Like a Mother

When I shared on Facebook an excerpt of Suzanne Venker's new book, The Alpha Female's Guide to Men and Marriage: How Love Worksout this week, many people dismissed it entirely because it was on Foxnews.com, a network where Venker is a frequent contributor. Prepping for this interview, I asked my boyfriend if he thought I was an alpha, and if so, difficult to date. He recoiled at the notion that anyone could be boxed into any category (I'll take that as a 'yes' and a 'yes.').

All perfectly reasonable reactions, but let me tell you this:

Read the freaking book.

If the title alone irritates the crap out of you, it means it triggers something deep and important in you.

So read the book.

Since New York Times bestseller got a deal to write this book is only a testament to the fact that there are a lot of alpha women out there — women with difficult marriages, women searching for romantic love, women who worry their skyrocketing career and direct ways threaten her marriage — or the prospect of finding one.

Progressive brethren, I hear your objections. I get that women should not hold themselves back for the sake of their relationship. That men need to step up and accept strong women.

But what if you are just an intolerable, domineering bitch who needs to be called out?

What if you are just annoying?

What if you tried an experiment, and simply tried a new way of interacting with the men in your life? Just as a test, to see if it works?

I read the book, and I am here to tell you that Venker — a longtime married, Midwestern mom of two teenagers — has a refreshing new way to manage your relationship. Maybe you follow her recipe, step-by-step (I suggest you don't as there are some very flawed messages, read on). Or maybe you glean a few tips, a strategy or two to reinvent a relationship that isn't working so great, or to attract one that really, really will.

I can tell you that I am trying out some of this advice with my new man ("Have zero expectations." The root of all misery, after all), and some of the insights are golden when dealing with my ex ("A man’s reaction to being told what to do by his wife is to do the exact opposite," and "Stop arguing with him." Golden, ladies. Golden.).

Ultimately, this book recognizes feminine power, and encourages women to use it to better their relationships and family life by taking control of their own happiness and wellbeing - and stop trying to control men. It's about recognizing that you want a masculine man, and that men like feminine women, and ultimately, women want to feel feminine. This is truth:

 

Most women do want to feel safe in the arms of someone who is stronger than they are. They want their man to be the dominant partner in the relationship, and the only reason they don’t feel comfortable admitting it is because the culture won’t let them. The culture wants women in charge.

 

The Alpha Female's Guide to Men and Marriage isn't perfect. My beefs include:

  • Her only answer to the very real problem of breadwinning women being a challenge to heterosexual marriage is for women to hold themselves back professionally. Reject!
  • There is a difference between controlling your own behavior for the sake of changing your relationship dynamic and manipulating your significant other. She advocates for full-frontal manipulation in many cases.
  • There's hardly any sex in this book. The topic of alpha, breadwinning women is really about sex. The lone, final chapter on this book dedicated to having more and willing sex with your husband struck me as dated and not relevant to the unabashedly sexual women that I know. Plus, I just wanted more sex in this book.

Additional reading: The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today's Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling by Dr. Sonya Rhodes

Direct download: LAM20-20Suzanne20Venker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:13pm EST

After the presidential election, like so many of us Valerie Schull a single mom in Chicago, was angry. She got motivated. Shull is co-founder of a local resistance group that is fight against change in federal and local governments that do not support their progressive beliefs. Their mission statement:

We work to BLOCK harm to ourselves and others, BUILD for future progressive candidates who govern for the people and BE the change and good we want to see.

Valerie is a personal friend, and has become my political mentor for making that change that I, too, want to see. Every single day she takes action, and leads others in doing so. Here are the highlights from our interview:

How does a busy single mom find time to be an activist?  "It takes 30 seconds to make a phone call to your senator."

"You don't have to do it all." Attend someone else's party. Join someone's activist group. Take the action provided by a leader in your community.

What happens when you show up at your representative's office and demand action? "They're knocked back on their heels" without a stance on issues, Shull said. The fumbling politician is now in your hands. This is an opportunity to help them write policy that supports your beliefs. 

Every bit of activism makes a difference. If you're nervous about speaking on the phone or in public, leave a voice mail after hours. 

Phone busy? Call back. They do empty voice boxes. Try again.

Calls are powerful because staff have to man the phones, and have to deal with you immediately and pay attention now! 

Letters are effective, because legally they have to tally your responses and respond to constituencies in writing.

Do call even if you live in a blue state, your representative needs call tallies to back up their arguments.

