Target Date Funds Pros And Cons

Target Date Funds Pros And Cons

We have a lot of choices when selecting investment vehicles for 529 Savings Plan, 401 K retirement accounts and investment accounts.

Gaining In Popularity

Increasingly, target date funds have become popular with investors. Their assets surpassed $1 trillion in 2017. That trend is likely to continue. Vanguard, in its report “How America Saves 2019,” predicts that more than 75% of 401 K participants will be solely invested in these investments by year 2022. This is above 60% in 2019.

There are benefits and drawbacks of these plans to be aware of before making your selections. First, let’s explain what a target date fund is.

What Is A Target Date Fund?

These mutual funds, known as life-cycle, age-based, and dynamic risk, are offered by investment companies like Vanguard and Fidelity. Target date usually refers to the year you are planning to retire or expecting your child to enter college.

The notion of shifting your portfolio from aggressive investments to conservative investments has been around since the 1950s. However,  these life cycle funds grew in popularity after the passage of the Pensions Protection Act of 2006.

If you plan to retire in 2050, you would be investing in a “2050 Fund.” Your investments will be managed according to a predetermined allocation that will reset over the years. The time frame would likely be shorter for college savings funds but based on a similar concept.

A Glide Path For Your Asset Mix

Typically, your assets will be heavily invested in more risky assets like stocks in your younger years. Your portfolio will then be rebalanced to a more conservative allocation in your later years leading up to your presumed retirement date. The shift of these assets are often called a glide path. This means that the asset mix in the fund will automatically shift over time.

A target date fund invests in other funds, using a “fund of funds” approach. Morningstar points out that of the record high $70 billion that flowed into these funds, 95% went to passively managed ones which are generally lower cost options.

However, one fund may have a number of underlying funds that may be actively managed. If so, they will generally charge higher fees and may carry tax inefficiencies from the trading of positions.

Active investing means giving portfolio managers discretion to select individual securities with a certain investment objective of outperforming a specific index like the S&P 500.

Benefits of Target Date Funds

 

1. Simplicity

Choosing a target date fund takes the guesswork out of the investment process. The average investor may not have the knowledge or desire to actively do their own shifting of assets from an aggressive portfolio to a more conservative portfolio.

With over 90% of 401K employer-sponsored plans offering a variety of these “set it and forget it” funds, it may be less overwhelming for employees to opt-in to retirement plans. Many people have too little in retirement savings accounts.  The Economic Policy Institute “The State of American Retirement” reported that the vast majority of Americans have under $1,000 saved for retirement and half of all Americans have nothing saved at all.

At the very least, they are better off putting tax deferred dollars in 401 K plans and to start saving for retirement as early as possible.

These funds are also good for 529 College Savings account that use tax-deferred dollars like retirement accounts do.

2. Diversification

All investors should have diversification within their respective portfolios. You should never have concentrations in one particular stock or bond. Always maintain a diversified basket of assets composed of stocks, bonds, money market securities, and real estate. This helps to spread your investment risk among US and  international markets.

Each target date fund will differ in its diversification. You need to investigate its plan to understand how diversified it is and if  it is what you prefer. For example, you may not what to be exposed significantly to international markets.

Related Post: 10 Tips To Diversify Your Investment Portfolio

3. Asset Allocation

It is important to allocate your assets into different baskets according to your risk tolerance, age and investment purpose. Different asset classes have different risks. Target funds do this automatically for you based on their predetermined glide path. Each fund may rebalance differently and continuously to correct shifts in allocation to longer term.

If you are not in a life cycle fund, you are still able do this manually by actively shifting into different index funds, balanced funds, or individual securities. However, it is far more difficult and time-consuming. You would need to be more actively managing your own preferences.

Vanguard points out that investors who held a single target date fund earned a median annual return of 11%. This is modestly above the 10.6% returns of those individual investors managing their own portfolio.

How Does Allocation Work?

Vanguard, as one of the largest investment companies, has target funds that go out to the year 2065.  For example, we can look at 30 year target date funds and see how it rebalances asset classes.

The initial asset allocation in Vanguard’s fund may be 85%-90% stocks and 10%-15% fixed income (a mix of short term money markets and bonds). This is considered to be an aggressive allocation given the riskier (and higher return) characteristics of stocks.

The Vanguard stock allocation may then drop to 80% stocks and 20% when there is 20 years left to the targeted retirement date. At the target date, the allocations may shift to 45% stocks and 55% in fixed assets reflecting a more conservative portfolio with more bonds than stocks at the time of your retirement.

These percentages tend to be static but funds may buy or sell securities to maintain the asset ratios.

T Rowe, another great investment company, tends to allocate more stocks for their portfolio in the later years. For example, its 2020 fund holds 55% in stocks versus a 43% average for target date funds according to Morningstar.

Drawbacks of Target Date Funds

 

1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The conventional wisdom is that younger individuals should invest more of their savings in riskier stocks. As they age, their asset allocation should transition to safer, more conservative assets, notably bonds and money market securities.

This has generally been true, considering that younger investors have longer time horizons to ride out market volatility. Additionally, they have more years to work and generate earnings.

However, there are certain trends that tell us target date funds aren’t for everyone. Individual investors may have too much risk or too little risk relative to their own circumstances.

2. Greater Income Volatility

Increased household income has become less predictable since the 1970’s. A 2012 study “Evolution of Household Income Volatility” reports that family’s inconsistent income has risen 30% since the early 1970s. This occurred as a result of a number of factors, notably deregulation, globalization, technological advances and the onset of the financial crisis and Great Recession.

If you are among those who have monthly swings in income, higher allocation in stocks may not necessarily be desirable for you even if you have a longer time frame to ride out downturns. Your goals may be different in terms of savings and investing.

Related Post: Related Post: 10 Tips To Handle Stock Market Volatility

 3. Retirement Age May Be Going Up

“Full retirement age” has moved up a few years as reflected in that our ability to collect 100% of our social security benefits. It has now been raised to at 67 years. Many educated older workers are also working well beyond 65 years. In any case, it is difficult for anyone in their 20s and 30s to contemplate their target date with accuracy.

4. Higher Life Expectancy

Due to many medical advances, people are living longer. Security Administration has a life expectancy calendar that you can use to calculate life longevity for men and women. A man reaching 65 years today may expect to live to 84 years while women may live to 87 years. Some studies show longer life expectancy especially if you are younger today.

As such, target date funds may need to lengthen our investments. Perhaps they can be tailored to the reality of longer or different life cycles so there will be enough retirement money to live on.

5. Fees On Funds Are Confusing And Potentially Excessive

Before picking an age-based fund, review their fee structure as they vary quite a bit. Vanguard target date funds are truly the gold standard. Their asset weighted fees are the lowest. They range from 0.09% for the funds that target retirement in year 2040, rising to 0.15% for their 2065 fund.

