How much money do you make? “I make enough,” she said.

I’ve asked this question before: how often do you hear a talk-show host ask a movie star how much money they made on their last film? Rarely. Why? Because money is still considered a taboo topic and it doesn’t play well on the circuit of celebrity chatter.

“Salary stories are intrusive. Do you ask your neighbor what they earn for their job?” That was a quote by Nicole Kidman. Even Howard Stern, who will talk about almost anything, has said before, “I don’t talk about my salary.”

But on Sunday, I learned that Gen Y is all about revealing what they make. The New York Times reported that personal finance is not so personal anymore. In this Facebook era, nothing is too private to be shared amongst friends and co-workers:

For people old enough to remember phone booths, a blunt reference to salary in a social setting still represents the height of bad manners. But for many young professionals, the don’t-ask-don’t-tell etiquette of previous generations seems like a relic.

For them, salary information is now fair game, at least among friends. Many consider it crucial to prosper in an increasingly transient, winner-take-all workplace — regardless of the envy that full disclosure can raise. Besides, when the Internet already offers a cornucopia of personal information, it almost seems coy to keep personal income private.
Or does it? Anita Bruzzese, the author of 45 Things You Do To Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them, appears to be about my age and the topic seems to make her cringe: In a live radio interview last year about my book, the host asked me:
“So, Anita, how much do you make writing your syndicated workplace column?”

Thankfully, you couldn’t see my reaction, because I have a feeling my face sort of resembled a landed halibut. But after a moment’s hesitation, I answered him in a round, ballpark-figure-sort-of-way.
But Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist fame believes there isn’t anything wrong with asking co-workers how much money they make. In fact, she encourages it: “Don’t be shy because everyone else is asking too.”

Or are they? One Frugal Girl (who is thirty) had something to say about this topic. She writes:
The topic of income is usually taboo, but I bet almost everyone has been asked about their salary at least once in their lives. In college my friends and I talked openly and honestly about money. We discussed increasing book costs, rent, and utilities. I even remember celebrating the 15 cent raise of one of my roommates. No one objected to talking about money when we were working in low-paying, part-time jobs, but it seemed no one wanted to discuss salaries when we started our ‘real jobs.’ When graduation dates neared a few of my friends discussed their starting salaries, but most kept their new incomes to themselves.
In my twenties I still remember discussing income with my friends. But at some point in my early thirties it stopped. On both sides: Friends stopped offering this information, I stopped asking and vice versa. I recall a close friend once mentioned that she was interviewing for a job promotion and the package was over $300,000. We never talked about income after that. I felt like I couldn’t keep up (so I didn’t really want to talk about it) and perhaps, it just seemed in poor taste to be disclosing these details… even with a close friend.

But our sister, Suze Orman, god love her… made a great point during an appearance on “The View” last year by asking her co-hosts and other guests to reveal their salary on the air. Nobody took her up on the challenge. But Suze thinks people should share salary figures as a way of fighting income disparity and level the playing field.

It seems younger workers seem to have less of problem with all this transparency. Fogies tend to be more discreet. After all, I was never one to kiss and tell… unless it offered up good money fodder.
So back to you… If someone asks how much you make, do you tell them? If you comment, do so over at Queercents. Please tell us your age or at least what generation you belong to: Gen Y, Gen X or a Baby Boomer.

In Search of Gay Money: How-to Guide: Manage Money With Your Domestic Partner

As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?

We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer! Click over to Queercents to read the
How-to Guide: Manage Money With Your Domestic Partner by Dayana Yochim and Queercents.

Money and the transgender community: three steps to safeguarding finances

“The rights of every person are diminished when the rights of one are threatened.” – John F. Kennedy

The trans community is receiving a lot of press these days. After all the sensationalism surrounding the pregnant trans man, it was refreshing to open up The New York Times yesterday and read about the financial and legal complexities of being married and transgender.

