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How To Beat The Winter Blues

vacationNo matter where you live, it helps to have a strategy to slog through these cold months. I retreat to the kitchen where I lean heavily on comfort foods. (Recently I made Coq Au Riesling from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.) In last week’s newsletter I asked for your survival tips. Thanks to everyone who emailed and tweeted me back. Here are some of my favorites:  (more…)

Share Awesome Contest

Awesomeness is all around us. At least that’s how it appeared during a recent #ShareAwesome Twitter party. For an hour, 140 character stories of kindness to the homeless, to people in hospitals and neighbors in need, to kids left out on the fringe pored into the twitterverse – some accompanied by pictures, one more heartening than the next. Judging by the speed at which she was retweeted @caraleeball said it best when she tweeted, “so hate to see this party end…love talking about kindness and caring #shareawesome.”

What’s the fuss all about?  Believe it or not, digital safety. That and the fact that kids and teens do awesome things on a daily basis – and that they should be able to tell their friends, BFFs and the rest of their social networks in a safe way that parents approve of.  (more…)

New Beginnings Part Two

suburbFor Part One, head here.

Times of transition – think: getting married, having a baby, moving into a new home, even getting divorced – are noted for being exciting and daunting, energizing and exhausting. They can make us stressed-out and blissed-out simultaneously. But did you know they also change (and sometimes increase) your risk of falling prey to identity fraud?

Truth be told, neither did I. But some surprising new research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of LifeLock shows that’s exactly what happens. By understanding how these life shifts impact your vulnerability, you also give yourself the opportunity to mount a good offense during these transitional times. Here, the highlights of the research and what you should do next.


Morning Joe

I had a great time (and a good laugh) on Morning Joe today. The conversation was on my recent Fortune column: Why couples don’t talk finance.

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Money Sense on Fortune and Survey Results

Senior adults with their adult children.Last week, I asked my newsletter subscribers and some of my Twitter and Facebook fans to take a survey about how they feel when discussing money — if they talk about money at all, that is. In this week’s FORTUNE column, I go over my survey findings and discuss how couples can break down the barriers that prevent us from having regular talks about our money.

You can head over to to view the column, but below are some additional results from Talking Money in Your Social Circle: A Do, or a Taboo?

Want in on the fun next time? Subscribe to my newsletter here.


Q: Please rank the following conversation topics (sex, money, politics, religion and health) on the level of discomfort you experience, lowest to highest (1-5), when discussing them in your social circles.

A: Out of the above, you’re more likely to break a sweat when the conversation turns to what happens behind the bedroom doors. Over the weekend, politics replaced money for second place.

Q: Now, tell us how you feel discussing money with each of the following groups.

A: When discussing money in specific social circles, you’re more uncomfortable having the conversation with your colleagues and siblings than you are with your friends, parents and partners.

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 8.45.26 AM

Q: In general, how often do you avoid having conversations about money?

A: Roughly 38% of you answered “sometimes,” while 33% answered “rarely.”

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Q: Why are you less likely to talk about money in your social groups? Check all that apply.

A: With colleagues, it’s privacy and competition. With family, you said it either turns into a conflict — or conversely, it’s not a problem at all. And with friends, it’s both privacy and jealousy.

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 9.00.49 AM

Q: Which of the following money-related topics do you avoid discussing at all costs? Check all that apply.

A: Total assets and income top the list.

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Today’s Money: Helping Aging Parents Manage Their Finances

When it comes to aging parents and money management, 70% families find it difficult to handle. How do you know when your parents need help with their money? It’s a tough question, and an even tougher conversation to have. This morning on Today, I offered my tips on how to get the ball rolling, while keeping emotions at bay. To see what I had to say, check out the clip below:

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Today’s Money: Are You Being Financially Bullied by a Loved One?

This morning on TODAY, relationship therapist Argie Allen and I spoke with Willie Geist and Natalie Morales on what financial bullying is, and how to stop it in your relationships. For more information, check out the clip below:

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The Supreme Court Is Deciding On DOMA. How Can LGBT Couples Prepare?