In contrast, asset weighted fees on target date funds offered by Fidelity and T Rowe are relatively reasonable at 0.61% and 0.69% respectively. That is roughly in line with the 0.66% fee as measured by Morningstar. Be wary of possible excessive fees charging rates of 1% or higher.

Two Layers of Fees

Many target date funds are funds of mutual funds. Investors may be charged two layers of fees. One fee is for target fund and another for the asset-weighted average of the management fees of underlying funds. Essentially, you may be overcharged for what amounts to computer-driven asset allocations based on a calendar.

6. Target Date Funds May Underperform Other Funds

Some studies have shown that 50/50 balanced funds, meaning allocations of 50% stocks and 50% bonds may perform better than target-date funds. Balanced funds charge lower fees.  A study done by Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates used Monte Carlo simulations for 1871-2011.

Monte Carlo simulations are used to understand the impact of risk and uncertainty in prediction and forecasting models. This study reflected the outperformance of gains of $170,480 for balanced fund versus $159,130 for target date funds.

7. No Guaranteed Returns

It is important to remind investors that these funds do not guarantee returns. The formula-driven rebalancing and respective returns of different securities may suggest otherwise to investors. As such, 30% of investors believed these funds carried assurances of guarantees according to a survey commissioned by the SEC.

Final Thoughts

Target date funds have a role to play in the individual investor world. As always, when something seems too simple, it usually isn’t so. It is a great way for people who are sitting on the sidelines and neglecting to save for retirement. These funds are a good way to participate and you can make changes later on.

When it comes to employer-sponsored 401 K plans, find out what the minimum amount you need to contribute to potentially get a match contribution. That’s like finding free money.

Check the features of the various offerings available from the investment companies. Look at the asset mixes through the life cycle and how it conforms to your financial needs. Make sure the expense ratio you will be paying annually is not too high. I believe Vanguard’s funds are preferable for reasons mentioned above but there are plenty of choices out there to consider.

It might be wise to consult with your financial advisor or planner regarding your choices when it concerns target date funds for your retirement.

Related Post: How To Choose A Financial Advisor

Have you invested in a target date or life cycle fund for 529 savings or retirement accounts? What kind of experience have you had?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Relationship Between Time, Money And Productivity

The Relationship Between Time, Money And Productivity

“Lost time is never found again.”

Benjamin Franklin

 

 “Time is money,” but they have differences in our minds.

Asking someone, “How did you spend your time today?” is acceptable, while “How did you spend your money today?” is not. There are some exceptions, like on Amazon Prime Day.

Time and money are resources, but as time is finite, it is a more valuable resource. By saving time and money, can we become more productive? We look at how time and money relate to each other, and ways to become more productive.

We can make more money, although we all differ in our abilities to do so. We can’t purchase money, but we may buy other people’s time for various services (e.g., help with household chores) to have more time to do other things we need to do.

There is income inequality, but we live by the same 24 hour day clock as everyone else.

While you think that those with an abundance of money can buy enough services to support them to free up time, that may not be so. An economist Daniel Hamermesh points out that the wealthy have time stress. In his book, “Spending Time: The Valuable Resource,” Hamermesh says higher earners work more because they feel rushed to make and spend money.

Time can be exchanged for money when we need others to listen to us, whether it is a life or business coach, psychologist, attorney, etc. How we spend our time with these professionals is up to us, sometimes with little direction from them.

The Time And Money Relationship Is Visible In Our Financial Lives

 

1. Earning More

The time value of money is the notion that money can grow in value over a given period. When we deposit $100 cash into a savings account, we hope our money will grow according to the annual percentage yield (APY) of 2% and how often it compounds. The APY is the actual interest earned per year. We save more in the bank when interest rates are on the rise.

2. $5,000 today or $5,000 In Two Years

Given a choice between receiving $5,000 today or $5,000 in two years, you would likely choose $5,000 today. You can put the $5,000 to use now or invest it for more money. The only way those two amounts are valued equally is if you left the $5,000 in zero rate account today for two years.

3. Eighth Wonder of The World

Compound interest is one of the most potent investing forces and fuels the urgency to set aside money early for your retirement. It simply means the addition of interest to the sum of a loan or deposit or interest on interest. Your balance grows at an increasing rate. The compounding power plays an essential role in money in your personal savings plan, 529 Savings Plan, mortgages, and investment accounts.

4. Lump-Sum Or Annual Payments

Lottery winners, after the rush of adrenaline, have a choice to make regarding time and money. Most lotteries allow the winner to take a lump sum or an annuity. Most lottery winners will take the lump sum payment upfront. They want to have full access immediately rather than over several years.

Choosing the annuity may be better for tax implications than the lump sum. If you opt for sudden wealth, you may risk overspending. That is for another post, another day. We will get back to more examples of the time and money relationship.

5. Spend Time Working

 

Employers pay money for the time spent working at our jobs, whether hourly wages or annual salaries with overtime for longer hours. As we spend time making money, we should be saving money and setting it aside in interest-bearing accounts, college funds, retirement savings, and investment accounts. Depending on how long we keep our money in the account, we are likely earning compound interest on interest, growing our money for our financial future.

On the other hand, some of our money may become a down payment for a car or a house, and we will be paying interest on those loans over time.

6.Bond investing

When investing in bonds, you are technically lending money for a specific period to the issuer, who is the borrower. Most bonds pay a fixed amount of interest every six months to the investors and repay the face value. Over time moving towards their maturity, the bonds increase in value to become worth their face value.

7. Cars Depreciate In Value

Some of the financial value of what we purchase drops soon after our purchase, like cars. According to current depreciation rates and CARFAX, a new vehicle may drop by more than 20% after the first twelve months of ownership. Cars may lose as much as 10% of value in the first month.

8. You Cannot Replenish Time

Money is replaceable so long as you can continue to earn money by working, selling things, and investing. On the other hand, you can’t replace time. Renewable resources can be, but our time is gone.

9. Typical Lives Over Time

From birth through different life stages, we somewhat conform to doing certain things simultaneously. We are born, go through schools until college, age 22. Typically, we may begin our careers until we retire. The majority of us will retire after 60 years of age. In the years between our jobs, we have children, potentially divorce, and remarry again.

Please take a look at this grand diagram that reflects our current civilization on one page. It is called the “Your Life In Weeks” post on the Wait but Why blog run by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn. Specifically, “The Life of A Typical American” highlights our journey in unison.

Time keeps moving by seconds, hours, and so on. Some of us are very productive with our time; some of us are more wasteful.

There is a line in “Unchained Melody” written by the Righteous Brothers:

“Time goes by so slowly and time can do so much…”

Time is finite; it is precious. Use it carefully. Let’s stop wasting our time and be more productive.

9 Tips For Being More Productive

 1. Make A Reasonable To-Do List

You should have goals for work and home sometimes merge, mainly if you work at home. It is probably a good idea to separate those goals by dividing the respective to-do lists. Both time and money are valuable so maximize these assets.

