Taking Pride In America’s LGBT Economy
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Collage with diverse people and "America's LGBT Economy" Title in the middle

Money talks. And now, more than ever, the private sector is listening to the collective voice of the LGBT community. In many ways, our dollar is as strong as our votes at the ballot box.

We have fought hard to secure our rights in the name of equality, but our true equity and ability to bring about change for our community lies with our economic power.

Our buying power and impact on the nation’s gross domestic product have given us tremendous leverage to advance political advocacy and global human rights. As is true with our social visibility, our economic visibility is essential in building a diverse and inclusive society — and the power of the LGBT dollar is becoming more and more visible every day.

That was the impetus for the formation of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce nearly 20 years ago. In 2002, we realized no one had truly considered the economic equality of LGBT people or the impact economics could have on the equality movement. With over 1.4 million LGBT business owners (and growing) behind us, we have seen the LGBT community earn its place at the table of economic opportunity. And it’s not just the Fortune 500 who are actively marketing to, partnering with, and procuring from the LGBT business community. Thanks to NGLCC’s public policy leadership, over thirty state, county, and local governments are welcoming our community’s businesses as an essential part of an equitable COVID-19 recovery.

Two decades ago, slapping a rainbow on a liquor bottle for one month of the year was enough for a brand to consider themselves “gay-friendly.” Findings from LGBT economic experts, however, have taught corporations the value of LGBT brand loyalty. More than 75 percent of LGBT adults and their friends, family, and relatives say they would switch to brands that are known to be LGBT friendly. In 2017 alone, the LGBT consumer buying power was over $917 billion. But we are so much more than just consumers.

If the total contributed value of the estimated 1.4 million American LGBT business owners is considered, our input to the economy is over $1.7 trillion. That would make LGBT Americans the 10th largest economy in the world.

Furthermore, our community’s businesses grow larger and last longer than others in the United States. On average, American small businesses fail around the five-year mark, but NGLCC’s certified LGBT-owned business enterprises average over twice that, with at least 12 years in business.

These LGBT-owned businesses are also powerful job creators: 900 LGBT-owned companies we studied created an estimated 33,000 jobs. LGBT entrepreneurs are committed to hiring greater numbers of LGBT employees and ensuring their own supply chains are as diverse as possible. Business leaders in our community continually redefine industries and shatter stereotypes. From technology firms to local restaurants and retail shops, we are proving every day that if you buy it, an LGBT-owned business can supply it.

When you look at a price tag, look for an indication that the company is an LGBT-inclusive corporation or an NGLCC Certified Business Enterprise. It has never been easier to go online or check with your local LGBT chamber of commerce to make sure you support the brands that have our community’s back. If you are an LGBT business owner and not yet certified as one, you’re leaving opportunities on the table to help your business and be counted as part of our LGBT global economy. You could join our ranks as a role model, job creator, and future LGBT business success story.

When it comes to diverse communities — LGBT people, women, people of color, people with disabilities, and more — we must stand in solidarity as a business force. We have never seen greater cooperation and solidarity than we have in recent months. And a great deal of that is due to the recognition that LGBT people are also part of every other community.

Use the LGBT community’s trillion-dollar clout to make a difference. Support your community when you shop, seek out LGBT-owned businesses when you invest and stand by those who stand with us. The LGBT community is an economic force to be reckoned with — and every one of us plays a part in it.

 

Read the report at Nglcc.org/report.


JUSTIN NELSON and CHANCE MITCHELL are cofounders of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest global advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses. www.nglcc.org @nglcc

Content Maven Media: Building Strong Relationships
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For many of us, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reflect and reprioritize aspects of our lives.

Some individuals have built up the strength to undertake new initiatives and business prospects – and Kristy Ramsey, founder of Certified LGBTBE® Content Maven Media, is no exception.

“Being a one-woman show, I am most proud of having the courage to even start my own business, and during a pandemic no less!” Ramsey said.

Located in Chicago, Illinois, Content Maven Media is a content solutions group that draws on various forms of media to create custom digital plans for clients. Through her business, Ramsey focuses on podcast and video production services, photography, social media management, and overall content creation for audiences.

“What is unique about my business is my approach to relationships,” explained Ramsey. “I focus a lot on building relationships with my clients, so much so that I strive to know their business, just as well as they do.”

Content Maven Media was certified through the NGLCC in 2020, having joined the organization to explore further networking and partnership opportunities. As a result of the certification, Ramsey’s business has been able to connect with larger and larger suppliers.

“A strong network made even stronger through relationship building is an important part of the success of my business,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey also emphasized the need to share knowledge and resources with clients, striving to go above and beyond what is expected of her and her company.

