Ten Money Questions for Cathy Renna

Renna Communications provides communications strategies to organizations who are working to change the world for the better (and many of these happen to be LGBT advocacy groups).

Cathy Renna is a managing partner along with Leah McElrath Renna, her partner in business and in life. Together, they juggle a busy schedule with a young child and relatively young company and all this makes for interesting communication about money.

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

Ten Money Questions for Alan Cumming

The many faces of Alan Cumming include film and Tony Award-winning stage credits. Of course, on television, he appeared in Sex and the City and The L Word. He also directs, produces, and writes films and plays.

He has earned his living in a variety of creative ways and as we learn below, he has always lived within his means. Step aside, Suze Orman; we have Alan Cumming dishing out a few financial truths!

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

Needs vs. Wants: Having money to throw around…

Recently, Lauren at Feministe, one of the oldest feminist blogs, mentioned Queercents in her weekend roundup. She writes:
SINCE I’M BROKE and the economy has been tanking I’ve been perusing a lot of economics blogs. One of my new favorites is Queer Cents, a blog that talks money management with a focus on and around the queer community. Pros: posts on topics such as how to buy dresses when you look like a man, ways to avoid medical bankruptcy, and how to write letters to fix your credit report. Cons: many of the writers assume you have money to throw around in the first place. Still, great advice and worthy of the blogroll.
First, we blow big queer kisses to her for linking to us. The subscribers to our RSS feed jumped because of it. Apparently, feminists like their Google Reader. Mwah! Second, let’s talk about what she doesn’t like and how we can fix that. (Hint: this is a nice opportunity for our readers to weigh in with their thoughts about how we can make Queercents better!) “Cons: many of the writers assume you have money to throw around in the first place.”

I think this brings up a really interesting point. I recently listened to a free podcast from iTunes U (downloads from iTunes U are my favorite things to listen to on my morning run). It was a lecture at Griffith University by Cathy McGuane called Money: It is not what you make, but how you manage it that counts. Her topic was the typical women & money pitch, but she said something that I thought was really interesting:

Perceived needs change with income.
I got to thinking about it and yes, my perceived needs are different than Elizabeth’s or Melissa’s needs. Elizabeth is in college and Melissa is in her first job and budgeting for student loan payments. Another example: Paula and I are both Gen X, our experiences are very different at the moment – she made the jump last year from a corporate job to business owner. I’m still schlepping for a paycheck and have a kid on the way. Or consider Roland. He appears loaded! And after trying retirement for about two minutes, he went back to work for what sounds like something to do and not to necessarily make money.

We are different ages and income levels, but we all have money to “throw around” because we’re living within our means. Or at least trying to wind up with more money at the end of the month than we had at the beginning. And not less.

Achieving this objective comes in various forms – depending on the perceived needs of the contributing writer. So while, John and Aundi, might be taking a break from their careers to go back to school, their needs are completely different than the needs of Jennifer and Ashley. Queercents has a bunch of unique writers… all with distinct money voices.

That said, Trent at The Simple Dollar has a fantastic post about needs vs. wants because even our perception of needs sometimes could use a refresh. In a nutshell:

What do I actually need in life?

I need a roof over my head.

I need food and water.

I need clothing.
I need a means to earn a living to pay for the needs.
My wife needs a means to earn a living.

I need basic hygiene and health, as does my family.
I need to protect my family against my demise.

Everything else is a want.
It’s worth clicking over to get the skinny on each of his points. After dividing all his spending into needs and wants; his conclusion:
When I did this, I realized that the majority of our spending was on things that were merely things I wanted. Looking at those wants with a more critical eye - eliminating some and putting a bit more focus on the things most important to me - led me to making some cuts in my spending that I might have otherwise just assumed as a given. That’s made a big change in my spending choices - and has put some cash right back in my pocket.
And at Queercents, we all earn different amounts in our jobs or entrepreneurial pursuits but hopefully, our posts reflect that having money to “throw around” – whatever that amount might be – is really based on spending less than you make.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Review of My So-Called Freelance Life

“Contrary to popular opinion, the hustle is not a new dance step – it’s an old business procedure.” – Fran Lebowitz, The Observer, 1979

I love books published by Seal Press. Take a glance at just a few of their titles (e.g. Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex after Sixty and Labor of Love: The Story of One Man’s Extraordinary Pregnancy) and you’ll see their readers are looking for an edgier take on a number of topics.

Their “Career & Business” books offer the same frank discussion when it comes to self-improvement in our work lives. I’ve often thought about sending them my book proposal, loosely based on my Sleeping With Money posts, but alas, this would mean I’d actually have to finish the book proposal. As you might suspect, my so-called freelance writing life has not quite materialized. But there’s help for those who dream about making a living by pursuing creative work.

It comes in the form of My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire by Michelle Goodman. I was introduced to Goodman when I interviewed her last year at BlogHer just after the release of her first book, The Anti-9-to5 Guide. She’s what I’d call a cube-fleeing rock star. A woman that carved out a life (translation: makes a respectable living!) by turning her freelance dreams into a reality. And she’s been doing this for over 15 years.

