3 Ways Women Can Empower Themselves Financially
Plus, how to recognize and stop the avoidable hidden fees and ‘zombie payments’ (we’ve all been paying) from slowly draining you dry.
On a recent girl’s night out my two best friends and I gathered for dinner and engaged in our usual discussion about work, politics, culture, new things we’ve discovered that we’re loving, and updates on what’s happening in our lives, which were nothing out of the ordinary. But on this night, a new topic found its way into our conversation: money.
One of my friends had started a new job and the topic of savings arose; suddenly we all tensed up. “How much have you saved up?” I asked, feeling as if I was crossing a forbidden boundary. “I’m not telling you, it’s embarrassing.” We quickly changed topics. For a few moments we were completely incapable of talking candidly, as we have for the past 16 years.
Usually nothing is off the table with us: sex, health problems, relationship concerns, anything, no matter how sordid, icky, or complicated, we discuss it – often quite proudly with onlookers listening in. But money is a sore spot. We’re taught at a very young age to avoid the topic: “Never ask how much someone makes,” said, well, everyone. As women, it’s just not something we discuss, unless it’s somehow related to who we’re dating or our shopping habits.
Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it.
But this is how a patriarchy operates — it’s designed to keep women oppressed by keeping them poorer (and thereby giving them less options and freedom) than men. Part of that is paying women less for the same work, charging ‘luxury tax’ on things like tampons, charging women higher rates for just about everything from haircuts to healthcare, and making talking about money, salary, and savings taboo for women. Together, as woman who want equal rights and freedoms, we must empower each other to open up about money and regain control, so that we can have power over our finances and future.
Seriously — It’s time to start talking about money! Come on — You can admit it. You love money. I mean really — who doesn’t?! We all want more of it.
Today, women account for 52% of the world’s population and influence 75% of all purchases. Women worldwide represent the main source of income for 30% of homes, and 48% of female workers contribute half — or more than half — of the household income. Yet for every one female millionaire, there are four men to rain on her parade. What gives?
From childhood we are taught that while we shouldn’t discuss money, going shopping (ie. lowering our bank account and putting our money into the pockets of mostly male-owned corporations) is the way to get over a breakup, bond with girlfriends, or simply spend a Saturday. And male-written fairy tales like Cinderella teach girls that men are the moneymakers and women are the booty shakers, so to speak. Through adulthood, shows like “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire” give us the idea that catching the man means catching the cash.
But forget marriage! There are better ways to gain financial freedom rather than marrying a rich old man. Besides, if it’s not really your money, then you still don’t have financial freedom. So many women are all too willing to hand everything over to their husband — and when he leaves, so does their financial security. And then there’s the issue of your self-respect. Oh yeah, that.
Life is fickle. Circumstances beyond your control could rapidly change your life, whether it’s divorce, death, pregnancy, losing your job, needing to move, unexpected bills, etc. (Heck, Trump could take over the USA and rename it to ‘The Best-Ever Really-Big Ultimate Republic of Trump’! Stranger things have happened — or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Handmaid’s Tale!) Anyhow, there are a lot of good reasons for women to be financially prepared.
I get that learning about money management sounds a lot like homework (ick), and that financial stuff and investments can be… well… kinda intimidating. Beyond the fact that it’s all tediously complex, I, like most people, have to resist the tendency to tune out when my husband starts talking about investing in securities, the stock market, or other income earning assets. Without the help of a great financial advisor, making investments can be a daunting task. But luckily, these aren’t the only kind of investments that can help to secure your financial future.
Many women, at every level of success, have a very distant, unattached feeling towards money, coupled with a very personal anxiety. And eventually this feeling catches up to us.
Here are some ideas to help you take back the power:
Use financial companies that put modern women first
We’ve all gotten that credit or debit card we were going to use to “build credit” or “cover emergency expenses,” only to use it to splurge on items we just had to have. Those slightly-over-budget OTK boots? Check. That Equinox membership we almost never use? Check. That $40 lipstick that’s probably poisoning us? Check.
But while we knew we would have to pay some fees or interest on these purchases, what we didn’t know is that we would be charged a tiny fortune in hidden “service” and “luxury fees.” They add up — fast! This is money that belongs to us but is being taken from us without our knowledge because many banks and credit card companies have not been up front with us about it.
But this is just one example. There are literally dozens of other examples of avoidable hidden fees from banking products and services we are buying or signing up for that are being taken—some might say stolen—from us. The average adult in the U.S. is paying nearly $1,000 in these types of hidden fees every year that are charging us without our knowledge. And if you remember my earlier example, saving those fees could add up to over half a million dollars by the time you retire. That’s right!
These hidden fees are being taken out in everything from the credit cards we get to the bank plans we sign up for, the (supposed) “one-time purchase” (which lock you into “zombie” payments) to app fees and more. In other words, there is money being taken from you right now, as you read this article, that you’re not aware of. But the key is, these hidden fees are avoidable if we’re smart about protecting ourselves and managing our money.
Now, before you go into an “eyes-glaze-over” phase on me, hear me out girl.
Here’s how can you avoid letting hidden fees run you dry: By choosing your financial services providers very carefully. My favorite bank is Radius Bank. They’re an online and mobile bank that is all about empowerment and transparency. They don’t charge hidden fees — instead, they give you interest, 1% cash back on purchases, plus unlimited worldwide ATM fee reimbursements! Yowza! Plus, they empower women with online video courses, and have cool, built-in budgeting features.
They also have a mobile app that allows you to quickly send money to anyone, turn your bank/credit card on or off remotely, add geo restrictions, set spending caps, see your budget, get alerts, make mobile payments, and more. Misplaced your card for the upteenth time? No worries! Just switch it off in the app until you find it. Prettttyyy cool! And it only takes 5 minutes to open an account online.