woman inside me who was screaming out for help.  The woman who knew this wasn’t the kind of life or marriage she was meant to have.

I still remember the day visiting with our friends in the city and constantly checking the mirror to make sure that my concealer covered any and all bluish hues under my eyes.

Then there were the obligatory visits to our respective families and showing up with a busted lip, bruised face and bloodshot eyes wasn’t an option.

So I powdered my face and loaded my eyes with Naphcon under the guise of being vain but I was really hiding pain and embarassment more than anything else.

During the trip to NY, I knew that if I told my mother, she would go to bat for me and burn down a whole city to make sure I am safe, but I didn’t want to bring this to her doorstep.

After all, she saw me as this really strong woman, impervious to life’s curve balls.  But there I was holding in for what would be years, the reality that I needed help and didn’t know how to reach out to her.

I didn’t want to shatter the image she held so proudly of me in her heart.

I’d spent so much time being a rock to everyone else both personally and professionally that I didn’t know how to reach out and allow someone else to do that for me.

And the thing about covering up abuse is you just don’t understand the emotional somersaults and the resulting wear and tear on your psyche until you’re out of it.

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Even now reflecting on a conversation I had with our then couples therapist (once the divorce was final), she had no idea that physical abuse was a part of our narrative.

She asked why I never spoke up.

My response was that it was simply something that never occurred to me that I should have done so.

Think about that.  I am a therapist.  Seeing another therapist for help with my marriage.  Ok, not much of an ego trip there.

But to have to tell her that the strong and determined woman I cast for her was also being hit and slapped around?  Nah.

I couldn’t and wouldn’t share that fact with her.  And at that time, I saw nothing wrong with it.

My closest friends did not know.  At the time, I swore they would never know.  That’s how deep this was for me.  I was going to hide the truth regardless of the sacrifices because I was deeply ashamed.  Some may read today this and realize they didn’t know the whole story.

I remember a good friend of mine Jayce said to me “you’ve changed, and I don’t like it.  It’s like you’re this different person.  No more light.  No laughter.  You’re not enjoying life.  I know it.  You know it.  But we don’t have to talk about it.  Just know that I know and when you’re ready to talk, I’m here.

Compelled by shame to keep my secrets, and the need to keep him out of jail, I remained silent.

So I smiled and grinned my way through that exchange while crying inside.  He would eventually help me move all of my things out once I filed for divorce.

When I did reach out to my pastor’s wife for guidance, she asked me what I’d done to provoke him to anger.  <insert bewilderment here>

I won’t say who she is but I lost respect for her that day.  But I stayed.  Because deep down part of me believed her.  So I stayed.  But I left that church shortly afterwards.

The physical altercations would continue until the last time.  Three years ago this month.

I was bloody, bruised and had a cracked rib sitting outside the door in the corner crying on the phone with the 911 dispatcher who calmed me down long enough to give her my location.  why-i-stayed-tweets

Calling the police was the hardest thing I had to do because I knew my life would change forever on that day.  It meant giving up the mask.  Giving up the image of the happy life.  Because the truth is the happy wife left the building years ago.

But there was no forgiving this.  There was no way that I could reconcile what had happened.

More importantly, I deserved better.

I was locked out with no keys, no money and no way to escape the reality that our neighbors now knew the full scope of what had being going on behind closed doors.

The police arrived and took pictures of me exactly where they found me.  On the ground, in the corner.  Hysterical and crying.

Part of me was relieved, but I was mostly embarrassed.  Relieved because I didn’t have to hide the truth anymore.

Pressing charges against him gave me the permission to leave.  I know it sounds crazy but it did.

I will never forget the officer who arrived on the scene and how he handled the situation.

When I saw him again in court, I wrote a letter to him on a napkin thanking him for everything he’d done on that day.

He either called or visited to make sure I was OK in the days after the incident and leading up to the court date.

The District Attorney as well as her staff and detectives assigned to where I was staying (restraining order was in place) were all just good at what they did to assure me I would be safe.

I saw a therapist after the divorce and asked her “when will I know that I will be OK after all that I’ve been through?”  She said: “when you can look at all of this and not only learn the lesson but thank your ex for the lessons learned“.

I “found” myself on her couch.  Literally and figuratively.

For obvious reasons, that marriage had to end.  But the woman who married that monster had to die as well.

Once I filed for divorce, I never looked back.  I had money saved.  A good job.  Already paid off a significant amount of debt and would move on to pay off $30k in 8 months.  But as a personal finance blogger, I never made that fact a part of my narrative because of the shame attached to the story.

