Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MONEY Tip- When Money *Can* Bring You Happiness: 3 Cutting-Edge Researchers Share Their Secrets

by Molly Triffin

You’ve heard the refrain countless times: Money can’t buy happiness.
Or  love, Or class  for that matter.
But a wave of new research suggests that cash can indeed increase your pleasure—if you manage it the right way.
n fact, the influence of money on well-being is such a hot topic that experts around the country have devoted their studies to it.
Want a peek at what some of them have discovered?
We asked three researchers who spend their days delving into the ties between money and satisfaction to divulge their most intriguing revelations—and explain how you can leverage their insights to get happier.


Professor Michael Norton Says … Spend on Others to Be Happy

A professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Norton has an interest in the intersection between finance and personal satisfaction that stems from his diverse academic experience.
After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, Norton received a fellowship to study business at the MIT Media Lab and the Sloan School of Management.
“Considering how much time people spend thinking about how to increase money and happiness, [I wanted] to figure out the relationship between the two,” the co-author of “Happy Money” explains. “[I wanted to know], when it comes to how we spend, are we getting it right?”
His Key Findings Initially, Norton, 40, uncovered that people spend most of their money on themselves.
“But my fellow researchers and I thought maybe this wasn’t the best way—that an outsized focus on the self might be part of the reason why having more money doesn’t necessarily make us happier,” Norton says.
To test his hypothesis, Norton designed a study in 2008 in which participants rated their happiness before being handed an envelope containing cash. Half were instructed to spend the money on a personal expense or gift for themselves; the   rest
were told to donate it or buy a gift for someone else.
The results? Those who gave the money away reported higher levels of satisfaction, whereas those who spent on themselves weren’t any happier.
Curious to understand the implications, Norton conducted a few more experiments.
In one, Belgian salespeople received 15 euros to spend either on themselves or on a co-worker. In another, recreational dodgeball players were asked to use $20 for their own purposes or for a teammate’s.
Time and again, people who gave money away reported increased happiness compared with the control group.
Not only that, but their performance improved. For every $10 a salesperson spent on herself, the employer reaped $3 in sales—but every $10 employees spent on co-workers translated to $52 in sales.
Likewise, charitable dodgeball teams scored more goals. Every $10 spent selfishly led to a 2% decrease in wins, but $10 spent on teammates increased them by 11%.
How to Boost Your Own Bliss While any degree of generosity will up your joy, some kinds of giving are more powerful than others. “The closer you are to the recipient, the happier you’ll be,” Norton says.
So buying flowers for your mom has a greater effect than, say, contributing to a stranger’s Kickstarter campaign.
And while the amount you spend doesn’t influence your happiness, Norton says, theimpact of your contribution does.
For example, when it comes to charitable giving, you’ll get the most bliss for your buck if you donate to organizations that create a personal link between the giver and the recipient, such as  Kiva or Adopt a Child.
But regardless of who you give to, try to make it a habit. “The happiness surge you feel from a one-time gift eventually wears off, but people who chronically give are happier overall,” Norton says.

Professor Cassie Mogilner Says … Shell Out for Experiences to Be Happy

In 2004, when Mogilner was working her tail off as a marketing Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, she perpetually found herself strapped for cash and time.
“In business school, there’s so much attention focused on the bottom line,” says Mogilner, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “But I realized that, for me, time felt like a much more precious resource than money.”
Intrigued, she began to channel her research efforts toward investigating the association between time, money and happiness.
Her Key Findings Over the past 10 years, Mogilner, 35, has found that time is a significant happiness predictor because, more so than your possessions, how you spend your spare hours reveals your interests and unique “you-ness.”
Just look at social media: People share photos of weddings, vacations and delicious dinners—but you don’t see many posts about trips to the mall.
To that point, Mogilner has also investigated how long we enjoy the mental boost that comes from temporal experiences versus material goods. “We get used to a new pair of shoes very quickly—it’s a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation"
So while you might be psyched about your new boots at first, before long, they’re relegated to the back of the closet. Instead of being a source of joy, they now serve a purely functional purpose.
“In contrast, we adapt more slowly to experiences,” Mogilner says. “The way we spend time becomes a part of our memories—our personal narrative.”
People also tend to feel less regret after shelling out for a good time, adds Mogilner.
“After you spend $100 on a dress, you can see the other dresses you didn’t buy right there in the store,” she explains. “But if you spend $100 at a restaurant, you’re less likely to second-guess your decision because you can’t see the alternative meals you passed up.”
How to Boost Your Own Bliss Mogilner’s latest research focuses on the concept of buying more positive time—such as renting an apartment closer to work as opposed to buying a luxury car in which to commute.
“Our lives are the sum of our experiences, so we should be supremely deliberate in spending our time in the best and happiest ways possible,” she says.
Her preliminary findings? People are more satisfied when they outsource a chore anyone can do, like cleaning the house or picking up dry-cleaning.
And when it comes to deciding how to use the time you’ve just freed up, Mogilner says you can maximize your happiness by keeping a few points in mind.
“Activities with a social aspect have the strongest effect,” she says, pointing to things like a family picnic, a concert with friends or a date night with your spouse. “Social activities increase happiness because they cultivate relationships with others—and having strong, stable connections with others is the most important ingredient for well-being.”
Another satisfaction inducer, she says, is experiencing out-of-the-ordinary events—such as taking a vacation somewhere new and exciting—which will have a greater impact on happiness than everyday pleasures.
Speaking of vacations, you can get even more happiness bang for your buck if you book your trip well in advance.
Research published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that just anticipating a getaway is as enjoyable as the trip itself. So start planning your winter break—now!


