You asked, and we listened! Our HerMoney family consistently requests more content around career advancement, negotiating for increased earnings, and taking a step up at your current company. Today’s HerMoney Podcast guest, Tracy Keogh, dishes on all of the above — and then some.
In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer at HP, Tracy has worldwide responsibility for the technology company’s strategic human resources activities, employee communications and social responsibility initiatives. She previously served as the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Aon Hewitt, and has been teaching female executives how to negotiate — against her — for many years. In this week’s episode, Tracy offers us all a mini-course in some of her favorite tactics, including how to create a term sheet, how to ask for an off-cycle review to get a bump sooner than expected, and how to avoid negotiating against yourself.
Oftentimes, women feel like asking for more money is “rude,” or that they might not be liked by others if they’re high earners, but that’s simply not true, Tracy says. The old wisdom of “you don’t get what you don’t ask for” has never been more applicable than where salary is concerned.
Before going into any negotiation, do your homework. Find out what’s common in your industry by looking online, talking to headhunters, friends, former colleagues, and anyone else you trust.
Then, begin crafting your term sheet. Write out everything that has to do with your job, including what your salary is now, what you expect it to be, your desired title, your expected bonus, your desired vacation days, your retirement plan, and what you’d need to be offered in order to seriously consider leaving your current company for a new job.
Creating this term sheet — this “exhaustive list,” as Keogh calls it — enables you to have a 360-degree view of your total compensation package. “When you write these things down, you realize the current value of your situation,” she says.
Tracy says she’s seen many women make the mistake of negotiating against themselves, and shares some thoughts on how to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. For example, you shouldn’t be the first one to offer up the salary figure you want, and you should always decline to offer your current salary — it’s illegal in many states for prospective employers to ask! She notes that when companies give offers, they almost always leave room for negotiation, and if you feel like an organization is low-balling you and simply won’t pay you what you’re worth, then it’s probably not the kind of company you want to work for.
Tracy also discusses the importance of “negotiating from day one,” and how you can lay the groundwork for getting a higher salary without ever outright throwing out dollar figures. (She earned more by simply letting her company know upfront that she was her family’s sole breadwinner.)
She also throws out tips for staying safe in a job, including the importance of getting everything in writing. For example, if your boss leaves his or her role, your new one may not agree to any “side arrangements” you had, so always get those in ink so you can continue to enjoy the perks of your role for years to come.
Then, in Mailbag, Jean advises a listener on where to get the best returns when you invest and the importance of having a diversified portfolio. She also counsels a woman who is wondering if the periodic credit increases her credit card company offers could possibly damage her credit, and offers advice to a listener struggling to get her husband interested in personal finance and co-managing their household’s money. Lastly, in Thrive, Jean discusses the importance of taking much-needed breaks at work — for a quick phone call, a moment of zen, or a even game of Candy Crush — all while in the bathroom.
Jean Chatzky: Her money is brought to you by Fidelity Investments. We want you to feel confident about investing so that you can make your money work just as hard as you do. Learn the ropes without the jargon at fidelity.com/demand more HerMoney comes to you through PRX. Hey everybody, welcome to her money. It’s Jean Chatzky and I want y’all to know that I listen to you and one of the things that I often hear you say is that some of your favorite episodes are the ones where we get down and dirty about all things having to do with your careers from climbing the ladder and asking for a raise to taking a break and negotiating for a better benefits package. And I gotta admit I get a lot of great insight from those guests as well, which is one of the reasons that I have been so excited for this podcast. It’s one we’ve been planning for a while. I did an event a few months back at HP with Tracy Keogh who is the chief human resources officer for that company and one of the very first things that she said when we sat down and we were with a group of women at the company to talk about women and investing. It was part of a, an event that fidelity actually put together. One of the things that Tracy said was that she trains the women on her staff to negotiate against her. She learned all about negotiating when she was getting her MBA. It’s a skill that she has mastered. It’s a skill that she believes more women need to know much more about and she makes it her business, her passion to do that. And I said podcast please Tracy Keogh, welcome to her money.Read More...
