Leaving My Abusive Partner Changed My Entire Financial Future


This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.


Leaving My Abusive Partner Changed My Entire Financial Future


Domestic abusers often use money as leverage over their partners — and financial empowerment can be a crucial factor in breaking free from the cycle of abuse.

My book, “The Money Queen‘s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear,” was released in October as an homage to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In fact, the purple purse on the cover represents the color of domestic violence awareness.

I also donate and help fundraise for several shelters.

I’ve done all of these things because I once fell prey to an abusive man, myself.


Knowing What Abuse Looks Like


It is hard for anyone who knows me to believe that I was in the situation I was in. I am a take-charge woman, well-educated and fortunate enough to come from a great, supportive family. But, that goes to show that it can happen to anyone. I share my story to let women know this.

Abuse takes many forms: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Abuse stems from the need to control. It has been said that an abuser puts someone down to build themselves up, to feel power and control because they are actually very weak internally. Often, money is one of the forms of control a spouse or partner uses over another.

Many women stay in abusive relationships due to fear, threats, lack of money or all of the above. For me, it was the fear and threats that kept me in the relationship. Financial abuse is insidious. It restricts a partner’s freedom to use their own money and creates dependency upon the abuser. Abusers might limit access to money or credit cards, or tightly monitor a partner’s spending. They create an atmosphere where a partner worries excessively over how the abuser will react to simple, everyday purchases.


A Brighter (Financial) Future


While I can’t assist with the psychological component (and suggest seeking help from a trained professional), I have dedicated my life to making sure women learn to be financially literate and responsible for their own financial future.


Reclaim Your Finances


If you don’t already, it’s important to work and make your own money and keep a financial account solely in your own name — one that only you can access. You should understand how to build credit and have your own credit card. Good credit will be crucial if you need to find new lodgings, a new phone or generally re-establish an independent financial life.


Build a Support Network


Surround yourself with friends, family and community members who will be there for you as you build and act on a plan to free yourself from abuse. Having access to as many advocates as you can, such as therapists or financial advisors, will fortify your support network and remind you that you are not alone.


Envision a New Life


Claiming your emotional and financial independence can be the hardest and most rewarding part of leaving an abusive relationship. Understand that you are not at fault or the root “cause” of abuse. Learn what a healthy relationship looks and feels like; your support network can help you understand how you should be treated. Finally, know that you don’t need validation from an abuser: You are perfect the way you are.

My wish for the world is that no women would ever experience domestic abuse. But, if you realize you are in an abusive relationship, don’t despair: It is possible to get out and find a beautiful life on the other side.

If you or someone you know is being abused, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.


This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.

Become a ‘Money Queen’ and Reign Over Your Financial Future

Life doesn’t always go the way we plan.

You truly never know when an accident, a breakup, the death of a loved one or some other unforeseen event will turn your world upside down.

This is one of the reasons why financial literacy is a must. If you don’t know how to manage your money — or you’re relying on someone else to do it — you could be in a real bind when one of life’s many curveballs is thrown your way.

Whether you’re single and carefree or married with children, you can be a money queen:

The 4 Habits Of Janitors, Secretaries And Teachers Who Became Millionaires


This article was originally published in Benzinga


The 4 Habits Of Janitors, Secretaries And Teachers Who Became Millionaires


With the right habits, anyone can become a millionaire, not just hotshot bankers, corporate CEOs and tech geniuses. There are plenty of unassuming people who, despite working regular jobs—think: janitors, secretaries and teachers—have amassed serious wealth over their lifetimes. And you’d never know it by the way they lived.

Take Genevieve Via Cava. When the New Jersey special needs teacher first told her school superintendent that she intended to donate enough money to the district to fund the post-high-school education for special needs students, he laughed. “I thought it was a joke,” he told NorthJersey.com.

He and other friends and former colleagues were shocked when they learned this spring that Via Cava, who died at age 89, had quietly built a small fortune over her 45-year career as a teacher and left $1 million of it to fund those scholarships.

How did Via Cava and other unassuming millionaires climb to the top? We discovered four simple habits they have in common. Follow their lead and start building your own fortune, too.


1. Live (well) below your means.


Low-key millionaires couldn’t care less about keeping up with the Joneses. “They are not attached to having the newest, the biggest or the most expensive anything,” says Certified Financial Planner Kimberly Foss, founder of Empyrion Wealth Management.

Case in point: Ronald Read, a janitor and gas station attendant in Vermont who bequeathed $8 million to his local library and hospital, had a second-hand Toyota and used safety pins to hold his tattered coat together. Grace Groner lived in a one-bedroom in Chicago and shopped at thrift stores and rummage sales, even though she’d accumulated more than $7 million. Russ Gremel, another Chicagoan, prefered oats and stew to fancy meals, drove a 25-year-old Dodge—and recently donated $2 million to the Audubon Society. Via Cava lived in a modest home once owned by her parents, kept expenses to a minimum and consistently socked away some of her income.

