financial commandments

The 10 Financial Commandments All Women Should Live By

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.

Why Your Bootstraps Mindset is Partially Wrong

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.

10 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. Create your own budget and stick to it to hit your goals.
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. Here’s our article on where to start your debt payoff journey!
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.

20 thoughts on “The 10 Financial Commandments All Women Should Live By”

  1. Wealth Well Done

    “Allow no profit off self-hatred.” My wife and I talk about this all the time. It was a huge revelation for her when she realized almost everything in the media was a sales pitch one way or another. Don’t believe in how other people/businesses/media are making you feel. It’s often all sales techniques to separate you from your money.

  2. Erin @ Reaching for FI

    YES, ALL OF THESE ARE SO GOOD! I’m working on #1 right now (oh god, it’s so terrifying) and need to be better about #9 myself. Thanks for the amazing post, Kara!

  3. #9 is so so good, because like the ‘pink tax’ it’s a targeted commercial approach that women have to defend their self-esteem against ALL THE TIME. I’m definitely working on a lot of these, but this is essentially a mantra we all need to have drilled into our heads.
    I’ll just say this now – this should be an infographic as a poster, because I’ll take 10, please. :]

    1. Thank you, and AMEN. I get so up in arms about people who call women vain or superficial because it’s like every other second I am bombarded with messages to care about or change how I look.

  4. Peti @ The Leveraged Mama

    #6 yes, debt is suffocating. We must free ourselves on our paths to financial independence. Wonderful post Kara 🙂

  5. I was already a huge fan… but I learned a TON reading this. I had no idea debt collectors hammered women harder than men! And #9 should become a mantra for all of us. Self-hatred is unproductive, and we got shit to do.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Debt collectors being shitty to women: another super fun, almost invisible burden of the patriarchy! And #9 is gonna be my new forehead tattoo, whaddya think? 🙂

  6. One of my favorite things my dad taught me was that all businesses need to make money and the best businesspeople are the ones you don’t recognize as businesspeople. Meaning that just about everything in life is a sales pitch. As women, it’s so important for us to be skeptical. I used to think that was really incongruous with a positive personality and a cheery outlook (which is how I like to live!), but it’s not at all. It’s just wisening up to the world. So many of your commandments really remind me of this. Thanks for the list!

    1. Thank you! It’s so true that basically everything is a sales pitch, but the awesome part is we have some control over where we spend our money.

  7. Beautiful writing and message, thank you for laying it all out Kara! You’re awesome! All of these ring so true. I love the financial independence community because we openly discuss money, and motivate each other to do better, save more, get educated, push for raises, and know we are beautiful inside and out just the way we are without a bunch of expensive beauty crap (http://www.budgetepicurean.com/finances/my-frugal-beauty-manifesto/). I second the “make it into a poster”, so we can put one up in every school and store and gas station in the country! Shoot, in the world.

    1. My heart just exploded from love and now i am dead. Thank you so much! I want all ladies to make that money and to own their financial choices.

  8. Ms. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com

    This is so great! I love talking money with my friends and the support system we have built up encouraging each other to push for raises and go get better jobs when needed. It can be awkward and intimidating, but so worth it in the end. I 100% agree that money is just a tool, that society values, so we might as well leverage it to live the best life we can.

    1. So happy to hear you talk money with friends! Transparency is everything and I think it makes the friendship better as well.

  9. Some good rules there, especially the supporting other woman which I think sometime women who get into power end up overlooking.

    I’d always add don’t delegate looking after your money to someone else, you need to understand your money and it’s purpose as a tool to enable you to live your life.

    1. Sometimes when we get to the top we forget to look behind us and see who else needs a hand. It’s sad to me, so I wanted to make sure that we all remember to help and support where we can!

  10. “Allow no profit off self hatred.”

    Best quote of the post. I’ve always thought women spend way too much on “beauty.” If a woman is beautiful on the inside and outside, I don’t care if she’s wearing designer clothes or Walmart clothes. She beautiful regardless of what she wears. I also worry that a lot pressure on women to look a certain way comes from other women. When I worked in an office, I never heard guys talking about another guy’s shoes or clothes. I did hear women make some very snarky comments about what their sisters were wearing. Human beings are very fickle beasts. Great post.

  11. YES!!! All of this is golden! Money is a tool and you have to learn how to wield it properly. Increasing my marketability has been fascinating. The potential to earn significantly more money is very nice, but it has also been interesting to see how folks react to knowing what I can do.

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