I sometimes work on my list at a time late in the evening before relaxing. Planning what I need to do often helps me relax and sleep better. The next day I have more motivation and energy to tackle my tasks.

Make sure your list is reasonable, or you will abandon it altogether. Although we sometimes do the easier things first, at least it gets you moving. Move to your more important priorities. Often there are conflicts between work and home so find the right balance. Maximize

2. Get Things Done

For those who are prone to putting things off, tomorrow is always a better day. There are downsides to delaying financial decisions like paying bills, saving, and investing. Procrastination is stressful and costly.

Instead, take small steps and get things done. It feels good to do so.

Related Post: 11 Ways To Avoid Costly Procrastination

3. Eat Healthy And Exercise

Having the right frame of mind is often helped by eating healthy, exercising, and remaining positive. Being fit helps to enjoy more of life longer. I have been eating far more beneficial in recent years but should do more exercise.

I admit that I could do better with making more time for myself. I enjoy being outdoors, especially taking a long walk in our neighborhood. I am trying to carve out more time in the beautiful outdoors. I know this sounds like an excuse, but I recently spotted a bear and its cubs nearby. I have gotten more cautious about my evening walks and will be finding a new location.

I spend a lot of time teaching and writing and need to move more. A fit and healthy body accompany a clear mind and increased stamina.

4. Reduce Screen Time

The average American spends more than 11 hours per day on their screens. However, not all of that time is wasteful. We watch shows, read, listen, play video games, and interact with others. Our phones, notably iPhones, come with screen-tracking, so it is easy for us to see how we spend our time with our devices.

On average, we spend nearly two hours on 5-6 social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitch. That equates to 5 years four months, just behind the seven years eight months we spend watching TV, according to Mediakix.

5. Learn A New Skill

Challenge yourself to learn new skills. Sometimes it is intimidating to learn something new at first. Learning can be frustrating and may raise some doubts in your mind. The more complex the craft, however, the greater the reward. Just dive in and enjoy the experience.

Throughout my life, I have always looked to eliminate a weakness by learning something new. One of the significant demands of being an analyst is being a public speaker. I would never find success in my chosen career unless I tackled my fear and lack of skills.

I joined Toastmasters with a friend for about a year. It was an exhilarating experience! I am not a great speaker, but I came a long way since then. 

Instant Pot

I am a lifelong learner and will learn different things even as I am slow to adapt to new skills. Cooking is one area I thought beyond my reach, but thankfully, I have used videos to develop more abilities, although I am far from skilled. The Instant Pot is my weapon of choice for saving timing when cooking at home, saving money.

So in a sense, time=money=instant pot!

To learn more about something that interests you, read books, watch YouTube videos, and take classes. My teens spend an awful lot of time being unproductive on their phones and Xbox.

I was pleasantly surprised when my son Tyler started speaking Chinese at the dinner table. He told us he found that he uses (www.Duolingo.com) at school to help him in Spanish. He started Chinese in recent months and now moving into Chinese characters, which he finds difficult. He enjoys it and recommends it for any language.

6. Stay Focused

I generally have a good attention span when I know what I need to accomplish. In the past, I was successful in tuning out everything around me. I studied for the law exams and passing the bar primarily in Starbucks. I was motivated and had on my headphones. I turned the volume up.

When you have a lot of work to do, consider turning off your notifications. Sometimes, it is a battle not to look at your phone to see how stocks are trading and what others are making for a joint dinner. You can catch up later. Stay focused.

7. Spend More Time With Friends and Family

My family is my best friend, and many of my friends are like family. I have a tiny family and only on my father’s side. My mom was the only survivor of a large family except my uncle, who did not have children. So I often didn’t distinguish between family and friends.

Henry David Thoreau said, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” Spend time with meaningful people, and they often become good friends. Make time to be with your friends part of your productive day. Lose those people who are harmful sources of energy and don’t add much value.

In my good experience, I have found the redeeming value of many friends, and so in that regard, I am wealthy.

8. Have A Shopping Plan

When you shop with a plan, you are more targeted about your needs and wants. I always make a list for grocery shopping. I also target what items in each store I plan to visit rather than meander down aisles. The shopping list will help you to budget your time and money. 

Without a list or a goal, you may succumb to impulsive shopping. Retailers want you to be impulsive about your spending. They want you to buy in the spur of the moment when you feel good and possibly with friends. If you tend to buy too many things on these trips, make sure you know the return policy. Consider leaving your credit cards home and using cash or go to be with your friends.

9. Avoid Comparison To Others

It is very natural for us to compare ourselves to others. It may instill inspiration in us to see our peers excel. However, most of the time, that is not the case. It is an innately human emotion to look at others when we recognize differences in our siblings and friends.

It takes time and energy away from us to make comparisons that are often unfair. It may also be robbing us of money when we spend money to catch up to our friends and what they have.

We are comparing the worst in ourselves to the best of others. You are unique with different experiences. Embrace yourself. You are better than you think.

Related Post: 9 Ways To Avoid Lifestyle Inflation 

10. Automate Your Savings And Bills

By automating direct deposit through your employer, you can deduct money from your paycheck for saving regularly to your 401K retirement plan, if offered. Similarly, set up automatic bill paying so you are late in making payments. This process is easy, saves time, and financially beneficial. It can be done directly from your bank.

 

Final Thoughts

Time, money, and productivity are interrelated. Time and money are valuable assets in our lives.  It is up to us to try to accomplish more with the time we have. Time is precious. Let us use it wisely by structuring our free time better. Be conscious of when you are wasting time and seize that moment for getting a small task done. Read, learn, do stretches, or prepare a new recipe for your family.

Thank you for reading! If you found this article helpful, visit The Cents of Money for other writings you may like. Consider subscribing and get our free weekly newsletter.

How do you become more productive? Please share what works for you. We would love to hear from you, and others can benefit from your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin

 “Time is money,” but they have differences in our minds.

Asking someone, “How did you spend your time today?” is acceptable, while “How did you spend your money today?” is not. There are some exceptions, like on Amazon Prime Day.

Money and time are resources, but as time is finite, it is a more valuable resource. We can make more money, although we all differ in our abilities to do so. We can’t purchase money, but we may buy other people’s time for various services (e.g., help with doing household chores) to have more time to do other things we need to do.

There is income inequality, but we live by the same 24 hour day clock like everyone else.

While you think that those with an abundance of money can buy enough services to support them to free up time, that may not be so. An economist Daniel Hamermesh points out that the wealthy have time stress. In his book, “Spending Time: The Valuable Resource,” Hamermesh says higher earners work more because they feel rushed to make and spend money.

Time can be exchanged for money when we need others to listen to us, whether it is a life or business coach, psychologist, attorney, etc. How we spend our time with these professionals is up to us sometimes with little direction from them.

