Thursday, 06 February 2014 23:43

Fitness | It's The Quality That Counts

Fitness // February 10, 2014

It’s a commonly accepted myth that you have to read Jane Eyre cover-to-cover (although, who’s reading books on paper nowadays?), in one workout session on the treadmill, to get a Beyonce-esq tight a$$. Women everywhere are spending hours of their precious time in the gym and are still not reaching their fitness goals. Let me tell you, you can burn all the rubber off a treadmill belt, but it really isn’t necessary if you put in some Q-T workout time.

If you seek improved cardiovascular health, improved muscle tone, and overall improved fitness, you will get there faster by power walking over hilly terrain versus strolling aimlessly for an hour or two. The ups and downs of a hilly road or trail builds in low, moderate, and high intensity intervals to your workout session.

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How do you add intensity to your workout without hiking up hills, going to a trainer, or paying to participate in a fitness class, you ask? Well, you can do that by changing a couple variables—speed and resistance. To add speed, you just move faster. Adding resistance requires adding incline, weight, or other opposing force against your direction of travel. For example, if you are strength training, add more weight to your effort; if cycling, running, or walking, add hills to your tour. If you decide to add jumping or sprinting to your routine, wear a weight vest or do it in soft sand. There are various ways to add intensity to your workout. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the more intense an interval is, the shorter that period will be. These high intensity intervals should be interspersed with low to moderate intensity exercise such as walking, jogging, or other less physically intense activities to give your body a chance to recover.

More challenging intervals increase your breathing and heart rates, fatigue some muscles, and make you sweat. By adding them into your workout, you burn more calories in a shorter period of time, elicit a positive cardiovascular response (read: healthier heart), “tone” and “firm” skeletal muscle (Michelle Obama arms, anyone?), and increase your recovery metabolic rate (that means you’ll burn more calories while you’re relaxing or going about your business, post-workout, while your body returns to normal resting rate). Bottom line is that a workout that incorporates high intensity bouts can do more for you than a steady state workout, and in a shorter period of time. More bang for your buck there, sister!

Published in Health

MW of the Month // November 4, 2013

Wisdom is a quality that most Made Women try to display in their daily choices. We think through our major career changes, we give the best possible advice to our girlfriends, we carefully plan for families and relationships... But even with all of the wisdom we've gained through our experiences, there is one thing that many of us still struggle with on a daily basis: money.

Think about it: we grow up with fairly little formal education on the subject beyond counting change, and we often inherit the money habits (*cough* mistakes) of our parents subconsciously. If we aren't learning these money basics -- let alone more in-depth investment principles -- in the home or at school, where do we go to gain that knowledge? In an era when more and more women are bringing home major bacon, we have no excuse to stay in the dark; it's more important than ever to be Financially Wise. And that's where Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and entrepreneur Brittney Castro steps in.

When I first attended one of Brittney's money workshops several years ago, something clicked. It just made sense! Here was a 20-something financial expert speaking to a room of 20-somethings about money -- in our own language. There was no finger-pointing, no overly complicated language to send us running for the hills. It was clear that Brittney "got it" -- she got us.

Brittney's mission is to "help women define their ideal lives, and then support that with the structure of financial planning." She helps her clients use their money as a tool -- to help them "live a life they actually love, not the life they feel they 'should' be living." Brittney is able to tap into the psyche of the modern professional woman and help them to create the financial life of their dreams.

Although Brittney wasn't always 100% sure on her career path, she has always had an affinity toward dollar signs. "I have always had a fascination with money; my favorite toys growing up were a check book and cash register," she laughs. She says she learned early on that, "if you love your money, it will love you back."

After toying with different career paths like event planning, she spoke to a college counselor about pursuing a career in finance. Something inside of her was fearful to take the plunge; but he told her that if she didn't try, she'd never know if it was right for her. Brittney took this advice to heart, and accepted her first job offer at Ameriprise upon graduation. The role was 100% commission-based. "At 22, I learned how to hustle for money and clients; how to market and run a business. I never had a W-2 salary, never had a stable income." Brittney found this level of uncertainty to be freeing. It helped her understand that she could be in charge of her income; it was a real fit for her and in alignment with what she saw herself doing.

