It’s Time to Make Some Sense

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This post is part of Women’s Money Week. Today’s the last day of the themed posts, as well as International Women’s Day. Visit the site to read different insights from women bloggers on the topic.

As the week is winding down, I wanted to share why I’ve participated in Women’s Money Week, both this year and in the past.

We’re bad about money.

Humans, in general, have some interesting blind spots when it comes to money. It’s not just a gendered issue, but since women are automatically playing a harder game because of our gender, improving our abilities to deal with money can help us level up faster. We can get a more even footing just by strengthening our financial understanding.

The more we talk about money, careers, and the other topics that directly impact our abilities to lead out own lives, the more tools we each have. There’s no one right way to lead your life, no matter your gender or other circumstances. But knowing the logic behind how other people have made their decisions (along with the direct results) means that we don’t constantly start from scratch.

Go Out of Your Way to Talk Dollars and Sense

Negotiation is a weak spot for most women, career-wise: there have been tons of studies that show women are less likely than men to negotiate in the first place, are more likely to be offered less initially, and are more likely to accept lower offers faster. Just knowing the realities of this situation tends to motivate women who prioritize their careers to look into ways to improve their negotiation skills. But that’s not enough to improve the situation.

I negotiate contracts for my business constantly. It’s not something that I adore doing, but it’s gotten easier for me because I just do it. I’m far more comfortable talking about money than I was when I first started working. And that’s the only real solution. We need to talk about numbers regularly. We need to practice negotiating, with as wide a variety of people as possible.

Not everyone will ever be completely comfortable with talking about money. That’s perfectly fine — money doesn’t have to be your favorite subject. But if you’re familiar with what the numbers hitting the table mean and your confident in your own abilities, you’ll still have a much easier time getting the money you are worth.

The Best Person to Manage Your Money is You

You have different priorities and goals than I do, and both of us are just as different from the rest of the world than we are from each other. So why would we ever leave decisions about the resources we need to reach those goals in someone else’s hands, particularly those people who just look at our ages and assign us a retirement date?

Letting someone else — or some automated formula — make the decision for each of us is an easy option, but not an effective one. I can’t count the number of people I know who expected 401(k)s and other retirement accounts to cover all of their expenses a few short years from now and have suddenly found that they have almost nothing on which to retire. That sort of gap is only going to get worse for younger generations, who can’t count on finding a job with health insurance, let alone retirement benefits.

Having a stable job that guarantees a salary for the next twenty years if you just keep showing up and working is a thing of the past. Whether you’re a freelancer or you’re looking for full-time employment, longer periods without work are the new normal. And that’s okay, as long as you’re willing to manage your own money with those income-less times in mind. The opportunities to live a normal life on a feast-or-famine income are surprisingly common, provided you know what you’re doing with your money and how to create more of it.

The hard part is getting the necessary knowledge. The only formal financial education I’ve ever had was a consumer economics class in high school. As I recall, we watched The Sandlot and learned how to balance a checkbook. I was lucky enough to have family members who were willing to talk real estate, investments, and entrepreneurship round little kids when I was growing up, but mostly, I’ve learned on my own. There’s no real alternative to going out and learning about finances on your own. It would be nice if we had access to great financial education in our schools, but it’s too late for many of us, leaving no alternative but to go out and do some learning on our own.

Another Year to Go

As Women’s Money Week winds down, it’s easy to just go on with your life. And that’s a perfectly valid option if you’re happy with where you’re at financially. But most of us aren’t, if only because we’d like to be earning a little more money. If that’s the case, seek out new ideas about finance and see if you can change some things in your own set up.

If nothing else, maybe you’ll have a good story of your own to share when the next Women’s Money Week rolls around.

Image by Flickr user Emma Brabrook

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