Live in a blue bubble? "Don't assume where your representatives stand. When take for granted, asleep at the wheel again," Shull says. Then, reach out to friends and family who live in other states where red states and urge them to call, because only constituent calls matter. 

Contact Indivisible groups in other districts to support them at town hall meetings.

Even if you are in a red state where you worry your presence or calls do not count, show up! Find like-minded people and hold each other accountable. "If only 10 of you, that is 10 people showing up at Oren Hatch's door — and he's not used to "It does matter. It is cathartic. It is energizing."

Fun is key. Yelling at your representative is fun! 

political activism mom
Valerie and her daughter Emma at the Women's March in Chicago.

 

"My goal is keeping up this momentum so we don't all fall asleep again before we get through this shit-storm."

 

 

It's important she takes her daughter Emma, 8. "I want her to see what it looks like being an engaged and active citizen. I want her to have that sense of agency."

Resources:

Daily Action Text the word DAILY to 228466 (A-C-T-I-O-N), then enter your ZIP code to sign up. You will subsequently receive one text message every workday about an issue that we have determined to be urgent based on where you live.

Countable  Get concise summaries of bills going through Congress, see what others think, then take action with email and now video messages.

Wall of Us  Four actionable acts of resistence delivered to your email each week.

The Indivisible Guide Written by former Congressional staff breaks down in real-people talk exactly how politics work, using Tea Party's successful tactics, and how to apply them to the current administration.  

Find your local Indivisible group in your neighborhood.

Emily's Group  "We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office."

 

Related

Podcast: Liberal mother’s message to kids about the election

 

Direct download: resistance20activist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:20pm EST

Beth Kobliner is a celebrity in my nerd world: One of the first journalists covering personal finances for the masses for 30 years, Kobliner wrote the New York Times bestseller, Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties that changed the way that we think and deal with our finances. In 2014, she was appointed by President Obama to the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.

Fast forward to today, and Kobliner's Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You're Not)is out on Amazon and in your local bookstore.

In this interview, Beth Kobliner and I talk about:

  • Why 'why genius' is not a sales gimmick — master a few basic money habits and skills and you will beat out the vast majority of Americans. 
  • Why you should not tell your kids your salary.
  • Allowance? Doesn't matter! Studies show conflicting evidence as to whether this helps or hurts kids. Do what you want! 
  • Chores? YES! 
  • Top mistakes parents make when it comes to paying — and applying for — their kids' college. 
  • How Kobliner's parents thrifty ways shaped her financial future. 
  • Can you really teach a preschooler how to save and budget (spoiler alert: YES!). 
  • How to let your college grad move back home without promoting co-dependence or entitlement, and save the relationship with your kid! 
Direct download: LAM20-20Beth20Kobliner20Money20Genius.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:37am EST

While the numbers are not confirmed, experts agree that divorce rates among parents with special needs children is far higher than the general population. And since single moms of special needs kids have challenges and joys that other moms  — single or otherwise  — do not.

Kim Thompson, a single mom of two boys, ages 7 and 13, ages who lives in New York City, has struggled with her son's autism (and other diagnosis's) first as a married mother, and now as a single, divorced mom. Because of her younger son's special needs, she has put her career on hold and cares for him fulltime at home. In this touching episode, Kim and I discuss:

  • The #1 challenge single moms of special needs children face. 
  • What dating is like as a mother of a disabled child. "I want to feel like the amazing woman I am again!" Kim told me. 
  • How to be a supportive friend of a mom struggling with a special needs kid. 
  • What it feels like when friends fade away because of your family.
  • Why, 'Just hire child care' is the wrong thing to say.
  • The thing that makes a single mom of  special needs kid feel most cared for.
  • YOU think you don't get a break?!
  • The financial realities of the situation — including insurance. 
  • How her son's disability contributed to her divorce. 
  • Kim's top advice for single moms with special needs children. 
  • How much Kim loves and DELIGHTS in her special needs kid. 

 

Direct download: LAM20Single20Mom20Special20Needs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30pm EST

Sallie Krawcheck is often cited as one of the most influential women on Wall Street. The former

president of Global Wealth & Investment Management at Bank of America, and CEO of Citigroup's Smith Barney unit, Krawcheck today is the co-founder of the female networking coalition Ellevate Network, and CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a digital financial advisor for women. She's also a wife, mom and philanthropist.