The Time And Money Relationship Is Visible In Our Financial Lives

1. Earning More

The time value of money is the notion that money can grow in value over a given period. When we deposit $100 cash into a savings account, we hope our money will grow according to the annual percentage yield (APY) of 2% and how often it compounds. The APY is the actual interest earned per year. We save more in the bank when interest rates are on the rise.

2. $5,000 today or $5,000 In Two Years

Given a choice between receiving $5,000 today or $5,000 in two years, you would likely choose $5,000 today. You can put the $5,000 to use now or invest it for more money. The only way those two amounts are valued equally is if you left the $5,000 in zero rate account today for two years.

3. Eighth Wonder of The World

Compound interest is one of the most powerful investing forces and fuels the urgency to set aside money early for your retirement. It simply means the addition of interest to the sum of a loan or deposit, or interest on interest. Your balance grows at an increasing rate. The compounding power plays an essential role in money in your personal savings plan, 529 Savings Plan, mortgages, and investment accounts.

  1. Lump-Sum Or Annual Payments

Lottery winners, after the rush of adrenaline, have a choice to make regarding time and money. Most lotteries allow the winner to take a lump sum or an annuity. Most lottery winners will take the lump sum payment upfront. They want to have full access immediately rather than over several years.

Choosing the annuity may be better for tax implications than the lump sum. If you opt for sudden wealth, you may risk overspending. That is for another post, another day. We will get back to more examples of the time and money relationship.

5. Spend Time Working

 

Employers pay money for the time spent working at our jobs, whether hourly wages or annual salaries with overtime for longer hours.

6.Bond investing

When investing in bonds, you are technically lending money for a specific period to the issuer, who is the borrower. Most bonds pay a fixed amount of interest every six months to the investors and repay the face value. Over time moving towards its maturity, the bonds increase in value to become worth its face value.

7. Cars Depreciate In Value

Some of the financial value of what we purchase drops soon after our purchase, like cars. According to current depreciation rates and CARFAX, a new vehicle may drop by more than 20% after the first twelve months of ownership. Cars may lose as much as 10% of value in the first month.

8. You Cannot Replenish Time

Money is replaceable so long as you can continue to earn money by working, selling things, and investing. On the other hand, you can’t replace time. Renewable resources can be, but our time is gone.

9. Typical Lives Over Time

From birth through different life stages, we somewhat conform to doing certain things at about the same time. We are born, go through schools until college, age 22. Typically, we may begin our careers until we retire. The majority of us will retire after 60 years of age. In the years between our jobs, we have children, potentially divorce, and remarry again.

Please take a look at this great diagram that reflects our current civilization on one page. It is called the “Your Life In Weeks” post on the Wait but Why blog run by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn. Specifically, “The Life of A Typical American” highlights our journey in unison.

Time keeps moving by seconds, hours, and so on. Some of us are very productive with our time; some of us are more wasteful.

There is a line in “Unchained Melody” written by the Righteous Brothers:

“Time goes by so slowly and time can do so much…”

Time is finite; it is precious. Use it carefully. Let’s stop wasting our time and be more productive.

9 Tips For Being More Productive

 1. Make A Reasonable To-Do List

When you have goals for work and home, sometimes they merge, mainly if you work at home. It is probably a good idea to divide those goals with different to-do lists. I sometimes work on my list at a time late in the evening before relaxing. Planning what I need to do often helps me relax and sleep better. The next day I have more motivation and energy to tackle my tasks.

Make sure your list is reasonable, or you will abandon it altogether. Although we sometimes do the easier things first, at least it gets you moving. Move to your more important priorities. Often there are conflicts between work and home so find the right balance.

2. Get Things Done

For those who are prone to putting things off, tomorrow is always a better day. There are downsides to delaying financial decisions like paying bills, saving, and investing. Procrastination is stressful and costly.

Instead, take small steps and get things done. It feels good to do so.

Related Post: 11 Ways To Avoid Costly Procrastination

3. Eat Healthy And Exercise

Having the right frame of mind is often helped by eating healthy, exercising, and remaining positive. Being fit helps to enjoy more of life longer. I have been eating far more beneficial in recent years but should do more exercise.

I admit that I could do better with making more time for myself. I enjoy being outdoors, especially taking a long walk in our neighborhood. I am trying to carve out more time in the beautiful outdoors. I know this sounds like an excuse, but I recently spotted a bear and its cubs nearby. I have gotten more cautious about my evening walks and will be finding a new location.

I spend a lot of time teaching and writing and need to move more. A fit and healthy body accompany a clear mind and increased stamina.

4. Reduce Screen Time

The average American spends more than 11 hours per day on their screens. However, not all of that time is wasteful. We watch shows, read, listen, play video games, and interact with others. Our phones, notably iPhones, come with screen-tracking, so it is easy for us to see how we spend our time with our devices.

On average, we spend nearly two hours on 5-6 social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitch. That equates to 5 years four months, just behind the seven years eight months we spend watching TV, according to Mediakix.

5. Learn A New Skill

Challenge yourself to learn new skills. Sometimes it is intimidating to learn something new at first. Learning can be frustrating and may raise some doubts in your mind. The harder the craft, however, the greater the reward. Just dive in and enjoy the experience.

Throughout my life, I have always looked to eliminate a weakness by learning something new. One of the significant demands of being an analyst is being a public speaker. I would never find success in my chosen career unless I tackled my fear and lack of skills.

I joined Toastmasters with a friend for about a year. It was an exhilarating experience! I am not a great speaker, but I came a long way since then. 

Instant Pot

I am a lifelong learner and will learn different things even as I am slow to adapt to new skills. Cooking is one area I thought beyond my reach, but thankfully, I have used videos to develop more abilities, although I am far from skilled. The Instant Pot is my weapon of choice for saving timing when cooking at home, which saves money.

So in a sense, time=money=instant pot!

To learn more about something that interests you, read books, watch YouTube videos, and take classes. My teens spend an awful lot of time being unproductive on their phones and Xbox.

I was pleasantly surprised last week when my son Tyler started speaking Chinese at the dinner table. He told us he found that he uses (www.Duolingo.com) at school to help him in Spanish. He started Chinese in recent months and now moving into Chinese characters, which he finds difficult. He enjoys it and recommends it for any language.

6. Stay Focused

I generally have a good attention span when I know what I need to accomplish. In the past, I was successful in tuning out everything around me. I studied for the law exams and bar primarily in Starbucks. I was motivated, and I had headphones. I turned them up.

When you have a lot of work to do, consider turning off your notifications. It is sometimes is a battle not to look at your phone to see how stocks are trading and what others are making for a joint dinner. You can catch up later. Stay focused.

7. Spend More Time With Friends and Family

My family is my best friend, and many of my friends are like family. I have very little family and only on my father’s side. My mom was the only survivor of a large family except for my uncle, who did not have children. So I often didn’t distinguish between family and friends.

