The back-up plan

It's not sexy, but it can save your bacon. Get to know your emergency fund.

This article was originally published by USA Today in the fall 2011 issue of Men's Health Magazine.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

The emergency fund: it's that pile of cash that's just sitting there, ready for you to lose your job. The traditional advice is to save six to 12 months' living expenses.

How could you possibly save that much -- and why would you want to keep such a large chunk of change in an account earning 0.1 percent annual interest anyway?

Don't sweat it.

By rethinking the very nature of the emergency fund, you can piece together enough cash, safe investments, credit, and other resources to carry you through a job loss, illness, or other unexpected emergency.

And if you're not there yet: Read on, so that you'll know what to do when those paychecks get a little fatter. Read the entire article (page down after you click through).

Invest like a girl

This article was originally published by USA Today in the fall 2011 issue of Men's Health Magazine.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Given how the world of high finances is dominated by men, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they make better investors than women. But the fact is piles of research show that it's men's better halves who produce better returns.

Female hedge fund managers achieve higher returns than their male counterparts, according to industry tracker Hedge Fund Research. During the 2008 financial collapse, men were more likely to abandon equities, missing out on the stock market's rally since then, according to Vanguard. And University of California researchers studying 35,000 households over six years found that men traded 45 percent more frequently than women, reducing their net returns.

So it might be time to buck up and figure out what women are doing right. Read the full article.

Protect your home (and finances) from disaster

This article was originally published in the August 2011 issue of Money Magazine.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

(MONEY Magazine) -- The season for natural disasters, it seems, is now year-round. Floods and a record number of tornadoes have already caused billions of dollars of property damage across the nation in 2011. Come fall, forecasters expect an unusually active hurricane season. Moreover, experts believe crazy weather is here to stay.

"Climate change is intensifying the extremes of rain and snow as well as drought," says Robert Henson of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Think homeowners insurance will cover your tab if your property is walloped by Mother Nature? Think again.

A 2008 study found almost two-thirds of homes were under-insured for disasters. Worse, about a third of homeowners have recently lowered their home or auto coverage to save money, according to a 2011 survey by the Insurance Information Institute. Finally, even if your insurance is adequate it may not have the right coverage for the risks you face. Below, key steps to limit the damage.

Shore up your property

For earthquakes. The roof is a key vulnerability. You'll spend 2% to 3% of your home's value to firmly strap down the roof to the walls and foundation, says Timothy Reinhold, senior vice president of research for the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

For tornadoes. Again, your roof is at greatest risk of being damaged by high winds, says Robert Schneller, a risk-management expert at the University of Houston. Spend $50 to $100 per hour to have a roofer secure loose shingles or flashing that a gust of wind could pull loose. Also install roof clips to better attach your roof to the walls ($1 per clip, plus labor).

The garage door is another weak spot. An impact-rated pressurized door will run you $1,300, but you can also retrofit your existing door with pressurized equipment, which will cost just $450 and provide reasonable protection, says Reinhold.
Worried about your finances? Send the Help Desk your questions.

Can you rehabilitate a passive aggressive employee?

They're awfully hard to spot because they seem agreeable to your face, but they drag their feet or sabotage projects behind your back. Is there an antidote?

This article was originally published by on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

FORTUNE -- During a month-long household move, Patty Shore, director of marketing at Creative Energy Options, asked to bring her dog to the consulting firm's White Haven, Pa. offices. Everyone at the company expressed enthusiasm, president Sylvia Lafair recalls, but before long, one employee began complaining that the dog, a mixed-breed collie named Mr. Ray, hovered outside her office and wouldn't leave her alone.

Shore tried to restrict Mr. Ray to the other end of the office, but couldn't keep the pup away from the complainer. "Finally, two people came to me and said, 'She has dog biscuits in the drawer of her desk and feeds the dog when nobody is looking,'" says Lafair. "It was very devious."

Lafair confronted the employee about her passive aggressive behavior and received a wide-eyed response: she just felt sorry for the dog. After a few more incidents of underhanded behavior and performance issues, Lafair had to fire the problem employee.
"Passive aggressive people will say yes to your face and stab you in the back," she says. "Sometimes you can't help.... They need to be asked to leave."

Passive-aggressive employees present one of the toughest workplace challenges to both managers and coworkers. The behavior can be difficult to identify, and even tougher to change. Left unaddressed, passive-aggressive actions can spread to other employees and create a culture of heel dragging and mute rebellion.

"The passive aggressive stuff is like a cancer. It's insidious and if you walk by it, you're saying it's acceptable and it will spread to others," says George Bradt, a consultant and author of The New Leader's 100 Day Action Plan. "The prescription is, head it off at the pass." Read more at