Why Women Need More Money Than Men (and how to get what we need!)

Women need more money than men. Why? No, not so we can buy more shoes, handbags and manicures. We need more money because we live longer than men, make significantly less salary than our male peers, and are more likely to be single parents raising a family on one income.

Having a child is now the single best indicator of financial collapse.

Women comprise 87% of the impoverished elderly. A woman who works full-time for 40 years will earn $523,000 less than her male counterpart. At age 65, that extra half a million dollars could keep her from becoming one of the elderly poor.

What do these grim statistics tell us? They tell us that women, especially as they become older, are not prepared to take care of themselves financially. Yet nearly 90% of all women will end up managing their finances alone at some point in their lives.

Despite a woman’s greater potential for financial need, it appears that many factors hamper financial equality between the sexes.

What can women do to beat these alarming odds?

Here are a few of my own – perhaps unique – ideas:

Delay motherhood. Or, if it suits you, don’t have children at all. My husband and I purposely waited until we had achieved financial freedom before adopting our daughter because we didn’t want to repeat our own parent’s experiences. We both grew up with work-all-the-time, struggling young parents and quite frankly, that often stunk. We didn’t want money to interfere with our parenting.

Forming a family through adoption rather than pregnancy was a decision I made when I was a mere teenager. The way I figured it, why “make my own” child when there are countless orphans dying for a family already?  Since my husband and I chose to create our family through adoption, my biological time clock wasn’t a ticking time bomb.

One’s forties are the usual peak earning and saving years. By switching the typical order of things, my husband and I experienced our peak financial years ten years earlier than most. This allowed us to put the power of compounding interest and growth to work early. Consequently, we don’t need to earn or save as much money over the course of our life because time is on our side.

Today, financially free, our family hasn’t set an alarm clock in years. Whether it be work, parenting or play, we wake with the sun, eager to spend each new day doing whatever we choose. We waited until we could afford to commit to parenting 100%, together. For our family, the wait has been worth it.

I realize the path we chose isn’t a good fit for many but I do think it’s sensible for parenthood to wait until certain things are in order. Consider taking the time to first:

  • finish college, establish your career or launch your business
  • pay off your credit cards and other consumer debt
  • build an emergency fund
  • protect your growing wealth with insurance policies like disability and health
  • start your retirement account
  • build a solid partnership with your significant other

Share parenting and careers with your child’s father. I have two biases to confess right off the bat: One, I think most kids grow up best when raised by their parents (as opposed to day-care providers); and two, women need to know how to make money (see the statistics referenced in this article, above).

My ideal parenting-career model looks like this: Mom and Dad divide childcare and career hours between the two of them. Rather than settle for the stereotypical full-time working father and the stay-at-home mom, each parent works part-time (20-25 hours each), during different shifts, while swapping care of the kids.

Consider the benefits of this arrangement:

  1. Kids grow up spending quality time with both parents
  2. Both Mom and Dad get to spend quality time with the kids
  3. Both parents have the opportunity to pursue their own career paths
  4. No childcare expenses are required
  5. Mom hasn’t given up her earning power

I recognize this isn’t an easy arrangement for everyone. Many families feel they both need to work full-time to support their family. Some don’t think their employer would allow them to work part-time. Others are single-parents who can’t count on reliable child-support or parental care from the other. It’s not the perfect solution for everyone. But if it sounds like an appealing idea to you, see if you can eliminate the “yes-but’s” and figure out a way to make it happen anyway.

Refuse to be underpaid. Remember– a woman who works full-time for 40 years will earn $523,000 less than her male counterpart.  When you perform the same work, why in the world should you settle for less pay? Demand what you deserve.

Become financially literate. Almost 90% of all women will end up managing their finances alone so it’s foolhardy to allow the man in your life to handle your finances. Read books, take classes, find a money mentor.

