August 20th, 2012 — Feminine Heritage, Life Coach
The Feminine Mistake
Several years ago my Between the Covers Book Club read The Feminine Mistake, by Leslie Bennetts.
This was an intense discussion between women who had made a variety of choices for a variety of reasons, who were experiencing differing amounts of internal conflict about their choices. Because let’s face it, they aren’t easy choices and many of us feel we are choosing between “this sucks” and “this sucks worse.” It was such a stimulating book club discussion that one newly-converted-evangelical-self-designated-submissive-(though paradoxically truly domineering)-wife, who happend to visit our book club that night, claimed it was the worst night of her life.
Bennetts is a New York City writer who had teenaged children, a mythical egalitarian marriage and a much-loved, long-time nanny.
The book is an examination of the REAL long-term cost of women abandoning their careers in order to be stay-at-home-mothers or part-time workers, rather than continuing their fulltime professions during the years of mothering.
The real cost of this choice is substantially higher than you might imagine. Having made the stay-at-home-choice myself it was a real eye-opener in terms of the long-term financial impact on SAHMs and part-time workers, as well as the broader impact on the economy, and even other mothers who do stay in the workplace.
You’ll Eat Dog Food When You’re Old (if you can afford it)
For starters, you don’t accrue Social Security points as a stay-at-home-mom, and very few if you’re a part-time worker (if you are self-employed you must contribute to the system to get them) so taking 10 years out of your career will significantly decrease your retirement income. You also don’t get your husband’s points if the marriage ends prior to 10 years, even if you had 10 children by him.
You do not contribute to a 401K plan, which means no matching funds from an employer, during these years. Many families, going through the poverty spell of having a single income, can’t save in a separate IRA. If you divorce, his 401K may be divided, but it’s still retirement income lost. In fact, the way 401K and IRA investments work it’s the length of the investment more than the dollars put in (meaning if you put in $1,000 in 1999 and $5,000 in 2012, you would have more in 2020 from the $1,000 than the $5,000), which literally could equate to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars by retirement.
This is why there are so many senior women below the poverty line.
You think you’re going to waltz back in?
Mothers often don’t realize how difficult it is to get back into their original profession, many times because of motherhood discrimination. But, Bennetts points out, is it discrimination? Or have employers realized that investing in mothers can be risky because they actually do tend to jump ship when motherhood responsibilities interfere, whereas fathers typically do not?
Yes, from a broader feminist perspective mothers who abandon their careers do hurt other women, mothers especially, who do stay in the workforce. Not only because the mothers who stayed are outnumbered and have to deal with discrimination on their own, but because employers look at mothers with less credibility, because they do appear less committed to their profession than the men on staff, precisely because they are prioritizing mothering.
Then there is the broader economic impact of not having more women involved in the economics of the country. Women have been shown to be more prudent investors, more intuitive business professionals and bring a vital perspective to the workplace. The entire economy benefits from their involvement, as such, it is negatively impacted when women check out.
Though many professional women end up spending their entire income on actually working, with childcare expenses, commuting, work clothing, etc., Bennet points out that fiscally, you’re better off doing that because by the time children go off to school and childcare costs are eliminated you will be higher up in your profession and making more money. You will also have accrued Social Security points, 401K income and seniority. If you take those years off, you’re losing experience years that equate to a significantly higher income over the lifetime of your career.
Now You’re Screwed
If you divorce, of course, you’re screwed. Because he now has many more years invested in his career and the reality is that you don’t get half the money. Courts value the father’s role as a parent and typically give him joint custody now, which means there is little to no child support and maintenance lasts only until you can feed yourself, in most cases. Either way, you’re not living your middle class lifestyle anymore. Now you have a big huge gap in your resume that means you’re starting somewhere near the bottom again, or at least not as high as you would have been, and answering to a 25-year-old woman who is still idealistic enough to think that she will make it through motherhood unchanged, and will be perpetually wondering what exactly your problem is.
This is according to Bennett. She’s a tad cynical. A Debbie Downer.
Shit. Now What?
I now find myself in the exact position that Bennetts’ apocalyptic tale warns of.
