From Stress to Success in the City: Part 2: Renting vs Buying

If you feel established financially, buying a home, loft, condo, or apartment may be the right option for you. Establishing a mortgage payment rather than a rent check may be more attainable than you think.

Researching your real estate market, mortgage rates, and the timing of when you buy a home is vital to success. If you are a first time home buyer, programs are often available that are tailored to your needs. Also, figuring out your budget will help ready you to buy a home.

Buying vs Renting

Even if you are young and starting out, buying can still be an option for you. Before you pay your landlord money you'll never see again, take time to weigh the benefits of buying instead of renting.

Haley's 5 Reasons to Buy

  1. Cheaper than renting: When buying a home is cheaper than renting housing, consider going for the mortgage. Paying a monthly rent means you are not putting your money into an investment.
  2. You Are Planning to Stay: If you plan to stay long-term in your city, buying is a smart option for you. Buying a home that you can invest in over a long period of time is smart for your finances and building personal assets.
  3. Build Your Credit: Making (on time) monthly payments on a home builds your credit, making you a candidate for a future home that is larger and better suited to a family.
  4. Freedom: Owning your own home means making whatever adjustments you want to it. You can paint and hang decorations wherever you would like. You do not have to wait on a landlord to make decisions for you or abide by their rules.
  5. Find a Deal: When the housing bubble burst, many people found deals on houses that were foreclosed on or the sellers were forced to short sell or sell at a lower rate due to the market. This can still be the case today. Be patient and search for the right deal on your housing choice.

Understanding your options before you pick a place to live will ease the stress. Buying a home means stability and independence. If you're ready to take on the responsibility of a mortgage, start your real estate search today!

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently working at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Have you thought about buying a home? 

From Stress to Success in the City Part I: Renting vs Buying

When moving to a new city, finding a place to live can leave you wondering, “should I rent or should I buy?” Weighing the pros and cons of renting before you commit to a living space is a responsible move that will prepare you for the housing hunt and minimize your stress.

In America, we tend to idolize the idea that everyone should own a home. But renting can be a viable option for many people. It is an especially smart option for people just moving to a city, unsure of their future plans.

Take time to research options and seek advice from others who choose to rent. Consider these reasons to rent before making your final decision.

Should you rent or should you buy?

Haley's 6 Reasons to Rent

  1. Cheaper Than a Mortgage: If your rent is lower than a mortgage would be in the area of town where you would be living, renting may be the right move for you.
  2. Low-Commitment Level: Renting is a convenient option if you do not know how long you will be in a city, especially if you are in a profession with high turnover or frequent moves. You do not have to commit to lengthy paperwork and payments that buying requires.
  3. Not Responsible for Maintenance: Rather than having to do all of the handy work yourself, renting puts maintenance of the space in the hands of the landlord. It is her responsibility to oversee the maintenance of the house or apartment.
  4. No Downpayment: Renting does not require a large sum payment upfront to acquire your living space. You may not have enough savings or credit to qualify for a home loan.
  5. No Taxes: The landlord is responsible for paying taxes on the property. This is a huge financial burden lifted from you as a renter. On the downside, you don't get the home mortgage tax deduction.
  6. Cheaper Insurance Policy: Even if you are renting, you should have insurance! Homeowners insurance for the landlord does not cover the physical belongings in the housing space. The good news is that renters insurance is affordable which means if you are renting and don’t have it, shame on you.

Part of taking the stress out of life to achieve success in the city is preparing and planning for your living situation. Renting should not be overlooked because of its convenience, flexibility, and low liability. Renting can also be part of a savings financial plan that can help set you up to own your home when you are ready in career and personal life.

From Stress to Success in the City: Biking Benefits During National Bike Month

Biking is a fun and cost effective way to get to work which is why many professionals are catching on. It is time to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles (okay maybe not planes) and start riding your bike to work. I commute to work on my bike because I am looking to stay fit, save money, and be conscious of the environment. This National Bike Month, I am highlighting why I bike to work and choose “green” options, such as bike sharing, rather than driving or taking public transport.

