A recent report from Asset Funder Network found that single women ages 45 to 65 lost 36 percent of their wealth between 1995 and 2016, with a 28 percent drop for single white women and a 74 percent drop for single black women from 2007 to 2016. Ouch! What’s a single woman to do?
Paul Sutherland: Many years ago, I was asked to write a book to help women with financial literacy, titled Bag Lady University. This was because I have spoken at many women-only retreats about personal economics and investing—and I have thought a lot about the subject. The book never got off the ground, at least with me at the helm, because I finally said to the woman editor who pitched the idea to me, “I think a man writing this is going to be off-putting.” Forgive me in advance.
Over my career I have seen issues that create financial hardships for women—issues that seem less acute when they are part of men’s lives. I am not going to get into the causes, nor am I going to allow myself to endorse those who wish to blame mothers, fathers, men, women, society, corporations, governments, or old-boy networks for issues that individuals can overcome. That said, the fact that single black women lost 74 percent of their assets from 2007 to 2016 indicates systemic problems and makes me want to work harder to get someone like Marianne Williamson elected president—so we can get a person at the top to champion women’s issues. However, this is a personal advice column, and personal advice is what I will focus on.
I have 10 things that can help women get their financial houses in order.
1. Ask for a raise! A friend who has written and lectured on the “glass ceiling” says she is amazed by how few women who complain about not being paid like a man for the same work have not even asked for a raise.
2. Demand that the father/sperm donor give half of his income to help raise the child. Many men in divorce just move on and consider housing, feeding, clothing, educating, nurturing, providing health care, and basically everything that goes into raising a child to be “women’s work.” And that includes providing the funding. So, with a vengeance and tenacity, go after child support.
3. Get the child’s father’s/sperm donor’s parents involved. Have grandparents help out as much as possible.
4. Don’t wait for Prince Charming! Waiting for (rich) Prince Charming seems as alive today as when I first counseled women decades ago. Instead, assume you will be single your whole life. Assume your parents will leave you zip, zero, nada, and your rich friend who “married well” is not going to help you, either. You need to get educated about finances, get your budget under control, and get well employed on your own.
5. Don’t be a victim. We all have crap in our lives. We can move through our rough spots and let them make us smarter and more informed—or we can wallow in self-pity. It’s your choice. How you spend your future is dependent on your actions and what you do, not what somebody did or didn’t do to you.
6. Get great friends. Get friends who are responsible, helpful, happy, caring, hard-working, and perhaps even great parents—friends you respect. Hopefully friends who don’t drink, don’t smoke, who are optimistic people with a good sense of humor and great habits. When I went through a very rough patch in my life and would start to complain to my best friend, she would say, “Paul, I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, till I met someone with no feet.”
7. Have goals, and a plan to achieve them. If your goal is to just make it through the day, you will accomplish it. But if you want something grander than to struggle with life, then set some goals and get intentional about accomplishing them.
8. Get educated—get informed—get skilled. Read materials for an hour a day that build up your self-esteem, give you skills, make you smarter, and broaden your marketability as a potential employee. You can start by reading The Virtue of Wealth, a personal finance book I wrote that I will send you for free. You can also go to paulhsutherland.com, click on Books, and download the PDF file.
9. Ask! Ask for help. Ask for what you need. Don’t expect you’ll always hear “Yes” as the answer, but keep asking. To get started, email [email protected], and ask for a book. I will send you one.
10. Be happy! This may feel impossible, but it is critical. We want to have happy friends. We want to hire happy people. We want our kids to be happy. Success starts with being happy. My favorite book on this subject is Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, by Matthieu Ricard.
While you’re working on your personal finances, lobby your politicians to implement fairer tax laws and access to health care and education. Most critical, I believe, is that educational institutions emphasize early childhood education, teach parenting skills, and educate to foster resilience, optimism, and happiness. If each of us does our part, we can make it so the next generations can deal with problems that have nothing to do with race or gender. S&H