Women & Finances: Looking Through a Different Lens

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Recently, this blog turned five years old. Holy moly! Internet dinosaur!

In honor of this fifth birthday, I’ve written this post that sums up why I write.

Ever feel like personal finance looks different because you're a woman? Well, you wouldn't be wrong...

There’s a reason I write about women and money. Well, there’s a bunch of reasons, to be honest with you. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that financial literacy and the exercise thereof allows me to establish my own security, regardless of which sexual organs I have.

That being said, we’re far from living in a culture completely removed from sexism. Women, on top of having to master the same financial literacy as men, face unique challenges on their journey.

Women and Finances: A Unique Set of Challenges

Let’s start with the basics. In the realm of general, unadulterated personal finance, women are less likely to take the reins or become an equal partner when it comes to household financial management. This surprises me, as I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by financially-savvy women for a good portion of my life, but it is nonetheless true.

Why Getting Your Financial House in Order is Even More Important for Women

When we look at areas beyond basic household budgeting, such as investing, it’s important to know where we stand, too. If we continue to take a backseat, we’ll be in bad shape in the event of a divorce or the death of our spouse. The latter is much more common for women than men, as we tend to live longer, so we have to plan accordingly.

I’m also an unabashed advocate of having at least one individual financial account. Not everything has to be joint in a relationship. Divorce rates hover around 50% in this country, and failing to protect yourself with at least a marginal amount of savings that no one can legally take from you is like playing Russian Roulette with your future security….even if you’re madly, deeply in love and trust the living daylights out of your partner. Very few people walk down the aisle expecting they’ll end up in that fifty percent, yet about half of us do.

Career

From the second we enter the workforce, we face a gender pay gap. Many people blame that on the fact that we enter lower paying fields more often than men, or that we’re the ones that have to push a baby out of our bodies and will therefore be less valuable to a company. Neither is true.

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Just three years ago, there was a 5% difference in pay when you normed out for career choices across genders. When you looked at women in the same positions as men ten years out of college, that normed out difference rose to 12%. However, we do tend to enter fields such as education more often than men, so when we look at converting retirement accounts when we switch employers, there are more women looking at 403(b)s than their counterparts.

If we do decide to have children, there are precious few employers in this country that provide adequate maternity leave, even though a cost-benefit analysis would dictate that talent retention goes up and saves employers money when they provide a rational amount of flexibility.

Family culture isn't just about families; it's about holding onto valuable women who have choices.

Shoot, even the way we talk in the workplace can get us labeled as “bossy” or a b**** when the same language from males is considered assertive. Go too far the other way and you’ll get labeled as a pushover or not confident enough to handle your position when in all reality, one of the most persuasive male speakers in our history used language that we currently consider “feminine,” which we absurdly associate with “weakness.”

Family and Health

Up until a few years ago with the passage of the ACA, women collectively paid more than $1B more than men for health insurance. Today, we have different options from the Marketplace to Health Insurance Ministries, and are thankfully no longer subjected to this specific version of the pink tax.

tax credits for parents

 

That being said, it is still important to evaluate the level of benefits when it comes to maternity coverage when picking our health plans.

Once we have children, we’re subject to discrimination not just from the world, but from each other based on our decision to either continue work or stay at home with the children. Men who choose to stay at home with their children are subjected to the same scrutiny, but they can avoid it by remaining the primary breadwinner. Women are also judged more harshly for taking time off of work than men to attend to their children’s health and educational needs. Men achieve some type of sainthood for doing so, while women are judged for their decisions to procreate and work simultaneously.

food stamp fraud

I’m extremely fortunate that the father of my children is a loving, supportive partner, but that’s not the case for everyone. Often, when couples split women take care of the children, and all too often are left in dire financial straights because of the circumstances. When that happens, you’re more likely to need some type of welfare assistance, including food stamps. Unintended consequence? Despite doing the best you can for your kids, you’ll come under severe judgement for asking for the help you need to make sure they are healthy and cared for.

Going on food stamps is nothing to be ashamed of, and it definitely doesn’t only happen to single mothers or even to every single mother. But when  you’re in that situation, you’re more likely to have to put up with the erroneous stigma.

Women and Finances: Where We’re the Same

That being said, the overlap between women and finances doesn’t always come with a pink lining. All parents want to know how to raise their kids for less, how to utilize all the tax credits and how to teach them about money. In fact, the only two podcasts I’ve ever done have been on that subject. (Here and here if you want to listen.) While one was specifically for mothers, the other was discussed with a panel of both women and men.

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We all want to know how to travel for nothing, and how to invest in a way that won’t give us a migraine. Those of us who are self-employed don’t have a different tax code simply because at one point in our lives we were labeled “girl.” We all like to pontificate and try to parse out how much money plays a role in our ultimate raison d’etre.

Even though my site is purposefully called “Femme Frugality,” at one point in its life it had more male visitors than female. I attribute that not to the idea that content was off-point, but to the fact that good money sense is good money sense, regardless of gender.

(Not to say my opinion is infallible by any means, but the fact that others, female and male, have thought on it or been helped by it says that something must, in some small way, be working.)

