Rethinking Finances During Coronavirus Uncertainty

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We need to rethink everything.

 

How tired are you of hearing the word “unprecedented“? Do you wish you had never heard the phrase “social distancing“? Remember when one of our biggest concerns was cutting back on the use of plastic straws?

As surreal as this new world is, we are all learning that our lives won’t go back to how they used to be, but that we will need to move forward into a new way of living. We are not quite certain if face masks will become a casual and expected part of our outerwear, like hats, or gloves in winter. Or, what if we continue to have dedicated tape lines on the floor to stand on when we are waiting in line? Will we always need reminders not to get too close to one another? How quickly our lives have changed.

So how do we navigate this new world? I’m sure you’re as concerned about the economy as I am, and more so, your personal finances. We need to rethink everything, but especially our financial plan, starting with what is most important for us to survive in these trying times.

Let’s take a deep breath and realize that there are a lot of things that are not within our control. On the flip side, we ARE in control of so much still. As women, our minds automatically go to the health and safety of our families. I have some suggestions for how we can get through this, and it boils down to controlling those things that are most important to us. Here are some ideas you can implement to create a sense of normalcy for your family.

 

We need to rethink everything, but especially our financial plan…

Stick with a Routine

Establishing a routine is so important, especially when you have children. It helps them know what is coming next and gives them a feeling of security in their day.

 

Prioritize Healthy Meals

Coming together at prescribed times of day gives us the opportunity to make healthy eats, chat with one another and provide sustenance that will nourish our minds and bodies.

 

Share Your Feelings and Your Time

I shared with my husband that I’ve had a headache almost every day – and I never get headaches. He suggested we turn off the news (which I have on all day, every day) and we started doing 20 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of meditation. We are both fairly new to this, but we know we need to take actionable steps toward managing our stress. That and watching HGTV together are currently working for us! What can you do to share more with your family?

 

Make the Most of Your Money

Many of us received a stimulus check; others applied for small business loans (some were lucky enough to get them, but many were not). We need to look at our own finances and minimize expenses so that we can stretch our incoming funds as well as emergency funds or savings we already have. We must do this until we learn more about the future of our jobs, income, schooling, childcare, healthcare…everything that has been tossed into the air like a 52-card pickup game. Except that this isn’t a game.

What can you do to share more with your family?

Draw on Past Experience

I have been through a lot of periods of uncertainty in my life. There were times when I’ve not known where my next meal will come from! Long story short, I worked through it and survived. If I can get through that, I know I can work through this. So, fall back on those times you’ve worked through struggles and came out on the other end. How can you apply what you learned before to what is going on with our finances during coronavirus?

 

Here are some actionable steps you can take right now:

  • Get a solid understanding of the money coming into your household and the bills you need to pay. Use this handy tool entitled “Where’s your money going?”
  • Review this list of 50 things you can do to minimize expenses.
  • Schedule dedicated time to sit down with your partner or others in your household who have a role in financial decisions and decide where you can cut or limit expenses.
  • Put a monthly financial plan in place, work the plan and then come together to see how the plan is working and if you should make additional adjustments.
  • Food, shelter, healthcare and transportation costs are the primary expenses that should be attended to first.

 

We got this – one day at a time!
Follow Purse Strings on all social media (@pursestringsco) to get tips and tricks that will help you feel financially fearless.

Hired Help

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Picking a Pro to Manage Your Money

Turning to an expert for financial advice is a smart move. Even the savviest woman sometimes struggles with money management. According to a  Money.com survey, only 36% of women are satisfied with their net worth. What’s more, about 37% of women are unhappy with their investment portfolio.

Clearly, women want better for their money. However, it takes a trained, seasoned professional to know the ins and outs of the industry.

Here’s the challenge, though. When it comes to financial pros, one size hardly ever fits all. You need to pinpoint which big money brain fits the bill. Which one to call, depends on your specific financial concerns.

Sounds like you need a financial expert to pick a financial expert, right? Thankfully, no–just some advice to point you in the right direction. Read on for helpful information and advice.

