Hot Take: Let’s Keep Erika Jayne On ‘RHOBH’ For As Long As We Can

There’s nothing that brings the internet together like a good old fashioned scandal. Whether that’s Hilaria “how you say cucumber in English” Baldwin, the O.J. trials, or Tom and Erika Girardi vs. everyone they’ve (allegedly) f*cked over. 

As of late 2020, Erika Jayne/Girardi officially transcended the reality TV world into mainstream news and pop culture after she filed for divorce from Tom and the couple was sued for allegedly leveraging their breakup to embezzle money. And even though the Housewives franchises are no stranger to legal scandals (Teresa Guidice, Lynne Curtin, Jen Shah, etc.), Tom’s reputation and the sheer gravitas of the situation has catapulted the story into major news outlets like the LA Times and CNN — but most importantly, it’s being featured on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Up until this season, Erika Jayne was the Kourtney Kardashian of RHOBH: boring AF (Kim said it, not me). And sure, unlike Kourtney, Erika has been interesting to look at, but beyond that she’s been cold, reserved, and truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle and (allegedly stolen) cash. 

IMO, getting to feature the divorce/lawsuit this season is the best thing to happen to RHOBH in a looooong time. Over the past few years the franchise has been littered with trivial storylines like PuppyGate that drag out for 10 episodes longer than they should, so bringing in an actual scandal to basically be the eighth cast member this season is bringing much-needed dimension and depth to the show. Otherwise, you just know the entire season was going to be ViolateGate (Sutton vs. Crystal). Yawn. 

And I commend Erika on what she’s given us so far in season 11. She’s basically the Faye Resnick we never got — divulging her perspective on the lawsuit, commenting on Tom’s declining health, and sharing her real feelings about her and Tom’s relationship now that she doesn’t have to protect him. Her storyline this season has seriously resurrected the franchise from the brink of irrelevance, lacing it with a hint of true crime-ish elements combined with a more open and off-the-cuff Erika who’s actually pulling her weight within the cast. 

And that leads me to my hot take: let’s keep The Pretty Mess on RHOBH as long as she’s still being… well, pretty messy. 

If I’m getting too far ahead, there are CliffsNotes below to get you up to speed. But if you already have your PhD in the Erika/Tom scandal like me, feel free to skip the summary and get straight into my open letter to Bravo on why they should keep Erika around for season 12. 

Erika’s Involvement in the Lawsuit(s)

About a month after Erika filed for divorce, Edelson PC filed a class action lawsuit against Erika and Tom, alleging that the couple embezzled settlement funds meant for victims who lost family in the 2018 Boeing plane crash. The lawsuit also claimed that the “‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money…”. 

On the heels of that, Tom’s former business partners filed a separate suit against him, claiming that Tom kept funds over $315,000 that he owed them for his own gain.

And although all this shadiness was allegedly orchestrated by Tom, the scandal is being framed in a way that implies Erika is guilty by association — and not just because of the allegedly opportunistic divorce, but also because her company EJ Global received over $20 million in loans from Tom’s law firm

That $20 million was probably spent on her glam squad’s room and board during cast trips alone (kidding) (not really), which makes it all the more sad to know it could have been used to pay victim settlements — and all the more infuriating considering it did not belong to Erika in the first place. And that’s a sentiment the judge agrees with, after ruling that specific victims can go after Erika for up to $11 million to replace the amount Tom never paid them.

Why This Sh*t Is Interesting

What punches up the entire storyline is the juxtaposition between the way the media/lawsuits are framing Erika, and how she’s portraying herself on RHOBH

While the lawsuits suggest that Erika had some part in/knowledge of Tom’s shady dealings, the RHOBH version of Erika is acting as if nothing illegal happened. In fact, she’s enraged that people dare speculate that the divorce timing was suspect, saying during the latest episode, “What’s being said is just, I mean, it’s insane. That my divorce is a sham, but nobody cares about the facts.” She also explicitly said the divorce wasn’t a ploy to hide assets while FaceTiming Kyle and Lisa. THE TEAAAA. 

I’m the first to admit that she’s in a sh*tty position, mostly thanks to Tom. But we can’t forget that Erika is a performer by trade with an alter ego that even Danielle Staub couldn’t pull off. We’ve seen her transform from the world’s best poker player to a puss-patting, bodysuit-wearing, loud and bright singer/dancer. All this to say, her time on the stage and those two episodes in The Young and the Restless prove that she has the chops to act the part that her PR recommends. 

And as much as I love to analyze what’s strategy and what’s not, at the end of the day I just want good TV. So Erica sharing those tidbits about the lawsuit hit hard, as did the comments about her and Tom’s pre-divorce relationship. For the past five seasons, we’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of Tom “styrofoam cup” Girardi. Not a peep of indiscretion or disagreement, and not even Kim Richards piped in threatening that she had dirtBut Erika has finally, finally expressed several iotas of emotion and raw stories about their relationship this season, and whether those are her true feelings or a narrative suggested by her PR team (or Mikey), it makes you wonder, what other dirt is she going to spill, now that she’s not protecting Tom?

And we’re going in the right direction. So far this season, Erika has detailed his heartless goodbye, admitted she was pissed he didn’t come see her on Broadway, and even expressed her fear about her public perception post-divorce in the last episode when she said, “I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created.”

And there are logical reasons why Erika is being more real. For one, she needs that Bravo paycheck more than ever, especially after detailing her fears about the attorney fees in the latest episode. Now that she literally needs this job, it’s in her best interest to involve herself in the storyline and bring some actual juiciness — whether that’s Tom related, post-divorce dating stories, etc. 

Another reason to keep her on the show is that despite the accusations, Erika’s still proving it’s expensive to be heeeer-er-er-er by boarding a PJ and sporting a $189k ring. That’s some major BDE when you’re in the middle of an embezzlement lawsuit, and some very Jen Shah-esque energy that makes for ridiculously entertaining TV. 

And while Erika’s attorneys briefly dropped her and then took her back (for reasons we can only speculate), her castmates have continued to show their support and allegiance to Erika, both on the show and on social media. From Kyle and Lisa dancing to “XXPEN$IVE” and most of the ladies wishing her a happy birthday publicly, they clearly don’t feel a need to distance themselves at all. Truly women supporting women, in the words of Ramona Singer. 

Thanks to Tom, Erika’s part of a truly impactful scandal that I’m 100% sure will be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. With that being said, capturing Erika’s perspective on the RHOBH is a fresh, deep, real storyline that’s captivating AF. And because court cases take forever and Erika can only say so much right now, Bravo can easily milk this content well into next season as well. Not to mention, Erika will definitely be opening up with some new storylines about post-Tom life in an effort to stay relevant (and liquid… with those big lawyer bills). 

Image: Bravo

8 Money Mistakes To Avoid This Holiday Shopping Season

HerCapital’s mission is to empower women to invest in their future. Through virtual events and an online knowledge base, we hope to help women with money management all while building a community of strong women who lift each other up. Click here to check out our website and follow us on our Instagram @her.capital!

Ahh, the holidays. Michael Bublé on blast, holiday drinks at Starbucks, and Christmas party hookups (we’re kidding, please stay in). The holidays will look pretty different this year with ‘rona still rampant, but regardless of how you spend it, gift-giving with friends and family is probably still on your mind. Now, we know retail therapy is real, and let’s just say 2020 is giving us even more reasons to want to fix our problems by buying things we don’t need. But before you start maxing out your credit cards and landing in that pool of tears and regret (like you did after you drunk-texted your ex, oops), make sure you’re not falling into one of the following traps this holiday shopping season.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by HerCapital® (@her.capital)

Mistake #1: Not Setting Your Budget Beforehand

Before you buy anything, be sure to get organized and craft your budget. Start planning out your holiday shopping by making a list of every single person you’re planning on buying a gift for and how much you are willing to spend for each of them. Then remember to include white elephant gifts, potential travel expenses, or (virtual) office parties. And of course, smaller expenses like wrapping paper, shipping fees, and decorations. They’re small, but they add up! Once you’re done making your budget, stick to it! Impulse-buying is real, we get it, but you do not want to end up spending more than you can afford. This especially applies to people who recently entered the workforce and started making money. We know it’s tempting to go all-out and splurge once that paycheck hits, but be sure to slow your roll and think savvy!

Mistake #2: Buying Gifts Last-Minute

Like that presentation you need to work on for tomorrow’s meeting (we see you procrastinating on Betches, girl), you will not be on your A-game if you wait until the last minute. Retailers know that shopping tends to spike closer to the end of the holiday season, and they often raise prices because they know buyers will be willing to drop more. To make matters worse, if you don’t shop ahead, many items may be out of stock or otherwise unavailable, which could lead you to settling with higher-priced alternatives. You don’t want the stress of having to rush to finish up your holiday shopping. Start hunting down deals right now! (Bonus: It gives you an excuse to procrastinate at work, just saying.)

Mistake #3: Overspending On Credit

If you haven’t started saving up for this holiday season, it might be tempting to just swipe your credit card and deal with the expenses later. But patience, young padawan. You do not want to end up drowning in exorbitantly high interest rates and fees or to ultimately take a hit to your credit score. It’s noble and generous to give extravagant gifts, but do not jeopardize your financial health for the sake of it! Remember that handmade gifts and sentimentality (self-care craft night, anyone?) can be just as appreciated as store-bought gifts. If you do take on debt, set strict goals to pay it off by January or February of next year—do not let those interest rates accrue!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by HerCapital® (@her.capital)

Mistake #4: Splurging On “Great Deals” 

So you’re perusing stores looking for gifts, and you see it. 50% off the MOST FETCH handbag you’ve ever seen. Or free shipping if you spend just $10 more. Or even 10% off if you apply for a store credit card. It always feels like an opportunity we just can’t pass up! I get huge FOMO when shopping for deals, and we’ve all been guilty of spending extra when we really thought we were spending less. Retailers know how to take advantage of human psychology, and they push just the right buttons to make us buy things that we don’t really need, or even want. So this holiday season, ask yourself if you would still buy the item if it was full-price, or if your money would be better served elsewhere. 

Mistake #5: Impulsive Buys

Now if you’re like me (I have definitely bought a dress because yes, I totally saw myself wearing it while eating a pain au chocolat in a cafe by the Eiffel Tower like Emily), you have also totally shoved that dress in the back of your closet, only to collect dust. Impulse-buying because we think we need the item makes us vulnerable to overspending and maxing out on our holiday budget. Stick to the 7-day rule: if you like something, think about it over the course of the week, and then act on it! You will be surprised to see how much your opinion can change when you’re out of the spending mindset.

Mistake #6: Sh*tty Gift-Giving Strategies

Like any good investment (read more on investing here), the best gifts aren’t necessarily the expensive ones—they’re the ones with high value. Before you buy a gift for someone, ask yourself: is this something they need and will use daily, or will it just end up being re-gifted? Have you taken a look at their Pinterest boards, or any of their wishlists? The best gifts are useful and high-quality; think tickets to an art museum your BFF is dying to go to (after COVID ofc!), or a standing desk extension for WFH. And also, if you are tight on cash this holiday season, consider doing a gift exchange with family, setting maximums for gift exchanges, or just planning a virtual get-together instead. Normalize that money talk!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by HerCapital® (@her.capital)

Mistake #7: Not Shopping Savvy

As you’re shopping for gifts, don’t take prices at face value; do your research and compare prices across retailers. Now more than ever, it’s easy to automate your deal shopping by adding a couple of browser extensions like Honey or Rakuten. Like any potential cuffing season bf/gf, be sure to shop around and compare prices before you commit! Don’t leave money on the table.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by HerCapital® (@her.capital)

Mistake #8: Not Planning For Next Year

If you’re like me and are just waiting for 2020 to be f*cking over, start off next year on the right foot by determining how much you will need for gifts the next holiday season. Establish a small fund early on and divide it into months, so it’s easier to manage. It’s also worthwhile to throw that moola into a high-yield savings account or a brokerage account early to earn some bank without breaking a sweat! 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by HerCapital® (@her.capital)

And that’s it! Best of luck with the holidays! We hope it’s not too stressful. If you want more tips like these, comment below, check out our website here, and follow us on Instagram @her.capital!