“Be humble, collaborate, and listen,” she advised.

Content Maven Media owner Kristy Ramsey headshot
Kristy Ramsey, Content Maven Media

In the future, Content Maven Media aims to become a household name as an LGBT and minority-owned media business. Ramsey seeks to grow the business by continuing to place a strong emphasis on relationship building. Several years down the line, she hopes to introduce her own LGBT nonprofit to the world, which will focus on “getting young adults into the media and technology fields as a career.”

“My company will be known for quality, service, integrity and communication, and producing content that makes a difference in the business of our clients,” she explained.

Ramsey had stellar advice to offer to future LGBT entrepreneurs.

“To any LGBT+ person starting a new business, I would say join your local chamber, join the NGLCC, and keep going no matter what,” she said.

Source: NGLCC

Ariel Nicholson is U.S. Vogue’s first transgender cover model
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Ariel Nicholson walks the runway in New York in 2018

By Cynthia Silva, NBC News

Model Ariel Nicholson has made history as the first transgender person to be featured on the cover of U.S. Vogue.

The LGBTQ rights advocate is one of eight models gracing the cover of the fashion magazine’s “Generation America”-themed September issue, which celebrates models that challenge industry norms. Nicholson, 20, shared the cover alongside models Anok Yai, Bella Hadid, Lola Leon, Sherry Shi, Yumi Nu, Kaia Gerber and Precious Lee.

Nicholson shared her excitement in an Instagram post last week.

“To have the opportunity to participate in the shifting landscape of fashion is a dream come true,” she wrote in the caption.

The New Jersey native has been no stranger to the spotlight. At 13, she was featured in the PBS documentary “Growing Up Trans,” which shared the personal journeys of eight transgender youths. Nicholson then went on to sign with a modeling agency while in high school, and in 2018, she became the first trans woman to walk in a Calvin Klein runway show.

Nicholson told Vogue that when she went into modeling, she took on the role as a “standard-bearer,” as she was and still is passionate about transgender rights and trans visibility. She was also blunt about the limits to “what ‘representation’ can do.”

“Obviously it’s a big deal being the first trans woman on the cover of Vogue,” she told the fashion magazine, “but it’s also hard to say exactly what kind of big deal it is when the effects are so intangible.”

She also shared the double-edged sword of being “a first”: “I’ve been put in this box — trans model. Which is what I am — but that’s not all I am,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Nevada pageant winner to become 1st transgender Miss USA contestant
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Kataluna Enriquez, who was crowned Miss Nevada USA on Sunday, will become the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant.

By Dan Avery, NBC News

Kataluna Enriquez, who was crowned Miss Nevada USA on Sunday, will become the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant. With a platform centered on transgender awareness and mental health, Enriquez, 27, beat out 21 other contestants at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. “I didn’t have the easiest journey in life,” she said, according to KVVU-TV. “I struggled with physical and sexual abuse. I struggled with mental health. I didn’t have much growing up. I didn’t have support. But I’m still able to thrive, and I’m still able to survive and become a trailblazer for many.”

After her win, Enriquez thanked the LGBTQ community on Instagram, writing, “My win is our win. We just made history. Happy Pride.” The Miss Nevada USA organization congratulated Enriquez for her historic win on social media and shared the hashtag #bevisible.

In March, Enriquez, who previously competed in trans-specific pageants, became the first transgender woman crowned Miss Silver State USA, the main preliminary for Miss Nevada USA. During the pageant’s question-and-answer segment, Enriquez said being true to herself was an obstacle she faced daily.

“Today I am a proud transgender woman of color. Personally, I’ve learned that my differences do not make me less than, it makes me more than,” she said, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I know that my uniqueness will take me to all my destinations, and whatever I need to go through in life.”

Enriquez, who is Filipina American, designs her own outfits, including a rainbow-sequin gown she wore Sunday night in honor of Pride Month “and all of those who don’t get a chance to spread their colors,” she posted on Instagram.

“Pageantry is so expensive, and I wanted to compete and be able to grow and develop skills and create gowns for myself and other people,” Enriquez said, according to the Review-Journal.

Clickhere to read the full article on NBC News.

The City of Austin’s RENT Assistance program
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RENT assistance program flyer with picture of nurses and doctors wearing masks

The program is available for low-income Austin residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and are struggling to pay their rent. 2020 has been challenging for everyone and the City of Austin has expanded its RENT Assistance program making it easier for eligible candidates to apply.