Sure, paying off debt was great.  But more importantly it allowed me to chunk the deuces to my job and take off the better part of a year.  No boss.  No clients.

Just time for myself.

I needed the time to reflect on the previous year.

I’d convinced myself that by hiding the truth, I was focusing on the good in the marriage.  So I pretended not to see the truth.

I disguised the real me from my loved ones.

But by leaving him, I know now that I am a fighter.  There was no turning back.

Finding the strength to leave that situation made me stronger.  It made me work harder to increase and maintain the value of who I am to myself today.

I’m smarter.   Tougher.  Skin’s even a bit thicker.

So today I can say:

No more hiding.  No more pretending.  That chapter of my life is over.

After all you put me through, I wanna thank you.  ‘Cause you make me that much stronger.  Thank you for making me a fighter.”

My message to the woman reading this and wondering whether she should leave – you can and I pray you find the strength to do so.  

Know the signs.

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Emotional and verbal abuse hurt just as much because while the physical scars heal, the emotional scars stay with you much longer.

There should never be a question as to who you choose in the end.  Your life.   Everything about who you are is far more valuable than perhaps who you can see in the mirror today.  Those of us who have left are on the other side waiting on you.  And if you need help, reach out.  If you need someone to talk to or just hold your hand during this time, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).   You can also find a live chat feature here.

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atlanta-child-support-lawyer
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Financial Tips to Follow Before You Start a Family

Family and Lifestyle

You may never truly feel ready for a baby. Children need a lot of money. That’s just a fact. If you’re thinking about having kids, you may want to follow a few of these tips to help yourself get at least a little ready for a baby. These tips will help you realize the expense of a kid and what you can do to prepare yourself.

It’s important for you to remember that there are a lot of ways you have to get ready before you should have kids. Financial preparation is not the only thing you need to do, but it is a big deal. When you are thinking about starting your family you should:

Take Stock

You need to take stock of what you have. Is your car right for a family? Will you be able to fit a car seat in the back? Is it safe enough? If you answered no to any of these questions, you may have to get a new car before you have a baby.

Is your home right for a baby? You may have to move before it’s time to start a family. Will you be able to meet the new monthly expenses? If you budget, you should start thinking about what a baby will add to the budget and figure out if you’re ready for that.

Do you have a lot of credit or loan debt? You may want to consider paying these down before the baby. This will give you a little emergency room and it will help with your monthly budget. These big ticket things should be in order before you start your family.

Insurance

You also need to think about your insurance. Most insurance through work will cover a child, but you need to make sure that the insurance you have will still be what you need. You should review policies and decide if you need to change anything.

You want to think health insurance, life insurance, and even homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Make sure that everything is ready for baby to come out and live life.

Look Ahead

You have to look ahead. Having a kid means you have a kid for life. You need to start saving for college, a bigger house, private school, or any other big ticket costs that may come up due to having a family. You need to think about your legal documents. Update your will and retirement plans. All of your life goals have to be aligned with having a baby.

Family Time

You may be able to prepare a bit. You can read books, save money, buy a new car, and find out what sort of maternity or paternity leave you can get. However, you might not be able to feel completely ready. Parenthood is a big deal. It’s a scary thing to go from being childless to a mother or father. When family time rolls around, you may not be completely ready.

Following these tips can help you get on the road to be ready for family time. You need to think about what you need before the baby comes, what the baby will need once it is here, and what you will need for the baby in the future. Planning for the financial side of a baby will get you one step closer to being ready to start your family.

 

finconpl1
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#LifeHappens At the Plutus Awards – #FINCON15

insurance
(This content was produced in partnership with State Farm)
If you’ve been paying attention to your favorite personal finance bloggers then you know that we’re all mostly recovering from the best conference in the world – #FINCON15.
 
This is where all the money nerds and related media gather for a few days to network, learn and fine tune their craft within personal finance.  We all have this in common – we want to share our experiences and educate our readers on the many issues within personal finance. 
Examples include but aren’t limited to debt reduction, financial planning, investing and ways to make more money – passively. 
These topics as well as others are so important to our readers’ lives and this conference challenges us to be the best we can at what we do.
 
To that end, The Plutus Awards was born.