 

37% of women are unhappy with their investment portfolio

hired help, financial professional, money, pro

Look for certification

There’s not much stopping people with little or no experience from claiming pro finance expertise. How do you tell the difference between a pro and a schmoe? One good way to separate the fly-by-night types from the true experts: certification. Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation signifies they meet stringent education, examination, experience and ethics requirements. Those three little letters make a big difference. Namely, the pro meets or exceeds a certain level of standards.

Another certification you should note: Purse Strings Approved professionals. It’s our mission to give women better options and service when managing their money. Purse Strings approval proves to the world that a financial pro understands the specialized needs of women and how they want to be served.

How do they get paid?

The way a financial pro gets paid for handling your money varies. If they’re providing a one-time service, like an accountant handling one year of returns, it’s likely a one-time fee. A stockbroker usually works on commission–they take a certain percentage of your earnings. Ask about compensation upfront and be sure you are clear on every detail before you consider them.

Types of professionals

There are about as many stripes of financial professionals, as there are ways to spend your money. Let’s look at some key varieties.

Accountant:

These folks provide individuals and companies advice on tax matters. Reach out for assistance tangling with your returns, maximizing deductions and ensuring you don’t pay more than you have to. Certified Public Accountants are licensed by individual states–it makes sense because no two states have identical tax laws.

Insurance agent:

We’ve talked about the vital types of insurance women should have. The next step: connecting with a pro to determine what types of coverage and plans you need. Call on an agent to determine which policies fit your life situation. They can ensure your coverage isn’t too heavy, or too light, but just right.

Investment adviser:

Want to make your money work for you? Investment advisers connect individuals with securities advice. Registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, they can guide clients toward smart investment opportunities.

Stockbroker:

These pros are licensed by their respective states to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds and the like. They must be registered with companies with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority membership.

Estate planner:

A simple will usually isn’t enough to dispatch your assets after you’re gone. An estate planner handles the important details you might not know about. These include estate taxes and other issues that need to be dealt with.

 

Your money matters–it’s important to find pros you can trust with your finances.

If you need answers or advice, reach out to Purse Strings–we’d love to talk.

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Strategies to Engage Today’s Female Consumers

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Strategies to Engage Today’s Female Consumers

Women | Purse Strings | Financially Fearless

Have you ever noticed that when Apple has a new product, lines of people start to form before the stores even opens?  Have you ever waded through the crowds in Nordstrom’s shoe department on a Saturday? Or, ladies, have you tried to get a last-minute appointment for a color and cut?  Its almost impossible. Yet, these are typically expensive purchases, women will wait in lines for, schedule appointments weeks in advance, and are willing to pay exorbitant fees for these products and services.

 

Now, go look outside the window to your business.  Are people lining up to talk with you? Are they calling you to get an appointment only to find they must wait three weeks out?  No? Well, they certainly could be. The Allianz Women, Money and Power Study, 2006, found that nearly three of four women lack some type of outside assistance with their financial strategies.   Look around you. Count four women and know that three of them could probably benefit from your products and services.

 

Why aren’t women lining up to meet with you?

 

It’s evident that so many of them need your products or services.  Here’s the reason why – they don’t trust you or the industry you represent.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is purchases of cars, cosmetics, or even products for men, female consumption power is the leading consumption power in the world,” states Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America, a non-profit organization helping women in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families.

During a Purse Strings presentation, a man interrupted and had this question.  He said, “Why won’t women buy long term care insurance.  Is it because it’s too expensive?”  Look around and see that women will spend whatever it takes on items and services they feel are a value to them.  Many women spend money on expensive, shoes, bags, travel, tennis, clothing, spa services and so on. When they see a value or have built a relationship with a brand that serves them, cost is irrelevant.

This confirms there’s just one viable option for growing your business in the 21st century… create products and services that appeal to women clients.

This takes creativity, planning, and hard work, but the rewards will make it worth your effort.

 

What are you doing to build trusted relationships with your female customers and clients?

Strategies From A Female CEO

Bridget Brennan, CEO of the consulting and training firm Female Factor and author of Why She Buys, has been studying women’s impact on the consumer marketplace for over ten years. Recently writing on Forbes.com, she presented strategies for attracting women to your business. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Make your products/services easier for women to buy.
  • Create services that supplement the products you offer to women consumers.
  • Don’t overplay female stereotypes in your marketing.
  • Women shop with all their senses. Find ways to engage them in your advertising.
  • Enable women to feel smarter just by doing business with you.

As a female CEO of both Provost Consulting, Inc and Purse Strings, LLC. I would add this advice from my findings. Women are a large percentage of the market (51%) but you can’t provide the same products and services to all women. Consider how different products and services would be needed across these different life stages, economic status and characteristics

Women can be a college graduate, successful professional, widow, or, all the above. Women today are choosing to wait longer to have children, may decided to stay single, or be in a partnered relationship with a man or a woman. If she is a mother, the age of her children plays into her financial needs. Is she divorced or widowed? An entrepreneur or stay-at-home mom? She could be a single-mother who is struggling financially or a single-mother who is professional with wealth.

All the data demonstrates the importance of building relationships with your female customers. This could be assessing every touchpoint you have with your female customers, researching products or service that would serve your female customer base, or finding ways to gather information from your female customers to see how you might better serve them.

 

Women want to work with trusted financial providers who:

  • Are interested in her unique family situation, caregiving demands, career, money goals and risk tolerance – not just her assets.
  • Communicates clearly and on a timely basis.
  • Are honest and upfront about fees
  • Understand how women take in information through emotion, connection, intuition and other senses and use this information to make decisions.

All the data demonstrates the importance of building relationships with your female customers.

Every Financial Professional Should Be Aware of These Facts

Women drive the world economy. Globally they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. (The Female Economy, Harvard Business Review, September 2009)

Women’s $13 trillion in total yearly earning could reach $18 trillion in the next five years. (The Female Economy, Harvard Business Review, September 2009)

Women control the vast majority of consumer spending. For example, they buy 90% of food, 55% of consumer electronics and most of the new cars (“Hello, girls,” www.economist.com, March 14, 2009)

The number of wealthy women in the U.S. is growing twice as fast as the number of wealthy men. (Virginia Tech’s Women’s Wealth and Philanthropy Report.)

If you want women consumers lining up at your door then, learn how to serve the most powerful market! Purse Strings is here to help. Go to pursestrings.co to register for our upcoming session on how to reach, engage and earn the female dollar. You can also earn 12 CE credits for agents in Illinois and all reciprocal states.

Women | Purse Strings | Financially Fearless

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Guest Blog | Divorce Decisions

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Guest Blog | Divorce Decisions

divorce decisions

Going through a divorce can be hard on everyone involved, but we’ll be here for you.
Knowing where to start and what information to gather will help you maintain financial stability through this tough transitional period and allow you to start focusing on a brighter future.

7 STEPS TO CONSIDER WHILE GOING THROUGH DIVORCE

We’ve put together a checklist that you and your financial professional can use to devise a new plan that is designed to benefit you for years to come.

Knowing where to start and what information to gather will help you maintain financial stability.

IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT GETTING A DIVORCE

STEP 1: GATHER TAX AND INCOME INFORMATION FOR YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE

 Federal, state, and local income tax returns for at least the last two years
 Proof of current and past income
 Pay stubs (at least 12 months back)
 1099s
 W-2s
 K-1s

STEP 2: GATHER STATEMENTS AND INVENTORY ASSETS/DEBT
ACCOUNT STATEMENTS:

 Checking and savings
 Brokerage accounts or investments
 Certificates of deposit
 Money market
 Mutual funds and annuities
 College savings

RETIREMENT PLAN STATEMENTS AND SUMMARY PLAN DESCRIPTIONS:

 401(k), 403(b), 457 plans
 Profit sharing or money purchase plans
 IRAs (Traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE)
 Defined benefit pension plans
 Deferred compensation plans

REAL ESTATE (JOINT & SEPARATE):

 Real estate deeds
 Mortgage statements
 Real estate tax bills
 Utility bills, phone, cable, internet

PERSONAL PROPERTY:

 Car and recreational vehicle titles
 Jewelry, artwork, and other valuables
 Furnishings
 Televisions and computers

INSURANCE POLICIES:

 Homeowners or renters
 Health Insurance
 Health and medical savings account statements
 Automobile
 Life insurance

FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS:

 Monthly budget
 Documents pertaining to ownership in a business
 Credit reports
 Credit card bills
 Loan documents
 Social Security statements

STEP 3: GATHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS
Gather any documents that could impact your divorce, such as:

LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

 Documents pertaining to prior divorce(s)
 Prenuptials
 Postnuptials
 Marital property agreements
 Employment contracts

ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS:

 Powers of attorney documents
 Medical directives
 Last will and testaments
 Trust documents
 Beneficiary designation forms

These steps allow you to start focusing on a brighter future.

WHEN YOU’VE DECIDED TO GET A DIVORCE 

STEP 4: WHEN THE DIVORCE IS IMMINENT CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

 Close or freeze jointly held accounts and credit cards.
 Monitor your credit on an ongoing basis.
 Change user names and passwords on financial accounts and social media.
 Open new accounts and credit cards in your individual name that only you can access.
 Arrange an alternate residence, if required, and budget for the essentials.
 Establish a mailing address or P.O. box that your ex-spouse cannot access.
 Begin looking into getting health insurance if your coverage is from your spouse’s plan.
 Estimate alimony payments or receipts and account for this in your budget.
 Determine ongoing care and child support.
 You may need additional professionals beyond your attorney and financial professional…

• Business valuation expert: If ownership in a business is involved.
• Forensic accountant: Can delve into your household finances to make sure no assets are being concealed. This is more important if you did not handle the household finances.
• Vocational expert: Can evaluate a non-working spouse for employability.

 

AFTER THE DIVORCE IS FINAL
 

STEP 5: SPLIT ACCOUNTS, UPDATE ACCOUNT TITLES, AND CHANGE YOUR NAME
(WHERE APPROPRIATE)
Contact each company holding your financial accounts and retirement plans to determine their process for splitting accounts. They will likely require a copy of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) or divorce decree.

 Bank accounts
 Brokerage accounts
 IRAs (Traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE)
 Qualified plans (401(k), 403(b), 457, defined benefit, etc.)

IF APPLICABLE, CHANGE YOUR NAME ON:

 Driver’s license
 Social Security card
 Automobile insurance
 Insurance policies
 Employer records
 Credit cards
 Professional licenses
 Real property
 Utility bills
 Titles to automobiles
 Deeds to real property
 Retirement and investment accounts

 

STEP 6: UPDATE BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS AND ESTATE PLANS

A divorce decree or QDRO does not remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary on your accounts with beneficiary designations. Be sure to review all beneficiary designation forms and estate planning documents and update them accordingly. Estate planning made prior to the divorce is now likely obsolete. Meet with your estate planning professional to update your estate planning documents, such as:

 Last will and testament
 Beneficiary designations
 Medical directives
 Revocable trusts
 Powers of attorney
 Living wills

 

STEP 7: MEET WITH YOUR FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL TO UPDATE YOUR FINANCIAL STRATEGY

Now that you are divorced, previous financial strategies may be obsolete. Meet with your financial professional and update your overall financial strategy to reflect your situation after the divorce.

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About the Author

Transamerica

Transamerica has stood for innovation since 1904, when a young entrepreneur named Amadeo P. Giannini founded a bank in San Francisco to make financial services available to everyone.

Today, Transamerica encourages customers to consider their long-term health in pursuit of their financial success. Because just like with planning and saving, they believe the little steps taken today can make a big difference for tomorrow.

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Get Wise to Withholding

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Get Wise to Withholding

Taxes | Purse Strings | Financially Fearless

Paying taxes is no fun. Many grown women would rather take a trip to the dentist than put their returns together. It’s difficult, and potentially painful. Then there’s the fear you’ll end up paying way more than you can afford.

You can avoid the agony of over-payment. Ensure you’re withholding the right amount from your weekly paycheck. Figuring out that magic number is tricky–it might require professional assistance.

