Monday, December 30, 2013

4 Work Mistakes You Don't Know Your Making

BEST OF Work Mistakes

Check out this great article from Daily Muse!

by reposted from 

When you’re the newbie at work, you do everything in your power to stay on your best behavior. You show up to the office early, leave late, dress conservatively, and absolutely never, ever check your Facebook page from your work computer.

But, as the weeks go by, it’s easy to slide into a sense of comfort and let your guard down, following in the footsteps of your co-workers (who know just how far they can bend the rules). And soon, you’re missing deadlines, tweeting covertly, making excuses as to why you’re not as productive as before, and in general, setting yourself up for a not-so-great performance review.

So what happened? Well, it’s simple—you forgot the basics. If you’re looking for a way to get back into gear, revisit the advice you got when you were first starting out in the professional world, and follow these easy (but often ignored) bits of advice.

1. Stop Using Excuses

Just like your puppy dog eyes didn’t work to convince your 8th grade teacher that your little sister threw away your math homework, excuses don’t go very far with your boss. And no matter how genuine your intentions are (“but I had so much on my plate—and then I came down with the flu!”), all your manager will hear is that you don’t use your time effectively.

So here’s a no-fail way to impress your boss: Do what she says. When you have an assignment, don’t make her remind you about it, and don’t ask for an extension. If you have questions, ask them well before the deadline, and if you need help from teams in other departments, engage them with time to spare. Do quality work, and turn it in on time.

By completing your work without excuses or constant reminders, you’ll gain your boss’ immediate trust and respect, and you’ll be well on your way to gaining more responsibility—or even a promotion.

2. Show up on Time

You may think it’s endearing to be labeled the “late one,” who never seems to make it to a meeting before the fifth PowerPoint slide. So you laugh and give a little shoulder shrug as you noisily bustle into the conference room, assuming that everyone just writes it off as, “Oh, that Suzie.”

Well, it's not cute. And no matter how much you feel it’s a part of who you are, lateness is not an inherent trait—so excuses along the line of, “I can’t help it!” won’t work. If you’re serious about your job and impressing your team and boss, make it a point to show up on time—or better yet, early. Whatever it takes (e.g., an extra alarm, a working coffee pot, a puppy who needs attention at 5 AM), make it happen. It’s worth it.

3. Return Emails

When our communication is so readily at our fingertips, there’s no excuse for leaving your email unanswered for more than a day or two. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve written an inter-department email to get no response. Not in one week, not in two—never.

So, it’s no surprise that you’ll earn instant respect from your entire team (and anyone else who contacts you) if you answer emails in a timely manner. Don’t know the answer? That’s no excuse to leave the email sitting in your inbox. Write a quick response anyway: “Hi Jan, I’m not 100% sure about this, so let me look into it, and I will get back to you by the end of the week.” Then, get back to her before the end of the week.

I know—we’re all busy. And I’m not saying you need to answer every email the moment it arrives in your inbox (that’s certainly not an efficient way to work). But when you ignore an email, what you’re conveying to the sender is: “You’re not important enough to warrant a response.”

4. Follow Through

As a new manager in an unfamiliar industry, I don’t always know the answers to my employees’ questions. But instead of just having them ask someone else, I let them know that I’ll find out and get back to them. And then, I follow through. Each time I’m able to deliver an answer, I’m conveying that I do what I say I’m going to do—and my employees grow to trust me more and more.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to answering questions. If you tell a co-worker you’ll proofread her report, don’t push it off until she reminds you about it two weeks later. If you assure your team that you’ll take care of an important client’s account, don’t let it sit on the bottom of your to-do list until one of your co-workers has the customer on the phone, screaming because she hasn’t heard from anyone in over a week. If you make a commitment, follow through—you’ll convey that you can be trusted with anything.

Easy tips, right? Well, tell yourself that a few months into your new job, when you realize your boss usually forgets about the deadlines he gives you, and nothing bad ever happens when you forget to answer an email or two. But don’t fall into that trap! Go back to this basic advice, and you’ll never fail to impress your team, clients, and boss.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Career Spotlight: Speech Pathologist

Fresh Start Women’s Foundation Career Spotlight December 2013
Laura Morrison

Welcome to the start of a monthly career spotlight blog series created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree.  Deciding to invest in your education is a huge decision, one that should be made only after careful planning and evaluation of all available options.  One way you may want to start thinking about your educational decisions is to consider what you want your life to look like after you graduate: How much money do you hope to earn? How much flexibility do you need in your career? Are you willing to relocate to pursue a career? What is the anticipated job growth in your field? In this series we will provide an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.

Okay, the first career spotlight is “Princess” just kidding (even though that does sound nice), in the interest of staying grounded in reality, let’s explore career options for Speech Pathologists.  If you have children or know people who have children you have probably heard about speech pathologists and you may have wondered what exactly they do and how exactly they got onto this career path.  Let’s take a closer look at what it is like to be a speech pathologist.