Come to grips with the emotions behind money. The “How To’s” of personal finance are the same for women as they are for men. What is different is our feelings and beliefs about money. It has been demonstrated that most women are raised to nurture and seek acceptance and view money as a means to create a lifestyle. Women spend on things that enhance day-to-day living. Conversely, most men grow up learning to fix and provide. They view money as a means to capture and accumulate value, like a house and retirement. Men don’t spend, they invest. Men don’t want something, they need it. Theirs tends to be a future-money orientation.

Modify your money mindset to a more functional one.

Create a lifetime financial plan. I use Microsoft Money’s lifetime financial planning tool. (Too bad this useful software program has been recently discontinued! Anyone know of a replacement that includes a lifetime planner?)

If you are married or in a committed relationship, invest in it. Money ranks as the first most argued topic for many couples. It has been estimated that an astounding 80% of divorces are the result of money disagreements. A good marriage takes effort. I’ve been married for 22 years, so believe me, I know.  We schedule regular date nights (sans kid) and see a counselor for “maintenance tune-ups”. Money and time well invested, I assure you.

Push for national change in Congress, state legislature, public schools and at the corporate level. Support systems that will help to ease financial differences between genders.

Readers, how do you think women can beat the odds? Please add your ideas in the comments section.

Statistical information for this article was obtained from the following sources:

Sign up for free email or RSS notifications every time I publish something new. No spam, ever, and no risk (it’s easy to unsubscribe should you ever change your mind).

Follow me on Twitter (@MillionMommyND) where I share interesting articles, opinions, quotes, tips and other bite-sized tidbits relevant to success, happiness and financial freedom almost daily.

Entrepreneur CliffsNotes from a Penny-Pinching, Pajama-Clad, Self-Made Millionaire

Aim, Ready, Fire!

Entrepreneur CliffsNotes from a Penny-Pinching, Pajama-Clad, Self-Made Millionaire

Japanese Archery(photo by Okinawa Soba)

This is a lengthy post (2500+ words) as it contains nearly everything I know about how to be your own boss, in an abbreviated 3-phase format. If you’ve ever dreamed of making money doing something you love to do, I think you’ll find it well worth your time to read. First, a little about me and my entrepreneurial background to provide context for this filled-to-the-brim resource…

I’ve bootstrapped half a dozen small businesses including a couple of dog training schools, home and pet care services, a construction company and most recently, a coaching business. I started each business with less than $1,500 in capital investment. Because I hate alarm clocks, rigid working hours and panty hose, I choose to operate businesses that honor my personal preferences. I wake when I am rested, eager to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. More often than not, I work from home in my pajamas.

My entrepreneurial success didn’t require a diploma. Impatient with seemingly pointless prerequisites and eager to start making my own money, I dropped out of college. I now consider myself a lifelong learner and return to school whenever I want to learn a specific new skill.

“Most self-made millionaires possess average intelligence. What sets them apart is their openness to new knowledge and their willingness to learn whatever it takes to succeed.” (The Seven Pitfalls of Business Failure and How to Avoid Them by Patricia Schaefer)

Unfortunately, I was a drop out with no vision for my future. I began my adult working life as a graveyard shift donut and coffee waitress. Fortunately, I realized that I was too good to settle for minimum wage. I quit pushing donuts and took a job that would allow me to explore my interests. Because I’d always loved animals, I applied for a job with a veterinary hospital and during this same time, I also negotiated an unpaid apprenticeship with a professional dog trainer to learn marketable new skills.

Don’t tell me what to do! I am the boss of me. As an employee, I resisted standard operating procedures — particularly when I could see a more effective process for said procedures. Recognizing that I found it difficult to do business someone else’s way, I took what I learned as an employee and apprentice and moonlighted with my own business. Once my own business income matched my employment income, I quit my job. I’ve been self-employed since my early twenties.

How much is enough? Unlike the typical American, I have resisted the temptation to inflate my lifestyle to match my income. Rather than make more and spend more to keep up with the Joneses, I enjoy a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. I value my time, hobbies, recreation and personal relationships more than I do money. Therefore, my moneymaking ambition has always been to make just a little more than enough. Because I pay myself first, I am 100% debt-free and have accumulated over a million dollars. I can afford the luxury of free time. Here’s a wonderful story, written by an unknown author, that aptly illustrates the concept of ‘enough’:

Story of The Mexican Fisherman

(photo by CaptPiper)

Mexican Fisherman StoryAn American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The American then asked him why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican replied that he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what, senor?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Author Unknown

What drives YOU to want to be your own boss?