After four years, Brittney realized that her entrepreneurial spirit craved something even more independent, and she left Ameriprise to join an independent firm called LPL Financial. The 2008 market crash happened during this time, and she was forced to really evaluate whether financial planning was something she wanted to do long term.

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The question, "Who am I going to serve?" was at the top of her mind. That's when Brittney started Financially Wise Women as a blog. Reflecting on the process, she recalls, "you just keep taking the next step, and then you figure out, 'that works,' and, 'no, that doesn't,' until you have more yeses than nos."

After some serious thought about her brand and positioning, it became clear that teaching women, specifically, was her passion. "Being a young woman myself, I didn't (and still don't) relate to a lot of the financial planners. They're usually much older, they're often white, and male. Plus it was almost a selfish thing for me -- I wanted to serve people that I could relate to as well." Given her background and understanding of her target market, Brittney was able to build her brand and use her online media savvy to really differentiate herself from other financial planners in the market.

Over the last seven years, Brittney has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and on CBS, just to name a few. She has also contributed her knowledge in written form to sites like, and even Made Woman Mag! Just this past August, she served on our panel at the Made Woman Summer Social, contributing her financial expertise directly to the Made Woman Network.

Just a month ago, Brittney made one of the biggest steps a young entrepreneur can take: she left her firm and Financially Wise Women is an official, registered investment firm in state of California! "The vision has always been there to have my own firm," Brittney explains, "but it's not as easy to open up shop from day one in financial industry. I got training and confidence by taking all of these stepping stones." This is why Brittney thinks it's so important for people to do things on the side until they can gain the confidence and clarity to take the leap into full time entrepreneurship.

After taking her own leap, Brittney has found that her life is "so much more in alignment than ever before." She was able to shed a lot of work and is now able to focus on just financial planning consulting. This has allowed her to develop a 6-week online money class; this will launch next year and is perfect for. women who aren't ready to commit to private financial planning/consulting. She's also had additional time to increase her speaking and media engagements. She remarks that this business model serves herself and the people she's helping. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Brittney's number one money tip? "Start tracking your money and expenses weekly. Save. Even if you can only save one percent of your income, start saving. Everyone says that it's one of the hardest things to do, but it's also one of the biggest indicators of financial success over time." For those who are already saving sufficiently, Brittney's role as a financial planner is to help them break everything down: how much do you need to save for your home, retirement, paying off debts and insurance? She helps clients avoid costly mistakes and "leapfrog" into the next financial level.

In business, Brittney attributes much of her success to finding great mentors. "I've had so many... I sought out mentors the whole time [in my career]. But mentors don't just show up at your door. I'm constantly asking for advice from people who are ahead of me in career and business. I make a conscious decision to get to know those individuals -- men and women. "Basically, I stalk people," she laughs. CFP Eleanor Blayney, also a huge advocate for women and money, helped Brittney hone in on her particular niche when speaking to women about money. She also credits Liz Dennery Sanders of SheBrands for helping her refine her own brand and marketing practices.

By employing her entrepreneurial spirit and taking some calculated risks, Brittney has created a financial empire that is growing each day. She is a remarkable example of someone who has gone after her vision, and successfully transitioned into full time entrepreneurship. "This year, I've really learned to believe in myself and love myself. For so long, I've been doing the fake it til you make it, and now I don't have to fake it anymore. I feel strong, confident. Whatever life throws my way I can handle." And that's what wisdom is all about.

Published in Business

April 9, 2012

We all see them. The graphic images on Pinterest and Facebook like this one. Food porn. They lure you in and trick you into thinking you really can squeeze a gourmet lunch or breakfast everyday into your budget. But when was the last time you actually calculated the cost of your breakfast?  I calculated the cost of mine the other day just out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised that it was only a whopping $1.96 every day!

Breakfast Breakdown 

  • Bananas- I buy a bunch of bananas every week and usually can get 6 for $1.29, 1 banana = $.215
  • Oatmeal- I eat two individual packets of regular oatmeal, 6 packets to a box, box cost $2.50, 2.50/6= $.42 x 2 packets= $.84
  • Coffee- I buy Starbucks coffee and I brew it at home- One pound cost $9.95 and can last me 14 days = $.71 per day
  • Soymilk- I buy a carton that last about 10 days- one carton cost $1.99= $.199 per day

Grand total= $1.96

Not too bad right?  Great way to start the morning and not bad on my wallet either.