On this episode of Like a Mother, Sally and I chat about her career, advice for women navigating career, money, relationships and motherhood, all of it dished about in detail in her new book, Own It: The Power of Women at Work. The gorgeous message of this book: THIS IS A MOMENT FOR WOMEN! Your unique qualities are scientifically proven to be an asset in the workforce, and businesses large and small KNOW IT. Further, the realities of technology mean that you have untold freedom to create a business, life and career of your own making.

In other words: No more excuses. Your gender is no longer a reason to to kick ass.

In this interview Sallie Krawcheck shares:

  • Why women relinquish their financial control in their romantic relationships — and how her own first, passionate marriage went down in flames, and this up-and-coming Wall Street star had no idea about her own finances.
  • The real reason why you should negotiate for a higher salary and bonus every single time, and the realities about how salaries work — and why women get it so freaking wrong.
  • Is it sexist to go out of your way to support other women in the workforce? 
  • How women are just as guilty as men in presuming that successful women are ugly, masculine and bitches (check yourself!). 
  • Step-by-step how-to network to get yourself that job, promotion and life that you want. 
  • Feedback loop - Do you realize men are constantly benefiting from feedback about their performances at work, while men are afraid to do the same to female employees for fear they'll cry? How to change this dynamic, ASAP (no crying!).

 

Direct download: Sallie20Krawcheck_20Gender20is20no20longer20an20excuse20to20kick20butt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:25am EST

This is an important episode. Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, an activist organization responsible for introducing legislation in 20 states, that makes equal, shared parenting the presumption in family court. This is a critical issue for children, who suffer from absentee fathers in alarming figures, as well as men, who are automatically reduced to paychecks and an afterthought in family life. Shared parenting is critical for women, too, as involved co-parents, both inside and outside of marriage, mean women have far more support at home, which allows us to thrive as parents, as well as professionals and earners. After all, we can't be equals at work, if men are not equals at home.

In this episode, Terry Brennan shares:

  • There are 43 academics papers support shared parenting for children of divorced or separated parents.
  • In cases where 'standard' visitation is awarded — every-other-weekend — fathers become depressed and non-involved, and within 3 years, one study found, 40 percent of children in an unequal visitation arrangement had lost complete touch with their non-custodial parents, which are nearly always the father.
  • Research finds that a minimum of 35 percent of kids' time with both parent is required to bond with a parent. Anything less robs children an opportunity to truly bond with the parent.
  • Lack of shared parenting linked to every major social pathology in the United States.
  • Extended families of both parents have the right to be part of children's lives.
  • Of course abuse and neglect cases are the exception.
  • The shared parenting movement has become mainstream, supported by as many women as men, with 20 shared parenting bills around the country, with passed laws in Utah, Missouri, Wyoming and Arizona.
  • "Fathers who get involved from the get-go are far more involved, while those who are marginalized become distant parents and are marginalized further."
  • If courts stop asking parents to argue for their children, and start assuming that they are both competent people, parents form a more amicable and collaborative co-parenting relationship, which results in more involved fathers and happier children.
  • In Australia, after the implementation of shared parenting laws nationally, 73 percent fewer parents went to lawyers to resolve co-parenting issues, and just as many parents sought out counseling to resolve issues.

 

 

Direct download: LAM20Terry20Brennan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:06am EST

Admit it: You hate running your kids around. And chauffeuring children to and from after-school activities, play dates and, you're a separated family, to their dad's house, is one of the dregs of parenthood. It is for me. And finding a safe driver, with their own wheels, available for the inconsistent chore of schlepping kids to and fro is a chore in and of itself.

Enter HopSkipDrive, the Uber for kids. Founded in 2013 by three moms of little kids, the California startup is coming to a city near you. To thank for this gift is co-founder and CEO Joanna McFarland, herself a Los Angeles married mom of two sons, whom I interview in this fun interview. Joanna and I discuss:

  • How the three founders birthed HopSkipDrive.
  • Why so many customers are divorced families (drivers serve as intermediary between the homes of contentious parents.
  • Why the service is such a great job for moms.
  • The mom guilt that pressures women to assume the onerous task of kid-schlepping. 
  • How outsourcing this (and other mom duties) enhances earning potential and quality of family time.
  • Why this may be one of the only jobs that enthusiastically accepts 'motherhood' as work experience.
  • The joys and challenges of entrepreneurship as a mom of young children.
  • How McFarland balances her demanding career with family and marriage. 
  • No, says McFarland, a former investment banker, HopSkipDrive is not a competitor of Uber or Lyft.

 

Direct download: LAM20Joanna20McFarland20HopSkipDrive.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am EST

Only about 3 percent of people who pay alimony are women, but those women are usually really, really angry about it. Typically, the women are angry about his low- or no-earning during the marriage, disgusted with his spending habits, and aghast she must now support him after the marriage is over.  In this episode, I offer my top advice for dealing with the reality of paying your ex each month. Tips include:

  • Prioritize coming to peace with the situation.
  • Stop talking about it.
  • Minimize interaction, and find ways to pay him in a lump sum, automatically, or a few times annually.
  • Accept that this is the price you had to pay to get out of a bad relationship.
  • Ask your ex to fund the kids’ college savings plans.
  • If you truly cannot afford your current lifestyle while making these payments, downgrade your lifestyle.
  • Remember that alimony and child support were huge, wonderful feminist coups.
  • Focus on how your kids benefit from this payment — and how you benefit by default.
  • Peel away the layers of the resentment, which are rooted in what happened during the relationship.
  • To be part of the solution for other families, find the advocates for alimony reform in your state, and get involved.
  • If you truly believe you are paying too much, weigh carefully the costs of revisiting the issue legally, and do your best to approach this as a practical process, and not an emotional one.
  • Never tie time with your children to payments. In some states, child support payments are calculated based on how much time the kids spend with one or the other payment.
  • Hard as it, do not threatened to stop paying your ex.
  • Refocus your rage into fuel for earning more. In most states, child support and alimony payments are capped.
  • Remember: Everything is temporary.

What do you think? Do you pay alimony to your ex?? How do you feel about it? What did you do to contend with it? Share your advice to other women in the comments....

Direct download: LAM20When20Women20Pay20Alimony.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11pm EST

Jean Chatzky is a personal financial journalist, bestselling author of eight books and financial editor for NBC's Today Show. Here we talk about"

  • Focus on earning vs. skimping - especially for women. "Your financial life doesn't work how much you save, if you're not bringing in money."
  • "I enjoy earning money, it makes me feel safe, confident and independent."
  • Why she wished her latest book was entitled "Don't Bitch, Get Rich."
  • Her new book, Age Proof about living until 100 without going broke.
  • The incredible toxic power of financial stress, your physical, emotional health.
  • Why you don't have to be wealthy, but a regular, consistent saver to build a healthy lifestyle and secure future.
  • Women really have much higher stakes when it comes to money: we earn less, live longer, are more likely to be responsible for raising children and caring for older relatives.
  • It doesn't need to take a ton of time to manage your finances in a powerful way.
  • The prevalence of women choosing to not be involved in family finances, having no idea about where the money is, what accounts are open, which are in their name, their spouse's income.
  • The big fallout of not being financially astute for married women. "You need to be able to go out and buy a cup of coffee or shoes without asking permission. That is the way adult people function in the world."
  • Jean's top 3 tips for financial independence.

 

Check out Jean Chatzky's podcast Her Money here. 

Jean's blog here. 

Or her books on Amazon here. 

 

 

 

Direct download: LAM20Jean20Chatzky.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:02am EST

Health insurance is no joke. By law, you are required to carry it. This seems scary, especially since premiums are so expensive, and only going higher. But health insurance is an incredible asset that everyone should have, even if mandates require you buy health insurance on the marketplace. 

If Obamacare is really repealed in the next few months, what happens next?

No real changes can happen for at least one year, if not until 2018, and 2017 prices and plans are locked. The health insurance code is thousands of pages that slow down any potential changes.

What are the most important benefits I should look for when selecting a health insurance plan this year?

This depends on what is most important to you: Affordable monthly premiums, maintaining your current doctors or the total deductibles, including co-pays for office visits and prescriptions. PolicyGenius helps navigate these priorities over available policies.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get everything you want out of this purchase upfront, so face that fact head on then put your research fingers to work. You’ll find big savings opportunities by tailoring your policy decision this year to your plan usage last year and any special health considerations you have in mind for this year. For example, if you have a surgery coming up this year or you're planning to grow your family, dig into plans before you purchase to verify location of network doctors and specialists you’ll need and any additional costs that may come with these visits.

The Bronze plan is so expensive, and has such poor coverage. Why can't I just skip insurance all together?

It is the law that you maintain coverage, and you will be fined if you do not purchase it.

As Jennifer Fitzgerald points out, the benefits to health insurance are huge, and the most an individual must pay out of pocket (in addition to premiums), is $6,500 for an individual, or $13,000 for a family — no matter how expensive your medical bills in the event of an accident or major illness. Fitzgerald shares about a 29-year-old client who had $1 million in medical debt from a motorcycle accident because he didn’t have health insurance. People: Buy health insurance.

