Personal Finance // July 21, 2014

Credit cards. Bank statements. Rent. Mortgage. Car payment. College loans. Heck, even nights in (someone still has to pay for those fancy ingredients and that wine you love, right?!)

With all this money being thrown around it sure would be nice to find a simple way to manage it all.  Don’t worry, that smartphone in your pocket provides you with more than just an easy way to check  your Facebook during those long staff meetings.

I challenge you to put aside five minutes of your time to click through this article and then perhaps another half hour or so to dig a little deeper into the following apps to set them up for your needs. You, your finances, and your CPA will thank you for it.

You’ve probably heard the name, but do you really know what Mint can do for you? If you’re like any young professional, you most likely have three things: Income, debt, and some money you’d like to spend. Imagine being able to organize all of that in one compact user interface, for no dollars spent. Link any and all accounts (obviously for optimal benefit, we recommend linking all) such as your personal checking, savings, loans, and credit cards.  Mint will tell you who you owe and by when. It won’t pay the bills for you, but it will make it easier to maintain a realistic budget.

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Own multiple credit cards that each offers unique rewards?  It’s difficult to think on the spot which one you should be whipping out at any given time.  If you want to maximize your rewards while shopping, then is the app for you. Simply load your cards into Walla.By’s virtual wallet and the app will tell you which one to swipe --all you have to do? Just tell it where you’re shopping.  Feel free to set preferences, like telling to stop suggesting a certain card once it’s reached a certain percentage of your credit limit.

What are we Millennials good at? No...great at… No, no, FABULOUS at! You got it: Spending!  And what’s not so easy for us? Saving.  But what if every time you SPENT that hard-earned cash there was an app that automatically transferred a percentage of that purchase to your savings account? Not only would you be more likely to think before you spend, but you would also have peace-of-mind knowing that SavedPlus is doing the work for you.  How it works: You can select a percentage between 5%-20%. At the end of each week, SavedPlus will automatically transfer the accumulated amount to your linked savings account.   Scary? Maybe. Smart? Heck yes!

All right, your five minutes are up. You know what to do next.  Here’s to keeping our wallets flush with cash!

Published in Personal Finance

Lifestyle // July 7, 2014

This article is part of a two part interview with Dr. Gloria Burgess. Read part two now!

Imagine waking up everyday happy -- no, excited to go to work. If you already wake up like this then you have found your passion. Congratulations! Unfortunately, there are millions of millennials out there who are lost in their career. Dr. Gloria Burgess is passionate about helping people find their path in life. As President and CEO of Jazz!, Inc., she leads a team that specializes in equipping leaders and others to be their professional and personal best. An accomplished author, inspirational speaker, and coach, Dr. Burgess is also a professor at the University of Washington and Seattle University. Sit with Dr. Burgess for just five minutes, and her confidence in herself and her chosen career path is palpable. Don’t we all wish for that kind of certainty, especially when it comes to following our passion?

As a young woman, Dr. Burgess was faced with a monumental decision—to continue her career as a successful executive in the tech industry or to follow her heart’s desire for more personal, meaningful work. She chose the latter. Now she guides individuals to answer the life changing question: Am I on a career path that I’m truly passionate about? Here are three of her tips-- in her words-- for finding a path that is right for you:

Tap into the Wisdom of Your 5-Year Old Self

As children, it seemed as though we had all the time in the world. We didn’t have to study, work, or check email. We had time to play and do what we enjoyed. When you reconnect with your younger self, you can discover important clues about what you love.

“When I was a little girl,” recalls Dr. Burgess, “I would be so engrossed in what I was doing that I didn’t budge, even when my mom called me by all three of my names!”  She advises: “Set aside 10 minutes. Right now. This time is just for you. Sit quietly, and be still. Now, think back to those wonderful days of your childhood. When were you most happy? What were you doing? What did you love doing so much that you lost all track of time?”

“We actually discover our passions when we’re quite young,” says Dr. Burgess. “But on the way to adulthood, we tend to lose touch with them. Many of us lose our way.”