While the general rule of thumb is to save 10 to 20 percent of your income, secret millionaires put away much more—a friend of Read’s mentioned that if he earned $50, he’d save $40. Certified Financial Planner Cary Carbonaro, managing director at United Capital, suggests aiming for around 30 percent if your goal is seven digits: “The additional compounding interest will make your money grow and grow,” she says.


2. Invest early and often.


Secret millionaires know to hang onto stocks for the long haul instead of selling when the market dips. Gremel purchased $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock and held onto it for 70 years. Groner’s fortune grew out of a $180 investment she made in 1935. And Brooklyn locals Donald Othmer, a professor, and his wife Mildred, a teacher, amassed hundreds of millions, stemming from Berkshire Hathaway stocks they invested in for just $42 back in the ’60s. (Today, one share is worth more than $280,000.)

These millionaires don’t just avoid timing the market; they also reinvest their dividends. When you purchase individual stocks or funds, like exchange-traded funds, through an investment account, you have the option to take your dividend payment in cash or reinvest the proceeds into the purchase of additional shares. Reinvesting allows your money to compound more over time, giving you a greater overall return.


3. Earn more on the side.


In addition to his day job, Donald Othmer netted extra income with his side gig as an inventor and consultant. Leonard Gigowski, a butcher in Milwaukee, earned enough from investing in his grocery store’s stock to eventually purchase a corner store, nightclub, dance studio and residential properties.


“With passive income, like real estate, you don’t have to do any work,” Carbonaro says. “Aside from maintenance and expenses, you just sit back and collect the check.” Airbnb, for example, makes it easy to add a passive income stream by renting out extra space or your entire place when you’re away.



4. Improve your financial IQ.


Read stayed in the know by reading investing news, talking with like-minded friends and seeking counsel from an advisor. Robert Morin, a librarian in New Hampshire with a $4 million estate, befriended a financial advisor who encouraged him to invest, instead of putting all of his earnings into checking and savings accounts. Brooklyn legal secretary Sylvia Bloom, who recently passed away with $8.2 million, noted the stocks her bosses invested in, then purchased the same ones (in more modest amounts) for herself.

Copy these habits by making learning about money a daily ritual: You can follow your favorite financial guru and publications on social media, or commit to reading money blogs and sites (ahem) during lunch or your commute. Then seek out a money mentor or even an accountability partner who’s working toward their own first $1 million.

Before the death of a spouse, here’s how to prepare a financial plan for living alone


This article was originally published in USA Today.


Before the death of a spouse, here’s how to prepare a financial plan for living alone


Of all the risks couples face in retirement, the death of a spouse is a certainty.

But they don’t seem to be planning it, according to a Merrill Lynch and Age Wave study on widowhood. Consider:

  • More than half (53 percent) of widows say they and their spouse did not have a plan for what would happen if one of them died.
  • Seventy-six percent of married retirees say they would not be financially prepared for retirement if their spouse died.
  • Following the death of a spouse, half of widows experience a household income decline of 50 percent or more.

So what should couples do to better prepare for the loss of a spouse?


Plan for the obvious

There are 20 million widows currently in the U.S., and 1.4 million new widows annually, according to the Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study. Despite that, most married couples don’t like discussing or planning for death, says James Watkins, III, a managing member of InvestSense.

But it’s best to tackle this tough subject head-on given the potentially dire consequences.


Get help

If you need help, consider talking to a qualified, trusted and competent adviser such as a certified financial planner.

“A new widow needs a comprehensive financial evaluation and plan,” says Steven Podnos, a certified financial planner with Wealth Care.

Watkins says professionals can help address what many couples overlook – the potential cash flow issues that emerge after the death of a spouse. “These are issues that need to be addressed as part of a comprehensive financial planning program early in a marriage,” he says.


For her part, Cary Carbonaro, a certified financial planner with United Capital Financial Advisers, recommends working with a certified financial planner long before becoming a widow or widower. After the loss of a spouse, the remaining partner “might make mistakes that will be difficult to recover from,” she says.



Hire other professionals, too

Consider working with an estate planning attorney and an elder law attorney.

According to Watkins, an experienced and knowledgeable elder law attorney can perform a detailed inventory of the available financial resources and “help integrate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to maximize the benefit received,” he says.

“A good estate planning attorney can then determine if any asset protection/wealth preservation strategies are needed, in order to qualify for and preserve government benefits,” Watkins says. “For instance, due to the stringent requirements to qualify for Medicaid, estate attorneys will often draft an income-only trust to make sure an individual qualifies for Medicaid.”


Do you have enough life insurance?

Forget for the moment whether you should buy term or cash value life insurance, the question you should be asking is do you have enough life insurance, Watkins says.

It’s “important to get the needed amount of insurance in case of an unexpected/premature death,” he says. A financial professional can quantify how much to purchase using any number of methods – human life, financial needs and capital retention.


