A lot of times in the personal finance community we hear stories from those who come from very middle-class backgrounds. That’s all well and good, but with an increasing wealth gap in our country, there are very real and important stories that come from those whose struggles are even more dire.
Today, Alexa Mason of Single Moms Income joins us to kick off a new, weekly Friday series on women’s money issues in honor of Women’s Money Week. Alexa’s story is an important and inspiring, and reminds us that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people or their character simply because of their economic status. Please use the hashtag #WMWeek17 when sharing this story.
Society likes to put people in boxes. It’s natural, I suppose. If you’re honest with yourself I’m sure you can think back to a time or two (or a hundred) where you’ve looked at someone and immediately made an assumption without knowing a thing about the person. And you can bet people do the same when they look at you.
The problem is when you’re constantly stereotyped and put into a box you can start to feel like that’s where you belong. Breaking out of that box and not feeling like you need to meet societal expectations is one of the most difficult, yet most powerful things you can do for yourself. Especially when it comes to your financial life.
Taking Back the Power
After getting a divorce and moving in with my Dad I was determined to get a place of my own as soon as I possibly could. Not earning much or having much money in savings, my Dad tried talking me into purchasing a trailer and putting it on a lot he owned.
At first, I wouldn’t do it. Not because it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do financially but because of the stigma associated with living in a trailer. I was embarrassed.
Instead I went to the bank and tried to buy a house. I couldn’t get approved for much and made offers on two houses that I didn’t even like just because they were in my price range. Both offers fell through and I was back to square one.
After some soul searching I took my Dad’s advice and decided to buy a trailer. I was ready to get off the rollercoaster I was on – I was going to completely ignore what everyone else thought and do what I knew was right. This was my first step into changing the way I thought about money and breaking free from what was “acceptable” to society.
This turned out to be one of the best financial decisions I ever made. For the next couple of years my girls and I were happy to call our trailer home. And after working on my mindset even more I was able to make huge strides.
I worked hard and ended doubling my income in just a couple years’ time. Since then I’ve been able to build real financially stability and it all started with the way I thought about money.
Money is Important
When you think about money I’m not sure that mindset is the first thing that pops in your head. It was through the trailer experience that I really understood how my thinking was holding me back. And I’m not alone, either.
Over the past four years I’ve interacted with hundreds of women who were only held back by their mindset – just like I was. I’ve also seen the statistics that prove this.
- 1 in 3 women lives in or on the brink of poverty
- 3 out of 5 women over the age of 65 cannot pay for their basic monthly needs
- The median earnings for women is $638 per week compared to $798 per week for men – a 20% difference
- Women set lower financials goals – a retirement study showed that women, on average, aimed to save $200,000 while men set their goal at $400,000
What Can You Do About It?
When I first started my blog I never thought it would one day be my full-time job. Instead I was determined to prove that as a then-single mom I could make it on my own. I wanted other people who had been in my situation to know that they could make it too.
If you can relate and are feeling trapped by your circumstances here’s what you can do:
Ignore Expectations – Again, one of the biggest parts of improving your financial life is doing what needs to be done – regardless of what other people think.
If you need food stamps to help with groceries while you’re improving your financial situation then get them. If you need to downgrade your housing in order to get ahead – do it. Forget what other people think and do what you know you need to do.
Stay Away From Debt – Unless you’re taking on a mortgage (and are prepared for that) or getting a modest car loan, stay away from debt. Don’t use your credit card to pay for Christmas, don’t buy furniture on a payment plan and most definitely, do not go to a payday lender.
Do everything you can to avoid debt.
Make Strong Goals – After I bought the trailer my next goal was to build financial stability before making any other decision. I set the goal to save $10,000. It took me almost two years but I didn’t stop until I got there. After that I moved onto to the next goal.
Make goals to improve your financial situation – pay off debt, save money, buy a house, etc.
Earn More Money – Earning more money has strangely been one of the hardest mindset shifts for me. Coming from a small town where wages are below the national average I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my income could be whatever I wanted it to be. But now I truly believe that.
If you need to earn more money the opportunities are endless. You can go back to school, start a business, or find an online job. (If you decide to start a business or find an online job start on the side, pretty please. It takes time to build those things up.)
If you need to earn more money know that you can. It won’t happen overnight but it can definitely happen.
Take Pride in What You Have Done and Can Do
At the end of the day money is important. The lack of money can make you feel trapped, depressed and affects all other areas of your life. Luckily, you can take back the power.
Start believing in yourself, make the changes necessary and be proud of where you’ve come from and what you’ve accomplished.