I am a newly-divorced 39-year-old woman, the mother of two children. I have been a SAHM/part-time worker for almost 11 years. A choice that my husband did not agree with, but which I made anyway. A choice which played a significant part in the destruction of our marriage. Not only because of the poverty spell and the constant struggle to make ends meet and the never-ending stress that put on our marriage, but because we were battling over control of my choices. Ironically, I fought extraordinarily hard for the opportunity to be in this financial position.
I have kept my finger in the professional pot, producing clips and a work history, but accruing no Social Security points. I did mark the 10th anniversary required to use my wasband’s Social Security points, which is prudent.
I have no medical insurance. I have a pile of debt. I have a big fat mortgage, which it turns out is more affordable than renting. My half of the measly little 401K we had finally managed to save was cashed out to pay for the divorce lawyer. I have no IRA or a savings account. I get enough money from him (he who went from a college-educated waiter to a middle manager in a Fortune 500 company on his way up at my insistence), to pay the mortgage and not much more. For four years. Which means he accrued 11 years of professional experience and a salary to match, while I have to start wherever I can and I have four years to get my financial shit together. He, and the marriage, it turns out, actually was a pretty shitty investment, according to Bennetts’ perspective. Or, looked at another way, he financially supported my choice to stay home for 11 years and will continue to help me until I get on my feet and become self-supporting.
I figure I have about 21 to 26 years in which to focus on earning money before retirement starts beckoning to me.
Still. I don’t regret it. Isn’t that funny? See, the thing that Leslie Bennetts doesn’t account for in the book is the fierce magnetic pull I felt towards my children. The deep longing I had to spend all that time with them. The inherently feminine drive to mother them I felt, still feel, though it’ s lesser now that they are past five.
Those mothering years are years I won’t get back. The thought of spending them riding a subway for two hours a day, or sitting in a cubicle doing unfulfilling work 40 hours a week, was something I couldn’t stomach. The thought of dealing with workplace stress while trying to mother was not something I felt up to. Not when they were developing their selves. I didn’t want to miss it. I felt like their early childhoods would be a blink in my lifespan and it was a blink that I wanted to be present for. I have 11 years of my children’s childhoods to look back on, childhoods vanish you know. They come once, for a short period, and then they are gone.
It cost me dearly, true. But, I got to experience the deliciousness of baby skin, the intoxication of breast feeding, the exuberance of them experiencing the color yellow for the first time, the exasperation of potty training, the joy of teaching them to read, the high of seeing all of their firsts. Even though it was hard in a million of ways, these are things money can’t buy. I grew people. Humans. Awesome humans. Trade that for money that can vanish with the pop of a housing bubble? Not I.
I don’t regret for a minute having those years. Sure, I wish I were in a better financial position now. I wish I were swimming in a claw-footed bathtub full of $1,000 bills. Funny thing though, I know I’m going to be alright. I know that I will make money. I feel freed by their being in school all day. They don’t need me like they used to, they are independent and happy and well-adjusted. I did my job exceptionally well. I can make generating a big fat bank account more of a priority in my life now. I have to.
No, I don’t regret it. But, now it’s time to put my big girl panties on and shift my focus to making a mountain of cold hard cash!
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April 19th, 2012 — Family Life
We live frugally. It’s not some vow of poverty we’ve taken or anything, but my parents were raised by Depression-Era Mormons. It’s a way of life passed down generationally. We’re frugal so we don’t go without.
We buy food in bulk, shop sales and clearance racks, use a coupon, reuse items, shop at garage sales and thrift stores, shop on ebay and Craigslist, accept hand-me-downs, buy used cars, used appliances . . . I could go on. We even give our kids items from Craigslist for Christmas, which is how we have a Wii and a Nintendo DS and bicycles.
As my friend Jenny says, we’re frugal on lots of things, so we can spend our money on other things. As she points to our Apple phones, computers and iPods. It’s true. And it’s easy when you surround yourself with other families who live frugally, as opposed to surrounding yourself with those who want to one-up you on designer labels and expensive toys. Too much stress, that.
