Entrepreneurship is the new Big Thing. But is it really your ticket to financial freedom and living the good life? Read More...

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It seems like everywhere you look, someone is touting the value of entrepreneurship as the key to long-term financial independence.

Thanks to technology and the popularity of a number of books and websites, it’s possible that you think that you’re ready to be the next Zuckerberg.

But is that a realistic expectation? Are you really cut out to be an entrepreneur?

And is entrepreneurship all that it’s cracked up to be?

Concepts

  • How much money do small businesses actually make?
  • Is entrepreneurship right for everyone?
  • What traits make a good entrepreneur?
  • What is entrepreneurship, anyway?
  • The reality of trying to squeeze a side hustle into your life.
  • Who is a good candidate for starting a business?
  • Brief intro to the Meyers-Briggs test, and what it says about the ideal entrepreneur.
  • How to get started if you are serious about starting a business.
  • Tips for creating your business, a little bit at a time.

Listen for our “do-nows” for specific actions you can take to get started with a new business today. We’ll also answer a listener question about how to budget when you have the irregular income of an entrepreneur.

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Resources

BloombergSmall businesses don’t make that much money
EntrepreneurTraits of entrepreneurs
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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We think homeownership is a big part of the American Dream. But is it? REALLY? Read More...

America and the world were different in 1931 when James Truslow Adams first scrawled his vision of “the American Dream.”

Indeed, Adams’ sentiment was more idealistic than materialistic. It wasn’t until post-WWII that the American Dream of a rich life full of opportunities included a house.

To be fair, Gerald O’Hara did tell Scarlet that “land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” It’s easy to see how the beliefs of Adams and O’Hara morphed into a McMansion-bubble-bursting-cog of America’s “too big to fail” economy.

Today we travel more, marry later, have fewer kids, and most of us have 10 jobs even before we turned 40. When our phones broke free from walls, we too broke free. Homeownership peaked in 2004 and is now at its lowest point in 21 years.

If you’re wondering if homeownership is right for you right now, here are nine reasons to rent instead of buy — at least for a little longer.

1. You’re too lazy to pick up a finger to help.

If you’d rather chase Pokemon in your back yard than stop mice from entering your house, or if you’d rather watch House than maintain one, you may be too lazy to be a homeowner.

Houses aren’t reliable. If words like “broke,” “leak,” “patch,” “paint,” “fix,” and “repair” seem less like reasons to roll up your sleeves and more like reasons to kick up your feet, owning a home may not be right for you.

2. You couldn’t help even if you wanted to.

If it’s not possible for you to help because it’s not possible for you to help, homeownership will be an expensive proposition for you. When the faucet leaks and you’re not the guy, or when it’s time to winterize your house and you’re not the gal, you will have to hire someone to take care of business.

As a renter, though, you simply call your landlord to fix the home you don’t own.

3. You’re not sure which direction your life (or relationship, or career) will go.

Even if you aren’t lazy or useless, but you’re surer of who John Snow’s parents are then where you’ll be in one year (let alone five), you might want to rent instead of buy.

Buying a home is expensive. Your agent, the seller’s agent, and Uncle Sam all want their cut. There are fees for home inspection, appraisal, title changes, lender’s origination, and more.

The best means to counterbalance this tab of homeownership is time. But what you if you don’t have the time? Homeownership is a commitment, and it helps to have an idea of where you’re going before you make that commitment.

4. You’re sure as hell things won’t stay the same.

You know those friends who were so much fun and then bought an overpriced home in a cul-de-sac overrun by offspring? You know why they don’t go out anymore? It’s because they’re house poor.

Not only are houses expensive to buy, but they’re also expensive to manicure and maintain. This is why many homeowners become homebodies. If the thought of spending all your free time in your four walls makes you funny, owning a home will be more drama than comedy.

5. You’re contemplating a change in family situation.

9 Signs You Should Rent Instead of Buy

If you and your partner might become the human equivalent of Matryoshka dolls, any home purchase made today could be too small or too large tomorrow.

It’s easy to right-size for your family with rental properties. It’s not that same with purchased properties. Your changing size could mean you need more room to grow sooner than you thought. When the size of your family is firmly settled, it’s time to purchase a permanent settlement.