Images: Ben White / Unsplash; @her.capital / Instagram

5 Strategies To Recession-Proof Your Career

I don’t need to say it, but times are tough. The changes we have experienced are enough to make anyone run for the hills. And maybe that’s actually not such a bad idea right now, TBH. But as much as you may want to abandon your life and go live full-time on a beach somewhere, there is such a thing called reality. I know, buzzkill. Since these you-know-what times aren’t going back to any semblance of normal soon, it’s time to be practical, consider your options, and make things work. 

The good news is, there isn’t only one way to get ahead now. Consider these five creative approaches from the utterly practical (Nike’s “just do it”) to the spiritual (calling on your higher powers) to support your future plans. Your best approach to life and work depends on your current circumstances and needs, skill set, and risk tolerance.

1. Embrace Your Skills—Become A Technical Specialist

Which new technologies can you master right now to become the “go-to” expert in a specific area or tool that is in high demand?  Are you a digital marketer or data analyst to the stars (using the term “stars” aspirationally here)? This can be your time to shine! Consider all your current skills to see which ones can fill the demands that companies have right now. For instance, helping companies get online successfully as they move their businesses away from brick-and-mortar stores can be a game-changer. Are there other specialized tools or specific software programs used in your current role, business, or industry that may be critical to ongoing business operations? Identify the sweet spot that you can capitalize on, then let people know how you can help them. 

LinkedIn’s list of the ten most in-demand hard skills for 2020 ranges from blockchain to cloud computing to UX design. But if you don’t have these skills now, don’t sweat it. There are a ton of online training courses available, and many are free on YouTube. Additional resources like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, UDemy, Harvard classes from EdX (what, like it’s hard?) are great online tools with so many classes to offer. And according to Forbes, the soft skills you’ll need to succeed in a post-COVID world might not require classes—adaptability, flexibility, critical thinking, and creativity are all things you can practice on your own. Remember, your goal is to become both valued and immediately applicable to potential customer needs. 

Power Tip:  Don’t forget to brand and capitalize on your expertise by seeding relevant “key words” about your new focus throughout your LinkedIn profile and social media so the AI searches and algorithms identify you as the best potential fit for those seeking your skill set. 

2. Follow The Money

Let’s get real: why not be an opportunist?  Dig deeper into where the needs for talent are right now. If you’re flexible enough to go where the opportunities are, you can find project-based work. “Have a valid passport, willing to travel”—I see you, Carmen Sandiego.  You get the picture—you could get hired to work on important, time-sensitive initiatives that often pay well.  Depending on your personality, you also follow your desire to serve. There is likely to be a huge demand for teachers, healthcare workers, and others who know how to deal with trauma and personal service right now as others are hesitant to return to work.  

Look at your flexibility and tolerance for risk. Obviously, moving can create opportunities, but is not without higher risks from changing conditions. If you’re amenable, check out other cities and countries, or switch industries. (Might not be such a bad idea to get an international visa… just saying…)

3. From WTF To WFH: Shift To Remote Work Altogether

It’s no surprise that most work is moving online in some ongoing capacity. You probably already know how to work Zoom, but are you comfortable working virtually? There are even more opportunities beyond the “gig economy” as the need for global services increases if you can be time-zone agnostic. There are also multiple platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and other on-demand freelance websites that connect customers with service providers. Consider working remotely for a company directly, or maybe it’s time to work for yourself.  If you’re creative and don’t mind the hours you work or prefer working from home, remote work lets you work wherever you are, and in some cases, whenever you want. That means never having to change out of your PJs.

Many digital skills transfer seamlessly across industries. More jobs are conducted with tele-support, no longer requiring face time or presence in a physical work space. According to U.S. News, careers in software and web development, IT management, and accounting are especially good choices for those working remotely because they can be done virtually anywhere with computer access. But currently, some of the most popular remote positions are accountant, customer service representative, project manager, nurse, and writer—which means that there’s a pretty wide range of industries well-suited to this kind of work. So if you don’t mind having technology become your life line (as if it’s not already), consider ongoing WFH to give you more flexibility. What a time saver to create more time, reduce your commute and still add value.

4. Become A Minimalist

…and not just because Marie Kondo says it will spark joy.  A smaller footprint is not only good for the environment, but it will also minimize the space you need, which can save you money in the long run. How? Less weight and obligations lower your cost base, which translates into needing less income. Smaller spaces equate to lower rent. 

Power Tip:  What do you value about your lifestyle? Is it time to focus more on “being” than “doing”? Which begs the question, what is the meaning and significance of work in your life?  Looking at the type of work you want to be doing in the world will open up a whole new set of possibilities for how you might live.  

5. Start Living Within Your Means

No, really. Why not question everything? When you look at what you need to live and survive (financially, spiritually), maybe there are ways you can cut back. When the economy was on an upswing, money was easy and more was more. That was then; this is now. Perhaps it’s time to consider that less is more.

Power Tip: Bring your spending in line with your income. Where can you reduce your outlays to become more thoughtful? Maybe cheap is the new smart. The more you put into your savings and the lower your costs, the easier it will be to weather a storm. With few people having enough savings to last a month, now is an important time to pad (or start) that emergency fund to provide an extra cushion to extend your ability to get through a period of financial hardship that may be longer than expected. 

Only you will know what is the best way for you to adapt to change right now.  This truly is an opportunity to focus on what makes sense for you. By knowing what you care about and value, you can make choices that position you for the future. Taking steps that are both practical and personal will equip you to become more resilient to face future challenges.

