Becoming Financially Independent

A Woman’s Right to Her Finances

People always say money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made. 

Joan Rivers, American Television Host, A Boss

Who’s heard of the age old myth: Women aren’t good with money. Women are too frivolous to manage such seriousness. Women need men to manage their finances. Women don’t understand the concept of saving, shoes and purses are irresistible temptresses. Derivative and infuriating, am I right? Not only are women becoming more and more financially independent as the millennium wages on, we are dismantling systems that prevented us from being so in the past. 

Credit: Roy Lichtenstein

For so long, women weren’t encouraged to level themselves the way men have. From a young age, men are told they must be breadwinners and their masculinity depends on them providing for themselves and their family. On the other hand, girls aren’t encouraged in the same way. We’re told to be ladies, to prioritize our looks, our appeal, more than the skills that guarantee a fulfilling life. When a lie is told enough times, it starts sounding like the truth. When we’re constantly being bombarded with doubt about our financial literacy, many women start believing the myth themselves and shying away from taking on the beast. We are still fighting against the gender pay gap, the most basic foundation of our relationship with money, and coupled with these tropes, it may seem a little daunting to even begin this journey. Becoming financially literate and subsequently financially independent is a life skill that everyone is entitled to. It doesn’t require big leaps but rather, small steps made with confidence. 

Credit: Satoshi Kambayashi

57% of millennial women and 52% of Gen X women associate money with independence. Financial independence isn’t just about how much money you have. It’s also about having the confidence to make your own decisions. Female or male, single or married, we all need to be in control of our financial lives. But women especially need to take greater charge. We receive less pay than our male counterparts. According to a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, median weekly earnings for full-time salaried women are just 81 percent of what men earn. We still have to contend with the so-called “glass ceiling;” the unseen, but definitely real barrier between us and our professional success. Statistically we live longer than men and earn less. For many women, a good portion of their lives is spent raising children. That means they spend less time collecting an income. We’re also more often expected to take care of our elderly relatives, which which takes both time and money. 

We have to work harder, save more, and be our own advocates. 

Power Tip 1: Pay down small debts

Debt can be really crippling and overwhelming to apprehend. It will give you confidence when you are able to pay off small debts, like credit cards, before approaching larger ones, like student loans. 

  • Put work bonuses toward debt
  • Delete credit card information from online stores
  • Start selling your stuff: DePop, Craigslist, Ebay, Poshmark, even a garage sale
  • Saving in a traditional or Roth IRA in addition to any work-sponsored retirement savings
  • Building an emergency fund that includes 3-6 months of expenses
  • Opening targeted savings accounts for various adult milestones such as a new home or children

Becoming the architect of your future demands financial discipline.

Power Tip 2: Understand your cash flow

Deciding what your goals are and understanding your cash flow is a pivotal step towards this future. What do you need in order to feel fulfilled? What do you value most in your life? What do you want to protect? Write down your goals and keep that list with you. Make it a concrete plan on paper instead of just a wistful fantasy.  You can always have it with you to look at, so at any given moment you can study your list and decide if what you’re doing is really what you want or if you’re giving up what you want the most for what you only want right now. Taking financial ownership is to know where your money is coming from and where it goes. Understand the value of your hard-earned money by breaking down every single expense you have and compare it to your income. Be diligent, be specific and be honest about your financial habits.

Power Tip 3: Budgeting is a necessary life skill 

You can also get out of debt and save more with budgeting.  Having a budget essentially means that you have a plan for your money. It means you determine exactly how much money to save, how much to spend, and what to spend it on. You are not at the mercy of frivolous whims or surprises. Budgeting helps you spend less than you earn. 

  • Get rid of your cable subscription, most TV is online if you look hard enough
  • Make gifts instead of buying them.
  • Eat out less, try grocery shopping
  • Stop going out to eat and drink, invite friends over for potlucks and bottles of wine
  • Couponing is a lost art
  • Listen to your dad and unplug all electricity-sucking devices you’re not using them
  • We don’t need gyms when there’s hiking, running, and sports

 

Real talk: We are the arbitrators of our future and are more than capable of achieving independence in all its forms. Despite all the obstacles we face, more and more women are taking charge of their finances separate from their families and spouses to guarantee their security. Forbes magazine confirms that women are outpacing men in financial independence. Women are progressing faster in their education and career. More women are graduating from college and grad school than men, and women’s labor force participation is increasing, while men’s has been slightly declining. Women also more often believe that they should prioritize financial independence from their parents, and more of them have achieved that. We are at the helm of a life-changing moment and the reigns are within our grasp.

 

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