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Money management: We’re all dealing with it, and we’re all a little confused.

Money management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are three quick ways to turn your finances around.

Money management: We’re all dealing with it, and we’re all a little confused.

Work isn’t just a part of our lives, it’s one of the biggest parts.

Some people may only be obligated from 9 to 5, but with smartphones and evolving work cultures, we’re connected 24/7. A lot of us are logging over 70 hours each workweek because our phones enable us to take our work with us.

Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., author of "Always On, Never Done?" reports that remaining connected to work for so many hours each week leaves employees "only about 3 hours on workdays for 'discretionary' activities such as being with their family, exercising, showering, and all of those chores at home that someone has to do."


Only three hours per workday. We’re essentially never "off."

Despite working nearly nonstop, when payday rolls around, a lot of us can be left feeling like we'll never make enough.

GIF from "Finding Nemo."

Rent and mortgages, car payments, groceries, gas, nights out, pet emergencies, extracurriculars for the kids, family obligations — all of this takes a toll on our bank accounts.

It can feel like money is flying out of our accounts faster than it’s coming in. We’re working all the time but feeling like we’re just making it. We know we need to get a grip on our finances but have no idea where to start.

Here are three simple steps toward total financial domination.

1. Saving should be a part of the plan.

We hear it all the time: Save, save, save. Save for retirement. Save for emergencies. Save for travel. Figuring out how to save seems like it’s the holy grail, but how do we make that happen — especially if we feel like our money is already stretched too thin? The easiest first step is to, well, start with baby steps. Drink coffee at work or home instead of from a coffee shop, carry snacks and a reusable water bottle with you rather than buying them, come up with a quirky and fun challenge like saving all the $5 bills you accumulate, start a piggy bank — whatever is fun and doable for you.

2. Then, it all comes down to planning.

Don’t be afraid to budget. Yes, budget. It’s not a dirty word; it’s the way to freedom! Or at the very least the way to some financial flexibility. Take a look at how you’re spending money and figure out which items are needs versus wants.

Pro tip: Laura Shin, a Forbes personal finance writer, suggests keeping necessary expenses to less than 50% of your take-home pay.

Image view Tax Credits/Flickr.

Now, this isn’t always possible. Necessities are what they are, and for some of us, no amount of finagling can get them to that ideal amount.

Alan Dunn, founder of HowtoSaveMoney.com points out that, for some, "the sheer cost of survival may be very close to their total incomes." Still, it’s a pretty good benchmark to aim for, and having insight into your finances is step one on the road to financial security.

Now that you’ve begun to sort out the things you can’t live without, what about the things you want?

3. Give yourself an allowance! No, really.

Once you’ve broken down your finances into needs versus wants, build an allowance into your budget. Doing that gives you clear parameters — how much you can spend in a given pay period on things that aren’t necessities — and makes it easier to stay on track without feeling like you’re never able to treat yourself.

Make it easy for yourself to stay "on track." Image via Ben Sutherland/Flickr.

It's as simple as setting aside a fixed portion of what remains in your account after bills are taken care of. You may not be able to get everything you want at once — sometimes it’ll take a few months to put aside enough for a big purchase — but with planning, you can indulge a little.

Let's say, after all of your bills and savings are taken into account, you're able to spend $100 per month on anything your heart desires. You're dying to go to a music festival, but the tickets cost $175. It's not the end of the world! You don't have to forgo the festival, and you don't have to break your budget for the month — that would be a slippery slope. Put the $100 aside and wait until the following month when you'll have $200 at your disposal to get the tickets you want, guilt-free.

Payday might still suck…

Money will still leave your bank account at an astonishing rate that makes you believe Hogwarts is real, but you’ll feel more in control once you know where that money’s going and how to make it work for you.

Don’t feel guilty if you hit a few bumps in the road! We’re all navigating these murky money-management waters together.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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