Image: Magnet.me / Unsplash

Why Dave Ramsey’s Financial Advice Is Toxic AF

Dave Ramsey has become a household name for many of us, and like any sensational movement, his methods can be polarizing, controversial, and toxic (much like the man himself). He was someone I knew of, but to be honest, I hadn’t paid much attention to him until this past year when a tweet of his went viral in my social media circles. The tweet reads, “If you’re working on paying off debt, the only time you should see the inside of a restaurant is if you’re working there.” 

So that means that for any of you with tens of thousands in student loan debt, you’re basically effed if you want to do anything outside of work, picking up a second (or third job) or side hustle, cutting ALL unnecessary expenses like therapy, Netflix, internet, or anything over a budget cell phone plan. You know, until you’re “worthy” of being able to eat at a restaurant again because you’ve paid off your “bad” debt.

Act Your Wage. People who win with money live on less than they make. Period. Can’t pay cash, don’t buy it.

— Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) July 15, 2020

Much like the diet industry, Ramsey has built his business around shame. Shaming you for not working hard enough and shaming you for not being where you want to be because you don’t work hard enough (hello, cis, white, male privilege?). Furthermore, Dave believes a credit score equates to you loving debt and believes debt is not a tool to be used, but instead a horrible transgression to be repented for and corrected as soon as possible. I could go on for hours, but instead, I’m going to pick a few key points about dear old DR, and elaborate on why they’re toxic and what alternatives you have! (Because trust me, you have them.)

Scarcity Mindset

Rooted in shame, guilt, and “faith,” Ramsey vilifies, debt, credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and credit utilization of any kind. What his methods don’t take into consideration is how beneficial credit cards, mortgages, and other loans requiring credit can be when you don’t have the generational cash flow to buy things outright. Take me, for example. I bought my first house the month I turned 20, with an adjustable mortgage (gasp), and I put just the bare minimum (or 3.5%) down as a down payment. My mortgage payment came out to $1,000 a month, when I had previously been paying $757 for a 1 bedroom apartment (it was 2010 people, calm down). 

Debt is NOT a tool. It makes banks wealthy, not you.

— Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) July 7, 2020

Had I tried to save up the $160,000 my first house cost, I would still be saving for it while I continued renting. Having available credit on my credit cards also gave me the ability to leave my first marriage when I was still a broke twentysomething. Debt can ALWAYS be paid back. Repeat after me: debt is just a tool to be used.

Even more radical, I recommend asking for a credit line increase on your credit cards once a year. Not only does this help you by showing you have more available credit and you’re using a lower percentage, but it’s there in a true emergency situation to pay for groceries, gas, insurance, and more. Expert tip: You should also ALWAYS accept a credit line increase when the credit card company offers them!

Thousand-Dollar Emergency Fund

In order to allocate as much money as possible toward paying off debt and minimizing interest payments on things like student loans, cars, credit cards, mortgages, etc, one of DR’s main tenets is to save $1,000 for an e-fund and then direct ALL other money toward debt payoff. As many of us may have recently realized when the $1,200 stimulus checks hit the bank, a $1,000 emergency fund may sound all fine and good, but when shit really hits the fan (you know, like a worldwide pandemic) $1,000 isn’t even a drop in the bucket in the bigger picture of your bills.

So what can you do instead? Assess your personal expenses and review what a realistic amount is for your emergency savings. I normally recommend at least three months of your base expenses (rent/mortgage, credit card payments, utilities, food, gas, insurance, etc). Three months may not seem like that much, but it can normally be stretched longer than that with unemployment benefits, decreased gas (if you’re not working), fewer bottles of wine, etc. The next step would be to have six months of your average income saved, which can then be stretched to 9-12 months. 

Your employment industry, and whether you have multiple jobs or a side hustle, all factor in as well, because what are the actual chances of 100% of ALL income sources going *POOF*? Honestly, fairly slim. The goal is to have an emergency fund, not a long-term savings fund. So save what you feel comfortable with and then start working to pay your debt down/off.

Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

A debt snowball is where you list your debts in order of lowest total balance owed to greatest balance owed, and you start paying your debt off in that order (smallest to biggest). While this can provide a psychological win right off the bat (woohoo my $500 credit card is paid off), it’s not actually the most cost effective method, because your smallest balance doesn’t always equal your lowest interest rate. 

Cue the debt avalanche method: You rank your debts from highest to lowest interest rates, and start paying off the most expensive debt first. I recommend a hybrid approach and tell clients to knock out their smallest one or two debts (if they’re less than $1k), and then roll into the avalanche method. This combines the psychological win of debt being paid off, with actually saving you the most money in the long run.

Student Loans/White Privilege

Mr. Ramsey is a BIG fan of telling students and their parents that they shouldn’t take out student loans and should only go to colleges they can pay cash for. Because you know, students looking to go to med school or law school (or obtain some other type of degree and aren’t able to bankroll it) just shouldn’t be able to get that degree then. Or *GASP* they should wait until they’ve saved up enough money to pay for it outright. Furthermore, they should do this while working other jobs to save and waste years of compounding income in their chosen profession. This doesn’t take into consideration anyone that may have a less-than-privileged upbringing. Instead, he assumes most people are being lazy instead of acknowledging the inherent assumptions of white privilege he extols as virtues. 

Parents: Don’t encourage your kids to take out student loans. Encourage them to make plans to go to a school where cash can be paid for college.

Academics are important, but they do NOT cause you to be successful. We all know highly educated broke people.

— Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey) July 9, 2020

Student loans are serious. Yes, I don’t recommend taking them out willy nilly, using them to pay for all of your living expenses, and then not paying a damn bit of attention to how that money gets spent. Or even worse, taking out extra above and beyond what you need to pay for items that aren’t needed. However, I stand by my statement that debt can be a FANTASTIC tool when used well, but it’s up to you to learn more about your intended field for work, and confirm that the loans you’re taking are a smart investment in your future self. And guess what? If they are, then do the damn thing!

