Love Don’t Pay My Bills: Financial Planning for Womenfolk

It often seems to me that most financial planning, budgeting, and money-oriented advice A) is geared toward men, who, on average, make more money and live shorter lives than women do, and B) doesn’t apply if you make less than, let’s say, $60,000 a year. Here’re some thoughts on financial planning for those of us who use the bathroom with the skirt on the door.

A while back – while still unemployed – I signed up for a website/newsletter called Daily Worth, whose stated goals include empowering women not only to make the most of their financial worth, but also of their personal worth. I can get behind that. Besides: I’m 27, I have a boat load of college debt, and until yesterday afternoon, I did not have a job for a while there. My employment since my college graduation in 2008 has been touch-and-go; a combination of graduating into a crappy economy with an undervalued degree, and my own unwillingness to work in abusive or critically unpleasant situations have contributed to my spotty employment record. Plus, I’ve moved a couple of times now, and that has resulted in a savings account with a $0 balance, about $2.14 in my checking account, and a very embarrassing – for me – relationship with my fiance, who has been purchasing things like razor blades and cooking magazines for me while I’ve been between jobs.

It’s not that I don’t know the basics: balance your checkbook, don’t run up credit cards if you can avoid it, pay your bills in full and on time to the greatest extent you are able. But I’ve faced enough uncertainty in the past few years to know that that plan isn’t enough: what about when you have no income? What about when emergency expenses arise? Will I ever be able to retire, considering the state of the Social Security program? How do you invest, and moreover, should you? Am I going to be paying off my college loans when my (potential) children are looking at colleges for themselves? Why is my financial life still thrown off by Christmas every single year? And so forth. I’m not stupid, I swear. It’s just that no one ever told me this stuff, and I’m realizing that while my fiance is responsible and mature, worrying about money stresses him out so badly that he plucks parts of his beard out of his face. The financial well-being in this family, by default, needs to be something I can tackle intelligently, because I’m the one of the two of us who doesn’t revert to the fetal position in the face of a late bill that needs paying.

So I’ve been rolling up my sleeves and, with the help of Daily Worth as well as a lot of smart women in my life, I’ve been doing some research, breaking out some spreadsheets, and punching buttons in my calculator.

I love punching buttons in my calculator.

Daily Worth breaks down the areas you need to earn some savvy in thus: Budget, Earnings, Savings, Investments, and Expenditures. In the weeks to come, I’m going to tackle each of these topics with the help of my Daily Worth guide and a bunch of interviews with smart, fiscally responsible women. I’m going to talk to folks across a spectrum of incomes – including sharing some of my own experiences as an unemployed person, and as a severely underemployed person – and I think we might be able to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Money isn’t a given. It’s a privilege. But as women who are all bright, intelligent, and practical, I think we can acknowledge our universal need for the stuff, and for the even greater need of managing it well when it is here. Because of some of the unique things that separate the women from the men – our disparate incomes, our longer lifespans, our likelihood to take at least some time out of the workforce for family (parenthood or parent-care) needs, and our innate instincts to sit tight in financial or economic crisis (according to a recent Vanguard study) – all add up to a demographic of economic power that need tailored, different financial advice than that the men receive. I personally think this is a great thing: we have some bonuses and some challenges in our way, but I also think women are an innately powerful force, and we can aim that power right at our bank accounts in some remarkable ways. Who knows what the results will be? Security, sure. More peace of mind, I should hope so. And maybe even some remarkable projects, businesses, and goals achieved because you can learn the tools necessary to take your money and do some magic with it.

I’m pretty excited to see where all this knowledge goes.

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9 Comments Love Don’t Pay My Bills: Financial Planning for Womenfolk

  1. Avatar of marthamydearmarthamydear

    I just wrote my first exploratory budget a week ago! Hello, my name is Marthamydear, and I am excited to get my shit together.

    I’m also very lucky to be very financially protected- no student debt from undergrad (thanks parents), living at home, with a few savings goals, good hours at my part-time job and a brand new five-year $500 bond that was my graduation present. But I’m 22 and should definitely step it up a notch. My parents are EXCELLENT savers and are our financial rep’s favourite clients.

  2. Avatar of thesciencegirlthesciencegirl

    This is so timely! I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to both save money and pay off debt this year, and it just seems like the money never goes far enough. And all it takes is one trip or drop in size that requires new clothes or medical issue or holiday to throw me totally off balance because I have no wiggle room in my budget. I’m able to keep up with all of my bills, there are no creditors after me, etc., but I’d like to pay more than the minimum on my credit card bills and student loans so that I’m not endlessly throwing away money on interest. And I’d like to really save, whereas what I’ve been doing is saving several hundred bucks, having to use it on something, and then starting over again from scratch. Unfortunately, I’m locked into a modest income for at least another 3 years (a grad student stipend). But I’m constantly stressed when I have to pay upfront costs for a work conference and wait for reimbursement, or at the thought of flying to residency interviews in a couple of years (I need to have a few thousand bucks stockpiled by then). Heck, right now, I need new sneakers (mine have HOLES in them), new glasses (3 year old prescription), and a new bra (my “good” one is safety-pinned together), but I just don’t know where the money is going to come from. I’m already living on eggs, apples, and coffee as it is. My parents were spenders and not savers and had a lot of debt, so I didn’t learn financial responsibility growing up. Heck, I’m the only person in my family who even has a decent credit score. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling, but I’m looking forward to these discussions.

  3. Avatar of seekwillseekwill

    First off, congrats on the new job! Very exciting.

    I am very excited for this series. I just got off the phone with my bank, having canceled my appointment with an investment adviser, scared by the reports coming out of stock markets world-wide. It is a scary time to try to manage your money, when it appears that whole countries can’t keep it together.

    I’ve been a lot luckier than most when it comes to money. I came out of university with no debt but spent a short amount of time underemployed, with my boyfriend paying part of my rent to keep me afloat. After a major life change, a moving half-way across the country, I’m now gainfully employed. Due to the higher salaries of where we live, the other half and I were able to quickly pay off remaining credit card debt and get on our feet financially. Now we’re saving for a home, but because of Canada’s (fairly well thought out) guidelines on first-time homebuyers it’ll be a long time before we make that a reality. I’m looking forward to seeing how other women are making the most of their savings in a shaky economy.

  4. Avatar of HoneybadgerHoneybadger

    I have been using mint.com for a while now and I love it. It consolidates all accounts and for me seeing charts and graphs of my spending and debt have been eye opening . You can also create budgets and goals for all sorts of things. I definitely feel you on the stress of worrying about money the older you get. It sucks and for me that little site has given me a greater sense of control and peace of mind.

  5. Avatar of [E] Sally J. Freedman[E] Sally J. Freedman

    Oh I am excited for this! The one and only time I ever talked to an investment advisor he sort laughed in my face- I was just out of school, had my first teaching job and made, oh, $21,000. I showed him my budget, and asked how I could start an IRA (I worked for a school with no benefits) , and basically, he told me I couldn’t. How’s that for great advice? Because when you don’t make a lot of money is kind of when you need to plan for the future, but whatever.

    Now that I’m older and some what wiser, we are doing what we can. But who couldn’t use more advice when it comes to money? I think I shall sign up for Daily Worth right now.

  6. Avatar of [E]Coco Papy[E]Coco Papy

    Here here. The idea of the what if always terrifies me when it comes to finances, especially with the way debt can just spin out of control. And oh yea, I wont be working forever. On a positive note, you ladies have convinced me to sign up for mint.com, where I can stare my debt down in the face.

    1. Avatar of Meghan Young KroghMeghan Young Krogh

      I have found that to be the single most terrifying and simultaneously empowering thing to do. Seeing my debt in writing, and being able to plan for it, gives me what I feel like is a lot of impetus and clarity to deal with it, finally, rather than just being scared of it.

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