The profile highlighted Denise and Fran Brunner. They married back in 1980 when Denise was Donald and they stayed together after Donald had a sex-change operation in 2005 that made her Denise. They obtained an amended marriage certificate that listed their current and legal names but this poses many questions:

Massachusetts is the only state to have legalized same-sex marriage, and the Brunners are two women married to each other in New Jersey. As this state (along with Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire) confronts challenges over whether its civil unions fulfill the mandate of providing same-sex couples equal rights and benefits, the Brunners offer themselves as Exhibit A on how the nation’s dizzying patchwork of marriage laws, which include the domestic partnerships of California and other states, may be out of step with people’s lives.

The Brunners say they have no interest in obtaining a civil union — they consider it a downgrading of their relationship — but they do worry about their status.
What if the Internal Revenue Service questions their joint tax returns?

What if they retire to North Carolina, a state that they say is less legally friendly to transsexuals and same-sex couples? What if they were taking their daughter Jessica to college in Pennsylvania, and were in a car wreck that left Denise unconscious — would the authorities accept Fran as her wife?

“Are they going to recognize that she can make the decision for me?” Denise asked. “We don’t know that, and that’s not the time I want to contest that in court.”
Last year, I wrote a post about how gay and lesbian families are denied the same social security benefits that heterosexual Americans receive upon the death of a spouse. One transgender reader left this comment:
“It can get even more confusing if you’re trans. I was married as a guy, and now that I’m a gal, what’s my status? She and I are still together. So I have an ‘F’ on my driver’s license and my passport, but Social Security has me as “M”. (I’m trying to maintain a kind of dual citizenship here.) We’re paying taxes as married, filing jointly.”

“But I’m retired, and that means Medicare has me down as male; which isn’t a good match to the body I present to the doctor. And I can’t help but worry. One of these days, some humorless government records-droid is likely to start an inquisition, and who knows where that’ll end up? In court, at the worst case - and transfolk there are legally a Rorschach Blot for some wretched judge that feels like seeing things.”
The New York Times continues:
Julie A. Greenberg, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, said marriages like that of the Brunners are rarely challenged by government agencies because more conservative states do not recognize sex changes, and more liberal ones (like New Jersey) are loath to seem hostile to transsexuals.

The Brunners were already married when Donald became Denise. Transsexuals who marry after surgery pose a different set of questions, and there have been a number of custody, probate and other cases with decisions all over the legal map.
I’m not trans nor am I qualified to be dishing out advice on this topic, but I’ve actually learned a lot about the financial complexities that comes with being trans by the number of Ten Money Questions interviews I’ve done with trans people / trans supporters over the last couple of years. In case you missed them:
So back to the money and marriage topic: How can the transgender community protect their marital relationships? Shannon Minter covers this in the article: Transgender People and Marriage: The Importance of Legal Planning:
It is critical that transgender people who are married become aware of their potential legal vulnerability and take steps to protect themselves as much as possible. As an initial matter, transgender people who are married should certainly act accordingly and should not hesitate to exercise their rights as legal spouses, whether that be the right to file married tax returns, the right to apply for spousal benefits or the right to have or adopt children as a married couple. At the same time, however, it is also important to create a safety net in the event that the validity of the marriage is challenged.

Although there are many benefits and protections that arise exclusively through marriage and cannot be duplicated through any other means, there are also some basic protections that can be safeguarded and secured through privately executed documents and agreements. At a minimum, a transgender person who is married should have:

1. A last will and testament for both spouses

2. Financial and medical powers of attorney in which each spouse designates either the other spouse or another trusted person to be his or her legal agent in the event of incapacitation.

3. A written personal relationship agreement including a detailed account of each spouse’s rights and responsibilities with regard to finances, property, support, children and any other issues that are important to the couple.

The agreement should also include an acknowledgment that the non-transgender partner is aware that his or her spouse is transgender to avoid any later claims of fraud or deception. Ideally, the couple should draft those documents with assistance from an attorney and supplement them with any other legal planning documents that are appropriate for their specific circumstances.