Between 2000 and 2011, the number of people in the U.S. commuting by bike grew by more than 47%. Bike racks and lanes are popping up all across America to accommodate the growing number of bike commuters in cities. To encourage and support biking to work, The League of American Bicyclists established an annual Bike to Work Day which is how I'm getting to the office on May 16th for this year's Bike to Work Day.

National Bike Month

If you live in a city, you do not have to own a bike to reap the benefits of using one. Bike shares, which give people the option of renting a bike rather than buying one, are appearing in many cities across the country. My city, Washington, D.C., has seen great success with its bike share program, and up until the release of New York's, had the largest program in the nation. Other cities such as Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, and Boulder, CO have launched similar programs.

When choosing alternative forms of transportation for your daily commute, consider the real, tangible benefits of biking.

 Haley's Benefits of Biking to Work

  1. Keeps You Fit: I like to call this indirect exercise. Much like a night of dancing or a game of two-hand touch football with friends, your health benefits from biking without spending time in the gym. Before your know it, people will mistake your legs for Heidi Klum’s, but you might not have to insure them like she does!
  2. Saves Money: Choosing to bike to work saves you money. Driving your car and using public transportation can be expensive, especially with gas prices continually rising. You can even calculate how much money you will save by choosing 2 wheels over 4.
  3. "Go Green”: In the age where people are becoming conscious of clean air and blue skies, biking to work takes one more air-polluting automobile off the street. Choosing to ride your bike is one small change in your routine that, combined with other riders, makes a huge impact on the health of people and the environment.

Even turtles move quickly on bikes.

City planners, interest groups, and policy makers have all heard the war cry from bikers for safety on the streets, and slowly are beginning to favor transportation policy that encourages biking and biking safely. Even the U.S. House of Representatives where I work has created a Bike Caucus to support the cause.

Biking in the city can be dangerous. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe:

Haley's Biking Safety Tips 

  • Always wear a helmet (yes I know safety can make for an unfortunate hair day)
  • Make sure you can be seen (this means flashing lights, neon spokes, or the fluorescent crossing guard vest)
  • Lock your bike up (including your front wheel which people really love to steal them)
  • Use your hand signals people! (Remember how mad it makes you when someone turns in front of you without using their blinker? People feel the same way when you’re driving like a maniac on your bike)
  • Get in a bike lane ASAP (City planners, step up your lane game!)

Commuting by bike is healthy for your lifestyle, your finances, and the environment. During National Bike Month, join many other professionals choosing to bike to work. Stay committed to your two-wheeled commute beyond this one day to continue reaping your biking benefits. 

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you get to work?

Financial Literacy Month: How To Have Fun While Sticking To a Budget

Many people worry that they have to compromise socializing to save money. Rather, frame it as prioritizing your social agenda. This Financial Literacy Month, don’t let the fear of missing out--or FOMO--tank the steps you have made to stick to a budget.

Keeping your social life in check with your budget takes planning. I have suffered from FOMO and know from personal experience that trying to attend every event that comes your way is exhausting and expensive. An important part of prioritizing your schedule and keeping your budget on track is learning how to say “no.” Check in and ask yourself:

Do I want to do “x” event because I am bored and I don’t want to miss out on the potential fun?

Or am I doing this because I genuinely want to spend time with this group of friends and my budget can accommodate it?

Every penny counts.

Your budget shouldn’t control your relationships and social life. Follow these tips to help you stretch every dollar you allocate for “fun.”

Haley’s Tips for Having Fun on a Budget

  1. Host An Event: Hosting an event at your home is a great way to keep the costs of a good time low. Celebrating a holiday, hosting a game night, or coordinating a potluck are all ways to gather friends for fun on a budget. Ask everyone to bring a different dish or beverage to the event to make this fun event affordable.
  2. Find Free Activities In Your City: Cities offer many free or low cost activities to enjoy. Exploring museums, parks, festivals, and outdoor movie night are all low-cost activities to do with friends. My city, Washington, D.C., is "free fun Mecca" with many free exhibits, museums, and events such as listening to jazz in the garden .
  3. Take Advantage of Food and Drink Specials: Researching food and drink specials is a fantastic way to trim excess spending. Many cities have websites that organize food and drink specials by days of the week. Ever heard of the saying “there’s an app for that?” Well, there are many apps for food and drink deals.