Tracy Keogh: Thank you so much, Jean. I’m so happy to be here.
Jean Chatzky: So you’ve got quite a career. I mean you were at a, on Hewitt, you were at Bloomberg, you’ve been at HP now for a few years. Tell me a little bit more about your role and how you got where you are today.
Tracy Keogh: Yeah. So I have a kind of an untraditional background. I actually started off as a hospital administrator. Ended up going to business school at Harvard, came out and did management consulting. And over the years I ran sales and marketing for one company operations and then sort of fell into HR and realized I really liked HR a lot and have been doing that for the majority of my career. I think, it always comes down to the people at every company. And so it’s really important to have someone who can focus on making sure you have the best team on the field for whatever company you’re working at. And I love being in human resources.
Jean Chatzky: That’s fabulous. And clearly you love negotiating. I mean, you’ve done it for yourself in every job that you’ve had getting paid more than the original ask. But it’s something that a lot of women just don’t do. There’s an often cited study from Carnegie Mellon university that showed negotiating up front can actually bring us salaries that are between seven and 8% higher than what we’re originally offered. And if you do that every time it’s like compound interest. It’s just a gift.
Tracy Keogh: Yes. You know, over the lifetime of employment that can make a huge different to somebody’s retirement, to their quality of life. So it’s really important, I have to say I was lucky, I took a random elective when I was at Harvard business school that was taught by a Harvard law school professor. And one day he showed us how to negotiate for salaries and how to create a term sheet. And that stood me in good stead throughout my career from the very first job that I went in to get, even just coming fresh out of business school, I brought my term sheet into negotiate and I remember how intimidated the person I was negotiating against. He kept saying, what’s that, what’s on that sheet? And you know, I said, you know, these are my terms. And I also said, I want to make sure I’m making the most of anyone in my class that’s coming in at the same time.
Tracy Keogh: And I know that stuck with him and he said, you will. And so, you know, I think there are a lot of tools that women can use, to help them negotiate. And I think often women feel like it’s rude or they may not be liked if they’re asking for more money. But there are ways to do it in a very nice way to make sure that you’re getting fairly paid. A couple of women friends that are very senior executives in the technology fields, you know, senior vice president level, we’re looking at new jobs and they happened to call me within weeks of each other. They called to see if I could help them with some thoughts about jobs they were looking at. And I realized as I was talking to them that they really, no matter, they were very smart senior women who had been in the business world for a long time. And I was stunned how little they understood about negotiating their offers. And so I helped coach them through that and they ended up getting literally hundreds of thousands of dollars more in each case. And I thought if these women who are at the top of their game highly sought after, don’t know how to negotiate, think about the rest of the population. So I actually put together a course and I’ve been teaching it, at various, you know, women’s conferences and training programs to help women both navigate their and also negotiate for more money.
Jean Chatzky: Well, let’s do a crash version of that course. When you say, and this may not be where you start, but when you say term sheet, can you be specific about what that is?
Tracy Keogh: Sure. So the first thing you want to do is just write out everything and it has to do with your job from the title. What base salary are you making now and what would you expect in the future? And don’t forget, you may be getting an increase in a few months at your current job. If you’re looking at a job outside the organization, it may be a year and a half before you get another increase. You need to factor that in. You look at the bonus, you know, what’s your bonus percentage in your current job? What would you require? If you’re leaving your company for a new offer. Are you maybe leaving your bonus on the table, the new company needs to buy that out. You know, you look at the, you have equity and how much is that worth? And you have to calculate that out so that they will buy that out.
