MONEY Lifestyle

The Most Surprising Thing That Will Make You Happy in Retirement

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, l-r: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, 2015.
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection

While financial security is important, a little sex goes a long way toward increasing happiness in retirement.

Most retirees probably aren’t as “frisky,” shall we say, as Christian Grey in the new film Fifty Shades of Grey. But new research shows that many people well into their 70s and 80s still have active sex lives, some engaging in sex at least twice a month. Tame perhaps, by Mr. Christian’s standards. But more than enough to make for a happier retirement.

We all know that diligent financial planning can lead to a more satisfying post-career life. But while money is important to retirees—especially guaranteed income they know they won’t outlive—financial security alone doesn’t assure well-being in retirement. A number of non-financial factors may also be able to increase your chances of having a more meaningful and joyful retirement, including having more sex.

A paper published last year in the Journals of Gerontology found that older married couples who had sex more frequently had higher levels of marital happiness than couples who had sex less often or had no sex at all. Which wasn’t exactly a revelation, since an earlier study (“Sex and Older Americans: Exploring the Relationship Between Frequency of Sexual Activity and Happiness”) that focused on people 65 and older, both single and married, also showed a relationship between happiness and frequency of sex, even after adjusting for health and finances.

To get this boost in happiness, the sex didn’t have to be the push-the-envelope variety portrayed in the Fifty Shades movie. Indeed, both studies set the parameters of sexual activity pretty broadly, with the Journals of Gerontology research defining sex as any activity with a partner that was sexually arousing.

But frequency does matter. In the Sex and Older Americans study, for example, only 32% of those who said they’d experienced no sexual activity during the prior 12 months felt very happy with life overall. By contrast, almost 38% who had sex at least once or twice over the previous 12 months reported that they were very happy, while more than half who had engaged in sex more than once a month reported being very happy.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should base their sex habits on these or any other studies. For one thing, it’s possible that frequency of sex isn’t what’s driving happiness. It could be the other way around. Happier people may just have more sex. Besides, how often one has sex or whether one chooses to have it at all is a highly personal matter, and thus a decision each person has to make based on his or her particular circumstances.

That said, intimacy and sex are an integral part of life. So it only makes sense for retirees to consider whether their current sex habits are contributing to a more meaningful and fulfilling life—and if not, whether this is an issue that deserves more attention.

Of course, there are plenty of other lifestyle moves that also have the potential to increase your sense of well-being in retirement. Research shows that people who cultivate a circle of friends they can rely on for companionship and support tend to be happier than those who have fewer ties with friends or family members. Similarly, staying active through occasional work or volunteering can make for a more satisfying retirement, as long as you don’t go too far and effectively turn an avocation into a job. And people who attend religious services also tend to be happier than those who don’t.

So as you’re mapping out your post-career life, by all means give financial issues all the attention they deserve. Make sure you’re saving enough, that you’re investing wisely and have a coherent retirement income plan. But do some retirement lifestyle planning as well, and make your sex life a part of it. As to how big a part, well, that’s entirely up to you.

Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement.com. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at walter@realdealretirement.com.

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MONEY Holidays

5 Ways to Get Back at Your Ex and Celebrate Being Single on Valentine’s Day

name label with cockroach on it
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (cockroach); Eric Hood (label)

There are many ways to celebrate one's love on Valentine's Day. But how about some ideas for folks who want to spew hate at their exes, or at the contrived holiday in general?

Rest assured that there are plenty of ways for embittered haters to participate in Valentine’s Day too. Here are five possibilities:

Name a Cockroach After Your Ex
The San Francisco Zoo has a couple of unusual Valentine’s Adopt-an-Animal specials for those eager to get over a relationship gone bad. For a donation of as little as $25, the zoo is encouraging spurned lovers to adopt either a Giant Hairy Scorpion or a Hissing Cockroach and name it after one’s ex. “Nothing says ‘I’ve moved on’ like adopting a giant cuddly cockroach in the name of your favorite ex,” the zoo’s sales pitch states. “With a little luck, this generous donation will release your bad love life karma so that you never have to encounter a cockroach again.”

After adopting and naming one of these creatures, zoo patrons are given the opportunity to enter the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of anyone they’d like to notify about the event. Hmmm… now who might you want to tell?