6. You’re ferociously independent.

If homeownership even remotely feels like living on Wisteria Lane in “little boxes made of ticky-tacky,” surrounded by Joanna Eberhart characters, then homeownership may not be right for you.

Unlike college, you can’t move away from co-dependent neighbors every semester. Even when you do escape, someone needs to take care of your house while you’re gone.

Don’t want to be tied down? Buying a home will tie you down in a way renting never could.

7. You’re too poor.

Notwithstanding the cost of maintenance, most people shouldn’t buy a house with anything less than 20% down on a fixed rate mortgage.

Sure, there are flexible loans, but they weren’t so flexible in 2008 when balloon payments contributed to problems for many homeowners. You can buy a home with less than 20% down, but with risk-based pricing your lender will likely use will charge you a higher interest rate. You will also have to pay private mortgage insurance.

Don’t forget that discussion we already had about being house poor. You don’t want your home to suck up all your disposable income. Run the numbers. It still might be better for you to rent instead of buy.

Run the numbers. It still might be better for you to rent instead of buy.Click To Tweet

8. You aren’t detail oriented.

When was the last time someone you knew bought a nest and didn’t remodel it with the conviction of a 1980s teenager BeDazzling a jacket for her first Madonna concert? The problem with home décor bought at Michael’s is that it looks like it.

Home décor not bought at Michaels increases costs too quickly for the less detail-oriented to care. HGTV-inspired remodels increase home values, but not enough to see a 100% return.

9. Finally, homes suck.

That is, the cost of a home sucks all the money out of your bank account. While homes can be good investments, for the average household they bogart most or all investment options. Investment diversification is integral to investment success.

Asset classes don’t move in tandem and 2008 proved Carlton Sheets wrong. Homes do depreciate. Consider your whole investment portfolio and don’t put your potential home purchase in an investment silo.

I’m a homeowner. But for three of the nine reasons above I wish I wasn’t. Because my husband and I perfectly timed buying our condo just before the market crashed in 2008, it’s been “amusing.”

If you’re considering buying your own home, it’s a long-term investment and, like Bon Jovi songs, not always a bed of roses.

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Leave your worries behind and start meditating. It’s like a vacation for your mind. Read More...

Are you struggling with stress? Do you wish you had time to slow down and relax?

A few years ago, I was in the same boat: overwhelmed, worried, concerned that I didn’t have enough time to just sit.

That’s when I started meditating.

You don’t need a lot of time to start meditating; you don’t even need to do it every day. Begin a meditation practice, and you might be surprised at the benefits.

Here’s why you should start meditating.

Meditation seems like it’s some feel-good fluff. And there are some “masters” and “gurus” out there that peddle plenty of feel-good fluff as part of their meditation programs.

I’m not into all that. I like meditation because it comes with real benefits for your body and mind.

First of all, you can lower your stress levels, which in turn impacts other areas of your life, particularly your heart. Studies indicate that meditation might help lower your blood pressure and reduce your likelihood of stroke and heart attack.

Your emotional and mental health can be positively impacted as well. Meditation can calm you, allowing you to deal with unexpected events in a more positive manner — and improve your mood, which helps you in your interactions with your partner, friends, and children.

Meditation can even change your brain structure in beneficial ways. It might even help stave off the impacts of aging on the brain. Enhanced cognition and attention can help you boost your productivity and improve your ability to focus on your goals.

A few weeks ago, I got out of the practice of meditating. I felt too busy. One day skipped turned into another day skipped. I didn’t even realize I was skipping until Harlan brought up my stress levels, associated with my recent illness. “Are you meditating?”

After honestly considering his question, I discovered that I needed to start meditating again. So I picked up my practice. Here’s how I got back into it — and how you can start your own meditation practice:

Start with short periods of time.

Slow Down. Breathe. Start Meditating.

When we think of meditation, we picture someone sitting cross-legged for hours at a time, humming. That’s not practical. No one is going to just carve out an hour of the day out of nowhere.