Outdoor Movies

Just a reminder, when you feel like giving in and spending money on something frivolous, sticking to your budget has long-term benefits such as prioritizing long-term plans such as paying off student loans or saving for a house or vacation. Being financially savvy shouldn’t keep you from your friends. With these tips for seeking out free or cheap events, your social agenda won’t suffer. Taking control of your finances should empower you to be as smart with your social life as you are with your money.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What is your favorite low cost way to socialize?

Financial Literacy Month: 3 Tips for Sticking To a Budget

A key way to be responsible with your finances is creating a budget and keeping it. Knowing where every penny of your hard-earned money is goes allows you to trim excess spending and save for life plans such as family events, traveling, and retirement. April is not only when your taxes are due but it is also Financial Literacy Month and there is no time like the present to start a budget. 

The benefits of creating a budget are clear. Money is one of the most stressful parts of our lives and when we budget some of that stress is relieved. Learning how to responsibly manage our money takes time and effort. But remembering the long-term benefits can help you stick to it. 

Financial Literacy.

A budget is very similar to a New Years resolution. Each starts off with good intentions but falls apart without a solid plan. 

Haley's 3 Tips For Staying On Track With Your Budget 

  1. Find a "Budget Buddy": People who state goals out loud or write them down are more likely to follow through. Keeping a budget with a friend or mentor is a smart way to stick to your financial goals. Choosing someone you trust is necessary for mutual accountability. Plus you are not only helping yourself succeed but also the other person.Deciding how often and where you meet is up to you and your partner.
  2. Choose What Works for You: You can take the electronic route, using downloadable spreadsheets or phone and tablet applications as tools for planning your budget. If you like doing things the old fashioned way, you can always keep your budget in a notebook. 
  3. Track Your Spending: Accounting for your spending--which you should really do before you create a budget--ensures that you are not going over specific amounts allocated to each day, week, or month. Printing out your bank statements or writing down everything you buy for a trial period (maybe two weeks) can help you analyze how you are spending your money.

Remember long term plans for your finances.

In an encouraging quote from a Wall Street Journal article, Principal Financial Group's Larry D. Zimpleman states:

“What I find is that once people have good habits about living within their means, it creates a real sense of empowerment and positive control that is reinforcing. Even if the notion of a budget gives you a headache—try it for a few months just so you can feel the sense of self-control it can create.”

When you budget, save, and spend your money wisely, you are making room for long-term plans such as:

  • planning for retirement

  • saving for family plans

  • travel 

  • creating a cushion for unforeseen expenses

  • paying off student loans like Aundrea Gregg on her Project Debt Down.

Earning money is one task and managing it is a whole other ballgame. Once you have created your budget, establish a routine to keep you on track towards your financial and personal goals. Take these tips with you to establish healthy finances.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClub

A food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you keep track of your finances?

Education Wednesday: Aundrea's Project Debt Down Student Loan Repayment Update

At the beginning of the year I resolved to reduce my student loan debt. Three months later, Project Debt Down (as I named my loan repayment effort) is in full effect! With a totally new mindset about money management, I am excited to share the tricks that are helping me pay down my student loan debt.

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You might be waiting for that rainbow that leads to a pot of gold. However, eliminating your student loan debt requires a realistic plan and steadfast commitment to reach your goal. The average student now owes as much as $29,400 coming out of college. What's more, the national loan default rate has skyrocketed to 14.7%.

While my debt reduction plan has not been without its setbacks (this lady loves to shop!), cutting back my spending has helped me lay a solid foundation of savings. For me, creating an air-tight budget and integrating fiscal responsibility into my lifestyle has been an intricate first step in Project Debt Down.

Aundrea's Tips From Project Debt Down Phase One

  1. Cut the emotional ties to spending: Coincidentally as I started Project Debt Down I was connected with a fellow Howard University alum who now works as a financial advisor. After helping me craft a budget based on my income and spending habits, he asked me about my life goals. As I considered my plans for the future, suddenly a closet of new shoes did not seem so important. Becoming debt-free is as much about self-discipline as it is about money. I cut down my impulsive spending and prioritized saving.
  1. Find money-saving alternatives for the things you love: As I mentioned, I love to shop. This was one of my initial pitfalls while starting my savings routine--and going cold-turkey was not working. Browsing online, I found great alternatives to department store shopping such as hosting clothing swap parties with friends (which I tried and loved!). I let this trend of money-saving alternatives trickle into other areas of my life. I started cooking more meals at home and even eating meatless a few days of the week. As The Wise Latina Club documents in our Meatless Monday series, this has allowed me to not only save money, but also amp-up my healthy eating. Saving money does not have to end your social life. For more tips on how to save and still have fun check here.