Henry David Thoreau said, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” Spend time with meaningful people and they often become good friends. Make time to be with your friends part of your productive day. Lose those people who are negative sources of energy and don’t add much value.

In my fortunate experience, I have found the redeeming value of many friends, and so in that regard, I am wealthy.

8. Have A Shopping Plan

When you shop with a plan, you are more targeted about your needs and wants. I always make a list for grocery shopping. I also target what I items in each store I plan to visit rather than meander down aisles.

Without a list or a goal, you may succumb to impulsive shopping. Retailers want you to be impulsive about your spending. They want you to buy in the spur of the moment when you are feeling good and possibly with friends. If you tend to buy too many things on these trips, make sure you know the return policy. Consider leaving your credit cards home and using cash or go to be with your friends.

9. Avoid Comparison To Others

It is very natural for us to compare ourselves to others. It may instill inspiration in us to see our peers excel. However, most of the time, that is not the case. It is an innately human emotion to look at others from the time we recognize differences in our siblings and friends.

It takes time and energy away from us to make comparisons that are often unfair. It may also be robbing us of money when we spend money to catch up to our friends and what they have.

We are comparing the worst in ourselves to the best of others. You are unique with different experiences. Embrace yourself. You are better than you think.

Related Post: 9 Ways To Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

Final Thoughts

Time, money, and productivity are interrelated. It is up to us to try to accomplish more with the time we have. Time is precious. Let us use it wisely by structuring our free time better. Be conscious of when you are wasting time and seize that moment for getting a small task done. Read, learn, do stretches, or prepare a new recipe for your family.

Thank you for reading!

How do you become more productive? Please share what works for you. We would love to hear from you, and others can benefit from your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pros and Cons of Self-Employment

Pros and Cons of Self-Employment

 

Have you considered becoming self-employed?

It is getting easier to start your own business given rapid technological advances, increased ability to buy your own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, ability to outsource your needs, growth in the sharing economy and innovative financing choices.

There are noteworthy advantages to starting your own business such as being your own boss and having control, flexibility, work as hard as you want and own your successes. If you are a disciplined self-starter, have a vision and a plan you want to carry out, this may be a great path for you. The high risk/high reward opportunity is attractive.

The disadvantages are risks associated with potentially high upfront costs, a poor business plan, lack of provided benefits, taking care of taxes, raising money, need for support and the difficulties associated with handling the business.

We will go review the benefits and drawbacks of being self-employed but let’s define the term first.

What does being self-employed mean these days?

It generally is defined as working for oneself as a freelancer, independent contractor or the owner of a business rather than getting wages (and taxes withheld) from an employer. The exact definition of self-employment may vary between the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and IRS. As more people take on side jobs in addition to working for someone else, it is confusing as to how many people are truly self-employed.

How Many Self-Employed Workers Are There? It Depends

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  reported 15 million workers were self-employed, or 10.1% of the total US workforce. The BLS did a survey in May 2017 to estimate workers in contingent or alternative worker arrangements, or both. Government data sources have had difficulty counting the number of gig workers as they may be working at more than  one job.

Contingent workers are those who do not have an explicit or implicit contracts for continuing employment. These constituted an estimated 5.9 million workers in May 2017. Workers in alternative employment arrangements, include independent contractors, freelancers, independent consultants, on-call and temporary jobs amounted to 10.6 million workers but may also be included in contingent category.

The IRS says you are self employed if you carry on a trade or business as sole proprietor or as independent contractor, member of a partnership or otherwise in business for yourself, including part-time work.

Therefore, if you are generating supplemental income, it is taxable and you may be deemed self-employed. You are responsible for paying your own taxes. Some people are earning full-time wages from employers but may be earning part-time income as contractors or freelancers.

Numbers Vary By Study

The Fifth Annual  “Freelancing in America”  study by the Freelancer Union and Upwork was released in October 2018. It estimates  there were 56.7 million freelancers in what is touted as the most comprehensive study of the US independent workforce. They believe a majority of US workers will be freelancers by 2027.

MBO Partners recently released “2019 State of Independence in America” report. Their study showed 41 million independent Americans workings as consultants, solopreneurs, freelancers, contractors, temporary or on-call workers. I found their study reflects the reality of the current workplace with many workers adding supplemental income.

However, the number of workers that working as full-time independents by choice are roughly 12.4 million people. Of the nearly 29 million remaining independent workers:

  • 2.9 million workers are “Reluctant independents” meaning they are currently working independently but would have happily move onto someone else’s payroll if they find a traditional job;
  • 15 million workers are “Occasional Independents”  working at least one time per month as such, and
  • 10.8 million  workers are “Part-Time Independents” adding supplemental income from being a driver for Uber or Lyft.

Benefits of Being Self-Employed:

 

1. You Have More Control Over Your Life

It often gets frustrating to work for others. Your ideas are listened to but sometimes abandoned, your schedule is rigid with a lot of inefficiencies and you don’t see the upside potential you hoped for. We have all been there.

According to a TD Ameritrade Self-Employment survey, 76% of respondents had traditional employment before venturing out on their own.

Often a switch to working for yourself stems from a negative experience at your job. In an Intuit-Quickbook survey, 68% of respondents affirmed that they had an experience that pushed them to start working for themselves.

Having the ability to set your own goals, make your own decisions and carry them out can be exhilarating. You can work your own hours from home in sweatpants if you want.

Although working for yourself means you should be a self-starter, it doesn’t necessarily mean longer hours. Of those surveyed for Quickbooks-Intuit study on Work/ Life Balance,  38% worked shorter hours, 35% worked longer hours and the remainder worked similar hours as before.

2. Flexibility

True, many companies offer flex-time as a perk. Having your own business allows you to have maximum pliability over your schedule and how you work. As long you have access to the internet, you can work from anywhere. Starting a home-based business may be more cost-efficient with lower fixed costs. It can be a great option as long as you aren’t easily distracted.

Know when to take breaks and vacations and avoid burn-out. My parents had a family-run retail business. They didn’t have the option of a website. No one would have distinguished their store as a “brick and mortar” then. Their shop was open 7 days a week except for a handful of days off for national holidays. It was a rigid schedule for them.

With technology, you are only limited by your desire to make money as you don’t have a guaranteed paycheck.

3. Improved Work/Life Balance

Surveys have shown that having extra time for you and your family is a great benefit of being self-employed. Depending on your choice of business you may eliminate a long commute, travel to meetings, the need for more formal clothing and unwanted meals out with clients.

Having a better balance should reduce some of the work stresses of a traditional job. Those who are self-employed often say they experience greater satisfaction and a higher quality of life working for themselves for these reasons.

4. Higher Earnings Potential

Initially, you will have start-up costs to absorb on low revenues, if any sales at all. Longer term, your outlook is more promising. According to ZipRecruiter, the national salary average for self employed workers is $88,400/year as of July 2019. Freshbooks reports that 24% of survey participants earned over $100,000.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that on average, self-employed earn higher incomes than employees. Keep in mind that at least at the start there may be a long learning curve before you break even and generate positive earnings.