Instead, start meditating for much shorter periods of time. I like a five-minute meditation for anytime I feel like I’m flagging during the day. There’s nothing wrong with meditating for five minutes each day. You could even break it out into three five-minute sessions. Other people I know start the day with a five-minute meditation and then re-focus throughout the day with a one- or two-minute meditation every couple of hours.

If you want to increase the amount of meditating you do each day, do so gradually.

I like to start the day with a moving meditation while I run through the yoga poses that make up the sun salutation. I usually set aside 20 minutes for meditation partway through the day, and then I use a guided meditation to help me fall asleep at night.

Figure out what works for you, and stick with that. The important thing is to get started — no matter how much time you spend meditating each day.

Use guided meditation to stay focused.

I get distracted by my thoughts all the time. So, even though I’ve been meditating for years, I still use guided meditations. You can find guided meditations for lengths of time ranging from five minutes to two or three hours.

I’ve tried all sorts of things: finger meditating, meditation balls, focusing on my breath, using mantras. None of it keeps me focused like a guided meditation. Don’t feel like you have to be able to sit there on your own and become one with the universe to be successful. Swallow your pride and make use of YouTube or a meditation app on your phone to find guided help.

Adopt any position you want.

My favorite position for meditation? Corpse.

Really, it’s just lying down. And I like it. When I’m meditating during the day, I lay on my back, palms facing up. At bedtime, I just lay on my side. It’s about comfort.

You can meditate sitting on a chair, standing up, or laying down. Figure out what’s most comfortable for you, and just go for it. There’s no one “right” way to meditate.

Figure out what's most comfortable for you, and just go for it. There's no one "right" way to meditate.Click To Tweet

Meditate while moving.

Slow Down. Breathe. Start Meditating.

Did you know you can meditate while moving? There are walking meditations. Sometimes I turn my lap swimming into a swimming meditation. I start my morning by meditating while doing yoga.

You can enter a mindful state while doing any number of activities, from coloring to playing music (both of which come with a bevy of benefits). Don’t assume you have to shut yourself away in a room for effective meditation.

Mindfulness is key.

Effective meditation is all about mindfulness. The idea is to connect to the present, and let thoughts and worries about the past or the future go. Whatever you need to do in order to achieve that state of mind is totally acceptable.

And, as with all things, it takes practice. It can be challenging at first, but as you begin to see the results of your meditation efforts, you’ll be hooked, and likely look for ways to take your practice to the next level.

Are you starting meditation? How do you make time? What are your best tips for effective meditation?

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Your first credit card feels amazing. It’s like getting extra money. Only problem? It’s not. It’s a loan. You need to be on top of things if you use credit cards. Read More...

It’s a simple piece of plastic, but it can help you reach your goals – or destroy your financial life. It’s a credit card. Even though they’re everywhere, you may not know the nitty gritty about them.

Before you decide to get that plastic and use it to rack up untold amounts of debt, you need to know the basics. First of all, it’s vital to understand that we’re not talking about your money here. It’s someone else’s money, and they are loaning it to you. It has to be repaid.

Credit cards can be great tools that lead to rewards and cash back and convenience. But you have to be careful and realistic. Here’s what you need to know about credit cards:

1. Not all credit cards are created equal.

Credit cards are one type of financial instrument that you can use, and they can, like insurance, be part of a well-rounded financial life. Like student loans or mortgages, though, not all credit cards are the same. Here are some examples of different types of credit cards:

  • Travel credit cards: These cards have rewards designed to benefit those who travel often. These protections and perks include no foreign transaction fees, free baggage check, access to exclusive airline lounges, bonus miles when you sign up and more. They can be pretty sweet when you use them right.
  • Cash back cards: Everyone loves cold, hard cash. Cards with cash-back rewards return a certain percentage of your purchases. Some cards offer cash back on all purchases, while some only do so for certain categories, like gas stations and grocery stores.
  • Business credit cards: Business credit cards come with different terms and conditions than personal credit cards, but usually have higher credit limits and different rewards to help those running their own operations.

I have all three types of credit cards and am a big proponent of them. I’ve earned free trips and thousands in benefits by using credit cards responsibly. A couple of my credit cards also give me free access to my credit score, so I can make sure I’m staying on track.