A speech pathologist is someone who works to diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders.  They are generally employed within the educational or healthcare system, but they might also work in private practice, at an agency, or at rehabilitation facilities.  Most states require speech pathologists to obtain licensure, licensure requirements vary by state, but in general SLP’s are required to have earned a master’s degree from an accredited speech pathology program and have completed several hundred hours of supervised clinical training.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics speech pathologists earn a median annual salary of $69,870, and employment of speech pathologists is expected to grow by 23% between 2010 and 2020, and  most speech pathologists are employed full time.    

Interested in this career, great, now let’s dispel some common myths about speech pathologists:

Myth: Speech pathologists only work with children.

Fact:  Speech Pathologists are trained to work with individuals suffering from a communication or swallowing disorders.  This can include people of all ages and walks of life.  Speech pathologists are employed by schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals or health care centers. 

Myth: Speech pathologists are glorified teachers.

Fact: The educational requirements for speech pathologists more closely resemble those of a person in the healthcare field.  Speech pathologists are often required to take courses in anatomy, biology, neurology, and physiology, to name a few.  They are also usually required to complete several hundred hours of supervised clinical training in a variety of institutional settings.

Myth: Speech pathologists spend most of their time doing arts and crafts or playing games with their clients.

Fact:  While crafts and games are often used in speech therapy to encourage interaction, speech pathologists do much more than sit around cutting out squares and circles or playing guess who.  A good speech pathologist knows how to make therapy fun, but while their clients are playing SLP’s are working hard to ensure the activity is helping to improve their client’s ability to communicate.

In addition to a comfortable median salary, and potentially varied job opportunities, speech pathology was listed as number 19 in Forbes magazine’s list of the Top 20 Best Paying Jobs for Women in 2013.  If you are interested in learning more about careers in speech pathology visit to search for programs or browse our resources section.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Post-Divorce

Here are some practical ideas for surviving the holidays, especially if this is your first Christmas as a single woman.  As we all know, the holidays can be stressful, but it seems even worse after a divorce. When the holiday stress starts, take a deep breath and use some of the suggestions below to help you survive the season.This article is reposted from

  Two stockings hanging from the fireplace mantle The Holidays are upon us once again and for many of you, this might be the first time around as a new unit, I.E. without your ex. It's a difficult time, no doubt about it, and just another step in the transition into a new life after divorce. If you plan for this season you can make it easier on yourself.

Go easy on yourself

Emotions may overwhelm you right now. Know that you will have major bouts of sadness, anger…whatever. Take good care of yourself and give yourself as much nurturing as you can muster. If you had a friend who was in your shoes, how would you treat her? With love and compassion I would think.
Get in touch with the things that you know will lift your mood and stay away from anything that upset or saddens you. So if trimming the tree with old ornaments makes you sad…don't. Go out and get new ones or sit with the kids and make them yourselves. Again, do things differently now that your life is different.
Do the things that make you feel better. If you had no obligations and no limitations…what activities would you engage in to make yourself happy? Would you go to the theater? Spend the day at the museum? Get a massage and facial? Go hiking?

Watch out for expectations.

There is so much pressure to have the most wonderful time of your life during the holidays. Unrealistic and unachievable expectations set us up for disappointment and resentment. Accept the difficulty of this time of year and your loss.
SET BOUNDARIES: Explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren't. Don't let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle. Learn to say no as it will define you. Also learn to say yes to the things that will make you feel better.

Make certain that you do not isolate yourself.

If you are sharing the kids, ensure that you have somewhere to go on the day that the kids are with your ex. I have in the past even invited myself to a good friend's home and they welcomed me with open arms. Remember, everyone is busy during this season and sometimes they just need a friendly reminder. Get out of the house. Your pain and depression may tempt you to lock yourself away but force yourself to go out even if it's only for a short time. Look into a divorce support group in your area. They help tremendously.

Seek Support

Have the phone number of your counselor, clergyperson, life coach, close friend or hotline taped to your phone. Call someone when you are feeling really low. No one said you had to go it alone.

Cut yourself some slack.

Don't go crazy this year shopping and cooking and whatever if you can help it.
Don't forget all the stress and depression busters: exercise, yoga and meditation. These are scientifically proven ways to combat the negative effects of stress on your mind and body.

If you can afford it, make plans to get away.

I remember a time when I was brand new in NYC and New Year's was looming like a black cloud. I made last minute plans to go away to a health spa for a few days and it was wonderful. I met great people and made life-long friends. During these tough economic times that might not be an option for you but that does not mean you can't find an alternative.

DON'T numb the pain with drugs or alcohol

Numbing emotional distress with chemicals creates more depression. Try the stress busters instead.

Practice gratitude.