You know that stereotype of women who just love to shop, running from store to store, trying on new styles and new things? I’m not that girl. I know my body type by now and I know what will and will not look good on me. I rarely stray. I wear lots of color and lots of unique items, but I stick to what looks good on me. I hate running from store to store and generally stick to my few favorite places where I know I’ll get a good deal: Ross, Kohls (though I’m about fed up with their random coupons and requiring the use of their card), Sams, the Ann Taylor outlet, and only because it’s close to my house Walmart (not for clothes, only for other stuff).
I often shop online, because it’s easier and also because a day of shopping could suck up your day and I don’t have much day to spare these days. You know right at the moment of check out there is usually a little box for a Coupon Code? That reminds me to Google a coupon, because why wouldn’t you? Usually there is one and often it’s at CouponChief.com. You can even log onto CouponChief.com and search for store coupons. They have a pretty good selection with craft stores, kids stores, Target, online stores, restaurants, online stores, pet stores, you name it, they probably have a coupon for it.
What is that the Duggars always say? Spend less and save the difference. Why wouldn’t you?
This is a sponsored post paid for by CouponChief.com, like their Facebook Page to get updates on new coupons.
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October 25th, 2011 — Education, Politics & Legislation
Time Magazine has an article about the money sucking, drastically bad investment that many college degrees are becoming in this country and it’s making me rethink my attitude about my kids getting a college education.
Our parental attitude is this: GET A COLLEGE DEGREE!!!!!
My student loans are our biggest debt burden. I owe about $60,000, having originally borrowed $15,000. I made a crucial mistake — having fielded repeated, harassing calls from solicitors insisting I consolidate my student loans, I accidentally consolidated one measly $1,000 unsubsidized loan with my subsidized loans, causing them ALL to be unsubsidized at a 9.5 percent interest rate, until they finally put a cap on interest at eight percent (after the scoundrels had already racked up a good $30,000 off me) — which has cost me about $40,000 in interest over the last 15 years. It’s the single, most crucial, dumbest financial mistake of my entire life. Once again, I have to thank College Algebra for being utterly useless and wonder why they don’t require Practical Life Math in universities.
Yet, Time’s article I Owe U made me feel like a lucky freakin’ genius!
Students will take out $1 trillion in debt this year. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! And many of these college graduates can’t get jobs. Or they are resorting to jobs in the service and hospitality industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.
The article, which obviously cited extreme cases that make for good stories, but still, real stories, mentions liberal arts majors graduating with debts of $125,000. It talks about kids who were awarded full-ride scholarships to state schools and turning them down because they got into Ivy League brand name schools, even though they were out $55,000 a year that they didn’t have and then majoring in philosophy or poetry — it reminds me of high school kids who work at McDonalds buying Gucci purses and Fendi Sunglasses. It sites one dude who got a masters degree in multi-media design for a whopping $120,000 (by the way a friend of mine has his own multi-media design shop, makes a decent living of $60,000 a year and doesn’t even have a degree, thus no college debt at all). It sites bullsh!t degrees like “specialized studies” (try selling that on a resume) for $67,000, history degrees for $50,000, and a “global studies candidate” who is about to spend $112,000 for that degree (don’t do it dude — myself, husband and brother essentially all got this degree 15 years ago and we’re all making under $70,000 after 15 years of hard work and we’re scraping by with no where near this debt burden.)
Predatory Lending & Another Bubble
What possesses a bank to loan a POETRY MAJOR $125,000?
The same thing that possessed that same bank to loan a dental assistant and a computer technician $500,000 on a home worth $200,000.
They knew they would make more money on the penalties and interest than they ever would on a good loan that could be paid back by a solid candidate. They got greedy. They lost their moral compass. They got predatory. They capitalized on the Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream.
And many economists are predicting another bubble blowing up on our already struggling, shaky economy — how can it not? We have an entire generation of Liberal Arts Majors with what amounts to massive mortgages without homes they can live in or sell. Nor, because of bank lobbies and legislation, can a person ever get out from under a student loan. They are not allowed to be written off in a bankruptcy, unlike a home, which you can walk away from and cut your losses. And this is what they have to bring into their adult lives — into marriages and families, into first jobs with starting salaries. If they are lucky enough to score one, that is.