By the way, she looks about 35. Or maybe 37. Why is this relevant? Well, I know tons of women in their late forties and fifties who were pushed out of corporate America and they sort of were forced to start a “consulting” business. But Michelle chose to leave. And she did it early on in her career. She’s made the freelance life work for her and all the mistakes made in her twenties are what make her an expert today.
Goodman’s book is broken into three sections with flashy titles and chapters, but in the end it really just boils down to how you can achieve these goals:
Be true to yourself. Work when and how and with whom you want. Treat your clients well. Charge what you’re worth. Keep setting new goals for yourself. Branch out into new niches. Learn new tricks and acquire new skills. Plant your ass in the chair and make time to refine your craft. Read interviews with your career heroes. Follow the news of your field. Take classes on anything that excites you. Go to book readings, art exhibits, rock shows or whatever else inspires you. Rub elbows with like-minded indie professionals at happy hours and conferences. Encourage, cajole, and collaborate. Celebrate your wins. Learn from your defeats, but don’t dwell on them. And above all, remember to have fun.
What I like best about the book is that its foundation is based on money. Goodman calls it the craft plus commerce concept. And let’s face it; if your freelance activities aren’t making you money, then it’s really more like volunteering. And jeez, take if from me: I’m the poster child for volunteering outside the day job. Umm, has anyone noticed we’re all volunteers here at Queercents? But this is the difference (at least for me): I don’t really mind the “cube” I sit in everyday. My career has been good to me. And Queercents has been a wonderful creative outlet that makes me feel like I’m helping people in the LGBT community. That’s currency I don’t earn in my day job. So my “freelancing” serves what I want to get out of it at the moment. But many people feel differently and want to make the break from their day jobs.

Take our own, Paula Gregorowicz as an example. She left her corporate IT job last year and has chronicled the journey in many of her posts: From starting her own business to dealing with self-employment taxes to learning how to maintain boundaries with her freelance schedule. She’s what I’d call Goodman’s target audience.

That said, even I can apply a lot of Goodman’s advice to my Queercents pursuits. Like when she said, “You need to give yourself a promotion every now and then. Because if you don’t, who will?” Amen, sister! Every now and then, I need to step back and look at how I’m spending those ten hours “freelancing” every weekend on Queercents. I’m certain though Goodman isn’t complaining that some of those hours were spent on writing this book review. Time well spent, reading and writing it, I have to admit. So if any of this is speaking to you, then buy the book!

I’m giving away my review copy to the best comment in the comments section over at Queercents (please don
t comment below). By the way, it’s worthwhile to note that just because Seal Press and Goodman’s book is billed as advice for women, well… don’t let this scare away the men. It’s relevant information for everyone and the “gender-specific” stuff is just marketing. So boys and girls, feel free to leave your comments!

Photo credit: Goodman’s blog.

Ten Money Questions for Barbara Raab

Many of us only dream about taking a leave of absence from work, but Barbara Raab turned reverie into reality. She’s on a 9-month sabbatical from her job as a senior newswriter and editor at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

What is she doing during this self-imposed time-out? She’s teaching at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Most people cannot take a career break without considering its financial ramifications and these thoughts are the source of this week’s interview.

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

Illness or Injury: 4 Ways to Avoid Medical Bankruptcy

“If the debtor be insolvent to serve creditors, let his body be cut in pieces on the third market day. It may be cut into more or fewer pieces with impunity. Or, if his creditors consent to it, let him be sold to foreigners beyond the Tiber.” – Twelve Tables, Table III, 6 (ca. 450 B.C.), Ancient Rome

History has rarely been kind to debtors. Personally, I have never felt much sympathy towards the bankrupt: especially those that have Maxed Out their credit cards and lived well beyond their means. But the more I learn about the bankruptcy epidemic (Obama intends to amend the bankruptcy bill signed by Bush in 2005); it’s hard to remain indifferent to the stories.

Until recently, I had always thought that the majority of filers for bankruptcy were deadbeats, but one study noted that more than 25 percent of the respondents cited illness or injury as a specific reason for bankruptcy. Other research has shown the number to be much higher: up to half said that illness or medical bills drove them to bankruptcy.

Let’s take breast cancer as the example. The New York Times found that women lost, on average, more than a quarter of their typical income during the first 12 months after their diagnosis:

Among the many challenges women with breast cancer face, here’s one most people don’t pay attention to: a smaller paycheck… One of the factors affecting lost wages was whether the patient lived close to the treatment center. Women were more likely to suffer large wage losses if they lived farther from the hospital where they underwent treatment. Whether a woman required chemotherapy also affected her income. Women with less education, more serious disease or less social support or those who were self-employed, worked part-time or were recently hired at their current job were the most vulnerable.
Long work absences or ultimately losing one’s job because of an illness is a common theme among those undergoing bankruptcy. According to the Washington Post, the problem is in the health care finance system and in chronic debates about reforming it:
1. Health insurance isn’t an on-off switch, giving full protection to everyone who has it. There is real coverage and there is faux coverage. Policies that can be canceled when you need them most are often useless… We need to talk about quality, durable coverage, not just about how to get more names listed on nearly-useless insurance policies.