Professor Jeffrey Dew Says … Get on the Same Financial Page With Your Partner to Be Happy

Fifteen years ago, Dew and his wife were colleagues in the mental health field, but partway into his career, Dew had a change of heart and decided to enroll at Penn State for a dual Ph.D. in human development and family studies.
His transition back to student life had major consequences: He and his wife lost their benefits and half their income.
“I wondered how the change in our financial situation might impact us as a couple,” says the 38-year-old Dew, who’s now an associate professor in the department of family, consumer and human development at Utah State University. “I looked at the scientific literature, and found that not many researchers had asked this question.”
So he decided to explore it himself—ultimately uncovering a major connection between money and marital happiness.
His Key Findings In 2012, Dew and his colleagues analyzed data after following married couples over the course of five years. In an initial survey, the spouses were asked how often they fought about various topics, including money, chores, intimacy and time spent together.
Dew was particularly curious to see if any of those arguments correlated to divorce rates, and found a striking trend: For men, money fights were the only conflict that predicted a split. For women, money and intimacy were equally loaded—but financial disputes were a much stronger divorce determinant.
In fact, couples who argued about money several times per week were 37% more likely to divorce than those who only had financial spats once a month.

Why are finances such a fraught subject? Dew has a few guesses.
“Money fights are frequently a stand-in for bigger relationship issues,” he explains. “On the surface, an argument might appear to be about overspending, but underneath, it’s a struggle over trust or power.”
Plus, if you’re under financial duress, there’s likely an added layer of stress to a relationship—and that can take a serious toll.
So Dew and his team did a follow-up study in 2013 with 450 married and cohabiting couples, with the goal of determining how happy couples combat financial pressures.
“We looked at the frequency of their financial management behaviors, such as creating a joint budget and putting money aside for retirement,” he says. “[And what we found is that] the more often couples engaged in sound financial practices together, the more likely they were to be happy.”
How to Boost Your Own Bliss The secret to happiness, according to Dew, is to get on the same financial page with your partner by opening the lines of communication as soon as possible.
That’s not to say you have to agree on everything. “Most issues can be worked through, although it will take compromise from both sides,” Dew says.
Dew’s suggestion: Commit to regular money dates—be it monthly or quarterly.
“And try sandwiching these financial discussions between two enjoyable activities, so that they’re less stressful,” Dew says. Consider opening a bottle of wine while you go over the numbers, and then head to dinner or a movie afterward.
One thing to focus on during your money date nights? A financial goal that’s meaningful to both of you, such as saving for a dream trip to Hawaii two years from now or paying off your house by 2020.
“It’s so easy for money to drive people apart,” Dew says. “But by having a shared objective, you can instead use it to bring you closer together.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

RELATIONSHIP Tip- 7 Traditional Dating Rules You Can Actually Use Today

by Gabi Conti
photo by 3dwallpaperviews.blogspot



"Do this." "Don't do that." It seems like every time you log in to Facebook, flip through a magazine, gossip with your friends, or text your mom, there it is: dating advice you didn't ask for.
So you doubt yourself. Are you doing this whole dating thing right? After all, you're still single. Maybe Wednesday's date never called because you were playing too hard to get?
With a plethora of advice out there, how do we decide which advice to do and which to ditch? Well, that's up to you. Only you can really decide what works and what doesn't. Rules of dating are hard to define because every relationship is different. Just like how the things your ex liked are probably not the same as the things your current lover adores.
But we can always learn from our past. So let's take a glance at the traditional rules of dating and uncover what we should do and what we should ditch.