This was and will always be a blog with a woman at its heart. A woman who faces challenges. A woman who sometimes fails. A woman who never stops trying to overcome, despite her own misgivings.

I am that woman, and I want to help you whether through a discussion that makes us all think or a money tip you’ve never heard before. I’m looking forward to the next five years.

What is your experience with womanhood and finances? Men, don’t be afraid to chime in. The fact that women are getting a hold on their money does not mean we’re angry at you or robbing you of your own financial independence!

 

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29 thoughts on “Women & Finances: Looking Through a Different Lens

  1. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    It is surprising to me that many women aren’t at least equal in the household financial management. I guess my mom played a strong role in our family household finances when I was growing up and I took her lead.

    Women are put in a particularly awkward position when it comes to work/family balance (and the criticism that will come no matter what). As a stay-at-home mom for the past 15 1/2 years, I can attest to this!

    Like you, I would love to be able to help more women get a hold of their finances through my blog. Thanks for this post! Valuable information here.

    Reply
    1. Femme Frugality

      When it comes to day to day, most studies say we handle things pretty equitably. But when it comes to more advanced financial concepts? Not so much, unfortunately.

      It’s so true…. Whether you stay home or work, it’s a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation as far as societal judgement goes. Keep on helping people! You’re awesome!

      Reply
  2. NZ Muse

    Most of the women I know are actually the awesome one with money and run the finances!

    I want to write a post on the challenges of being a female breadwinner – the system just does not work for us when it comes to having kids.

    Reply
    1. Femme Frugality

      Same here. I wonder if we tend to run in the same circles as a whole. And you should! Would be interesting to see a NZ perspective. You may be interested in that flexibility link…I was very lucky to enter a field dominated by strong women, so I got the flexibility I needed when I started out. Most people are not so lucky.

      Reply
  3. Aaron @IncomeHoncho

    It’s funny, my wife usually takes care of all our finances because i trust her and she’s also a finance analyst. I just think women are more naturally good with keeping tabs on things such as budgeting and paying the bills on time but that’s just me.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I don’t know about nature, but I do know a majority of the people reading this blog feel the same way. It tends to be the more advanced concepts beyond day-to-day budgeting etc that our gender doesn’t tune into, at least from studies and financial planners I’ve consulted. Mad kudos to your wife…while I do like the idea of equal partnership, a woman being confident enough to take the reins is exactly the kind of thing I’m trying to percolate!

      Reply
  4. Pia @ Mama Hustle

    I was surprised by that too, but I realized I shouldn’t be. My mom handled all of our day-to-day “books” – she’d enter every transaction she made in a giant notebook. But my dad was the one who managed the credit cards and big debts (mortgages, car loans), so she never got a view at the big picture. As a result, when we had to drastically downsize at one point, it came as a complete surprise to her.

    In our household, I took complete control of all finances about 6 months ago. My husband is perfectly happy not even knowing what’s going on (though I try to keep him somewhat clued in), and I’m happy now that I know that our finances are being managed.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      EXACTLY. I think your mom’s story is very common. And that’s good that you’re keeping him clued in even if he doesn’t want to be…..future him will thank you for it!

      Reply
  5. Liz

    Great post! I was I guess in a way fortunate that my Mom played a strong role in running the household finances. I never thought I wouldn’t be capable or good at running the money in my home.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      This is totally not unique to being a woman, but I think sometimes when there are capable and generous-with–their-time people in our lives, it’s easy to let them take care of everything. Because it’s a lot easier to do it that way for everyone. Honestly, I can see that in a past relationship of mine. You’re rocking the finances, now, though, so she must have taught you well!

      Reply
  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Happy five years!

    There’s an interesting discussion about how equal parental leave / employment policies are actually benefiting men more than women and the point that frankly, we need to recognize that the process of having children has disproportionately more impact on women than men, even for the most involved men, and policies should start reflecting that. I think it’s incredibly shortsighted to assume that men and women have the exact same needs and support to do childbearing and childbearing considering only one of us can actually bear the children and suffer the ills that come with pregnancy and giving birth. All that to say: we have come a long way but still have work to do and I’m glad you’re out here doing it too! Here’s to another five years!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      OMGosh I love this comment. Here’s what I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong. A few years ago, maternity leave policies in the tech sector started getting awesome. https://femmefrugality.com/another-reason-to-encourage-your-daughters-towards-the-maths-and-sciences/ Which is awesome, but it only serves a small portion of the population.
      The conversation I have heard around paternity leave originates from this same sector, which would make sense. They’ve got maternity leave not perfect, but better, so now they can tackle the issue of what fatherhood means in society. At least, their society.
      For the vast majority of Americans, women still can’t get enough paid time off to recover from the wounds that come with the very physical and mental process of child birth. In most of those sectors, I don’t hear the conversation around paternity leave. I’m still hearing conversations about paid sick leave, nonetheless maternity leave.
      I could be wrong, though. Maybe it’s currently a wider discussion than I’m aware of.