Machine Gun Memories of Your Ex
The new “Just Divorced” Experience from a Sin City-area shooting range called Machine Guns Vegas welcomes customers to fire a choice of automatic weapons at items from their old relationship, “including (but not limited to) wedding dresses, tuxes, and marriage certificates.” The package, which is available starting February 14 for a limited time, costs $499 for up to four guests, and comes with 40 rounds of ammunition and transportation to and from the range.

The owner of Machine Guns Vegas—who, believe it or not is named Genghis Cohen “because his father admired Genghis Khan,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal—said that while most personal articles are fair game for blowing away, there are restrictions: “They’re not allowed to shoot a picture. They can do it privately, but if a nut job shoots a husband or wife in the light of day, we don’t want to be involved in a lawsuit.”

Donate Stuff from Your Ex to Charity
Instead of blowing mementos of your old relationship to bits, you could do some good with them by participating in Donate Your Heartbreak, a program from WebThriftStore.com. The New York City-based site is asking people to consider donating gifts and other valuables. It will sell the items online and turn over 80% of each sale to one of five dozen charities.

Jewelry is a particularly popular category for “Heartbreak” donations, and one participant explained to the Daily News why it was so easy to hand over a watch that was given to him by his ex. “The gift was ‘you’re always running behind so I thought I’d buy you a watch,'” he said. “I think at that point I knew most of the sugar is gone from this relationship.”

Send Some Hate Mail
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for proclamations of love. It’s also a fine time for unleashing other kinds of feelings—like how much you loathe your ex or Valentine’s Day in general. Luckily, there are virtual and physical cards out there allowing celebrants to issue forth all these messages and more.

The Just Wink greeting card company boasts Valentine’s cards with messages such as “Besties Before Testes” and “Most Guys Are A******,” the latter slogan encapsulated in an oversized pink heart. Someecards, meanwhile, offers a dizzying number of funny and quirky messages to be shared in mock celebration of the holiday, including “This is the most special of the estimated one billion cards that will be sent this Valentine’s Day” and one intended especially for exes: “It’s not you, it’s someone else better than you.”

Party at an Anti-Valentine’s Event
No matter if you hate your ex or simply detest how forced and fake the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day can seem, you’ll be welcomed at the many anti-Valentine’s dinners, happy hours, and parties happening around the country. Anti-Valentine’s themed events have been popping up for years, particularly in cities with large populations of young people. This year, there are plenty of options for Valentine’s haters in Dallas, Portland, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and beyond.

Some anti-Valentine’s events are basically just drink specials (with festive and colorful names like the X-Boyfriend), while others are mixers for those eager to get back into the game, and still others award prizes for people willing to share their worst “dumped” stories. Perhaps most unusual of all, a radio station in Wisconsin is hosting an Anti-Valentine’s Gaming Party. What better way to celebrate singlehood and make your ex jealous than by playing Mario Cart for hours on end? Or something. Plus, it’s a benefit for the Make a Wish Foundation.

 

MONEY Love and Money

10 Over-the-Top Ways to Propose—and What they Cost

Creative ways to propose
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Tom Schwab, 37, proposes to his girlfriend of 18 months, Mary Nubla, 35, in Times Square on February 14, 2014 in New York City. (She said yes.)

Want to pop the question via Jumbotron? Hire a flash mob? Put on a real fireworks display? Get ready to open your wallet

In a building with sweeping views of New York’s Hudson River, pictures of a couple hang from “cherry blossom trees” that were handmade for the occasion from branches and petals. A harpist strums softly in the background as a woman makes her way down an aisle of rose petals towards a table with an elaborate ice sculpture. Petals spell her name on the floor.

Her family and friends are there too, waiting on another floor to celebrate with a catered dinner followed by a night of dancing.

This isn’t a wedding; it is a real-life marriage proposal event. And it cost $43,000.

These days, the traditional “will you marry me?” move—that is, a groom-to-be down on one knee in a restaurant or other romantic location—simply doesn’t cut it for many couples. “Everyone is trying to make their proposal unique,” says Michele Velazquez, co-founder of The Heart Bandits, a proposal and romantic event planning service that arranged the event in New York. “You don’t want to have your girlfriend Google a proposal and see that it’s been done a bunch of times.”

While $43,000 is an extreme example (the average wedding costs $30,000), Velazquez says the typical proposal planned by her firm ranges from $3,000 and $5,000. That’s still a hefty sum, especially when you consider that the proposer also has to buy a ring—$5,600 on average, according to a 2013 survey of grooms by The Knot.

