I’m sure many of us know that men and women are very different by nature. And there’s nothing wrong with that, we just do things differently. And there is no exception when it comes to money. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women of color in the United States experience the nation’s persistent and pervasive gender wage gap most severely.
Black women are typically paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. The gaps are a result of sexism and white supremacy in the United States and how our country systematically devalues women of color and our labor. Unfortunately, critical money errors can impact women more acutely. Why, you ask? For many reasons. One is because of missed time in the workforce due to pregnancy and childrearing. And two, because of the gender wage gap. Gender-based pay discrimination has been illegal since 1963 with the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. But wage discrimination remains alive and well, particularly for women of color.
Mistake #1: Waiting for our spouses to get on board before getting started
This particular mistake is one that I consistently encounter over and over again amongst women. I’m often asked the following questions:
- What do I do if he won’t budget?
- What do I do if he doesn’t want to pay off debt?
- How can I do this on my own?
The biggest advice that I give to women when I’m presented with these questions is this, just get started exactly where you are. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great if you and your spouse are able to operate as a unit when it comes to your money. If you’re moving in tandem, you’ll likely make progress faster. But let’s not get it twisted, you don’t require anyone else’s validation or permission to start managing your money better. If you’re a stay-at-home spouse that doesn’t work outside of the home, you can still make an impact without your spouse’s buy-in. As women, we have a great deal of influence over the buying decisions in the home. One of the easiest budget categories to tackle is the food budget. You likely do most of the shopping (and the cooking), regardless of whether you work outside the home or not.
So you can start right there. Begin by shopping the weekly deals at your local grocery store. You could start to meal planning. You can also stock up on sale items and stock your pantry and deep freezer when the prices are right. If you do work outside of the home and you earn a paycheck, challenge yourself to start saving incrementally with each paycheck, even if it’s only $20. Sometimes the best way to get hubby on board is to move in silence and lead by example. I realized this a couple of years ago in my marriage and it gave me so much peace of mind!
What I’ve discovered in my own relationship is that my husband is consistently three to five years behind wherever it is that I am trying to go. I don’t say this to demean or degrade my husband, but it’s an observation I’ve made after being together for over two decades. And this is not only evident with money decisions, but also in our philosophies about life. Maybe your husband will down the line. Maybe he won’t, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting started with improving your approach to money.
Mistake #2: Not carving out time to manage your money
Prioritizing the time to spend with your money is critical. I like to call this ‘dating your money’. When we’re dating someone that we like, we spend a lot of time together in deep conversation, sharing meals together, and gazing into each other’s eyes. Now, I fully realize that money is an object, not a person, but I hope you catch my drift. To get better with our money we must be intimately acquainted with it. We need dedicated time to create and review the budget, to track expenses, and to craft short and long-term goals.
As women, we lead exceptionally busy lives. We may be raising kids, managing households, juggling work responsibilities, nurturing relationships, and trying to stay on top of exercise and our physical appearance. While juggling all of this in tandem, it’s no wonder that money management falls to the bottom of the list or gets placed on the proverbial back burner. But before you know it, you look up, your kids and grown and gone, and your financial life is in shambles.
So start dating your money. To ‘date your money’ simply means to have a specific date and time each week that you sit down and explore and go over your finances in detail. Nobody else is going to do it for us, we have to carve out that time in our own schedules to make it happen.
Mistake #3: Not prioritizing self-care
Amongst women, there is this misunderstanding about what self-care actually is. Thinking of self-care might bring about visions of luxurious spa days spent wrapped in a terry cloth robe while getting massages, manis, and pedis. Although self-care might look like this on occasion, it’s certainly not a sustainable model. And it’s expensive. Real self-care is actually mundane but highly effective. Real self-care looks like not being in a hurried rush every day. Self-care looks like making time for an in-home workout or take a quiet stroll around the block while looking at spring flowers blossom.
Real self-care looks like getting sufficient sleep and not scarfing down your meals in two minutes so that you can race off to the next activity. Real self-care looks like taking 15 minutes in the morning to pray, drink a cup of mint tea, and journaling. The little things that we do to nurture ourselves will pay massive dividends in our spiritual, physical, mental, and financial health. I’m not ashamed to say that some of THE dumbest financial moves I made were during times of extreme stress and physical or emotional burnout. So the way I see it, self-care is good for your bottom line. Give yourself permission to discard the Superwoman cape and stop taking pride in burning the candle at both ends. Your future self and your money will thank you for it.
Mistake #4: Being overly intimidated by investing
According to the White Paper, High Net Worth Men vs. Women, women to be more conservative than men when it comes to investing. And women are less likely to be self-directed, meaning that we tend to prefer outside help as opposed to the DIY approach to investing. I get it. Investing can be scary so it’s natural to have some trepidation and fear about it. This is especially true if you’ve never seen it modeled. I grew up in a lower-income, blue-collar family. Needless to say, I didn’t learn about stocks and mutual funds while sitting around my dinner table at night. I had to be proactive about filling in the gaps in my knowledge with reading books and seeking out mentors-in-my-head online that I could model my efforts after.
Being afraid of investing isn’t a mistake. Failing to do-it-scared is the mistake. If you really want to set yourself and your family up for a stable financial future and build generational wealth, you must outpace inflation by investing your money for long-term growth. If you’re intimidated by investing, start small. Begin with your workplace account. The best place to start is by contributing to your workplace 401k or 403b. Next, start a Roth IRA. Also make a commitment to actually opening up your 401k statements, combing through them, and see if there are words that you don’t understand. Then look them up and familiarize yourself with the lingo. As you become more comfortable, you’ll be able to expand, get aggressive, and explore more advanced investing strategies if you choose.
If you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines and want to start investing today, join the 4-Day Investing for Beginners Challenge. It’s totally free to join.
Mistake #5: Underestimating longevity
Women outlive men in almost every society and culture around the world. And as such, we are much more likely to outlive our money. Remember when I said women literally can’t afford to mismanage money? This is why. Women must take advantage of time by beginning to properly manage our money as early as possible. Don’t let those critical builder years, our 20s, 30s, and 40s pass you by without taking the opportunity to command your money.
Ladies, please stop waiting for the perfect moment because it never will be. Stop waiting for somebody else’s permission. Take that authority take that power into your own hands by starting today.
Let me know which of these five mistakes resonates with you the most.
Which one do you need to focus on over the next 60-90 days?