  2. Avoid additional debt: While whittling away at your student loan debt, it is important not to take on any extra baggage. Credit cards, car loans, and other debt with interest can make paying down your student loans even more difficult. As an example of good debt-reducing behavior, recently, a colleague saved and paid for her new car in cash--all to avoid burdensome monthly payments. Like my friend, make the commitment to save up for the big-ticket items you need and stick with only necessary recurring bills such as groceries and utilities.

Education_Wednesday-Project_Debt_Down_Update-TWLC

For students not yet in college, the best way to reduce student loan debt after school is to have a solid and realistic financial plan before starting. Many resources exist to help students avoid debt, much as I mention in Education Wednesday: Funding College with Grants and Scholarships.

Only an estimated 8% of people are successful in achieving their New Year's resolution. However, I plan to beat the odds by staying committed to my plan to reduce my student loan debt. As I enter phase two of Project Debt Down, look for more updates on my progress!

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

 How are you reducing your debt?

Education Wednesday: Funding College with Grants and Scholarships

Applying for grants and scholarships is a worthwhile effort for every student as they prepare for college. Looking back on my own journey to higher education, one of my only regrets is that I didn't tap as many resources as I could to make college more affordable. Now, as part of my New Year’s resolution to tackle my student loan debt, I am sharing ways students can make smart choices to avoid debt of their own.

Education_Wednesday-grants-and-scholarships-TheWiseLatinaClub

Being diligent in the search for funding can help students obtain the holy grail of scholarships--the full-ride. However, even if your student is not so lucky, any additional money will greatly lower her debt after graduation. Another upside to applying for more student aid includes increasing your chances of attending college. The National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) reports that for each additional $1,000 a student is able to raise on top of her financial aid package, the likelihood of college enrollment increases by 4 percentage points.

Aundrea’s Tips for Winning Scholarship Money

  • Create a personal profile: Students must do their best to standout on scholarship applications. This will require detailed information about extracurricular activities, academic accomplishments, and personal qualities. Before applying, have students write short paragraphs about their attributes and most meaningful experiences. This will save time, particularly when applying to numerous scholarships. For more tips on how to make applications standout click here.

  • Narrow your search: Using a search engine or scholarship catalogue (available at the library for free) will help students quickly identify which scholarships they qualify for based on criteria including race, gender, income, and achievement. Hint: Be sure to look for scholarships aimed at diversifying specific industries and fields of study. There are more opportunities for minorities entering STEM programs than ever before.

  • Think outside the box: Finding money for college may require students to be creative about where they look. No matter how unusual the scholarship or source, apply! Additionally, CollegeBoard suggests asking local businesses and organizations about scholarship programs. Ask your own employer and even ask prospective colleges for private grants and scholarships allocated to their students.

  • Apply Not Just in High School: Scholarship applications are not just available to high school students. In fact, funding opportunities exist for those in kindergarten as well as those already in college. Always be on the lookout for new programs and make applying a yearly commitment.

Education_Wednesday-grants-and-scholarships-TheWiseLatinaClub

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important first step for funding college, as I mention in Education: FAFSA to Cover the Cost of College. This online form provides access to federal assistance including loans, scholarships, and the Pell Grant--which is particularly important for families that make less than $40,000 a year.

For underrepresented groups such as low-income and first-generation college students, finding ways to afford higher education can be a challenge, especially when guidance at school and home is limited. As parents, teachers, and mentors we must help our students capitalize on the thousands of scholarships that are available each year. Attending college is an obtainable goal for all students, but it takes adequate planning and loving support.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How are you helping your student save for college?

Education: FAFSA to Cover the Cost of College

With the start of the New Year and new semester, many high school students are one step closer to graduation. While making final preparations for college, it is particularly important to plan for covering the cost of attendance. For any student in need of financial assistance, submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the place to start.