2. The link between jobs and health insurance is strained beyond the breaking point. A harsh fact of life in America is that illness leads to job loss, and that can mean a double kick when people lose their insurance. Promising them high-priced coverage through COBRA is meaningless if they can’t afford to pay. Comprehensive health insurance is the only real solution, not just for the poor but for middle-class Americans as well.
But politics aside, there are four ways that people can avoid bankruptcy:
  • Sell everything
  • Work more
  • Reorganize your debt
  • Contact your creditors
Jeez, now those are helpful options when you’re sick. That said, there are four things you can do in a “preventive” way to protect yourself in case of illness:
  • Make sure your health insurance is in order.
  • Create a personal health savings account.
  • Create a backup to your emergency fund. I call this the catastrophic fund: access to cash in the case of long term illness that might result in a job loss. I used to consider my HELOC to be my catastrophic fund… unfortunately, no longer. Now if I depleted all my cash, savings and liquid investments, I’d have to sell off assets or cash out my retirement accounts. The HELOC was intended to buy me time.
  • Live healthy. One of the best ways to avoid the risk of ever facing bankruptcy is to simply be healthy.
Did you find your way here because you’re already in bankruptcy? Here are a few answers to the likely questions. And for those who are healthy, what measures have you put in place to protect against the financial stresses of a long term illness? Please feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for Kate Barnhart

MCCNY’s Homeless Youth Services provides emergency shelter to homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City. Kate Barnhart is the shelter director and works tirelessly by providing services such as food, clothing, mental health counseling, HIV prevention, and help with a variety of job and school needs.

Many of us think of money in terms of wants, but Kate deals in the context of needs - day in and day out. Mosey on over to Queercents and read her unique perspective to this week’s Ten Money Questions.

Are you being tossed by a fiscal storm?

“A collapse in U.S. stock prices certainly would cause a lot of white knuckles on Wall Street. But what effect would it have on the broader U.S. economy? If Wall Street crashes, does Main Street follow? Not necessarily.” – Ben Bernanke

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times offered six interviews with New Yorkers Tossed By a Fiscal Storm:

A small-business owner in Brooklyn worries about making the payroll. A homeowner in Queens faces foreclosure. A suburban stay-at-home mother cuts back on luxuries. A retiree watches rent, food and cable bills rise while her income stays flat. An aspiring musician chooses between recording fees and a trip to see his family at Christmas. A head of a nonprofit group sees grants disappear.
In the print version, the vignettes were just pictures and captions… the online version had the full story. The story about the struggling musician emphasizes how interdependent our economy is in most cities. His primary source of income comes from bartending and he noted:
What I can see from last year to this year is that the season is definitely slower. I’m making less money because less people are going out. And when they go out, they spend less than what they used to. I’ve been doing the same, I’ve been having friends together in my house, to drink bottles of wine, instead of going out to bars. It’s kind of like a chain. I make less money, and I stop going out too.
The domino effect: Whenever I travel for work and jump in a taxi, I always ask the driver how business is in their city. In the past couple of months, I’ve been in taxis from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, New York City to Kansas City and of course, I typically take one back and forth from my house to the airport in Orange County. They all are saying the same thing. Business is slow. This summer their primary complaint focused on people staying home and not taking vacations. Now the cabbies are all saying that the business people are cutting back too. One guy told me that he works four days just to earn enough money to pay the cab company for the right to drive the cab. The fifth day is what he takes home.

So what’s he doing to make up the difference? He’s working six and seven days. And when he’s working, he’s not out spending money with his family on the weekends. He said, “That’s not good for the economy either. It’s a vicious cycle.” He also is considering working the night shift, because about the only thing that hasn’t changed with this economy: people are still getting drunk. Paula at Queercents already covered this nicely in her post, Economy is Down but Booze Sales are Up. Although I remember chatting up a cabbie in Las Vegas back in 2006 and while people were still partying in Vegas, he was already moaning about how gas prices had impacted his margins.

The New York Times article gives a pretty good cross section of the population in New York, but what’s the experience in other parts of the country. I’d love to hear from our readers in places like Dallas, Chicago, and Cincinnati. Of course, if you live on one coast or the other, in a big city or small… we’d love to hear your stories too (over at Queercents, of course). How are you weathering the fiscal storm?

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for Eddie Ross

A second season of the hit reality show, Top Design, is back on Bravo with a new group of contestants trying to win $100,000. Eddie Ross is one of a handful of gay participants this season and he’s showing us some pride with his thrifty, flea market brand of style. It’s always fitting to talk dollars when decorating one’s living space and Eddie takes on our questions without breaking the bank.

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