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 · culture

Howardena Pindell’s “What Remains to Be Seen” at VMFA

A few months ago, I went to a special event at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, announcing an upcoming exhibition. That exhibition was a retrospective of the creative career of Howardena Pindell, multimedia artist, activist and professor. “What Remains to be Seen” is an impressive ouevre that showcases Pindell’s evolution as an artist, and is broken down into the different phases of her life and creative journey.

Today (November 25) is the last day to see the works, so I’m heading to the museum shortly so I can enjoy them one last time before they leave. However, I’ve got a few pictures for you all in this post, some additional commentary (of course LOL!) as well as a YouTube video of Pindell’s most famous short, “Free, White and 21”. Enjoy!

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Howardena Pindell

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Pindell’s use of grids and numbers created some of her most riveting work. I love seeing how she turns numbers and otherwise sterile, math-related tools and objects, into art.

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The 3-d grid below is a good example of the blend of art and math. It’s probably one of my favorite works by her.

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The tiny individual circles affixed to many of Pindell’s pieces reveal her love of mathematic perfection reinterpreted. These pieces, attached to the grids she loved to work with, were occasionally numbered individually.

Like many artists, Pindell sought to promote cultural shifts through activism. Her works also featured socio-political themes that were near and dear to her.

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One of my favorite themes explored by Pindell was that of science. Closely related to her mathematics fascination, her interpretation of natural phenomenon and wonders created some of her most aesthetically charming works (though, to be honest, I love all of her work and find it all aesthetically pleasing). I especially loved “Nautilus” and “Night Flight” (pictures are below).

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Finally, here is “Free, White and 21”, Pindell’s video experiment where she aims to repair her memory loss (caused by a serious car accident) by recalling memories from earlier in her life.

art · life curation

Art Synchronicities

 

When I went to the National Portrait Gallery to view the Marlene Dietrich exhibit (you can read all about it here), I got a bit of a surprise. While walking around and trying to find Marlene, I came across a painting that stopped me in my tracks. You can see the painting below:

This painting is the very same one that was my most likely doppelganger, per the Google Arts & Culture app (you know, that app that I wrote about a while ago). Of course, on the app, the painting is listed as being at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA. However, it is currently at the National Portrait Gallery, as part of The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers exhibit. I’m pretty sure that the painting will return to the High Museum in September, when the exhibit draws to a close.

I examined the painting and found myself smiling. The vivid colors can’t be captured via camera: it must be experienced in person. The focused gaze, the high cheekbones, and the richly hued skin did, oddly enough, remind me of myself. Of all of the paintings to make it to this exhibit, this one made the cut. And of all of the museums I could visit in DC (and there are PLENTY), I ended up at the National Portrait Gallery. And this painting had an entire wall to itself, so I couldn’t miss it as I walked to the Dietrich exhibit. I figure it was meant for me to see it. Oh yes, and here is the photo that convinced Google Arts & Culture that I am Alma’s incarnate:

I’m delighted that I got to see this painting: as always, art is best experienced in person. This is one of several portraits depicting the working class in the first half of the 20th century. I encourage you all to go and experience the exhibit for yourself, if you have the chance!

culture

Women’s History Month in Washington, DC

As many of you know, I work (and play) in Washington, DC. Since I’m in the District several times a week, I try to explore and take in the city as much as possible during my breaks and (occasionally) after work. Out of curiosity, I looked up what is happening in DC during Women’s History Month (WHM), happening right now, until the end of March. I’m happy to say that DC didn’t disappoint, with several museums and other institutions hosting WHM events for the public.

You can find a list of events on the Women’s History Month website (click here for more information). I’m really eager to go to the Library of Congress, to view the exhibition, Drawn to Purpose, which puts the spotlight on women illustrators and cartoonists. Even if you can’t make it in person, you can view the exhibit online. I’m also excited to see Michelle Obama’s portrait over at the National Portrait Gallery.

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Anita Kunz’s Tugged is one of the photos featured on the main page of the Drawn to Purpose exhibition at the Library of Congress

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The portrait of Michelle Obama, painted by Amy Sherald, is a popular new addition at the National Portrait Gallery

Now, on this blog, WHM is EVERY month. But I love that DC has so many events that reflect the month’s theme. I’m looking forward to sharing all of the photos with you as I tour around and have a good time in DC!