It is important for those who are self-employed to make sure to do their own proper accounting of revenues and costs. There are software packages for accounting, budgeting, expense tracker, billing, invoicing system and  tax preparation.

5. Tax Deductions For Your Business

You are required to file taxes annually and pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis and pay the self-employment tax.

As a self-employed owner, you are entitled to deduct certain expenses. However, the recent 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated some of those deductions. You can still deduct costs associated with your home office, use of a car for business, meals and health insurance premiums. You should review the specific IRS rules and consult with a tax professional.

Most importantly, you need to keep stellar records of your costs related to your business.

Home Office Costs

Deductions for your home office costs are among the more complex rules. You may deduct workspace costs you use regularly and exclusively for your business. Determine your office space at home by measuring specific square footage allocated for your business’s purpose.

Other costs associated with your home office may provide tax benefits are proportionate to your space are: mortgage interest, homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities

There are two methods you can choose: standard method and simplified method. The standard option can be a pain as you have to diligently calculate your costs on an allocated basis. On the other hand, the simplified method is easier but may be capped in terms of home space used.

The costs associated with your workspace in your home that may be deductible are the office portions related to your mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Business communications expenses  like phone bills, internet and faxing may also be deductible.

Health Insurance Premiums

If you purchase your own health insurance and cannot be part of your spouse’s plan provided by his or her employer, you may deduct premiums for vision, dental, health and long term care.

Business Meals, Cars, and Overnight Travel

You may deduct 50% of business-related meals based on receipts or records you keep. Travel-related expenses may be deductible if overnight for specific business activites.  Your travel must be away from your home base. Keep good records of your purposeful trip as meals, car rentals or Uber may be deductible.

Car costs associated with business use are tax deductible overall.

Employer-Related Part of Self-Employment Tax

If you are paying the self-employment tax, you may be able deduct part of the FICA taxes that cover Medicare and Social Security that is the employer-related.

6. Retirement Planning

As you are accountable for doing your own taxes, you are also responsible for your retirement planning. You won’t be entitled to an employer match as you are now self-employed. On the positive side, you may have the ability to contribution higher tax-deferred dollars to your plan.

You have a few good options:

Traditional IRA or Roth IRA

These are the simplest plans you can set up yourself but they also have the lowest contribution limits. Contributions are up to $6,000 in 2019, up to $7000 as a catch up contribution for those 50 and above. There is a tax deduction for the traditional IRA and no immediate deduction for Roth IRA.

If you contributed to your IRA plan in your previous job, you can roll over the plans.

Solo 401K

This plan is for a business owner or self-employed person with no other employees, except your spouse. The solo 401K plan has a special benefit as the participants are both employer and employee. This means the self-employed person is able to contribute in two ways. as “employee” you can contribute $19,000 in 2019, or $25,000, or $6,000 more, if you are 50 years or older.

Then as “employer,” you can make a contribution of up to 25% of your compensation each year, up to a maximum of $56,000 in 2019 on an annual basis. If you are 50 years or older, your combined employee and employer annual contributions can’t exceed $62,000 as of 2019.

Owner’s spouse may also be able to make contributions if he or she is working for the business, thereby potentially doubling the  contribution.

SEP IRA

The Simplified Employee Pension or SEP IRA is good for business owners or self-employed with no or few employees. Annual contributions must be set at the same percentage of compensation for all employees, including the business owner. Annual contributions are limited to $56,000 as of 2019. Employee contributions are treated as a business expense.

There is no Roth IRA option.

SIMPLE IRA

Savings Incentive Match For Employees or SIMPLE IRA plan is for larger businesses with up to 100 employees. Contribution limits are up to $13,000 in 2019, with an additional $3,000 in the employee is age 50 or older. These amounts are a deductible expense but distributions in retirement are taxed. Employers must make some kind of contribution annually so this is a less flexible plan.

Defined Benefit Plan or Pension

This plan is best for a self-employed with no employees. It is more complex and generally an option when the business has a high income and wants to save a lot for retirement on an ongoing basis. Contributions are calculated by an actuary using the business owner’s age, expected return on investment and expected annual benefit.

The maximum annual retirement benefit is at $225,000 and is tax deductible generally.

There are many options that provide greater contribution limits to the self-employed person.

Drawbacks of Being Self-Employed

 

1. Sole Proprietor (SP)

Most small business owners may set themselves up in the form of sole proprietorship. Although SPs have some benefits, you may be exposed to personal liability. This means if you are sued and lose the case, your personal assets like your car and house could be taken to settle a case. Being an sole proprietor carries higher risk than other forms like incorporation or an LLC.

2. You Are On Your Own

You are probably going handle a lot of the business aspects on your own. Consider outsourcing at least some of the functions. Many people have a strong vision, motivation, hard work ethic, are decisive and have strong skills.

However, you are running a business on your own. Your management abilities will be just as important, if not more so. You need to deal with a lot more than when you were working for an employer.

When you are not yet generating much in the way of revenues, seeing losses pile up can be unnerving and stressful. You may also feel isolated at times. Make sure to make contacts, find mentors who could be helpful, join associations and network with people important to your business or are in similar situations.

3. Unpredictable Income

Depending on the type of business you are running, you may always be subject to sporadic earnings unless you have a subscriber business. At a minimum, you need to create a budget for your business, understand your revenue inflows, fixed expenses and variable expenses. Track your costs for potential reduction opportunities.

More than one-third of US households experienced a 25% change in income year-to-year according to Pew Research.

Make sure that you pay yourself a salary and save as much as possible for those times your monthly income is lower. You need to have an ample emergency fund for six months or more to pay for your living expenses. Arguably, your emergency fund should be for as much as a full year if your earnings are volatile.  You do not want to borrow money to pay your basic expenses.

In the TD Ameritrade survey of self-employed people, 59% say they are more anxious about earning a steady income.

Related Post: Why You Need An Emergency Fund (And How To Invest It)

 

4. Raising Money For Your Business

It is harder to get loans as a new business owner in its start-up phase. While you may have had a proven track record at your previous employer, banks will be looking at you in a new light. They will review your business plan, your budget and balance sheet. Importantly, they will be reviewing your credit report and credit score in great detail.

Before you even form your business, it is important to review your credit report for possible errors. Fix them ahead of approaching  the lenders for a loan. There may be hits to your credit report that you can explain.

Most importantly, you need to prepare for the possibility of needing funds in the future for a variety of reasons. It could be that you underestimated the costs of your business, you want to seize an opportunity that has presented itself or demand is growing faster than anticipated. According to the SBA, 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years.

Insufficient capital is often one of the major reasons that some businesses fail.

