The year is over. At this point, many of us put off any changes we might be thinking of making until after the New Year. But why wait when you can start now? There's still time left to achieve some reasonable but meaningful financial goals before the calendar flips to 2019.
Check Your Credit Report
If you haven't checked your credit report yet this year, you may want to before the year ends. All three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – offer free credit reports annually. Even if you have checked your credit report at some point during the year through one credit bureau, it's not a bad idea to check another before the year is over.
Checking your credit report is an important habit to get into. It will allow you to get a better grasp on your financial habits and what is affecting your credit score. It will also help you spot any errors. If there is a mistake on your credit report, your credit score may be getting unfairly docked. When you spot a mistake, you should first approach the credit card company to see if it can be resolved. If it can't be resolved, you may want to consider filing a dispute. Checking your credit score at the end of the year is also an excellent way to decide what financial goals you may want to set for yourself in the New Year.
Review Your Budget
You certainly don't need to wait until January to take a look at your budget. Realistically, you'll only need to set aside a few hours to go through it, if that. Again, even if this is something you've done at another point during the year, it's wise to revisit it to ensure you're on track. Spending tends to vary by season, so you may have strayed from your budget since the last time you checked.
First, gather all the materials you will need to track what's coming in and going out each month. Then, decide how you're going to record everything. Go with what you're most comfortable with, whether that's writing things down by hand, keeping digital records, or using an app. Be sure to include everything. If you have supplemental income outside of your primary employment, add that. And on the other hand, be sure to keep track of every bill and expense that's going out. Once you see the numbers, you'll be able to see what your situation looks like and whether there are areas where you can cut back.
Give Your Debt Some TLC
At this time of year, a lot of us are adding to our debt rather than subtracting from it. Instead, take the end of the year to review where you are with debt. How much do you owe? How many different accounts do you have? Are you making progress the way you want to be? By answering these questions, you'll have a better idea of what your situation is heading into the New Year. Then, you'll be able to create an actionable plan going forward.
If you've already had a plan in place, take a look at whether you need to make any adjustments. Additionally, ask yourself if you had a solid plan set and didn't stick to it. How will you hold yourself more accountable in the future? Does the method need to be altered to suit your situation better? Carefully examining and asking yourself questions about your debt will allow you to have a clearer vision heading into the New Year.
Check-In On Your Retirement Savings
If you've been having retirement contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck all year, you may have neglected to check in on how your retirement is actually doing. The end of the year is the perfect time to take a look. Gauge whether you've saved as much as you'd hoped by this point. Ask yourself if you're contributing as much as you can afford. Also, consider whether you're contributing the maximum amount your company will match. If you can manage to up your contribution, that may be an excellent goal to set for yourself for the New Year. The sooner you start saving for retirement – and the more you save early on – the better off you'll be. Because of compound interest, you'll need to contribute less the earlier you begin to save. If you haven't begun saving at all yet, look into the steps you'll need to take to start saving before the end of the year.
We're in the home stretch of 2018. And by nature, the end of the year is a great time to recap how things have gone for the past 12 months – in every aspect of life. When it comes to your finances, you don't need to wait until the calendar flips to start accomplishing things. Many tasks that can improve your financial health don't take much time at all. By taking the time to achieve these goals before the year is over, you can position yourself for a strong start to the New Year. You'll know what your financial situation looks like, and you'll have an idea of what your resolutions for next year should look like.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."