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If you can’t connect the dots between your career and what you loved doing as a child, it may be time to rethink your career path.

“So many people have their ladder against the wrong wall,” declares Dr. Burgess. “Not surprisingly. Think about it. You go to college, graduate, and land a great job. After a few years, your job isn’t as fulfilling as it once was. In truth, you’ve probably outgrown it. But instead of moving on, you stay put. After a few more years, you find yourself stuck. You might be very good at your job, but you’re miserable because it no longer provides meaning or brings you joy. In essence, you’ve fallen out of love. It’s time to make a change.”

“Staying put is a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Burgess warns. “People often think they’re tired or burned out because they work so hard. Wrong. They feel this way because they’re actually burning precious time and energy in a job that no longer fits or feeds them. They’re running on empty, because they’re giving from a well that’s gone dry.”

“Know this: People who love what they do don’t draw a line between work and play. It’s all about passion, purpose, and continuous personal growth.”

You, too, can enjoy this kind of life.

Identify and Value Your Strengths

As one of the first Black female executives in the tech industry, Dr. Burgess had to overcome obstacles that many of us don’t encounter today. But like a true trailblazer, Gloria made her mark early and became a leader in her field. “I absolutely loved my corporate career,” relates Dr. Burgess. “I had a fantastic job and really excelled in my work.”After 23 years in high tech, she left corporate America to launch her own business.

Why would she, or anyone, leave such a successful career?

“It’s very simple. I left success—for significance. I wanted my life to count for something beyond my job, beyond myself. I left a successful career because I was being called into a fuller and higher expression of myself. I left because I was out of alignment with who I was becoming. I had one foot in the world of developing systems and processes and the other foot in the world of developing people. Something had to give!”

“When I realized I was passionate about helping others find their passion and reach their full potential, I was excited, energized, and focused.”

“I was filled with joy. I then knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d found my passion and my purpose, which would allow me to fully share and express all of my gifts. I no longer wondered if I should go or stay. It was simply a matter of when.”

Do you value your strengths? Do your boss and teammates value and respect your strengths? Are you able to fully express your strengths in your current position? Or do you leave the office each day feeling like you have something more to offer? Dr. Burgess encourages us to ask these questions daily.

“It’s good career management,” she says. “And it’s a great strategy for personal growth. Both are necessary if you want to enjoy a life of passion and purpose.”

How might you move into a fuller expression of who you are? How might you move beyond mere success to a making your life count for someone or something beyond yourself?

Published in Lifestyle

July 30, 2012

You’re a businesswoman with a hectic schedule -- and we can relate.  Heck, we’re willing to bet you’re reading this very article on your phone or tablet right now as you take a quick lunch break or wait for your conference room to be available.

You’ve got things to do, and preferably, those things can get done while you’re in motion (ie: Not always at your desk).  Feel like there’s surely some apps, sites, or programs you may be missing out on that could make that busy life of yours more manageable?  Enter: Made Woman!  Let our list be your guide on the path to a more organized, less stressed lifestyle.

1. Prosper

Literally. You have a business idea, but do you have the capital?  Prosper aims to help your search.  A peer lending service which brings individual lenders and small business borrowers together, each loanee creates a profile, describes what the loan will be used for, and what interest rate they are able to pay.  Lenders, on the other hand, let it known how much they can offer, at what rates, and who they want to offer sums to.  Which means your loan can come from multiple lenders or a single person.  If you’re an entrepreneur looking for alternative financing, you may have just found your answer.

Learn More:

2. NetworthIQ

A handy site that will assist you in keeping track of both your company’s finances and personal net worth.  And are you known to have a competitive edge? Then you’ll love the fun feature that lets you compare your income to other entrepreneurs of your same age or in your same industry.  Success is relative, is it not?