Despite those costs, The Heart Bandits have never suffered from a lack of demand. Velazquez says her business has grown 100% every year since it launched in 2010.

Looking for a really phenomenal way to pop the question? Below you’ll find costs for other over-the-top-proposals.

But keep in mind the top tip that Velazquez offers her clients: “It’s not about the money you spend, it’s about the personalization.” In other words, look for a way that reflects something about your relationship or your future spouse’s interests.

What it Costs to Propose With…

A hot-air balloon: About $200 to $400 per person for a 60-minute private ride

The jumbotron at an MLB game: $50 to $2,500, based on data compiled by Swimmingly.com

A skywriter: $1,500 to $2,000, according to nationwide aerial advertising firm FlySigns

An airplane banner: Starting around $500, according to nationwide aerial advertising firm FlySigns

Musicians:$150 to $300 per hour for a soloist hired via a website like gigmasters.com

A glass slipper at Walt Disney World: $375 on top of the cost of admission. Other Disney proposal events and locations range from $15 (“Will You Marry Me?” chocolate slipper dessert) to $500+ (Fireworks boat cruise on private yacht)

Fireworks: $2,500 to $6,000, according to pyrotech.com

A flash mob: upwards of $2,000, as reported by The New York Times

A mock movie trailer: can be around $5,000, according to Drywater Productions in Janesville, Wisc., but the price varies based on video specifics

A professional photographer or videographer: $25 to more than $1,000

 

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MONEY Love and Money

4 Super Romantic Low-Cost Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Couple cooking together
Erik Dreyer—Getty Images

Skip the prix-fixe meal that will set you back three figures. You can have a sweet time with your sweetheart for way less coin.

Let’s be honest: Valentine’s Day is a super commercialized holiday masked as a special and important date to celebrate love.

I’m not against the holiday per se, but I do think it pressures people (men, mostly) to show their love via overpriced roses, chocolate truffles and fancy six-course dinners. A new survey finds that couples are expected to spend a record $19 billion on jewelry, candy, roses and dining out!

But, uh, what if you just don’t have much money to spare? Can you actually celebrate this designated day of romance without burning a hole in your wallet?

You bet. Besides suggesting great gifts under $25 in an earlier post, I’ve tapped a few of my favorite love gurus for their best low-cost or no-cost ideas for enjoying the holiday with your special someone.

As “relationship-ologist” Lindsay Kriger told me, “The best gifts have nothing to do with price and everything to do with letting a person know how well you truly know them. The best gifts usually say, ‘I see you,’ ‘I know who you are,’ and ‘I pay attention to what makes you happy.’”

Here are four great ways to say those things:

For the beau or belle who lacks time:
Craft a Personalized Coupon Book

What’s your partner’s favorite meal? What does she wish she had more time to do? What chore would he prefer to have someone else do?

Offer it all up in a homemade coupon book, suggests Marni Battista, who runs DatingWithDignity.com. You can find templates online to help you design such a book here and here.

For the super romantic:
Take in the Perfect View

Blindfold your partner and surprise him or her by driving to a beautiful spot where you can watch the stars and relax, says Bern Mendez, relationship coach and host of YourGreatLifeTV.com. Maybe it’s a sentimental spot or just one with a great view. “Bring a blanket, a snack you prepared and have a conversation about stuff that matters,” he says.

Annie Lalla, relationship coach, had a fantastic idea for what couples can discuss while enjoying the view: Goals.

“Handwritten on epic paper, write out the ‘Top 10 Things I Want to Do With You Someday,’ describing the kinds activities, travel, adventures, experiences and shared possibilities that would simultaneously nurture your intimacy and fulfill your bucket lists,” she says.

For bookworms:
Start a Private Book Club

…just for the two of you. “Buy (or borrow from the library) two copies of any book you both want…and read them simultaneously so that you can share your experience and learnings in tandem,” says Lalla.

Maybe kick things off with a book that can further strengthen your relationship. Lalla recommends Gary Champan’s The 5 Love Languages.

For foodies:
Stir Up Something New in the Kitchen

Download a wild recipe online and, together, cook up your own romantic dinner at home. The key here is to experiment with a brand new recipe that may even be a bit challenging.