Aim…   (Step One: Zero In On The Right Business)


(photo by AjDele Photography)

What do you love to do? Do you make money doing this? If not, why not? What are your unique talents? What are your personal priorities and values? Your quirks? Your passion will be evident to your customers and will prove value. Put aside all judgement as you brainstorm ideas. Need inspiration? Try these exercises:

Is there a need for what you offer? Next time you can’t find what you are looking for, realize you just identified a business opportunity.

What is your risk tolerance? If your tolerance for risk is low, avoid reinventing the wheel. Pick a known moneymaker.

Example: While plumbing isn’t a romantic business, it has been in steady demand for as long as humans have enjoyed running water.

Is the money worth your time? Calculate how much you anticipate making and how many hours you’ll need to work to earn the revenue. Then calculate the dollar value of your time.

Ask many questions:

  • Talk to people in your chosen niche: vendors, sales reps, technicians, consumers, your future competition.
  • Ask for feedback from those who are supportive, optimistic and successful. Avoid naysayers.
  • Interview those who have been-there-done-that.

Try it before you buy into it:

  • Find a mentor.
  • Be a shadow.
  • Volunteer.
  • Work to learn, not to earn. Negotiate an apprenticeship.
  • Work for your future competition.

Would you be better off buying an existing business or starting from scratch?

  • An existing business with a successful history is more likely to succeed.
  • A start up is attractive due to a lower beginning investment.

Ready…  (Step Two: Set Yourself Up for Success)

Missed the target(photo by andreasnilsson1976)

Do your research:

  • Be an ethical mole and work for your future competition. Learn how to navigate the maze on someone else’s dollar.
  • Analyze your competition: supply, demand, prices, strengths, weaknesses. What can YOU offer that your competition doesn’t?
  • What are the demographics of your targeted customer? How will you reach them?
  • Clarify your business identity by carefully selecting your niche and business name. Be sticky! (ex: Jen Smith versus Millionaire Mommy Next Door)

Spin your web (create a support system):

  • Don’t try to wear all the hats. Reports on business failures cite poor management as the number one reason for failure. New business owners frequently lack business and management expertise in areas such as finance, purchasing, selling, production, and hiring and managing employees. Build your team of players and seek help from a bookkeeper, CPA, attorney, manager, sales and marketing specialist, etc. Weigh the advantages of hiring subcontractors versus employees.
  • Participate in networking, professional and business support groups.
  • Limit your exposure to toxic people. Don’t allow negativity to bring you down. Surround yourself with those who are happy and successful.
  • Be mindful of your own internal dialog. Eliminate the words ‘but’, ‘try’, and ‘can’t’ from your personal vocabulary.

Get your dollars in a row:

  • Starting a business is risky. As a rule of thumb, new businesses have a 50/50 chance of surviving for five years or more (source: Small Business Association). Don’t let statistics discourage you; just be properly prepared for success.
  • Plan for the best AND have an exit plan in place.
  • Start with sufficient capital and operating expenses. Establish an emergency savings account equal to at least one year of operating and living expenses.
  • Cover your ass(ets). Obtain appropriate insurance policies to protect you from catastrophic events: medical, disability, liability.
  • If money is tight, moonlight. Keep your day job and work your business between working hours. Cut back on your employed hours incrementally. Once your part-time business is earning enough money to replace your day job, quit.

Establish yourself as an authority in your niche:

  • Volunteer
  • Blog
  • Write a book
  • Teach
  • Speak

Eliminate the need for costly advertising expenses. I’ve never spent a dime on advertising. Referrals and word of mouth come free.

  • Seek symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships with existing, complementary businesses. For example, I offered on-location dog training classes for the clientele of participating veterinary hospitals.
  • Allow potential referral sources to experience the value you provide firsthand by offering them free or discounted services. Example: I offered free dog training classes to veterinarians, groomers, kennel owners and their staff.
  • Find relevant ways to help your community. Submit public service announcements to your local newspapers, radio and TV stations.