Overall, Dave Ramsey’s opinions are not the wave of the future, but a hindrance on millennial money growth. My hope is that we can learn better methods and leave the toxicity behind.

Images: Teerasak Ladnongkhun / Shutterstock; daveramsey / Twitter

6 Things You Need To Know About Traveling Alone

Way back when I was ~studying abroad,~ my friends and I tried to organize a trip to Amsterdam. Spoiler: it didn’t go well and none of us talk to each other anymore. It felt like that Girls episode when they all visited North Fork to “heal” and Marnie went completely psycho—except in my case, we were all Marnie. Fun! Tbh, I would blame the worst four days of my life on me and my friends all being too poor to do anything aside from smoke weed and feel depressed in the Anne Frank House, but I think the real reason is that traveling in groups, no matter how much money you have, sucks. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the cyberwar that broke out in your group chat over where to get dinner this weekend. Like, try doing that, but for four days in a different country. So, after the Amsterdam Incident, I’ve officially decided that every trip I take from now on will be either by myself or with my boyfriend, and since he is suffering from a brutal case of nonexistence, it looks like I’ll be traveling alone. And I am totally okay with that.

I know what you’re thinking, “wow, that’s so depressing!” and to you, I ask, is it? In my experience, when other people get involved in my plans, everything gets messed up and I become irrationally resentful. In other news, I will likely be dying alone. So if you want to protect your friendships from your own rage without sacrificing the ability to travel, maybe you, too, should consider traveling alone. Here are a few things to think about before you do, though.

Get Over Being By Yourself

If you’ve ever met me, you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now because you know that I don’t like to do literally anything alone. Like, if I’m eating by myself, it’s behind my closed bedroom door where no one can see me deep-throating a burrito. I have no idea why, but I always feel like when I do things alone in public, everyone is staring at me thinking, “That poor, pathetic girl.” In reality, since no one knows who I am and because I’m not doing anything worth staring at, exactly zero people are looking my way or thinking anything about me except for maybe “please get out of the way.” If you’re thinking of traveling alone, I’d start getting used to going to restaurants in a party of one, seeing movies, and shopping by yourself, just so you get used to the feeling of being out in public without anyone else with you. Being by yourself is nothing to be embarrassed about—and you’re really going to have to get over that before traveling alone.

Be Safe

I hate that safety is a concern for women traveling alone, but if you’ve ever seen Taken, you know that the world is a different place for women than it is for Liam Neeson men. Of course, being on your own isn’t a reason to not do things like travel, eat, or party; it’s just a reason to be extra vigilant. Obv, Taken is the most ridiculous movie ever made and Kim probably could have avoided the whole being kidnapped thing by just, like, not getting in a car with a French stranger and driving straight to her living quarters, but I don’t want to victim-blame. Seriously, though, if all the true crime I watch has taught me anything, it’s that there are a lot of crazy people out there, so when it comes to staying safe, take precautions! Basic safety tips include not trusting strangers (see, I knew my trust issues would come in handy one day), choosing a good purse with a secure closure (so you don’t get pickpocketed), and keeping your passport and other important documents locked up (pickpockets again).

Another big safety tip is to do your research beforehand and don’t just roll up to a foreign city totally unprepared. Make sure you are familiar with the vibes of each neighborhood, how to get around, stuff like that. And make sure you have the emergency numbers (like, the 911 equivalent) of wherever you’re visiting on hand. That may seem massively unnecessary, because what could possibly happen? But as someone who has broken a rib from simply falling down, let me just say, things could definitely happen. According to Bustle, “Some countries have separate numbers for crimes and medical emergencies,” so it’s a good idea to write all the important numbers down beforehand (yes, like on paper) in case your phone dies, you have no service, or anything else goes wrong with your phone. Bottom line is, you don’t want to have to look that stuff up in an actual emergency.

Accept That Not Everything Will Go According To Plan 

Like I warned my sister-in-law on her wedding day, every detail in the itinerary will not play out perfectly. Don’t react like she did; just be cool and accept it. Look, you can’t control the weather or whether or not there will be a huge national strike because the president of France wanted to increase the retirement age and now all the monuments are closed, so you can’t let mishaps ruin your whole trip. The best way to avoid having your itinerary getting f*cked up by things outside of your control is to not plan out every second of every day. Rather, choose an area you want to see and have a general idea sketched out of what you want to do there, rather than a minute-by-minute timeline that leaves no room for exploring or detours. I recommend picking one or two specific things you’d want to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Being on an aggressively strict schedule on vacation is low-key stressful, and part of the fun of taking a solo trip is being able to wander and explore without your annoying friends reminding you that you were supposed to be on your way to the Prado three and a half minutes ago.

Don’t Go Off The Grid

My crazy mother has convinced herself that if I walk back to my Midtown East apartment by myself, I will get murdered, so I can’t imagine how much that woman will worry when I go to Madrid, which may as well be North Korea to her, by myself. She’s very dramatic, but your friends and family will worry about you, so literally going off the grid isn’t a good idea—especially if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar alone. Whether you want to post every step you take to your Instagram story or just send a simple “I’m alive” text to a few people every night is up to you, but don’t be an asshole and just, like, turn your phone off.

Choose Your Accommodations Wisely

So, obviously you should do a ton of research into where you’re going to be staying and read enough reviews that you can feel confident and safe with your choice (but not so many reviews that you go down a rabbit hole and just throw your whole trip in the trash… speaking from experience). But, with so many options (hotel vs. hostel vs. Airbnb), your first bet is to zero in on which type of accommodation is right for you. One thing to consider is the balance of comfort vs. isolation. While it’s definitely nice to relax at the end of a tiring day in a non-bunk bed in a private room at a hotel or Airbnb, speaking from experience, staying in one of those can make it more difficult to meet people, which can make you feel even more isolated. So you’ll really want to be honest with yourself. Assess how easily you can talk to strangers, and whether you feel energized by being around people. If you like being around people but are not good at starting conversations, you might want to find a more social place to stay. If you literally hate people and/or could chat up a wall, you’d probably be fine staying in a place where you will never so much as bump into another person.

