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The Housing Crisis Has Made Parenting A Pipe Dream For Some

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A spouse, a house with a picket fence, and kids. The formula for American adulthood has long been established — but what happens when the numbers don’t add up?

For HuffPost’s Betting The House project, we asked readers to share their housing experiences. Among the more than 600 respondents, dozens described the same struggle: Their housing situation had directly caused them to delay having children, if not forgo them entirely.

American women are already having kids later in life. Last year, The Atlantic reported that in 2017, birth rates were at their lowest in 30 years, with only women over 40 having more kids than before. People are getting married later — or not at all — which can delay parenthood, and more women are choosing to work further into their careers before starting a family.

Now consider that 11 million Americans spend more than half their paychecks on rent, while mortgage rates and home prices have both spiked. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition further noted in its 2018 annual report that to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the average national market rate, a worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 99 hours per week, for all 52 weeks of the year. And that doesn’t leave much room for savings, which may be why a 2017 study found that 78 percent of workers said they live paycheck-to-paycheck.

When a house costs so much and babies can be postponed just a little bit longer, it’s easy to see how the formula goes awry. On top of that, America is uniquely bad at taking care of parents: It’s the only developed country that does not federally mandate paid leave for new mothers, which means that infant can cost you money even before you buy your first round of diapers, thanks to lost wages.

HuffPost spoke with three women to hear how their financial and housing uncertainty led them to put off having kids. Here, briefly, are their stories.

“We just can’t meet those other needs.”

For Naomi Mac Ross, one thing is sure: “I will not have a child in someone else’s basement,” she told HuffPost. For $1,200 a month, Ross and her husband currently rent a one-bedroom basement apartment on New York’s Long Island.

The rent is uncomfortably high for the couple, Ross said. Her husband was laid off from a job a few years ago, which “kind of derailed everything,” and while both work full-time now, they still live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Their apartment, meanwhile, is “definitely not [big enough] for a kid,” Ross said. Moving is “absolutely” a top priority. Her sister had a son recently, which opened Ross’ eyes to just how much space even a tiny person needs.

At 35, Ross expected she’d have a kid by now. She and her husband are open to adopting, but they’ve also made peace with the idea of ending up childless. “I think my husband and I would make really good parents,” Ross said. “We just can’t meet those other needs that are necessary to have a child.”

“It’s one of the things that our relationship was founded on.”

Before they started dating, Jessyca and Evie Taborsmith had been friends for months. That’s how they knew going into their relationship that they both wanted kids. “It’s one of the things that our relationship was founded on,” Jessyca, 25, told HuffPost.

Now married, the couple lives in San Francisco where Evie, 30, is enrolled in graduate school. But living in a notoriously pricey city has delayed their child-rearing plans: They pay $1,895 per month for a studio apartment, which amounts to nearly half of Jessyca’s gross annual income of $47,000. (Evie works on the side as a teaching assistant, but the hours are limited.)

For that rent, they get a small kitchen and bathroom, plus a bedroom area where they’ve crammed most of their furniture. Jessyca recently learned that her mother’s mortgage in Southern California is “significantly less” than their Bay Area rent. “We have a really small studio,” she said. “The fact that I could potentially have a house somewhere for less than what I pay ― it blows my mind.”

The pair hopes to leave San Francisco for a cheaper city after Evie graduates. But given that they’re a lesbian couple and Evie is transgender, there’s “only so flexible we can be,” said Jessyca.

“If we had a place that could fit a family, and it was affordable enough that we could pay for the house and still have more than like $200 left for everything else, kids would be absolutely at the forefront,” Jessyca said. “We really want children.”

“I told my husband, ‘I’m not staying in Atlanta.’”

Katie Spotswood’s 8-month-old son has already lived in two cities: Atlanta, Georgia, and Auburn, Alabama. That’s because just two weeks after giving birth, the 29-year-old moved her family one state west, into her in-laws’ home in Auburn.

When Spotswood and her husband married about two years ago, they thought they’d wait on starting a family. They weren’t 100 percent ready and living in Atlanta wasn’t helping: Their home was “an OK apartment that had a little lipstick on it” and was “too expensive for our incomes,” Spotswood told HuffPost. The Alabama native knew that back home, they could get much more for much less.

When Spotswood did get pregnant, their apartment became just one of many city-based concerns. “I’d have to be a stay-at-home mom, but then how could we afford an apartment? Or I’m gonna have to work these crazy hours, never see [my husband] and barely afford to have an apartment and childcare — if we could even find childcare,” she said, describing her thoughts at the time.

