Although women now represent over 50% of the wage-earning workforce, they tend to be excluded from the national conversation regarding finances. Because it isn’t a national priority for women – especially young women – to become fiscally independent, it’s up to them to look out for their own financial well-being. If you’re one such woman, the best way to get started is to assess your attitude. If you find any of the following sentiments lurking in your mind, it’s time to weed them out for good.
“My partner/parent/family member will take care of me.”
One of the most common mistakes women make is assuming that their partners or parents will take care of finances for them. It doesn’t help that finances have historically been considered a “man’s business” and aspects of this antiquated mindset linger. Even if you do have someone who has your best interest at heart, that person may not actually know how to handle finances, or may be unaware of what’s best for you. It’s tempting to unload fiscal responsibility on someone else, but you must learn to trust yourself and live with your own decisions. If you blindly trust someone else, you risk becoming heartbroken and broke if things fall through. When it comes to finances, ignorance is bliss until it’s misery.
“It’s fine, I’ll take care of the house and work part-time when we have kids. You earn the money.”
Running a household and raising children is among the world’s most difficult and time-consuming jobs. Many women choose to take time off work or live off their partner’s income so they can devote themselves to domestic life. This is a noble task, but it’s a choice that comes with financial consequences. Although there are laws in place to protect women from discrimination in the workplace, studies show bias lives on. According to an article in The New York Times,“childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that “having a child costs the average high-skilled woman $230,000 in lost lifetime wages relative to similar women who never gave birth.” In addition to losing out on the income they’d make in a traditional workplace, a woman’s earning potential will suffer as she loses the opportunity to add years of experience under her belt and earn pay raises and promotions.
Time is money, and there should be an open conversation – and ultimately a consensus – on who is expected to do what around the home, and how each partner will be compensated. If you stay home, how will your partner help cover your financial needs? For example, will you have your own spending money? It’s not enough to assume everything will just work itself out; it’s up to you and your partner to divvy up work and pay. Make sure the result is deliberate and not based on assumptions.
“I don’t need to learn about finances until I’m older.”
Again with the “ignorance is bliss” conundrum: if you’re 18 or older, chances are you have a financial profile. Maybe you have a credit card, or your grandparents bought you bonds, or you’ve taken out student loans. Whether you’re starting a career or working a side hustle, a lot of young women think their income isn’t substantial enough or they’re too young for their financial choices to have an impact. This simply isn’t true. If you’re one of these women, you’re already forming habits that will affect you for life. Be deliberate in learning all you can and shaping your financial identity now; otherwise, you leave your fiscal future to the whims of the wind.
“I don’t really care about money.”
Women are often expected to be generous to the point of selflessness, monetarily and otherwise. This misguided attitude manifests in many forms. Take salaries, for example. According to Business Insider, “when it comes to salary negotiations, women can be their own worst enemies. Research shows that women are significantly less likely to negotiate for higher salaries than men.” If the thought of something like negotiating (or even reminding a friend to pay you back) makes you squeamish, you may want to dig deeper and examine why.
Remember: Advocating for your financial well-being is not being greedy or stingy – it’s necessary for your security and survival. Although some people may be hustling in hopes of wealth, many of us would prefer to simply have enough money to meet our needs and some wants without having to worry. With time, you’ll learn that having enough money to meet this goal requires plenty of knowledge and lots of discipline. It’s okay to say you care about money.