Now if you know me, you will know I am a creature of habit when it comes to food and don’t mind eating the same thing every day.  My breakfast is the same every morning; oatmeal, a banana, and coffee with soy milk. As routine as this may sound, I plan my meals like this mainly because I want to eat something healthy and filling in the morning. Because I stay so busy, I also appreciate not having to think about what to eat every morning– which saves me lots of time and money.

Get Control

When working with clients on their cash flow, I usually see their food costs as the expenses that can really get out of control.  They save and skimp in other areas but often times dining out is the one place where money falls through the cracks.  A lunch here, a dinner there, drinks here… and there– all of these things really add up. Planning ahead and prepping your meals for the week can ultimately become a more cost efficient route. Think of it as portion control for your finances.

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Iron Lady Chef 

As tempting as it may be to call up your girl friends for a fancy dinner out, a good way to keep your food costs in control is simply by eating at home. I try to go grocery shopping every weekend to stock up for the week ahead.  Yes, there are occasions where I do eat out during the week (i.e. business meetings, client meetings/events or to celebrate a special occasion), but for the most part I usually eat my prepared, planned out meals and it frees up some time and spending cash.  Get a jump on breakfast this week and cook a batch of these. Your tastes buds and your wallet will thank you. 

One Bite At A Time 

Another tip (one I learned from my parents), is to save money by not buying drinks while eating out. Think about it. You’ll end up drinking more water, saving cash, and possibly losing a few pounds by cutting back on sodas. I still follow this same philosophy today.  If you have to have your diet Coke with dinner maybe skip the appetizers and/or dessert. Life without dessert may seem extreme, but deciding ahead of time what to cut will help you stay in control.

Now, I know what you may be thinking.  Going out to eat is part of what you enjoy most and part of your social life too.  I completely understand this. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I still see my friends, family, attend networking events and go out for social gatherings all the time and usually do all while sticking to my food budget.  Instead of business lunch meetings, I opt for coffee meetings (saves time and money). Instead of always going out to eat with friends, we opt for potlucks at someone’s house.  We love this idea because everyone can bring their favorite signature dish to share, which is usually a great conversation starter and a less expensive route too.

If you just simply enjoy going out to eat and don’t want to give it up– don’t.  Instead, make sure you adjust your spending plan accordingly to ensure you are still in control of your food costs. Remember, financial planning is not about cutting the fun out of your life.  Rather, it is simply planning how you want to use your money to support your current lifestyle, while being able to save for your future one.

For further information I invite you to check out my blog or email directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance

March 26, 2012 

Do some financial strategies and terms just seem like a complete mystery to you?  Do you feel that if someone just explained it in layman’s terms you would be able to understand the foreign language of finances better?  Well, good news, I am going to crack one of the financial mysteries to help you when it comes to investing for your future financial goals. This is the rule of 72.*

Ever hear of it?  Well, the Rule of 72 is a great financial rule of thumb that basically helps us calculate how many years it will take to double our money, given a specific interest rate. This becomes important as you save for your financial goals because you want your money to be working hard for you. The more time you have and the higher the interest rate, the higher the end result will be. 

For example, if you have $10,000 and want to know how long it will take to double your money at a 2% compound interest, divide 2 into 72 and you get 36 years. If you take the same $10,000 and instead use an 8% compound interest, it will take 9 years to double your money– 72/8=9. Get the picture?

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So if you are 30 years old and your financial goal is to accumulate $1 million dollars for retirement by age 60, it does not mean you have to save $1 million. It means your money has to GROW to 1 million– big difference. The more time you have to grow your money, the less money you need, because compounding interest will be hard at work for you. Even if you only have $50 to save per month, by starting now, you will have more time to allow compounding interest to work in your favor.

Here is a chart demonstrating how the Rule of 72 works with different compounding interest rates:


So there you have it, mystery solved.  And we didn’t even need to bring in the FBI!    

*The rule of 72 is a mathematical concept and does not guarantee investment results nor functions as a predictor of how an investment will perform. It is an approximation of the impact of a targeted rate of return. Investments are subject to fluctuating returns and there is no assurance that any investment will double in value.

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 26 March 2012 01:11

Women's History Month | Women & Money

March 26, 2012 

You go to work, spend your money how you see fit, and live your life each day never thinking about how all that came to be. Not so long ago, women in this country couldn’t enjoy the financial freedom we take for granted today. The story of women and money is an interesting one and it is only when you take a look at the big picture that you can begin to appreciate how far we’ve come. In honor of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some cool facts about women both to celebrate our successes thus far and make sure we continue to work on our own financial future.

  1. As of 2010, women control 60% of the wealth in America.1
  2. Over 40% of Americans with assets of over $600,000 are women.2
  3. Women are earning over $1 trillion dollars in wages and salaries, however women still earn on average $.78 of each dollar earned by a man.3
  4. Women account for over 50% of the workforce and hold about half of the management positions in corporate America.3
  5. Women make 83% of the household purchasing decisions.4
  6. 48% of women versus 38% of men do not feel confident about investing.5
  7. Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of their male counterparts.4
  8. Over 10 million businesses are owned by women.6  1.9 million firms are majority-owned (51% or more) by women of color in the U.S. These firms employ 1.2 million people and generate $165 billion in revenues annually.
  9. Women live on average 7 years longer than men and need 20% more for retirement.8
  10. At some point in their lives, 90%  of women in the U.S. will be managing money on their own because they’ve been divorced or widowed or have never married.9

We spend, save, and earn money differently than men. Looking at these facts makes it clear that we need financial plans tailored to us and our habits. For more information on how to do this visit my website, Happy Women’s History month!

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


  1. “The Guru of Retirement,” Wealth Manager, February 2007. 
  2.  Fara, Warner, The Power of the Purse: How smart businesses are adapting to the world’s most important consumer-Women, Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006.
  3. U.S Census Bureau, Facts for features: Women’s History Month, January 2, 2008. 
  4. Passi, Delia, Winning the Toughest Customer, The Essential Guide to Selling to Women, p.XXIV, Kaplan Publishing, 2006. 
  5. Study by FINRA. 
  7. National Foundation of Women Business Owners. 
  8.  U.S. Department of Labor, Women and Retirement Savings, December 2007. 
  9. Bodnar, Janet, Money Smart Women, Kaplan Publishing, 2006.

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

Published in Personal Finance
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 16:11

Day 15: Flower Child vs. Money Minded Mogul

February 15, 2012 

I have a confession to make – I have multiple personalities. No, I haven’t been diagnosed by a mental health physician; I am referring to my multiple money personalities. And I am not alone. We all have multiple money personalities. Due to the complex world we live in, it only makes sense that we have more than one personality when it comes to money. A good balance of several different kinds of money identities is key toward cultivating a well-rounded financial life. 

Two of my main money personalities are the “Flower Child” and the “Money Minded Mogul.” I believe that everyone has these two basic money personalities. The “Flower Child” is the one that wants the thrill of the present and to experience the freedom that money offers today. It is the side that lives in the moment and dreams big goals. The “Money Minded Mogul” is the personality that approaches money methodically. It is the side that plans strategically and takes charge of your financial life, plans out income goals, expense goals and financial goals for the year.    

Most people have more than just these two money personalities, but these two represent a common yin-and-yang relationship many women face regarding how they would ideally like to manage their money versus how they actually manage their funds. What I notice is that a lot of women in their twenties and thirties tend to avoid their inner “Money Minded Mogul.”  I am not sure if it is because we are scared to address our finances or that life gets too busy and prevents us from taking the time to engage in our financial lives. Whatever the roadblocks are, we as women need to make sure we take the time to nurture our Money Minded self.  Women are staying single longer, the divorce rate is still high and we live longer than men – so it’s up to us to learn the ins and outs of personal finance. 

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I’ve learned to acknowledge all my money personalities and use them to their strengths. The “Flower Child” inside us all helps us to dream, imagine, and create; the “Money Minded Mogul” allows us to find ways to accomplish those dreams.  For example, it may be that once you allow your Flower Child time to dream, you realize you want to travel to India and see the Taj Mahal.  Once you capture that dream, you go back to your Money Minded Mogul and analyze how you can make this dream happen.  You decide it will cost $3,000 for the entire trip and you will be able to set aside an additional $200 per month for this goal. Now that you know you can afford to take this trip in 15 months, you can start planning to make your dream a reality. 

Be in charge of your financial life, take time to educate yourself about your finances and plan strategically for your financial goals. 