Tracy Keogh: When you go to a new job, you look at, maybe you have, you know, you’re lucky person that’s still might have a pension plan or you know an Aesop where you get a good discount that the other company may not offer. You also want to look at, you know, are there things like you’ve earned four weeks of vacation where you currently are. Don’t forget to ask about that when you go to your new job or the 401k match, you know, all those different things add up. You should think about severance, you know, if something happens in your new job, make sure you get a guarantee of what you’ll be paid if it doesn’t work out.
Jean Chatzky: So no wonder you’re writing all this down because this is, this is basically what you’re saying is create an exhaustive list of all of your, your salaries, current and upcoming, your benefits, current and upcoming. Any promises that have been made to you as, as well as a plan for, okay, if I take this leap and leave this company where I’ve been for five years to go to this new company and it doesn’t work, some sort of a safety net,
Tracy Keogh: right? And don’t forget you may be at a company. There are certain companies that I don’t know make appliances and they give you an allocation for that, right? You may get certain perks cause you’re working at a particular company that has a product that you may get, you know, for free. Those things add up. What happens when you write them all down, you realize the value of, the current situation you’re in and you have to make sure that you’re matching that you don’t want to leave anything on the table. And, there are things like a sign on bonus that you can ask for. Say you’re going to a job and there’s no relocation required because you’re in the same city as the new job, you can say, wow, you saved a lot on relocation. You know, how bout a sign on bonus to make up for that. Or I was expecting a sign on bonus, you know, in this new. So there are definitely different elements should be thinking of when you’re negotiating for this new offer.
Jean Chatzky: How industry specific is this? I mean I’m, I’m thinking about, I work in journalism. There are a lot of people who, who maybe work in industries that are, are not as booming for example, as as technology is or, or where talent maybe is even is, is easier to come by than in, in certain other industries. I could imagine asking for a sign on bonus and somebody laughing at me.
Tracy Keogh: well even if they laugh at you, you know, I think that’s, women are worried about that. You can just say so, are you considering a sign on bonus for this role? If you put it in the form of a question, then the person, they’ll think twice about it. There are differences between industries but actually not that much. The basic things of, you know, your title, your base salary, bonus sign on bonuses are used broadly across many industries. Equity. Those are pretty similar retirement treatment, you know, be it a 401k or you know, a pension plan. So I think there’s a lot of consistency. And one of the things I do say when you’re looking at, any negotiations is do your homework, go out and find out what’s prevalent in an industry. I mean we have the benefit of the internet now, so there’s no, there’s no lack of transparency about information.
Tracy Keogh: You know, you can also talk to friends that are in that industry, talk to headhunters, you know, that you may know and ask them what they would expect if there’s not one involved in your negotiation as you’re looking at a new role. So make sure you understand what the key elements are and what there is to ask for. Because if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And so it’s always good to ask. You can also do things if you’re starting a new job. As I mentioned, you may have missed their annual cycle. You may say, could I get a review and off cycle review in six months? You know, I’ll come in at this level, but I’d like to see, you know, if I can get a salary increase in six months. So there are different things that you can ask for that people would consider is they’re looking at a new role.
Jean Chatzky: One of the things that I’ve heard you say is that some women make a mistake of negotiating against themselves. What does that mean?
Tracy Keogh: So you don’t want to go in and people will say, so what do you want to make in this role? Do not be the first one to offer up what the salary requirements would be. It’s been a lot of legislation across the country that actually you’re not allowed to ask people’s previous salary anymore because they found that was one reason why women were not closing the pay equity gap is because they tended to make less. And then when they moved to a new role or got promoted even where they were, they would also not get as much of an increase or a new salary that was commensurate with other people in the company. So now that’s, you should check your local laws. That’s not legal to ask. And so the companies have to come forward first and say, this is what we pay this role. And sometimes you’ll find it will be a big increase without you even having to ask.
Jean Chatzky: It’s my understanding that 17 States have banned that question. What do you do if you’re in a state that hasn’t banned it?
