A New Take on Money: The Financial Advice You've Never Heard From 5 Powerful Women
In a world where women earn 79 cents for every dollar men make—and there’s an even bigger gap for women of color—why would you follow the traditional financial advice that created that gap in the first place?
For years, people have followed the same guidelines about money: focus on your retirement, never openly talk about your salary, be grateful for that cost of living raise. But things are changing. Women are gaining a more prominent presence on executive teams, starting more businesses, and reaching higher levels of financial success. And so, we need to do things a little differently.
Over my career, I’ve spoken with hundreds of powerful women who have different perspectives on success. Here’s their best advice for the future of our finances.
Start Talking About Money
Do you know how much your co-worker makes? Probably not. You may not even know what your best friend makes—because in general, people are afraid to talk about money. Especially in the workplace.
“We’ll talk about how much a purse costs; we’ll talk about how much we saved, but people don’t talk about how much they make,” said Brittany Hennessy, author and the VP of marketing at Carbon, when I interviewed her on my Facebook Watch show, Work It.
And that’s doing a huge disservice to women.
“When you’re silent about money, it allows women to be paid less,” Suze Orman, speaker, author, and personal finance expert shared with me. You may be getting paid less than the person sitting next to you—even if you’re actually doing more—but because we generally don’t talk about money, you don’t know it. “When you have the freedom to talk about money, the employer can’t play games.”
Be willing to talk about what you make, and encourage those around you to share, too. You’ll either end up with a better understanding of why others make more than you (due to someone’s level of education, experience, or other factors), or you’ll be empowered to make your case for more.
To Earn More, Build a Strong Personal Brand
You’ve probably never heard anyone say, “To earn more money, you should spend more of your time on Twitter.” Unless you’re a rising influencer, it’s easy to brush aside social media as a distraction from the real work that’s going to move your career forward.
But now, more than ever, a strong personal brand—including social media, thought leadership, and overall online presence—can increase your net worth.
“If someone wants to hire you and you’ve written a book, or have a lot of press, or are constantly on the Today Show about your industry, that makes you more valuable,” Hennessy explains, “because [the employer’s] star rises with yours.”
And that doesn’t only apply in the context of interviewing for a new job. If you’ve built your personal brand in the time that you’ve been at one company, but your salary doesn’t reflect that growth, you should absolutely bring it up to your employer. “You’re saying, â€˜I’m more important now than I was when you hired me, so you should be paying me more money,’” Hennessy says.
So make the effort to build your brand—and then use it as a bargaining chip.
Find a Money Mentor
Finances are usually something you keep between yourself, your immediate family, maybe a financial planner—once you’ve accumulated enough wealth to hire one.
That’s not the case anymore. At every phase of your life, you should have a money mentor—someone you can talk to about your finances, goals, and plans.
A money mentor can provide guidance, especially in professional scenarios that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for the advice of a financial planner. For example, when asking for a raise, “you always have to have somebody on your team,” explains Hennessy, “who can tell you if you’re being down on yourself or selling yourself short, but someone who can also tell you when your head’s a little too big.”
If you don’t know anyone personally who can be your money mentor, some institutions provide certified money coaches to have these conversations with you. “[They] will have a non-intimidating, real conversation about what you want to get out of your life, values, where you want to go,” says one CMO. Those things may not even be directly related to your finances, but they have some kind of financial tie, so you can and should discuss them.
Think About More Than Just Retirement
From orientation day at your very first job, you’ve heard about the importance of contributing to your retirement. And I’m not telling you to abandon ship on that! However, if retirement isn’t your No. 1 financial goal right now—or you have other financial goals in addition to retirement—it’s OK to plan for those, too.
Certified Financial Planner Michelle McKinnon told me that she’s seeing more millennials whose financial priorities are shifting.
“A lot of millennials want to work because they like what they’re doing,” she said, “so retirement—like golfing in Florida retirement—sounds miserable [to them]. So that isn’t really their end goal.” Knowing that, she’s able to help them work other things into their financial plans, such as vacations or other experiences.
It’s also worth having a dedicated “emergency” savings fund so that you can be comfortable shifting career gears when you need to. Just ask Sabrina Macias, vice president of global communications at DraftKings. She shares that she’s walked away from jobs that weren’t right without a Plan B. What made it easier? Having three to four months of her salary saved in the bank.
Ultimately, you have to be honest about what you want—even if it diverges from what you’re expected to want. If that means working toward buying a house, starting a company, or taking a trip around the world, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re planning for them.
Money seems like such a personal topic. But when you open up about your finances and financial goals, you and everyone around you will benefit. You’ll have the opportunity to earn more, save for what’s important to you, make smart financial decisions—and maybe even inch closer to closing that gender pay gap.
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The contents in this article are being provided for educational and informational purposes only. The information and comments are not the views or opinions of Union Bank, its subsidiaries or affiliates.