Here are some ideas to nurture your inner Money Minded Mogul:

  1. Track your income and expenses regularly.
  2. Request your credit score at least once annually.
  3. Map out some short term financial goals and come up with an action plan to help you reach your goals.

Strive to find the balance between your money personalities that is right for you and take time to nurture your (multiple) money personalities.

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. 

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Current
Monday, 13 February 2012 07:58

Fitness | Gearing Up For A Triathlon

February 13, 2012

More and more people are doing it. You probably have a few friends who have finished at least one. I’m talking about triathlons, the growing sport that has you swimming, biking, and running in one race effort. Triathlons, you’ve heard, are for the crazy and uber-athletic so you stayed away. Then you wondered, “how did that guy go and do one…and finish?”

Here’s the true story. Triathlons, like fun runs, have different course lengths: sprint, Olympic distance, 70.3 (also known as the branded half Ironman), long course, Ironman, and ultra. A sprint consists of not more than the following mileage: .5 mile swim, 17 mile bike, and 4 mile run. The Olympic distance triathlon is (you guessed it) the distance that is completed in the Olympics, so it’s metric: 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 k bike, and 10 k run. Ironman, which gets all the glory, is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. The 70.3—the number of miles you finish—is half of each leg of Ironman. Long course is the name given to the race that has any variation of distances between 70.3 and Ironman. And, ultras are any distance longer (yes, longer) than Ironman. Now, you know the basics of triathlon distances, and may safely decide whether or not you want to put a triathlon on your list of things to do before the end of 2012.

The sprint distance triathlon is kinda like the gateway race to the sport. It is a lifestyle sport, including cross-training in the training schedule, so many participants will find themselves “addicted” to it after crossing their first finish line. Like many addictions, it may take a lot of the dollars out of your wallet. I think that’s why it’s quickly taking executives off the golf greens, and putting them into spandex and lycra swimsuits, cycling kits (that’s what those matching padded shorts with jersey are called), and running tanks and shorts.

You might not be convinced to try it yet, so let me break it down—how to do this without breaking yourself or your bank.

  1. Pick a local sprint distance race and sign up for it. Give yourself a minimum of twelve weeks to train for your first race.
  2. Find a friend to do the race with. Everything is more fun with a friend, and you’ll have a training partner. You might be able to find a local triathlon club that you may join, gather support from, and train with.
  3. Get the gear. For your first triathlon, consider borrowing big ticket items like a swimming wetsuit (if the water you will be swimming in is colder than 78.1 degrees, you may use one—it keeps you warm and keeps you more buoyant, making the swim effort less consuming) and a bike. The one most crucial article you must get for yourself that you likely don’t already have, in my opinion, is a pair of tri shorts. The other accessories you need to have are running shoes, bike helmet, swim goggles and swim cap. (In case you want all of your own new stuff, Triathlon Lab-a tri specific retailer, has a “starter kit” that comes with all of the above and a few extras for just under a G.)
  4. Get on a training schedule. Finding a coach is highly advisable, but if that’s not an option, there are books and fitness magazines that have training schedules based on your fitness level and the distance that you will be completing.
  5. Don’t take it too seriously. Have fun. Remember you are doing it to finish, not to make a living at it. (Although, you may discover that you have the talent to make money racing, as you go along.)

Those are the super simple, down and dirty, basics of getting to the finish of your first triathlon. You’ll pick up a few more tips along the way, from said triathlon club(s), book(s), and magazine(s). So, what are you waiting for? Get to it!

Published in Health
Friday, 03 February 2012 17:47

Day 3: Personal Finance For A Better Future

February 3, 2012

Have you been struggling with your finances lately? Come on, be honest… Are you ready to make a change in your personal financial situation in 2012? Well, the good news is you are not alone. If you are like most people, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your finances in order and finally take control of your financial life.  And we applaud you. As a woman, it is really important that you start becoming more focused on your personal finances to help you plan for a more secure financial future. Here are some tips to help you manage your personal finances in the New Year:

1. Understand some basic financial planning principles

As tedious as it may sound, much of financial planning is staying disciplined and practicing the same financial habits over and over: spending less than you earn, saving for the future, paying off your credit cards each month, etc. Straightforward stuff. And while we know it usually comes down to remembering the basics, most of us still get so overwhelmed with all that we want to achieve financially that we often end up doing nothing at all toward achieving our goals. Call it “sticking-your-head-in-sand syndrome.” The important thing to remember is that these basic financial planning principles actually do work over time and the best thing you can do to ensure your future success is understand them and follow them throughout your financial life.