Don’t worry so much about federal estate taxes

With the current federal estate tax exemption at $11.18 million per person, most people do not have to worry about the tax implications of death, Watkins says.

But do worry about your retirement accounts and the beneficiaries of those accounts. “Inherited retirement plans are often the largest asset in someone’s estate,” Watkins says.

The beneficiaries need to do a “forensic analysis” of the inherited plan’s portfolio to first determine if the funds are legally prudent and then if the funds are appropriate given the changed circumstances.

“At this point, the widow needs planning, not product,” he says. “This is another area where estate attorneys and elder law attorneys can maintain the focus on planning and help protect widows financially.”


Bottom line

The key to planning properly for the death of a spouse, Watkins says, is to determine exactly what the available financial resources are and calculate financial needs. Then plan on the best way to maximize those resources while getting additional ones through government benefit programs.


This article was originally published in USA Today.

Why women invest 40 percent less than men (and how we can change it)


This article was originally published in NBC News.


Women are taking control of their financial lives like never before, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to investing.


Well, well, well. After being locked out of the financial world for centuries, women are now besting men when it comes to investing returns. Not only do women consistently earn higher returns than men (by 40 basis points on average), they were also able to add more to their account balances over time (12.4 percent compared to 11.6 percent ), according to a study by Fidelity.

There’s just one problem: Despite being aces at investing, women just aren’t doing enough of it. Women overall invest 40 percent less money than men do according to a survey by digital investment platform Wealthsimple. And if given the opportunity to do more, many women wouldn’t step up. In a recent survey by Lexington Law — which asked men and women what they’d do with an extra $1,000 — men were 35 percent more likely than women to say they would invest the money.


This is a problem why, exactly?


You may have heard it said that “women have to do more with less,” but what does that really mean? Well, given that the gender pay gap leaves the average woman earning just 80 percent of what a man earns, this means that women will have to save a higher percentage of their salary just to achieve parity with men when it comes to retirement savings.

Look at it this way:

If a man making a $50,000 salary puts 9 percent of his annual income away for retirement, he’d have $4,500 saved at the end of the year. But a woman in that same role would only be making $40,000. So even if she put away the same percentage, she’d only have $3,600 saved at the end of the year, a whopping $900 less. To top it off, women live an average of five years longer than men, which means their money has to stretch further — a lot further. Because of their longer lifespans, women are expected to have 39 percent higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs in retirement than men, which means they’re on track to spend an additional $194,000. It’s no wonder the Wealthsimple research found 47 percent of millennial women consider money the most stressful thing in their lives, compared to 34 percent of millennial men.

“This is something that doesn’t get enough attention, because when women aren’t investing, it compounds the pay gap dramatically over time — women are on track to end up with less money when they need it,” says Mike Katchen, co-founder and CEO of Wealthsimple.

And there’s more to this than just the numbers. Money is choice. Money is freedom, Katchen says. Women who aren’t investing are losing out on a sense of pride and confidence that comes from reaching financial goals. Investing and watching your balances grow over time is empowering. It takes the fear out of the future.


So why don’t more women do it?

Historically, the investment world was an old boy’s club. “Your advisor would have been a white man, and probably a friend of your father’s,” Katchen says. “When you went in to meet with someone, you would have seen that they rarely used language that resonated with women. It was not an inclusive experience.”

Thankfully, things have changed — but not everyone has gotten the message. Today you can invest online, from the comfort of your home, and if you do meet with an advisor, you’re going to see that everyone is trying to make things more accessible, Katchen says. “People know that women control more money than men, and are often the financial decision makers in their household.”


The pay gap leaves the average woman earning just 80 percent of what a man earns. This means that women will have to save a higher percentage of their salary just to achieve parity with men when it comes to retirement savings. Katie Edwards / Getty Images


Another reason why women may not be as aggressive as men when it comes to investing is because they are more conservative — they like to hang on to their cash, explains Cary Carbonaro, CFP and Managing Director of United Capital of NY and Author of the “Money Queen’s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear“.


“When I tell my clients they should have an emergency fund, the men will tell me, ‘But I want my emergency fund in the market,’ and meanwhile the women will have five times the emergency fund they need, sitting in the bank, not doing anything. For some reason, women are afraid of losing money, while men seem to be afraid of losing out by not playing the market.” —Cary Carbonaro


How can we change the narrative?

Thankfully, there’s already been a shift in the market. Over the past three years, Fidelity has seen the number of women investing their money with the firm grow by 19 percent, to more than 12 million. And it seems women know they need to save more — when Fidelity looked at workplace retirement accounts, it saw that women consistently saving a higher percentage of their paychecks than men at every salary level. Women saved an annual average of 9 percent of their paychecks, compared to 8.6 percent for men. But there’s still a ways to go to bridge the divide.

Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Start where you are. You can get started with $1 per day, or just enough to dip your toes into the water, Katchen says. “You don’t have to hand over every dollar you’ve ever earned to an advisor. Build your portfolio over time and learn that it’s not scary.”
  • Don’t attempt to boil the ocean. “The industry has been set up to make investing feel scary,” Katchen says. “The old boys club wants you to believe that you need them to tell you what to do with your money, but the basics are simple: Don’t spend more than you make, save regularly, and get into the markets, that’s the essence of what it’s all about.”
  • Consider getting help. “In my opinion, every woman should be meeting with a financial planner. That’s the best way for them to get a handle on their personal situation,” Carbonaro says. “Sure you can read books and understand the basic concepts, but until you have a handle on your exact challenges, you can’t work out a complete plan.”


This article was originally published in NBC News.

Joe Duran has a game plan, and anyone can play

This article was originally published in InvestmentNews.


The CEO of United Capital built a formula for holistic financial planning that any firm can tap into — for a price


There’s a tech company Joe Duran admires, but it’s not Apple, Amazon or any of the other high-tech giants led by high-profile, high-energy and high-charisma CEOs like himself. It’s Intel, the chipmaker giant and supplier to well-known consumer-facing tech companies.

Following the “Intel inside” strategy translates into building — alongside his firm’s branded advisory business — an army of independent advisory firms that white-label FinLife Partners, which the firm calls its “wealth management operating system,” said Mr. Duran, 50, founder of United Capital Financial Advisers.

A combination of technology, investment management and planning tools, the 2-year-old service is built to deliver the holistic approach to advice that Mr. Duran has long championed. It takes into account the client’s employment, spending patterns and personal preferences, as well as their biases about money. It includes several trademarked and registered tools that turn the probing of money and life-related emotions into participatory “games,” which the firm believes leads to more accurate planning and better outcomes.


3 ways to play


Among the interactive games are Money Mind, which reveals how the participant feels about money and how it affects their life; Honest Conversations, an exercise with an adviser to help identify and clarify personal goals; and Ideal Life Index, a personal benchmark that helps track progress to the kind of life an individual wants to live.

“You have to use gamification to incorporate clients into decision-making to engage their brain and hearts in a data-centric way, and almost no one else is using it,” said Mr. Duran, who in 2016 received an InvestmentNews Icons & Innovators Award.

Mr. Duran’s determination may be a result of his unusual background. He was born in war-ravaged Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and left Africa and a broken home as a teenager. After living in London and moving to the U.S. to attend Saint Louis University on a rugby scholarship, he married the daughter of a former Bateman Eichler investment banker. His late father-in-law’s contacts got him started in the financial services business in Southern California, and eventually led him to the presidency of Centurion Capital. General Electric acquired the firm in 2001, netting Mr. Duran an estimated $13 million.

Having money didn’t quell his anxieties, which led to soul-searching, figuring out his money-related emotions and founding United Capital, which has made money and emotions a focus.

Through FinLife Partners, he believes he can empower advisers to know their clients more thoroughly than their competitors do.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether financial advisers will buy into the approach.

“I see a lot of growth potential for FinLife Partners,” said David DeVoe, whose eponymous consultancy and investment bank specializes in wealth management companies. “Advisers are looking for the benefits of scale, and this partnership provides a ‘synthetic’ scale opportunity.

“A challenge United Capital faces is the overall bias of advisers to exert a high degree of control over their businesses,” he said. “RIA owners are an independent bunch. The vast majority may be turned off by one of the most powerful aspects of the service: a methodical and efficient but standardized way of doing things.”


Many competitors


Another challenge comes from other players vying for the same advisers and end-clients.

“Enterprise digital wealth is a very competitive space, where it’s not easy to win,” said Lex Sokolin, founder of robo-adviser NestEgg, who is now global director fintech strategy and a partner with Autonomous Research, based in London.

“United Capital’s advantage is the AUM they already have, but they’re up against tech firms and they have to persuade other advisory firms to use what they’ve created. Teaching new behavior isn’t easy,” he said.

So far, 26 firms overseeing $10.4 billion have signed onto the original FinLife OS system, which requires them to use United Capital’s CRM system. In April, the firm introduced FinLife CX, which allows advisers to use their own CRM system. Advisers using the new version pay an annual $600 per-client fee, plus ongoing and support fees that vary based on the complexity of the installation.

“We will have 15 to 20 firms a year joining the platform, which will represent north of $25 billion in assets,” Mr. Duran said. “We see several multibillion-dollar firms looking to join.”

Those advisers will complement the 222 who manage $23.3 billion in assets as employees and shareholders of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm. They tend to be advisers who before they joined or sold their firm to United Capital alreadyw had developed a holistic approach to planning and customer service.


“One of the things that attracted me to the firm is the way it approaches money and the client experience,” said Cary Carbonaro, who sold her business to United Capital in 2012. “I didn’t call what I was doing ‘financial life management,’ but that’s what it was — just without the system and tools. Now I have those and the help with compliance and everything else that frees me to grow.”