With those basic documents in place, transgender people who are married can at least ensure that the spouses can inherit each other’s estates and retain control over their own financial and medical decisions, even if the validity of the marriage is challenged. In many cases, the safety net created by extra legal planning will never have to be used. In others, the presence of that extra protection will shelter the transgender person and his or her spouse from devastating emotional trauma and financial loss.
Anyone care to share their personal experience on this topic? Feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Ten Money Questions for Jennifer Corday

Jennifer Corday is worthy of her one-name moniker. Known to many as merely Corday, she’s a Southern Cal rocker with nationwide appeal. Her recently released record, Superhero, is a colorful collection of pop rock that captures her red-hot intensity noted both onstage and off. Corday rocks and you’ll recognize her as a regular at Pride festivals and other venues around the country. Her music is also heard on film and TV, and is currently featured on the ABC prime time series “Samantha Who” starring Christina Applegate.

Corday works hard at her craft and understands the business side to all this music making. So while she has cash flow on her mind when waking up in the morning, she’s all about rock and roll when hitting the stage at night. Read on to learn how money intersects with music and I bet you’ll be buying her latest CD by the tenth question!

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more and catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Two-income families are better off financially. Are they happier too?

We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. - Dr. Bob Moorehead

Jeanine and I both plan on working after we adopt our child. Why? We need both incomes to continue living the way we do. Or at a minimum, to stay in our house that happens to be in a really good school district. If it weren’t for the housing part, we could certainly get by on one income.

Much has been written about two-income families. She Works / He Works: How Two-Income Families Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off by Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers first came into print over decade ago. Better off than whom? Or so, as the topic is explored by this reviewer:

Better off than whom? Single-income families, especially those with a stay-at-home mother. The authors are convinced that their family model is self-evidently superior to any other, and they marshal an array of data to support their titular claims. (Just as conservatives cannot bring themselves to believe some women enjoy working, liberals seem incapable of believing some women want to stay at home.)

She Works/He Works is interesting for two basic reasons. First, it explores some of the adaptive functions of changing family structures. Drawing on a National Institutes of Mental Health-sponsored study conducted by Barnett, the authors suggest that “the dual-earner family offers economic stability, protection against financial disaster, and often offers both adults and children a close-knit cooperative family style in which all members take an active part in keeping the household running.”

They argue that the “collaborative” style–in which spouses share household tasks and responsibilities–common in two-earner households might lead to increased interdependence, not fragmentation. (One sign of this is the steady increase in traditionally female household duties performed by men.) While such claims have a ring of truth, they remain highly arguable, especially when it comes to divorce.
One book reviewer at Amazon agreed, but threw in the question that every mother wrestles with:
In summary, women are happier in challenging jobs, their husbands are happier that they are no longer the only source of income for the family in a time of frequent downsizing and economic uncertainty. Unfortunately, while the facts are optimistic when it comes to the improvement in physical, mental, and economic health for the adults in the family, it is extremely alarming for the well-being of young children.
Whatever your belief is about child-care, there’s another side to the happiness part. According to this interview at Mother Jones, working parents aren’t chasing bliss. Rather this is the reality of modern life in America:
Middle-class parents are stretched thin these days. Between health care costs, child care hassles, looking for a home in a good district, and paying for college, raising a child is becoming increasingly expensive. Little wonder, then, that married couples with children are more than twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as their childless counterparts, and 75 percent more likely to have their homes foreclosed…

In the face of such hardships, many families have sent both parents into the workforce to try to make ends meet. After all, surely if both parents work full-time it shouldn’t be hard to ensure financial security, right? Wrong, say authors Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi, in their book, The Two Income Trap. Two-income families are almost always worse off than their single-income counterparts were a generation ago, even though they pull in 75 percent more in income.

The problem is that so many fixed costs are rising — health care, child care, finding a good home — that two-income families today actually have less discretionary money left over than those single-earner families did. As the authors write: “Our data show families in financial trouble are working hard, playing by the rules — and the game is stacked against them.”
Here’s the scholarly article Elizabeth wrote for Harvard Magazine called The Middle Class on the Precipice: Rising financial risks for American families. Below, I’ve reprinted her 10 Reasons America’s Two-Income Families Aren’t What You Think:
1. Two-income families today make 75% more in inflation-adjusted dollars, but have less money to spend than one-income families did 30 years ago.
2. Two-income families today spend: 21% less on clothing, 22% less on food, and 44% less on appliances compared to one-income families a generation ago.

