Money pro tips Q&A with journalist Emma Johnson

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published May 7, 2020 | 5 min read

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Featured Image Money pro tips Q&A with journalist Emma Johnson

Regardless of marital status, author and founder Emma Johnson believes that all women can run their home and piggy bank. Her blog focuses on equipping women with the tools to navigate their finances, children and dating life.

While Johnson runs her business at home, she noticed the coronavirus is affecting single mom’s ability to financially stay afloat. Notably because the stimulus program does little to address one core demographic: single mothers. To help, she launched a $500 weekly single mommy stimulus grant with her own funds.

“I look for moms who are in uniquely challenging situations, such as caring for extended family members in addition to their own kids,” she said. “Perhaps with a challenging immigration status that prevents her from accessing other aid or stimulus funds, and just trying to get food on the table.”

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How are you holding up with the stay-at-home order? How has your at-home dynamic changed because of it?

My kids, cat and I decamped from our apartment in Queens, New York, to my boyfriend’s house in the Pocono Mountains. It is safer here, easier to social distance. We have more space and are surrounded by nature.

We are all OK, healthy keeping it together for the most part. Though two months in, my kids are still trying to find their groove with daily school work and isolation. We do our best to stay healthy by getting exercise most days, spending time outside and eating well. I try to control screen time for all of us but we are definitely watching more movies and TV than usual. “Blackish” is one of our favorites — Grandma Ruby is 100%, though I totally identify with Bo, who is also my fashion goal.

How are you balancing your time between working and your children?

I’ve worked at home for 17 years, so that is not a big adjustment. Unlike at home where I have an office in my bedroom, and many hours when my children are at school or their dad’s, here I don’t have much of my own space or control over my time. I’m also doing a lot more cooking and housekeeping than I’m used to — but I also have a lot more time to kill, so I try not to complain!

What advice do you have for parents who may be at home, working and entertaining their children for the first time?

I believe in schedules, regular bathing, putting on some decent clothes, and a little makeup every morning. Create scheduled mealtimes, start your days off with to-do lists. My boyfriend came up with a great solution to my kids’ constantly complaining that, “But you said ____!” when they felt like a suggested treat was not delivered. For example, if I said that we might watch an episode in the evening, but kitchen cleanup was sooooo freaking slow that the kids didn’t get done well into bedtime, then the episode ship sailed, and whining “But you SAID we could watch an episode!” ensued.

However, these times can easily be void of anything to look forward to. So we have a “But you said!” list on the wall of fun things to look forward to. For example, my son and boyfriend are looking forward to fishing, and every Wednesday my daughter and I make homemade facials and watch a feminist movie. So far we’ve seen “Thelma and Louise” and are obsessed with “Mrs. America” on Hulu/Prime. All feminists in the house are welcome to watch, but it is usually the two women in attendance.

What’s the biggest mistake you see parents make who are trying to “do it all?” How can they avoid it?

Women are force-fed the idea that the stay-at-home mother is the better mother. For example, a 2016 Pew study found that 45% of Americans believe that it hurts children when mothers work outside the home. However, researchers at the University of Maryland looked at 34 related studies and found that the pressure to spend so much quality time with children stresses moms out so much that it may actually make us worse parents, than if we just focused our time on making more money (instead of micro-parenting).

Harvard professor Kathleen McGinn studied 30,000 families around the world and found that girls raised by mothers who worked for pay outside of the home achieved more academically and professionally than their peers with at-home moms, and boys whose mothers worked were more helpful at home — and both groups of kids were equally happy.

In short: More parenting does not help children, but more financial stability and work engagement by mothers does help children.

Do you have any financial stress right now and if so, how are you navigating it?

Thankfully, my personal and business overheads are low, and my business is strong right now. I may or may not reach my profit goals by the end of 2020, but we are solid and I am very grateful for that. I have upped my efforts to give back in various ways, including increasing my spending with my vendors, making regular donations to my local food bank and launching a $500 weekly grant program through my blog for single moms struggling at the hands of Covid-19.

What is your No.1 piece of financial advice for parents?

Take care of yourself before you take care of your kids. If you focus on your own financial wellbeing, retirement planning and career fulfillment, that not only provides excellent role models for our children and other women, but also creates financial security for them now, and in the future — since we will be less likely to be a burden on our adult children. Poverty is a much greater indicator of social/academic/emotional challenges for children than separated parents.

Should parents be financially independent from each other?

When both parents are financially independent, then it dramatically reduces tension and increases parenting collaboration. When parents do not rely on the other’s income, they are free to leave unhappy or abusive relationships. If they co-parent after a divorce or breakup, they can now truly separate since no one is trying to finagle more child support or alimony out of the other — or get out of paying. Both parents can now move on, enjoy new relationships and focus on co-parenting equally.

What’s the last thing you resisted buying and how did you resist it?

I’m pretty frugal, and am actually trying to convince myself to enjoy my money more. I’m thinking of redecorating / remodeling my apartment this year.

What’s the last thing you splurged on and why did you OK the splurge?

The biggest splurge is buying whatever you want at the grocery store. If you can afford that, you are better-off than .0001% of the global population.

What’s the best financial advice you ever received?

My mom told me: “Always negotiate, otherwise they will never respect you.”

What’s the worst financial advice you ever received?

“You should buy XYZ stock …”

What’s your No. 1 parenting hack?

Less is more. We have a culture that celebrates helicopter parenting and martyr motherhood, when all the research suggests that giving children freedom to explore, fail and entertain themselves is where it’s at. Let go! Thank me later.

Do you have any plans for Mother’s Day?

Just hoping my family doesn’t forget it.

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko