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By Joy Liu

A lot of my clients start the financial training process with thinking that their money troubles are solely based on their lack of self-control and sticking to their budget. While we can all do a better job at managing our spending habits, there may be other macro problems that are preventing us from getting ahead, financially.

Here are five things that could be holding you back, mama, and how to fix them.

1. Goals aren't well-defined

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the hamster wheel of life, we forget to ask ourselves what all of this hard work is even for. When you're so busy reacting to the needs and demands of others, then of course, it would be hard to refuse the extra glass of wine at dinner, click "purchase" on Amazon, and order take out for dinner.

You're much more likely to change your day-to-day habits when you have a specific goal that represents something you truly want for yourself.

Below are some examples of goals that I hear from clients. Guess who is reaching their goals faster? The ones with goals they feel obligated to have? Or the ones that match their personal values and desires?

Non-specific financial goals:

  • Be a real adult
  • Save more money
  • Pay off credit card debt
  • Pay off student loans
  • Max out retirement

Motivating financial goals:

  • Save a $10,000 emergency fund so you have the freedom to leave a job you hate
  • Save $1,000 a month into your "Move Out Fund" so you can leave your parent's house and know you can afford to pay rent on your own
  • Save $5,000 so you can take 6 months off of work to hike the Appalachian Trail

2. You aren't making enough money

There are only so many ways you can reduce your expenses and cost cut. Sometimes, people are in debt simply because they do not earn enough to maintain their quality of life. So, how do you figure out what you have to earn to get financially fit and live your best life?


Expenses + Debt Payments/Savings Goals = Total Net Income

Total Net Income Need / .65 = Total Gross Income

Total Gross Income x 12 = Target Annual Salary


$2,500 + $750 = $3,250

$3,250 / .65 = $5,000

$5,000 x 12 = $60,000 - This person would need to earn $60,000 a year to maintain their lifestyle

Doing the math and figuring out exactly what you need to make will make it tremendously easier to ask for the raise, apply for the new higher paying job, or charge a higher freelancer rate.

3. Contributing too much to your 401(k)

The most generic financial advice out there from "financial experts" and older generations is to max out your retirement contributions. The problem with that advice is that is assumes that everyone has achieved the basic financial stepping blocks of having an emergency fund and staying out of high interest debt.

In reality, only 39% of Americans have enough saved to cover a $1,000 emergency and the average American has a credit card balance of $6,375. As a result, one-third of Americans have had to borrow against their 401(k)s to retroactively address those other issues.

Too often, I've seen many type-A clients who are contributing 10% of their gross income to their 401(k), but don't know why they are having a hard time staying out of credit card debt.

Because you can generally count on your investments to earn 6%-8% over time, it doesn't make sense to invest in retirement if you have credit card debt that is 15%-25% in interest.

4. Forgetting to financially prepare for a growing family

Whether you decide on adding either a pet or a baby to the family, there will be more financial implications than we might think in the moment. I've had many clients start the process with me with credit card debt that stemmed from unplanned vet bills, kids' friends' birthday gifts, summer camp, etc.

On average, you can count on a pet costing you between $200-$300 a month depending on the level of care the dog needs. Yes, some months, you are only buying a $25 bag of food, but then other times, you are having to pay to board the dog or an expensive vet bill. Cats may be less expensive, depending on their health.

If you want to be proactive in preparing for this future expense, I recommend having a separate pet savings account and contributing $200-$300 every month. This will allow you to practice this expense, make room for it in your budget and lifestyle, as well as save for a lump sum of money for any upfront expenses like adoption fees and supplies.

For babies, you can count on them adding at least $1,000 a month to your family expenses. When they are young, it is for medical costs, diapers, clothes and childcare. When they get older, it is for school lunch, extracurriculars, dentist visits, friend's birthdays, cars, and college savings.

I recommend clients prepare for having a baby in the same way as pets. Start a baby savings account and work on saving $1,000 a month so by the time baby comes, they will have already parted with that expense in their budgets.

5. Feeling emotionally drained by debt

When you're in debt, it is a natural tendency to want to do everything you can to pay it off as fast as possible. This is the way to true financial freedom, right? Not exactly.

Spending all of your time and energy throwing any extra money at debt is draining. This method doesn't develop sustainable habits or systems to prevent you from getting back into debt again because it doesn't force you to form a more positive relationship with money. It constantly reinforces the script that you are bad with money and each payment to the credit card is a punishment for the poor financial choices you have made in the past.

Just like extreme fad diets cause a yo-yo effect on your weight, aggressively paying off debt without saving any cash can also cause you to burnout and go right back into your old spending habits again.

Instead, I encourage clients to stop wasting energy on beating themselves up over having debt. A more productive and positive way of approaching it is to work on saving an emergency fund to prevent yourself from going back into debt in the event of an emergency and devise an intentional plan around sustainably paying off the debt over time.

Psychologically, people feel better and more powerful with an increasing bank balance than over a shrinking debt balance, and both have the same positive effect on your overall net worth.

