My intellectual girl crush on Laura began back in August 2009 when I read her wonderful op-ed in USA Today, The Princess Problem, I was gripped by her grasp on the odd conundrum that is the modern woman's relationship to money and power. Immediately I knew that I wanted more, and Laura did not disappoint. Her new book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think , launches today and let me say... it is absolutely brilliant.
As a personal finance expert I am fond of chanting "time is money". But Laura's book taught me a much better mantra is: "How are you spending your 168 Hours"? Reading 168 Hours is an investment in your life that will pay dividends for years to come. Laura was kind enough to share some thoughts that would be of interest to those of us passionate about all things women and money. So savor the answers below - and for more Laura check out the book's website and follow her on twitter at @LVanderkam.
(1) These days with unemployment hovering near 10% a lot of people are wondering how best to maximizing their hours at work. From your research for 168 Hours what would you suggest?
Keep in mind two things. First, most employers want you to make more money for them. Potentially the currency of your profession is different, but don't fool yourself, it often comes back to money somehow. And second, you probably have long-term career goals. You'll maximize your time at work if you focus on activities related to those two desires. You'll really soar if the two overlap! One tip: Write your year-end performance review in January. Now you know exactly what you should be focusing on at work, and what you can skip (because I'm guessing that "she always answers her emails within 10 minutes" won't be listed as one of your key accomplishments).
(2) One thing I always encourage women to have is an "F-You Fund," that special savings cushion which enables you to make bold changes to how you use your time. You made exactly that type of leap in your life. Can you tell us about that?
I didn't know it was called an "F-You Fund," but I have called upon this fund multiple times. When I was 23, I wanted to move to New York to become a writer. The fact that I had built up savings, even as an intern earning about $25k a year, made it possible for me to pursue my dream. In the years since then, I've walked away from several projects that just weren't going to work long-term. Money may not buy you love, but it buys you freedom. Even if you like what you do, I believe people perform better when they don't desperately need their jobs. You're more willing to take risks. You're more willing to stretch yourself and push back.
(3) Chapter Seven of 168 Hours is called "Don't Do Your Own Laundry." I can already hear women across the land high five-ing you on that. What is your logic?
Time is money. The only reason we view outsourcing household chores like laundry, food preparation or cleaning as expensive is that we expect women to do these things for free. But what's funny about this is that the definition of women's work keeps changing. You probably don't sew your own clothes or churn your own butter anymore. So why not try a wash-and-fold service? If you could moonlight and earn $20/hour, and laundry takes you 3 hours per week, it isn't free, it cost you $60 (well, $40 after taxes). I know this seems like it contradicts my advice, above, about having savings, but you can build assets two ways: spending less or earning more. It takes a lot of coupons to get the same bang as asking for a $5,000 raise.
(4) You also raise an issue in the book that is a hot button for many women right now... the draw backs to working part time. What would you say to a working woman who came to you for counsel on whether or not to shift to part-time work?
Working part-time seems like the best of both worlds, but it's incredibly inefficient. As I discussed in a recent USA Today column, you don't gain much time with your kids. But you'll really hurt your earning capability. People who work 45 hours per week earn more than double the salaries of those working 34 hours, even though they're only working about a third more. Plus, if you think working part-time will deliver that Zen-like state known as work-life balance, consider this: there are 168 hours in a week. If you work 40 and sleep 8 hours a night (56 per week) that leaves 72 hours for other things. This is a lot of time. It's so much time it's hard to see what's balanced about working 20 hours and having 92 hours leftover.
(5) Money, like time, is a finite resource (or at least it is for the 99.99999...% of us who aren't billionaires!) What advice do you have for women on how to maximize the money they do have?
Use your money to create the life you want. Use it to get rid of things you don't want to do, like laundry, and use it to do more of things you do like. If you really care about a certain cause, there is great joy in being able to both volunteer and write a significant check. If you have a hobby you love, put your money where your heart is. For example, in 168 Hours, I interviewed a businessman who used his resources to record a country music album with professional musicians. That wasn't cheap, but it made him far happier than a year's worth of mindless spending.
FTC disclosure: In order to review the book prior to release I had to actually read it in advance. That entailed getting an advance review copy, which I did not pay for (disclosed!). Importantly, upon reading 168 Hours, I immediately hopped on Amazon to buy copies via their pre-order function to give as gifts (which I don't have to disclose but I will because the book is that good.)
Follow Manisha Thakor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ManishaThakor