Tracy Keogh: Well, first of all, many companies just for ease when they operate in multiple States have now just made the change regardless of the state. That you just don’t ask in general. So even if you’re in a state where it’s still legal, what I always would do is just laugh and say, Oh no, you’re not asking that question anymore. I didn’t think anyone did that. It’s not legal in most States. And that may put people back on their heels and then you just repeat again. So what are you offering for this role? If you feel like you’re boxed into a corner, the other thing you can do is say, because you don’t have to make what you were making before or slightly more. What you can say is, well, you know, I’m really not interested in moving from my current role for less than X percentage, you know, 25% and it may sound a lot, or whatever salary is you’re interested in, you can push it to that level. And if they say, wow, that’s way too much, I wasn’t, you know, anticipating paying that, you can say, Oh well, you know, I’m sorry to hear that. What was your expectation? And so then once again, you can get them to come forward with a number.
Jean Chatzky: And what if that number is low? What if they come forward with a number and it’s, you’d think you’re being low-balled or it’s just lower than you are willing to move forward.
Tracy Keogh: I wouldn’t take the role because if you’re starting off that way, you’re going to be disappointed. And so just remember too, when people are making you offers, they’re leaving room for negotiation. You know, the first offer is not in their minds, usually the last offer. So don’t just say, yes, that’s great, I’ll take it. You want to step back and consider it and then you should negotiate at that point. And there are other ways. So maybe the person says, I don’t have enough in my budget. Well that’s when you pull in the sign on, which is a one time deal. Or you say, I want to review in six months because this is what I expect to make. Or you say, well, what’s the equity package? Maybe they’ll give you more equity. If the base is low. So there’s you, you use all those different compensation tools to try and identify where you can get more money out of the offer in general to get to the level you expected, but if you feel someone’s low-balling you and it doesn’t seem fair, I’m not sure that’s a company you want to go work for.
Tracy Keogh: Anyway,
Jean Chatzky: I want to come back and I want to talk about continuing to negotiate once you’ve already gotten the job, but before we do that, let me remind everybody, her money is brought to you by Fidelity Investments that you don’t have to know all the answers when it comes to your financial future, but an important question to ask yourself is, what do you want from your money? What are your financial goals? No matter where we’re meeting you on your financial journey, fidelity is here to help you reach those goals. Pastor, it all starts with a checkup and an understanding of what you own and what you owe. From there. We’ll work with you to evaluate your investment options and ways to grow your savings, discuss your goals, see where you stand and get help taking the next steps at fidelity.com/demand more we are talking with Tracy Keogh who runs human resources at HP and I have heard you say before Tracy that women need to negotiate from day one what does that mean?
Tracy Keogh: So when you are looking at a new offer potentially outside, I never discuss compensation in the beginning because you really don’t want to hire someone who’s only interested in the money and if they’re from the initial interview talking about money, then you’re wondering, well do they really care about the content of this job? What you won’t do is wow them in terms of the interviews and then they’re going to make you the offer. But what you can do is lay the groundwork from day one. So, for example, I was looking at a role at a company and I knew the senior leadership, which was all male, was fairly traditional and let them know that my husband was going to a startup and was making zero money and that I was the sole breadwinner. And so I knew that was in their mind. I wasn’t, you know, if I hadn’t said that, I think they would’ve considered me sort of the secondary income in the household.
Tracy Keogh: But by me just letting them know I was the sole breadwinner, that actually changed the initial offer I even got. And I know that was the case because the CEO mentioned it to me, you know, months later after I had started the job. And so there are things you can say, you know about, wow, the cost of living is very high in this city or you know it’s going, you know, I have to do the travel for this role is going to require, you know, additional hours from my nanny. So there are things you can talk about that relate to the money. You might need to take a role and make a change that you can lay the groundwork. So by the time you get to the offer, they’re already realizing you need to make X, Y, and Z for this offer to, at least have any impact and be attractive to you.
Jean Chatzky: So we’ve got our term sheet, we’ve got all of these things laid out, we’ve laid the groundwork, we’ve sort of established a case that we need to be paid well. We need to be paid fairly. We need to be paid significantly more than we’re being paid today. What else needs to happen to close the deal?
