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.