2. They can protect you.

Credit cards get a bad rap for encouraging people to spend money they don’t have. But cards also provide extra support. Many credit cards have fraud protection so you don’t have to pay for any purchases in case your card is lost or stolen.

Credit cards also let you dispute purchases. If you buy something on eBay that comes in damaged, you can dispute the transaction with the credit card issuer. I’ve used this a lot if I’m trying to return something defective or if I was unhappy with a service I received. Some cards also extend warranties for items you buy using the card.

Many cards have no foreign transaction fees, which usually cost 3%. If you go on vacation and spend $500 abroad, you’ll owe $15 in fees. If you rent a car, a credit card often has collision damage coverage on rentals, saving you about $20 a day.

These perks and protections can save your ass, so double-check your benefits. You might be surprised at what’s available – at no extra charge.

3. Always pay your balance.

4 Things You Should Know About Credit Cards

Your credit card statement shows your current balance, your minimum payment, and when your bill is due. The minimum payment is usually a very small percentage of what you owe (less than 5% of your total balance). If you only make the minimum payment, it can take you years to pay off even a small balance because most of your payment goes to interest charges.

For  example, if you have a $500 balance on your credit card with 15% interest and your minimum payment is $15, it will take you 44 months (according to Bankrate’s calculator) to pay off that balance. During that time, you’ll pay $150 in interest.

4. Don’t use them as an emergency fund.

According to Credit Karma, the average credit card limit in 2016 was $9,606. With access to that kind of cash, it can be tempting to think of your card as an emergency fund or backup in case you lose your job.

But that’s not a reason to use a credit card. If you don’t have the money to pay off your credit card balance at the end of the month, you’ll have to pay interest on your balance. The average APR for credit cards is about 15%. That’s a real pain in the ass when you’re trying to get started with a solid financial future.

If you don’t feel comfortable having access to so much money, you can call your credit card company and ask them to lower your credit limit. If you still end up spending more than you’re comfortable with, you may have to cancel your card.

Credit cards have a bad reputation, but they’re like casinos and lottery tickets. You can use them responsibly and enjoy their benefits or find that they lead you to temptation.

If you have a credit card, which one do you have?

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Eva Baker is teaching teens in Florida how to manage money and their lives. She’s paying it forward. Read More...

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Stay tuned to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Adulting.tv LIVE! met up with Eva Baker from Teens Got Cents in San Diego, California, for FinCon16. Eva, Harlan, and Miranda discuss the importance of paying it forward, especially with financial literacy and knowledge. Through her project teaching financial skills to teens in Florida, Eva is paying it forward.

The Plutus Foundation has awarded a grant and pledged further support to Eva’s program. Learn more or support this education program through the Plutus Foundation.

How do you pay it forward in your life?

Listen to just the audio by using the player above.

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We hear we should set SMART goals. But are SMART goals really so smart? Read More...

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Chances are that you’ve heard of SMART goals. When it comes to setting goals, you’re supposed to be SMART about it. But is the SMART method really the way to go about setting goals?

What if, instead of being really specific about your goals, you set bigger, broader goals? You might be surprised at how much more meaningful your life might be if you take the time to set goals that address your values and larger life mission.

Harlan and Miranda disagree a bit about the usefulness of SMART goals and how to use them, but, in the end, both agree that if you want to change your life, SMART goals might not be the best approach.

Concepts

  • Why goal setting is an important part of success.
  • A look at SMART goals and how they work.
  • The steps to take when setting goals with the SMART method.
  • The advantages of using SMART for setting goals.
  • Problems with SMART goals.
  • How to set goals without using the SMART method.
  • Tips for identifying your values so you can set better goals to change your life.

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Resources

MITSMART goals
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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College isn’t just about book learning and boozy weekend fun. Use this time to find powerful connections and learn practical skills. Read More...

Education for its own sake is admirable. It can expand your worldview, enhance your perspective, and sharpen your mind. It can even make you a happier, more content person.

But will it land you a job?

As important as the college experience can be to developing skills necessary to kick off a successful career, an impressive GPA just isn’t enough to get you hired. You need experience – practical experience.

You want to get more out of your time at school than a diploma and a massive hangover.

Network to make those personal connections.