3. Every 15 seconds an American family files for bankruptcy.

4. This year, more kids will live through their parents’ bankruptcy, than through their Parents’ divorce.

5. 1.6 million families will file for bankruptcy this year, 9 million more are already in credit counseling.

6. Home mortgage foreclosures are up more than three-fold over the last generation and car foreclosures have hit record levels.

7. More than 62% of families say that they worry about making ends meet.
8. The average family spends 69% more in inflation-adjusted dollars on their home mortgage than their parents spent a generation ago.
9. The average family spends 61% more on health insurance, than their parents spent a generation ago.

10. Credit card default rates are at a record high.
So what do you think? Your two cents on this topic? Happier when She Works / She Works? He Works / He Works? She Works / He Works? Or should one parent stay home?

How'd You Score That Gig? by Alexandra Levit

“Analyzing what you haven’t got as well as what you have is a necessary ingredient of a career.” – Orison Swett Marden

Mondays are my favorite day to review career books. Why? Because most people are at work and if you landed at Queercents during business hours: 1. you have too much time on your hands, 2. you’re more interested in what’s “out there” than what’s on your desk, 3. you truly believe that you can multi-task with your feedreader maximized on the monitor. You’re probably listening to an iPod too. What am I going to do with you twentysomethings?

Ok, kiddies gather around. Maybe it’s time to find the right job and here’s the book that will help you.

In How’d You Score That Gig?, Alexandra Levit deconstructs sixty of the greatest, coolest, I-want-one-of-those jobs. Here’s how she did it. Click over to Queercents to continue reading.

Ten Money Questions for Jennifer Boylan

Jennifer Boylan is a best-selling author and professor at Colby College in Maine. Her new memoir is I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted, which is about growing up in a haunted house, and about what it means to be “haunted.”

Until 2001, Jennifer published under the name James Boylan and while she now has a perspective on “a life in two genders,” she also provides an interesting view about the financial realities of transitioning.

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more and catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

5 Reasons to Hire a Property Manager for Your Real Estate Investments

“We pay the property manager to take care of the property. I’m an investor in this and I really don’t know whether he’s doing a great job or not. I’m sure he could do better.” – Charles Kirby

On Sunday, there was a little blurb in the business section of The New York Times quoting Roxanne Quimby, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, about her disenchantment with being a landlord. Quimby purchased apartments buildings and homes in Florida and Maine after she sold her majority stake in the lip-balm maker back in 2003.

She enjoys running the company but says she “can’t stand” the apartment buildings because she “can’t deal with tenants.” Ms. Quimby said she didn’t use a management company because “I’m so used to being hands-on.”

“But these people are calling me because their dishwasher isn’t working,” she said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ ” “So I’m getting out of that,” she said.
What?? As in what was she thinking? I’m always surprised to learn when people want to manage their own rental properties.

Here are five reasons why I use a property management company:

1. The Property Manager can chase the rent. Over the last five years, most of my tenants have been problem free. But one was notorious for paying late and making partial rent payments. My property manager got to be the bad cop every time the first of the month rolled around. The tenant no longer lives there. Thanks to my property manager!

2. The Property Manager has a network of professionals. This includes clout with subcontractors like painters, plumbers and other repair people as well as access to the best leasing agents.

3. The Property Manager can be where I can’t. I couldn’t afford to buy rental properties in California because they didn’t cash flow. My only choice was to go out of state. I own properties in Las Vegas and Phoenix. The property in Vegas I’ve never seen in person. Seriously. I bought it before it was built. My property manager has sent me pictures throughout the years. It’s somewhat out of character for me… since I’m a bit of a control freak. I’m sure if the house was a mile away, I’d be driving by and bitchin’ about the tenant is keeping up the yard or leaving out the trash bins for two days. This way… I don’t have to think about it.

