Note to Self: Stop Taking Notes!

Recently I had the enormous pleasure of taking in the sights and sounds of some more tropical latitudes in Fort Lauderdale and then Cancun.

Fort Lauderdale was first, where I attended a seminar full of like-minded people and I learned to focus on my intentions with my mentor, Fabienne Fredrickson from Of course I reserved some (a lot) of time to spend on the beach — which is my favorite place to be.  I don’t even have to read, I can just look at the waves and be revitalized by the beauty of the ocean.

When planning the trip I decided to cap it off with a week in Cancun. Once there it took me a day to acclimate and then I was blissfully disconnected from my emails and voicemails. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Note to Self: Stop Taking Notes! By Judy Heft

A room with a view in Cancun.

A lot of people discouraged me from going to Cancun because they were worried about my safety, but I was never concerned about safety the whole time I was there. We had a driver that picked us up, drove us to wherever we needed to go, and then picked us up again when we were done. Despite the word on the street, I did not pick up on any party vibe. In fact, the restaurants were all top-notch, continental dining rooms, each one was prettier than the one before it.

So why am I bragging about my vacation to you? Because I had an epiphany that I believe everyone can learn from: Vacations are not a luxury, they are a necessity.

That’s not to say that everyone should get out their passports and fly around the world for an unforgettable week, but everyone should periodically take time off of work to recharge their batteries. Especially in the New York metropolitan area, where there is so much to do in terms of spas and great restaurants.  

My plan for 2018 will be to take more time off — and I hope I have encouraged you to do the same!

How are you planning to disconnect and relax in 2018?

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The Nannies Are Coming: Establish Boundaries and Expectations with a Nanny Contract

The Nannies Are Coming Establish Boundaries and Expectations with a Nanny Contract by Judy Heft

Considering the million moving parts in any household, many people are confused as to what they should be asking for in a nanny. 

And that’s exactly why I recommend a Nanny Contract for any families with nannies. It’s not legally required; just a rule book for your nanny and you to hold each other to. It should, by design, protect you and the nanny. The arrangement can be as creative as you like, but the language should be clear. 

  • Do you need them to pick up the kids at school?
  • Are they going to be preparing meals?
  • Are they going to be going to medical appointments?
  • Are they working full time or part time?
  • Do they help with homework?
  • Do they do housework?
  • Do they do the children’s laundry?
  • Are you giving them health insurance?
  • Are you going to pay them for holidays? 

Pay procedures should be your #1 concern. I had a client last year who had a disagreement with her nanny. The salary my client had negotiated for was, in her mind, the gross. The person who signed the same contract went on to say she was guaranteed that much in her net pay, not gross. It always pays to be overly specific. You should actively confirm with employees that they know their pay is the leftover of gross minus taxes.

Wages must be clear. You must be clear about overtime pay, when it kicks in, and where it is shown on the pay stub. Your nanny should know in advance all of the pay days for the length of her contract.

Dedicate a page in the agreement to holidays. Develop a list of the holidays you plan on observing, and be very specific about the day of the week, the date and the year. 

An at-will clause is a type of termination clause that allows the employer to terminate employment for any reason, at any time. 

If you have questions or ideas about making Nanny Contracts, I would love to hear them! Send them my way, here: contact me.

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Seeing the Forest Through the Sales

Seeing the Forest Through The Sales by Judith Heft

Forest-through-the-trees syndrome is a condition that afflicts us all at some point in our lives: We get so entrenched in what we are doing (the trees) that we cannot see the big picture (the forest). And while this is true in all aspects of life, personal finance is like Patient Zero of forest-through-the-trees syndrome. 

One of the things that I find myself repeating over and over again is that a sale is not a sale if you have to pay interest on the item. Stores offer all sorts of incentives to sign up for their credit cards, like offering 10% off of everything you purchase on the day you sign up for the card. But ask yourself: Am I going to pay down the balance right away, or am I going to let this “sale” item accrue interest? 

Here are some tips for looking beyond the sales rack: 

  • Just say “No”: It wouldn’t kill you to stay out of stores altogether.
  • If you are unable or unwilling to pay your credit card balance off in full every month, take it out of your wallet.
  • Avoid trends and buy high-quality items. Blue jeans were cool, are cool, and will always be cool. 

When you think about it, you probably only wear 20% of the clothes in your closet, 80% of the time—so reining in clothes shopping habits will most likely have a 0.16% chance of affecting your day-to-day life. 

Of course, this advice is of the easier-said-than-done variety. If willpower is an issue, I’m not ashamed to share the tactics I’ve used: Put your credit card(s) in a large bag of water and freeze it. That way, if you get impulsive, you’ll have to wait a few minutes to get access. 

Another mistake people make time and time again is to go about their lives with no concept of their monthly spending. I say monthly because all of the things that really matter—rent, mortgage, phone—are billed in monthly increments. How should you go about it?

  • Track your income and expenses using Quicken or other accounting software in order to get a real sense of your situation.
  • Sign up for online access to as many things as you can (credit cards, bank accounts, utility bills).
  • If you don’t use a computer (no judgment here!), go out and buy yourself some spiral notebooks and write everything down. 

Taking those most basic steps to understand the ebb and flow of your finances is vital, but what should you be looking out for once you have all the data? Well, how many of these do you have: 

  • Memberships on dating apps and websites;
  • Subscriptions to magazines and newspapers; or
  • Kids who play online games? 

I had a client who let her son use her credit card for online games—one of the games that have “in-app purchases” on the App Store. It turns out that her credit card was being charged every time her son played the game—and whenever he wanted to purchase special powers, get to a new level of the game, etc., it was a dollar. This ended up costing her $1,000. Note: Pokémon Go has “in-app purchases”! 

Having the wherewithal to pay for your kids’ college or to build a wheelchair ramp for your dad is important. By looking at the big picture and using that information to inform your choices, you’ll find yourself in a much better position to meet such challenges head-on. 

Contact me for more information!

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