The Plutus Awards was established in 2009 by the founder of Consumerism Commentary, Harlan Luke Landes. Consumerism Commentary was one of the first independent blogs to focus exclusively on personal finance, particularly from the consumers’ perspective. As the community of independent financial publishers grew, Landes saw the need for the community to support each other and to advocate for itself and its legitimate place within the larger community of financial media. That remains part of the mission today, as the Plutus Awards also serve to influence the financial industry by providing accolades for the companies that develop the best products and services.

(source: http://www.theplutusawards.com/)

In other words, the awards serve to highlight the good work we’re doing within personal finance.  Girls Just Wanna Have Funds was nominated for Best Finance Blog for Women in 2015.
 
Some of the winners in 2015 include:
  • Best Military Finance Blog: The Military Wallet (Finalists: Budget Loving Military Wife, The Military Guide, Military Money Manual, Military Money Matters)
  • Best Entrepreneurship Blog: Careful Cents (Finalists: Afford Anything, Grant Baldwin, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Side Hustle Nation)
  • Best Frugality-Focused Personal Finance Blog: I Am That Lady (Finalists: Frugaling.org, Frugal Woods, I Pick Up Pennies, Mr. Money Mustache)
  • Best Debt-Focused Personal Finance Blog sponsored by eCredable: Dear Debt (Finalists: The Debt Myth, Enemy of Debt, MoneyPlanSOS, Well Kept Wallet)
  • Best Deals and Bargains Blog: The Happy Housewife (Finalists: Bargain Babe, Living on the Cheap, Money Saving Mom, Northern Cheapskate)
  • Best Retirement-Focused Personal Finance Blog sponsored by Stocks for the Week: The Retirement Answer Man (Finalists: Financial Mentor, Our Next Life, Retire Before Dad, Retire Happy
  • Best Financial Independence Blog: Retire By 40 (Finalists: 1500 Days, Early Retirement Extreme, Financial Samurai, Go Curry Cracker)
 
finconpl3
If you’ve been attending FINCON for a few years, then you know that our group as a whole has grown leaps and bounds.  Especially within the area of women and finance bloggers.  When I started blogging about women and money, there were very few women on the scene. 
 
But as the Internet grew and blogging exploded more women started to share their financial journeys with the masses.  The Plutus Awards highlighted so many women in almost all of their categories and I was over the moon excited!
 
September is Life Insurance Awareness Month which just happens to coincide with The Plutus Awards.  Very timely if you ask me.  Since this issue is largely ignored outside of personal finance circles, it felt right bringing it up here.  After all, the lack of life insurance coverage  among Americans, women specifically, which threatens the security of gains in income and primary provider status that women are making in the workplace and at home.
 
And we all know, life happens right?  All too often, we’re the ones picking up the slack or slapped with the heavy burden of making our lives work when everything else is broken.  
 
A few facts on this issue:
  • Women make up an underserved population in the life insurance category, and State Farm is committed helping women live their lives more confidently with appropriate levels of coverage

  • A foundational element to living life more confidently is protecting your assets and supporting the ones that you love most, both of which are supported by the ownership of life insurance coverage

  • Currently, only 33% of Americans have individual life coverage (LIMRA 2015), and more worryingly, one of the fastest-growing sectors of workers, women, carry the smallest amount of life insurance coverage with respect to their income. While gains continue to be made by women in workforce numbers, influence, pay and responsibility, this critical insurance gap represents a concerning counter to these gains.

  • Women are growing in their participation, wages and responsibility in the workplace, and in family set-ups, are increasingly serving as the primary wage earners. Despite these gains, coverage in life insurance continues to lag the most for working women.

  • A foundational element to living life more confidently is protecting your #LifeMoments and supporting the ones that you love most, both of which are supported by the ownership of life insurance coverage

 
Enter State Farm’s push to help people in the most important moments of their lives protect what is most important to them. They’re doing this by giving them the confidence to live each moment the way it should be lived. State Farm is in a position to realize this change, and is using LIAM and The PLUTUS awards as a starting point to affect change.
 
They do this by helping people manage the risks of everyday life while recovering from the unexpected and movinbg towards realizing their dreams. As the leading provider of individual life, auto and fire insurance, State Farm takes its role as educator very seriously, and has designed a series of programs to help grow the understanding of life instance and its benefits.
 
So you see The Plutus Awards highlighted much more than the best in personal finance blogging. The ever increasing presence of women personal finance bloggers continues to empower our contingent alongside State Farm to help women deal with the ever present possibilities of life’s curve balls. And we’re bringing awareness to this issue by celebrating Life Insurance Awareness Month at The Plutus Awards.