Given the non-stop political coverage in the US right now about immigrants’ and other groups’ rights, I’ve been thinking a lot about women’s rights and women’s issues lately. Even more so when I recently read an article that half of women married or in relationships have a “Plan B” man ready to call if their current relationship doesn’t work out. This got me thinking about how much women rely on men as their back-up plans. It could be that the women surveyed were fully independent and wanted a man only for a romantic relationship, but how many of those women had on a Plan B man in order to have financial security?
I’ve seen in my own life that women can end up in difficult life situations, often through no fault of their own. I know a stay-at-home mom whose husband lost his job and the family struggled when he was unable to find a job for over a year. I’ve read about women who were blindsided by their husbands’ requests for divorce and others whose husbands became disabled, leaving them struggling to support their families.
You’ve probably seen, heard, or experienced some of these life-changing events in your own life or in the lives of those you know. You may have a great marriage now or you may be single and financially killing it, but no one knows what the future holds. The best way to prevent yourself from ending up in one of the above situations, or even thinking about needing on a Plan B man, is to prepare yourself financially for the future.
Take a look at these facts and statistics:
1) In 2015, women working full-time in the US were paid 80% of what men were paid. Women typically earn less than men.
2) Education is not a solution to the wage gap. Women increase their earnings with more education, but continue to earn less than men.
3) Women earn less than men over their lifetimes. Women are more likely to be out of the workforce for a number of reasons including to stay at home with their children or take care of elderly parents. This affects the amount they contribute to their retirement benefits, employment benefits, and Social Security benefits.
4) Women are more likely to be single parents than men. In 2016, women headed almost 83% of single-parent households, while men headed approximately 17% of single-parent households.
5) Single mothers earn about two-thirds as much as single fathers.
6) Women tend to live longer than men. In the US, life expectancy was 81.2 years for women and 76.5 for men in 2015. Women also tend to marry younger than men, meaning women are more likely to outlive their spouse than men are in old age.
7) Women are more likely to live in poverty than men in old age. Women age 75-79 are three times more likely to live below the poverty level than men of the same age.
8) Women are more likely to report that Social Security is their biggest source of income (50% of women to 38% of men). And who knows what Social Security what that will look like in 20 or 50 years?
9) Women tend to be less financially literate than men.
These are some sad but true statistics. Although they may not apply to you, the general trends and data cannot be ignored. We women have higher hurdles overcome to finish financially on par with men.
Recent events have also brought attention to the fact that women face gender-specific obstacles in the workplace and in life every day. In January, I attended the Women’s March in San Francisco. Women make up more than half the population of the US, yet we still have to fight so hard for the same rights and treatment as men, as you can see from the statistics above. I’ve seen this as well in my own work life. When I graduated from college, my first job was at a law firm while I decided whether or not to pursue law school. From my own estimation, probably about 90% of the secretaries and support staff of the law firm were women, while 90% of the partner attorneys were men. Of the few female partners at that office, some worked part-time to accommodate having a family. I’m sure what I observed is not unusual.
More recently, Susan J. Flower, a former Uber engineer, posted an article about the discrimination she faced while working at Uber last year. She states that she faced sexual harassment by a male superior and he was protected by HR. She was denied transfer to another team due to a good performance review that was changed to a negative one after the official review was over and she had not been told about it. She was even suggested by a female HR employee to be the problem in all these events, having been the one common factor in everything she reported to HR. On top of this, Fowler stated that only 3% of the 150 engineers on site reliability engineer teams were women by the time she left Uber.
Another story in the news lately is that of Sterling Jewelers Inc., parent company of Kay Jewelers and Jareds. The company is facing is a class-action lawsuit from female employees who stated that they suffered wage discrimination. They also reported sexual harassment and being passed over for promotions due to being female. Don’t even get me started on the overpricing and poor value of jewelry of many mall jewelry stores. This is a frugal living blog, after all. I do think your money would be better spent elsewhere, even if it is on jewelry.
The two public examples above may be extreme cases of gender-discrimination, but combined with the statistics given above, it’s clear that women face obstacles to earn and achieve on the same level as men. Susan Fowler above had the skills and means to find a job with another company just a year after joining Uber, but one woman cited in the Sterling Jewelers Inc. lawsuit stated that she didn’t quit because she needed the job. While no one deserves the harassment they encounter, having control of your finances gives you the chance to leave a job or relationship that is not right for you. So ladies out there, start planning to take control of your own future today. If you are already on your way, keep at it!
Here are some ways to take action:
Put yourself first. This can be as small as taking 15 minutes for yourself each day to meditate, go for a run, or anything else you want to do. Take care of yourself because a happier, healthier you is going to do better at other areas of life.
Keep a budget.
Set aside savings for yourself each month. Even $25 a month adds up on the long-run.
If you have a partner in your life, make sure you’re compatible on finances. Find a partner who shares the same goals for you as you do for yourself.
Consider a spousal IRA to increase retirement savings.
Take on a side job or start your own business. I’ve known women who do direct sales and some who sell their photography online. Others have turned their hobby blogs into full-time incomes. The earnings from a side job may seem like pennies now, but that income is all yours.
Keep improving your financial literacy. There is a lot of information about there from websites, financial planners, books, blogs, etc.
Make a plan for your future. If you’re 30 now and you know that you want to buy a home, have three children, and retire by 55, calculate what that’s going to cost and brainstorm options to get you there.
Finally, I hope you’ll forgive me the title of this post. The many twenty-something and thirty-something-year-old women I know are not thinking of finding a man as a Plan A or a Plan B to being financially stable in life. A lot of us work full-time jobs and are independent on our own two feet. I wrote that to be a little more controversial this week. Hope it worked to get you thinking about women’s issues.
What are your thoughts on the statistics and stories shared above? What other recommendations do you have for women to prepare for the future?