Learning something new together is proven to send dopamine levels soaring,” says Kriger. “Lasting couples enjoy trying new things together and know that fresh activities…keep things fresh!”

And don’t forget the vino. There are plenty of bottles for $10 or less at your local wine shop. Also, Trader Joe’s Two-buck Chuck is totally classy in my book.

Farnoosh Torabi is a contributing editor at Money Magazine and the author of the best selling new book When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. Her new podcast So Money features intimate interviews with leading entrepreneurs, authors and influencers. Visit SoMoneyPodcast.com to listen to the show’s inaugural interviews with Tony Robbins, James Altucher and Jean Chatzky.

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MONEY Love and Money

10 Luxe Valentine’s Gift Ideas for $25 or Less  

'I Love You' Ceramic Trinket Dish, available at Nordstrom
'I Love You' Ceramic Trinket Dish, available at Nordstrom

You don't need to spend a lot to show that special someone how much you care.

On a recent Money Match game show episode, couples said they estimate spending anywhere from $100 to $500 on Valentine’s Day gifts. And, wives tended to guess more than their husbands. (No pressure, fellas).

For those of us whose budgets fall more in the two-figure range, consider these seven special gift ideas, all for $25 or less.

Some of these items are available online only, but if you act now there’s a good chance you can still get your gift in the mail before Saturday.

On the cutesy side…

For her: Either the I Love You Ceramic Trinket Dish from Nordstrom ($8) shown above or the I Like You oval tray from Fishs Eddy ($25) is sure to put a smile on your beloved’s face. I speak from experience: My husband actually got the latter for me for Christmas. It’s a lovely decorative place to rest a necklace, small knick-knacks or treats.

For him: Sticking with the V-day theme, how about heart-printed boxers from J.Crew ($15) or Gap ($13)? They’re cute and flirty, but also practical.

Geo Heart Boxers, available at
Gap Geo Heart Boxers

For the sweet-toothed…

More than half of consumers plan to buy candy for their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day – more than any other type of present. If you want to go for that box of chocolates, consider skipping the Russell Stover variety from CVS and, instead, splurging on a more luxurious treat. Fancy british chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker sells an adorable Milk Chocolate Handbag and Heels ($15) box in which the chocolates are in the shape of shoes!

For gifts that pamper…

For him: Give the gift of the perfect shave. The starter kit from the Art of Shaving ($25) features pre-shave oil, shaving cream, after-shave balm and a trial size badger shaving brush.

Unscented Starter Kit,
Unscented Starter Kit

For her: You can gift wrap the spa feel with a cozy bathrobe. This one is only $18 at Amazon and comes in a number of attractive colors. (My personal fave is dark pink.) Pair it with a shower and moisture set from The Body Shop, on sale currently for just $5. Or simply give her some aromatherapy with the grapefruit-rose scented Voluspa Pink Citron candle from Nordstrom ($16).

Maison Blanc - Pink Citron' 2-Wick Candle, Available at Nordstrom
Maison Blanc Pink Citron 2

And, finally, an alternative to overpriced roses….

Opt for a single orchid. It won’t be expected and is no less a symbol of love and strength. Plus, it should last longer and be a constant reminder of the fact that you didn’t forget Valentine’s Day! Purchased online they tend to be on the pricier side. I suggest buying at a local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, where they can be found for less than $25.

 

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MONEY Love and Money

Why Cupid Is a Tightwad

In the new normal, fiscal prudence is sexier than ripped abs or buns of steel

When it comes to romance, who needs good looks? These days, Cupid is all about smart budgets and a sterling balance sheet, according to the latest findings on love and money.

A whopping 78% of Americans in a relationship say they prefer a partner who is good with money over one who’s physically attractive, according to a recent poll from rewards credit card Citi Double Cash. More than half believe their partner is looking out for their financial future.

Which is not to say Cupid is blind—but the arrow-slinging god of desire may simply be smarting from the Great Recession. Only recently have jobs and wages begun to show much strength. In this new normal, financial survival is sexier than ripped abs or knowing your way around a wine list. So it is that 52% of Americans expect their valentine this year to order takeout, not take them out, according to a love and money study from Ally Financial.

The Ally study also found that 55% are attracted to potential mates with strong budgeting and saving strategies. Specifically, 21% are attracted to those who pay as they go and avoid debt of any kind, while 18% are attracted to those who know how to chase down and seize a bargain. Just 3% are attracted to a suitor who appreciates the finer things and has a high credit card limit.