Ms. Carbonaro, an InvestmentNews Woman to Watch and an ambassador for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., is a member of the firm’s managing director advisory council that meets with the firm’s leadership three times a year. She also works as a liaison to the advisers who sign onto FinLife Partners, noting that many of them are successful traditional advisers who don’t have a financial planning background and are drawn to the program because they realize that it helps them know their clients in a way they hadn’t known them before.


‘Soft’ approach


Mr. Duran is convinced that this “soft” approach provides the hard answers for advisers, who are facing greater competition.

“Advisers will have to do more work and deliver more personalized investment solutions to earn more and even to survive,” he said. “Since planning and investments have become commodities, advisers have to deliver intimate and truly personalized solutions. If they don’t, they won’t be able to maintain pricing or grow.”

Mr. Sokolin believes a tech-human hybrid approach “is 100% correct in the medium to long term,” as long as the solution involves “fully integrated technology that goes all the way to client and is driven by the client.”

Few who know Mr. Duran doubt his determination to make FinLife Partners the preferred platform for providing that integrated client solution.

“He has a clear vision of the future and what United Capital should be, and he’s really driven to get there,” said Gail Graham, who left a senior job in marketing and business development at Fidelity in 2012 to head strategy and later marketing at United Capital. She started Graham Strategy, a consulting firm, last year.

This article was originally published in InvestmentNews.

Clients Who Lose A Spouse Require Both Empathy And Skill


This article was originally published in the Financial Advisor Magazine.


Clients Who Lose A Spouse Require Both Empathy And Skill


More than half of Dan Lash’s clients are widows and he expects another 30 to 40 percent will become so eventually, while nationwide 53 percent of widows have not prepared for what would happen if their spouse died, according to a new Merrill Lynch/Age Wave Study study.

When asked by his clients, Lash, a partner at Vienna, Va.-based VLP Financial Advisors, advised calculating the value of marital property within six months of a spouse’s death.

“An appraisal will determine what the gain is and set a new cost basis in the event you sell the home five years later,” said Lash.


Widowed, a significant demographic

By sheer virtue of their numbers, the widowed have become a significant demographic with 20 million currently residing in the U.S. The “Widowhood By The Numbers” study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that among them, four-in-10 women experience widowhood as a trigger to begin working with a financial advisor.

“They are in their 70s and 80s and single again for the first time in years,” said Tom Balcom whose financial advisory practice, 1650 Wealth Management, is based in the middle of the “silver tsunami” in Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida. “A financial advisor can help by creating a budget that includes outflows and inflows such as social security, retirement portfolio disbursements, annuity payments, spousal benefits and pension income. If a budget already exists, the advisor can adjust it if the widow now has to live on one social security check instead of two.”

One variable that sets apart the widower demographic from singles who have never been married is mourning.

“The danger is for the widow to be overwhelmed with grief and to allow finances to take a backseat, which makes decisions even tougher to deal with later,” said Lisa Margeson, head of retirement client experience and communications at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

About 64 percent who had not planned at all worried they would be unable to support themselves immediately after the death of their spouse.


“Widowed clients are often unsure and scared because they don’t want to be taken advantage of,” said Cary Carbonaro, managing director of United Capital of New York and New Jersey and 2014 CFP Board Ambassador.


Among the challenges they face is the complex task of juggling multiple incoming assets. Some 69 percent of widows will receive a median amount of $15,000 in survivors social security, 63% will receive a median of $15,000 in life insurance, 46 percent receive a median of $25,000 from their spouse’s pension and 45 percent receive a median of $20,000 from spouse’s 401k income.


This article was originally published in the Financial Advisor Magazine.

How I Use Fear to Make Positive Financial Decisions


This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.


How I Use Fear to Make Positive Financial Decisions


We are not always aware of our feelings around money or how we react to money decisions. Our responses come from the messages we have internalized over the years, as well as our experiences growing up. They are ingrained in us.

For many of us, the biggest influence on our money decisions is fear. It’s the fear that we will not have enough of it.


The Positives of Fear

Fear is one of the most common mentalities toward money — and it isn’t necessarily all that bad. I have personally always made money decisions out of a desire to protect myself. In fact, my therapist has said to me that my idea of safety would be if I built a money nest and sat inside of it.

I’m not alone in this fear. Many of my female clients think the exact same way that I do. We love to hoard cash.

Those who fall into this fear category tend to be careful, cautious people who live within or below their means. For example, I like to save 50 percent of what I make. Every time someone hears this, they do a double-take: “What? Are you crazy?” But fear-minded folks are prepared for the unexpected.

The Downsides

While there are positives to this mindset, I can speak personally to the negatives of having a fear-driven relationship with money. Fearful people are very slow to make decisions and might miss opportunities. Case in point, my hesitation cost me in the cutthroat New York City real estate market. My biggest regret is that I never owned property in New York City, and I see now how my mindset played a part in that. You usually have to make a decision the same day, and I never could. I experience anxiety when faced with big commitments and refuse to be rushed on a big money decision. I would rather walk away.