The RENT assistance program will pay up to 12-15 months of rent for eligible Austin renters and may cover the following:

Future rent payments will be provided three months at a time and families will be requalified every three months after that. If the government pays for a portion of your rent, the program can pay the additional portions not covered by the government subsidy.

Residents may be eligible if they earn 80% or less than the average household income. If residents were assisted last year, they are still eligible for this new program and can help cover rents that are still due from April 2020 through December 2021.

For example, a mother with two children who lives in Austin’s Rosewood neighborhood who made $54,500 a year but has lost her job due to the pandemic should apply for RENT assistance. She is currently unable to pay her landlord and may lose her apartment. She can visit http://AustinTexas.gov/RENT and submit her application.

Another example includes a couple living in Austin’s Riverside neighborhood. They made a combined $62,500 and renewed their lease, but due to the pandemic one of them lost their job and they are now struggling to make future rent payments. They will qualify for RENT assistance.

The RENT Assistance Program has established a priority point system to ensure those in greatest need are considered first.

Renters in the first priority group will receive 3 points and will be considered first. That includes Renters need to meet two criteria: the renter must qualify for unemployment for at least 90 consecutive days before application and have zero or extremely low income (at or less than 30% of the area median income).

Renters in the 2nd priority group will receive 2 points and will be considered after the 1st group. This includes renters who qualify for two criteria: renters who qualify for unemployment for at least 90 consecutive days before application, and have low income (between 30% and 50% of the area median income).

Renters in the 3rd group will receive one point and will be considered after the 2nd group. These renters only have to meet one of the following criteria:

  • Renters who qualify for unemployment for at least 90 consecutive days before application
  • Low income renters (at or less than 50% of the area median income)
  • Renters who have experienced homelessness in the last 3 years
  • Renters who applied for the RENT Assistance program between August 2020 – December 2020 and did not receive rent help (this does not include inactive applications and applications that were denied.)

All other applications will be considered after those in the 3rd group.

With an easier application process, candidates do not need to submit documents with their application but will be requested if they are selected. Documents that will be needed include:

  • A Self-Certification form stating residents have been financially impacted by COVID-19. The form will be sent electronically requesting an e-signature.
  • Proof of current monthly income for all household members.
  • Proof that residents are at risk of experiencing homelessness or that housing is unstable, which may include past due rent or eviction notice.
  • Current lease showing address, name of the leaseholder, amount of monthly rent, and when the lease expires. The lease must be signed by both the resident(s) and the landlord.
  • A government-issued photo ID for the head of household. For example, a driver’s license, passport, or other photo ID.

A social security number and legal status are not required for this application. Eligible applicants will be randomly selected, and if the application is selected, the RENT Assistance program will contact the landlord and pay rent directly.

To learn more and apply please visit http://austintexas.gov/RENT. The portal will remain open through September 2021 or until all available funds have been committed.

How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure
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Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft.

There are four main ways to do it: Know who you share information with; store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security number; ask questions before deciding to share your personal information; and maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices.

Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Offline

Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work. Keep your information secure from roommates or workers who come into your home.

Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you—unless you are going to use your card at the doctor’s office.

Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child’s school, or a doctor’s office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.

Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.

Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.

Take outgoing mail to post office collection boxes or the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.

When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home, unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock.

Consider opting out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance by mail. You can opt out for 5 years or permanently. To opt out, call 1-888-567-8688 or go to optoutprescreen.com. The 3 nationwide credit reporting companies operate the phone number and website. Prescreened offers can provide many benefits. If you opt out, you may miss out on some offers of credit.

Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Online

Know who you share your information with. Store and dispose of your personal information securely.

Be Alert to Impersonators

Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, type the company name into your web browser, go to their site, and contact them through customer service. Or, call the customer service number listed on your account statement. Ask whether the company really sent a request.

Safely Dispose of Personal Information

Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device. Remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from a mobile device. Remove the phone book, lists of calls made and received, voicemails, messages sent and received, organizer folders, web search history, and photos.

Encrypt Your Data

Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.

Keep Passwords Private

Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: Think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.

Don’t Overshare on Social Networking Sites

If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.

Securing Your Social Security Number

Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s, ask:

  • why they need it
  • how it will be used
  • how they will protect it
  • what happens if you don’t share the number

The decision to share is yours. A business may not provide you with a service or benefit if you don’t provide your number. Sometimes you will have to share your number. Your employer and financial institutions need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. A business may ask for your SSN so they can check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment, or sign up for utility service.

Keeping Your Devices Secure

Use Security Software

Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often. Protect against intrusions and infections that can compromise your computer files or passwords by installing security patches for your operating system and other software programs.

Avoid Phishing Emails

Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type.