Think of the things in your life that are good and right: health, shelter, food, children, family, friends, pets, a job, freedom, safety, self-esteem, new beginnings and the beauty that surrounds us.


There is nothing like giving back to make you feel better and to show you that there are always those who are so less fortunate than we are. Head for a shelter, a soup kitchen, a hospital…whatever.

Use the New Year as a starting point for a new life.

A new year is just around the corner.  Begin doing things differently. Try on new activities. Engage in new ways. Stay in action! It is the small, actionable steps that lead to empowerment and positive change.
This too shall pass. You will survive the holidays. Watch out for pity parties…been there and done that! Remember, it is how you choose to handle the holidays that will have the greatest impact on your experience…just like it is how you choose to handle what life has given you that will make the greatest difference in your life.

Article by Shelley Stile.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Job Skills You Need (That Nobody Talks About)

This articles is by  and reposted from 
Far too many clients come to me at an “I can’t take it anymore” stage of their career.
Take Tricia, for example, who came to me discouraged with her job and her inability to manage it. She was working long hours—most of them spent sitting in meetings and dealing with hundreds of emails—then rushing last-minute to finish marketing campaigns, which always seemed to turn into fire drills.
The “always on" mentality was getting to her. And she was ready to quit.
I immediately saw that Tricia was missing the most essential job skill I believe every employee must have: priority setting and management. That is, the ability to clearly identify the most important priorities and to focus the vast majority of your energy and time on those things.
Unfortunately, though we often talk about time management and productivity in the office, the art of prioritization is often lost. As a result, many people end up like Tricia: exhausted, frustrated, and burnt out.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by excessive hours and constantly shifting to-dos, here are a few telltale signs that you might need to manage your priorities better—and some easy ways to get back on track.

Sign #1: You Believe That Everything is Important

If you look at your to-do list and see everything as equally important, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with your volume of tasks, rather than the quality of your work. But consider this: The Pareto Principle suggests that 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results—and that means that a small fraction of your daily work deserves the majority of your attention.
In Tricia’s case, she was accepting every meeting invitation she received. But that didn’t mean the meetings were worth her time or helped her accomplish any of her primary goals.

Solution: Get Clear on Your Goals and Objectives
Work with your manager to get a crystal clear idea of exactly how your performance will be assessed (e.g., will you be reviewed based on the dollar amount you brought in or the satisfaction level of your clients?). Once you have a better handle on your deliverables, you can break them down into weekly goals.
For example, if your ultimate goal is to generate new revenue, then your primary focus should be on following up with leads you got at a trade show and building relationships with potential customers—not spending hours each week helping plan the next trade show.
As you make decisions about work throughout each day, ask yourself, “How will this get me closer to my goals?” If it doesn’t, put it down and move on.

Sign #2: You’re Consumed by Activity Rather Than Accomplishments

Have you ever started with a list at the beginning of the day, felt busy all day, but left feeling like you didn't get anything done? Frustrating, right? Tricia was certainly busy, but she wasn’t accomplishing much.
In reality, you probably got many low priority things done—like clicking through unimportant emails, sitting through inefficient meeetings, or doing small tasks that don’t move your important work forward. Maybe you spent the day on projects helping your boss or co-workers, but not getting your own work done.

Solution: Make a Daily Plan and Stick to It  
Create a daily plan that starts with scheduling your most important work. Those priority activities get first crack at your calendar, before you even think of doing anything else.
You’re most likely to complete certain tasks when you carve out a specific date and time commitment to them. If email is a constant distraction, turn it off, and only check it at two or three specific times each day. (When you’re entrenched in worked and get distracted by reading an email, it takes a full 64 seconds for your focus to recover. Think about that: You’re losing more than a minute of valuable time for every email you read while in the midst of important work!)

Sign #3: When You Get to the Important Work, You Get Distracted

You hear the continuous “ding” of incoming emails, texts, and instant messages and feel compelled to peek. You constantly get distracted by the siren call of social media. Procrastination keeps you from starting and perfectionism keeps you from finishing. And you mistakenly think that by multi-tasking, you’re getting more done in the same amount of time. Sound familiar?
Multitasking to some extent is inevitable, but remember: Even if you’re able to narrow down your work to the most important tasks, you won’t be able to make any progress if you can’t focus for long enough to finish them.

Solution: Develop Your Ability to Focus
Once you’re clear on the priority work that needs to get done, learn how to get—and stay—focused on those tasks. Try these go-to strategies:
1. Chunk Your Work: Use the Pomodoro technique to schedule 25-minute time slots to work on priority tasks. Don’t look up until the time is over, then take a short break. Repeat four times, then take a longer break.
2. Batch Your Work: Group similar tasks together in blocks of time on your calendar, so you can focus on one thing and get it done. Activities like processing email, returning phone calls, or reviewing documents can be grouped together and done in batches.
3. Stop Multi-tasking: In the end, each task will take longer—and you’ll compromise the quality of your work to boot.