Wait Three Days

The Rule: You meet someone, you like that person, you wait three days before you make contact in hopes of not appearing "too desperate."
Do: Maintain some space. You just met this person. And even if you convince yourself this is your new soul mate that you can say anything to, you don't want to scare him or her away by appearing too needy or desperate. Show interest, but keep some air of mystery. Watch your blue-to-gray ratio with your texts. You want to have something to talk about on your first date!
Ditch: Taking this rule too literally. If he or she also gave you their number, they want to hear from you. We are a generation who loves nothing more than instant gratification. Sure, we remember what it was like waiting for dial-up, but now that we can get everything instantly, we never want to wait again. If you like someone, reach out. Make a plan. Life is too short. With Tinder and other dating apps, options are at our fingertips, literally.

Play Hard to Get

The Rule: Everyone likes a challenge.
Do: Have a little bit of a chase. I'm not saying you need to go out of your way to be unavailable to this person, but not always being at their beck and call proves you have a life outside of them, which will make you more attractive. After all, you're not looking for your other half. That's codependency. You're a whole person, and you should be looking for another whole that you mutually complement, challenge, and bring out the best in.
Ditch: Being mean. Have a sense of humor but not always at your date's expense. Playing hard to get shouldn't mean hurting the other person. If they ask you out, and you want to hang out with them, don't say no for the sole purpose of "playing the game." Again, there are other options out there. And if your partner is attracted to meanness, well, that's a whole other issue.

It's Not a Date Unless They Go All-Out

The Rule: Wine and dine at the best restaurant in town, cause you're worth it.
Do: Make an effort in planning a date. There's nothing worse than picking up a planned date and then not having a plan. Not only is it annoying for both parties (especially if you're hungry), it reads that you're not respectful of your date's time. If you ask someone out, you should have a plan.
Ditch: Dating out of your means. You don't have to break the bank to impress your date. You want the date and your location to be a reflection of you, a place where you feel comfortable and your date will be at ease too. It doesn't have to be the hottest or most expensive restaurant in town. That's like two dozen long-stem roses on Valentine's Day — it's cliché and unimaginative. With social media, you have the resources to find out your date's interests before the big night. If you can cater your evening to something you'll both enjoy, you'll have a great time.

Always Get Your Friends' Approval

The Rule: Always ask for your friends' advice before you have any contact with your date.
Do: Get your friends' advice. If this date turns into something long-term, of course it's important for your significant other to get along with your friends. After all, your friends are a reflection of you and have probably known you much longer than the person you're dating.
Ditch: Assuming that your friends' advice is the be-all and end-all. Pretty sure your date asked you and not your five closest friends out. So trust your gut, say what you need to say, BE YOU. Take what your friends say with a grain of salt, especially if they're also single.

Never Accept a Last-Minute Date

The Rule: You don't want to be too available.
Do: Respect yourself and your time. If your date asks you out on a last-minute date and you have plans with your friends or something work-related, don't drop everything and run to your date. I've done this before, and most of the time you end up regretting it.
Ditch: Being totally against spontaneity. If your schedule is clear, sometimes last-minute dates can be the best. There's no anticipation. No stressing out about the perfect outfit. You just go. And if that date is terrible, well, it beats not doing anything.

Always Be Together

The Rule: The more time you spend together, the closer you'll become.
Do: Be more open-minded with dating. It's more important to be with someone that you really enjoy spending time with rather than someone who is just simply your type. The relationships that tend to flourish are the ones where the line between significant other and best friend is blurred. Dating should be fun. After all, it's called love, not hate.
Ditch: The mentality that dating someone means you must be attached at the hip. You should have a life and interests outside of your significant other, or else you will drive each other insane and then ultimately apart.

Have High Standards

The Rule: If you see a red flag, RUN!
Do: Be able to identify toxic behavior and real red flags. For example: your date doesn't respect you, is rude, and doesn't treat others well.
Ditch: Being overly picky and negative about your date. Have an open mind. The "I only date over 6 foot" mind-set is only hurting you. Let your material standards slip and see your date for who that person really is.
The bottom line is technology has really changed the dating field. You can learn something from all of these traditional dating rules. But at the end of the day, it's you and your date. You decide when to call, you decide what to text back, and you decide if there will be a second date. Every relationship is different, but you're the same. Do what makes you happy. Be true to yourself. No dating article is going to have all the answers; rather, they have clues to help you figure it out on your own. Learn what you can from "rules," break them, and make your own. The right person will like you for you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

