As little girls, we grow up thinking that there is a Prince Charming out there who will sweep us away and take great care of us for the rest of our lives. That one day, we will hopefully not have to work again, can stay home and take care of the kids, and live happily ever after. Although this is a viable and good option for some women, this is not the case for all women. I'm tired of seeing women hope that this will happen to them some day and then feel disappointed when this doesn't occur. We live in a world where more women are getting higher education every day. Women are breaking the glass ceiling in their workplace and are paving the way to CEO positions. However, some women are still waiting for their rich Prince Charming to come along and rescue them from having to work any more. This sounds great if there were in fact millions of not only rich men, but rich, handsome, generous, active and loyal men out there. You and I know though that this is far and few between.
Credit Image: Capt' Gorgeous on Flickr
With the economy in shambles and the unemployment rate at an all-time high, it's becoming increasingly difficult, especially in major cities, to only have one partner working and supporting an entire family alone. Aside from the economic factors affecting the current modern family, women need to consider other realistic situations that could influence a woman's future.
My friend opened my eyes at an early age sharing her experience about her family. She said you can't rely on that Prince Charming fairy tale, because what will happen when that doesn't come true? How will you support your kids if you do get married and have kids, but for some reason the relationship between you and your husband does not work out? Her father left her mother when she was really young, and her mother had to find a way to support four kids on her own. They had some very rough times trying to make ends meet, but her mother tried her best with several jobs. My friend realized then that she needed to prepare herself for any and every possible situation in the future by ensuring she not only achieved a good career but continued to work and save for herself and her childrens' future even after marriage.
Another friend recently reawakened this somewhat dormant realization. She told me she wanted to continue working because she didn't want to lose her power. She felt if she let her husband support both of them, he would have control over all the finances in the family and the most say as to how to spend the money made. If she had no money of her own, every purchase she made would be monitored and or scrutinized. Additionally, she had a few married friends who depended 100% on their husbands and when their husbands decided to have an affair, they felt trapped and powerless to get out of the situation, especially because kids were involved. They felt powerless because they didn't know how they would support their kids let alone themselves on their own. Of course, I'm not saying that this is how it is or has to be with all women who do not work and have their husbands support them. However, its a very realistic and rational reason for wanting to continue working.
Based on my own experience, I always worked ever since I was 14 years old. I come from a family that was not wealthy by any means. Therefore to be able to afford some better clothes and fun things that kids normally get without any problems from their parents, I worked my butt off. I studied hard in school, because I knew I wanted a better future for myself and a good job. However, I still had this Prince Charming fairy tale in my head thinking I would quit my "good job" after I got married and had enough savings for us to start a family. Well, I did find someone my last year of college, and we married soon after we graduated.
Once we were married, he felt he had total ownership of me and could treat me however he pleased because we were married, and to him that meant that we were going to be together forever no matter what. I also thought I wanted to be married forever no matter what, but I learned that sometimes this is not always the best decision, especially if the person you expected to spend the rest of your life is verbally abusive. Fortunately, I did have my job and great family support, which gave me the strength and power to leave a verbally abusive relationship.
During the marriage, though, we were pretty good financially speaking. I recall we decided to have a joint checking and savings account. However, having a joint checking account did have its cons, because everything was scrutinized to the nth degree. Also, because he made more than I did, he felt I shouldn't spend as much as he did on clothes and shoes. Therefore I wore the same boots for three years. Oh, how my girlfriends and mother hated my shoes, lol. Lots of things were not necessarily fair, but I was young, naive, and wanted to make the marriage work.
Well, now after listening to many different experiences that women have had with respect to having a "Prince Charming" or not-so Prince Charming support them, I want to encourage others to become your own hero, or rather Financial Superwoman.
1. Use your superhuman strength and reach the top of your career or be your own boss.Women these days are breaking through glass ceilings at work every day. If you haven't already realized this, it is possible to have a great career, be a mom, and have a successful marriage. Many of my bosses these past couple of years have been female directors or senior vice presidents. They have lots of responsibility at work, but they also have 2 or 3 kids at home and are happily married. They manage to take days off of work to be there for their children's school trips or leave early from work to make it to their child's swim lesson. We woman are strong enough, smart enough, and are great at multi-tasking. We do rule the world :)
Another viable option, with the possibility of greater returns, is to be your own boss. My sister is a stay-at-home mom, but after homeschooling and raising two great girls until 4th and 6th grade respectively, she opened up her own company with the help of her husband. She is a successful and very resourceful business woman always reminding me that where there is a will there is a way.