First, let’s look at some of the basics. Then, we’ll talk about impactful life changes, when to adjust withholding, and why professional expertise can benefit.

… It might require professional assistance.

What’s a Form W-4?

As arbitrary as the amount the IRS takes from you might seem, it’s not. The government determines the amount with the help of your Form W-4. It takes your pay, then figures in the amount to withhold from your wages. Things like marital status and number of jobs are taken into account. It works smoothly if you’re one of the millions of workers who’s single and only has one paying gig.

The wrinkles occur if you fall outside the narrow “standard taxpayer” parameter. Do you have more than one job? Are you married? Jobless? There’s a whole herd of life factors and changes that can alter your W-4. It’s important that your W-4 reflect those changes. That avoids withholding the wrong amount–and nasty surprises on your tax returns.

Reasons to tweak your W-4

A long list of factors justifies an edit to your withholding. Basically, they all boil down to life changes. Major or even medium-size shakeups in your life stand to impact your tax bill. Here’s a few you should know.

Additional job:

If you picked up another gig, that’s a solid reason to adjust your withholding. It doesn’t matter if it’s another full-time job, weekly retail shift or a new home business. Any job you pick up impacts your tax liability.

Spousal job change:

Did your partner just get a new job, or win a promotion? Congratulations! Don’t forget to adjust your withholding. That ensures you lovebird joint filers are in good shape at tax time.

Marital status:

Separating from your partner? You’re also saying goodbye to marriage tax benefits. Impactful changes also come when you’re forming a union. Adjust your withholding as soon as possible.

Unemployment:

Losing your job–even if it’s only temporary–impacts your standing with the IRS. Withholding too little from unemployment benefits is all too common. Make sure you adjust when you’re laid off. Then, do it again when you rejoin the workforce.

Kids:

Adding to your family is more than just a change in the shape of your household. It’s a change in your tax status. Birth, adoption, using child-care professionals–each circumstance impacts your taxes. Take advantage of any deductions you qualify, and adjust your withholding accordingly.

Major or even medium-size shakeups in your life stand to impact your tax bill.

How do you change your W-4?

Adjusting your withholding should be relatively straightforward. The IRS offers a withholding calculator designed guide you through the process. However, even with the handy gadget, it’s not exactly easy for a layperson. It remains confusing, and there’s no guarantee you’ll end up with the right number.

Another option: turn to a professional. The straightforward process of adjustment gets complicated if you throw in multiple life changes.Alimony, charitable deductions, medical bills and other expenses add to the potential headache. Reach out to a Purse Strings Approved professional for guidance. These pros are attuned to the specialized needs of female customers. There’s no one better to trust your money to.

 

We will provide you useful and timely information you can use to be #financiallyfearless

Guest Blog | Wedding Budget

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Guest Blog | Wedding Budget

At one point in my life, I almost considered myself a professional wedding guest.

My now fiance and I went to eight weddings in one year a few years ago. Now, we’re in the midst of planning our own. I knew the wedding industry was expensive, but I had no idea just how expensive it is until I started this process myself. Costs can quickly get out of control, so it’s important to create a budget for yourself up front. It’s also important to be realistic about the costs for the type of wedding you want. Here’s how to create a wedding budget so you don’t lose control of your spending, and can enjoy your special day without going into debt.

Costs can quickly get out of control, so it’s important to create a budget for yourself up front.

and women.

Figure Out How Much You Have

Do you and your beloved have savings set aside that you can use for your wedding? And no, you shouldn’t use your emergency savings for this. You’ll need that money if something bad happens and you need to be able to pay your rent. If you have other savings, add up how much you have to put towards this. Something is better than nothing, so any small amount will help!

If you think your parents or other family members might want to contribute, talk to them. I loved A Practical Wedding’s advice for this: “Now it’s time to sit down and have a chat with your families. Are you asking for financial contributions? Have you thought about what kind of input you want them to have? Are there traditions you want to include—or traditions you want to eschew?” This combines the money conversation and also explores expectations for the wedding. It’s good to get this conversation over with early on in the planning stage, but make sure that you and your partner are a united front first.