Tracy Keogh: So I think if you’re in a very senior part of the organization, like an SVP or even VP and above, I always make sure to have an employment lawyer look over any agreement that I sign and that the very highest levels of an organization, SVP or EVP, that that employment lawyer can actually help negotiate your offer. So, you know, make sure you’re protecting yourself. You know, it should be clear about who you’re reporting to and you know, the terms, the deal, if there’s, you know, how they think about terminations for cause understanding what severance might be. So there are lots of things you can put in that offer letter and make sure that somebody reviews it and get everything in writing because you may have a great agreement with someone and then you start working at your new place and that boss leaves and there’s a whole other leadership team that comes in who may or may not agree to what you may have had as a side agreement, not in writing. So I always say get everything in writing.
Jean Chatzky: Well, I would think that would be true too, for somebody who’s not particularly senior. I mean, we know in our listenership we’ve got a lot of baby boomers and gen Xers, but we’ve got a substantial number of millennials as well. And they may not have quite the leverage of these senior women that we’re talking about.
Tracy Keogh: Yeah. So I think even when you’re starting out, you know, making sure that you review anything you sign. If you want to use an employment lawyer, you can have somebody review your offer letter or usually, you know, family friend, things like that. That makes a big difference. And I think people at any level should negotiate. And we’ve talked a lot about people who are moving to senior roles or different roles in different companies, but there are points in your own company if you want to stay. And I’m a big advocate for people staying in their companies over time. I think you can build a great career as long as you’re learning and growing there. And it’s very beneficial from a benefits standpoint. One thing I worry about, especially for women is if they’re looking at what are the retirement benefits that you get?
Tracy Keogh: You know, most companies you have to work X number of years and be at a certain age, but then you’ll get access to retiree healthcare. That’s a great benefit. So staying in some of those companies for a long time makes a difference and you can make money. Getting promoted, you know, the annual compensation cycles now is not usually the best time to get a lot of money because budgets are tight. Managers can’t really go beyond the certain pool and they have, but a good time to get some additional money is potentially at an off cycle time. So say you’re up for promotion, you get promoted, make sure you negotiate that promotion. You know, someone may give you an amount and you may say, wow, I’m pretty disappointed. I thought I’d get a 10% raise for this. Is it possible to do that? Or I was expecting more equity or even access to equity at this point. So you can sometimes help suggest to your boss ways that they might go back, maybe a one time kind of a spot bonus if they can’t, you know, increase your salary right at that promotion time. But those promotion times are very important to get more money. And even if it’s a lateral move, always for more money and see if it’s possible. If there’s an opportunity for that.
Jean Chatzky: Sometimes it’s helpful to have other people in your company helping you along, not necessarily mentors, but sponsors, people who are willing to advocate for you. How do you find those people?
Tracy Keogh: So one of the big pieces of advice that I give is to find a sponsor. And a sponsor is not a mentor. You need those as well. But it goes beyond someone who will just be a sounding board. And a coach, which is much more of what a mentor does. A sponsor is someone who will support you in the organization. When opportunities come up and they’re in the room, they bring up your name for new things. And so, you know, for example, at HP, we have a sponsorship program that we call catalyst for women and underrepresented minorities. And we’ve 31% of the people that have been in that program have been promoted or into new jobs. So we create one within our organization. If there isn’t one at your company, go to HR and find out if there is, you can create your own sponsors and identify someone who’s powerful, who’s you know, in a good position.
