I’m a Single Mom With a 6-Figure Business. Here Are the 3 Rules I Live By Every Day.

Emma Johnson and her two children. ( Courtesy of Emma Johnson)

Emma Johnson thrived, both financially and professionally, after enduring a complex, costly and painful divorce in 2009.

Johnson, now 40, a journalist and founder of WealthySingleMommy.com, an online community of professional single mothers, was at that time pregnant with her second child, working just 12 hours a week and living paycheck to paycheck. The fear of not being able to support her children on her own drove her to juggle multiple jobs and painstakingly manage her finances.   

Today she’s an entrepreneur with a successful digital marketing business, which includes her blog and podcast targeting professional single mothers, along with a new book, “The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children.” In the book, which debuted Tuesday, Oct. 17, Johnson tells her personal journey as an entrepreneur and mom. She also maps out financial management strategies she hopes other single mothers can use, both to improve their finances and to establish a career they love.  

“Money is power and money is control,” Johnson tells MagnifyMoney. “Men have been very comfortable with that since a long time. And women are never going to have equality in the world, we’ll never have control of our life individually … until we have our money and just as much as men.” 

We spoke with Johnson about the three mantras of her daily life.  

1.Create a lifestyle that you can afford now.

Johnson lived a comfortable life, largely dependent on her ex-husband’s income and benefits while she worked part time. She found that separating from her husband also meant learning to recalibrate her money mindset. 

Legal expenses from the divorce quickly piled up, and she decided to return to full-time freelance work, which meant shelling out $2,000 a month for child care. She knew she had to live frugally in order to make ends meet. Some of the immediate changes she made: Stop buying new clothing for herself. And find as many useful secondhand items for her children as she could. 

“You absolutely have to go frugal,” she says. “I don’t care how rich you were before you were divorced or your kids’s dad is. … Your lifestyle is determined by how much money you have coming in the bank right now.” 

For other single mothers looking to cut spending, she has suggestions both big and small — downsizing to a smaller home, for instance, or just getting rid of unnecessary expenses like a cable subscription or a rarely used gym membership. 

When you are successfully living beneath your means, especially as a breadwinning single mother, Johnson says you can finally start to feel as though you’ve got control over your life again. “You have no control of your life,” she says, “if you are worrying about paying your rent.”   

2. Focus on earning more — unapologetically.

Single mothers shouldn’t just focus on saving more. They should also be unashamed about taking steps to earn more, Johnson says.   

The median income for families led by a single mother in 2014 was about $24,000, far below the $88,000 median for married-parent families in which Mom was the higher earner and the $84,500 median for households where Dad was the principal earner, according to a Pew Research Center report. 

Emma Johnson

The surprising upside of her divorce, Johnson found, was that she realized she had unintentionally suppressed her own financial and professional goals during her marriage to preserve the status quo. 

“Our society definitely values monogamous partnerships and marriage, and women genuinely do want that, but it often comes at a price for reaching our own potential,” she says. 

For Johnson, embracing her ambition wasn’t just a matter of choice. She was granted only one year of child support from her ex-husband, and the clock was ticking. She set about beefing up her income from freelance assignments, taking on everything from corporate blog posts to journalistic articles.  

By the time child support ended, she felt financially stable enough to refinance the the apartment in Queens, N.Y., that she and her ex-husband had bought in her own name. Roughly half a year later, she says, she had lined up enough consistent writing work to confidently support her family independently for the first time.   

Something else happened when she re-entered the labor force full time. She found she had bigger career ambitions than simply writing. She started WealthySingleMommy.com in 2012 as a hobby and slowly grew a loyal audience. (She reports 100,000 unique monthly visitors and 190,000 monthly page views.) 

A few years later, she experimented with monetizing the effort, snagging a mix of brand partnerships, speaking engagements and eventually, a book deal. While she worked on building the WSM brand, she continued to work as a freelancer (her primary income source).  

Finally, in 2016, Johnson says, she made an “internal shift” to focus on her business full time because she saw in it a better financial opportunity.  