Originally posted on Financial Gym.

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Caring for young children can be challenging enough on a perfectly normal day, but during an emergency those challenges are magnified. Natural disasters and emergencies—such as earthquakes, storms, fires, power outages, flooding or outbreaks that affect a wide community—obviously present a major operational challenge for childcare programs.

That's why childcare providers need to have preparedness plans for emergencies and natural disasters that are likely to occur in their communities. Be sure to discuss emergency planning with your day care, childcare program or after-school care provider.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask to make sure that your child's day care or childcare is ready for emergencies.

1. Does the parent handbook cover emergency planning? Is it up to date?

The parent handbook should serve as a guide for everything that takes place in a childcare program, from drop-off protocols to nap schedules, and it should also include information about the program's emergency plans, response, and recovery. As situations change or arise, the parent handbook should be updated accordingly.


2. What is your communication plan for emergencies or disasters?

While 90% of childcare providers have written emergency response plans, only 70% have plans to communicate with family members during an emergency. Your provider should outline its plan of communication in its parent handbook.

3. Do you perform drills for disasters that are likely to occur in our area?

Ask whether your day care or childcare program has practiced its emergency response plans in a calm, safe environment—in other words, before it's necessary.

4. What is your evacuation plan?

In the rare event that an evacuation is necessary, it's important for providers to include up-to-date evacuation drills and protocols in the parent handbook. Caregivers, staff, parents and children should all know the designated meet-up point during a community evacuation.

5. Do you have a safe, designated evacuation spot in the event of a community evacuation?

Once staff and children calmly evacuate the building, there needs to be a safe shelter-in-place spot nearby. This location should be kid-friendly and have plenty of food, water and ways to keep young children occupied. The location should also be able to accommodate children with special needs and those with medical requirements.

6. What is your shelter-in-place plan?

During an emergency where parents are unable to access roads or public transportation, childcare programs need to have a shelter-in-place plan. Whether children stay at the facility or evacuate to a safe spot nearby, providers need to keep at least 72 hours worth of food, water, and medical supplies up to date. The program should also have parents write notes in advance letting children know that everything is okay.

7. Do you have post-disaster plans?

According to FEMA, more than 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. If childcare programs close, parents cannot return to work and recovery cannot begin. Also, young children need a safe, secure, and familiar place to return to after a disaster.

8. How do you discuss emergencies in an age-appropriate manner with children?

A great way for care providers to introduce the concept of emergency plans to children is to have them help create emergency kits. This way children become familiar with emergency response items. Teachers should also let parents know how they plan to talk to children about emergencies in advance.

9. What are your policies for closing?

Childcare providers must give advance warning to parents about closures if there is an impending weather emergency. If roadways near the childcare program are typically out of use during an emergency, both parents and staff need to map out secondary pick-up plans in advance.

10. Are you in touch with local preparedness organizations?

Local emergency organizations can provide advice and tips to prepare for an emergency or natural disaster. Parents, care providers and community organizations should meet regularly and have the most recent copies of the parent handbook.

According to FEMA, in 2019 alone, there were 59 declared disasters in the U.S. These emergencies include earthquakes, tropical storms, fires, floods, severe storms, tornadoes, landslides, mudslides, extreme wind, and snowstorms. But basic advance preparation can go a long way toward helping parents and caregivers feel ready for emergencies and disasters, and can ensure that families and care providers stay safe.

A version of this post was originally published at the Institute for Childhood Preparedness

Learn + Play

The transition to motherhood is tough, and you deserve a little love! Join us March 28th for Motherly's Becoming Mama event in NYC for a day filled with conversations and connections that will leave you feeling inspired. Get advice from expert panels, indulge in a little pampering, and meet other local mamas IRL for a day of empowerment and support.

Register now for early-bird pricing, and access to limited VIP tickets with exclusive gift bags.

Here's what you can expect:

  • A mindful mama meditation to start your day.
  • Interactive panels and workshops focused on the hottest topics for new moms and moms-to-be. Check them out below!
  • A healthy lunch + delicious snacks
  • Pregnancy + postpartum pampering
  • Personalized gifts for you + your baby
  • The chance to test the hottest baby gear on the market
  • A swag bag filled with surprises
  • Amazing giveaways from our brand partners

Sat, March 28, 2020
10 am-2:30 pm
849 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001


Here's what we'll be talking about on our panels:

Navigating the Fourth Trimester: Self-Care for Mom
While having a baby is a joyous occasion it often involves mom putting her own health on hold and speeding into overdrive to care for baby. Here postpartum experts will discuss the importance of postpartum mental wellness, and the importance of asking for help and finding support.


The Motherhood Advantage sponsored by Medela
Motherhood brings so many advantages to the workplace, and yet, it's still a topic often talked about in hushed voices. We'll invite Medela to sponsor this very important panel that will evolve this working mom conversation. Together we can work to erase the Motherhood Penalty, support moms with the proper tools and lift each other up in the workplace.