Be Wise About Wi-Fi

Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.

Lock Up Your Laptop

Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information.

Read Privacy Policies

Yes, they can be long and complex, but they tell you how the site maintains accuracy, access, security, and control of the personal information it collects; how it uses the information, and whether it provides information to third parties. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Source: consumer.ftc.gov

COVID-19 Economic Benefits how-to Guide
LinkedIn
woman sitting at table filling out a medical form

As more Americans with and without disabilities are caught up in the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are wondering where to find answers to life-or-death questions.

What do I do if I’m a person with a disability and lost my job because of COVID-19?

You are not alone. A monthly report published by the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD), shows that nearly one million working-age people with disabilities lost their jobs. That represents a 20 percent reduction of the number of workers with disabilities in our nation’s economy. There is a significant question whether those jobs will ever come back.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) website has a comprehensive run-down on what you as an individual with or without disabilities needs to know about accessing unemployment benefits if you are an eligible worker.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a joint state-federal program that specifically helps workers who have lost their jobs. With more than 22 million workers now out of their jobs, UI is more important than ever before.

How do I know if I am eligible?

Each state has its own guideline around who does or does not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. Generally speaking, if:

  • You lost your job through no fault of your own or you were separated due to a lack of available work.
  • You also meet specific work and wage requirements.

Then you should qualify for unemployment benefits. However, beyond those basic guidelines, each state has different rules in terms of wages earned and time worked. To find out what your state requirements and guidelines are, visit careeronestop.org.

FYI: It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.

What about COVID-19 specific unemployment resources?

In response to the pandemic, DOL issued new guidance to address COVID-19 in the workplace and different scenarios involving workers at risk of losing their jobs because of the virus. You can read that guidance online at dol.gov.

Who can I talk to for more details?

The DOL’s toll-free call center can assist workers and employers with questions about job loss, layoffs, business closures, unemployment benefits and job training: 1-877-US-2JOBS (TTY: 1-877-889-5627).

What other resources does DOL offer?

DOL maintains a dedicated page for job seekers and unemployed workers looking to access the workforce system. That page includes specific information about finding new job training opportunities as well as disability-specific resources.

What if I’m on SSI or SSDI, but I lost my part-time job? Can I claim unemployment?

The answer really depends on whether you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

For people receiving SSDI, unemployment income is counted as unearned income and DOES NOT count towards the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. This means that people who receive SSDI, but had been working part-time, can claim unemployment without worrying about the usual income limit.

SSI is different from SSDI, but unemployment income also counts as unearned income for SSI. However, SSI benefits may be offset by the amount of unemployment received. SSI has a strict $2,000 asset limit. If SSI recipients receive benefits that would push them over the asset limits, they should consider spending those funds right away to purchase needed supplies.

If a person with a disability had been working but lost their job because of COVID-19, they will need to apply for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

The Arc has a great website with lots of details on navigating unemployment as a person with a disability at thearc.org.

What about accessing food benefits?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) runs the SNAP program and maintains a great website about SNAP eligibility at fns.usda.gov.

While SNAP is a federal program, like most benefits, it is run by state agencies. To find out about your home state’s rules on SNAP benefits, visit fns.usda.gov/snap/.

Before the pandemic, 11 million people with disabilities depended on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) nutrition benefits to put food on the table. That number has increased significantly as people with and without disabilities have lost their jobs and hungry children have lost food access with school closures. In response, more states are seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits for online grocery deliveries. Learn more at RespectAbility.org.

What about food benefits for women and children?

The USDA also runs the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to help low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five at fns.usda.gov/wic.

Like most benefit programs, WIC has strict eligibility requirements that specifically limit the pool of people who can make use of these resources. To determine your eligibility for WIC, visit: fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility.

How do I order food online for delivery?

To limit their risk of exposure to the virus, many people with and without disabilities have opted to switch entirely to online grocery deliveries. Unfortunately for many people with disabilities, this is an inaccessible or unavailable option.

Popular options for online grocery deliveries include Instacart, Amazon and Walmart. In 35 states, people with disabilities now can or will soon be able use their SNAP benefits for online grocery deliveries. However, there are still states that have taken no action to help millions of people with disabilities put food on the table. RespectAbility and other disability organizations such as the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) are actively working to solve this and other critical, COVID related economic challenges.

What about delivery fees?

Unfortunately, even if you are in a state that has joined the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot, you will need to cover the cost of delivery fees.

What federal agencies or programs are providing information to help people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has been leading disability related efforts to respond to COVID-19. They have a great website that has information for aging and disability programs, as well as videos in American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish language materials.