      Reply
      1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

        We don’t have NEARLY enough serious maternity leave, much less parental leave, but in academia where leave has been improved as a gender neutral policy, you can see how it benefits men over women: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/business/tenure-extension-policies-that-put-women-at-a-disadvantage.html?_r=0

        As someone pointed out, childbearing is not a sex-neutral event. Childrearing should be, and it was in our home, but I needed months after birth to recover. PiC pointed out time and again that he was pretty much totally unaffected that way since HE didn’t give birth, so he was more than happy to do more than half the work in the household.

        It’s truly absurd that women can’t even get enough paid time to heal and bond with the child before having to go back to work. For a country that keeps touting “family values” I have to wonder what family values their mothers so little. This has got to change!

        Reply
        1. femmefrugality Post author

          Crazy interesting article! And it makes total sense. You’d think policies would give extra time/support to women as, yes, the physical toll of pregnancy falls squarely on their shoulders. I’d argue that there’s often a mental toll that men don’t experience, as well. I had such a hard time recovering myself, and was lucky to be at a point in my life where I was able to take the time I needed. But I know most others are not so lucky and go back before their body is physically recovered because they flat out have to.

          I really hope things get better on the maternity leave front. The state of it here is just plain embarrassing. And it has such an unfathomably huge impact on family units.

          Reply
  7. RAnn

    I’m in my mid-50’s. My mother had full access to the family checkbook and as far as I know could buy what she wanted when she wanted. However, my father handled all the investing and told us kids that we were going to have to take care of our mother when he was gone (there was plenty of money, he meant just looking out for her and it). Turns out tht he was the surviving spouse. In our family, I handle the finances, though I try to keep my husband informed and get buy-in from him. I’m just more interested in investments than he is.

    As far as the pay gap, I work for a law firm and have worked in the legal field for 30 years. Since I’ve started, the number of male and female baby associates hired by law firms has been pretty equal. Those who were baby associates when I started are no moving into firm managment, and are mostly male. The women have, for the most part, not moved up that far? Why? I don’t know about all cases but I know that women tend not to want to work as long hours, they don’t have the network of clients and generally approach work differntly than the men who move up. Many men didn’t move up either and the ones who did often have personal lives that are a mess, but they are financially successful. Maybe women have other goals.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I think that has more to do with the acceptance of traditional gender roles than women not wanting to devote more time to their careers. As more men chip in, I’m hoping that bias both from the outside world and from the pressure we unconsciously put on ourselves, disappears. If a woman wants to take on that role and values it more than her career, AWESOME. Seriously. But if she doesn’t, and wants to progress in the workplace, that’s equally awesome and shouldn’t be dictated by societal bias.

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I know, right? I need to look up the 2015/6 numbers. Hoping they got better, but not really too hopeful.

      Reply
  8. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    Congrats on 5 years! I hope one reason you have so many male visitors on the blog is not only the solid financial advice, but that many men want to see financial equality, because of their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, and because it’s right. Some of us want to understand all the issues and do what we can to improve them. Of course change starts at home and in my household, we’re equally responsible for the financial tasks and decisions.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So much thanks! And I love your perspective! Thank you for being one of those men! In the past when I’ve posted like this, I get comments from my male readers that they’re afraid haha. I’m writing about the same thing, but when it gets blatantly applied to women it apparently comes off as anger rather than empowerment. And empowering the women in our lives is something that’s hard to argue with.

      Reply
  9. Prudence Debtfree

    “Womanhood and finances” absolutely did not go together in the deep recesses of my subconscious for far too long. As a self proclaimed feminist, I wanted to be equal to my future spouse and equal to my male colleagues, but I did nothing proactive about my finances either in single or married life until we were in a big mess. I don’t understand how there could have been such a gap between my perception of myself as a “modern woman” and my very outdated “leave-financial-matters-to-the-man” default. Thank you for being a friend to women as we navigate and develop our financial lives. Your post points out that there is plenty of judgment for women to deal with – whether for staying home with the kids or not; choosing to climb the ladder or not . . . – but there is no judgment on this site.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      This is one of the biggest compliments you could have given me, Ruth. Thank you…sincerely.

      Reply
  10. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    I really appreciate this message! I am so blessed to have a husband who has always expressed how important my opinions on financial matters (all matters, really) are to him. We each have our strengths & weaknesses and can challenge one another. I know this is not always the case though, so thank you for sharing all this research and a passionate case for women’s financial health.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      So glad you guys have a good thing going! And no problem…this is actually a compilation of some of my fave posts from the past five years, so the research end was mostly already done. It’s definitely something I’m passionate about!

      Reply
  11. Julie Wood

    Very interesting thoughts about Women and Finances. It is so important that a women rely on herself and take control of her finances and not sacrifice for her partner because she can go down the tubes if she does not save and have money for herself. Like you said divorce is at 50%, and we need to be savvy with our money and be careful. Save for a rainy day and for unexpected circumstances.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      EXACTLY. It’s not about not trusting your partner; it’s about loving yourself enough to insure yourself against the worst case scenario. And if you are in the 50% that stays together…awesome! You can still use that money to help support the entire family should a need arise, or, even better, you retire together.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Julie! Hope to see more of you!

      Reply
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