Tracy Keogh: You know that they’re in the room when promotion decisions happen and talk to them and find out, if they will support you and you can create your own sponsorship relationships, you know, find out the things you need to do to help make that person feel out they can sponsor you and be your advocate when you need one. One of the things I always tell women is don’t be afraid to be ambitious. Tell people you want to be the CEO or the head of a division or whatever it is. And they’ll think about you in a different way and look at you in a way they’ll might give you opportunities they hadn’t thought of. And so if people know that you have that ambition, it really, will help you in your career, in the organization. Because sometimes people make assumptions. They think, Oh, that person, you know, they have a lot of kids, they don’t want to travel. They won’t be up for this role. But if you tell them that you are, they will consider you
Jean Chatzky: as we wrap this up. Can we just talk a little bit about talking about salary overall? I mean, many of us just don’t like it. We feel, as you said earlier, we feel like it’s rude. We feel like it’s impolite. We feel like it shouldn’t be part of our everyday conversation. Where do you come down on this?
Tracy Keogh: So I think the good news is people are talking about salary a lot more. There’s a wonderful video on YouTube of a young girl, Caitlin Boston is her name, where she decided she wasn’t making enough money and she actually went around and talk to coworkers and other people about their salaries and realized she was being underpaid. And she kept using this approach where she’d say, cause people didn’t want to talk about salary. So she would say, Hey, do you make above this amount or below? So it was kind of, you know vague and, but people would answer that question she realized, people around her were making much more. She asked for more money and so on and she ultimately was able to pay off her student loans early and dramatically increase her compensation over years by having those conversations. So there are ways you can do it that you can keep it vague enough that helps you directionally figure out, where you should be going from a salary perspective and that will give you the confidence to go ahead and ask for more money.
Jean Chatzky: Tracy Keogh great conversation. Thank you so much for opening our eyes to all the different things that we should be paying attention to as we’re going in to ask for more money.
Tracy Keogh: Great. Thank you Jean. Good luck to everybody.
Jean Chatzky: Oh to you too and we will be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag. Kathryn Tuggle has joined me in the studio. I got to say I was prepared for this conversation with Tracy Keogh because I’ve heard her talk about a term sheet before and how you really should have all of these different things laid out. But when she started listing them, my head started to swim. Like there is a lot, there’s a lot. It’s a big term sheet. I mean what I sort of took away from it was think about all the things that you value in your job, whether they are financial today in terms of salary, financial in that their benefits, right, vacation and insurance and 401k and other things, but also think about what could be coming your way in six months. And I thought that that point about severance and granted you probably do have to be senior for them to consider.
Jean Chatzky: That was really interesting.
Kathryn Tuggle: Definitely. I think most people think of just cashing out their vacation when they leave a job. I’ve heard my friends say that my severance will be my unused vacation, that I get a check at the end of my job.
Jean Chatzky: Or you think about severance if you are laid off. But what she said was if you’re being recruited for a job, then there is always this chance that the job won’t work out and that six months from now you’re going to be in a position that you never expected to be in and you should be planning for that, too. It’s kind of like not just negotiating for the terms of your marriage, but negotiating your prenup at the same time.
Kathryn Tuggle: Exactly. That’s a really good way to put it and that definitely speaks to your instinct to always recommend to people to write down everything in your budget, track your spending, right? Like having those lists in front of you for you can visualize step-by-step what you want, what you need, what you’re spending. It’s so important.
Jean Chatzky: And here’s something I learned on the today. Having a piece of paper on your lap is okay. Right? I mean, for years when I was going to do a segment, I would make sure that every single thing I had memorized and that I didn’t need any visual aids and then I don’t even remember what the segment was, but there came a time where there were so many numbers that I didn’t want to get wrong that I just decided I’m taking this sheet of notes with me onto the set. I’m going to put it in my lap just like the anchors do and if I need to refer to it so that I don’t get something wrong or so that I don’t miss something, I’m going to refer to it. Nobody blinked. You know? It’s okay to take your notes when you’re going to the doctor or when you’re going into a salary negotiation or when you’re going to a meeting with a lawyer or a financial advisor, you can’t remember everything.
Kathryn Tuggle: Right. Did you notice that it made you more confident just knowing that you had it?