These findings help explain the rise of a dating site like creditscoredating.com, which seeks to address the concerns of the fiscally prudent lovelorn.

Yet love and money will always have an oil and water quality. People in a relationship are more than twice as likely to say they are the saver and that their mate is the spender in the union, according to a poll from SunTrust. About half agree that they and their partner have different spending habits. And among those who cop to relationship stress, the top cause is financial behavior.

The good news is that two-thirds say they do not have serious recurring arguments with their partner about money, Ally found. So this Valentine’s Day why not go cheap? The data suggest your date will adore you for it.

Read next: This is the sexiest financial habit

MONEY gifts

5 Valentine’s Day Gifts If You Want Her to Break Up With You

Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear
John Goodman Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear

These five gift ideas could be exactly what your very special someone wants for Valentine's Day. More likely, however, is that they'll come across as creepy, tacky, or otherwise ill-advised.

We’ve seen all of the ideas below promoted in earnestness as good gift options for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day this year. And sure, for the right recipient, these gifts could be seen as hilarious, romantic, charming, and perhaps even deeply thoughtful. But you better be 100% sure you know your significant other well enough to foresee her reaction, because these oddball ideas also come with the serous risk of misfiring, to put it mildly.

S&M Teddy Bear
Falling somewhere along the spectrum of amusing to downright creepy, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is selling a bear with “smoldering gray eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” based on the erotic novel and movie Fifty Shades of Grey. “She can’t help but submit to loving him,” gushed the company’s description of the limited-edition bear, which retails for $89.99.

A warning at the bottom of the bear’s web page states “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.” And, well, to state the obvious, the fact that it contains small parts is hardly the only reason this bear, made with “the silkiest fur we can get our paws on,” isn’t a good idea for kids.

Clearance Sale Lingerie
According to a survey conducted on the behalf of Offers.com, the top two items that women DON’T want to receive from their sweethearts are stuffed animals (presumably, especially not stuffed animals that come with handcuffs) and lingerie. In a separate survey, from BeFrugal.com, nearly 90% of women (and 79% of men) said it was OK to look for ways to save on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Still, buying lingerie is a risky proposition for guys, seeing as the recipient could be insulted if the article in question is deemed too slutty, too prudish, or the wrong size. And if the main reason the buyer decided to go with a certain article of lingerie is that it was 80% off, then you’ll certainly give the impression you’re too cheap. So let’s hope the only folks following the advice to buy deeply discounted lingerie for Valentine’s Day are women making the decisions for themselves.

Candle-Lit White Castle
In what has become an annual tradition, the blue-collar mini-burger chain White Castle is welcoming customers to “enjoy a romantic evening with tableside service” at select locations around the country on February 14. Reservations are required. Dozens of Waffle House locations are doing the same, with special Valentine’s Day dinners including normally unheard-of amenities such as candlelight and tablecloths.

On the one hand, with the right dinner partner it could be an absolute hoot to mock-celebrate Valentine’s Day at a down-and-dirty fast food joint, or perhaps a so-called “breastaurant” like Tilted Kilt. On the other, bringing an unsuspecting date expecting a fancy romantic Valentine’s dinner to such an establishment could be a recipe for getting a drink thrown in your face.

Animal Sex Lecture & Dinner
On February 14, the Detroit Zoo is hosting the fourth annual “Love Gone Wild,” a three-and-a-half-hour long adult-only event that includes a champagne welcome drink, passed hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, a commemorative gift, and, most interestingly, “a candid and entertaining look at how zoo animals do the ‘wild thing,'” according to promotional materials.

Yes, the $85 event’s focus is animal sex at the zoo, which ranges from “prolonged public bouts of coitus to brief clandestine assignations,” a press release explained. And yes, the lecture is quite detailed and graphic. “We not only talk about [sex], we name names, show pictures and critique performance.”

Vacant Lot in Newark, N.J.
Let’s just say it’s probably unwise to buy a vacant lot in Newark and promise to live on the property for five years without consulting your significant other. That goes even if the property is being sold for a mere $1,000, which is the special “lovebirds” Valentine’s Day offer on the table on February 14. Couples who are interested in any of the 1,000 available vacant lots should go to Newark City Hall on Saturday morning with a $500 down payment, as well as proof you and your partner can cover construction costs needed to make the property inhabitable within 18 months of closing.