Fire!  (Step Three: Become the Boss of You)

Bullseye(photo by – POD –)

First impressions can be a matter of life and death for your new business. Now that you know what you want to do and what you need to do, it is time to launch!

Focus. Keep your commitments. Don’t branch out in too many directions.

Prevent burnout. Assuming you plan to be your own boss for the long haul, it is imperative to keep your work and personal lives balanced:

  • Take time off to play.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Hug your family.
  • Be there for your friends.
  • Eat your vegetables.
  • Express your gratitude. Psychologists say that establishing a habit of gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being:

“The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.”  (source)

  • Be happy! Happy people make more money. Newsweek reports:

“although money doesn’t buy happiness, happiness can buy money. Young people who describe themselves as happy typically earn higher incomes, years later, than those who said they were unhappy. It seems that a sense of well-being can make you more productive and more likely to show initiative and other traits that lead to a higher income.”

Measure and evaluate your progress. Regular evaluations using analytical measures are important for keeping on track and staying in alignment with your vision. Identify what works, what doesn’t and what you want to accomplish next:

  • Keep a journal.
  • Maintain an accurate bookkeeping system and chart your financial progress.
  • Track the ratio of repeat customers versus new ones.
  • Ask for feedback from your customers, employees and referral sources.

Stay connected. Nurture professional relationships with people who have the potential to help you with contacts, information, referrals and advice. In turn, be authentic and mindful of how you can add value to their lives. Your professional community is a rewarding place to practice good karma.

  • Send a periodic email that reads, “I’ve been thinking about you. We haven’t talked in a while — I’d love to meet up for coffee or tea sometime next week to catch up.”
  • Build ‘virtual’ relationships via e-mail, conference calls, online courses, blogs, forums, chat rooms, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Consider expansion carefully. Remember your priorities and do the math. For example, my husband and I considered expanding our small construction business to include a staff of workers. Here are the two options we considered:

Option A = Continue to manage a small in-home business:

1 full-time tradesman (my husband; 35 hours per week)
1 part-time apprentice (20 hours per week)
1 part-time bookkeeper (me; 15 hours per week)
Total employees = 3 (1 full-time, 2 part-time)
Total labor hours per week = 70

Gross annual revenue = $250,000

Net profit = 50%
Low overhead expenses (work from home, one truck, one set of tools) means a higher percentage of revenue remains as profit.


Option B = Expand our business to include 5 tradesmen:

5 full-time tradesmen (5 x 40 hours = 200 hours per week)
5 part-time apprentices (5 x 20 hours = 100 hours per week)
2 full-time bookkeepers (5 x 15 hours = 75 hours per week)
1 full-time manager (40 hours per week)
Total employees = 13 (8 full-time, 5 part-time)
Total labor hours per week = 415

Gross annual revenue = $1,250,000

Net profit = 10%
Higher overhead expenses (leased storefront location, five trucks, five sets of tools, increased salaries and administration costs) means a lower percentage of revenue remains as profit.

Which business would you rather operate? At first glance, many would likely say, “I’ll take Option B and make one-and-a-quarter million dollars each year!”

Whoa now, let’s slow down and finish the math:

Option A = $250,000 gross annual revenue x 50% net profit = $125,000.

Option B = $1,250,000 gross annual revenue x 10% net profit = $125,000.

That’s right — both options provide $125,000 in annual net profit. Now that we’ve completed the math, which would you choose?

Option A comes with less expenditures of time, energy and capital.
Option A reduces risk.
Option A requires very little initial capital investment.
Option A allows us to work from home.
Option A puts the same amount of dollars in our pocket as Option B.

We chose Option A. Every business is different, of course, so run your own numbers.

Pay yourself first and invest for a lifetime of freedom:

  • Be a tightwad. Thomas Stanley, coauthor of the bestseller, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, found that the prototypical millionaire told him, “I am my favorite charity.”
  • As your profits grow, be watchful of lifestyle inflation.
  • As a rule of thumb, put at least 15% of your net profits into a diversified retirement account.

