Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating. Today's topic: money tips that are actually relatable from female financial advisors of color.
Am I the only one who's tired of financial advisors telling millennial women to cut out their $4 latte? Not only is it not possible for coffee addicts, but it's also not what's sabotaging millennials' bank accounts. The notion that coffee significantly contributes to your budget woes seems out of touch with what socioeconomic factors people are experiencing.
As I read personal finance blogs and wealth advisers dole out what they think are pearls of wisdom, I often think, "this advice can't possibly be for me." As a low-income woman of color, the advice I hear from financial experts who often don’t look like me doesn't always feel like it's in touch with what women who are starting out in their careers are facing — especially women of color. Researchers at Cornell University found that, when controlling for factors like educational attainment, industry, and occupation, the true gender pay gap is about eight percent across the board. Still, the need for intersectional financial advice is particularly important, because women of color overwhelmingly earn less than white men.
According to a 2016 Pew Research report, Asian women earn 87 percent of white men's dollars, and white women earn 82 percent of white men's earnings. Black women and Latinas make even less, bringing home 65 percent and 58 percent of white men's earnings, respectively. It's more important now than ever that women talk about money, both with friends and with advisors who understand the unique struggles women face when it comes to managing their finances.
According to the Certified Financial Planner Board, only about 23 percent of certified financial planners are women. With that in mind, Bustle asked a few financial planners who are women of color to provide more practical financial advice for millennial women on retirement, student debt, and building a better financial future.
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The conventional wisdom says you need between three to six months worth of expenses saved for an emergency fund — but if you don't have that amount of money in your account, you’re not alone. A 2016 Federal Reserve report found that 46 percent of adults say they either could not cover a $400 emergency expense, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.
Depending on what you earn, it may take some time to build that emergency fund, says Daphne Jordan, an Austin-based certified financial planner and wealth planning manager at Austin Asset. And, it's better to have just a little bit saved, instead of nothing at all. You can start with a smaller goal of saving $500 or $1,000 in your emergency fund savings account, Jordan says. “You have to be forgiving to yourself,” she tells Bustle. “Start with an attainable goal… Yes it’s good to have at least three months of expenses in your savings account. But if that’s too big of a goal, cut it down to size.”
It's hard to think long-term about saving for retirement when you're stressed out about your current student loan debt, but it's important to plan for both. Depending on your 401k plan, the match that your employer offers may not be enough to save exactly what you need to retire. Talk with a financial planner about how much you need to save, and how much you need to pay in student loan repayments. Yes, your student loans are a huge burden, and retirement seems so far away, but Andrea Koryn Williams, a Chicago-based certified financial planner and financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual, says that you should develop a hybrid plan for tackling them both. In other words, you should make student loan payments and put money away for retirement at the same time. If you do one without the other, you'll fall too far behind. “If you save and you don’t address your debt, the interest capitalizes and turns into more debt,” Williams says. “...You’ve got to do both at the same time to really augment your situation.”
Need someone to help you figure out your finances, but don’t have a huge budget? There are some financial advisors who don’t have an asset minimum. The CFP Board and National Association of Professional Financial Advisors are good places to find fee-only advisors, meaning they don’t accept commissions from companies based on the financial products they sell to consumers. Companies like Garrett Planning Network can also help you find fee-only financial planners who service individuals who need guidance on their overall financial plan, but not someone to manage their investments, Jordan says.
“I didn’t have anyone to give me advice when I was a young professional,” Jordan says. “It’s great to start thinking about financial planning even if you are a young professional, because that’s how you start success patterns for the rest of your life.”
Personal finance is already complicated enough. Things can get really complicated if you’re emigrating to the U.S. from another country. Catalina Franco-Cicero, a certified financial planner and partner and director of financial wellness at the Fiscal Fitness Clubs of America says some of her clients have trouble navigating common tasks like getting a car loan or finding the right credit card. Run these deals by your financial planner to see if they’re the best deal for you based on your credit score, and comparison shop for better rates.
Employers know that finances are a major source of stress for employees, and that can be a drag on productivity and employees’ health. As a result, some companies are starting to offer financial literacy training. Cicero encourages women to check to see if your employer offers financial planning resources as part of its benefits package. And while you’re at it, take a close look at what maternity, short-term disability, family planning, and paid leave benefits are included in your job offer, says certified financial planner and Family & Money Matters Institute founder Elaine King. These benefits can help you and your family stay financially strong if you ever need to take time off to start a family or care for extended family members. “Family doesn’t necessarily mean kids,” King says. “When I talk about the strength of the family, I mean aunts, uncles, parents, too.”
If you think you’re being underpaid, there are several ways to address it. Check sites like Glassdoor or Payscale to determine whether you’re being paid at market rate, says Williams, who adds that certain industries, like the medicine field, highly regulate pay so that workers can’t be underpaid. If you have a hard time getting paid market rate after attempting to negotiate, you could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Williams recommends using the financial strategy outlined by your financial planner as a way to justify how much you need to earn to make a sustainable living. “It’s really difficult to walk into your boss’ office and say, ‘Hey, I want more money,'” Williams said. “If they’re able to leverage me, it’s easier to ask for money that way.”
Yes, society tells women that it’s impolite or improper to talk about money, but talking about it could help you find the resources you never knew about, and get some of that weight off of your chest. Find a group of individuals with which you can be open and honest about money. It’ll help you realize that you’re not alone. “If we could talk about money in an environment that creates community that is not judgmental, I think women in general would be confident, because maybe they’re doing something that they don’t enjoy, but at least they’re doing it with girlfriends,” Cicero says.
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