Fear-minded folks often make personal sacrifices to maintain security, too. For instance, I gave up many vacations in my 20s because I could not part with the future value of that money. We overemphasize delayed gratification and often prepare for bad results that never materialize.


Fear as an Ally

All that being said, in my case, my instinct for financial self-preservation protected me greatly when I married a man who committed financial infidelity. Financial infidelity occurs when couples with combined finances lie to each other about money. For example, one partner may hide the fact that they are paying against significant debts in a separate account the other partner is unaware of. Another common example is when one partner makes large discretionary expenditures without discussing the matter with their partner.

In my case, it was all of the above. He hid income and assets, to the point of moving assets out of the country. He lied about tax returns, and then kept them under lock and key. He was an attorney and CPA and used his expertise to lie to me, telling me that he was legally required to be listed on all the real estate titles. I was the only one on the mortgage, but I took his lies as truth.

Our divorce exposed the full extent of his financial infidelity. It took me four years and cost me more than six figures to get out of that mess of a marriage. One month, my attorney bill was $30,000, and I had so much money flowing out that I literally could not make it fast enough. But when all my worst financial nightmares had come true, my fear mindset helped me be ready for them.

My fear had made me a saver. My extreme emergency fund — that I saved and invested in for years — rescued me. I can confidently say that being afraid of not having financial protection is what wound up helping me through four years of negative cash flow.

Knowing your mindset when it comes to money can expose both the strengths and drawbacks of your emotional ties to it. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. I recommend utilizing a resource such as findyourmoneymind.com, which can lead you on a journey toward a more complete understanding of your financial life. After all, when you know your feelings toward money, you might be able to start using those feelings to your advantage.


This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.


Get The Money Queens Book by CFP MBA Cary Carbonaro

31 Money-Saving Experts Share What They Splurge On

This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.

31 Money-Saving Experts Share What They Splurge On


In general, it’s better to save than to spend — but it’s okay to splurge once in a while.

After all, you work hard for your money, so you should be able to enjoy it. Even money-saving experts splurge from time to time on items and experiences that add a value to their lives that go beyond the monetary.

We asked 31 of our most frugal Smart Money Squad influencers to share the things they splurge on, and their answers ran the gamut from massages to scotch.

But they all had one thing in common: They splurge.

Despite all the money-saving advice and tips they take and dole out daily, even experts like to enjoy their money, and you should, too.


Traveling Abroad

“My splurge is traveling out of the country three times per year,” said Whitney Hansen, host of the podcast The Money Nerds. “While I don’t fly first class or stay in luxurious places, I do spend about $3,500 per year on my trips abroad.”


Therapy and Yoga

Shannah Compton Game, CFP and host of the Millennial Money podcast, has two splurges: “A couples therapy session every other month to make sure we stay connected, and a monthly unlimited yoga membership to relax away stress,” she said.


Outdoor Activity Gear

“I love to splurge on outdoor activity gear,” said Alexis Schroeder, founder of the blog FITnancials. “Living in Colorado offers plenty of outdoor fun, so I love splurging on bikes, hiking gear and trips exploring nature. I recently got back from an Alaskan cruise, and love splurging on nature experiences as well.”


Workout Clothes

“The one thing I know I indulge in is workout clothes,” said Miriam Ballesteros, a career development and personal finance blogger. “I wasn’t really aware until my boyfriend told me that all my activewear is actually from high-end brands. And the truth is that I love both the quality and the design of my gym clothes — which helps me stay motivated to be active.”

Kathryn Bradt of Dames in Debt also can’t resist high-end workout attire. “Athleta and Lululemon are my favorites,” she said.



“I splurge on monthly mani/pedis, massages and delicious gourmet coffees, smoothies and organic healthy meals,” said Brittney Castro, founder of the financial planning firm Financially Wise Women. “As a busy entrepreneur, self-care is very important, and I have no problem treating myself right when it comes to these splurges.”


Flight Upgrades

“When I’m flying long-haul — generally anything over six hours — and if I haven’t hacked my way into business class through the creative use of frequent flyer miles, I seriously consider splurging on a better seat,” said Nora Dunn, founder of The Professional Hobo.

“Cash upgrades to business class are usually too rich for my blood, but sometimes upgrades to premium economy are reasonable and worthwhile if it’s an overnight flight requiring that I get some sleep,” Dunn said. “If that’s still too much, I do whatever I can to reserve a seat in the emergency/bulkhead row, whether it’s paying the airline to reserve this higher-ticket seat with extra legroom, or talking my way into it at check-in, or even at the gate.”


Retirement Fun

“I’m nearing the third term of my (hopefully) long life. After years of conservative spending and investing, splurging just makes sense,” said Barbara Friedberg, author of “Personal Finance: An Encyclopedia of Modern Money Management.” “After all, it’s silly to live a life of constant financial monitoring, and even some deprivation, without enjoying the fruits of life. So, now that we’ve reached our financial goals — yes, to those just starting out, there is an end to all the scrimping and saving — we practice tactical splurging.