As you go through the day, do frequent reality checks: Stop each hour and quickly ask yourself:Did the last hour contribute to my most important goals? If not, vow to make the next 60 minutes better and start again. If you do a reality check each hour, you’ll never let an entire day get away from you.
Finally, track your success. End each day with a review of what you accomplished and how it moved you toward your most essential deliverables. This makes it easier to let the other—nonessential—things go.
When you’re ready to take back control of your work life, remember that it’s not about time management or productivity. The point isn’t to get it all done—it’s to get the most important work done. I like to keep Brian Tracy’s advice in mind: “It’s not the time you spend working overall, but the amount of time you spend working on high priority tasks.”

Student Loan Grace Period Ending? What to Do!

This article was reposted from 
If you graduated this spring and had any student loans, then you’re likely facing the end of your grace period about 10 days from now. May and June graduates, you’re looking at the end of this month or December.
In any case, this six-month period following graduation during which you don’t need to post payments on the majority of federal and private loans is coming to a close—and quick.
Given the rising cost of education and economic fluctuations, many new grads have hefty loan packages, translating into hundreds or even thousands of dollars of payments each month. (While the average debt held by U.S. borrowers hovers around $27,000, one out of eight borrowers has over $50,000 to pay off.)
Hopefully, you’ve already put a sound financial plan in place to cope with the costs—but we know the first months after graduation are a whirlwind. With such sizable bills winging their way towards your account, what can you do to get on top of things now?
To help out, we’ve outlined five steps you can take—in just hours—so that you can build your monthly loan payments into your budget and be ready to go by next week or next month.

1. Know Your Loans

For starters, it’s important to become completely aware of what loans you’ll soon be paying, to which parties, when your payments will begin, and how much they’ll run you.
If you have federal loans, a great starting place is the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). Log on, and you’ll find detailed information on all of your federal loans consolidated in one place. For any private loans you’ve taken on, you’ll want to contact your school’s financial aid office or check out a copy of your annual credit report (as well as credit information available through sites like Credit Karma)—both should be able to show you a list of your lenders.
Once you have all of this info, make sure you understand exactly what you’ll need to be paying—and when. If you have any questions on the repayment process, now’s the time to ask!

2. Review Your Daily Spending

Whether you’re still interviewing or you’re happily installed in your dream job, you should be preparing for a significant uptick in your expenses once your loans kick in.
So, pull out your personal budget, and identify a few nonessential spending categories you can scale back on to accommodate your loan costs. (Don’t have one? There’s no time like the present to create it.) Beyond the usual suspects like takeout dinners and wardrobe splurges, consider adjustments to other aspects of your spending, like downgrading your gym membership or cable package for several months or increasing your time on public transit.
(Also keep in mind that your short-term spending is likely to spike due to the holidays, making it more important than ever to set firm spending rules now!)

3. Build Your Loan Payment Strategy

Now that you have a handle on both the terms of your loans and your personal budget, you should plot out your loan repayment strategy going forward. One key decision to make now: whether you’ll make the minimum payments or try to pay down your loans’ principal earlier, to avoid more interest payments in the long run.
Many loans come with 10-year or 25-year terms of repayment. By calculating your costs over the term, you’ll be able to identify when you could take the plunge and devote more money towards the principal. You can log into NSLDS and use the government’s repayment estimator tool to estimate your monthly costs on different repayment plans. Map out your next few months of earnings and expenditures to assess whether, for instance, a yearend bonus is better spent on your loan principal than other savings, spending, or investment options.

4. Consider Consolidation

If you have many loans—and especially if you’re like the majority of graduates and managing multiple loans with different interest rates and repayment terms—it’s worth considering refinancing to achieve a better interest rate. Take a look at the refinancing calculator at CommonBond, which breaks down your potential savings from refinancing on a monthly and annual basis. Depending on your lender, refinancing can also help you consolidate and streamline your loan payments on just one monthly bill.
Think of refinancing as a great way to start afresh, especially since you’ve come a long way since you first took out those loans as a student. Take this chance to choose the best payment plan for your new lifestyle. 

5. Reevaluate Other Financial Milestones

We know it’s tough to reconsider your springtime Hawaii vacation, but it will be even tougher to fall behind on loan payments after two weeks in Maui. Take a step back and think about the rest of your financial goals (buying a new car, moving to a better place, or planning a wedding, for example), and decide how you’ll integrate them with your loan payments. Because you should never need to compromise your savings or emergency fund to repay your loans, it may make sense to push back some of these goals, set up separate savings accounts for them, or, again, find other ways to trim your budget or loan payments.