4. The Property Manager saves me time and money. Sure, on paper it looks like a property management company is decreasing my net cash flow, but their services are well worth the price. They typically charge between 5 to 7 percent of the monthly rent. How do you put a value on my time? This brings me to the last point…

5. I make more money focusing on my own career so why wouldn’t I outsource this function? It pays better to put my time into my real job than wasting it by being a property manager.

Here’s further reading about why you should use a property management company:

Evaluating Your Skills for Renting Out Your Property

Should I Hire a Property Management Company for My Rental Property?

Things to Consider when Interviewing Property Management Companies
The Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Residential Property Management Company


In Search of Gay Money: Secrets to Domestic Partnership and Money Bliss

As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?

We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer!

Click over to Queercents to read Secrets to Domestic Partnership and Money Bliss by Janet Bodnar and Queercents.

The emergence of bling: race, wealth and twentysomething entitlement

Appearances are often deceiving.” – Aesop

What types of consumer goods symbolize higher income? Items observed by others: such as clothing, cars, and jewelry.
Who spends more on these items? Blacks spend more on visible goods than whites.

Stereotype? Yes. But is it true? Yes! These findings are based on new research by Erik Hurst, an economics professor at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and Kerwin Charles, a professor in its Harris School of Public Policy. Hurst is white. Charles is black.

But their conclusions are less about bling and more about random, anonymous interactions. Hurst said, “If you’re high income but belong to a poor income group, all else equal, people are going to think you’re poor. The benefit for you is high to distinguish yourself from the poor group.” Read on:
Economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” at the end of the 19th century to describe the excess of the Gilded Age. The current equivalent is “bling,” a word created by rap artists who boosted themselves out of the ghetto with a new form of music and showed their improved economic status with flashy jewelry, expensive cars, and designer clothes. If you Google the word “bling” in a search for images, more than a million come up in less than a second. A word that didn’t even exist ten years ago is now shorthand for conspicuous wealth. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “ostentatious jewelry. Hence: wealth; conspicuous consumption.”

According to Charles, the word has caught on because it captures a real phenomenon. “In the black community, this particular kind of consumption is important in some way, especially for young people, because random, anonymous interactions are the ones that most concern them.” Young black men are the most economically disenfranchised social group; they also have higher incarceration and unemployment rates than any other group, he pointed out. Charles quoted a popular rap song. “In it, the guy says, ‘I’ve got a job.’ He’s 25 years old. Why would you say you’ve got a job? Who doesn’t?

“Here’s who doesn’t: people he knows. And so he says, ‘Unlike these guys, I have a job. You don’t believe me? Look at this gold chain I bought.’ If everybody around him had a job, he wouldn’t have to say it, and he wouldn’t have to signal it. It wouldn’t be a big deal.”
Why does it matter? Click over to the article. The bottom line: money spent on bling means fewer dollars put toward assets, set aside in savings or ear marked for things that will improve one’s life like health care or education. Young adults in particular—those in their 20s and 30s—are more likely to spend money than those in their 40s and 50s on high-status clothing, cars, and jewelry because they’re more likely to be concerned with attracting a partner. “They borrow against the future because it’s important when you’re 25,” Charles said. “By the time people are 55, the signaling effect is gone.”

This actually seems more like a generational trend vs. a black and white thing. The status-seeking motive seems to be alive and kicking amongst most young people, regardless of income level.

Susan Berfield at Business Week wrote about the Debt Generation a few years ago in an article called Thirty & Broke. This is “the first generation that came of age with the Internet, grew up marketed to at every turn… and they could be the most indebted generation in modern history.”

Two new economic realities are at work. Many had to borrow serious money to attend colleges that are ever more costly. And as soon as they entered school, they were offered credit cards; by 30 many have accumulated thousands of dollars of that very expensive debt, too.

