Eight Financial Planning Exercises Our Marriage Counselors Should Have Made Us Do

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Newly Married in Car. Photo by Cindy Baffour on Unsplash

I married my husband about a year after college. At 23 and 24, we were naïve about many things. Money was one. While we did receive marriage counseling, the experience was downright abysmal. So bad, in fact, that we quit one counselor because he was convinced I cared more about the wedding flowers than the marriage. Actually, I wanted nothing more than a fuss-free elopement, but that didn’t fit into his view of women.

Our second round of counseling was from a couple at our church. I forget what all they covered, but it was a very Sunday school format, heavy on the roles of husband versus wife and what was right and wrong behavior. I think they briefly touched on money management one week, but there was no in-depth coverage of our financial situations or our financial expectations. All of that was left as a stunning surprise for the marriage itself. …

Locations to Choose and Avoid for 2060

Old man and wife at beach wearing yellow hats
Old man and wife at beach wearing yellow hats

Photo by Brett Meliti on Unsplash

If you are like most people in their 20s and 30s, planning for your retirement means maxing out your 401k contributions at work. You might have an IRA account too. Maybe even real estate. You might be consulting a financial planner who tells you that you are on track for your target investment amount.

It won’t do you much good if your house is underwater, if your city runs out of water, or if the economy (and your stock market investments) totally collapses under the weight of climate migration.

Climate change has measurable effects already, but by 2060 the effects will be painful. ProPublica and New York Times Magazine just finished a multi-year climate modeling project. They are publishing the results in small increments. The big picture is too overwhelming to take in. I read through the modeling of the United States changes and of Latin America’s changes today. …

Suburban Architecture Shows Our Assumptions and Our Ableism

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Woman in wheelchair on neighborhood street. Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

Not a single house in my neighborhood is wheelchair accessible, not even the ground floor. Every house could be.

Why should I care? After all, I am not in a wheelchair. I have never needed a wheelchair — yet. One day, though, I will. And you will too.

Why? It might be a broken leg. Or a complicated pregnancy. Or a torn knee-tendon. Injuries after a car accident. Complications from Lyme’s disease. Rheumatoid arthritis. Old age.

The reasons people end up in wheelchairs are numerous and usually unexpected. We assume our own good health until we lose it. Those who design our homes, however, should expect that at some point during our occupancy we might need a wheelchair. Right now, nothing requires that architects plan for that. …

Not Being Able to Do Much For Someone Is Exhausting

Woman hides under covers on bed
Woman hides under covers on bed
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

My sister came down to visit me for the first weekend of November. We’d both been playing it safe during the pandemic— masking, avoiding crowds, etc. She figured that the early part of the month would be better for traveling than Thanksgiving. We didn’t reckon on Chicagoland having a massive outbreak the week she left.

Since the epidemic started, it’s been my sister’s health that I have worried about more than my own. Her immune system is not the best.

She felt fine the day that she traveled. The next day, she had a sore throat. Her roommate also developed COVID-19 symptoms that day. Positive tests for both of them confirmed their suspicions. Who knows who got it first? …

They Might Be Your Guide to Happiness

Woman looks at viewer through rear view mirror in car on crowded road
Woman looks at viewer through rear view mirror in car on crowded road
Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

As a junior in college, I looked at a study abroad program that would have let me spend a semester at Oxford. I decided not to apply, largely because I had just started dating a cute boy. That cute boy became my husband two years later. To this day, we are happily married. To this day, I regret not doing a semester in Oxford.

Why would I regret my decision when it made romance with the love of my life easier?

Silly Regrets

One answer is that regret isn’t a logical emotion. I am admittedly someone who hates choosing one thing because it means not choosing any of the other things. This can apply to which coffee drink I order (chai or mocha?), which restaurant I eat at (a new place or my old favorite?), …

Concerns and outcomes around raising pay

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Coffee shop. Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

Last week I published “A $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Cut It”. The one comment I received was a criticism that relied on two arguments: One — not all jobs are worth a “middle-class income”. Two — small businesses would collapse if required to pay minimum wage. Those are pretty typical arguments against raising the minimum wage. Let’s take a close look at the second objection.

Small businesses are under a lot of strain these days. Some industries have been hit particularly hard: local restaurants, entertainment companies, and non-grocery retailers. They are hurting. Some estimates say 31% of small businesses have temporarily or permanently shuttered due to COVID-19. Others are hanging on by a hair. …

We should fight for localized living wages instead

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Homeless man takes care of his cat in Philadelphia, USA. Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Can you afford living in America? For more than half of this nation, the answer is “no.”

A little bit of this is due to the present pandemic. Since this started, homelessness has gone up. Lines for food pantries now routinely wrap around the block down the street. Since the initial dip in the spring, employment has come back up. The stock market has rebounded. Investors feel cheerful. But family finances are shaky for many and downright desperate for some.

People may have found jobs, but clearly, the jobs aren’t enough.

This year, I have sent money or groceries to two friends who couldn’t afford good food. They were both employed. Their employers just don’t pay them enough. And yes, of course, I checked in with them to see if we could do other things to boost their income. But we really shouldn’t have to be finding creative ways to make ends meet when someone is already gainfully employed. …

Four steps to evaluate an organization before giving them money

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Woman holding out coins. Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

As year-end comes into view, many families start to think more about giving. For some, the motivation to give is tax-deductions. For others, it’s the spirit of Christmas. But every year, just as people start getting into the spirit of giving, a number of articles and memes will circulate telling everyone who does NOT deserve their money.

“Don’t give to Operation Christmas Child. It’s not worth the shipping cost!”

“Don’t give to the Salvation Army! They don’t actually pay their thrift store workers fair wages.”

“Don’t give to the Red Cross! …

Everyone tells you about the cost of having a child. No one tells you about the cost of losing one before birth.

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Baby angel in red. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

October is pregnancy loss awareness month. This year, the month began with Chrissy Teigan sharing the loss of her little baby boy. I felt for her, so much, having gone through a similar loss myself.

Three years ago, I was lying on the couch in the evenings, dizzy and distraught due to a complicated miscarriage of what my ObGyn suspected had been an ectopic pregnancy. I had just started a job a month before that. I didn’t have any accrued Personal Time Off. I didn’t have any savings. What I did have were a lot of medical appointments. This is my story of what that loss cost me. …

A 15-item checklist for parents of White sons

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Photo by Fernanda Greppe on Unsplash

In light of the news this week, I am yet again thinking about what it means to be the mom of a White son in a nation with so much White violence against Black people. My son will grow up undoubtedly privileged — middle class, two college-educated parents, all the benefits of race and gender. That doesn’t mean that parenting him to be a good human will be easy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

What we see on the news too often these days are White supremacist terrorists and violent, racist cops. If we want the narrative in 20 years to be different, then we have to raise our sons differently. I have written before about anti-racist actions you can take as a parent (see here) but I want to talk here about more overarching things. Our society’s default parenting clearly hasn’t been enough. So, I am making a checklist for myself, and sharing it with you. Some of these are really basic. …


Johanna Tatlow

Freelance writer trying to make the world a better place

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