Once you achieve financial independence, give back and help other get started:


Note: All told, this post took me more than 8 hours to put together (and over twenty years to learn!). If you found it useful, please share it with your friends, bookmark it, Stumble it, Tweet it, link to it from your blog, etc. For your convenience, there is a “Share This Post” link in the footer of this post. Thanks!

Follow me on Twitter (@MillionMommyND) where I share interesting articles, opinions, quotes, tips and other bite-sized tidbits relevant to success, happiness and financial freedom almost daily.

Sign up for free email or RSS notifications every time I publish something new. No spam, ever, and no risk (it’s easy to unsubscribe should you ever change your mind).

How To Find A Job, Despite The Recession!

With 13.2 million people currently unemployed in the United States, ABC’s television program, The View, aired a themed show this week on jobs: where to find one, how to get one, what to do if you become unemployed, job ideas for stay-at-home moms, and how to start a “job club”.

Because this is such a timely topic (everyone knows at least one person who has lost a job during this recession), I took notes to share with you. Please share this post with the people in your life who are needing some encouraging, constructive support right now. This post is LOADED with helpful links and resources!

Andrew Serwer, managing editor of Fortune magazine, reports that the lowest unemployment rates are in the farming and ranching industries, ranking states like Wyoming and South Dakota lowest in unemployment.

Ah, but you’re not a farmer or a cowboy? Serwer reports that the following industries are also fairing relatively well right now:

  • retail trade
  • health care
  • finance, insurance
  • professional and business services
  • state and local government
  • accommodations and food services

Jobs that should grow with the President’s stimulus programs include:

  • technology
  • education

What industries are NOT likely to be hiring now?

  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • mining
  • real estate
  • arts, entertainment
  • transportation
  • warehousing
  • utilities

Here are two specific companies that ARE hiring today:

  • Wal-Mart is opening 150 new stores across the country and is hiring store managers, human resource personnel, sales clerks, and more. They are willing to train people who have a strong work ethic.
  • HCA Healthcare reports 9,000 available job openings for nursing, x-ray technicians, physical therapists, secretaries, administrative and more.

Marcus Buckingham, career expert and author of The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, reports that it is taking 120 days on average to land a job. He offers his top ten things to do if you become unemployed:

1) Financial assessment: Do a thorough review of your current financial situation. What costs can you eliminate or reduce starting today? Cancel your cable package, eat at home, stop buying things — or buy them used. Hoard your cash.

2) Self-assessment: Re-evaluate what your strengths, interests and passions are and how you can best contribute to a company. Discuss your ideas with someone who is objective, such as an open-minded friend, a coach, or a counselor.

3) Update your resume: Customize it for each specific job that you are applying for. Keep it simple — filling your resume with irrelevant details is distracting. Highlight relevant experiences and describe your strengths using quantifiable verbs (“organized, saved”). Be specific about the results you have achieved and the contributions you have made to the business. Contact the people you intend to use as references. Only include those references you are confident will give you a favorable review.

4) Hire yourself as a headhunter: Treat FINDING a job AS a job, with a 9 to 5 structure. Establish daily and weekly goals. If you are rejected for a job position, ask the interviewer for feedback. Their feedback can help you improve your job hunting skills.

5) Network: Tell the people you know that you are looking for a new job. But phrase it in a positive way like, “I am looking for a career that will allow me to use my strengths to improve a business” rather than whining, “I lost my job. Do you know anyone who is hiring?” Stay in touch with colleagues (especially your previous manager) so you are on their mind if re-hire opportunities come up.

6) Get your mindset right: It isn’t just about thinking positively, it’s about acting positively. Tackle the things you’ve been putting off in other areas of your life. Act, feel productive, and your stress will be reduced.

7) Expand your skills: Finish your degree, apprentice, hone your strengths. This will make you more appealing to future employers.