Experienced career-climbers aren’t lying when they say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While I like to think that I’m an awesome and qualified person, the reality is that it doesn’t matter if others don’t know that you are. So many of the jobs I’ve gotten over the years have been due to a personal connection. Someone was willing to step up for me and tell their own peeps that I am awesome.

I wasn’t born knowing all the right people – I developed those ties over the years. I networked through my student newspaper, which brought in alumni to talk about their careers. When older students graduated, they became a new lifeline that we could use to find jobs.

That same wisdom applies to professors, who may have been leaders in their field at one time. A few friends of mine got their first jobs out of college because a professor recommended them to former colleagues.

Talk to career services.

Most colleges have a career services department designed to help you find internships and secure employment. Some have email lists where they send out potential opportunities. Others can sit with you personally to determine the best path.

Remember, these people are typically very busy. They have an obligation to help, but you may need to prod them a bit to find the opportunities you’re looking for.

Don’t give up. Be persistent. Career services have an interest in helping you receive placement, so they’ll be a good resource.

Get resume and interview help.

You Must Do This In College to Help Your Future Career

While you’re at career services, check in and get a little resume and interview help. Most schools offer these services and you should take advantage of them. Your fees pay for it anyway.

A poor resume can doom your chances at finding a job, even if you have great credentials. Shaky interview skills will do the same – even if your resume is a work of art. As someone who’s hired interns and conducted interviews, I’ve seen how a stand-out candidate can lose all validity over the course of an interview.

Learning great interview skills in college is more important than acing your econ final, so work hard to develop that skill. You can also practice with your friends and use common interview questions as your guide.

Shop your resume around and gather feedback from as many people as possible. You never know who might catch the one typo you missed.

Find internships.

I’m not sure where I would be in my career if it weren’t for all the internships I had during college. Internships are part of the journalism culture, but they’re available in almost any discipline. Some are paid, but many are done just for college credit.

While it sucks to work for free, don’t let that discourage you. Consider it an investment in your future career. Just a week ago, I was talking to a prospective client about a summer internship I had. Coincidentally, he had been one of the top editors when I was there. That common ground proved my credibility, even though it’s been six years since the internship concluded.

You can find internship listings online, but it never hurts to talk to a company that you admire. Even if they don’t have a formal internship program, they may be willing to make an exception for a passionate young professional.

College isn’t just about book learning and boozing it up on the weekends. It’s also about developing practical skills and connections that can help you with a solid start in life.

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Your dreams coming true… with your crew. Something amazing? It’s time, effort, and money. Read More...

You and your closest friends may all share the same aspirations. Maybe it’s a beach vacation together, maybe it’s your own separate businesses, but you’re close because you share some kind of life goal and desire in common.

Squad goals started with those who, unlike Taylor Swift and her entourage, are outside of the mainstream and feed off the group encouragement and support from friends who face the same challenges from society.

But your squad goals are like your own goals. You have to put the time and the effort in if you want to see things happen. If your squad doesn’t have Taylor Swift or Waka Flocka Flame at the center, chances are you’ll all have to work equally hard.

Squad Goals: Save Up to Make Them Happen

Is your squad even healthy?

Before we get started, let’s address the fact that some groups of friendships aren’t entirely healthy. Your close friends or colleagues should be supporting each other, not secretly jealous and vindictive of each other. Leave the passive-aggressive behavior out of it.

Your crew should not be a clique, and you better not bully each other or other people. Get rid of any negative attitudes right now, before you decide to work on your squad goals.

Now, let’s start at the beginning.

What are your squad goals?

Squad Goals: Save Up to Make Them Happen

Vacations can be a blast when you go with your squad. If you’re going to get LIT, who else would you rather be with than your besties? I still dream about taking all of my friends on a cruise. One day, we’ll make that happen.

If some kind of trip is part of your squad goals, start planning now. Clear your calendars. Get recommendations for places to stay.

How about creating something? Have you and your closest friend always wanted to open a store to sell custom jewelry for toddlers? “Bling Babies” can still happen! Start the process: read some books and talk to store owners.

Are online businesses part of your group’s plans? Rather than working together on one plan, your squad goals could involve each of your friends working along on their own separate paths. With everyone working towards different goals, set aside some time to check in with each other. Support each other’s goals. Keep each other on track.