MONEY gifts

6 Totally Unromantic Truths About Valentine’s Day Spending

Greeting cards to send to your loved ones for Valentine's Day
Richard Levine—Alamy

Sure, people celebrate Valentine's Day to show how much they love that very special someone in their lives. But that's not the only reason people spend big bucks for Valentine's Day.

You’ve probably seen the headlines about how Americans will spend $18.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, which would be an all-time high. Before you buy the idea that Americans are simply gaga over the big lovey-dovey holiday and eager to splurge to demonstrate their feelings, let’s take a closer look at how people are spending their Valentine’s dollars, how spending changes over time—and why we celebrate this day the way we do in the first place.

Here’s some research to consider regarding Valentine’s Day spending:

One-quarter of men spend because they feel obligated or are just trying to get lucky. According to an Offers.com poll, roughly half of men say they celebrate Valentine’s Day in order to “spend quality time with my partner.” However, nearly one-quarter of men admit that they mark Valentine’s Day out of a sense of obligation or “because they’re hoping to get lucky.” Meanwhile, 13% of women say they celebrate just “because everyone else does.”

The longer the relationship, and the older you get, the less you spend. Love may or may not fade over time, but the likelihood of going all out on Valentine’s gifts sure seems to die the longer couples are together. One poll shows that men spend an average of $154 on fiancés, versus $136 for wives, while another survey indicates those in the prime spouse-seeking and newlywed 25- to 34-year-old demographic outspend all other age groups. Unsurprisingly, couples with longer-lasting relationships are less likely to make Valentine’s Day plans far in advance. Roughly half of couples who have been together for less than five years say they prepare at least a month ahead for Valentine’s, compared with only one-third of people who have been a significant other for more than five years.

Americans will spend more than $700 million on Valentine’s gifts … for pets. That’s according to the National Retail Federation. And that’s roughly double what we spend on Halloween costumes for pets, which is probably good—surely your dog prefers a Valentine’s snack to being dressed up in a ludicrous Madonna outfit.

1 in 5 women buy Valentine’s gifts … for themselves. Data cited by the Society of American Florists indicates that while men are more likely to buy Valentine’s gifts for their spouses—63% of men versus 30% of women—the ladies are more inclined to buy for their moms (30% versus 11% of men), friends (19% versus 7%) and themselves (19% versus 1%).

Rose prices spike just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s not just your imagination. Roses really do get more expensive around February 14. While wholesale prices vary depending on location, florists say they typically pay twice as much for roses in early February than they do at most other times of year. Increased transportation costs and extra labor are among the reasons often given for why rose prices are inflated around now, but overall it boils down to supply and demand: Roses cost more for Valentine’s Day because people are willing to pay more.

The two people most responsible for modern-day Valentine’s Day were entrepreneurs trying to make a buck. For centuries, Valentine’s Day was a mashup of a wild Roman pagan festival known as Lupercalia and the celebration of two Catholic saints (both named Valentine) who were executed on February 14. By the Middle Ages, it had become somewhat of a tradition to offer a handmade card or flowers to one’s beloved. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, however, that it became popular to give mass-produced chocolates and Valentine’s messages, and we have two business-minded visionaries to thank for this.

First, there’s Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate-making family that been perfecting the bite-sized delectable then known as “eating chocolate.” Cadbury had the brilliant idea of packaging and selling these chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, and the rest is history.

MORE 17 Memorable Kisses Throughout History

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland was building her reputation as the “Mother of the American Valentine” for designing and popularizing high-quality lace-paper Valentine cards featuring messages of love and devotion. It was unusual at the time for a woman to run a business, yet Howland set up an all-female assembly line and kept the New England Valentine Company thriving for decades. First and foremost, one museum curator said of Howland to NPR, “She’s a businesswoman … I mean it is lacy, beautiful, feminine material that she’s producing, but she’s producing it successfully and making money.”

MONEY Love and Money

This Is the Sexiest Financial Habit

businessman laying on field of money
iStock

A new survey asked people what money management traits they'd find attractive in a mate. Prepare to be surprised by the answer.

Money matters when searching for a mate—and it’s not just how much you have, but how you handle your cash, according to a survey released Wednesday by Ally Bank.