8 ) Take a platform job: Go ahead a take a job that you are over-qualified for. Do what it takes to feed you and your family. Look at it not as a step down, but as an opportunity to network with new people while you continue to search for your ultimate job. Or wow your employer so much that they promote you.

9) Volunteer: Show future employers concrete activities you’ve performed during your lay-off that demonstrate initiative and skill-building. Be an awesome volunteer and you might impress someone at the organization so much that they will offer you a paying job. (Note: if you are receiving unemployment benefits, check to see whether volunteering impacts your eligibility.)

10) Start your business: Now that you have the time to investigate this option, utilize the many free resources available for those who are interested in starting a business.

Tory Johnson, CEO for Women For Hire and author of Will Work from Home: Earn the Cash–Without the Commute, shared her “job club” tips. A job club is a group that motivates one another, networks, supports, and helps each other keep accountable. Click here to learn more about forming a job club.

Johnson also suggests:

  • expand your search – create different resumes targeting your different skills
  • create a LinkedIn profile and ask people to write recommendations for you
  • update your resume and make it look like you are doing things rather than waiting around for a job to come to you
  • freelance

Resume Mistakes:

  • One size fits all – you should customize for each job application
  • rehashes your experience – highlight your successes instead
  • outdated and overblown – your resume needs to be current and concise
  • unexplained gaps – address employment gaps using volunteerism, education, etc.
  • submit and wait – you need to submit and HUSTLE!

Johnson also discussed stay-at-home mom jobs that allow women to take care of their kids while earning an income. Here are some of the online resources she suggested:

Direct sales (through established companies, like Tupperware parties):

Promote your expertise:

Soft Skills / Care giving:

Hard Skills:

Online Selling (convert your clutter like designer clothing, old cell phones, and movies into cash):

Craft sales:

  • Creative Etsy.com users sell $12 million dollars worth of their hand-crafted products!

I hope you find my notes and these resources helpful. Please leave additional ideas in the comment section below. For more money making and saving ideas, please head on over to the recent Carnival of Personal Finance!

Why blogging should be on YOUR to-do list, especially during tough economic times

People create blogs for many reasons: to keep in touch with family and friends; to promote a product or service; to make money working from home.

A few full-time bloggers reportedly earn a very healthy income from blogging. Bloggers sell links and space to advertisers and generate referral income from affiliate sales programs. For those that blog as a means of making money, generating traffic is paramount. The higher the number of page views, the higher the opportunity to generate income. A-list bloggers make a lot of money because they receive tens of thousands of hits every day.

Most bloggers, however, earn very little. Don’t be discouraged though, because even with low traffic counts, blogging provides other valuable income opportunities.

Let me explain by way of example: I don’t make much money from the advertisement placed in my right sidebar — and what I do earn is donated to Kiva.org. But nonetheless, because of my blog, interesting and profitable income opportunities present themselves. I’ve appeared on national television, I’ve been profiled in several books, newspapers and magazines, I’ve been encouraged by literary agents and publishers to write a book, I’ve been offered writing and speaking gigs, and I’ve established a coaching business.

Considering today’s tough economic times, blogging should be on your to-do list too because it can open new doors.

Blogging provides a way for me to:

  • network, make connections, and influence others in a positive way
  • build my platform as an author before writing a book (essential in today’s publishing market)
  • offer my coaching services to a targeted and receptive audience
  • improve my writing skills
  • express myself and share an exchange of thoughts and ideas with a diverse, worldwide community of readers
  • promote topics near and dear to my heart (personal empowerment, science of happiness, financial literacy)
  • help small businesses operated by working, impoverished women in developing countries by pledging my blogging profits to Kiva.org

If you’re a consultant, small business owner, paid professional – or currently unemployed and looking for work — you owe it to your financial future to establish a blog of your own. But how? Here are the lessons I’ve learned:

Blogging 101

1)  First, answer the question “Why do I want to blog?”

Blogging takes a lot of time. Most bloggers quit within their first three months. Without a clear purpose, mission or vision statement, you’re likely to become a disillusioned short-term blogger. Realize that it takes plenty of time and work to create and maintain a well-trafficked and respected blog.