“My husband and I spend on things that are important to us. We take our daughter and her boyfriend on vacation with us. We travel internationally and in the U.S. — Thailand, Iceland, Slovenia, Florida, Wyoming and more. We’re lucky to pair travel with my husband’s international work. And we consume entertainment including live theater and music.”


Socks and Underwear

“I’m a big fan of values-based spending, so I cut back on expenses like cable TV and found a cheaper cell phone plan, but there is one place my spending has gone up in the last few months: my socks and underwear,” said Eric Rosenberg, writer, speaker, consultant and blogger at Personal Profitability.

“I used to buy the inexpensive undergarments at big box retail stores, but I finally gave in after enough people told me about a favorite brand that I bought a $16 pair,” Rosenberg said. “I’m never going back. And after getting a pair of luxury socks for a holiday gift, I’m converting both my sock and underwear drawers to higher-end products. My logic is that if I wear them all day every day, I should have the most comfortable pair.”


Private Airbnbs

“I’m frugal in all aspects of my life, but I like to splurge when it comes to travel,” said Sean Cooper, best-selling author of “Burn Your Mortgage.” “Instead of staying at hostels, I like to book my own private Airbnb place. I often work when I’m on the road, so this allows me to get work done in peace and quiet.”


Flatbed Seats on Planes

“My splurge is first-class tickets on Delta — and I will do anything to keep my diamond status on Delta, which means I get to fly first-class for free almost always domestically and get one round-trip global upgrade a year,” said Cary Carbonaro, CFP, MBA and personal finance expert.



“International first-class is crazy expensive, so I book way in advance, and I don’t go over a dollar limit of $3,500 a ticket,” Carbonaro said. “If I have to, I will use miles to upgrade or use miles for the ticket. For me, first class is all about the flatbed. My sleep is priceless.”


Ordering Groceries on Amazon Prime Now

“My splurge every week is simply ordering our groceries and other essentials on Amazon Prime Now,” said Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. “We have Amazon Prime and pay for it, but it’s totally worth it for not having to put two kids in the car, drive to the store, get a cart and pray there isn’t a breakdown, load the car back up and make it home. I can order everything I need on my phone, and have it on my doorstep within two hours — or whenever is convenient for me. It’s amazing and well worth the slight additional cost.”


Designer Shoes

J. Kelly Hoey, author, writer and speaker, said she can’t help but splurge on designer shoes.

“I’m a certified shoe-a-holic,” she said. “I will debate the value of a $20 T-shirt, but drop hundreds on shoes without blinking an eye. I contain my habit by waiting for the shoe sales at Bergdorf Goodman.”



“Every other week, I splurge on a massage,” said Lena Gott, a CPA and blogger at What Mommy Does. “I rarely miss an appointment. My desk job doesn’t lend itself to good posture, so my massage is when I reset myself and do something just for me that doesn’t involve working or taking care of kids.”

Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks said he splurges on massages about six times a year. “I’ve had a renewed focus on getting healthier, stronger and faster, and massages are helpful because they’re functional — getting rid of knots and whatnot — and great as a reward too,” he said. “It’s a splurge since you can live without a massage, but it helps reinforce good behavior so I can also live better, too.”


Fancy Dinners

“I love splurging on a nice, fancy dinner once or twice per year,” said Andrew Schrage, partner and editor-in-chief at MoneyCrashers.com. “I enjoy the experience of unique, memorable dishes in a pleasant atmosphere.”

Schrage added that your splurges should depend on your overall financial situation. “If you’re caught up on retirement savings, your emergency fund is well-stocked and you have something set aside for your kids’ college costs, then there’s no reason why you can’t splurge on a nice vacation, a nice pair of shoes or even flying first class,” he said. “Even if you’re not that well set up financially speaking, that doesn’t mean that rewards shouldn’t come your way. If you’re in the midst of serious credit card debt but have a thought-out plan written out along with mini-goals, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in some new fashionable clothing, a mani/pedi or a nice night out at a good restaurant to keep you motivated and excited. Reward yourself with little gifts along the way.”


Weekly Brunches

“My splurge is going out to eat,” said Hank Coleman, publisher of Money Q&A. “My wife and I pretend that we’re foodies and try to go out to brunch every weekend — to the tune of about $400 a month. But, we budget for this indulgence, and we knowingly sacrifice other things in the budget to enjoy splurging on eating out at restaurants.”


Snowboarding Trips

“I regularly splurge on snowboarding trips, including my Epic Pass for next season — which cost $900 — and gear,” said consultant Claire Tak. “I don’t need anything else, but last season I spent $700 on a new board and other things I ‘needed.’ I even bought a car recently so I could take trips to Tahoe whenever I felt like it.”

Tak also regularly splurges on $300 visits to the hair salon four times a year, music events and coffee.