ACL has distributed information to its grantees in every state about preventing exposure to the virus, tips for dealing with social isolation, technology resources, as well as guidance for programs that are directly helping people with disabilities deal with COVID-19.

Visit their extensive website with resources and information at acl.gov/COVID-19.

What about Veterans with Disabilities?

Like ACL and DOL, the Department of Veterans affairs has created an extensive website to cover VA specific issues in the COVID-19 pandemic. You can use the website to read the latest about COVID-19, make appointments or access other benefits/services: va.gov/coronavirus-veteran-frequently-asked-questions.

If you are not yet connected to a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), why not connect with one now via the internet? For example, you could connect with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) pva.org/find-support, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) dav.org or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org.

What do I do if I am at-risk of COVID-19 and have roommates or live in a group home and people are not practicing social distancing or taking precautions?

This is a serious matter and your safety needs to come first. Consider preparing a script of what you want to say before saying it. Remember to be respectful of everyone’s emotional needs but firm about your own health and safety.

Have a conversation with your roommate about documenting when and if people are coming. That way you can tell public health authorities if either of you comes down sick.

This great article from TODAY has more ideas on how to handle this delicate issue: https://www.today.com/health/social-distancing-how-talk-those-who-aren-t-doing-it.

For more resources and updates from RespectAbility about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the one-in-five people who live with a disability, please visit: RespectAbility.org/covid-19.

Staying on Top of Your Finances during COVID-19
LinkedIn
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A lot of people are dealing with serious financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re worried about your finances but haven’t experienced a loss of income or increased expenses so far, consider the following:

Our fellow federal regulators and their state counterparts are still working every day to keep our financial system safe. Generally, all bank deposits up to $250,000 are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Deposits at all federal credit unions, and the vast majority of state-chartered credit unions, are also insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). Take care of your finances as usual. If you are in the position to strengthen your financial well-being, read more below about how to take control. You’ll be better prepared for shocks down the road, whether from the pandemic or something else.

Keep Up with Your Bills

There are ways to get help if you are struggling to pay your bills due to the financial impact of COVID-19. But if you can still pay your bills, you will likely be better off staying on track. Keep in mind that if you decide to use a program that lets you pause or reduce payments; you will still owe the money you have not paid once the program ends.

Remember, if you ARE struggling, you have options.

If You Can’t Pay Your Bills
Don’t hesitate to contact your financial lenders and creditors if you can’t keep up because COVID-19 has cost you income. The CFPB and other financial regulators have encouraged lenders to work with their customers during this time.

If You Can’t Make Your Mortgage Payments
The new CARES Act allows homeowners with federally backed loans who are affected by the pandemic to request a forbearance of their mortgage for up to 180 days. The forbearance can be extended for up to an additional 180 days. Private mortgage loans may also offer programs. Learn more here.

If You Can’t Keep Up with Your Student Loans
The CARES Act also automatically suspends payments on federally held student loans through September 30, 2020. For help with a student loan other than a federally held loan, you should contact your servicer to see what options are available to you.

If You’re Already Behind on Your Bills
Check out these tips for dealing with debt – a stressful experience even under normal circumstances.

If You’re a Financial Caregiver
Those who serve as financial caregivers for older adults or people with disabilities may have unique worries and challenges.

Keep Your Money Safe

Whether or not you’ve experienced a financial hit, don’t head for the ATM to withdraw more cash than you usually need. Your money is safe in your bank or credit union account. Unlike money kept at home, you likely have federal protections if money you’ve deposited are taken illegally and in the unlikely event your institution shuts down. You will always be able to get cash when you need it. The professionals restocking cash machines and moving money across the country are on the job and are considered essential service workers.

Take Control of Your Finances

Getting money smart is one of the best ways to be ready for any kind of trouble the future might bring. We also offer a variety of tools including some designed to help you track your spending, build a budget, pay off your debt, or take stock of your overall financial well-being. And always remember to manage and protect your credit.

For more information, please visit: consumerfinance.gov

Reinventing Yourself: Who Will You Be Post COVID-19?
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A woman holding her baby while working on a laptop

By Kimberlee Davis, host & founder of The Fiscal Feminist

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the economic and health adjustments we are all scrambling to make, a deluge of new challenges that have yet to be considered still looms around the corner.

As we navigate our way through these rough waters of financial hardships, stress and anxiety, let’s make sure to maintain our sense of control and handle the problems that we are empowered to solve. The best way to do this is by re-evaluating our finances, focusing on our long-term goals, and reflecting inward on our own identity.