MONEY Tip-9 Money Habits That Can Help You Build Wealth

by Marissa Torrieri
While a six-figure inheritance or high-paying job can land you in the top 1% of earners, it’s the little things—your money habits—that often make the difference between a life of prosperity and one of constant financial stress.
Just ask Learnvest Planning Services CFP® David Blaylock, who doesn’t simply advise his clients on the merits of good money habits—he practices what he preaches.
For example, “I do a periodic review of all the subscriptions I have—the ones that hit my credit cards each month,” says Blaylock. “You’d be surprised at how many subscriptions we all have and how many go unused. You could create some significant savings each month just by looking at those things.”
Taking inventory of your recurring subscriptions and services is just one habit that can get you on the road to better fortune.
“If you look at the average amount of money you will earn over your lifetime, and figure out how many years you are working—most people earn more than a million dollars over their working life but very few people become millionaires,” says Nancy Butler, a Certified Financial Planner™. “How they manage what goes through their fingers usually makes the difference.”
So what are these easy changes that can help move you further along the road to prosperity? We asked two financial planners for their favorites.

1. Reverse Your Thinking

We know: After taxes are taken out and the bills are paid, your paycheck can seem a little anemic—which can make the idea of having to save for retirement too seem like a real stretch. But to build wealth, a change in mindset is required. Namely, instead of spending the rest of your take-home pay, you'd actually take another cut of your paycheck and put it toward your biggest financial goals.
“Most people spend some money, pay their bills and save what’s left," says Butler. "And that’s backwards: You should be saving for your financial goals first, paying your bills and and then consider spending the money you have leftover.”  Another trap is putting your good money habits off till "later," when life will get easier. The thing is, somehow the minute your income increases, the demands on your money seem to as well.
Now, keep in mind, we're not suggesting you sock all of your money away and live on rice cakes. As Blaylock puts it: “I’m not asking you to put $1,000 away a month, I’m asking you to put away $50, or a small amount that you can afford. We really can’t underestimate the power of starting small, because most of the time that momentum builds, and once we see progress, we tend to repeat behaviors.”

2. Look Where You Want to Go

Just as performance athletes imagine themselves making the shot over and over again—check out this study for how goal setting improves motivation in athletes—knowing what you want your money to do for you gives your goals a better chance of being reached.

To get going on saving for the future, financial experts often suggest having a five-year plan, where you create specific money goals you’d like to achieve in five years and what you need to achieve those goals. (That is the goal of LearnVest's 5-Year Planner.) For example, saving six months of income for an emergency fund, or saving for a big event, like a down payment on a house.
“Anytime we have a specific goal in mind, that helps us to save,” says Blaylock. “Whether that goal is emergency savings, or saving for a trip, or saving for college, it doesn’t matter.”

3. Adopt Your Own Private Mind Tricks

What if not spending $1,000 on a designer purse or new must-have gadget were as easy as following a rule that dictates you can’t spend more than $300 on something that isn’t essential to your life? The good news is you can create financial rules just like that for yourself; in fact, doing so can be a great habit to get into.
Also known as “heuristics,” these rule-of-thumb strategies we create for ourselves—such as not spending more than $15 on an item of baby clothing, or more than $50 on a pair of shoes—can help simplify the many choices we make in a day. Behavioral economists believe that adopting good heuristics can help one develop good money habits (see this piece for more on how and why they work).

If creating a great heuristic seems like an overwhelming task, Blaylock suggests starting with something simple, such as eating out only twice a week, or “not getting a cart at Target,” a heuristic that helped one of his colleagues save money.

4. Live Like a "Secret" Rich Person

For some, the image of a millionaire conjures visions of sprawling mansions and shiny Bentleys. But most millionaires don’t live large like that—rather, they tend to live well below their “means” and do more saving than spending. In other words, they’re not flashing their money, according to Dr. Thomas J. Stanley, co-author of "The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy." Stanley’s book, which details more than two decades worth of surveys and personal interviews with millionaires, reveals that much of the wealth in America is more often the result of hard work, diligent savings, and living below your means.
Las Vegas–based David Sapper, who owns a successful used car business and his real-estate broker wife make a combined income of $500,000 per year. Yet they live like “secret” rich people, only spending $2,500 per month on all bills and extracurricular expenses like eating out, unlike many of their peers. By putting 90% of his income into savings and investments, Sapper says he’ll be able to retire early.
"David Sapper, who owns a successful used car business, and his real-estate broker wife make a combined income of $500,000 per year. Yet they live like 'secret' rich people."
His advice? “Find the point that you get what you need and you’re happy and comfortable, and just stay there," says Sapper. “I had an ‘aha!’ moment when I was watching MTV, and LL Cool J was saying, ‘I lease a Honda Accord for $399 a month,’ while other rappers are going broke.”