So she made a decision: “I told my husband, ‘I’m not staying in Atlanta,’” Spotswood said. Her in-laws in Auburn had long joked about having the whole family under one roof and Spotswood yearned for the slower-paced lifestyle she grew up with, so the choice seemed clear.

The young family now shares one room in a five-bedroom house, but it’s large enough to fit a bed, three dressers and a sectional couch — not to mention a crib and changing table for the baby.

“It’s worked out really well,” Spotswood said of multigenerational living. For “a lot of people, at least that I’m with in Alabama and in the Southeast,” she added, “it kind of seems like it’s becoming necessary.”

Change on the horizon?

While housing costs seem stuck on high, legislation is being introduced that could ease the costs of parenthood. And with a fresh slate of officials taking office after the 2018 midterm elections, there’s more reason for hope.

Federally mandated paid family leave is likely still a ways off, but a few states have taken it upon themselves to provide it. Four states — California, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York — offer paid family and medical leave today, while a fifth, Washington, will do so starting next January. (The latter state began collecting taxes to fund the program this month.) The District of Columbia also has a leave program set to take effect in July 2020.

Meanwhile,Republican Govs. Chris Sununu (N.H.) and Phil Scott (Vt.) introduced the idea of a voluntary two-state program in January. It would offer six weeks of partially paid family or medical leave, to be provided by private insurers. In Colorado, the new Democratic majority in the statehouse is expected to make paid family leave a priority. In California, new Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has proposed to expand the state’s offering from six weeks of paid leave to a cumulative six months per baby, allowing two adult caretakers to each take two to four months of paid leave.

On the federal level, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced her 2020 presidential run earlier this month on the strength of her record of supporting women and families. Universal paid family leave is expected to be a pillar of her agenda; Gillibrand has introduced a bill to establish that policy in every Congress since 2013.

Of course, promises and proposals don’t change the logistics of family planning today. And it can feel devastating when things out of your control get in the way of longed-for children.

Don’t beat yourself up, said Ross. “I would say, for people who are struggling with this, maybe ease up on yourselves a little,” she advised. “I could sit here getting depressed and angry that I’m not where I want to be, or I could be grateful that I do have a roof over my head. … It’s OK to be where you’re at, even if you don’t like it.”

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20 Percent Of Americans In Relationships Are Committing Financial Infidelity

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Nearly 30 million Americans are hiding a checking, savings, or credit card account from their spouse or live in partner, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That’s roughly 1 in 5 that currently have a live in partner or a spouse.

Around 5 million people — or 3 percent — used to commit “financial infidelity,” but no longer do.

Of all the respondents, millennials were more likely than other age groups to hide financial information from their partner. While 15 percent of older generations hid accounts from their partner, 28 percent of millennials were financially dishonest.

Regionally, Americans living in the South and the West were more likely to financially “cheat” than those living in the Northeast and Midwest.

Insecurity about earning and spending could drive some of this infidelity, according to CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman.

When it comes to millennials, witnessing divorce could have caused those aged 18-37 to try and squirrel away from Rossman calls a “freedom fund”.

“They’ve got this safety net,” Rossman said. They’re asking: “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”

As bad as physical infidelity

More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed that financial infidelity was just as bad as physically cheating. That’s including some 20 percent who believed that financially cheating was worse.

But despite this, most didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

Over 80 percent surveyed said they would be upset, but wouldn’t end the relationship. Only 2 percent of those asked would end the relationship if they discovered their spouse or partner was hiding $5,000 or more in credit card debt. That number however is highest among those lower middle class households ($30,000-$49,999 income bracket): Nearly 10 percent would break things off as a result.

Roughly 15 percent said they wouldn’t care at all. Studies do show however that money troubles is the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

That’s why, Rossman says, it’s important to share that information with your partner.

“Talking about money with your spouse isn’t always easy, but it has to be done,” he said. “You can still maintain some privacy over your finances, and even keep separate accounts if you and your spouse agree, but you need to get on the same page regarding your general direction, otherwise your financial union is doomed to fail.”

With credit card rates hovering at an average of 19.24 percent APR, hiding financial information from a partner could be financially devastating.

But, Rossman adds, it’s not just about the economic impact but also the erosion of trust.

“More than the dollars and cents is that trust factor,” he said. “I think losing that trust is so hard to regain. That could be a long lasting wedge.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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7 Examples Of Terrible Financial Advice We’ve Heard

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Between television, radio, the internet and well-meaning but presumptuous friends and family, we’re inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily basis. And when it comes to money, there’s a ton of terrible advice out there. Even so-called experts can lead us astray sometimes.

