Want to be a Rich Bitch (or at least Rich)? Nicole Lapin says you can in 12 easy steps

As part of my job, I manage the social media channels for the brand I work for, and a few weeks ago we partnered with financial expert Nicole Lapin to host a Twitter party all about savings. What's a Twitter party you might ask? While I still struggle to understand exactly why people participate outside of the chance to win prizes, it's an hour-long session where a moderator or two pose questions to the Twitter-verse and the audience (typically stay-at-home moms) responds and interacts with each other. Despite my cynicism, it tends to be a well-attended thing, and sometimes (like this time), there are perks for those of us behind the scenes: I got a signed copy of Nicole's book "Rich Bitch" for free!

I'll admit I hadn't heard much about Nicole Lapin before the Twitter party, but that's unsurprising given she's a financial broadcaster and I avoid the news (not even specifically financial news, but the news at large) like the plague (it's just too depressing). But once I started reading about her background, and particularly how she became a self-made millionaire by 30, I was intrigued (and maybe, just maybe a little jealous). On top of that, I've always known that my money situation wasn't the best, so I figured I had little to lose in seeing what advice she had to offer.

Initially, I was reading the book with a bit of a mean-girl attitude (it's terrible, I know), and in the first two chapters all I could think was that there was nothing in here beyond the obvious. Sure, the book was written in a fun, light tone, and Nicole shared a few stories here and there about her background and desire to better herself financially, but because of my undertone of jealousy, I tried to write it all off by at least thinking that she didn't actually know what she was talking about.

Then I got to chapter 3. It was the chapter on budgets. At first the information didn't resonate with me any more than the earlier information, but then we got to an aptly titled section called "7 Bitches Who Are Always Broke" and my insides cringed with uncomfortable recognition. I've had a "budget" for years and I put "money" away in savings, yet I always, always feel like there's never enough to go around, and I'm constantly blowing said budget, then making excuses about it. Bad, bad, bad.

So now Nicole is giving me a structure for a budget and telling me how much to allocate to different categories and, what do you know, I'm feeling inspired. Inspired enough to sit down with my Excel spreadsheet and take a hard look at my budget. Am I spending no more than 70% of my take-home pay on "essentials" like housing, insurance and basic food? At 71%, I'm pretty darn close. But what about putting 15% toward saving and 15% toward "fun." Damnit. My paltry $25 savings contribution per week is amounting to about 2% of my take-home pay...not even close.

I sat with my budget for a good hour, playing around with numbers, breaking things down into deeper categories than I ever had before and thinking long and hard about whether or not there were any expenses I could cut. I found an $85 per month recurring expense that I thought I could definitely live without, but then I ensured that I left $130 per month in the budget for my Class Pass and dance memberships, since those are not only fun but contribute to my health. After all was said and done, I found enough money to bump up my savings contribution to 10% of my take-home pay. Not quite the 15% that Nicole recommends, but a huge improvement nonetheless.

Now I was hooked (and feeling guilty for my initial jealous thoughts). In the span of a single day, I read another hundred pages and two-days later, I had finished the book. What were my big takeaways, you ask? Here are my top 5:

  1. Buying a house doesn't have to be a goal for everyone, and renting is not the "sloppy seconds" alternative that so many make it out to be. Like many people, I've felt pressure in recent years to be saving up a butt-load of money to eventually buy a house, and in conversations with others who have bought or are looking to do so soon, the prospect seemed virtually impossible for me, and this made me feel sad. But Nicole points out that buying really isn't for everyone, and it's not the silver bullet investment that so many make it out to be. It's expensive (in SO many ways, even once you've purchased the house), so if you're single, interested in moving around a lot, unsure of where your career is going to take you, or even if you just don't want the hassle of maintaining a property, renting IS the way to go, and it's NOT just "throwing out your money." Huge sigh of relief.
  2. Student loan debt consolidation isn't something you jump into without doing your research first. Whoops, this is a mistake I made, because as soon as I saw the possibility of refinancing through So-Fi, I jumped on it without really comparing interest rates across providers. As it is, Nicole talks about so called "consolidation fees" that you can get charged, and I couldn't even tell you if I pay those or not. Apparently there is a government website (studentloans.gov) where you can consolidate your loans yourself for no charge. I wish I had read this advice a few years ago!
  3. I now know the difference between a Money Market account, a Certificate of Deposit (CD), a Mutual Fund and a stock versus a bond. Nicole's chapters on savings products and investing were pretty thorough and although I'll admit that she still lost me when she started talking about rates and fees and choosing a brokerage, at least knowing what these products are and considering using them sometime in the near future is a step forward for me. 
  4. Apparently there is something called a Health Savings Account and it's different from a Flexible Spending Account. This one really struck me as something I need to look into with my employer, because unlike an FSA, the money you pour into an HSA stays with you from year to year and it's put in pre-tax, just like FSA dollars. You can contribute up to about $3,000 a year and use the funds toward pre-deductible expenses that your health plan wouldn't cover otherwise. With a hefty physical therapy bill on my back at present, this is another one I wish I would have learned about months ago!
  5. Retirement accounts and how to actually invest intelligently still boggle my mind. Does that count as a takeaway? Well, I'm making it count because I thought these two chapters of the book were among the most important, yet I unfortunately wasn't able to fully digest the information. The interesting piece I took away is that 401(k)'s are not the be-all-end-all of retirement accounts (even though that's what most employers offer) and that there are some income restrictions on Roth IRAs. Right now, my focus is going to be on building up my emergency fund and sticking to my budget, but I'll be referring back to this chapter when I have more liquid funds I can put into a retirement account outside of my corporate-sponsored 401(k).

Overall, I wound up really enjoying the book, and as you can clearly see, I learned a thing or two! I do think a few of the chapters (namely chapter 8, which was all about being ambitious at work, chapter 11, which was a confusing mix of advice about working for/living with men and chapter 12, which was veiled as a step, but really was just a conclusion) could have been eliminated, but regardless I now firmly believe that Nicole Lapin does indeed know what she's talking about AND that she has a knack for translating her knowledge into language that the average woman can (mostly) understand. If you're interested in learning more about Nicole, she has a website with all kinds of tips and tools on it - check her out at www.nicolelapin.com

Have you read Rich Bitch? Are there other financial books that you'd recommend for younger women? Let me know in the comments section below!


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