5. Tackle Retirement Now

If you’re in your twenties or thirties, retirement can seem eons away—and saving for it might not seem like a priority. It’s easy to understand: In between paying to attend weddings (which average something like $600 per guest), saving for a down payment on a home, and using anything leftover to put toward “necessities” like vacation, how are you supposed to save anything for retirement?

Unfortunately the later you start saving, the more you’ll have to save. But the sooner you sock money away, the more time it has to compound and grow.
If, for example, you’re 30 and putting $50 a month into a retirement account with a 7% rate of return, that $50 a month would turn into $56,000 in 30 years, says Blaylock. Should you wait to age 40, you would need to contribute $110 per month to get to that same goal. This is because your money has less time to grow which minimizes the impact of compound interest. (For more on compound interest and why losing time on retirement can hurt you, check out “The Secret of Retirement Savings: You Cant make up for Lost Time"

6. Know What's Coming in, and What's Going Out

Most of us have good intentions when it comes to saving money. But if you don’t know what’s coming into your bank account and what’s going out, chances are you don’t know how much you can devote to your goals. And most people generally don’t track their income and spending, says Blaylock. “It really is shocking to me that clients I work with don’t always review their pay stub,” he says.

You can track your expenses for free with an app like Learnvest's that helps you budget, set goals and save. Remember: Knowledge is the first step to lasting change.
“If I don’t know how much you spend on eating out, how can I expect you to change that?” says Blaylock. “You kind of have to become the chief financial officer of your household.”

7. Getting Out of Debt

Everyone has debt at some point in their life. But if you have bad debt—not student loans and mortgages, but credit card debt, where you’re paying high monthly interest rates—nixing it and getting out of the habit of being a debtor—should be priority number one. “I want somebody to develop a plan to have them out of that debt in 36 months or less,” says Blaylock. “It’s hindering you from making progress on your other goals.”
At the same time, emergencies happen—and a $600 car repair can hit anytime. That’s why Blaylock advises putting half the money you could put into paying down debt into an emergency savings account. So, for example, instead of paying $600 toward credit card debt, consider putting $300 toward emergency savings and $300 toward credit card payments. While this means it will take longer to get out of credit card debt, you’ll have money stored up for an emergency.

“Credit card debt is a result of the ‘uh-oh’ moments,” says Blaylock. “We still don’t have any savings built up because we put it all toward our credit card. So while you’re also working to pay your credit card down, you should consider putting an equal amount to an emergency savings account. I often tell clients that their emergency savings are their insurance policy against falling into credit card debt ever again."
After you get out of debt, Butler suggests only having one credit card, and come to an agreement with yourself (or your significant other) that it will only be used during an emergency. “Let’s say the car broke down and you can’t fix it—that’s an emergency,” says Butler. “Something’s on sale, and I know I’m going to need it in six months—that’s not an emergency.”

8. Increasing Your Earnings

There are two ways to increase your net worth: Spend less or save more money. "And spending less is only part of it – you have to save, and when appropriate invest, the rest," says Natalie Taylor, a CFP® with LearnVest Planning Services"Earning more often doesn’t lead to higher net worth because lifestyle expenses grow along with it." 
But if you grow your income, and set some of those earnings aside, you can grow your bottom line. Aside from getting the raise or winning the lottery, there are a few ways to get more money flowing in.
One suggestion: Diversify your income streams by working a second, part-time job doing something you love. As far as earning more, there are a few things one can do. “For those who cannot cut their expenses enough, I love the idea of working part-time,” says Blaylock. “I have a great friend who is an attorney. She has a big travel habit that she is unwilling to pull back on. So, she works at a flower shop on Saturdays during wedding season. It's a win for everyone: The flower shop has a dependable employee, and my friend loves flowers so she does not think of it as work.”

Another idea: Look for investment opportunities—perhaps with the help of a financial planner—or other ways to get income to come to you. “I think retirement income should come from multiple sources such as rental income, part-time income and retirement assets,” says Blaylock.

9. Consider Consulting an Expert

There are times in life when consulting an expert pays you back in spades. Even if you’re doing everything you can to start good money habits, using a qualified financial planner can help keep you on track—and help you see the big picture.
“Often times most of us are too emotionally involved in our finances to make really good decisions,” says Blaylock. “So what you’re looking for when you’re getting a professional is accountability and an outside view of what you’re doing. I look at your finances very objectively, where you can’t because you’re that person.”