2. Visualize where you want to be financially on December 31, 2012

Let’s get down to business. Start by listing out all areas of your financial life, including your income, savings, debt, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc. Then write down where you currently stand within each of these areas and where you would like stand by the end of 2012. (It will be here before you know it.) Be as specific as possible and aim for realistic yet high goals. For example, let’s say you currently have $5,000 in savings and want to have $10,000 in savings by December 31, 2012. This means you have to save $600 per month. After reviewing your cash flow you decide that this is a doable goal, but it will require a game plan to ensure you are saving the amount needed every month. You can do it! 

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3. Create a Game Plan

Once you map out where you would like to be financially by December 31, 2012, develop a specific game plan to help you get there. In the example above, if you know you need to save $600 a month, setting up an automatic contribution to your savings account every month is a good idea. If this requires you to cut back on shopping or going out to eat, make sure you calculate how much money you can actually spend in these areas without jeopardizing your goal. 

4. Just Do It

Seems basic enough, yet many women get so overwhelmed by their finances that they end up disregarding the game plan they set out for themselves.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Maybe this means scheduling an hour a week to make sure you are on track. Just take action on the game plan and start working toward your financial goals.  Whatever the action is, any action is better than none.

5. Check back in on your goals every month

As you work toward the December 31, 2012 vision you have for yourself financially, remember to check back in on your game plan every month to track your progress toward your goals. This will help you stay motivated and adjust the game plan as needed. Going back to the example above, if one month you are unable to save the $600, you need to decide on a new game plan to get back on track toward the goal. Tracking your goals may not be that fun or sexy but it is a necessary step in helping you reach them.
Remember, no one is in charge of your financial future other than you, so take the time to understand and manage your personal finances to help you plan for a better financial future! 

Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 30 January 2012 09:05

Personal Finance | Know Thy Net Worth

January 30, 2012 

Net worth- What is it and how do we increase it?  Simply stated, net worth is the amount your assets exceed your liabilities. Do you make more than you spend? Women in general tend to shy away from knowing what their net worth is because (1) They think they don’t have enough assets to have a net worth (2) They have no idea what goes in the net worth calculation.  Whatever your net worth is, you want to get in the habit of checking in on it on a regular basis to ensure you are moving in the right direction financially.  Typically if you are saving and working on financial goals every year, your net worth should be increasing year over year.

So how do you figure out what your net worth is? First off, don’t be scared! To make it easy, just make a list of what you OWN versus what you OWE.

Examples of what you OWN Include:

  • Car
  • Checking
  • Savings account (and other cash accounts)
  • Home
  • Retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc)
  • Business 
  • Your personal belongings (furnishings, jewelry, electronics, etc)

Examples of what you OWE Include:

  • Credit card debt 
  • Student loans
  • Mortgage debt
  • Business debt
  • Personal loans, etc.

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Knowing your net worth is an important step to becoming a Made Woman, however it is not the end all in financial planning.  Eleanor Blayney, CFP® states in her book A Woman’s Worth, “your financial success depends far less on what you have and much more on what you do with what you have.”

So remember as you calculate your net worth (OWN-OWE) there is no good or bad net worth, but rather a number that you should check on every year and work on increasing every year. Once you know your net-worth you will be able to plan for your future and live within your means. Having this knowledge gives you the power to make better decisions. 

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Brittney Castro is not affiliated with Brittney A. Castro is a registered representative with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. California Insurance License #0F33895.

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Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 19 December 2011 07:20

Home Buying | Home is Where the Money Is

December 18, 2011

It's there, in the back of your mind. And it's growing every day. It's the desire to have something to call your own. To walk into your own house every night, to remodel it to your liking, to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with buying a home. But if you've been alive during the past couple of years, you've heard that there's more to buying a house than signing on the dotted line. Lenders are stricter than ever, buyers are expected to come to the table with a stack of cash, and banks are now property owners.  All of this madness can be daunting, especially if you're among the rising number of single, female first-time home-buyers.  But the best way to combat fear and uncertainty is always with knowledge. You can enter this new market--and without regret. You'll just have to do your research. And, of course, weve consulted a few good women to help you on your way. These ladies agreed to share their experiences to help us all navigate this new housing market, and avoid the pitfalls that trip up many of us first-timers. So whether you're planning on buying a house this year or further down the line; whether you're going it alone or buying with your man, you need to read this!

