One time on the internet, a man on Twitter accused me of being sexist because my company is geared towards women. Another time, a man remarked that I was able to save at a high rate because I earned my money working street corners. Still another time, I was told that the wage gap only exists because women become mothers.
As a woman who talks about money on the internet, I’ve opened myself up to criticism from people who don’t believe that women are a marginalized group of people. These people are offended that I point out discrepancies women face in pay or treatment, and sometimes, are offended that I talk about things that women specifically can do to strive for financial equality in the world.
Here’s the thing about all of that.
We don’t live in an equal world. We don’t live in a world where marginalized communities have the same access, the same tools, or the same opportunities as non-oppressed communities. Do I believe men are inherently better at using money than women? No, of course not. But do I believe that men are socialized to be decision makers and are given more chances to work with money? Yes, absolutely.
And the fact that men get such opportunities, and are treated like they can handle them, leads to a world where men are in charge of money. Women led companies received 5% of venture capital funding in 2016. In an even bleaker statistic, women are only 2% of the CEO’s in the S&P 500’s financial services firms. Women aren’t given money to work with, and women aren’t in powerful positions at financial companies.
We’re up against more odds than men are. And let’s not forget that those odds get worse for women of color, disabled women, or immigrant women. And you know what that means? It means that women need a financial playbook that addresses these barriers and helps us crush them on our way to getting paid.
To quote my friend Claire, “It’s hard to be proactively badass when most of what you’re doing is reacting to barriers.”
So, with that in mind, here are the ten financial commandments that women should live by.
1- You shall always negotiate your pay
Yes, negotiating is uncomfortable. Yes, women can be penalized for seeming too aggressive. Yes, negotiation requires research and actual skills to back it up. DO IT ANYWAY.
Women live an average of 5 years longer than men. We need money to live off of. Women pay a pink tax on lots of stuff, from razors to car insurance. We need money, and we need to ask for it.
2- You shall talk about money with friends, peers and loved ones.
Transparency around money is one of the most powerful tools women have at their disposal. Talk about how much money you’re trying to save. Ask your partner how much they make. Ask your friends if they’ve negotiated at work and what tips they have. Sharing actual numbers can highlight when you’re getting screwed, and can help you bring home more.
3- You shall invest in your skills and knowledge as you invest in the stock market.
You are a champion. Repeat after me: I am a champion. And you should treat yourself as one. Learn new skills, take new classes, earn new designations that increase your value. Investing in yourself can lead to new opportunities and increase your own personal enjoyment.
4- You shall have an emergency fund.
Listen, shit happens. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where, but I know it’s coming for all of us. And when it does, you’ll have an emergency fund that can help you through it. Savings are particularly important for ladies, who often have dependents and handle the household finances.
5- Financial plans don’t make you nerdy. They make you rich.
Knowledge is power. Understanding your financial situation and documents means no one can pull the wool over your eyes. Don’t depend on your parents or your partner to design your life. Paint your own picture.
6- Debt will slowly strangle your money unless you free yourself from it completely
Debt can sometimes open doors; most people can’t buy a house without a mortgage. But most debt is simply a drain on your money. Since women earn less than men, we’re more likely to fall deep into debt. Studies show that debt collectors pressure women harder than men, and that men usually have a higher credit score than women. Becoming debt free helps you keep cash on hand and it helps distance you from financially precarious situations.
7- You shall save without judgment.
Any saved money is good money, boo. $200 monthly is great, but $20 is also good! Don’t compare yourself to others (including friends and family.) Be proud of saving what and how you can.
8- You shall support fellow women.
We’re all in this together. Our individual battles are different, but we’re all fighting the war. Buy from women owned businesses. Echo your co-worker when she speaks up. Lend your social, economic and political power to women throughout your life. These financial commandments are designed to get us all to the mountaintop.
9- Allow no profit off self hatred.
The world profits off of women’s hatred of themselves. You should be skinnier: buy this supplement. You smell bad: spray this on yourself. Defend your money by spending in accordance to your values and things that make you feel good each day of your life. (That can definitely be perfume, btw.)
10- Money is ultimately a tool.
You can develop the skills to use it smartly. You want to live your best life, and money helps you do that. The rest is just figuring it out.