Starting the process of paying back your loans can be daunting, but with some careful planning, financial prioritization, and a payment plan that works for you, you’ll be able to put your grace period worries behind you in no time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Forgotten Essential: Listening With Empathy Part 1

Michael Nicholas, PhD wrote a book entitled The Lost Art of Listening which explores this topic in great detail. As you might guess the book is focused on our need for others to actually listen and what happens when this need isn’t met. 

One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “The essence of good listening is empathy, which can be achieved only by suspending our preoccupation with ourselves and entering into the experience of the other person”. 

This impacted me because we often believe that we can multi-task and “listen” to others, me included, when in actuality we cannot. We may be able to physically check facebook while changing the laundry and carrying on a conversation with our spouse about their day. But do you really think we are listening and fully understand that person? Often due to societal pressure to be everywhere at once we forget the importance of simply being present in one setting. What happens is we now do two or three things poorly rather than one thing great. And that first priority should be to those relationships in your life… Facebook can wait (and trust me, I do enjoy my facebook time).

Going back to the quote above, I wanted to explore what empathy is and how it is important in listening. To begin, empathy is an ability to understand and share the feelings of another individual. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with the feeling but you can see why they could feel that way. I know you might be thinking, ‘how can this help in all my relationships? This sounds like something between couples. But I assure you it applies to all situations. Given that humans are very social beings our self-esteem and opinions of ourselves are based on how much genuine attention we receive from others. It serves as a way for us to test our behavior, ideas, goals etc… and determine if they are worth pursuing. Imagine you overhear your boss, whom you professional admire, talking to a co-worker about how he wants this co-worker to present your proposal at the meeting. You have worked every night for the past two week sacrificing family time and your sanity to create this proposal and you were hoping it might lead to a promotion, now your co-worker will get all the credit. How do you feel?

This is where empathy comes into play. Your boss most likely did not think about how his actions would affect you. Can you imagine if you felt this way about your spouse? If your spouse was the one ignoring all the hard work you have been doing you might feel sad, disrespected, unappreciated or angry. Are these qualities healthy for a relationship? No, so how do you make sure you and your spouse aren’t undermining each other’s feelings of self-esteem and security in the relationship? You respect each other enough to LISTEN without distraction. I am definitely not guilt free when it comes to this concept. I have a very active six month old, my own hobbies and my social media outlets. So naturally when my husband would begin talking medical jargon from work I would tune him out; thinking I have other things to worry about. Until I realized I how much it was hurting him and our relationship. I started paying attention to his facial expressions when I would tap on my facebook app and respond “uh huh” as I scrolled from through the newsfeed. He went from looking excited and full of energy to tired and disconnected himself. I couldn’t believe I was causing this. So I started setting down my phone, looking him in the eyes and asking questions. The change in our dialogue has been dramatic and I know it is because I started thinking about how it would make me feel if he were ignoring me when I was trying to tell him about my day. While I understand that our society demands multi-tasking and being ‘plugged in’ at all times. I challenge you to make listening with empathy the rule rather than the exception in your relationships. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how you feel.   

Jessica has spent her career working in the non-profit mental health field. She has graduate degrees in Counseling Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure Preparation and Education/Instructional Leadership and a BA in Psychology.  She has worked in a variety of settings including group homes, behavioral health agencies, universities and healthcare clinics. She has experience working as an individual, family, couple and group counselor for both children and adults. Her personal interests within the mental health field include PTSD treatment and the emotional challenges of parenthood.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where Are Tomorrow's Millionaires?

According to a Deloitte Center for Financial Services sponsored study conducted with Oxford Economics, the bulk of millionaire households are in the United States, where they are projected to stay — at least for the next 10 years.

The study revealed that wealth among millionaire households could more than double over the next decade in 25 major economies — growing from an estimated $92 trillion this year to $202 trillion in 2020.

Although emerging markets are narrowing the gap — with China, Brazil and Russia leading the way in millionaire growth — the United States and Europe have greater concentrations of wealth than any other region. The report also states that developed markets are expected to remain the global centers of wealth over the next decade.

In fact, according to the study, the total number of U.S. families with a net worth of more than $1 million, including real estate, is currently 10.5 million. This number is expected to reach 20.6 million by 2020 — representing roughly 43 percent of the world’s wealth held by millionaire households.

By comparison, Japan is expected to rank second, with 8.6 million millionaire households in 2020 and China is expected to rank seventh, with 2.5 million millionaire households.

The study — which defined wealth as financial assets, such as stocks, bonds and other investments, and non-financial assets, such as art, automobiles and real estate — provides estimates of the number of households with net wealth in three distinct cohorts of $1 million- $5 million, $5 million- $30 million, and $30 million plus across 25 economies.

To view a copy of the complete report, visit

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.  Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles.  Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI.  Please visit: to learn more.
Ameriprise Financial does not provide tax or legal advice. Consult your tax advisor or attorney.
Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.