Three quarters of people think it’s important to find a partner with a similar financial philosophy. Okay, that figures. But the survey also revealed which financial habits people found most appealing in a potential mate.

And it turns out that… wait for it… a strong budgeting and saving strategy is the hottest, with 55% of respondents putting it at the top of the list. The older people were, the more fiscal discipline mattered.

Surprised? Budgeting is indeed sexy.

To make yourself more of a catch, check out “How Do I set a Budget I Can Stick To?” in our Money 101 section, or start using Mint.com, which does a lot of the work for you.

Paying off credit card bills in full every month (21%) and bargain hunting (18%) were other attractive attributes. So maybe you’ll fall in love over a Presidents’ Day sale.

And since only 3% were titillated by higher credit limits and liking finer things, consider tacos instead of T-bones on that first date.

Read more Love & Money:
The Most Important Talk You Need to Have Before Marriage
5 Super Easy Online Tools That Can Help Couples Feel More Financially Secure
5 Smart Financial Moves for Unmarried Couples Who Live Together

MONEY Face to Face

How to Tell a Friend You Can’t Afford to Be a Bridesmaid

How do I tell my friend I can't afford to be a bridesmaid?
Erik Rotter—Getty Images

Use this dialogue to let your friend down easy, save yourself serious cash—and avoid having to wear another hideous dress.

You couldn’t be happier your best friend’s going to tie the knot—but your stomach gets tied in a knot every time you think about how much it will cost to be in her bridal party.

In an ideal world, you’d have enough cash set aside to afford it, but being a bridesmaid is a pricey affair. Between dress, travel, gifts, hair and makeup, shower, and bachelorette party, you can expect to spend an average $1,695, according to a 2011 estimate by WeddingChannel.com (now part of The Knot).

You don’t want to risk spending the big day fretting over finances, or worse, going into debt to make it to the wedding. If your budget’s too tight to be a bridesmaid, you’ll need to break it to the bride—in person, says Susan Bross, a financial counselor and coach who has been in this situation herself.

Cringing as you read this? Here’s what to say to let your pal down gently:

YOU SAY: “I love you so much, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you asked me to be one of your bridesmaids.”

Carefully consider where and how you break this news to your friend, says Bross. You want to do it at a place and time where you can come off as calm and self-assured.

Then open by expressing gratitude and reinforcing how much your friend means to you, says Laurie Puhn, author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life. In essence, you want to say, “I’m honored to be asked.” This way, you’re making sure she walks away knowing that your saying no has nothing to do with her—if you could afford to be in the wedding, you would.

YOU SAY: “I know you’re working hard to plan this wedding, and I wish I could be there with you. But this year has been tough for me financially, and I don’t think I can swing this. I hope you’ll understand.”

Be as honest as you feel comfortable being about what’s holding you back from coming, whether you’re climbing out of debt or trying to meet a savings goal.

“But make sure that what you’re saying makes sense,” says Puhn. “Recognize that she probably will be hurt if she sees you spending money on other things.” In other words, don’t splurge on a vacation three weeks later!

Also, stay away from any language that makes it seem like your friend’s choices are what’s keeping you from attending (e.g. “If only you weren’t getting married in Aruba…).

Anyway, if your friend’s wedding is in a particularly far-flung locale, she’s probably already braced for no-shows. “A person having a destination wedding knows they don’t have the right to be offended if someone can’t come,” says Puhn.

YOU SAY: “I wanted to tell you as soon as I could.”

“It’s easy to procrastinate this kind of conversation because it’s uncomfortable,” says Eric Dammann, a clinical psychologist and financial coach in New York City.

But by having it early in the process, you’re showing that you understand the pressures your friend is under—planning a wedding is hard work!—and respect that she may need time to find an alternate person to fill your dancing shoes.

Plus, the sooner you say something, the sooner you’ll feel better.

YOU SAY: “I’d really like to celebrate this big milestone in another way; maybe I could…”

End on a happy note by suggesting an alternative time to celebrate your pal’s nuptials before or after the big day, says Dammann. “Create some other way to be a part of it.”

Consider what you can afford: You might throw a shower in the bride’s honor at your place, help plan the bachelorette events, or take her out to her favorite restaurant one-on-one.

Even combined with a thoughtful gift, you’ll save hundreds of dollars over the cost of being a bridesmaid.

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