Applying for FAFSA is an important first step for those planning to attend college because it provides access to grants, work study programs, loan money, and scholarships. CollegeUp.org reports that almost $8 out of every $10 dollars alloted for educational assistance requires students complete a FAFSA. In fact, all schools require that this application be completed in order to access any financial assistance programs. The completion of FAFSA can even affect college admissions.

Education_Wednesday-FAFSA-TheWiseLatinaClub

January 1st is the first day to submit an application. Because deadlines differ from school to school and aid money is limited, the Federal Student Aid website highly recommends students submit their applications as close as possible to January 1st. Gathering the necessary documents and preparing early will make submitting a FAFSA a cinch.

 Aundrea's Tips for Submitting a FAFSA

  • Have your PIN before you start: Each student must create a PIN to electronically sign their FAFSA. In fact, the same PIN will be necessary to receive aid such as federal loans and grants. Apply for your PIN before starting a FAFSA to save time. 
  • Have the necessary tax information: Submitting a FAFSA requires students to provide their federal income tax information, or their parent's tax information if they are filing as dependents. It may be advantageous for families to file their taxes early. However, FAFSA filers do not have to wait until their taxes are complete to submit their forms. Use the "Will File" option and estimate your income to get the process started.
  • Know the schools you wish to attend: FAFSA information can be reported to 10 schools at a time. Some experts suggest listing schools in alphabetical order or even listing second-choice schools first as a trick to help students avoid smaller aid packages. Top choice, or first-listed schools may offer less aid based on your likelihood to attend, while smaller schools listed last may offer less money based on your unlikelihood to attend. Be methodical about your school selections.
  • Submit your applications online: While aid applications can be submitted by mail, the online Federal Student Aid portal makes navigating the financial aid process easier than ever. To get started now click here.

Education_Wednesday-FAFSA-TheWiseLatinaClub

The best way for students not yet in college to reduce their loan debt after school is to make a solid financial plan. Familiarizing yourself with the FAFSA process early, including knowing that students must submit applications every year of college, will help students access aid.

As I will discuss next week with a look at scholarships and grants, tapping every resource possible for educational funding is vitally important for covering the cost of college attendance. High costs of higher education remain a barrier for some students. However, with more resources than ever before, a little research and early preparation can make college a reality for everyone.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you plan to cover the cost of attendance?

Education Wednesday New Year's Edition: Resolving Student Loan Debt

The first of the year is the right time to reflect on areas of life you wish to improve. Tackling my student loan debt is at the top of my New Year's resolution list. Equipped with my first budget and much determination, this January I am balancing the books to reduce my debt.

Education_Wednesday-Resolving_Student_Loan_Debt-TheWiseLatinaClub

As a recent college graduate, I am thankful for my education and the opportunities it affords me. Yet the price I paid to attend is, literally, weighing me down. A recent report by Project Student Debt confirms that I am not alone: the average student debt is $29,400, while the national loan default rate is now 14.7%. Both of these figures have more than doubled in less than a decade.

With student loan debt higher than ever before, new grads must give more consideration to how they will pay off their loans. My personal student loan repayment plan, which I am calling “Project Debt Down”, will mix sound advice with hard work to make financial freedom a mission-possible.

Aundrea’s “Project Debt Down” Student Loan Repayment Tips:

  • Get to know your debt: Before doing anything to reduce your debt, it is important to find out how much you owe and to whom it is owed. Repayment options may vary between financial institutions. Knowing the terms of your loan will help you make a realistic plan.

  • Plan and budget: Reducing debt does not need to be complicated, but you do need a plan. Based on your income decide how much money you can put towards your debt  each month while keeping a long-term goal in mind. Cut back on the wants of life and find creative ways to earn additional cash. I am trying out a debt reduction budget to make every penny count.

  • Change your money mindset: Becoming debt-free is as much about self-discipline as it is about money. Cut down impulsive spending and prioritize your loan payments. Ensure payments are on time by scheduling automatic transfers to lenders.