I'm going to the health insurance marketplace for the first time, and am completely overwhelmed. Where do I start?!

PolicyGenius is the largest marketplace for health insurance, including information about subsidies, which can reduce premiums to $75 per month for qualifying consumers.

First, check to see if you qualify for a tax subsidy.

In all states, you can qualify for a health insurance subsidy if your household income is up to 400 percent of the poverty level. For plans purchased during the 2017 open enrollment period, that upper subsidy threshold is $97,200 per year year for a family of four. Last year, 2 million consumers who qualified for an Obamacare subsidy did not apply. Free money, people! Take it! Check here to learn if you are qualified for an Affordable Care Act health insurance subsidy.

Then, decide which is most important to you: out-of-pocket monthly premiums, the ability to stay with your current provider, or total deductions. Do your research to understand and tailor your plan to your needs.

Americans typically spend 5% of their annual salary on health insurance per year so it’s worth the extra time to get this right. Jennifer’s company PolicyGenius developed their health insurance app with the end customer in mind, so education and advice are built into the process. It’s a great example of how a self-guided process can actually help you save time and money while giving you the tools you need to find the ideal plan for your individual needs.   

I'd love to start my own business, and build on my side gig, but I’m afraid that health insurance on the marketplace will break me. I currently get great coverage for my family from my corporate employer.

This is all about your own risk tolerance, but first do your research: Go to the marketplace and research your options. This year may be your last year to take advantage of the ACA subsidies that will help you bring healthcare costs down (

(especially since your first years of entrepreneurship may come with lower income). Then, ask your tax preparer if you can take your health insurance premiums as a deduction.

Most importantly, know how you’re going to use your plan before making the purchase. If you buy a low-cost high-deductible plan as many do in an effort to save cash upfront, and you could easily end up paying more than double your plan’s initial costs. Be diligent in your research and decision making process.

Consider the financial upside of owning your own enterprise, and health insurance is just one part of a very large equation of business ownership.

What kind of help is there for low-income families?

The Affordable Care Act comes with several options to help families pay for health insurance:

  • Health insurance subsidies, which extend to households earning up to 400 percent the poverty level. See if you qualify here.
  • Cost Sharing Reduction, for those earning 100 percent 250 percent the poverty level, these plans have reduced premiums, co-pays and deductions. See if you qualify here.
  • Medicaid is free health insurance, and most states expanded their qualifications to 138 percent federal poverty line. See if you qualify for Medicaid here.

What about separated families? I have four kids, my ex-husband and I each claim two on our tax returns. As-is, neither of us qualify for a subsidy, and we each have to buy a health insurance family plan on the marketplace. Help!

There is no easy answer here. Take time to try different scenarios with this health insurance subsidy calculator. For example, see if it would make sense for the lower-income parent to cover all four, or three of the kids, compared with the tax benefits of doing the same. Or take turns claiming the kids on your returns and paying for health insurance, then switching the following year. A tax professional can help you do these calculations.

What open enrollment deadlines should I be on the lookout for?

To qualify for a plan that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017, the deadline to lock in a plan is Dec. 15, 2016.


To qualify for a plan that goes into effect Feb. 1, 2017, the deadline to lock in a plan is Jan. 15, 2017.

The final deadline for 2017 coverage is Jan. 31, 2017, for which coverage goes into effect March 1, 2017.

Exceptions to these dates include qualifying events, including:

  • Losing existing health coverage, including job-based, individual, and student plans
  • Losing eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP
  • Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent’s plan
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby or adopting a child
  • Death in the family that changes your eligibility
  • Moving to a different ZIP code or county
  • Changes in your income that affect the coverage you qualify for
  • Gaining membership in a federally recognized tribe or status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen
  • Leaving incarceration (jail or prison)
  • AmeriCorps members starting or ending their service

This post about HEALTH INSURANCE is brought to you by PolicyGenius, the world's top marketplace for life, health, disability, pet and renter's insurance. This Like a Mother episode features PolicyGenius CEO and co-founder Jennifer Fitzgerald, who will answer all your questions about this ever-challenging benefit. PolicyGenius is dedicated to empowering consumers with the insurance information and comparison tools they need to feel good about the insurance they purchase. To learn more, and find the right health insurance policy for your family, head to PolicyGenius.com/health-insurance.

Direct download: LAM20-20Buy20Health20Insurance20on20Marketplace.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55am EST