It is widely expected that this month, the Supreme Court will release a decision regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It is a decision highly anticipated not just among constitutional scholars, but among the entire LGBT community and supporters of same-sex marriage across the country.

DOMA defines marriage (at the federal level) as a union between a man and a woman; as such, it excludes same-sex spouses from tax, healthcare and estate planning benefits that are given to heterosexual spouses.

iStock_courthouse and lgbt flag“Every aspect of a person’s financial life, legal life, and their rights their benefits — DOMA pervades all of that. It’s everything that’s recognized and not recognized at the federal level,” explained Lisa Siegel, a senior wealth planner for Wells Fargo’s Private Bank. Siegel is also an attorney and has helped many LGBT clients navigate this tricky legal and financial terrain.

Siegel says there is not much a same-sex couple can do in advance of the Supreme Court ruling, but there are many things to start considering and documents to start gathering in case DOMA is repealed. Here are some of the areas that require particular attention:

Tax planning. Siegel had advised her own clients to file an extension for their 2012 taxes, in the event DOMA is upended and a same-sex couple can select “married filing jointly” on their federal tax return. For same-sex spouses who didn’t file an extension, she says it’s easy to go back and file an amendment (the IRS has an FAQ and the amendment form here), and the IRS accepts amendments for the past three years. However, depending on the salaries of the spouses in question, Siegel says that filing jointly might not mean owing less money to the government. “You might owe more because of how much money you earn. You have to then have an accountant run a projection to see,” she said.

Estate planning. Heterosexual spouses have access to the unlimited marital deduction, which means that husbands and wives can transfer assets to and from each other (during life and after death) with little or no tax. Under DOMA, same-sex spouses cannot do this. “If this section of DOMA were to be repealed, this would entirely change their estate planning,” Siegel said. “In many cases, [a repeal] would require them to revise their estate plan.” Siegel recommends consulting an attorney with specific experience in LGBT estate planning, or a financial planner with an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA) designation.

Beneficiary designations. Siegel noted that the estate plan isn’t the only document that would need to be revised: living wills, healthcare proxies, life insurance policies and retirement plans are among the documents that would need to be updated so that same-sex spouses can list each other as their primary benefactor. “[DOMA] affects spousal rollovers — think about IRAs and 401(k)s,” she said. “On qualified plans, there’s no automatic right for [a same-sex] spouse to receive access.”

Wedding planning. Many of the financial and legal ramifications of a DOMA repeal would primarily affect couples who are already married (in states allowing same-sex marriage), but Siegel noted that couples for whom a favorable DOMA ruling might inspire a wedding have their own set of considerations. Primarily: the assets they’d bring to a marriage. “Because marriage has not been an option and many couples have been together for many, many years, as have been some of my couples, we’re finding that these couples are getting married and have pretty much had a lifetime together. They’re coming into the marriage with significant assets,” she said. For these couples, Siegel recommends a prenuptial agreement. “It could be a potentially unpleasant exercise. But important!”

Finally, if the court rules to uphold DOMA, Siegel emphasized that it is still worth it for same-sex couples to meet with their attorneys and financial advisers to make sure their financial plans — and especially, estate plans — are up to date.

“In general, estate plans should be looked at every few years anyway,” Siegel said. “It’s not a bad idea to go back to advisers and say, now what?”

Morning Joe: The Economic Impact of Dads Who Lean In

Is the key to a better economy dads who do more diapers? According to a fascinating new piece by Catherine Rampell in the New York Times Magazine, the answer to that question might be yes. This morning, I went on Morning Joe to talk a little more about this issue. Check out our discussion in the video clip below.


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Today’s Money: Financial Infidelity

While talking about relationships and money this morning on TODAY, I heard the best soundbite of the day: “The zipper trumps the wallet.” This may be true, but money problems (and worse, money secrets) can still be cause for strife amongst couples. For tips on how to avoid financial disagreements with your partner, check out the video clip below.


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