This is one major issue of the Occupy WallStreet Movement. It’s a legitimate question. It’s a legitimate issue. It’s a protest-worthy complaint.
Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to American Dream
Maybe it’s time to reexamine the Mythology of a College Degree being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream. It used to be that college was the Golden Ticket and if you got good grades, got into a decent, reputable school and worked hard you were essentially guaranteed a good job and a career path in an upwardly mobile direction. Or at least we believed this to be true.
But, even in my generation this hasn’t turned out to be particularly true. As I’ve approached 40 and looked around, I’ve noticed that my peers without college degrees that are in sales, insurance and for a long time real estate and construction are doing far better than I with my gig as a journalist in a profession struggling to hang onto itself in the face of the digital revolution. My friends who have two-year trade degrees in medical fields are making far more money, with far more job security than I am. My friends who work in industrial fields, electricians, auto mechanics, specialized laborers, tend to get laid off more frequently (which they treat as extended vacations on workman’s compensation), but when they work they make quite a bit more money.
Then we have the reality that President Obama is challenging America to produce more college graduates. But, we don’t have enough jobs, as the Time article points out, for the college graduates we currently have. The article then states that what we’re really flooded with is a bunch of unemployable Liberal Arts majors and we’re sorely lacking in Science, Technology, Information and Medical graduates and we’re forced to hire immigrants or outsource these jobs. We’re not being competitive in the right fields.
The question then becomes, why is the US Government continuing to back Liberal Arts Degrees? Evidently, having a college degree itself is a meaningless debt burden. Having a practical degree with an actual career plan and a real job available at graduation is what’s going to make a student a reasonable candidate to pay back student loans. Why is the Federal Government backing loans it can’t reasonably expect students to be able to pay back?
Reduction in Interest Rates Could Help
The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced that it will allow underwater homeowners to refinance their homes, allowing them to reduce their interest rates from over 6 percent to around 4.1 percent. This could put up to $200 a month back in their pockets, which one hopes will stimulate the economy. (There is a fair bit of skepticism about this, though the idea is a good one and I intend to apply.)
The Obama Administration recently signed a student loan reform bill as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which is supposed to help students of the future avoid some of the problems current and former students are making. But it’s not retroactive and won’t help students who have already taken out a loan, are already in repayment or are delinquent on their loans. This does nothing to help the millions of students who are now walking into their lives burdened with enormous debt, caused in part, by the government giving cart blanche access to students and subsidizing banks while they issue predatory loans to naive teenagers and young adults with no real world experience to enable them to fend of or resist these loan sharks.
The U.S government should seriously consider enacting an interest rate reduction for current loan holders, as they are in the mortgage situation. Student loans are under much stricter regulation than mortgages and can never be written off in a bankruptcy. An entire generation of college graduates are burdened by enormous debt, the likes of which this country has never seen. I can’t see how they’ll ever be able to pay it off and become upwardly mobile. And if student loans really are another economic bubble that’s about to burst, well, one has to wonder just now much our stumbling economy can bare at the moment.
A reduction in interest is the least we can do for perpetuating the myth that college was a sure thing that would ensure their futures. A dream that is quickly turning into a pretty fairytale or an ugly farce.
Tracee Sioux is a freelance writer, the creator of The Girl Revolution and author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Love letters from editors and clients can be found on her Linked In page, like her on on Facebook and follow her onTwitter.
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November 18th, 2010 — Politics & Legislation
So, the Paycheck Fairness Act , which “addresses pay disparities between men and women. The bill limits the defense that employers can use to respond to charges of wage discrimination based on sex, among other actions,” (HR.BLR.com) failed by two votes.
Good Riddance, I say.
Because Equal Pay, is not enough to correct 2000 years of financial repression and oppression of girls and women. It’s what we were settling for, thinking it was more achievable than what is really enough. Thinking “fair and equal” would be enough. “Enough” would be that pay disparity swing in the feminine direction. That we use their own rules to flat-out best them.
Every indicator suggests that the woman’s day in the sun is on the horizon, closer than it feels.