Everyone in the group can use their own skills, talents, and superpowers to help everyone else.

Being each others’ “accountability partner” is easy. So here’s the hard part: the money and the effort.

What do your squad goals cost?

Squad Goals: Save Up to Make Them Happen

Some goals take time and effort. Some take money. And a lot of goals take a combination of all of the above.

So when you plan, write down exactly what you need in order to make your dreams come to life. If the main requirement is time and effort, start prioritizing your life so you can bring your goals closer to you. Spend less time on things that matter less and more time moving you and your squad closer on the right path.

If money is the priority for living out your goals, take an honest look at where you are financially and where you need to be. If it’s far off, it could call for some drastic measures if you want to reach your goals within your own lifetime.

There are two sides to ending the day with more money. The first is the simpler of the two sides, but it may not always be the easiest. You just have to earn more money.

If you have a job, are you maximizing your income there? Can you take on more work to earn more cash? Have you asked for a raise recently? How about overtime?

Let’s say you’re maxed out at work. Do you take a second job? Make a career change? Start looking around for a new job that offers better incentives (like bigger paychecks)? You have to start considering these options.

The other side of growing your stash is being careful about spending. There’s only so far you can go before you’re living on the street, but maybe there are some expenses you can cut out. If you consciously make decisions about spending, keeping your squad goals in mind, you would be in a better place for keeping some money in your pocket.

So now that you’re saving money for your squad goals, how do you keep it organized and on track?

Open up a special bank account.

Squad Goals: Save Up to Make Them Happen

You could keep your squad-goal-money in a jar in your kitchen. But you’d probably be tempted to take some out once in a while for last-minute outings with your squad. Outings that have nothing to do with your real squad goals.

A safer place — safer from you and your own meddling — is the bank. Goal-oriented saving is the new thing for banks, especially those that are trying really hard to make their stodgy financial institutions more relevant to people like you.

We’ll list a few options here as examples. We’re not endorsing any company over any other. These companies are not advertisers or sponsors, so we are just sharing a couple that we have had experience with at Adulting.tv.

SmartyPig

SmartyPig. SmartyPig was one of the first “banks” to offer a savings account in a way that is designed for goals. It’s not a bank itself, but it works with a bank behind the scenes. Sign up online and name your goal and the date you’d like to withdraw your money to spend for that goal. This is where I saved up for a camera for my photography business-slash-hobby.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to stick to the date or the goal if something in your life or your squad changes. Something always does, right? With all these accounts, you can take your money out at any time for any reason.

CapitalOne360

Capital One 360. Years ago, this account’s predecessor pioneered the idea of multiple savings accounts for different goals. You can put money into several accounts, and name each one after a specific goal. This is where I had my “emergency fund” and my “saving for a new car fund.”

That’s all you need. Not only will these places store your money until you’re ready to pay for making your squad goals happen, they’ll also pay you income. It may be just a little right now, but these are interest-paying accounts, so your balance will grow even without adding more of your own money in.

Pretty good deal, right?

Start saving now, and before you know it, you and your crew will be taking selfies on the moon. (How’s that for a squad goal?)

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How much do you trust your S.O.? Do you trust him or her with ALL of your money? Read More...

In every serious relationship, you reach the point where you need to talk about money. This is one of the pivotal discussions you will have with a potential partner.

Part of this money talk involves discussing whether or not you will combine finances. This is a tough decision and one you have to decide on for yourself, based on how you and your partner feel about money.

There are advantages.

When you combine your finances, you truly form a partnership. Everything goes into a big pot. All your money. All your partner’s money. You pay your bills from the big pot. You set up joint savings and investment accounts. When you combine finances, it can have a big impact emotionally. You truly feel like one entity. It’s practically impossible to feel detached when you are sharing your finances.

Combining your finances can also simplify matters. You don’t have to worry about who’s putting what into the joint account for household expenses, and you don’t have to divvy up the bills or worry about whether or not your partner is actually paying his or her “fair” share. With combined finances, it all goes to the same place, and you only have to worry about paying from one account.