Jean Chatzky: Yeah, I mean, you’ll notice when I give a talk, I’m one of those people I talk from a podium. I always have notes with me and I have done those kind of talks like a Ted Talk where you’re just wandering the stage. I kind of hate it. Like I don’t use my notes all that often, but I really am more confident when I know I have them there.
Kathryn Tuggle: I kind of always assumed those Ted talks had teleprompters.
Jean Chatzky: Oh God, do they? Maybe they do.
Kathryn Tuggle: I don’t know.
Jean Chatzky: They probably do and I just don’t know it. And I kind of think these people who give these 20 minute talks just have them memorized. I don’t know.
Kathryn Tuggle: We’re going to find out.
Jean Chatzky: We are. If anybody out there has done a Ted talk, let us know if it’s had a teleprompter. It’s probably one of those things that we could look up.
Kathryn Tuggle: Definitely.
Jean Chatzky: Yeah. All right. What do we have?
Kathryn Tuggle: Our first note today is from Sharon. She writes Hi Jean. I read and enjoy your emails consistently. Recently in This Week In Your Wallet, you made a casual reference to people earning 6.5% returns on their money over time. Is this a reasonable average? Where can anyone get 6.5% returns anymore? Thanks.
Jean Chatzky: I get this question a lot and so I’m really happy that we’re taking it here, but before I do that, for those people who don’t know at HerMoney, we published two free newsletters every week. One is This Week In Your Wallet. It comes out on Tuesdays and it’s our look at the important money news of the week and what it means to you. The second is the HerMoney newsletter. It comes out on Fridays and it is a look at the things that we’ve published through the week that we think that you should know about. Again, they’re free. If you’re not signed up, go to HerMoney.com/signup and just get on the list for both. I’ve been doing This Week In Your Wallet for well over a decade and people do find it helpful. That reference to 6.5 return on your money over time is I think really conservative actually. And when I use numbers like this, I try to be conservative because I want people feeling like what I’m suggesting is not possible. If you look at the returns on the Dow Jones industrial average or the S & P 500 over several decades, you’re going to see that returns are consistently 8-10% and depending on which of the indexes you’re looking at. And so the way to get these returns over time is not by putting your money into fixed income where no, you cannot get six and a half percent any more. You can’t do that by putting your money into CDs, like my grandfather used to do and get 18%, you have to invest your money in a diversified portfolio that includes a good amount of stocks and then those returns are very, very reasonable.
Kathryn Tuggle: Our next letter is from Katie. She writes, I have an American Express card that I opened four or five years ago. They periodically increase my credit line. I wonder how much I should let them do this or I should ask them to stop. The increase helps my score at the moment because it improves my utilization ratio, but I don’t want so much available credit that it negatively affects getting other loans in the future. Is there anything I need to keep in mind here or a way I can be more proactive?
Jean Chatzky: So Katie, the number to keep in mind in terms of keeping your credit utilization in a good place is that for the benefit of your credit score, you never want to be using more than 10-30% of the credit that you have available to you on each card specifically and all your cards in general. If the fact that they are taking your credit limit up means that you are consistently staying within that ratio, then that is a fine thing and it should not negatively impact you when you’re going out to apply for other loans. Before you apply for any big loan like a mortgage or like a car loan, six months to a year ahead of the fact, check your credit score and make sure that you’re not getting dinged for having too many open lines of credit. If you do, you can immediately make the move to bring it down, but otherwise I think allowing them to take your credit line up bit by bit as long as you’re not using that excess capacity is not a really bad thing to do. In fact, it may help you when it comes to getting a better rate on that mortgage or that car loan down the line.
Kathryn Tuggle: Our last letter is from Cherry who writes, how do you handle disparity and financial fluency with your spouse or partner? My husband and I are just not on the same page when it comes to finances. He stays at home and I work. For much of our life together, we’ve been in survival mode due to special needs kids and lots of medical expenses. We were debt free once but relapsed and can’t seem to gain traction. What can I do to help us get on the same page and headed toward a common goal financially?
