business · career · life curation

Women and Money: Problems and Solutions

Some of you may not realize this, but April is National Financial Literacy Month. As a woman, I’m fascinated by how finances factor into the lives of women. I feel that most women “know” about money, but there’s a disconnect between knowledge and application. As a financial professional (enrolled agent), I understand many of the pitfalls that women experience as regards wealth-building and debt reduction. What I intend to do with this post is offer solutions and workarounds for the most common issues that exist when it comes to women and money.

  • In most fields, women tend to earn less that their male counterparts doing the same work.

Yes, the gender pay gap is real. It doesn’t apply 100% of the time (for example, women that work in food preparation services and fast food tend to earn more than males in the same job). For most women, changing their gender just to earn more money isn’t a reasonable solution. Most women aren’t clear about how they can minimize or eliminate the pay gap that they are experiencing.

Women would do well to try to eliminate the pay gap that they experience personally. This can be done by learning what the current wage expectations are in a particular field, then comparing this to the woman’s experience, education, and location. After that, it’s a good idea to research the ways to negotiate for a pay raise, and practice the negotiation conversation with a trusted friend, mentor or advisor. If the gap is too large to be successfully negotiated, then it’s worthwhile to research and apply to different employers. Additionally, gaining additional skills can give women an advantage, making it easier to command higher wages (this can be done easily through free online education providers like ALISON, Coursera, Saylor and CPA Academy)

  • Women save money more but invest less than men.

Saving money is great, but the interest rates for savings accounts (of all sorts) is too low to keep up with the rate of inflation. As long as the money sits in savings, it’s missing an opportunity to work harder and generate a higher return. To that point, women are also less inclined to invest than men. Many women have been conditioned to see investing as “too risky”, and thus they prefer safer ways to store money (such as savings accounts).

The solution for this is to focus on investments that feel safer, and building your confidence until you are comfortable enough to take bigger risks. A good way to start investing is to purchase just one inexpensive stock, and start regularly reading about that stock’s performance. Then, invest in more stocks, adding a little more money to invest at each time. Websites like Acorns, Earnin and even Cash App are making it easier than ever to invest small amounts and to observe how the investments are performing.

  • Women have more student loan debt overall.

Education is necessary to earn a solid living, but it’s hard to move forward in life post-college when you have significant student loan debt. Due to the pandemic, many loan companies have opted to provide forbearance to loan recipients, so these recipients don’t have to pay on the student loans while trying to adjust to possible income and lifestyle changes.

There are two approaches that I recommend for studnet debt. If possible, avoid student debt by taking equivalency tests so that certain credits can be awarded without having to pay costly tuition (I wrote a book all about this, titled Degree Hacking: How to Save Money and Get College Credits in Record Time). However, if the loan debt has already been incurred, then I recommend that women research whether their employers offer student loan repayment. If not, seek an employer that does offer this benefit. Also, if the student loan rates are higher than, say, the cost of a line of credit or a home equity loan, then opt for one of these, and use that money to pay off the student loan. Yes, that does mean trading in one debt for another, but at least utilize these other funding sources can save money in the long run.

  • Women are more likely to live in poverty during their old age.

This is heartbreaking but true. Living to advanced age should automatically mean comfortable golden years, but this is not always how it works out. The best defense against lives of poverty is cultivating authentic friendships and support groups before reaching advanced age. It’s invariably more difficult to create relations when these are “needed”, so it’s best to start creating these connections before health declined occur.

Once a person is retirement age, it can be very challenging to make new friends. But websites that encourage meeting up (like Meetup), neighborhood town hall meetings, special interest groups and charities are a great way to connect with like minds and meet new friends. After creating these connections, it offers a little bit of a buffer against hard time. People are more likely to support their friends during hard time, but the key is to create mutual benefit. No one wants to feel “used”, so it’s crucial to create a relationship where both parties feel appreciated and enjoy one another’s company.

  • On the whole, women are less financially literate than men.

I recommend that all women take time to read books on finance, as well as take advantage of free webinars and workshops offered by financial institutions (such as banks, credit unions, and government and other oversight agencies, such as FINRA). Below, I provide a few links to books and articles that I find to be wonderful for learning about money.

Important Facts About Women and Money

Women & Money: 10 Facts We Should All Know

Money and Women: Myths and Facts

60+ Stats About Women and Money

Commercial Bank Regulation

MyCreditUnion Financial Literacy Resources

National Credit Union Association Financial Literacy Resources

My finance and tax-related blog (new posts starting in May 2021)

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

I hope you all find these tips helpful, and if you need clarity on anything else, let me know in the comments!

art · life curation

The Next Art Course On My List

I had such a positive experience with my previous ALISON course (Great Artists and Their Works) that I decided to try another. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be diving into Color Theory for Artists and Designers on ALISON.com. I’m neither an artist nor a designer, but increasing my knowledge on the subject would be extremely advantageous.

Untitled design (2)

I reviewed the modules that comprise this lesson and I was impressed with the variety of color-related topics that will be discussed. This seems like a really good, brief “in-between” class to take while I figure out the rest of my educational plans as respects my future art-related career (I wrote about my short-term art career goals here).  Besides, I like makeup too much not to get a better grasp on certain color concepts.

Yeah, today is a brief post. I’m working on the edits for the novel, as well as the art career stuff, so I’m keeping this short so I can pour my energy into those other things on my to-do list. That’s it for today – chat with you all tomorrow!

art · life curation

Review: Alison “Great Artists and Their Works” Course

I’ve spent the past several weeks working through a few art courses, and I recently completed the first self-paced course I’ve taken this year. ALISON.com has a slew of courses that can be taken online for free, at the learner’s leisure. Completed courses are eligible for certificates of completion that learners can add to their educational portfolios.

I mentioned previously that I was completing the “Great Artists and Their Works” course. The course is approximately 5 – 6 hours long, and features 8 modules, with multiple lessons within each module. Each module discusses a different artist, and the artists are associated with different art movements throughout history (Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Cubism, etc.,).

alison_courseware_intro_375

(picture from Alison.com)

I found this to be a very helpful free course, and a suitable, though compressed, art history introduction. I was enthralled by the artists I’d never heard of before – namely, Caravaggio, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Jacques-Louis David – and I’m glad I spent the time working through this course.

While I enjoyed the class, it isn’t without its flaws. It relies on videos created by Khan Academy, so you could just as easily study directly from the Khan Academy website. Also, the course has a single, cumulative examination at the end instead of quizzes sprinkled throughout the modules. In my experience, students learn better when they are periodically quizzed instead of assessing their knowledge after many concepts have been discussed and analyzed. Finally, there were a few questions that tested learners on concepts that weren’t taught in the course (I had to use Google for the answers).

Overall, I enjoyed the class and would recommend to anyone that wants to get familiar with some of the great names in art. If you decide to take it, let me know what you think about it!

art · life curation

Free Art Education At Your Fingertips

As you all recall from my 2018 goals post, I plan to transition into an art-related career. I’m not exactly sure where I want to fall in that world (consultant, curator, collector, advisor, etc.) but I know that the art world has the excitement, beauty and adventure that I crave.

Screenshot 2018-01-07 at 11.58.57 AM - Edited

(photo courtesy of ALISON.com)

Before I can dive into that world, however, I need to get more educated on art. I’m not a complete novice (I’ve spent lots of time in museums and I’m a voracious reader) but  I could benefit from some more targeted instruction. And, until the weather begins to warm up, I’d prefer online courses, so that I can learn without having to leave the house.

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you all the free art course I found on ALISON. The class, Great Artists and Their Works, allows students to learn about 8 of the most famous names in art history. Learning about these artists and their seminal works has been tremendously rewarding for me. I just finished the Michaelangelo module and I will start learning about Raphael with my next module.

This course is wonderful for anyone that wants to bolster their art knowledge without a large financial investment. All that this course requires is time and a good internet connection. I fully intend to take advantage of this, and other, online learning opportunities. I have a few other courses that I plan to take this year, to help me really broaden my art knowledge base and prepare for my new career in the art world.