When these students start out in the working world, many use their credit cards to fund a richer lifestyle than they can afford, get by between jobs, or cover emergency expenses. The average credit-card debt among 25-34-year-olds was $5,200 in 2004, 98% higher than in 1992.”
They exemplify “a generation with an unusual sense of entitlement. They were brought up as consumers, comfortable with prosperity, certain of their eventual success. For many 30-year-olds, establishing themselves takes longer and is more complicated than they thought it would be.
Suze Orman advises that young adults need to understand the difference between necessities and indulgences. “If you rely on your credit cards to make ends meet, you must limit the plastic spending to true necessities, not indulgences. Buying groceries is a necessity. Buying dinner for you and your pals at a swank restaurant is an indulgence you can’t afford if it will become part of your unpaid credit card balance.”

The first step is getting out of debt and living within your means.
So what’s the solution? Is there a quick fix? John answered this in his Almost Debt Free series last year and provided a tactical approach with his downloadable Expense Tracker. If you missed it before, then you might want to check it out in the archives. The young and cash-strapped will benefit from his money mantra. Color is beside the point.

How to Respond to Clueless Advertising: An Exercise in Self-Esteem

Sarah Dopp is the editor of Genderfork, a blog that explores androgyny and gender variance through artistic photography. I asked her to write a guest post about gender and money. These are her words…

I’ve given up on television and I avoid magazines. I haven’t figured out a way to escape billboards and pay-per-click banner ads yet, but I know how to cope with them now: I laugh at them.

The way I figure it, marketing is about power. Good marketing is about empowering consumers, while evil marketing is about overpowering them. Then there’s bad marketing, which is in a category of its own. Bad marketing lobs its power in the wrong direction and misses its mark entirely, wasting everyone’s precious time, energy, and money.

Those of us who reject traditional gender roles get to face an excessive amount of bad marketing in our daily lives. We threw a wrench into marketing strategy when we took on nontraditional motivations, unpredictable desires, and unusual ways of expressing our identities. As a result, they lost track of how to reach us. Fortunately for the marketers, we’re a relatively small chunk of the population that can be easily ignored. Continue reading at Queercents.

Ten Money Questions for Candace Gingrich

Armed with a well-known name, Candace Gingrich, made her own mark as an activist for the GLBT community over a decade ago. She first served as Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project Spokesperson in1995 and is currently HRC’s Senior Youth Outreach Manager where she works with and inspires queer youth around the country. As usual with this interview series, I asked Candace to get personal about personal finance.

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more and catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Should I buy earthquake insurance? The cost/benefit analysis.

“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” – General George S. Patton

Newport Beach had an earthquake two weeks ago. It was minor at a magnitude 3.1, but we still felt the jolt for two seconds. Being from the Midwest, tornadoes were always my big fear when it came time for natural disasters. Show me gray-green skies during a summer thunderstorm in northern Ohio and I was bolting for the basement.

But for some reason, earthquakes have never really bothered me living in California for the past decade. I’ve experienced plenty of tremors and what felt like a really big one while staying in the desert south of Joshua Tree. I believe that eventually the “big one” will happen.

That being said, I still don’t have earthquake insurance. I’ve followed the school of thought from these columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle:

“We’ve always opted not to purchase earthquake coverage. For us, it boiled down to a purely business decision. The cost of coverage was so high, the deductibles so high and the exemptions so many that we simply decided to assume the risk of loss rather than pay the premium. We took the position that the unlikelihood of a catastrophic event outweighed the cost of coverage. Ultimately, a decision will rest on your view of the risk and your comfort level in assuming that risk.”

“The first thing to find out is if you are in a known earthquake fault area. When you purchased your home, you should have received a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement. Sellers of real property are required by law to disclose before closing whether the property is in an area subject to natural hazards, including an earthquake fault zone.”

You can find out if you’re in a known fault area by checking out the California Geological Survey website.

When I lived in Pasadena, my home was close to a major fault line. I bought Earthquake insurance. I don’t recall the exact amount, but remember it being expensive. And they all have huge deductibles - typically around 10% to 15% of the insured value. I think my deductible in Pasadena was in the $30,000 range.