In The Rise of the Sheconomy, by Belinda Luscombe, in Time Magazine the statistics point directly to not just mere equality between the sexes in regards to pay, but the surpassing of women’s salaries over men’s.
In October 2009, The U.S. workforce became nearly half female: women held 49.9% of all nonfarm labor jobs and 51.5% of high-paying management and professional positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is not likely to be a blip. For every two guys who graduate from college or get a higher degree, three women do. This is almost the exact opposite of the graduation ratio that existed when the baby boomers entered college.
And as the U.S. continues its migration from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge-based one, women are poised to snag more jobs. They make up the majority in the workforce in 9 of the 10 occupations the BLS predicts will add the most jobs in the next eight years.
. . . about a third of women outearn their husbands.
Childless women in major-metropolitan areas out-earn male counterparts by 108%. It’s suspected that once these women have children they will narrow the Motherhood Penalties faced by previous generations.
. . . women hold sway over 51.3% of the nation’s private wealth.
“We’re on the brink of a massive power shift, a grinking of the gears of history into a new human condition, [Maddy Dychtwald] writes. “It’s a world where women can, if they choose seize the reins of economic control.”
So, you can keep your measly Paycheck Fairness Act – the bar of Equal Pay is way too low for women now. We’re going to leap over it like a hurdle in a race – a race women are going to win. The American Way is turning in our favor. It’s The Rise of Sheconomy Baby!
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April 12th, 2010 — Body Image & Self Esteem, Feminine Heritage, Life Coaching, Mother-Daughter Emotional Osmosis
There’s a tape about money playing in your head.
It might sound like this: Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to work hard for money. Poor people are more moral, more kind, or more generous than rich people. Rich people got there by cheating. Rich people are corrupt and selfish. People on Wall Street are greedy. I hate rich people. I’m a starving artist. I always work for free. My jobs never pay me enough. I can’t afford it. . . .
There’s a tape playing about your body in your head.
It might sound like this: Skinny Bitch, I hate skinny people. If I were skinny I’d have everything I want. I hate people who can eat whatever they want. Looks shouldn’t matter. Beauty is about what’s on the inside, it shouldn’t be about what we look like. There’s no correlation between being skinny and being healthy. You can be healthy at any weight. People discriminate against fat people. Fat people are nicer than skinny people. Skinny beautiful people are mean and rude . I look like I’m pregnant. My thighs are huge. I hate my body. I’m like a fat cow. . .
Which is fine.
As long as you’re okay with staying fat and poor.
If you’re aiming to become rich and thin, those tapes are a problem. They’re keeping you fat and poor. It’s a self-defeating habit. It doesn’t impact skinny, rich people at all.
Now, I’m done being fat and poor. It’s far more fun and exciting to be thin and rich. More choices, better kinds of attention, more strut in my walk, more confidence in my being, more swing in my hips, better swagger, more freedom, nicer stuff, better ways to spend my days, better food from every angle, more excitement, more liberating, more freedom.
To get there, I have to reprogram my brain back to being a thin person.
I was a thin person before. I’m a naturally thin person. I love being thin. It feels good to move my body when it’s lighter. I love buying clothes. I feel healthier. I have more energy. I adore getting on the scale. I feel great when I pull on my favorite pair of jeans. I love skinny people. Skinny people are awesome and fun and funny. I love eating healthy foods. I love exercise, running, yoga, biking, hiking. weight training, pilates, and swimming.
I love living in abundance. I love having more choices. My choices control my money. I am great with money. Money grows on trees – what DO you think it’s made of? I love that my accounts grow while I am sleeping. I have everything I need and want. I can buy that if I want to. I can have that if I want. Money comes easily and frequently. Money helps me serve my purpose.
It’s especially useful to retrain your brain if you have a daughter. Think back to your mother’s beliefs about money and bodies – your thoughts are probably not so unique. Most likely, they’re inherited and then supported by evidence of your share experiences.
Change your own thoughts and change your daughter’s body and money messaging inheritance. What could be a better motive?
I can help you reprogram your brain. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for Life Coaching.
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