Jean Chatzky: Cherry, I, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I think many of us are married to people who don’t necessarily share the same amount of interest in personal finances and it sounds like you’re the one who’s interested. You’re the one who’s managing things and your husband isn’t really that interested in digging in. The last line of your letter though I think holds the answer because you asked what can I do to get us headed toward a common goal? Financially? Drop the word financially and think about what you can do to get yourselves headed toward a common goal. Then back the numbers into it. It’s much more important to think about what you want out of your life. Do you want to pay off a mortgage? If it’s that you want to be debt free, why do you want to be debt free? What is that going to provide for you? Does that mean, fewer sleepless nights? Does it mean that you have to work fewer hours and you can be home to take off some of the tasks on his list revolving the kids? Does it mean that he could step out and pursue some sort of a side hustle or hobby that interests him? Think about what it is that you want out of life and then what you need to do financially in order to get to that place. And if you’re still having trouble, I think a one off meeting with either a compassionate therapist or a compassionate financial advisor might help you get there. In your case because you need to focus on those common goals before you focus on the common financial goals, I actually think that therapist might be as good as the financial advisor, although you may eventually want some specific financial help. And I hope that that’s helpful.
Kathryn Tuggle: Are there group therapy sessions for couples and finances? You know, I haven’t heard of group therapy sessions, but I do know Dave Ramsey does this course called Financial Peace and he delivers it at many, many churches around the country. And I know a lot of couples who have gone through Financial Peace University, or just the Financial Peace course at their church and it does help them line up on their goals. So if there’s a church in your area and you’re inclined to check out Dave’s course, I think that might be a good thing for you because it is specifically debt focused.
Kathryn Tuggle: Right. And so many couples are dealing with the same thing.
Jean Chatzky: Exactly, exactly. And there’s a lot of satisfaction that can be gained by realizing you’re not alone. So I check that out too. Great suggestion. Kathryn. Thank you so much.
Jean Chatzky: If you’re interested in sending us a letter, what do they do?
Kathryn Tuggle: Email [email protected]
Jean Chatzky: Awesome. In today’s Thrive, if you work in an open floor plan office, where do you go for moments of solace? For private calls or just for a breather because even though we may dearly love our colleagues, we don’t necessarily want to be face to face with them for 40 hours a week and that is exactly what open offices have forced us to do. And in turn we are increasingly escaping to the only place left we have to find a moment of Zen and that is drum roll please. The bathroom. Kathryn, I have done this. I have actually done this so we — no it’s true. We work, as many people will know, we work in a WeWork. It is an open plan office. We do have phone booths on the floor where you are supposed to be able to go to take a private call. But those phone booths are all too often filled and I’ve gone into those single use bathrooms to take phone calls so I am guilty because the all glass conference rooms, they don’t work. The absence of having our own offices, sometimes that bathroom is the only option for finding privacy.
Kathryn Tuggle: You have to watch the automatic flush though.
Jean Chatzky: You do. You do have to watch the automatic flush sometimes the yeah sometimes the automatic water on the sink, too is another telltale sign that you are well in in the John. So if you felt awkward or weird about your need to escape, no need. Psychologists say it is completely normal and there is some good news on the horizon for all of us craving a little more solitude during our nine-to-five. More companies are taking steps to install the gender neutral restrooms like the ones that I was talking about, they are single stall. They are completely enclosed. They have floor to ceiling doors and yes as Kathryn. Said, the only thing that you have to be careful of is that automatic flush try to hide in a corner. Thanks so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks so much to Tracy Keogh for the great conversation around career and negotiation. It was very empowering. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review because we like hearing what you think. We want to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CBM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Track Tribe and our show comes to you through PRX. Tune in next week, we’ll be back with Alison Gilbert, author of past and present, keeping memories of loved ones alive. We’ll be diving into love loss and moving on. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk soon.