  • Make the most of deferments and forbearances: Once school is complete students generally have a six month grace period before loans must be repaid. In some instances students qualify for a deferment or forbearance where payments are halted for a limited time but interest still accrues. It is important not to idle during this time. During my deferment I am making small payments on my interest as I build up savings to put towards the principal of my loan.

  • Don’t forget about government programs: Ideally grads should use the standard repayment options to pay off loans as soon as possible. However, initially, managing large-sum payments can be difficult. Look for programs such as Income Based Repayment where payments are capped at 10% of your income. This plan as well as others may even allow loans to be forgiven if you qualify.

Education_Wednesday-Resolving_Student_Loan_Debt-TheWiseLatinaClub

For students not yet in college, the best way to reduce student loan debt after school is to have a solid and realistic financial plan before starting. Weigh school options carefully. Tap every resource possible and look for scholarships and grants. Loans should be a last resort with a repayment strategy in place.

Make the commitment to honor your New Year’s resolution over the next 365 days. Change behaviors, make sacrifices, and work towards a better financially independent you. As I progress towards my goal to be debt-free, look for quarterly updates on “Aundrea's Project Debt Down” and more tips for tackling student loan repayment.

Happy New Year!!

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How will you reduce your debt in 2014?

Career/Money: 8 Alpha Female Salary Negotiation Tips

The rise of the Alpha female! Our nation's women are bringing home more of the bacon! Recent Census data confirms what many of us at kitchen tables across the country know about working women and their growing, and in some cases full, contribution to their family's budget. More than 40% of American households with children rely on mom as their greatest source of income, according to a new Pew Research Center study that crunched the data. This is a dramatic shift from 1960 when women were the primary breadwinners in just 11% of homes with kids. At first glance this appears to be an improvement, but we need to look at the data in context. On average, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make. A large portion are single mothers and her median income in 2011, for those who have never been married, was $17,400. The gender wage gap worsens for women of color. Overall, Latinas are paid 60 cents for every dollar paid to men and just 55 cents for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men.

Career_Rock_Your_Resume_Cover_Letter-TheWiseLatinaClub

Women make up half of the workforce and are better educated than our male counterparts--earning over the course of 30 years 9 million more college degrees than men. Still this income disparity continues. Why? One answer is structural and President Obama is throwing his political weight behind legislation that would make gender salary differences more transparent.

But another factor is as powerful: we still don't know our worth.

Women hold themselves back "by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning forward," writes Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, fewer than 26% of women feel comfortable negotiating compared to nearly 40% of men.

We are great advocates for others, but we hesitate when we have to do it for ourselves. We are considered nurturers and society perceives many of our gender characteristics such as empathy and compassion as a lack of leadership and authority. Yet as someone who has walked in the career trenches in heels, I can personally vouch that these qualities can benefit the workplace, adding to improved employee morale and a boost to productivity.

Women must set boundaries and know our worth.

We must negotiate for our salaries as if we have earned everything we are asking for.

Because we have! You just need to know what to ask for and how. Here are some tips learned after years of work experience:

Lauren's Salary Negotiation Tips

  1. Do a personal inventory of your skills and qualities, dividing your strengths from weaknesses. How can you turn the latter into a positive?
  2. Do the research on the company, job, market, and region. Salary.com is an excellent tool
  3. Never be the first one to give a salary figure. You may be negotiating against yourself
  4. If the potential employer continues to ask, provide a range
  5. Don't offer up a figure from your last job, unless you are explicitly asked
  6. Never, ever, say yes to an offer immediately
  7. Once you get the offer and have studied it, don't be afraid to negotiate which in plain English means ask for more--salary, vacation days, etc.
  8. Know when to give a counteroffer

The key to carving out our place in the workforce is really understanding how much worth we bring to the table. This is especially crucial for all my Latina sisters: if you are in the room, you earned your place and deserve to be there! The Alpha Female is on the rise: we just have to nurture her growth and advancement.

20130511_132803A morning news producer on the "vampire shift," The Wise Latina Club's Lauren Rivera is a writer, television producer, and media extraordinaire. She loves to dance, travel, laugh a whole lot, explore her new home city of Washington, DC, and write the weekly feature Premiering with Lauren--reviewing films for The Wise Latina Club. Click here to read more about and connect with Lauren.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Tell us about your salary negotiation: what worked, what didn't?