Newport Beach has a fault line too but our house is further away from it. We’ve opted out of earthquake insurance. It boils down to risk tolerance.

Plus the cost/benefit analysis, as noted by Liz Pulliam Weston, is trickier than usual:

“More than 80% of California homeowners don’t have earthquake insurance. That figure often stuns people from out of state, because of the widely held notion that the Golden State is a bowlful of geological jelly. Californians, however, know that serious earthquakes are pretty rare. Most are mild, and almost all are very localized.”

Although she ends that paragraph by saying this still isn’t the best excuse. In another article she admits that she still writes the “peace of mind” check each year for earthquake insurance.
But that little tremor a few weeks ago got me thinking. And now I’m wondering – should we get it? What would you do?

Further reading:
What are the pros and cons of earthquake insurance?

Earthquake insurance is expensive, risky business.

In Search of Gay Money: 5 Steps to Partnered Pocketbooks

As a gay woman writing about money, I’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’re turning the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?

We think the answer is yes! And as such, this marks a new weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like they’re one of us!

Click over to Queercents to read 5 Steps to Partnered Pocketbooks
By MP Dunleavey and Queercents.

SmartyPig: Social networking meets good old-fashioned savings

Giveaway alert: read this entire post for the chance to win a SmartyPig $100 gift card.

SmartyPig reminds me of the days when my grandmother made weekly deposits to her Christmas Club. Remember those? The special savings program offered by local banks to ease the expense of holiday shopping. These were still quite popular when I was growing up as a kid in the 1970’s.

Well, SmartyPig is giving good old-fashioned savings a boost with some social networking.

Here’s how it works. SmartyPig is a savings account that allows you to save for a specific goal and invite others to contribute. There are other perks: including a good interest rate (4.30% APY) and incentives from top retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc.

SmartyPig is tilted toward consumer-oriented goals and best suited for people saving for a specific item like a new, expensive crib. Or at least that’s the example Trent at The Simple Dollar gave in his review:

“When we were buying a crib for my son, for example, both grandparents wanted to contribute and wanted to know how we were doing in saving for that crib (we were getting a gorgeous one that would be perfect not just for our children, but for their children and so on). One of them even suggested that we have a baby shower themed around the crib we had in mind, but there was no intuitive way to put the pieces together for it. SmartyPig is basically the solution to this.”

Perhaps an overpriced, underfunctioning crib is a bad example (since Jennifer recently admitted on Queercents that it was one of her Top Five New Parent Money-Wasters). But Trent gives another illustration:

“I can’t help but think back to when I was a teenager and saving for a car. My family was intimately involved in this process, and they encouraged me all the time to keep saving. My dad would occasionally put a few dollars into the account, and my mom would sometimes slip me $5 towards the car when I would take out the trash. Other family members, particularly my grandmother, were quite encouraging as well, and even a few of my friends were in on the story. When I finally got the car (and got it fixed up and road-worthy), it felt like not only a goal I had achieved personally, but a goal I had shared with my family, too - they were happy for me as well as they had seen the progress all the way along.”

Hmmm… this got me wondering if I had ever taken part in a group savings plan and I recall the day my dad announced to his young adult children that he no longer wanted gifts for his birthday, Father’s Day or Christmas. Instead he wanted money to add to a savings account with the sole purpose of buying a custom toupée. Yes, my dad was ready to get rid of his combover and we were going to help him achieve this goal - twenty bucks at time!

While SmartyPig isn’t for everyone, it’s good for very specific goals that are meant to be shared. A teenager saving for his first car, a dad saving for his first
toupée… you get the picture. So go check it out if you’re in the market for simple. smart. savings.

In the meantime, the SmartyPig people gave me a SmartyPig $100 gift card to give away. Good to start saving for a hair piece or whatever else you think could make you happy! Just leave a comment over at Queercents (not here) with what you’d start saving for and I’ll pick the one that is the most fun (and clever) for a Monday morning. You’ll be 100 bucks richer for it. Now get to work…