8 Ways Being On Top Of Your Money Is An Act Of Peaceful Resistance
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.
With every executive order and policy change that Donald Trump passes in the White House, it's easy to feel as if there's not much you can do to fight back. But for people living and working every day in America, saving money as a way to resist his administration can surprisingly be just as effective as attending nonviolent rallies and joining strikes, especially for women. Why? "Women will not be fully equal with men until we are financially equal with men. And we are not today. Today we retire with two-thirds the money of men, less for women of color," Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, tells Bustle. "If we’re not financially equal with men, this can keep us from starting the businesses we want to, buying the dream home we may want to, leaving the not-so-great-anymore relationship we want to."
If you're new to budgeting, start out by delegating 50 percent of your income to necessities (groceries, gas, home basics), 30 percent to things you want but don't necessarily need, and 20 percent to savings and investments, says Krawcheck, who wrote the book Own It: The Power of Women at Work. There are many ways to monitor your finances more closely and navigate through all the money jargon. For instance, download a mobile app like Mint or use an online tool like LearnVest, which will help you set up spending reports, budget alerts, and monthly bill reminders.
Having financial control can be especially difficult for marginalized or underappreciated communities, such as low-income families and college students. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump continued to show disrespect for women, who make 80 cents for every dollar that men earn (just one example of everyday sexism), people of color, and people with disabilities — all groups of people who often face additional money struggles because of unequal social structures. At the same time, while finance has traditionally been considered to be a "boy's club," Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid, tells Bustle, it's also important not to make assumptions about people's spending capabilities just because of who they are (thus buying into what ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy).
No matter what your background is or where you're from, being on top of your money will help you understand the power dynamics between differently-sized wallets and, ultimately, resist Trump's agenda. Here are eight ways being financially savvy can help you in the resistance movement.
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Money means something different to everyone. For some, it's about self-worth. For others, it's about freedom. Whatever it may be, having more or less money determines how much power you have over your life and the changes you want to make. "You need to have the ability to leave, whether it's a job or a partner, or a city. Money is going to be the thing that lets you do that," Wasserman says. "Whenever you're about to do a negotiation, the strongest negotiators are those who have the ability to walk away. You can only do that if you have a financial cushion."
Having your greenbacks in order will not only let you be financially independent, but it will also make you aware of other people's money struggles. Not everyone is able to leave their jobs and make a six-figure income; for many, it will take years and years to achieve something like that. For others, their family connections or location or other circumstances provide them with that privilege. And even when you do find yourself in a better place financially, remember that there are others with much less to go off of. "We're all facing challenges in some way, but they're not necessarily the same challenges," Wasserman says. "Like, even though I'm fighting for what I want and making progress, I always remember those whose struggle is so much more. And that I'm still with them."
Women make fewer dollars than men, but that doesn't mean that women don't understand money. Outdated expectations like the belief that "math is for boys" or "investing is for guys" is actually harmful for everyone because it indicates that only people who think they're "good" with cash should try the stock market, make investments, or pursue a career in finance. "If an industry has few women, it’s hard for women to see themselves in the industry or even know people in their circle who are in the industry," Krawcheck says.
Opening your mind to the idea that everyone can and should be financially literate will also help you help yourself. It frees up the money conversation so you feel comfortable asking your close friends what they're using to help manage their taxes. Money is something that's universal, and no matter what stage of the financial process you're in, "there's a lot of empathy in the process," Wasserman says. "You can learn not just from experts, but maybe people who are just one step ahead of you."
Like Wasserman pointed out earlier, money is a resource that gives you the option to walk away from undesirable situations. It also allows you to participate in the resistance movement and focus on things that really matter. For instance, having your finances in order lets you travel to different states that are hosting rallies or other solidarity events. Although it may take some time, money allows you to make things that are important to you a priority.
"Pay yourself first. How we typically view saving is pretty ironic. We work, earn money, live our lives, and prioritize paying everyone else and then anything leftover, we get to save," says Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, founder of The Fiscal Femme. "When we do it this way, there's usually not anything left over to save! We want to flip this equation and pay ourselves first. We can do that by creating the room and automating saving so it is treated with as much importance as any other expense."
Start small, and then set up a recurring transfer for, say, $5 a week. I personally use a "Save As You Go" feature that puts money into my savings account every time I make a purchase. It works!
Even if you don't have kids or don't plan to have kids, what your generation does with money will be a lesson in the future on how to use money and financially be in control. According to Nate Matherson, co-founder of LendEDU, only 17 states in the United States require personal finance education in high schools. "Millennials often don't have a formal personal finance education and in many cases, their parents don't either. In our view, taking charge of your money starts with financial literacy," he says.
Once you've saved up some money and have the ability to be flexible, you'll be able to take real action and make donations to organizations that are working to fight Trump's policies. For people who are passionate about contributing to various causes, it's a financial commitment that can be just as imperative of an investment as any other. Gerstley calls this "aligning our spending with our values," which adds meaning to what we spend on.
Krawcheck agrees. "A lot of nonprofits will make it possible for you to contribute monthly, which spreads the contribution out over a period of time in smaller amounts," she says. "Another idea is setting aside a part of your annual bonus and contributing a larger amount as a one-time donation. Either way, work it into your regular budget or donate when you have. Oh, and be sure to save the receipts for tax season."
There is power in the individual, and every individual should be celebrated. This is especially important for people who aren't used to having a lot of possessions or don't feel like they're "worth it." While money and tangible items shouldn't by any means define who you are, showing appreciation for yourself and providing incentives for being on top of your finances will motivate you to keep it up.
"Truly treat yourself. We deserve it and are worth it. But oftentimes when we treat ourselves, it's at the expense of what we want most," Gerstley says. "If what you want most is to go on your dream vacation or pay down your credit card debt, things that keep you from your goals might not be a treat at all. Think about what you want most and decide what's truly treating you."
Over at LendEDU, Matherson focuses on student debt as an aspect of financial privilege. As many as 44 million Americans struggle with student debt, according to Matherson. "For people who are lucky enough not to be in debt because their family was able to pay for their education, it opens them up to more opportunities in terms of unpaid internships and getting a head start in their career with low-paying but career-boosting first jobs," he says.
Even when it feels like your finances are what's controlling you, you can educate yourself on money topics like credit scores and make the right choices when applying for loans. "Financial literacy helps make people make smarter decisions about their finances and avoid money pitfalls," Matherson says.
Once you've decided to make a sensible budget, "take action and get started," Gerstley says. "I'm all about action because we learn by doing and action leads to more action (and results!). With all the information out there it's easy to get caught in analysis paralysis, but commit to taking a small step in your financial wellness each week. If the step feels overwhelming, break it down further until it feels easy. Personal finance doesn't have to be hard." As you make smarter financial decisions, you may feel inspired to push the envelope in other areas of peaceful resistance and support for those who have less, such as volunteering or even running for office.
Any individual can take even just the smallest step toward being a part of the resistance movement. It's never too late to get started on managing the piggy bank, so why wait? Start now.
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.