Decide How Much You Can Save

If you’re already living bare bones and don’t have much money to spare, you probably don’t have much money to save for your wedding. You have to be as realistic as possible when planning out your budget, so you don’t end up in debt after your wedding. So take a look at your budget together and calculate how much you have leftover to put towards your wedding savings.

You might have to get creative if you don’t have much money to spare each month. Stash all the extra money that comes in, like bonuses, birthday or holiday gifts, and tax returns. You may even want to consider taking on a side hustle or part-time job during this period.

I want to stress: try your hardest not to go into debt from your wedding. The beginning of a marriage is a time when you want to set yourselves up for success. Starting off with joint debt from your wedding is not getting off on the right foot. You don’t want to spend the first few years of marriage worrying about paying off your wedding, rather than figuring out how to be married, and working towards your other joint goals. So do your best to keep costs down and/or build up your savings.

Do your best to keep costs down and/or build up your savings

Get Clear on What Matters to You and Your Partner

This is hugely important. There are so many expectations involved in the wedding industrial complex these days. You have to know what it is that you want, not what you’re expected to do. Expectations can get really expensive, and leave you feel resentful and overwhelmed.

I personally wish that I didn’t want a real wedding. My desires for my wedding day directly conflict with my values as a financial coach and frugal person. However, our joint vision for the day actually outweighs our desire to spend very little money. We’re getting married at a vineyard that we fell in love with, we’re providing an open bar, and we’re inviting most of the people we want to invite. Of course, we are incredibly privileged to have the disposable income to go towards this expense, and if we didn’t, we certainly would have made different decisions.

Sit down with your partner and list out the things that are the most important to you. There is a really helpful worksheet in A Practical Wedding Planner that helps you go through this part. You can identify your must-haves, the things that don’t really matter, and the things you definitely don’t want as part of your day. This will help you get clear on where you want to prioritize and where the money should really be going. And having this conversation together will make you a better team when other people try to influence your decisions.

Find Out How Expensive Local Vendors Are

This is where I definitely screwed up. I had never planned a wedding before, so I had no idea how much things cost. It’s even more expensive being in the Washington, DC area. I knew it would be too expensive to get married in the actual city, but I didn’t realize how much it would cost to get married within a 50-mile radius. I also didn’t truly know how much things are marked up when you add “wedding” to the inquiry.

In all honesty, we’re spending a lot more money than I wanted to spend. I put aside a certain amount last summer when I got the settlement from my shoulder injury, and naively thought that would be plenty to pay for the wedding. Boy, was I wrong. We’re spending more than double that amount. Just typing that makes me want to cry. But in the end, we’re going to have the wedding we both really want. We’re making it unique and very aligned with our personalities and values. It just costs a lot more than I expected, and the sticker shock has been pretty painful.

Do your research and get a reality check early on so that you know what kind of budget you’re working with. And if that budget is a non-starter for you? Find alternative options for your wedding.

Open a Savings Account Specifically for Your Wedding

If you’re going to be saving up for your wedding, you should have a special savings account just for that. It’ll make it a lot easier to track your progress. If both you and your partner are contributing to this savings goal, it might even be best to open a joint account so you both have access. You both can see how close you are to your goal, and be on the same page. I like opening accounts like this at online banks so that I get the maximum amount of interest while not being as tempted to spend the savings.

Automate Deposits into the Account

If you read this blog at all, you know that I’m a huge proponent of automation when it comes to personal finance. Automation takes human error out of the situation. If you set up direct deposit or have your bank automatically transfer money into your savings, you won’t have to think about it. You won’t give yourself the chance to spend the money instead of saving it. So set up that automation and set yourself up for success in wedding planning!

Do you have stories or advice based on your own wedding plan adventures? Share in the comments!

Other wedding resources:

(If you use my referral link, we’ll both get $50 to spend on the Zola registry!)

About the Author

Maggie

Maggie Germano – Certified Financial Education Instructor | Financial Coach for Women
Maggie Germano is on a mission to give women the support and tools they need to take control of their money and achieve their goals through one-on-one coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, writing, and speaking engagements.

 

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