© 2011 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

File #112913

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Financial Planning

If you’re interested in working with a financial advisor to develop a financial strategy, you may be wondering what the process involves. Typically, good financial planning includes the following steps:

·         Goal setting. Your financial advisor will ask you questions to help you identify your financial needs and dreams for the future. For example:

  • When you envision your future, what’s next for you?
  • Where do you see yourself living?
  • What lifestyle goals are important to you?
  • Do you want to help provide for your children’s education?
  • How do you envision your retirement?
  • Do you want help to reduce the effect of taxes on your assets?

·         Fact-finding. After identifying your goals, you’ll need to assess your current financial situation. This involves gathering financial documents and account statements to determine where you stand. Your financial advisor can help you sift through this information to create a clear picture of where you stand.

·         Plan creation. After reviewing your financial documents, your financial advisor will work with you to establish a course of action to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. Your financial strategy may cover some or all of the following information, depending on your situation:

  • Your needs, goals and values
  • Current assets and liabilities
  • Investment portfolio recommendations
  • Retirement plan
  • Insurance audit and needs analysis
  • Estate planning analysis
  • Product recommendations and action items

·         Strategy implementation. After reviewing your strategy and consulting with your financial, tax and legal professionals on any necessary details, you’ll work with your financial advisor to implement it. This may include:

  • Establishing a regular savings program
  • Adjusting insurance coverage to meet current needs
  • Purchasing appropriate investment products
  • Repositioning assets
  • Setting up tax-efficient ways to transfer wealth

·         Regular reviews. After implementing your strategy, you should plan to meet regularly with your financial advisor to review your portfolio and ensure that it is up to date. Also, be sure to contact your financial advisor when you experience a life-changing event, such as a marriage, birth, death, disability or divorce, to ensure that your strategy and beneficiary designations are updated to reflect your wishes. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned?

You've heard it before, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” While it is not rocket science, you may not know exactly what this adage means and what it refers to. The phrase alludes to an age old belief that saving money is a safe way to generate earnings, which is to say being frugal with your money as opposed to spending it thriftily is the right way to go.

The operating principle here is that it doesn't matter how much money you earn if you're living beyond your means or at the edge of your income without investing in a savings plan. The prudent financial planner will research his/her best options for savings accounts out there while also practicing shrewd financial discipline with regards to discretionary income.

But in an age of rampant, widespread, systemic debt—credit card, student loan, home mortgage, federal, etc—does this belief still apply? If a person owes a considerable amount of money to creditors, does saving that money for emergencies still count as earning money, even though it is being used to subsidize a debt that is likely accruing interest? This is a question many people ask themselves on a daily basis. “I am saving money, but I owe a hefty balance on my credit card. Should I continue to make monthly payments, or should I pay the whole amount and rid myself of this financial burden?”

There is no one correct answer to this question. On one hand, paying off a debt builds good credit over time, which will likely allow you to secure better credit rates in the future and save you money on a home, credit card line, or car insurance quote. Paying a debt slowly, incrementally, also allows you to invest money in different pursuits and sureties, while having funds tucked away in the event of a medical or other emergency.

On the other hand, the money you are saving and diversifying is costing you a fee in the form of interest rates on your financial debt. You are essentially paying more to have more. Over time this can cost you thousands of dollars or more. Many people have found that by procrastinating the full payment of their debts they have paid nearly twice as much money than the original balance.

Each person's situation is different. If you have a reliable job with a stable income, it may make more sense to go ahead and pay off your debts in full so that a penny saved truly is a penny earned. Paying off debts can also free you up, physically and mentally, for other investments. But if your situation is not as secure and you are essentially living paycheck to paycheck, saving is part of a larger practice that involves learning to be financially responsible. Ultimately, this is a value that will be indispensable to anyone looking to build savings and create long term financial security. The choice is yours, but be sure to contextualize short term solutions within the broader outlook of your future.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Achieving Financial Matrimony

Imagine this: You meet the man of your dreams right after high school, continue dating through college and after graduating decide to move in together. Naturally the next logical step is to get engaged. You purchase a dazzling ring, new furniture for your home and merge your bank accounts. After all you will both be contributing to the wedding fund and it would be easier to do if you only had one account, right? 

Since the average wedding costs $30,000 you expect that both your incomes and savings will go towards that, but only for the next year. After the shower you realize you need more space to put all these great items from Crate and Barrel that you registered for, and that one bedroom apartment is just not cutting it. Plus, the dog really needs a backyard. So you give into the “American dream” and find a three bedroom home for the amount the bank approved you for.

You move into this beautiful slice of the dream and soon after begin to feel the pinch. Because you purchased a foreclosed home to get the most bang for your buck you are now finding that the previous owners weren’t the best contractors. The honey-do list begins to get longer and the tension between you and your partner gets higher. You haven’t been on a vacation since before you got engaged so you are excited to have a rocking bachelorette party in Vegas. Your partner finds out your plans and reminds you that according to the budget that he set up there isn’t room for plane tickets and hotel rooms. He suggests staying in town for a night in your old stomping grounds. You can’t believe this, this is a once in a lifetime experience right?

