Financial Literacy Year-Round

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April 29, 2015

April marks Financial Literacy Month as well as Equal Pay Day, which makes it the perfect time for money conversations. But with so many voices in those conversations, it can be hard to hear how significant it truly is to be financially well, especially as a woman.

In 2015, when women are more educated and influential than ever before, we remain fiscally behind, lagging men in most areas of financial planning including two of the most fundamental — basic money management and investing. Add this with the fact that we continue to be paid just 78 cents to every dollar paid to a man, on average, which results in women losing out on at least $500,000 over the course of a career. Beyond the gap that’s felt in each pay cycle, it’s this crucial imbalance that amounts to women receiving less in Social Security decades later. In turn, we’re less prepared for retirement, even though, statistically, we’ll live almost five years longer than our husbands and brothers who have more money.

Getting Paid What We’re Worth

Helping ourselves can help everyone. The perception of fair pay is a contagious one — a feel-good sentiment that sounds as nice as it looks in your bank account. For that reason, women earning fair salaries is closely linked with the greater reputations of the economy and even individual employers. Fair pay — both in idea and in practice — is more attractive, fostering a more productive climate, where employers are treated to employees who want to stay longer and work harder because, well, they’re being paid what they should be.

As women we have the power to make this happen. Yes, we are still pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act. But on the individual level, every woman who asserts herself in pay negotiations helps promote more equal compensation all around, thereby narrowing the gender gap and, importantly, allowing her own financial aptitude to grow.

In workshops like AAUW’s Start Smart, young women are given information and valuable practice to help them decide what their salary should be and then effectively negotiate to it.

Managing Our Money

Once we’ve established our fair(ish) share of salary, it’s essential that we know how best to manage it — with less to begin with, we sure don’t want to lose more of it.

From childhood on, girls don’t receive the same kind or amount of access to financial resources that boys do. Even as adults, the general conversation around financial well-being includes a collective dumbing-down of information for women. As a result, it’s challenging to practice good financial planning.

It’s the small steps — setting a comprehensive budget, planning ahead, making each investment a wise investment — that are all necessary for women to get the most out of our money over time. And we don’t have to figure it out alone. Start Smart is a good place to start for college students, and Work Smart will slowly be rolling out to teach women those same skills all over the country. There are also other communities dedicated to helping women with financial independence.

Knowing how best to manage our money is key, especially because 40 percent of American families depend on women as the main source of income. It’s not just our own future that is reliant on how we manage and invest our money, but also our families’.

Financial literacy month is almost over, but it’s always a good time to improve our financial skills. By utilizing opportunities to become better at money management (and at getting more money), we enable ourselves to understand not only the pitfalls of being financially literate, but also the great value of it. As women, we have to encourage our each other to utilize our financial strength, because it’s just as crucial that we close the gender gap in financial literacy as we work to close the gender gap in pay.

Dorrie Sieburg By:   |   April 29, 2015

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