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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Medicaid, and are thankfully no longer subjected to this specific version of the pink tax.
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.
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.
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!