Have you been duped? Here are a few examples of the worst money advice advisers, bloggers and other personal finance pros have heard.

1. Carry a balance to increase your credit score.

Ben Luthi, a money and travel writer, said that a friend once told him that his mortgage loan officer advised him to carry a balance on his credit card in order to improve his credit score. In fact, the loan officer recommended keeping the balance at around 50 percent of his credit limit.

“This is the absolute worst financial advice I’ve ever heard for several reasons,” Luthi said. For one, carrying a credit card balance doesn’t have any effect on your credit at all. “What it does do is ensure that you pay a high interest rate on your balance every month, neutralizing any other benefits you might get from the card,” Luthi explained. “Also, keeping a 50 percent credit utilization is a surefire way to hurt your credit score, not help it.”

Some credit experts recommend keeping your balance below 30 percent of the card limit, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keeping your balance as low as possible and paying the bill on time each month is how you improve your score.

2. Avoid credit cards ― period.

Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some people; overspending can lead to a cycle of debt that’s tough to escape.

But avoiding credit cards on principle, something personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey push hard, robs you of all their potential benefits.

“Credit cards are a good tool for building credit and earning rewards,” explained personal finance writer Kim Porter. “Plus, there are lots of ways to avoid debt, like using the card only for monthly bills, paying off the card every month and tracking your spending.”

If you struggle with debt, a credit card is probably not for you. At least not right now. But if you are on top of your finances and want to leverage debt in a strategic way, a credit card can help you do just that.

3. The mortgage you’re approved for is what you can afford.

“The worst financial advice I hear is to buy as much house as you can afford,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner who founded the blog The Ways to Wealth. He explained that most lenders use the 28/36 rule to determine how much you can afford to borrow: Up to 28 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward your home, as long as the payments don’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly debt payments. For example, if you had a credit card, student loan and car loan payment that together totaled $640 a month, your mortgage payment should be no more than $360 (36 percent of $1,000 in total debt payments).

“What homeowners don’t realize is this rule was invented by banks to maximize their bottom line ― not the homeowner’s financial well-being,” Weiss said. “Banks have figured out that this is the largest amount of debt one can take on with a reasonable chance of paying it back, even if that means you have to forego saving for retirement, college or short-term goals.”

4. An expensive house is worth it because of the tax write-off.

Scott Vance, owner of taxvanta.com, said a real estate agent told him when he was younger that it made sense to buy a more expensive house because he had the advantage of writing off the mortgage interest on his taxes.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. A deduction simply decreases your taxable income ― it’s not a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. So committing to a larger mortgage payment to take a bigger tax deduction still means paying more in the long run. And if that high mortgage payment compromises your ability to keep up on other bills or save money, it’s definitely not worth it.

“Now, as a financial planner focusing on taxes, I see the folly in such advice,” he said, noting that he always advises his client to consider the source of advice before following it. ”Taking tax advice from a Realtor is … like taking medical procedure advice from your hairdresser.”

5. You need a six-month emergency fund.

One thing is true: You need an emergency fund. But when it comes to how much you should save in that fund, it’s different for each person. There’s no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone. And yet many experts claim that six months’ worth of expenses is exactly how much you should have socked away in a savings account.

“I work with a lot of Hollywood actors, and six months won’t cut it for these folks,” said Eric D. Matthews, CEO and wealth adviser at EDM Capital. “I also work with executives in the same industry where six months is overkill. You need to strike a balance for your work, industry and craft.”

If you have too little saved, a major financial blow can leave you in debt regardless. And if you set aside too much, you lose returns by leaving the money in a liquid, low-interest savings account. “The generic six months is a nice catch-all, but nowhere near the specific need of the individual’s unique situation… and aren’t we all unique?”

6. You should accept your entire student loan package.

Aside from a house, a college education is often one of the biggest purchases people make in their lifetimes. Often loans are needed to bridge the gap between college savings and that final tuition bill. But just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.

“The worst financial advice I received was that I had to accept my entire student loan package and that I had no other options,” said Gina Zakaria, founder of The Frugal Convert. “It cost me a lot in student loan debt. Now I tell everyone that you never have to accept any part of a college financial package that you don’t want to accept.” There are always other options, she said.

7. Only invest in what you know.

Even the great Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the best investor of all time, gets it wrong sometimes. One of his most famous pieces of advice is to only invest in what you know, but that might not be the right guidance for the average investor.