Theater Tickets

“I splurge on theater tickets,” said Sophia Bera, founder of Gen Y Planning. “I try to see a Broadway show each year when I’m in New York City. Next month, I’m going to London to see ‘Hamilton’ on the West End to celebrate my five-year business anniversary since launching Gen Y Planning.”


Vacations and Experiences

“I don’t splurge on shoes and material things often, but rather on vacations and experiences,” said real estate agent and “Million Dollar Listing Miami” star Sam DeBianchi. “I am passionate about traveling, and I never want to regret not doing something, trying something or engaging in something. I can quickly get sick of a new dress or material good, but an experience is forever embedded in my brain and memories — and that’s worth every penny.”

DeBianchi has splurged on one-of-a-kind experiences, including paragliding through the mountains in Aspen, cage diving with great whites in South Africa, an African Safari, a helicopter ride through Milford Sound in New Zealand, a helicopter ride to a remote island in Australia in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, and swimming with pigs, sharks, sea turtles and stingrays in Exumas.

“It’s pricey, but I gain so much from doing these things — knowledge, ideas, happiness and an amazing story — and I come back feeling regenerated, which helps me be that much more productive in my business endeavors,” she said.

Laurie Sepulveda of The Three Year Experiment also sees the value in splurging on travel experiences. “When my husband and I went to Singapore, we booked a night at the pricey Marina Bay Sands hotel — which cost $550 for one night,” she said. “It was completely extravagant and luxurious, but we’ll never forget it. We swam in their iconic infinity pool with a view of the entire city, drank overpriced drinks and gazed out over the botanical gardens from our balcony. It’s an experience we’ll never forget, and I’m so glad we splurged on it.”


Clean Eating

“Food is my biggest splurge,” said Bob Lotich of SeedTime. “Eating clean and healthy food not only makes me feel better in the short-term, but I also consider it a long-term investment in my health.”


Professional House Cleaning

“As someone who doesn’t love to clean, but knows the value of the dollar, my monthly splurge is definitely our go-to professional house cleaning service, Green Tree Cleaning,” said healthy home expert Lisa Beres. “Three lovely and very energetic ladies arrive, equipped with a nontoxic arsenal to clean our three-story home — and they don’t stop until every surface is sparkling. Knowing that my girls aren’t inhaling the dangerous fumes found in traditional cleaning products while keeping us, the planet and themselves healthy makes me happy. There’s almost nothing like the feeling of a super clean home, from floors and windows to stairs, toilets and tubs. This is one of my favorite ways to treat myself each month.”


Manicures and Salon Haircuts

“My splurge is regular manicures and salon haircuts,” said money coach Christine Luken, The Financial Lifeguard. “Most of my one-on-one coaching clients are high-income professionals and small business owners. It’s vitally important that I look the part of a successful money coach. I spend an average of $100 per month on my hair and nails, which I feel is a great investment in my professional image. I also receive plenty of compliments on both, so I know people are noticing.”



“Over time I have amassed a pretty respectable Scotch collection,” said Scott Sherman, owner and blogger at I Dream of FIRE. “I have 12 expressions at the moment. The most expensive bottle is Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which was about $200.”


Designer Handbags

“I have a few splurges I love,” said Michelle Summerfield of The Classy Simple Life. “I travel every year to Hawaii and splurge on business- or first-class seats. I also love designer handbags and shoes.”



“My wife and I definitely splurge on buying ‘impulse items’ for our kids,” said Dave Domzalski, founder of Run the Money. “We’re suckers when our son wants another toy truck. We are so ‘those parents.’”


Fine Wine

“My husband and I splurge on our anniversary wine,” said Janine Rogan, CPA and financial educator. “We purchase more expensive bottles to cellar and open for our anniversary each year. Currently, we are cellaring up to our 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s a lovely way to splurge on something we both enjoy, and celebrate another year together.”


Bath & Body Works Candles

“I follow a budget so I can splurge on the things I really love, like Bath & Body Works candles,” said Lulu Gal of How I Save Money. “I can’t help it because they smell so great, and they are a wonderful way for me to relax. They tend to be on the pricey side, but I balance that out by only purchasing when they are on sale. I refuse to spend $24 on a three-wick candle, but when they are half off and there are coupons, I can snag one for $10. To me, $10 is worth it to have hours of great scent filling my house. Scent relaxes me, and those candles are worth the splurge.”


Organic Food and Wine

“My splurge is organic food and wine,” said Peti Morgan of The Leveraged Mama. “My family eats pretty frugally otherwise, but having good-quality organic wine and food is really important to us.”



“For me, it’s makeup,” said financial coach Jessi Fearon of her regular splurge. “I buy bareMinerals because as a former cystic acne sufferer, it is the only makeup that doesn’t break out my face or cause an allergic reaction. I bought a drugstore knockoff while we were paying off debt, but the makeup never lasted even half the day. So as soon as our debt was paid off, I started splurging again on bareMinerals. It’s worth every penny.”


This article was originally published in GOBankingRates.


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