“I really feel like it was an important internal shift I had to make because all the freelance writers I knew were [complaining] about not making money,” she says.  

This year, she expects to bring in $400,000 in revenue.  

3. Outsource labor — time is money.

Efficiency is the centerpiece of Johnson’s finance management philosophy. She quickly learned the value of paying professionals to take on some tasks in order to free up hours she could use to work, spend time with her children or focus on her personal needs.  

“You have to be very diligent with how you use all of these things — your time, your money, your energy, your headspace and your emotions,” she says.  

Johnson says that over the years she has invested heavily in child care, housekeeping and outsourcing chores (like laundry) that that take time away from work and her children and aren’t enjoyable. In her book, she writes that she has a handyman on call.  

To be sure, not all single mothers earn enough to outsource, a fact Johnson acknowledges. But she still encourages women not to feel guilt over delegating some household duties in pursuit of that extra quality time. She argues that it’s a worthy investment for peace of mind and efficiency. 

The bottom line: ‘You have go to bigger’

An advocate for gender equality, Johnson says her ultimate goal with the new book is to empower women across society — not just single mothers — to pursue their passions and become role models for a next generation with increasingly abundant resources and opportunities available. 

She hopes single moms will stop taking pity on themselves or viewing their situations as detrimental. “I want women to start seeing themselves as more than they are, and that their family status can be an an asset,” she says. 

For women living in small communities, Johnson’s advice is that maybe they should consider relocating for better job opportunities or finding work that they could be doing virtually.  

The fear of being on one’s own, Johnson says, can become the biggest motivator for pursuing a big goal, be it starting a business or returning to school. And she is convinced that the risks women take and sacrifices they make along the way will eventually pay off. 

“You have to go bigger,” she says. “You have to go bigger because there is less security.” 

The post I’m a Single Mom With a 6-Figure Business. Here Are the 3 Rules I Live By Every Day. appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Women Less Confident in Housing Market Than Men, Study Finds

buying-a-home

Women and men feel very differently about the health of the U.S. housing market, a new survey suggests. Men are far more confident that buying a home today is a good investment, that they can afford a down payment, or that they can upgrade to a bigger home, according to ValueInsured, a firm that provides insurance to home buyers.

Years of surveys have suggested that women are more risk-averse in financial arenas than men. (Keep in mind, some of these surveys are often conducted by financial institutions with an interest in convincing people to take more risks — that is, to move more money into their financial products.)

Meanwhile, “risk-averse” often sounds like veiled criticism, when it could just as easily represent wisdom. For example, back in 2003, Gallup released a poll showing an enormous disparity in economic optimism between men and women in the U.S. (68% of men versus 42% of women expressed optimism, a record at the time). Longer term, women who were described by Gallup as “not convinced about the recovery” in 2003 turned out to be right.

The gender difference isn’t a U.S. phenomenon, according to a study published by New Zealand researchers called “Are Men More Optimistic?” Examining decades’ worth of polling data from 18 Western countries, the group found an optimism gap in 17 of them, with Germany as the exception. The researchers found that in only one month (March 2000) did U.S. women show greater confidence than U.S. men.

“This gender difference is present in key indicators such as economic growth, interest rates, inflation and future stock market performance, and persists after we control for income, employment, wealth, education and marital status,” the researchers said. “Our results hold regardless whether we consider questions about respondent’s personal future economic situation or the general state of the economy.”

With that as context, here’s what ValueInsured found:

  • Women are less confident that the American housing market is healthy, with a confidence gap of 21 percentage points (68% of men versus 47% of women).
  • Women are less confident that buying a home today is a secure and smart financial investment, with a confidence gap of 15 percentage points (76% of men versus 61% of women).
  • Women non-homeowners are less confident that they can afford the down payment to buy a home, with a confidence gap of 13 percentage points (42% of men versus 29% of women).
  • Men are more confident than women that they can sell their home for the same amount or more than what they paid for it.
  • More men (83%) than women (74%) would like to sell their current home and upgrade to a new one.
  • The most dramatic difference arose among men and women who already had a home and might consider trading up: While 92% of men said they could afford the down payment on a new home, only 69% of women said they felt that way.
  • It’s not that women don’t want homes: ValueInsured found that 77% of women who don’t own a home say they would like to buy a home compared to 70% of men.

The ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey was conducted online by Equation Research on behalf of ValueInsured in March 2016 among a nationally representative sample of 1,157 American adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.4%.

The firm says gender differences in financial goal-setting might explain the gap: Asked about their personal definition of the American Dream, women were more likely to cite being “debt free,” while men were more likely to cite “owning my own home.”

“Understanding these differences in attitudes will help make this year’s home-buying season successful for both sellers and lenders,” said Joe Melendez, CEO of ValueInsured, in a news release about the survey. “The numbers highlight the need to ensure that all buyers, and especially women, know about the new ways they can protect their hard-earned investments when buying a home.”

“Overconfidence” is one reason often given for men’s greater comfort with risk; men are more likely to overestimate their investing skills, some studies suggest. A Berkley study called “Boys will be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment,” found that men trade 45% more than women, which costs them 2.65% annually in returns.


But reasons often given for women’s risk-aversion, if we agree on that term, sound an awful lot like stereotypes that — as all stereotypes do — break down under deeper examination. There is some evidence that gender-based risk-taking differences are starting to disappear among younger adults. One BlackRock survey found that millennial women are twice as likely as Baby Boomer women to take on higher risk investments seeking higher returns.

On the other hand, some recent data does suggest men are more prone to rash decisions than women. A 2009 Vanguard study found that during the most recent stock market crash, in 2008 and 2009, women were 10% less likely to “abandon” stocks – generally a bad idea after a crash. Men who did sell locked in their losses, meaning they missed out on the huge post-crash gains.

In other words, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong about the risks you do or don’t take with your own money. Do your own research, trust yourself. Be confident but not overconfident. Before you make a big financial decision like buying a home, take the time to see where your credit stands, since that factors in heavily in mortgage approval. You can see two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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Image: SolisImages

The post Women Less Confident in Housing Market Than Men, Study Finds appeared first on Credit.com.

Who Has Better Credit — Men or Women?

women_and_credit

It’s a statistic you’ve heard a lot: Women only earn about 79 cents for every dollar men make. But even though men make more money, they’re not necessarily managing it better than women do. On average, men have more debt than women, according to a recent analysis from credit bureau Experian.

They also have lower average credit scores.

Income has no direct impact on your credit standing — it’s generally not reported to the major credit reporting agencies and as a result is not factored into credit scores. But there’s no denying that having more money can make it easier to avoid things that can damage your credit, like high credit card balances, missed loan payments or collection accounts. Despite their statistical income advantage, men have an average credit score of 670, while women average a 675 score. (That’s on the VantageScore scale of 300 to 850.) They also carry an average of 3.7% more debt than women: $27,627 to women’s $26,610.

Performance Review

When you look at the most important factors of credit scores — payment history and how much a person uses of their available credit — women outperform men, the Experian data show. Even though women have more credit cards (an average of 3.7 cards versus men’s 3-card average), they seem to manage their credit card debt better. Men use an average of 27.3% of their available credit, while women use an average of 26.2%. A good rule of thumb is to use less than 30% of your available credit, but for best credit scoring results, it’s ideal to use less than 10%.

As far as late payments go, the Experian analysis focuses on mortgage payments. Men paid their mortgages late 8.1% more often than women did. A single late payment can significantly knock down your credit score — especially if you have a high one to begin with — so men’s lower credit scores make a lot of sense given their greater tendency to fall behind on mortgage payments.

You can see your credit utilization rate and how it affects your credit score, as well as your late payment history, by getting a free credit report summary, updated monthly, on Credit.com. Even if you have a history of bad-credit behaviors like high credit card balances and missed payments, you can use the information in your credit report summary to see where you need to change your habits so you can improve your credit.

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