Parenting in Partnership: Learning to Share the Load
There's never been a more equitable time to be a parent, and yet so many mothers still feel like they're carrying more than their fair share. Let's talk about how to create a parenting team from the start, with tips, tricks and expert advice on leveling the playing field between parenting partners.

*While many of Motherly's events are family focused, there will not be specific activities or play spaces for babies or kids. This event is more mom-focused. Babies under 1 are welcome at this event, but a baby carrier is suggested. Please use your discretion.

Thank you to our sponsors buybuy Baby and Medela.


When I think about Meghan Markle, her effortless style is usually one of the the first things that comes to mind. Whether she's traveling, taking her dogs for a walk, or attending a royal event, her outfits always look timeless and put together. Yet somehow she still manages to wear outfits that feel way more accessible (even when she is donning a gorgeous—but expensive—coat we've had in our cart for much longer than we care to admit).

While I can't quite afford a personal stylist yet or drop a few thousand on a bag, I did do a little digging and found that a few of her wardrobe staples are items that I can add to my closet, with a little investment. And, if you're not in the market to invest this much, don't worry—I found dupes that will do the trick!

Here are our favorite products to achieve Meghan Markle's classic mom style:

Meghan's pick: Rothy's flats

rothys flat

Confession: I own a lot of shoes. But I wear my Rothy's at least once a week and they're the first shoe I toss into my luggage when I'm traveling because they're so comfortable and can be machine-washed. The Point is my (and apparently Meghan Markle's) favorite style because it elongates the legs and goes with literally anything you wear. I love that they're made from recycled plastic water bottles, too. And, they just launched the Mary Jane—it has a bow!—if you prefer a more dainty look with a fun twist.


Our dupe: ASOS ballet flats

asos black pointed toe

This pointed pair will give a similar elongated look at just $23. They come in half sizes and if you're unsure which size is best, ASOS offers a sizing recommendation. The material isn't machine-washable (like our prized Rothy's) but you can wipe these clean with a damp cloth to keep them looking like new.


Meghan's pick: Wool wrap jacket

meghan markle wool coat

There's just something so elegant about this coat. Maybe it's the wrap waist that flatters any body type. Or, it's the way the collared neck drapes (seriously it'll even make wearing pajamas look chic). It's become one of the most recognized pieces from Meghan's wardrobe and we are obsessed.


Our dupe: Tahari wool blend coat

tahari wool blend cape coat

Looking for something more affordable? This coat is marked down to $83 from $360 at Nordstrom Rack. While we haven't personally tried it, at 77% off, we can bet the quality is pretty up to par with a higher-end jacket. Plus, we're obsessed with the pale blue and port wine colorways. The removable waist tie belt and shoulder cape overlay will have you feeling like Meghan Markle in just about anything.

Bonus: We love this Amazon dupe that's just under $80.


Meghan's pick: Longchamp bag

longchamp bag

On the quest for a bag that holds just about everything you need (without having to be a diaper bag)? Say hello to the Longchamp 'Le Pliage' tote. It's water-resistant, has durable leather straps and folds up into a square for each storage or packing. I've had mine for more than five years and it's still going strong—and it's schlepped a lot of heavy things over the years. Plus, it just looks nice with everything!


Our dupe: Amazon shoulder bag

longchamp knock off bag

This dupe on Amazon has 59 great reviews and the large size is under $30! With three sizes, you can pick whatever best fits your style. Each bag comes with a zippered main compartment and interior pockets and yes, it even folds up just like the real thing.


Meghan's pick: Birdies slippers

birdies slippers

Are they house slippers or the most comfortable flats you've owned? Spoiler alert: They're both. Meghan has been spotted wearing The Heron style (I've been spotted wearing the slides around my apartment all day) many times and we think the velvet detail dresses up just about anything, even leggings. The no-slip rubber sole and 7-layer support means you can run around in these all day long without missing a beat.


Our dupe: Chase & Chloe pointy loafer

pointy toe loafer

While you won't experience the cloud-like softness of Birdies, you can achieve a similar look with this pair from Nordstrom Rack for under $20. Both black and tan pairs come with a padded footbed, grip sole and a flexible construction (so hopefully no blisters even from day one).


Meghan's pick: Madewell denim jacket

madewell denim jacket

I didn't own a denim jacket until last year and since then, I've worn it in just about every season. Over summer dresses, paired with a T-shirt, over a blouse, you name it. It add just enough extra warmth without having to put on something bulky and is machine-washable. For an extra-cool and Meghan Markle factor, roughly roll up the sleeves twice.


Our dupe: Old Navy denim jacket

old navy denim jacket

Grab this $30 distressed denim look at Old Navy. I'm not sure how they do it, but their denim jackets are *so* soft. This one is slightly fitted so size up if you're looking for a more oversized look. Just like the Madewell one, this hits right below the waist, making it great to pair with pants or dresses.


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