You storm out of the house as the bickering begins and head to the salon to get your hair and nails done with your maid of honor. You need time to clear your head. When you come back he critiques your decision to spend more money on lavish services you didn’t need. You think, “Oh contraire, my roots were terrible and my nails needed to be done for the engagement shoot”. He is fuming saying that you don’t understand the difference between a need and a want. You scream back that he doesn’t understand what it means to be a woman and that if he is going to keep acting like your dad you don’t want to be around him. He responds, “Then maybe you shouldn’t be acting like a child!” And the silent treatment begins. You both storm off to spend the rest of the evening alone muttering to yourself about how he/she just doesn’t get it. 

Sound familiar?     

How did you get in this situation and what could you have done differently? 

Since finances are the number one reason for marital discord and ultimately divorce, it shocks me how little we talk about it.  I think the reason why we avoid this taboo topic is three fold. First, often times we are partnered with the opposite type of spending style (the spender or the saver). We fear that the other person just won’t understand you because they don’t feel the same way. Second, we fear that we may bring up a topic that creates problems where there weren’t problems before. The challenge with this thought process is that the money monster is always there; he may just be hiding in the basement of your relationship… waiting…Thirdly, one member feels less entitled to financial decisions because that person doesn’t contribute as much money as the other member. This can be extremely challenging with stay at home moms who don’t ever bring home a pay stub but are working 24/7 at home raising a family.

So where do we go from here?

It’s pretty simple, just talk. Yelling, name calling and silent treatments are not allowed. You’re both adults and are capable of having a respectful discussion about something you disagree about. After all, the perfect relationship isn’t one where you never argue; it’s one where you can respectfully disagree and understand where the other person is coming from.    

Let’s try this scenario:

You suggest that after work you both set aside the evening to discuss what has been causing tension in your relationship. No TV, no alcohol, no distractions (ie: cell phones).

1.       You each independently take an opportunity to make a list of the things that have been bothering you.

2.       (This is the most important step!) Establish ground rules. The ones that should be non-negotiable are the ones I mentioned above: No yelling, name calling, silent treatment, alcohol or distractions. These things only serve to create more conflict and don’t put you in a state of mind where you can feel comfortable in a vulnerable situation.

3.       Decide who will start and have that person read their list. Then the other partner reads theirs. No discussion/objections to what was said. Just reading your list as it is written on the page.

4.       Agree to pick one item from each list to discuss this time. If you happen to have a similar item go for that one!

5.       Choose who will discuss first. Then, calmly and respectfully discuss why this one was the most important to you and how it makes you FEEL when this happens. Again, no blaming the other person. Try “I feel frustrated when you say I waste our money” or “I feel restricted when you get upset about my decision to get my hair done”

6.        The other partner (after listening to how his/her partner felt) validates their feelings. “I can see why you would be frustrated by that” or “I understand that you feel frustrated”. The key here is that you don’t have to 100% agree with their feeling but you respect them enough to try and understand their feeling. Also, this shows the other person that you were listening.

7.       Then discuss solutions to the problem.  In the example above the couple could discuss their budget for the bachelorette/bachelor party.

8.       Then switch, and the other partner goes through steps 5-7.

9.       Agree to not start arguments about the other items on the list because you will commit to going through the same process on a specific date in the future.

The previous scenario may not directly apply to you, but these nine steps will be able to fit in most situations and I strongly suggest implementing them in the relationships that matter to you.

Remember: According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the definition of discussion is "the action or process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas”. Even if the topic is difficult you’re not being sentenced in front of a judge; you are simply exchanging ideas with the person you love about a way to make your relationship better. And now you can even attack this taboo topic of finances before it ever becomes an argument. I assure you, talking about it preemptively is not going to create problems that never existed before. Every person will have different opinions about how finances should be managed (big and small).  Even a monthly pedicure trip with your girls could create turmoil if not discussed how you will financially handle it together. Now go for it! No luck needed; just mutual respect.

Jessica has spent her career working in the non-profit mental health field. She has graduate degrees in Counseling Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure Preparation and Education/Instructional Leadership and a BA in Psychology.  She has worked in a variety of settings including group homes, behavioral health agencies, universities and healthcare clinics. She has experience working as an individual, family, couple and group counselor for both children and adults. Her personal interests within the mental health field include PTSD treatment and the emotional challenges of parenthood. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

6 Women Share Their Secrets for Success

We reposted this inspirational article from!
I probably don’t have to remind you of the statistics about women in high-level leadership positions in the U.S. (And if I do, let’s put it this way: They're grim.) Most of the time, all you have to do is look around the C-suite of your company, and the picture will be all too clear.
But there are plenty of women who have made it to the top—and today, they’re sharing their secrets for success. To learn more about their journeys, their career paths, and the advice they’d share with others, I recently chatted with six of the most prominent leaders I know. If you’re aiming for the top, read on for their quick nuggets of wisdom on leadership.

