Money moves & the freedom fallacy

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By Liz Talago

You won’t often hear me quoting the MAGA crowd around here, but I will agree with them on one solid point: freedom ain't free. 

Now before you start seeing red hat red, try this idea on for a second. Imagine trying to quit a toxic job, end a relationship and move into your own apartment, or plan for your retirement without the money it takes to make those moves independently.  Obviously, without financial resources of your own, you will be limited in your choices and this means you are fundamentally less free.

Yet when I talk openly about my desire to make more money and to see other women fairly compensated, I’ve been called greedy and selfish. I’ve had my integrity and creative passion called into question along with my commitment to my employer and my work ethic.

This is because when a woman engages in an unapologetic quest for the social and financial capital she’s owed, the system is designed to punish her.

For me, the desire to grow my income isn’t about the ability to live a certain lifestyle. Sure, I want to travel and pay for all the medical care my insurance doesn’t cover. But it’s more than that. If you’re paying attention to the world around you, you know that money is power, and since women are on the shitty end of the wage gap problem, we tend to have less of both.

So I’ll just come right out and say it, I want to build wealth.

I want to be rich in the freedom, flexibility, and influencing capacity that only comes with financial security. There are countless problems that money will never solve. But I want a cushion of benjamins for those times when money can offer a fix. 

Growing up working class taught me just how much one can do without, and gave me a really good understanding of “want versus need.” Later I spent years working a pink collar job in mental health. Women in these roles are expected to work for substandard wages because that’s what good caretakers do. My breaking point came when I realized that my salary would qualify me for the same public assistance programs I was helping my clients navigate. Despite having a masters degree and years of experience, I was living paycheck to paycheck. Because of how I was raised, I had never considered money as a motivator, and that was a costly mistake. 

So in the spirit of my last post, I will no longer apologize for my financial ambition. We live in a world where it’s acceptable for our president to flaunt his grandiose wealth, but too many working girls feel like they can’t even ask for a performance-based raise. How we feel about money is deeply connected to our values and culture. It is a topic more taboo than sex in many ways, and we need to change that.

We need to recognize that nice girls get paid, smart ladies invest, and strong women know their worth.

They say the best time to plant a tree and start saving money is ten years ago. But the second best time is now. If you’re not yet working on your financial fitness, there are plenty of tools out there to get you started.

Here’s a roundup of resources that have helped me increase my financial literacy and grow my savings account:

  1. Ladies Get Paid: This community is great for networking and valuable advice on salary negotiation. They offer trainings and meetings in cities across the country, and their active Slack community is chock full of wisdom from other inspiring women who want to #getpaid. (Stay tuned for info on the new Nashville chapter!)
     
  2. The Salary Project is a large-scale effort to increase salary transparency from Career Contessa. According to these gals, “knowing how your salary compares to others in your field is power, plain and simple. It's evidence you can use to ask for a raise or walk into an interview room with a clear argument for your salary requirements.” I couldn’t agree more.
     
  3. The Money Diaries series from Refinery29 provides a glimpse into the financial lives of other women. It offers a rare chance to explore how someone else spends their money, their cost of living, and what they earn. It’s always an interesting read, and it’s helping bring the subject of money into the limelight.
     
  4. About to get serious? Considering hiring a financial coach? I first heard about Ashley Feinstein Gerstley on LADY TALK, the Ladies Get Paid podcast. She believes that financial well-being is the cornerstone of equality, and her mission at thefiscalfemme.com is to make personal finance accessible. 

So crank up the cash money playlist I made just for you (feel free to add to it!), and settle in for some serious financial goal setting. Sometimes the things that matter are hard to measure, like self-worth. But if you had to put a number on it....

MoneyClaire Wasserman