There’s this common misconception that women don’t talk numbers. The truth of the matter is that the women in my life talk numbers far more than any man I know. Take my best friends for example: I know how many boyfriends they have had. I know how many pairs of shoes one friend owns and how many bottles of wine another has on hold at a vineyard for their wine-of-the-month club. I even remember my oldest best friend’s cell phone number and how much her mom forced her to pay that first month she owned it when she sailed past the 250 text message allotment by almost 1,000. We talk numbers all the time. The problem is that we are discussing the wrong numbers.
If you want to be a woman who rocks her money, you have got to willing to talk about finances—the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the numbers you don’t understand. In fact, it is precisely that combination of conversation that holds the real secret to financial success. Sharing what you do know and asking questions about what you don’t is the only way that we are ever going to get ahead.
Let’s Talk Numbers About Work
There’s a really archaic and awful school of thought that says it is improper to discuss salaries. There are even some workplaces that make it seem as though breaking the taboo is the same as breaking a rule. It’s not. And it’s important to do. Not only does speaking openly about income help ensure that people are paid fairly for their qualifications and job responsibilities, it can also help you make important career moves.
As a public school teacher, my salary is public record. I would be lying if I said there weren’t some uncomfortable moments that come from the whole community having access to my income, but there is also great power in it. Some of the best conversations that I have had about graduate education and income happened after I decided to speak frankly about my salary and ask questions of veteran teachers about how they maximized our salary schedule.
Thanks to their wisdom, my genuine love of school, and my dogged tenacity when it comes to getting human resources to answer all of my questions before I commit to anything, I have taken enough graduate work to advance as far on the pay scale as possible after just a decade in the classroom. That means that I earn nearly $20,000 more a year EVERY YEAR compared to someone without any graduate degrees. Call me impolite, but if talking salaries landed me that kind of income, I will talk numbers at work all day long.
And When It Comes to Home
I relied on my best friends and closest family to make some of the most important decisions when it came to creating my version of a dream home. Most of us do. We talk number of bedrooms, paint colors, sofa size, and even weigh the pros and cons of Joanna Gaines’s much-beloved shiplap. But we aren’t talking about one of the hardest housing decisions: the renting versus buying debate and how to come up with the money for either.
For a long time, I didn’t fully acknowledge our housing situation. The fact that I bought our house by myself at 26 is still hard for even me to believe. But I did it. In fact, I think I still have a hand cramp from signing that ream of paper. Now, though, I speak openly about the home-buying process to family and friends. Not only did I help one cousin find the perfect home for her and her fiance, I also like to think that I have talked a few people into delaying home ownership to give themselves more time to save or because, quite frankly, renting was a better option. If you think talking numbers is awkward, imagine how awkward it will be when you or your friends are turning down every invitation to do anything because you over-committed yourself on your mortgage.
Let’s Not Forget The Babies—All The Babies
There are human babies. There are fur babies. If the statistics are true, at some point, most women will become mothers to people, pets, or both. But we don’t discuss enough numbers here either. Sure, I know how old my nearest and dearest friends’ pets are in human years and dog years. I also heard all about hours in labor, centimeters dilated, and other nitty-gritty birth story details. Let that sink in. We have a created a society where talking about cervix size is preferable to discussing the cost of daycare, doggy or otherwise. We have to do better.
Talking about the cost of increasing your family size matters in many respects. If we were more honest it about, perhaps we would realize that not everyone needs to have a dog. Discussing cost isn’t just about figuring out what we can’t do. It is also about realizing what we can do. Getting up the courage to really voice some of my fears about how expensive having a baby can be helped me realize something really important. We would never feel that the financial stars aligned in a flawless constellation. Instead, finding out what friends were spending on daycare and asking all about diapers and food helped us figure out a plan to survive an unpaid maternity leave even though I am the breadwinner. Most importantly, asking questions and making ourselves vulnerable made us realize how strong our support system is. Had we kept quiet, had we never asked about those numbers, that’s something we may have never known.
If you are looking to keep the conversation going, take a look at the WomenRockMoney movement spearheaded by Chelsea at Mama Fish Saves. Not only are there more numbers to discuss, but there is also a collection of some of the most intelligent, fearless, and money-savvy ladies in all the land dishing on all things finance.
So Tell Me…What numbers do you wish your friends shared? What do you share (or overshare)?