Many self-employed take financial risks to start their business with 27% relying on personal borrowing. Very few look to small business loans/credits (8%) or even federal loans or grants(2%) which may be available to them. It is worth checking the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) website to see if you qualify for a low cost loan or grant.

Innovative financing is available to you to pursue. Consider crowdfunding as a financing source that works for small business owners, particularly women.

Related Post: Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face (And Overcome)

5. No More Company Benefits

Being self-employed hits you with the realization that you no longer have paid benefits you may have enjoyed at your previous employer. You still need to have access to some of the key benefits and purchase them on your own.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you may be able to buy cheaper health insurance. Health plans can be obtained by HealthCare.gov though they may expensive. Positively, you can deduct the premiums for you and your dependents. If you are a freelancer, you can join the Freelancer’s Union for free. You can purchase different types of insurance and retirement plans as a member.

With respect to all kinds of insurance–dental,vision and disability–you can try a few places. Freelancers Union may provide some of these benefits.

Some benefits are less replaceable like paid leave or vacation pay. It will up to you to take off regularly. It is important for you and your family.

Conclusion

The benefits of being self-employed outweigh its drawbacks for many people. The key is knowing if it is right for you. Hating your job and your boss is not necessarily a sign of your potential success in starting your own business. Changing jobs first may the better decision.

Having your own business is a high risk/ high reward decision to make. Some people have begun their own business as a part-time side job, retaining their full-time job as a way of trying out the business. Others have gone out on their own after a considerable amount of planning and saving.

Essential Characteristics For A  Self-Employed Person:

  • Self-starter
  • Not A 9-5 person
  • Lifelong learner
  • Determined and have been obsessively planning
  • Have many skills, including communicating with others and  problem-solving
  • Need good financial habits, financially prepared and disciplined
  • Strong work ethic and ethical
  • Can be patient

 

Being on your own is a big decision to make. Talk to others, especially your family. At the very least, listen to your inner self. The answer is there.

Are you self-employed or considering such a move?  Wishing you the best in the decision and realizing success. Please share with us any thoughts or comments you have. We would like to hear from you!

We Invite You To Join Our Free Email Course For Personal Finance Lessons:

Pros And Cons of Being Self-Employment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face (and Overcome)

Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face (and Overcome)

 

Yes, the gender gap remains in the usual places for women. They get less pay, need career pauses with time out for children and other dependents yielding lower savings for retirement. Despite facing challenges, women are gaining ground. They are reaching higher corporate levels and increasingly starting their own businesses.

According to an American Express 2018 report the number of women-owned businesses has grown 58% from 2007-2018. That is more than four times the 12% rate for all businesses in the US.

Self-made female entrepreneurs, numbering just under 13,000, have achieved ultra high net worth according to a 2018 Wealth X report.  They account for a record share of 13.7% of Wealth X’s group.

There are 14.6 million women-owned businesses generating over $1.7 trillion in revenues. These businesses account for 8% of all private sector employees and 4.3% of revenues.

Female Business Start-Ups Outpacing National Rate

High growth entrepreneurship has rebounded from the slump of the great recession but overall growth is still in a decline. Women’s business ownership however, has bucked that trend with significant gains. Women-owned businesses are growing faster in numbers, employment and revenues as compared to total businesses.

With these strides towards success, women entrepreneurs need to overcome these 4 challenges:

  • Securing Capital For Their Growing Businesses
  • Strengthen Negotiation Skills
  • Need for A Strong Support System
  • Work/Life Balance

1. Securing Capital For Growing Businesses

Women entrepreneurs face greater difficulties than men when raising capital to fund their growing concerns. They receive a miniscule fraction from a largely male-dominated investor pool.

As reported by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Public Policy Survey, 65% of their members considered access to capital to be a very or extremely important issue.

When women can’t get the needed capital from angel investors, Venture Capital (VC) firms or bank loans, their companies are less able to expand, hampering growth potential. It impacts their ability to hire employees, get supplies and office space.

Regarding types of financing, 63% of the NAWBO members used credit cards, 13% used a commercial or bank loan, and 11% used a personal bank loan. A study by Wells Fargo and the Center for Women’s Business Research similarly points to lower access to loans for women business owners versus those owned by men.

Venture Funds Largely Go To Male Founders

Only 2.2% of venture capital (VC) funding is received by women-owned businesses, with the vast majority of VC capital (79%) going to male-owned businesses according to Pitchbook’s VC database. The rest go to businesses owned by both sexes.

Higher VC investments (about 20%) were received by founding teams with a female entrepreneur in 2018. Pitchbook has also pointed out that female-run businesses, whether founded or co-founded, in certain niches, like e-commerce, tend to receive more VC investments.

Women account for only 7% of those investing partners among the top VC firms making decisions. In recent years, more women are being hired as decision-makers at partner levels at VC firms.

First Round Capital reported that female-founded businesses outperformed their male counterparts’ by 63% according to portfolio returns.

Females are far more reliant on personal sources as opposed to external financial sources than males. In 2016, women received 18% from the Small Business Administration’s loan program compared to 67% for men.

How Long Term Gender Bias Hurts Access To Money

Women entrepreneurs and their ability to access funds are playing catch-up to men due to longstanding gender bias against women. As a result, women, in comparison to men:

  •  have slightly lower credit scores;
  • less likely to incorporate their businesses;
  • fewer years of industry or start-up experience;
  • less likely to access private capital like angel  or VC  funds;
  • have lower approval rates; and
  • operate with lower loan approval rates.

Female business owners should seek innovative means of raising capital to fill in the gap left by traditional financing sources.

Crowdfunding Is A  Bright Light For Female Owners

One way women owners have been excelling in raising money is through crowdsourcing. This fintech innovation raises cash using online platforms through campaigns that invite people to invest. 47% of successful campaigns on a popular site, Indigogo, were run by women.

Crowdsourcing raised $17.2 billion in 2015 and is proving to be a desirable place for women to raise capital for their ramping businesses. The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) issued a report, “Crowdfunding As A Source of Capital For Small-Medium Businesses for Women Entrepreneurs.” Among the better known of the crowdsourcing sites is Kickstarter.

What Kickstarter Results Are Promising

NWBC pointed to some impressive results from 2009-2017 data for female entrepreneurs using Kickstarter for funds in its report.

Women’s participation on Kickstarter is holding steady at 30% and show higher success rates than men (9% on average). The higher success rates for women are robust across all project categories.

A Kickstarter project that is shared on Facebook at least 8 times is 34% more likely to succeed. Women tend to do better than men when it comes to social networks.

Female entrepreneurs set lower funding goals at the inception of a campaign. However, they are better at raising funds in excess of their original goals even in male-dominated categories like technology.

Innovative Financing Sources

Crowdfunding shows potential to increase flows of capital in female-led projects that have been stymied by traditional financing sources. Early signs show that this type of funding levels the playing field for women.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers global report showed that women raising capital through seed crowdsourcing were more successful than men. 32% of women-led campaigns were funded versus 23% for men.