2)  Research the business of blogging and find mentors

Before launching my blog, I invested three months time researching the business of blogging. I followed successful blogs and those that teach the art of blogging (like Problogger). I joined a writers’ group to share my ideas with other writers, ask for feedback and reciprocate proofreading. Knowing that first impressions are everything, I made sure that I was ready to impress new readers during their first visit.

3)  Carefully select your niche and blog title

Pick a topic that you are passionate about. Your passion will be evident in your writing. You will spend a lot of time blogging about it, thinking about it and talking about it. Make sure you love-love-love your blog topic! Now, craft a title that will convey your blog’s topic AND grab your readers attention. Ask for feedback before committing.

4)  Have a plan

Before launching my blog, I drafted an outline for my 52 Baby Steps to Financial Freedom series (which I may eventually turn into a book), wrote an About Me page to introduce myself to new readers, and made a list of hundreds of topics I’d like to blog about.

5)  Use a self-hosted domain

I started my first blog in July 2007 using Blogger’s free service. Just four months later, my blogspot domain had earned thousands of inbound links and a nice Google page rank. It was discovered by the media and I was invited to appear on national television. My blog’s readership and traffic continued to climb.

In October of 2008, my entire Google account was hacked into and disabled. This means my blog, my gmail account, my calendar… the whole shebang… were gone. Since Blogger is not self-hosted, I had no recourse.  I had to start all over again.

Now I pay about $10 a year to register my own domain URL and $99 a year for my hosting service. Take it from me, the expense and hassle is worth it!

6)  Schedule blogging time

One of my favorite productivity tools is a digital kitchen timer. As a work-from-home mom of a three-year-old, I find it necessary to structure my writing and blogging time according to her schedule and push to get it done. I write when she’s sleeping, engrossed in Sesame Street or enjoying one-on-one time with her daddy.

Nothing can sideswipe my attention and redirect my efforts quite like the world wide web. The timer keeps me focused, motivated and targeted on the individual task at hand.

Identify your daily, weekly and monthly activities, set a time limit for each one, and start the digital timer in countdown mode. Save your favorite activities for last to serve as your reward for staying on task.

For example, here’s the timed list I strive to keep for writing and blogging activities. (Note: You can also use your digital timer for other tasks: managing personal finances; housecleaning; de-cluttering; exercising; tackling a big project or assignment.) Use your timer to “eat your elephant one bite at a time”.

15 minutes: backup previous posts and template changes
15 minutes: submit posts to blog carnivals, write and publish my blog carnival roundup
30 minutes: thank bloggers for new incoming links
(Total = 1 hour per week)

30 minutes: reply to emails
15 minutes: respond to blog comments
15 minutes: check stats
30 minutes: read other blogs, leave comments, copy my comments for future post ideas
(Total = 1.5 hours/day x 5 days = 7.5 hours per week)

1-2 Times Per Week (my writing process):
30 minutes: brainstorm topics, research, outline, collect relevant links
60 minutes: write rough draft
30 minutes: proofread, edit, polish
15 minutes: publish post to blog, check for broken links
(Total = 2.25 hours oer post = 2.25 to 4.5 hours per week)

TOTAL = 10.75 to 13 hours per week

The digital timer can also serve as a reminder to get up from your desk, stretch your muscles and rest your eyes. I usually multi-task these mini-breaks: I throw a load of laundry in the dryer, do some yoga stretches with my daughter, or take the dog for a walk. About 10 minutes later, I’m sufficiently refreshed to sit at my desk for the next itemized task at hand.

7)  Create post titles that grab attention

Copyblogger writes,

Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a headline or post title that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.

But a headline can do more than simply grab attention. A great headline can also communicate a full message to its intended audience, and it absolutely must lure the reader into your body text.

At its essence, a compelling headline must promise some kind of benefit or reward for the reader, in trade for the valuable time it takes to read more.

8)  Provide value

Aim to make each post a resource for your readers. Content is king queen. Quality content creates value for the reader, and in turn, value drives long-term traffic. Proofread before you hit the publish button.