From a corporate securities lawyer and an investment banker to an entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom, I’ve reinvented myself many times over. Some changes were for the better, others not so much. I’ve found that the key to making solid transitions is to start them in a quiet place like the unique setting of the quarantine.

With mouths to feed, bills to pay and immune systems to protect, taking stock on the bigger picture might seem like a low priority at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. Ultimately, who we choose to be – either in business, in wealth, in family or just plain spiritually – will determine our paths forward out of this crisis. Amid the chaos and loss of control, our own sense of self is one of the few things we can control. Plus, sheltering in place gives us a unique opportunity to do some personal observation, self-reflection, introspection, and evaluation because we’re not losing time in the dash to in-person meetings and child soccer practices.

The first question that a lot of us get stuck on is: Where do we start? Having gone through several personal and professional re-inventions, myself, I have found great value in beginning with a deep exploration into my hierarchy of values. This consists of the following important questions:

  • What’s important to my emotional development as a person?
  • What’s important to my economic goals?
  • What’s important to my interpersonal relations and social/ethical perspective?

All three are equally important and must be looked at holistically and practically. We can stand back and look at our lives as they were pre-coronavirus, and examine if we were happy and if our finances survived. In our society we seem to be perpetually busy and for many of us, this outbreak has been a hard stop, forcing us to spend time with our loved ones, get comfortable being alone and taking a moment to think about the things that really matter.

Using this time to think about how your financial situation held up, ask yourself what areas can be improved upon. Did you have enough in your savings to cover a couple months of bills if you were to get furloughed from your job? Did you notice how much less money you were spending on frivolous things like your morning coffee? Taking this time to reflect and thoroughly comb through your spending habits and fiscal well-being will help you plan for the future and give you the knowledge and tools you need to make better choices after this is all over.

Having more idle time also allows us to enjoy ordinary activities such as reading, yoga, exercise, painting, listening to music, cooking and reconnecting with our interests. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and uncertainty, embrace the stillness and relearn how to be thoughtful.

Just because the pandemic is tragic – and, of course, it certainly is – does not mean that it is not also a great chance to spend more time together, talk without rushing and determine how we can continue this in a post-coronavirus environment. There may be wonderful recalibrations to consider which never would have been possible during the rat race of the so-called “normal” life we used to know.

We should all examine the strengths of our relationships and family to gauge how we are surviving as a wife, mother, friend and/or businesswoman. In this state of quiet, what do we value and how do we prioritize it among all the other noise?

While contemplating that answer, it is important not to undervalue your career goals. Often, women will assume financial freedom and professional ambition are lower priorities because of societal pressures. However, though we are free to choose other values as higher priorities, that does not mean that we have to.

To adjust your career path, take this opportunity to learn new skills and pursue interests that have been on the back burner. The internet is full of how-to videos and video-networking/coaching platforms that are just a click or swipe away. Use it as a tool for reinvention – not just a vehicle for killing time as we wait for the economy to reopen. Set specific and achievable financial goals taking one step at a time so as not to get overwhelmed and give up on your strategy in frustration.

Personally, I am rethinking my daily schedule from pre-coronavirus times. I have been taking a four- to five-mile walk at least four times a week, and I am committed to continuing that after we resume our new-normal lives. I am going to make exercise a non-negotiable priority. It clears my mind and gives me a positive attitude.

It is so important that you have good nutrition, get regular sleep, have regular physical exercise, have some down time, nurture your spirit and have some fun with the positive people in your life. Intentional self-care will reap many benefits, and it will increase your energy and sharpen your financial focus.

We all should be looking at our lives as a whole and reflecting on what changes we can be making to provide for a better tomorrow. In all our busyness, it’s too easy to lose track of what is really important. The excuse, “I don’t have time,” is no longer an option. For me it’s health, free time to pursue my interests and family. What is important to you?

Kimberlee Davis is the Host of The Fiscal Feminist, a podcast and platform about women and their relationship with money and finances. Her mission is to help all women of all ages and wealth levels embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. Kimberlee Davis has more than 25 years of finance, legal and corporate experience, her career has included being a corporate securities lawyer, investment banker, and Chief Financial Officer. Currently, she is Managing Director and Partner at The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm.

How One Woman is Reinventing the Wedding Industry
LinkedIn
Amy Grace decorating for an outdoor wedding while looking at the camera

Amy Grace Collins loved her work through Amy Grace Events. She was doing incredible corporate events and weddings for organizations and couples at the most amazing venues in California and Michigan, with the very best in everything—food, flowers, music, photography, videography and more.

But she saw a trend that concerned her with the dream weddings she was helping California brides make a reality: They wanted $60,000 events when they could barely afford $15,000, so they were headed out of Santa Barbara to less expensive destinations, like the dessert of Palm Springs.