Finally, with combined finances, it’s all on the table. You can both see what’s happening with the money, and you both have equal access to it. A lot has been written about financial infidelity. (Go ahead, search it on Google. I’ll wait. Checked it out? Seen that it’s a real problem for some people? Awesome.) While combining finances can’t totally eliminate the problem, the reality is that it’s much harder for someone to hide his or her money issues when the S.O. has just as much access to everything.

For many couples, this is the way to go. In fact, during my marriage, we had combined finances. We had a big pot, what’s-mine-is-yours-and-what’s-yours-is-mine, approach. It made things simple during the marriage, but a bit of a PITA during the divorce.

But there are downsides, too.

One of the biggest issues with combining your finances is that you lose some of your autonomy. You don’t have complete control over your money; you need to consult with someone else before you make certain decisions. If you still like to have that measure of control over what you spend, and how you use your money, combining finances can be scary as hell.

When you separate your finances, you can also create a formula for deciding who pays for what. There are many ways to do this. In some cases, the person who makes the most might cover the biggest expenses, while the other person takes care of the smaller household costs. If you make close to the same amount of money, it can make sense to split everything down the middle.

Another way to separate determine your bills is by using a percentage. If one of you makes 70% of the money, you pay 70% of the shared expenses, while the other pays 30% of the household costs. Once those shared costs are covered, each of you gets to keep what’s left to use how you want. However, when you have separate finances, you each pay from your own account.

Keeping things separate can also provide protection. What happens if you aren’t sure about how your bae handles money? You can better protect your own financial situation by avoiding combining accounts. Your partner can’t raid your account if it isn’t shared. If you think your partner spends too much and you want to keep him or her from draining your resources, separate finances can make sense. Keeping things apart protects you.

Finally, separate finances are easier to manage in the event of a de-coupling. My ex and I had to go through our shared accounts and assets and divvy them up at the end of the marriage. On top of that, as I looked back on some of the purchases he made with our joint money, I was a little bitter.

While we are on good terms, and I care deeply for my ex, the reality is that combining finances and the aftermath left a sour taste in my mouth. Things are fine now, but they were a bit unwieldy for a while. Keeping things separate would have made things easier. In a world where many of these romantic relationships, whether or not they are marriages, come to an end, combined finances may not be the best choice.

How about making a compromise?

It’s possible to create a hybrid model. I know many successful couples who employ this method. Rather than keep things completely separate, they have some joint accounts. For shared expenses, like housing costs and paying for kids’ activities, you can open a joint account. Each of you contributes a pre-determined amount of money. You pay your shared expenses from the shared account.

Everything else, however, is separate. You have the feeling of working toward a common goal, but you also keep some things separate. This method can work for shared goals like saving up for a down payment on a home, going on vacation, or making a major purchase together.

When you use this plan, you maintain separate accounts. You can buy gifts for each other and make them true surprises. You also obtain limited protection. While there is no way to keep your honey out of the joint account, the bulk of your money is safe from pillaging in your own accounts. A friend of mine was fortunate that he used the hybrid model when his wife drained the joint account and then asked for a divorce. She couldn’t access his account and take that money, too, ahead of time.

How you manage your money is up to you. Have a talk about it, figure out what you’re comfortable with, and make a plan from there.

What do you think about combining finances? Is this something you are comfortable with?

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Start with this list. Focus on the essentials. Read More...

My last semester of college was during the fall months, and for the first time, I was living on my own, and not in a college dorm and not with my parents. No roommates, either, though that singular, private living situation wouldn’t last too long.

This apartment was a few miles off campus, past the entrance to the interstate highway, where rents were much cheaper. That’s exactly what I needed. My last responsibilities at college were student-teaching and preparing for my senior recital, the capstones to my music education degree. So I was still a student — a student without a job for at least a few months, without money being earned, and I don’t even remember how I was able to afford my rent.

The living situation was a big change from the dorm rooms in the preceding years. Everything is provided in the dorms — paid for along with tuition, naturally, but students never had to worry about outfitting rooms with basic furniture. At least a bed and a desk.

Somehow, I owned a bed and mattress. I have no memory of where they came from.