Learn More:

3. Evernote

Chances are you’ve heard of this popular app by now. But do you really know how to maximize its features beyond simply jotting down reminders? (Not that those reminders aren’t extremely handy!) For instance, have you used the Skitch tool? Skitch lets you quickly sketch out an idea such things like arrows and notes to photos, maps, and screenshots.  Or what about EchoSign feature?  Electronically sign documents and keep them in your Evernot account. We especially like CallNote.  How many times per day do you find yourself on Skype calls?  CallNote will record your conversation for you and put the recording in Evernote.  You can even record group calls!

Learn More:

4. 37signals

Who doesn’t like team bonding over a “campfire?”  37signals has a range of tools for team collaboration and productivity.   Use Campfire for group chat, Basecamp for collaboration and project management, and Backpack for organization.  Campfire is by far the most useful, offering password-protected chat rooms to which you can invite clients, vendors, and employees.  Need a secure place to conduct negotiations? Campfire will give it to you.

Learn More:

We hope this list gives you a leg up to becoming a Made Woman.  Time to go out and conquer the world -- is it not?

Published in Entrepreneurship
Thursday, 31 May 2012 18:26

Dating Diary | Blind Date

June 4, 2012

“Hi Erika!It's Seth.” 

The subject line of an email should not be enough to throw a girl into a panicked frenzy, complete with wringing of hands, pulling of hair, and whimpers of despair. And yet, there we were.  Me and my inbox, caught in a classic tug-of-war battle: To open or not to open.

I knew this email would be coming.  My overly ambitious, Jewish mother had taken it upon herself to play (what else?) matchmaker after my first failed college relationship. I had known for the past few days this “Seth” would be reaching out to me.  A supposedly educated, strapping young Jewish gent, Seth was the grandson of close family friends who had seen a recent picture of me and just knew he would think I was the cutest.  Oy vey.  I felt just as bad for him as I did for myself; I had no doubt he was probably coerced into dropping me a line via an epic guilt-trip.

After a few deep breaths (and a few swigs from a bottle of sweet wine my roommates and I had hidden in our room against Sorority house policy, of course), I finally opened up what I surprisingly found to be a funny, flirtatious, and genuinely nice email.  “Wow, my mother actually scored with this one,” I thought. After a few easy emails back and forth, I put aside my aversion to blind dates and told Seth to pick me up Friday night. 

On Friday, I opened the door to Seth standing there, a beautiful bouquet of roses in hand. Crap.  He had no clue how allergic I was.  Okay, not his fault. “If anything it shows how respectful he is,” I thought to myself as I made an excuse about why they should go in the backseat and not my lap for the hour-long drive to Laguna. 

30 minutes in, it was no use.  No excuse could hide the fact that my nose was dripping buckets and my eyes were itching to the point that I didn't care if my makeup was going to get smeared in the process –I had to rub.  Once my sneezes reached 2-second intervals he politely (thank god) pulled into a gas station parking lot and told me to run to the bathroom while he got some medicine.  Still super sweet, right?  Right.  “This could turn into one of those hilarious stories that we tell our friends,” I thought happily (naively) as I blew my nose and freshened my lip-gloss in the mirror.  I didn't look so bad.  The night could continue as planned.

We arrive at our destination, Pageant of the Masters, mind you, and settle in our seats.  Butterflies are still afloat in my stomach when he whips out his camera.

“I must show you pics from my latest vacation!” he exclaims, and up pops a picture of him, a palm tree, an island cocktail, a beautiful Mexican Rivera sunset in the background...and his ex-girlfriend.  “Whatever,” I think, “it's only one picture.” 

Pic #2:  “That's us on the beach we played volleyball on every morning.  Doesn't she have great form?”

Wait, what did he just say? 

Pic #3:  “Here's us at this great little bar a block from our hotel.  Check out that amazing tan she has!” 

Boy must be tripping.  I have a great tan, too.  And guess what? Me and my fine, tanned self are sitting right next to him.

Pic #4:  “This was the night she got food poisoning.  It started with her sneezing, coughing, itching… just like you in the car tonight! How funny is that?  Yea, her sneezes were the cutest.”

