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Invest in yourself in 2017: 4 female experts tell you how to achieve your personal best in your finances, career, business, and health.

1 Invest in Your Wealth

4 Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

By Ashley M. Fox

Have you ever gotten a lump sum of money and months later felt like you had nothing to show for it? Let's leave those old financial habits in the year 2016, and prepare our minds and bank accounts for 2017.

You are a disciplined wealth builder, and as such, you must have a plan in place for your tax refund. Here are some ways to use it wisely:

1. Start or increase your "in-case-life-happens" fund. Unexpected expenses will always come, but it is only considered an "emergency" if you're unprepared. Start 2017 with an account that is ready for any unexpected expense that comes your way. Why not jump-start the year with a solid foundation? The goal is always to have three to six months of your monthly expenses set aside. So, be sure to determine that amount, and deposit a portion of your tax refund into your savings account.

2. Pay down your high-interest credit cards. If you are like most people, you'd rather go about life without the thought of having to pay yet another bill. But, before you go into 2017 ready to pay off ALL your debt; slow down. Review your outstanding debt, and only pay your high-interest credit balances down to 30% utilization. By just paying your high-interest credit cards down, you will increase your credit score, and you can potentially lower your monthly credit card payment. Do not spend your entire tax refund on paying down debt.

3. Invest in a Roth IRA. Paying down debt is important, but how long are you going to defer your wealth just to pay down debt? While you are building a plan to pay everyone back, make sure you take care of YOU! Roth IRAs are a great way to help lower your taxes and increase your retirement savings. Roth IRAs also allow you to take advantage of tax-deferred, compounded growth. If you'd like to be better financially in the future, it is time to start planning for tomorrow, TODAY!

4. Invest in a permanent life insurance policy. Life insurance is one of the best ways to create generational wealth. Having a life insurance policy in place should be a standard for people of ALL ages, because it helps ensure that we are leaving our family in a better financial position. However, life insurance can also be used to invest your money and use it while you are living. Every year during tax season, you can do an annual contribution into your policy. This way, you do not have to worry about monthly payments. Key items--such as your age, health, and income--will help determine how your local agent should structure your policy.

Ashley M. Fox is a former Wall Street analyst, a Howard University grad, and an expert in her field as a financial architect. She is the founder of Empify, an education-based organization created to help working professionals, small business owners, and the youth build wealth from the ground, up. Fox is a highly sought after speaker and has been featured on empowerment tours, college campuses, and keynote speaking platforms.

2 Invest in Your Business

5 Ways Startup Entrepreneurs Can Save Effectively and Proactively

By Gwen Jimmere

Saving as an entrepreneur can be an afterthought when you spend most of your time running your business. If you are a startup entrepreneur, then you may be in for some lean times during the first couple of years, as you grow your revenue. This makes saving very difficult. However, saving is extremely important, since there is no consistent paycheck to fall back on during lean times. How do you save when your focus is on reinvesting in your business to help it grow?

I caught up with personal finance guru and bestselling author Aisha Taylor, who provided these five tips to guide you on how to save, despite a lean and irregular income:

1. Re-evaluate Your Monthly Bills. Ask yourself, "What are the non-negotiable bills that I need to pay in order to survive?" When you are considering your survival costs, only focus on groceries, housing/utilities, insurance, and transportation. Make sure you include medical insurance because, according to Harvard University, medical costs are the No. 1 reason why people go bankrupt. Use a tool like Mint.com to understand how much money you are currently spending.

2. Pay Your Quarterly Taxes. Uncle Sam wants his money! If you underpay your taxes, you risk owing the government interest and penalties, on top of your tax bill. This could further strain an already tight budget. Calculate your estimated quarterly taxes by dividing the tax amount that you owed last year by four. Then, set that money aside.

3. Start Off Small With Savings. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the small stuff doesn't matter. Even if you can only save $20 a month, save it anyway, and make it automatic.

4. Set Up Separate Bank Accounts. It's critical to have both a business and personal bank account. This eliminates the mixing of your personal and business assets. Additionally, set up two separate savings accounts from your checking account. One account should be used for emergency savings. The second one should be used for annual and semiannual payments, like taxes and certain insurance costs.

5. Maximize Your Tax Refund. Use one-third to pay off debt, another third for emergency savings, and the final third as a treat for yourself. This helps to avoid deprivation by rewarding yourself for sticking with the financial plan. Similarly, if you have a really good month for the business, determine what you need to reinvest in the business, and then use the "dividing into thirds" strategy for the remainder.

Gwen Jimmere is the first African American woman to hold a patent on a natural haircare product. She is the CEO & founder of Naturalicious and is the brains behind the bestselling Hello Gorgeous Hair Care System, found in Whole Foods and over 3,500 retailers around the world. A respected authority in the haircare industry, Jimmere was named one of the "100 Most Influential African Americans in the U.S. " and was the winner of black enterprise's Elevator Pitch Competition in 2014. For more on Jimmere, visit the website naturalicous.net.