Equity crowdfunding is relatively new but results look promising for women seeking capital.

Employment in women-owned firms grew 4.5 times more than the national average (ie 18% versus 4%), reflecting importance of women employers for the economy. Women are more likely to get funding by emphasizing their social impact like providing jobs according to a study on gender bias.

To get more funding women need to network more, especially with VC firms with strong representation by women who make investment decisions.

2. Strengthen Negotiation Skills

Women tend to be less assertive and more accommodative than men at the bargaining table. A Carnegie Mellon study by Professor Linda Babcock showed that women are penalized by “the social cost of negotiating.”  It has been found that women tend to make better advocates when they represent others rather than themselves.

Prof. Babcock recently started the Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy For Women.

The Academy can enhance women’s ability to:

  • master negotiation skills;
  • enhance your unique brand;
  • leverage internal  networks;
  • how to attract sponsorship, and
  • learn how to communicate and market your leadership brand.

Being able to negotiate is critical in many aspects of your business, whether closing a deal, obtaining capital, getting better prices from your suppliers or hiring employees.

See our related post: 10 Steps Women Should Take Negotiating Salary Compensation

3. Need A Strong Support System

I was fortunate to have several strong women role models and mentors. Growing up, my mother was a manager of several retail stores soon after arriving to the US. Later on, she started her own housewares business.

While working as an equity analyst in a particularly male-dominated environment, I enjoyed a strong and nurturing female network who served as mentors, providing me with a sounding board and playing a crucial role in my professional development.

Now as a professor, I am called on to give my students help in class, applying for jobs, or when they participate in competitions. I have served as a mentor to business students participating in university-wide entrepreneurial competitions.They were vying for access to funding through grants, sponsorships and professional contacts with major banks.

I find that female students, either as a group or one-to-one, tend to approach me for advice and guidance more readily than their male counterparts. They are more willing to explore new avenues and ask the hard questions.

Networking and Mentoring Are Critical At All Stages

Finding a network and a mentor is important. According to a UPS survey of small business owners, 70% of those receiving some form of mentoring survived five or more years. That is double the rate of those who did not receive that support.

The truth is fewer women have the management experience to lead when starting their own company. According to a Leanin.org and McKinsey report, just 19% of top executives are women. Fewer than 10% of startups are owned by women. Financing groups remain predominately male-oriented.

Networks are important for emotional support. Starting your own company is fraught with stress from constant decision-making. It could be a lonely undertaking. Reach out to someone you believe has the ability to help you, especially if they have launched their own company. Don’t wait for someone to come to you.

Increasingly, there are more groups for women entrepreneurs to turn to for financing, counseling, skills training, one-to-one mentorship, networking, local assistance and resources.

Here are some of the organizations you can turn to:

Small Business Administration (SBA), through its Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) and  SCORE  have workshops for women;

Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneur or WISE center is an Entrepreneurship project of the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse;

The Female Founders Alliance is an accelerator for pre-seed companies for women seeking early funding; and

American Express CEO Bootcamp receives high marks for its support program and insightful articles.

Inspirational Stories From Successful Women

Sallie Krawcheck

Ellevate Network is a global network of professional women provides access to  support, community and resources. Sallie Krawcheck is    Chair, CEO and co-founder of Ellevate as well CEO, co-founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.

Krawcheck is one of the few women entrepreneurs to have had a successful career as CEO at major global investment banks and as a start-up CEO. While she may have made the transition to a start-up look easy, she faced similar challenges as other  women entrepreneurs do.

However, she has noted that raising money on her own and losing some in the business she was starting up was unduly stressful.

Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely is founder and CEO of Spanx, a major apparel company for leggings and pants shapewear. She is the youngest female self-made billionaire listed on Forbes. Blakely also was on Time magazine’s  “Time 100” annual list of the most influential people in the world. Her story, from days as a fax salesperson to creation of Spanx, is truly inspirational and it happened almost by accident.

Blakely was wearing control top pantyhose under white pants to a party. She didn’t like the look of the seamed foot when wearing open-toed shoes. Masterfully, she decided to cut off the bottom of the hose while retaining the preferable wearing control top for better fitting. However, the pantyhose kept rolling up her legs. She began to research and save money to develop her own hosiery idea.

Initially, she pursued her idea to have hosiery companies design her idea but was turned down by many (mostly males) who didn’t see the value of her revolutionary concept. Presumably, they never wore hosiery or bought the product they were marketing.

Ultimately, Blakely found huge success with help from others, including Oprah, and her own perseverance. Her success was not without overcoming her own self doubt along the way and negative fears she needed to conquer. Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation provides financing, mentorship, and support for women, particularly of color.

4. Work/Life Balance

Working women executives, suffering from work/life balance issues often consider starting up their own businesses as an anecdote. A PayPal study found that 55% of American women started or wanted to start their own business to achieve a better schedule for themselves. Women seek flexibility and are more likely to work out of their homes.

However, becoming a CEO of your own company is not a walk in the park.

A survey by Harvard Business Review examined data about CEOs’ use of time. They worked nearly 10 hours per weekday, conducted business 79% of their weekends, and 70% of their vacation days.

Entrepreneurial activities like raising capital, hiring people and developing your strategic vision are demanding, time-consuming and stressful. It is easy to see how work/life balance could be fleeting for women starting up their own companies. They still have to balance  societal expectations for them in dealing with family responsibilities.

The role of women entrepreneur is a relatively new one and presents greater conflicts to resolve.

Related Post: Pros And Cons of Self Employment

Women Truly Have The Greater Balancing Act

Women still tend to shoulder more work related to the household and child-rearing, even among couples who set out to share the workload equally.

A recent study from Ohio State University found that on nonworkdays, fathers engaged in leisure 47% of the time as compared to 19% for women who spent more of their time doing household chores. These statistics are for highly educated couples where both partners qualify as breadwinners.

Need A Supportive Partner At Home

True, men are increasing taking part in domestic help and sharing in childcare. I am blessed with a husband that has been tremendously supportive and plays an equal part (if not more, at times) in family responsibilities while working full-time as an attorney.

Women entrepreneurs need to prioritize what is important in their dual roles at work and home. You can’t handle everything especially by yourself. Women need to get external help like cooking meals for kids and cleaning the house. They also need to delegate assignments to others in the office.

Final Thoughts

Women entrepreneurs have made significant strides in owning their business and their successes. They have several challenges to overcome before the playing field is fully level. Their progress is need for fund raising, at the bargaining table, having strong support and work/life balance.

Gender barriers exist but tenacity and increased momentum by successful women entrepreneurs will pave the way.

Related Posts:

10 Ways For Women To Achieve Financial Independence

Women And Money: 7 Steps To Control Your Finances 

Have you started your own business or thinking of doing so? What challenges have concerned you? Share your comments with us. We would like hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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