Prepare For FOMO

I once skipped a distant friend’s birthday dinner at a restaurant I hate because I had a cold, but then I saw everyone’s Instagram stories, and you better believe my FOMO was through the damn roof. So much so that I ripped off my floor-length bathrobe, threw on an outfit, and got my sick ass to Brooklyn because missing out is too much for me to handle. Even if you’re having the time of your life, you will probably still experience FOMO traveling alone. If you’re traveling alone, you are going to have to be okay with the fact that your friends won’t pause their own lives while you’re living your best one in a different city/state/country. Remember, you are the prize and you took this trip for the Instagrams yourself! Let this trip teach you a lesson about having fun by yourself and being happy for the people having fun without you.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t actually recommend traveling alone every single time you go on vacation (at the very least, so you can save money by splitting costs), but taking a few days to explore the world on your own is a really good way to grow and, considering how much I hate eating alone at a restaurant, I am definitely in need of a little growth. 

Images: Giphy (6); Unsplash

How To Ask For Money Instead of Gifts This Holiday Season

If you’ve ever read a story by yours truly, you know that the holidays give me all the life I’ll ever need. Even now, as a 26-year-old jaded New Yorker who is impressed by nothing, I tear open a perfectly-wrapped gift with the same energy that most people save for fighting strangers at Target on Black Friday. However, sometimes I’ll rip off the wrapping paper, lift the cardboard lid, and find a disappointing gift. Honestly, the last time I got excited over a gift that came in a box was in 2004, and guess what was in the box? A puppy.

Unless you’re gifting someone the eternal happiness that comes with a dog, wrapped gifts just aren’t as exciting as they used to be. Maybe it’s just a downside of being an adult, but my favorite kind of gift is a monetary one. Like, want to give me a gift I’ll truly cherish? Pay for my gym membership for a month! Just kidding, but like, not really. If all you and your loved ones want for Christmas is some cheddar, listen up, because etiquette expert Elaine Swann will clue you in how to give money as a gift seeming like you put zero thought into your present, and on the flip side, how to ask for money without looking like an entitled douchecanoe.

The only time I’ve ever witnessed people asking for money instead of presents was at my brother and his wife’s wedding. Yes, you read that right. These two asked their guests to donate to a honeymoon fund instead of losing their sanity on a wedding registry. At first, I thought it was the tackiest thing I’d ever heard, but then I saw the photos of them gallivanting around the Ritz in Paris and realized they didn’t drop a damn cent on this. And that’s when I realized that asking for money in lieu of gifts is, honestly, the move.

So if you’re just looking to give cash this holiday season, Swann suggests, “Make sure you personalize this gift. Give some thought to how this person may use the money. Then, in the note, you can add in a line about something that is a hobby of theirs or something they may enjoy doing with the money.” So, for example, if you’re giving me money, tell me a little tale about a thirsty girl who’s strapped for cash and loves white wine. Cute, right?

If you’ve been raised to exhibit classiness in your day-to-day life and don’t want to stop now by asking for money, worry not because there are ways to do it without looking like Mona Lisa Saperstein.

Swann says, “Be honest! Let them know that you have your heart set on a ski trip, a spa treatment, paying off your student loans, or any other kind of experience you’re interested in. By stating this, you can encourage them to give the gift of money that can go toward this experience.” For an added bonus, she advises, “Keep it towards an experience that people can see and feel a part of when you share stories or photos through social media.” Because the only thing better than seeing the look on someone’s face when they open a gift is being publicly thanked (and tagged) on Instagram stories once they actually use your gift.

Look, if anyone is actually giving you a holiday gift, chances are they know you pretty well, so they’re not going to judge you for asking for money (they probably know you well enough to judge you for your choice in exes/Seamless orders/generally destructive life choices instead). 

If you do want money, don’t wring out your generous friends by asking for a fortune. That’s actually why putting this money towards something specific, like a trip or a facial, is the way to go, and it will actually give them an idea of how much they should give you without you having to awkwardly name a number. At the end of the day, everyone loves getting money as a present! I’ve never heard any of my rich friends who work in finance or advertising open an envelope of cash and be like, “Ugh, I wish it was bath salts!” So, if you love your friends and family, get them something they really want, like a crisp Benjamin. 

Images: NBC; Giphy (2)

How To Talk About Finances With Your Significant Other

If you’ve already made the big step of deciding to move in with your significant other, congratulations! I can tell you that living with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner is one of the best things in the entire world. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be smoothly sailing into Bed Bath & Beyond together just yet. Before you move in together, you need to discuss your finances. Which, according to every advice column ever created, should be 100 percent transparent (!), easy (!), and totally NBD! Well, that’s bullsh*t. Money is a big deal, and you should treat it accordingly. You don’t have to make a ton of money in order to feel empowered and in control of your wallet, but you do need to be strategic. 

Moving in together, right next to getting engaged, is one of the biggest commitments you can make in your relationship. Don’t do it unless you’ve flushed out the logistics. Super romantic? Not so much. But necessary? Absolutely. You have the most leverage and the best opportunity to set the tone for your new living situation before you move in together. Here are the best ways to go about talking about your finances with your significant other: 

Set Aside A Specific Time To Have The Conversation

it has been a few months and my boyfriend still likes to venmo me $5 every tuesday as a “girlfriend subscription”

— natalie (@natatruthh) October 16, 2019

Most people, no matter how much money they make, get a little uncomfortable discussing it. Try to coordinate a time with your partner when you know the both of you won’t be as stressed out (read: avoid doing this Sunday night before the work week) so you can be entirely focused on the conversation at hand. Set aside a good 30-minute window to really review everything about your new arrangement. Make an agenda and sample expense list of what the both of you anticipate to spend month to month. Treat it just as you would a work meeting. If you don’t come up with an exact cost or answer for something, be sure to follow up. 