And that’s the only furniture I had in this apartment. Well, besides the bed, I had a television on the floor in the living room. I didn’t even have blinds or curtains on the patio door. If it didn’t come with the apartment, I didn’t have it. And nothing came with the apartment.

As a result, the place wasn’t exactly ideal for entertaining guests. I had no visitors so I wasn’t too concerned about the state of my domicile. All I needed to be able to do was sleep — which I did — and practice — which I sometimes did.

Maybe I had a lamp.

What would have been helpful to me is a guide that explains exactly what you need or should have in your first apartment, whether you have roommates or not.

Here is that guide. I’ve listed what you need, ranked in order of importance, by room. Many of the furniture items can be found on a budget. Always check second-hand stores or Craigslist.

You need these items for your bedroom.

1. Mattress. This is the most basic item. You need to be able to sleep relatively comfortably. A mattress will do the trick. If you’re on a budget, air mattresses can be quite comfortable these days, and much less expensive than a fancier typical mattress. A step up might be a futon. Unlike just about everything else, I would not buy this item on Craigslist or used at a thrift store.

2. Lamp. Shine some light in the bedroom. You’ll be thankful for illumination, especially in the winter when the sun sets early.

3. Alarm clock. Well, you probably have one on your smartphone. You may be living in your own for the first time and not sure how you’re going to pay rent, but I’m sure you’re managing your phone just fine. But having a real alarm clock as a back-up has saved me many times.

4. Window curtains. The one place where you don’t want neighbors peeking in is your bedroom. Maybe your place comes with blinds, and if so, curtains are further down on the list, but still good to have.

5. A bed. If you want to prop your mattress up a little higher than floor-level, you’ll need a bed. I lived in one apartment without a bed, though, so it is possible to get by without one.

You cannot have a bathroom without these.

1. Toiletries. Expect to brush your teeth every day. Grab all the basics including toilet paper, mouthwash, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, shaving items, and a first-aid kit or at least adhesive bandages (Band-Aids).

2. Towels. Drip-drying takes far too long. You can get by with one, but two would be better. Feeling fancy? Get one of those towel hooks that fit over the bathroom door.

3. A shower curtain. Most apartments won’t come with one. Shower curtains can be inexpensive, and they give you privacy and added safety in the bathroom. You may need to buy curtain rings separately. You may even need to get your own curtain rod.

4. A plunger and toilet brush. One is for cleanliness and the other is to prevent a big mess.

Let’s go into the kitchen. Who’s cooking?

1. Dishware and silverware. No need to get fancy here. My first set was inherited from a friend. A few plates, a few bowls, forks, spoons, butter knives, and if you’re ready, a sharp knife set.

2. Pots, pans, a spatula, a ladle, a slotted spoon, a regular spoon, oven mitts, and a can opener. Unless you plan to order in every day and every night, you’ll be cooking. No need to get anything fancy here unless you really love spending time in the kitchen. Just the basics will suffice.

3. Dish soap, napkins, and paper towels. And if you have a dishwasher, dishwashing detergent.

4. Trash can. You need at least one in your apartment, and if you do have only one, it should go in the kitchen.

Not everyone has a living room, but here’s what you would need.

1. Something to sit in. In my first apartment, this was the floor. Somehow I managed, but it wasn’t ideal. You can find at least a cheap chair. I eventually upgraded — in my third apartment — to a cheap sofa from IKEA.

2. Curtains or blinds for the windows or patio/balcony door. Again, privacy is the main concern here, and some type of covering might be required by your lease.

3. A television stand or mount. These days, fancier people are mounting televisions on walls. In my first apartment, I got by with leaving the TV on the floor.

4. A coffee table. Again, I didn’t have one until later in my adult life, but this is a basic piece of furniture that separates the barely-adults from the mostly-adults.

Beyond these items, everything else could be considered a luxury. Chances are good that you won’t be in this apartment for a long time. You can upgrade and add items one at a time. Living in comfort is a process, and when you first move out on your own, there’s no expectation that you have the best-decorated and best-outfitted apartment among your friends.

Save the money now. Take care of your necessities and put away any cash you have left over. You can take your time and ignore the pressure to have everything in your life and your living environment together immediately.

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