In theory, it makes sense. After all, you don’t want to tie up your money in overly complicated investments you don’t understand. The problem is, most of us are not business experts, and it’s nearly impossible to have deep knowledge of hundreds of securities. “Diversification is key to a good portfolio, and investing in what you know leads to a very un-diversified portfolio,” said Britton Gregory, a certified financial planner and principal of Seaborn Financial. “Instead, invest in a well-diversified portfolio that includes many companies, even ones you’ve never heard of.”

That might mean enlisting the help of a professional, so make sure it’s one who has your best interests at heart.

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How To See What Facebook, Google, And Twitter Know About You

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know that your data is important to his company. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday evening, Zuckerberg laid out why Facebook collects data to use for advertisements, and how it lets you control that information.

The op-ed is meant to explain how and why Facebook collects information about its users: It lets the company sell ads and keeps the service free to consumers.

Zuckerberg’s op-ed comes at an important moment. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 74 percent of Facebook users said they had no idea that the company categorizes their interests based on their actions on the social network.

Facebook isn’t the only company that creates these kinds categorizations. Google and Twitter follow the same formula. Thankfully, the three companies also offer you a means to see how these services view you, and let you opt out of having your data used at all.

How Facebook follows you

If you’re a Facebook user and want to see what the company thinks it knows about you, follow these instructions:

From your desktop, navigate to Facebook.com and click the arrow in the top right corner of the screen. Select “Settings” from the dropdown menu and click “Ads” toward the bottom left of the screen.

From there you’ll be taken to the “Your Ad Preferences” page where you can see interests and advertisers associated with your account. Click on the “Your Information” tab and then select “Your Categories.”

These are the categories Facebook believes best match you. It can include your marital status, whether you use Gmail, if you travel frequently, the type of devices you use to access Facebook, and more. Using my profile and habits, Facebook was able to determine I’m a technology early adopter, that I am a commuter, that I recently changed my smartphone, and that I’m a gamer.

None of that is exactly top-secret information. I assumed Facebook knew at least that much about me if not more.

If you’re so inclined, you can delete these categories by clicking the “X” icon in the top right corner of each category box. You can also turn off custom ads by clicking the “Ad Settings” tab and changing “Allowed” to “Not Allowed” under the “Ads based on data from providers” and “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere.”

You can also ensure that Facebook doesn’t use your social actions in any ads. For example, if you like a page for a movie, your friends may see ads for the movie indicating that you liked it. To turn that feature off, click “Ads that include your social actions” and change the dialogue to “No one.”

Checking your Google account

Like Facebook, Google assigns you with specific categories it believes align with your interests. But Google’s list is far more comprehensive than Facebook’s, ensuring it shows the most pertinent ads. Google also has the ability to scoop up information from you from a whole host of services ranging from your search history to the YouTube videos you watch and locations you look for in Google Maps.

To see how Google categorizes you, navigate to Gmail in your browser, click on your account image in the upper right corner of the screen and select “Google Account.” Choose “Data and personalization” on the left rail, scroll down to “Ad Personalization” and click “Go to ad settings.”

From here you’ll be able to see every category Google believes interests you and how it reached that conclusion, whether that was through web searches or YouTube videos.

You can turn off ad personalization from the top of the screen to ensure Google doesn’t use your information for ads, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still track what you do. To turn that off, you’ll need to go back to your Google account homepage and select “Data and personalization” from the left rail.

Scroll down to “Activity controls” and choose “Manage your activity controls.” This is where you can see the kind of detailed information Google has saved about you, including where you’ve been around the world, what Google Docs you’ve accessed, and which voice searches you’ve performed.

It gets to be a little creepy when you realize how far back all of this information goes. I haven’t been to Germany in almost six years, but Google still has that data.

If you don’t want Google to collect this kind of information, you can turn off each setting by adjusting the slider next to each category.

Twitter’s data tracking

As with any other free social network, Twitter collects on its users. To see what Twitter has on you, log into your account on your desktop, click your profile icon in the top right corner of the screen, select “Settings and privacy,” and then click “Your Twitter data.”

Scroll down to “Interest and ads data” and choose “See all.” You’ll then see a list of the inferred interests Twitter has matched to your account.

If you want to ensure Twitter doesn’t collect such data, you can disable the app’s controls by clicking on your profile icon, selecting “Settings and privacy” and clicking “Privacy and safety.”

Scroll to “Personalization and Data” and click “Edit.” From here you can choose to individually disable how Twitter uses your data, or simply turn the features off completely.

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley. Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/

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