You should also decide on who will be listed on contracts or leases as the person responsible for each expense and how/if you’ll go about splitting certain costs. Will one of you cover cable while the other handles internet? Is Venmo your go-to? Or will you open a joint credit card to share expenses?

Figure out your money personalities. Is one of you more into going tit for tat? Or is one of you a Virgo and needs to split everything down the middle by the penny? Decide now and be clear with what you choose. It pays, literally, to be meticulous now versus later when one of you starts holding a grudge for being the sole purchaser of your apartment’s toilet paper.

You Don’t Have To Tell Your Partner Exactly What You Make Or Go Into Details About Unrelated Spending

After moving in with my boyfriend we had a talk about what money should be spent on and what it shouldn’t… i just spent $300 on my hair.. let’s not tell him 🙂

— Destinyyyyyyy (@LaLaDessie) November 21, 2018

Unless you two are tying the knot and have decided to share 100 percent of your finances, you actually don’t need to divulge exactly how much you make or exactly how you spend your money. Realistically, you two have been together for a long enough time where you have some idea about the other’s paychecks. If you’re clear with what you can afford or are willing to contribute with your monthly expenses, then whatever you have left over is your business. It may seem like a great idea to be super transparent because it comes off more trustworthy or open about your relationship, but it’s not required. In fact, you may even be a little relieved to have more independence over how you spend your money. Your boyfriend need not know that you accidentally spent $250 at Sephora when you were tipsy after happy hour. (Heh, sorry babe.) If you want to, that’s cool too. But if you’re not into that idea, don’t feel like you have to.

Be Prepared To Negotiate 

The only bad part about living with my boyfriend is that I can’t just spontaneously get another dog. Like I have to get approval this time? So rude tbh

— ashh (@ashh_olmsted) October 15, 2019

As any couple who lasts longer than two weeks can attest to, relationships are all about compromise. You exclusively watch reruns of Law & Order: SVU on Hulu. He needs every single sports channel known to man. All of a sudden your single girl binge watching expenses have blossomed from a cool $11.99 to $100. Find the middle ground. There will be some expenses on both sides that one of you won’t want to cough up for. (I mean, do we really need 20 different channels of ESPN?) And if you can’t reach an agreement for something the other person wants, then be prepared to pay for it on your own. 

What If Your Salaries Are Completely Lopsided?

Whether you make a lot more (I love living in 2019) or your partner does, I’m a big believer in paying your portion. If your partner is making a quarter of what you do, or vice versa, again, negotiate. Just because you’re sharing a space does not mean you have to share expenses 50/50. There are also other factors to consider outside of just income. Is one of you more inclined to clean? Is one of you the dedicated pet parent? While some of these things aren’t factorable into an Excel spreadsheet, they do matter when it comes to sharing a space. 

Bottom line, the most important thing to do when talking to your partner about sharing your living expenses is to be honest and realistic. The more you can stay in front of your finances and any additional expenses or problems that might arise, the less likely money will ever cause a problem in your relationship.

Images: Joshua Ness / Unsplash; @ashh_olmsted/Twitter;@LaLaDessie/Twitter; @natatruthh/Twitter

WTFunds: 5 Finance Myths That Are Totally False

Welcome to WTFunds, where we do what nobody else does and… actually talk about money. Ever scrolled through your Instagram feed, wondering how your friends are affording their lifestyles when they’re making the same amount of money as you and you can barely rub two dimes together? Read on, because we’ll be talking to real people to break down how much things cost, and how they’re paying for it.

When it comes to money, people of all generations throw around catchphrases and adages like coupons at Macy’s without ever actually knowing if they’re true. People spend their whole lives soaking in all of these finance tips and philosophies, only to hit their twenties and have a total WTF moment because these tips are either completely untrue or are no longer suitable for the lives millennials lead. Mainstream media and older generations love to make jokes about avocado toast being the cause of our financial woes without actually acknowledging how different life is for young people today—riddled with student loan debt, an insane housing market, the list goes on. 

We’re Lauren and Kelda, millennial sisters (and avocado toast lovers) living in Seattle, WA. After entering the real world ourselves and watching so many peers come to view money as a subject to be feared and overwhelmed by, we felt compelled to make finance an approachable and exciting topic, not only for our friends, but for all millennials. Instead of focusing on small actions like skipping your morning latte, we want our peers to understand the big deals—compound interest, credit scores, the power of investing—the needle-moving and life-changing concepts. While between the two of us, we do have a background in corporate finance, we truly believe that anyone can master their personal finances and that, no, you don’t need to be “good at math” to do so. Together we run Hello HENRYs, a blog on all things personal finance. Kelly Kapoor may be the business bitch, but we’re the finance bitches, betches.

business bitch

Outside of bottomless brunches, Real Housewives marathons, and overpriced skincare, engaging in healthy debate (aka proving people wrong) just may be one of our favorite pastimes. There is no topic that makes this more true than money. Today, we’re sharing five of the most common finance myths and why they are actually so false.

1. All Debt Is Equally Bad

(Mostly) FALSE.

Did anyone else grow up hearing about debt as terrible, scary, or dumb? But then you were accepted to college and immediately encouraged to take out thousands of dollars in loans as the first “adult” decision of your life? Ironic, huh? The thing is, though, this happens all the time, and the reality is that the majority of millennials do have some kind of student loan debt. In and of itself, debt is obviously money that you spent without actually having, so in theory, it is never amazing. However, it’s super important to differentiate between kinds of debt. 

View this post on Instagram

Saturday MOOD | @bigkidproblems

A post shared by When’s Happy Hour? (@whenshappyhr) on

Debt that is used to better your life can actually be seen as an investment that will help improve your financial health; and while yes, a trip to Bali 100% would better our lives, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Debt such as a mortgage or a student loan will (hopefully) give you a return on that initial debt investment. Provided that you are only taking out the exact amount that you truly need, receive a low (5% or lower) interest rate, and can afford the monthly payment, these debts are typically worth it and better your financial health. 