“My background is in finance, so I’m acutely aware that the money goes where the trends are,” said Collins, a NAWBO-Central Coast California member, who currently resides with her family in Michigan but works in California as well. “I started looking for an option to keep Santa Barbarians in their local town.”

Part of an international mastermind group of wedding planners, Collins began sharing her thoughts on calls. She learned that a fellow planner in Australia was in the process of implementing pop-up weddings. The concept was that several couples would have their wedding at the same location, on the same day, enjoying the same vendor resources—just in their 3- to 5-hour window and with a small group of friends and family in attendance.

While the concept would take some time to tweak for the American market, Collins knew she was onto something big.

“I reached out last summer to all my vendor friends saying, ‘I have this crazy idea…’ We talked about it and I ran every financial number I could,” says Collins. “There are a lot of models out there that undercut the vendors, so they only do the events on off-days.

“But couples want a Saturday or Sunday wedding for less, so we created these and started working on marketing them in February.”

Then COVID-19 hit. “There were brides booked for March and April who were stuck in contracts and out $60,000,” said Collins, adding that the biggest engagement season is between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day and brides usually start reaching out to wedding planners in the spring…and it’s been silent.

Collins’ thoughts immediately turned to the women who are part of MasterBrides—her other business, which is a free, online community for brides to learn about weddings from an industry veteran. She knew these women didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to lose. Also, would it even possible for them to plan their weddings in the age of Coronavirus with so many unknowns from state to state, especially in California and Michigan, that tend to be among the strictest? Amy began sharing her research and expertise in blogs like, How Do I Know If I Should Cancel or Postpone My Wedding? and The Phased Strategy to Open America: What Does This Actually Mean for My Wedding? By the response she received from brides, it was clear it was time to pivot and focus on pop-up weddings. Her own industry, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about what she was putting out there, but Amy felt strongly it was the right thing to do.

Today, that honest, timely communication has paid off. Amy is now offering pop-up weddings where she leverages the cost of a $60,000 wedding and distributes it three ways between couples so they can have stunning weddings for a fraction of the price. These are all-inclusive, with 90 percent of the decisions already made. She just helps each couple finalize the personalization aspects to make it their own event.

There are other advantages to this model, too. For one, it’s recommended that the guest list is small with just 40-80 people. In this time of social distancing, that’s the perfect size. Also, it’s environmentally friendly. Whereas before, thousands of dollars on everything from flowers to food would go to waste after one big event, now several couples are taking advantage of the same resources.

“I think this will completely shift the mindset of brides,” Collins says. “To see the couples’ expectations from 2002 when I first started, to 2020 is mind-blowing—it’s the same amount of money with way different expectations. This is really resetting the industry so that couples are having a wedding within their means.”

Collins is equally excited about another outcome: A focus on the ceremony more so than the party. “I have always been frustrated by the lack of reverence given to the ceremony portion of the wedding,” she explains. “To have people now see the importance of the actual ceremony and license and how it affects so much in their life, from health care to taxes to immigration. It’s so much deeper and I think we, as an industry, will be appreciated in such a different way. I look forward to that.”

Negotiate Like a Pro
LinkedIn

By Le Anne Harper

Study after study confirms that the gender wage gap in this country persists. According to PayScale, women earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2019 (“The State of the Gender Pay Gap,” 2020). Decades earlier, The New York Times reported that in 1980 women earned 70 cents for every dollar earned by men (“Women’s Roles vs. Social Norms,” 1986).

In nearly 40 years, the wage gap has only decreased by 9 cents! Sadly, it could take another 40 years to reach pay parity. The good news is you can change your personal earning power now.

Let’s pull back the curtain to share these ten insights that can help you negotiate like a pro:

  1. Your gender matters. Babcock and Laschever’s famous 2003 study of graduating master’s degree students found 57 percent of the men negotiated their first job offers while only 7 percent of the women did. Despite many collective gains, women often find salary negotiations challenging on a personal level. Generations of limiting gender norms have shaped you and can influence how you handle job offers. Will you be “agreeable” even if it means settling for less than you’re worth? Be aware of this insidious legacy so you won’t be limited by it.
  1. Don’t accept…yet. What’s the first thing you feel when you receive a job offer? Typically, it’s gratitude. By the time you’ve interviewed and showcased your myriad talents for a potential employer, you’ve often adopted a “please, pick me” mindset. If you finally get to an offer, it’s easy to ride that momentum (and relief!) to a fast “Yes, I accept,” especially if you’ve interviewed for several jobs without receiving an offer. Whatever you do, don’t accept…yet. With an offer in hand, the power shifts in your favor slightly, so press pause and assess the offer’s merits.
  1. Don’t overshare. When it comes to job offers, companies historically used a candidate’s most recent salary as a baseline and added approximately 10–30 percent to make an offer. This approach keeps people who have been underpaid in the past underpaid even as they move into new, more senior roles. California is one of 17 states (and counting) that has enacted protections to address this problem by prohibiting companies from requesting salary history; instead, companies place a value on a position’s responsibilities and set the budget accordingly. Instead, ask what the budget for the role is and decide if it aligns with your expectations.
  1. Negotiating can bridge the gender gap. Another significant finding of Babcock and Laschever’s study was that the women who did negotiate were able to increase their salaries by approximately the same percentage as the men who negotiated. This means that failing to ask for a higher initial offer is a key factor in their lower starting salaries. But don’t let the historical collective figures discourage you. You have the power to bridge the gap. As with the adage Closed mouths don’t get fed, you can learn exactly what they’re willing to pay if you open your mouth and ASK.
  1. The first offer is rarely the best offer. If you’ve ever been a hiring manager, you know there’s almost always wiggle room on an offer. In fact, we’re so used to being countered that we often factor that into our offers. We might propose $190,000 to our final candidate, so that when s/he suggests that $210,000 will seal the deal, we can all feel good about compromising in the middle at $200,000. Companies typically set a target range for a role, but exceptions are pretty common. The policies vary, but there’s usually some flexibility. Someone in the hiring hierarchy has the power to shuffle their budget to give you a little more.
  1. Know your value. There’s power in understanding your value to the companies where you interview as well as to the specific business unit/hiring manager you’ll support, since that’s usually who has to go to bat for your bigger offer. Get clear about how the company makes or saves money and be able to directly articulate how your skills fit into those equations. Bonus points if you can share specific examples of successful past efforts that demonstrate your expertise and quantify the business impact (e.g. reduced supplier spend by $1.5M, increased employee retention by 40 percent). Use a salary tool like PayScale, Glassdoor, Salary.com, or Indeed to calculate your desired salary. Adjust up or down for significant factors like supply/demand of your skillset, cost of living, a terrible commute (or lack of one), company benefits, culture/values, lifestyle (frequent travel, long hours).
  1. Toss any baggage. Examine and release any emotional baggage you may be carrying from prior interviewing or work experiences, such as insecurities about being laid off or resentment about feeling underappreciated. This isn’t about invalidating your feelings; it’s about sidelining them so you can be effective in salary negotiations. You can’t afford to convey any hint of resentment, entitlement, or desperation. Work through any lingering feelings, get grounded, and approach your negotiations with a clear, confident state of mind and well-researched data.
  1. Be the key. Most for-profit companies are constantly assessing how to grow, which basically means saving money or unlocking new revenue. If your expertise addresses one of these objectives, then you become the key that unlocks the solution. Do some research beforehand so you can precisely target companies that most need and value your key. For example, you wouldn’t try to sell steak knives to vegans. One way to figure out who needs you is think about what keeps a company’s leaders up at night. When you can solve that company’s problems, focus your sights on them. That’s how you can command top dollar during negotiations.
  1. Get creative. There are many elements to a job offer, and salary is only one facet. If a balanced lifestyle is what you seek, think about asking for a remote working schedule or unlimited PTO. Companies have a range of creative perks, some of which might add more value than cash. These fringe benefits are not to be overlooked; it can be fun, like ordering from a restaurant’s secret menu. You can get creative in your asks but consider the cost and possible upside. For example, asking to leave early on Wednesdays for three months so you can complete your MBA will benefit the company and make you look smart.
  1. Practice poise. Especially if you’re not an experienced negotiator, this process can be awkward or downright panic-inducing. It’s nerve-wracking for most people, so now is not the time to wing it. Practice out loud with someone you trust and keep practicing until you can convey your salary request with clarity, supporting data, and confidence without ego, apology, or entitlement.

Now you’ve got some tools for getting into the right mindset and making a sound business case for your ask. Be bold and remember that negotiating works most of the time (89% according to Inc. Magazine)!

Le Anne Harper leads the Diversity & Inclusion practice at Katalyst Group, a talent advisory firm that finds unicorns and purple squirrels for industry-leading companies like The Gap, Samsung, Nike, and Sony. She is a talent consultant and diversity evangelist who has spent 20 years helping companies transform and thrive by recruiting and cultivating the world’s best talent.

 

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Upcoming Events

  1. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  2. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022