9) Seek exposure with a targeted audience

Submit articles to blog carnivals related to your niche. Offer guest posts to other bloggers and include your web page link in your byline. Participate in conversations on related blogs and online forums. Include your link in your email signature.

10)  Be a polite blogger

Respond to readers’ questions, comments and emails. Link back to blog carnival hosts. Monitor inbound links, comments and mentions of your blog via Google Alerts, TechnoratiSiteMeter and Google Analytics. When you detect a mention of your blog, visit the referring blog and thank the blogger in the comments of the post.

11)  Share the link-love

Creating a blog roll and link out to other web sites within your niche. Encourage an online conversation.

12)  Make it easy for readers to return to your site

Ask readers to subscribe to your feed and make the process as easy as possible. Then keep in mind that your subscriber list is full of people who have trusted you with their valuable attention.

13)  Measure and evaluate your progress

Regular evaluations using analytical measures are important for keeping on track and staying in alignment with your vision. Identify what works, what doesn’t and what you want to accomplish next.

14)  Ask for reader feedback

Readers, I welcome questions, comments and suggestions. Please let me know if (and how) I can improve this blog to better assist you in your journey to success, wealth and happiness.

Blogging Tools and Resources:

Google Analytics
Blog Carnival List
Windows Live Writer
Help A Reporter Out

Happy People Make More Money

I like to view Thanksgiving as a national celebration of gratitude. Three years ago on Thanksgiving Day, I started a new family tradition: I asked everyone present at the dinner table to share a few things they’re most grateful for and write them down on a colorful leaf cutout. Each year, I ask my friends and family to add another leaf. I adorn our Christmas tree with this colorful gratitude garland. Last Thanksgiving when I asked my then two-year-old daughter to decorate her leaf, she added sparkles and glittery gems. When it came time to help her write her message of gratitude on the back, I asked her, “what makes you happy?”. She replied, “Purple!”. It truly is all of the little things that make life so beautiful.

Since then, our family shares “happy things” during dinner, year ’round. It’s so cool – our daughter looks forward to our evening tradition and usually initiates the daily gratitude conversation.

Over time, I’ve learned something that is so ridiculously simple: that happiness is a choice. Even during intensely difficult times (caring for my mom during her long, debilitating illness and mourning her resulting death, for instance), I realized that I could be happy anyway. It isn’t circumstance that dictates whether I live a happy life — rather, it is a matter of choice. I can succumb to sadness and overwhelm or I can choose to focus on gratitude, love and happiness. I’ve witnessed that by focusing my thoughts on the happy things, rather than those that sadden me or stress me out, I attract more positive circumstances and contentment to my life. This simple act of gratitude literally transforms my experiences.

How do I change my focus? I make it my mission to look for at least five things each day that make my heart melt, my soul sing and my smile widen. I actively search for things to add to my list. By doing so, my focus changes and in turn, so does my mood. It doesn’t always come easy– I’m genetically predisposed to clinical depression. I’ve learned that happiness takes practice. With practice, I develop a HABIT of feeling happy.

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
— Albert Clarke

For the skeptics in the bunch, I’d like to point out that the power of gratitude is PROVEN. Two psychologists say their Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being:

“The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.”

Furthermore, happy people MAKE MORE MONEY! Newsweek reports, “although money doesn’t buy happiness, happiness can buy money. Young people who describe themselves as happy typically earn higher incomes, years later, than those who said they were unhappy. It seems that a sense of well-being can make you more productive and more likely to show initiative and other traits that lead to a higher income. Contented people are also more likely to marry and stay married, as well as to be healthy, both of which increase happiness.”

So dear readers, enjoy a HAPPY Thanksgiving! Please share your gratitude for the “happy things” in your life by leaving a comment. Here are a few of mine for today:

tickling my daughter awake
my husband’s laid back attitude
my sister and I putting aside our differences and enjoying the holiday– and one another
my book club friends
learning to play the Marimba
my massage therapist
watching the birds congregate at my birdfeeder
spiced apple cider
you, my reader, for sharing your thoughts with me