Tierney Kathleen 2012 300x300 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessKathleen Tierney

Recruited out of college to work at Chubb Insurance, Kathleen Tierney learned very quickly that she could distinguish herself by volunteering for projects and initiating ideas. Her strategy paid off, and after working in many different business units, today she sits at the helm as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. She is also the first woman to run a business unit at the organization.

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“Leaders need people skills, organizational skills, and the ability to ask really good questions even when they don’t always have all the answers. Great leaders are able to see trends that others can’t, to see the big picture, to ask the pointed questions, to set the goal and get people to that common goal, and to celebrate successes or quickly rethink and retool.”

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
“There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or take a chance. Just take the moment—don’t let thoughts like ‘I don’t feel like I’m ready’ get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good.”

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
“If you make a mistake, own up, apologize, and move on—don’t ruminate. Appreciate feedback, and think, ‘What can I do with this?’ If you’re not making mistakes, you may not be doing something interesting.”

Official headshot 7 07 300x300 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessNita Lowey

After a career in local activism, grassroots politics, and state and local government, Nita Lowey has served as a U.S. Congresswoman since 1989. She is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and was the first woman of the Committee to lead either party.

Define a political leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“Someone who’s effective in achieving priorities. An effective leader should also understand the unique ability elected officials have to influence policy that helps improve others’ everyday lives.”

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in politics?
“For women who are eager to enter into public service, I think they should keep in mind that women’s experiences as mothers, daughters, wives, and primary caretakers, as well as employees, businesswomen, and community leaders, often make us uniquely qualified to address through public service the issues facing our families.”

 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessRuth Mahoney

Ruth Mahoney was very comfortable in the fast-paced realm of banking. In fact, she never agreed with the notion that it was a “man’s world.” She’s risen through the ranks in her field, and today, she’s the President of KeyBank Hudson Valley / Metro NY District, where she oversees the operations of dozens of regional banks and hundreds of employees.

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“Working alongside your team, and being a good decision-maker—someone who can be relied upon, who takes responsibility, and who works well with people.”

What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
“Decide what your career is, and be specific and be focused. Be a student of business—meaning, understand it from all angles. You need technical and business acumen to be successful in a role. Read to understand more about the position than just what your job requires. Also, it is really important to meet and exceed all of the expectations in your role. Make your aspirations known, ask for feedback, be open to feedback, and do something with that feedback. Work on getting the skills you need to achieve that position.”

DFphoto 300x300 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessDonna Frosco

The legal field is notorious for having few women at the top, but Donna Frosco is one of those successful few. As the first woman partner at her firm, Keane & Beane, P.C., Donna founded the intellectual property and technology practice area. She also serves as the President of the New York State Women’s Bar Association.

What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“Competence is essential—master your subject matter. You should also have the ability to communicate clearly and adjust your communication for the individual or group you’re attempting to reach. And initiative. Voracious curiosity, learning quickly, and listening well—to what is being said and sometimes, more importantly, to what isn’t being said.”

What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
“Stand up for yourself without being overly aggressive, and surround yourself with good people. Cultivate relationships with people you respect and admire by finding a commonality—a support network is also key to success.”

B. Cerf 3 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessBarbara Cerf

Having grown-up in a financially modest household, Barbara Cerf’s parents told her they could not afford to send her to college. But she was adamant about attending college and accomplishing anything else she set her mind to. Set her mind she did—and today, she is Corporate Vice President, Women’s Market at New York Life.

What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“Great leaders are innovative. They look at things differently, and they teach us to look at things differently. They’re also energetic, they can see the whole picture, they have great foresight, and they understand people and business. They’re people with ethics, integrity, and honesty—and they’re decision-makers.”

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
“Just do it. Dream it and do it. Learn how and when to say no and delegate. Enjoy what you are doing, and make sure you are having fun. And don’t be afraid to bring new ideas forward, but be respectful of people.”

Screen Shot 2013 07 16 at 11.04.27 AM 300x296 6 High Powered Women Share Their Secrets for SuccessStacy Musi

Stacy Musi, a black belt in karate, lives by one of her favorite sayings: “Seven times down, eight times up.” As Managing Director of Chadick Ellig Executive Search Firm, her commitment to this mantra of focus, tenacity, and persistence has been the secret to her success.

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“It’s important to be respected, and you can achieve that by being credible. Know what you’re talking about, work hard, set appropriate expectations, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
“Choose your battles.  You should be willing to go to the mat, but it shouldn’t be for everything. Choose what’s important, and ask yourself, ‘Will it help me or hurt me?’ Step back, think, and make a choice.”