3 Invest in Your Career

Novice to Leader: 5 Tips to Becoming a Leader of Your Own Life

By Nicole Thomas

Ready or not, 2017 is here, which means it is time for us to "boss up" and lead! This year, let's focus on making you a leader of your own life. Here are five powerful and effective tips to help you:

1. Change Your Mindset. I'm sure you've probably heard this thousands of times before, but that's because it's true: An effective leader has a mindset that's open to new ideas, and has the ability to embrace personal strengths while building upon their weaknesses. They also anticipate and remain aware of the fact that challenges will come, yet they remain optimistic. Effective leaders also believe that there is a purpose for their lives that only they can fulfill, no matter how many others also do what they do.

2. Embrace Your Journey. Your life's journey will have twists and turns as well as ups and downs. But, a person that is a leader of their own life embraces all that comes their way with dignity and grace. Everything in life is necessary, and a good leader knows how to travel the curvy journey of life as they learn all they can to grow, and utilize these lessons to help others.

3. Dominate in Your Gift Zone. Each person is born with a gift. Whatever that gift may be, you need to dominate in it. Take that gift and become so good at it, that when people say your name, it is associated with that gift. Many people have gifts, but they keep them to themselves, which hinders them from living a purpose-driven life.

4. Invest in YOU. Many of us have dreams, hopes, goals, and aspirations. However, you will never be able to fully achieve these if you do not invest in yourself; no one is going to invest in you if you can't invest in yourself. Investing in yourself means taking financial classes, professional development courses, or even personal development courses. You can also hire a certified business or life coach to assist you in getting on the right path.

5. Monitor Your Circle. We've all heard this before; your network determines your net worth. If everyone you surround yourself with lives paycheck to paycheck, chances are you will also always live paycheck to paycheck. Likewise, if everyone you surround yourself with is negative, eventually you will develop a negative outlook on life. However, you have the right people in your circle, they can help hold you accountable, educate you on building financial wealth, assist with personal and professional development, and so forth. A good and effective leader recognizes that they are only as good as those they allow on their team.

The Boss Network Influencer Nicole Thomas, MSN, RN, CCM, has 11 years of experience in leadership, healthcare management, clinical knowledge, and business acumen. Her mission is to help female healthcare professionals awaken their God-given purpose. Thomas is currently working on her Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. She is also the author of In Health, on Purpose: Awakening to Your True Calling in the Healthcare Profession. Learn more about Thomas at nicolethomaslnc.com and follow her on Twitter at @nicolethomasinc.

4 Invest in Your Health

How to Keep Your Healthy New Year's Resolutions Going Strong

By Nurse Alice

It's OFFICIAL ... it's 2017. For millions of Americans, a new year often starts with New Year's resolutions that are focused on health. However, it's difficult for most people to sustain those good intentions throughout the year. In January, resolutions are in full effect, but over the course of as little as three to four months, most health-related New Year's resolutions are long forgotten.

To avoid falling into this trap, here are five simple tips to help you continue chugging along:

1. Out With the Old, and in With the New. Say goodbye to the old you, and meet the new person you want to be. Take pictures of where you are today, and find a picture to visualize who you want to be. Place these reminders in places you frequent; preferably by a mirror, so you can see progress and be reminded of your goals.

2. Use the Power of Words. How you word your resolutions and saying them aloud can change the tone from being impossible, to one that empowers you to believe, "I'm possible." Also, don't be afraid to share your goals with others so they can help keep you accountable and support you along the journey.

3. Set the Stage. When you prepare to make a meal, you make sure to have all the ingredients, supplies, and also preheat the oven--you prepare by making sure everything is ready and in place. Well, the same goes for your resolutions. Do you have everything in place? Do you have a T-shirt and jogging pants ready to go? Did you place your running shoes by the door? Did you block out time to exercise on your schedule? Do you have healthy snacks or food choices in the refrigerator? Better yet, did you stop buying the cookies, chips, and soda?

4. Reward Yourself for Milestones. Be realistic by layering your goals. For example, instead of saying you're going to lose 30 pounds this year, try losing five pounds every month for the first six months of the year, and sustain that weight loss during the latter half of the year. This layers your goal into manageable and achievable bite-sizes, and the positive reinforcement will also keep you motivated along the way.

5. Find a Reason Beyond the Obvious. Tell yourself why these health-related New Year's resolutions are important to you--make them meaningful. An example would be a father that decides to exercise more and eat healthier in 2017, not only because he wants to look better, but because he wants to be here to walk his daughter down the aisle, when she gets married. Do some soul searching as to why these changes are important to you. Once you find that reason, you will be less likely to give up as easily.

Nurse Alice is a nationally, board certified, award-winning cardiac clinical nurse specialist, with nearly two decades of experience in cardiovascular health. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert. She is also the author of Curb Your Cravings: 31 Foods to Fool Your Appetite. You can follow her at alicebenjamin.com and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @AskNurseAlice.
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Title Annotation:PERSONAL FINANCE
Author:Fox, Ashley M.; Jimmere, Gwen; Thomas, Nicole; Alice, Nurse
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2017
Words:2137
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