2. Always have your own checking/savings account. The happiest women that I have spoken to have their own checking/savings account, even when they are married. The most ideal set-up is one in which there is a joint checking account for joint expenses and a joint savings account for joint goals and vacations and a separate checking/savings account for your own needs. This is important because we as women do require more to take care of ourselves, but men don't understand this since they don't do as much for themselves. The media and society is always saying that you need to stay in shape and to not let yourself go even though you are married, but this seems like a difficult task when you feel that there is no money set aside for yourself to get that gym membership, moisturizer, hair cut ... or in my case, new boots haha.
3.Remember that the ability to support yourself is powerful. If you are single and saving and paying down your bills on your own, it can be a bit stressful, but you are doing it!! You are supporting yourself! If you are going to school and pushing through tedious school work in hopes of a better future for yourself, keep going, you are doing a great job and will be able to support yourself soon enough. If you are renting your own apartment, you are supporting yourself! If you have bought your own condo/house, car, or at the very least have bought something for you or someone close to you, you are supporting yourself! All of the above are amazing feats and recognizing that back in the '50s and '60s it was uncommon for women to do this on their own, comes to show you that we as woman have come a long way and are capable of so much more. Gifts from men are nice and it's great to not have to spend your own money, but the thought of you being able to buy your own things or pay down your own debt is a very strong and powerful concept. Think about it and indulge in your fortitude!
4. Make sure to have an emergency fund. With the unemployment rate ranging between 8-9%, its a tough time to be unemployed. Many of my friends have been unemployed and have experienced having to live on credit cards and the like. The first thing they did when they got jobs was start an emergency fund. I thought this was odd, because I figured they would want to pay off all their credit card bills first since the interest rate was probably higher than their savings rate. However, all of those who have gone through such a tough experience have said, "We have experienced living on credit cards while unemployed and it was terrible. We never want to do that again. I rather pay the minimum on my credit card with interest of approx $13 - $18 a month and build an emergency fund in case any lay-offs occur again in the future. Life without cash can be very hard." Once a reasonable amount was saved, then they would focus on paying down all the debt incurred. I realized paying a bit of a premium to ensure some cash was available for emergencies was worth the price. Especially when you consider the cost of the premium is about a relatively cheap dinner or pricey lunch once a month.
5. Make sure to invest in your retirement If your company offers 401K, make sure to contribute at least up to the max % your company will match you. You may think "Oh, I will contribute later when I am getting a better salary," but you will be missing out on the free money that your company is giving you. Plus the longer your money is invested, the higher chance of return you will get. If your company does not offer a 401K, highly consider opening a Roth IRA. The years fly by and retirement will be here before you know it. You need to make sure to take care of yourself for the future, too. Social Security alone will barely be able to support you, so you need to make sure that you have some money saved away. You'll be surprised how a small amount saved each month will add up quickly for your retirement.
6. Read investment books and watch news related to the markets. When it comes to the stock market or thinking of investments, many people back away or rather run away because it seems like it is too hard or too much work. It's not as hard as it may seem, but the key is definitely to understand what is happening. Knowledge is power. So get to your nearest library or your nearest bookstore and browse through some of the investment books out there. There are tons of books out there, and although this may seem overwhelming at first, each author connects to the reader in a different way. Therefore there is an investment book out there just for you that will really help you understand how the stock market works, how to identify different types of investments, and trends that are occurring.
Once you understand the basics, start watching investment shows or read the Wall Street Journal to get information on how companies are doing. The stock market and investing are not new concepts, however they are becoming more and more prevalent in our society. We are no longer able to rely on pensions where we know we are going to get a set return. There are no longer savings accounts with rates of 7-10% or higher. We as women need to realize that we are headed in a new direction when it comes to managing our money, and we can not be left behind! We need to get up to speed with how to invest so as to make the most of our lives and our futures.
7. Create a budget spreadsheet. Lastly, we need to monitor our money. It surprises me that not many individuals do this. If you are familiar with Excel, create a monthly budget file where you type in how much you make, your monthly bills, and a set amount for spending money and savings. Don't forget to pay yourself first (ie save). If Excel is not your best friend, you can also create a budget just using a regular composition notebook and jotting down each month your monthly income and expenses. Make sure that if you will be spending money on your credit card to also jot this down in the notebook since the out-of-sight/out-of-mind mentality will make you think you have more funds available then you actually do.
Hope I have helped some women feel more empowered about themselves and inspired them to become their own financial superhero. We need to learn from our friends, family, and the past and become stronger, smarter, and more independent financially. As a single female, once you recognize how much you have accomplished on your own, you will have a higher self esteem. Being your own financial superhero will allow you to feel more secure with whomever you choose to spend your life with knowing that you have secured your own future. As a married woman, becoming your financial superhero will give you a greater sense of freedom in your relationship to take care of yourself. It will also add to your self esteem because it will allow you to contribute more as a partner, and perhaps have more funds for vacation and other fun activities.
More from living