Alright Mom, you owe me.  My mind starts drifting into daydream mode, fantasizing about the different types of gifts I’m due from her as pay back for this date.  Drift back to reality –he's STILL talking about his ex, and there's not even any pictures left to “justify” it!  When is this darn program going to start?

Lights dim.  Perfect! Here's to utter silence until it's over, and then a quick, no-traffic drive back home. 

Except it's not utter silence, because the man in front of us can't stop talking to his wife next to him.  Seth has a great solution for this.  He takes an extra cheesy chip out of the nachos we ordered and flicks it at the guy's neck. 

Oh. My. God.  This date just went from bad to worse in a heartbeat! As the man turns around, cheese dripping into his collar and ready to knock someone out, I grab my purse and run up the aisle and out of the auditorium.  Seth is right behind me, not alone, but with two security guards.  He looks at me not sheepishly, but with confidence, as if he expects a high-five.

“Take me home, please,” I say.  He shrugs his shoulders and off we go.  We arrive back at my sorority, where his parting words are to the tune of: “Sorry I acted out tonight.  I'm sure you didn't realize you were my first date since my breakup.” Awkward pause.  What does he want me to say? “Oh I had NO idea! You poor thing.” 

“Anyways,” he continues, “don't forget your flowers.”  I turn to look at the half-wilted cluster in his back seat.  I think of all the sneezes I still have left in me, and all the time I have to find the guy who thinks they're the cutest.  And I'm supposed to take these up to my room, now, alone, and have an allergic reaction all night because of some guy who has already declared another girl “World's Best Sneezer?” 

“We'll be in touch,” I say as I exit his vehicle, sans bouquet. 

We were never in touch.  But I did get dinner on my mom next time she visited... As well as a great blind-date horror story to tell friends at parties.  Sorry Seth.  

Published in Dating

May 21, 2012 

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess the last time you said “let's talk about sex, baby,” to someone else, with a smile on your face, it was because Salt -N-Pepa was blaring in the background and you were a few cocktails in with your girlfriends. There was probably a dance floor involved.

Not a very long limb, eh?  That's because for the majority of women (myself included), those are five words that--unless accompanied by the above circumstances--are closely related to the most awkward of conversations we can imagine having with a significant other.  And unfortunately, there are more uncomfortable phrases where that came from.  “What are we?” and anything with the word “money” can (and will, if you're anything like me) make you squirm right out of your mind just imagining the agonizing directions these conversations can go. 

Enter Made Woman.  We make no promises, but we strive to make you feel just a bit more secure as you conduct these conversations. Because, let's face it, unless you have “the talk,” there will surely be an expiration date on your relationship.

Sex… The Safe Kind

I've known many confident, beautiful women who crumble at the mere thought of this conversation for all the wrong, but very common, reasons:  They feel embarrassed or ashamed, a loss of empowerment, or they worry about the other person leaving them. 

What would happen if you entered the conversation with this mindset:  This is my body, and I'll be the one who has to live with it even if he decides to leave.  I am not my parents, or my grandparents, whose biggest risk to having unsafe sex was the possibility of pregnancy.  I can’t hide my head in the sand in the age of genital warts, cervical cancer (a happy byproduct of HPV), HIV and AIDS.  I have the power to protect myself against all of these, and he has the choice to work with me or hit the road. When all is said and done, if the conversation goes horribly wrong, it's in your power to eliminate the idiot who can’t see past a good time in bed. It’s not just about the act of sex, it’s about your health.  Your wellbeing is not something to be timid about.  

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So yes, be empowered! But for God's sake, don't go into the talk anticipating that World War III lays ahead.  And also, make sure you talk about this before any belts unbuckle -- bringing it up in the heat of the moment is bound to make it awkward and will definitely kill the mood.  Start it off as casually as you can, during a relaxed moment between the two of you.  Maybe tell him that you care about him, as well as both of you as a unit and that you want there to be a mutual understanding in your relationship.  Then let the rest flow, as naturally as you can.  You know your boundaries, what you're comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with.  Guess what? He may have been waiting for you to break the ice. Talk and listen with an open mind.