Why Buy Now?

As Made Women, most of us would rather pay our own mortgage than someone else's.  Yet according to Rosetta Broomfield, that's precisely what we're doing when we rent.  Rosetta, an independent broker, has also been a financial consultant for over twenty years, hosting financial freedom seminars and helping her clients create short- and long-term financial plans.  So why does she suggest to buy now? "Simply put, real estate is at a discount. Everywhere. I always like to use the analogy of going shoe- or dress -shopping. The best time is always to buy when things are on sale." Makes perfect sense to me!  

But what about those who have watched what's gone on over the past few years, and are a little freaked out about this home-buying thing? "If you're renting, you're giving someone else your money. The sooner you can build up equity for yourself and gain the tax benefits of owning a home, the better." Rosetta goes on to share how she and her husband decided to buy back when interest rates were an astronomical 14 percent (they're now as low as 4 and 5 percent). "Even though interest rates were high, we knew that if we rented, we weren't going to keep any money ourselves." They went on to pay the house off and she cites home ownership as the reason for her current financial position. "It has really been the foundation of our wealth." In her opinion, there's no reason to be wary if you avoid the traps that many homeowners succumb to. 

Pitfalls to Avoid

The number one pitfall of first time homebuyers? "Overextending yourself," Rosetta states. Think of buying a car or a new dress. You see it in the store, it's all sparkly and beautiful--you just have to take it home with you. But then maintenance repairs come up on the car, you realize you have to get the dress dry cleaned all the time, and, "what seemed like a blessing can truly become a curse." A few hundred thousand dollar curse, at that. 

She also says the best approach is to take your time, figure out what you can truly afford and to find a realtor that you trust. "You have to be comfortable sharing the most intimate details of your life. If for any reason you're feeling uncomfortable with your agent, you should not go forward. Move on!" Got it!

Pamela Watkins, a homeowner twice-over (go ahead, Made Woman!), agrees. "You should never be rushed; you've got to feel comfortable with your realtor and you have to do your homework. This applies to everybody, but for young women in particular, you're so susceptible because you're striking out on your own and you don't always know what you should question. It can be easy to be pushed the wrong way." Rosetta also cites emotions as something that can trip women up. She urges us to remember that home-buying is not an emotional decision, but a financial investment. So now that we know what to avoid, how do we get started?

Tips and Resources

If you don't happen to have $200,000-$400,000 in cash at the moment, chances are you'll have to borrow a few bucks.  Rosetta says that all of the major lenders (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, etc.) have free online tools where you can enter your financial info and see what you can afford today. Free financial advice? I'll take it! Once you know where you stand, you can create a plan to get where you want to be. Whether you need to improve your credit or save more money for a down payment, this is a good place to start. When you're ready financially, she recommends being pre-approved (not pre-qualified--there's a difference) by three major institutions and "to use them against each other to negotiate for the best terms. If you cant qualify, you shouldnt be looking for a home." Well put.

Another good idea Rosetta offers is to use an online calculator to "figure out what your mortgage payment would be, and live that way a few months. See if that's something you can live with." She sees this as a very powerful way to find out what fits your lifestyle and what you're truly ready for. Most major banks offer mortgage calculators on their websites, but she personally recommends Wells Fargo's online tool. I also like's in-depth, free tool; just register for the site to access it.

Pamela recommends a unique source of education--HGTV. Shows like Property Virgins and House Hunters have exposed her to tactics she didn't know were even possible: "I didn't know you could ask [the seller to pay] closing costs or to fix things. When I bought my house I paid a down payment and closing costs. I think that young buyers need to realize that negotiation is possible." Who knew TV could help you make smart financial decisions? 

Overall, what we should learn from these ladies is that with a little bit of research, time and negotiation, real estate can be attainable for all of us.  Rosetta puts it simply: "be patient and buy what you can afford." Hmmm...what a novel idea.

Published in Business
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