Credit card debt, or a car loan for a new Range Rover (when your budget is more 2007 Toyota Camry), on the other hand, is not only hard to get out of, but is also not something that is usually an investment in your future and will cause your credit score to take a hit. 

When evaluating your debt, always prioritize getting out of the “bad” debt and paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. 

2. Credit Cards Are For Emergencies Only

FALSE. 

Okay, talk about scary. This kind of thinking is exactly why so much of the country is in severe credit card debt. Saying credit cards are only for emergencies or big (aka expensive) purchases, implies that credit cards should be used only when you don’t have the funds to cover the purchase yourself. Uh…what?

On the contrary, credit cards should only be used when you DO have the money to cover the purchase. Literally nobody should be judging you for using a credit card to buy your weekly groceries or morning Starbucks—which has happened to us, by the way. This judgment comes because people assume that if you’re using a credit card, it means you can’t afford it. Again, the exact opposite of when and why you should use a credit card. 

As long as you can pay your balance in full each month, credit cards can be an amazing tool to earn rewards on money you are already spending. They can also provide travel/purchase protection and protection against fraudulent charges, and help you build credit, earn points for free travel, and a myriad of other amazing benefits. We use our credit cards for literally every single purchase that can be made using them. Obviously, we aren’t going to force anyone into using a credit card, but we are going to be extra bossy about ensuring that you use them only when you have the funds to immediately pay them off. And also a PSA: stop judging other people’s financial lives when you, very likely, don’t know anything about them.

3. Monthly Rent Payments Are A Good Indicator Of The Mortgage Payment That You Can Afford

FALSE.

When Lauren bought her first home last year, this was a huge learning moment. For so long, we had heard “If you can afford $X in rent, that same amount could easily be your mortgage payment!” Not true. Owning a home comes with SO many additional monthly payments that are not part of the equation when you’re renting. Property taxes, home insurance, HOA dues, PMI (insurance charge if you put down less than 20%—which is extremely common for first-time home buyers). All of these additional fees can easily add up to hundreds of dollars a month in payments. In actuality, if you want your housing payment to stay the same from renting to buying, you’ll need to look for a home with a mortgage payment significantly less than your current rent payment.

Also, part B to this equation: Whoever said buying is always smarter than renting was so false. Buying a home can be a smart investment in your financial future, but it isn’t always. If you’re renting and making other key investing decisions, you can be equally as set up for success in your future, while also not having to deal with the nightmare of needing a new roof or water heater. 

4. You Can’t Afford to Invest Until You Have No Debt

FALSE.

Actually—you can’t afford not to. Some financial advisors actually tell you not to invest until you have no debt…which, if you have student loans, would mean you aren’t making any investments until you’re probably in your early thirties, at least. Yikes! There is a super mathematical and logical way to look at this, and it’s called the interest rate. You want to throw your extra funds at the highest interest rate. If your student loan has the average 3.5% interest rate, but you could be earning 8-10% in an investment or retirement account, you’re effectively losing money by choosing to pay extra on your student loans. Obviously, you always want to make the minimum payments on all of your accounts each month, but after that, your priority for your extra funds should be to the option with the highest interest rate. If you have credit card debt, this will likely always win out.

While we’re on the topic of interest rates, another PSA, your hard earned savings and emergency funds should not be sitting in a traditional, low interest savings account at a brick and mortar bank. If you aren’t earning a minimum of 1.8% or higher on your savings account, you’re doing it wrong and leaving money on the table. 

5. Closing Old Credit Cards Will Boost Your Credit Score

FALSE.

Credit scores are something people talk a lot about, but usually have no idea what actually goes into them. There is literally no mystery about them, though. Remember back in college when the professor laid out the syllabus and what percent each category was worth? I don’t know about you, but, as soon as we saw “Attendance” listed at just 5%, we basically gave ourselves a free pass to have a little too much fun on Thursday nights and miss every Friday morning lecture. I mean, at just 5%, we could still come out with an A. Credit scores are pretty much the same. 

FICO literally lays out the five factors that go into earning a perfect credit score and how heavily each factor is weighted. Closing old credit cards hurts two of the five factors: credit utilization rate (30% of your score) and length of credit history (15% of your score). Closing old credit cards could impact almost half of what goes into your credit score. Not a decision to be made lightly.

Credit utilization rate refers to the amount of credit you are using as a percent of what you have available. Let’s say you have two credit cards. Credit card A has a $5,000 balance with an $8,000 limit. Credit card B has a $1,000 balance with a $20,000 limit. Currently, you are using $6,000 of credit out of $28,000 available—just 21% and below the max target of 30%. Let’s say you decide to close card B (after paying it off) because you barely use it. Your balance dropped to $5,000, but your available credit also dropped to $8,000! That puts your new utilization rate is 63%—not good! 

In addition, while credit history is a smaller factor of your score at just 15%, this is a challenging one for millennials to score highly on because we don’t have time on our side. If you decide to close your old college credit card because you don’t use it much anymore, you’re literally closing one of your longest chapters of credit history—also not good.

Obviously, there are some exceptions to this rule—if closing one card would not drastically affect your utilization rate, you have accounts with longer/better history, a card has a steep annual fee that you aren’t getting enough benefit out of, etc. The point is, though, closing a card can have serious consequences on your credit score and is not a decision that you want to make lightly.

View this post on Instagram

another day another $100 that randomly disappears out of my bank account | @chiefshane_

A post shared by When’s Happy Hour? (@whenshappyhr) on

There you have it: five of the most commonly thrown around financial myths proven wrong. Talking money is never that fun or glamorous, but the most important thing is to nail the big picture ideas. By doing so, we promise that you can achieve your financial goals, like saving for retirement or buying a home, while still going to Soulcycle, happy hour, or whatever it is that enriches your life and brings you joy! Even with student loans and a less than six figure salary. We are living proof. 

Images: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash; Giphy (3); whenshappyhr (2) / Instagram