Who knows, you may find that talking about it actually turns you on, and once each person’s expectations are out in the open, you’ll be comfortable enough to finally have a good time. Safely. ;-)

Defining the Relationship

Let's start by not calling it the “Defining Our Relationship” talk in the first place.  I'm not even a guy and my chest got tight just typing those words out.  What about having a “Sell The Relationship” talk instead?  You've got something that he will only get should he choose to become exclusive with you, right? (If you don't, I'll get to you in a second).  What is it?  Is it sex (or having it more often)? Is it your promise to stop giving your number to other guys who come your way during a girl's night out?  Is it more sleepovers? Is it the opportunity to spend more quality time with wonderful you? These are all benefits to being with you.  Use these bargaining chips to your advantage.  Negotiate.  Present him with the benefits, instead of putting him on the defense. 

Okay, so what if you have already given up all your relationship goal before securing a title? Fine, it happens, we can lose our minds once in a while as we fall head over heels.  There can still be a positive outcome for you if you realize two things:  It will be harder, and you will need self-control.  Tell him you have a desire for you both to be exclusive to each other, you're falling hard, and you wish to enhance your connection by becoming singular.  a committed couple.  Tell him you'd be hurt if you knew he was doing the same things with other people that he is doing with you.  Remain calm as you tell him you understand if he's not on the same page, but you'll have to distance yourself from him should he not be.  If his answer is not the one you're looking for, hold true to your statement and back the hell away.  This is where the self-control comes in.  Have respect for yourself –no one wants to be, or look like a lost puppy.  Attractiveness goes hand in hand with confidence, and once he sees that you have the confidence to move on, the confidence to stick by your word and not call or text him... he might just remember it was that confidence that attracted him to you in the first place and come back around.  Should he not?  Like my mama always said: There's always, always more fish in the sea.  Never settle for less than what you're asking for.

What's Mine is... Mine.

I've read it's estimated that money leads to 90% of divorces. This number does not seem out of control to me.  Money means different things to different people:  power, love, security, control, etc.  What does it mean to you? What does it mean to him?  You need to find out before walking down the aisle, as I'm sure you don't want to be the couple who adds any more decimals to that percentage of divorcees.  As with the two subjects above, find a calm moment to broach the subject.  Don't be afraid to kick the conversation off yourself by offering your own opinions about a financial issue.  Maybe use an example of something you saw in the news, on TV, or in a friend's relationship and go on to say what you would have done in that same circumstance.

Then begin to share more personal experiences about money issues.  You might start with how you were raised to thinking about it, how your own family dealt with it, and how it's been dealt with in past relationships –and whether those memories are positive or negative for you.  Be honest with yourself –If you earn more than your partner, would you feel resentment if he skimmed some of your funds for himself? Do you feel more secure with two separate accounts should you get married, or would you prefer one shared? How do you feel about debt?  How do you feel about him taking care of you financially? (In this age of the independent woman, more and more have differing feelings on this issue).  In money discussions, a game-changing moment where you both realize you are not on the same page with an issue could arise.  Work to come to an agreement, but remember, just as in our “Selling The Relationship” talk –never, ever settle for something that makes you discontent. 

If you are married (please, please be married before doing this) and decide to merge your accounts into one, make sure you each retain a credit card that is detached from everything else.  Should divorce, death, or anything else unexpected and tragic occur, it will be extremely difficult for you to get a mortgage or loan without it.

Personally, my game-changer is credit card debt. I will never, every marry someone who has it (or who can't seem to pay it off before walking down the aisle), and I would never bring it into a marriage. No way around it.  It's something I was raised believing and it's something I continue to believe now as an independent woman.  What's your game-changer?  Whether it's an issue of sex, what a relationship means to you, or money, figure it out before the time comes to sit down and talk about it.  Don't let anyone take that away from you, and know that if you can’t reach an agreement with your man, there is someone else out there (we're not being corny, we're being honest here!) who will see eye-to-eye with you.

Published in Love + Dating