We, women, have a tendency sometimes to put our heads in the sand around our money, thinking if we just ignore it, it will take care of itself. Unfortunately, this seldom works.
We have to face this head-on, and the first step is figuring out where we are today. That means making a list of all our assets and our debt and doing the math to determine our net worth (Assets –Deb t= Net Worth). I am always faced with groans when I tell clients this, but frequently, they are pleasantly surprised when they see the final number.
The second step is determining a plan for paying down any debt and building up savings. This involves tracking your spending for a couple of months, so you know where each dollar goes monthly, and then actively making the decisions as to where you now choose for each dollar to go. I won’t say this is necessarily an easy or fun task, but the feeling of accomplishment when you identify the leakage out of your checking account each month will be well worth it.
The greatest asset, and one you probably haven’t considered, is your human capital — or the ability you have to earn money. As women, we will often downplay our abilities and skills, leading us to not ask for raises or promotions. Men are much more likely to ask for more benefits and money when applying for a new position than women are. We have been taught, though frequently not intentionally, that it’s unbecoming to stand up for ourselves. But given what we’ve already talked about as to years in the workforce, earnings, and other factors, we have to learn to value ourselves and express that value to employers.
I had that conversation with myself last year, leading to my decision to start my own firm. I’m not saying you need to do that, but you should engage the help of family and friends to take an honest look at your skillset. Then look around at others with the same skills and evaluate where you are in relation to those individuals in terms of pay and benefits. If there is a promotion you’ve been wanting but feel you don’t have the skills necessary, what can you do to change that? If your supervisor is someone that has been supportive to you in the past, you may be able to enlist their help. Given that we have fewer years in the workforce on average than men, we need to make the most of the time we have.
It’s very important to earn what we’re worth, and even to take the opportunity to learn additional skills that will make us more marketable. The feeling you will have when you know you are earning what you’re worth is such a good one. Too many times, we feel less than we are because of the way we are treated by supervisors. It’s so discouraging, and I see it all too often. The group of women I’m associated with currently are only interested in lifting each other up, never tearing each other down. We are truly interested in each other’s success. By building each other up, we lift the entire group. If that’s not your experience where you are currently working, look around and see what you can do personally to change the environment. If you see it’s not possible, do what you can do to remove yourself from that situation.
We spend too much time at work to live in a discouraging environment. It can affect your personal life as well. I’ve had jobs where it was a challenge to get up in the morning and face it. No one should live like that.