Financial Independence — The Great Equalizer

This post is part of the #WomenRockMoney movement, a large group of female personal finance bloggers who have come together to inspire more women to learn about money.

If you have money questions, or want support for your financial goals, learn more about how you can join us at the movement homepage. I hope to see you there!

There’s reality, and then there’s the lie that perpetuates it.

The reality is that it costs more to be a woman in this world.

Let me count the ways:

  • Clothing:
    • Know of any men who wear hosiery? I rest my case…but there’s more still.
    • Drycleaning, 
    • Other services, such as manicures and pedicures
    • Accessories: shoes, handbags, jewelry, scraves
  • Self care:
    • Skin care, cosmetics, waxing
    • Hair cuts, colour, etc…all more expensive
    • Extensions of various types (if you don’t know what these are, don’t ask)
    • Waxing
  • Negotiation for professional services:
    • Car, home and equipment repairs and maintenance
    • Financial advice (don't believe me, read Pound Foolish)
    • Loans (ditto, see above)
    • Moving (damsel in distress syndrome perhaps?)
  • Large purchases:
    • Home
    • Car
  • The pay gap (yes, it’s a thing…enough with the idea it isn’t, OK?)
  • Maternity leave (for my compatriots in the US, for Canadians it's better, if not perfect)—And yes, paternity leave is finally becoming a thing - yeah!

And none of the above includes the financial, psychological and emotional costs associated with negative interactions that the #metoo movement is bringing to light. But let's keep that discussion for a different post.

Then there's the big lie that we believe to be true.

The lie: that you need—or need to put up with—any of this sh*t.

The list above is not inevitable and it is not necessary. 

When I quit my corporate job, I realized that maintaining my appearance in the corporate world was costing me over $5,000 a year. To boot, I was careful about my spending in the associated categories:

  • Dry cleaning: $20 per week = $960
  • Cosmetics: didn’t use much, if any — here’s why
  • Office attire (suits & accessories $900/yr, shoes $300/yr, hosiery $864/yr) = $2,064
  • Beauty salon (hair and nails): $154 every 6 weeks and $40 every 3 weeks = $2,028

And that doesn’t include the additional car, parking, as second gym membership…that total was more like $20,000. Ouch!

Leaving the corporate life to run my own businesses full time was life changing on many fronts.

One of the biggest lessons is that nothing is more attractive than self-confidence. Yes, you need one or two great suits, but that’s about it. Everything else is in the way you carry yourself, the way you view the power dynamics in any encounter and how you manage the save/spend equation.

The number one thing that increases a person’s attractiveness—read magnetism—is self-confidence.

No, not the annoying, entitled kind. The “I have every right to be where I am and feel great today” kind. That’s the type of self-confidence that quiets the mind and allows you to look for opportunities. It’s also the type of self-assuredness that allows you to negotiate with confidence and to feel you have options, including walking away from a deal you feel isn’t quite right, for you.

And how do we get that type of self confidence?

Of course, you first want to feel you’re presentable. That should go without saying.

But beyond that, it’s:

  • Skills
  • Relationships
  • Money

Skills and relationships are no brainers. We’re told to learn a specific trade or profession from the time we’re kids, and to fully commit to some type of specialization. (And we’re told to be “realistic” in our career choices, which makes me nuts, but that’s a whole other topic.) 

We’re also told to network in various ways, be it by joining clubs or sororities, to attend “the best” post-secondary institution(s) we can “afford” and to network, network, network.

I just like to think of that last one as meeting and spending time with people you think you can learn from and enjoy spending time with…the alternative makes my skin crawl.

Of all three, money is where the power really lies. And I’m not talking about “making it rain” type of ridiculousness—though that’s fun too. I’m talking about having enough money tucked away that we always feel we have options. I’m talking about building the type of financial freedom that makes us feel we have options in life. That we don't feel "stuck" in our current situation if we feel the need to change it. 

And that state of not feeling “stuck” comes in a number of stages, each accompanied by a new level of badassity:

  1. Freeing ourselves of the anxiety of wondering whether or not we can cover our bills in any given month.
  2. Knowing that we have the slush in our cash flow to start getting volume discounts on what we buy most, thereby avoiding the premiums associated with having scarce resources.
    • Buying value sizes
    • Paying lower or no interest on purchases, large and small
    • Receiving preferential rates thanks to improved credit scores
  3. Knowing that we have enough in savings to last us 3-6 months if we were to be “thanked for our services” or have any other unexpected change in life circumstances
  4. Knowing we no longer have a car and/or student loan (I consider any debtors as additional bosses...the fewer the number of bosses, the better)
  5. Knowing that we're fully funding our dreams, including future vacations, car and/or home purchase, retirement
  6. Knowing we have enough money (aka "liquid courage") amassed that we don’t have to put up with anyone’s sh*t anymore, be it in our personal or professional life

There are two ways of achieving this level of financial peace of mind, to be combined in whichever ratio we find most appealing:

  1. We can keep our expenses lower than what would be considered “the norm”
  2. We can earn more than would be expected for our age (and gender—yup, had to slip that in again)

Society would default to #2 because it much prefers that we spend, spend, spend, but I actually think #1 is faster, and more effective.

Here’s the thing though…by doing #1, by spending less than we make because we keep our lifestyle in check, it tends to lead to #2.

How could this be? Because we tend to start kicking a** in every aspect of life when we know we don’t have to settle for whatever anyone has on offer. And the lower our needs, the more we don't have to settle.

We don’t only save money. We're saving more than money. We’re saving what money represents: freedom and options.

Saving money means we become:

  • Stronger negotiators for all goods and services, big and small
  • Better business people who run our businesses or fulfill the requirements of a professional position with a clear head, free of nagging personal preoccupations
  • Better partners who stand on their own two feet and aren’t afraid of asking for what they need in a relationship, be it business or personal
  • Better friends, free of envy, jealousy or one-up[wo]manship
  • Clearer thinkers, able to listen to our guts, to tune into what we really want out of this one, precious life
  • More attractive to ourselves and others, because we live better with less worry and a more positive outlook on life

Peace of mind is the unsung superpower.

The peace of mind that comes with having substantial savings changes everything about our demeanour. We carry ourselves differently, speak and think differently and that’s more of a transformation than any fancy cosmetics, attire or beauty regimens can offer. To anyone.

Ironically, it’s those around us with a strong financial footing who often don’t feel the need to spend as much on the superficial as others still searching for this elusive thing we call success. They don’t need to use spending as an escape or as a source of reassurance. They don’t feel the need to mask perceived deficiencies. 

Financial independence is so much more than money in the bank. It’s a secret super power. It's the great equalizer, and it’s the secret we need to share with each other because it’s what will make us all better off sooner than later.

I want us to level the playing field, once and for all. And for that to happen, we need to redefine what power and confidence is. 

Here's to building phat stacks that can help us improve our financial figure(s).

We can most certainly change our day-to-day reality, one decision, one opportunity, one successful negotiation at a time.

Here's to greener pastures, for all of us.

Want to talk about how? I'm always up for it. Drop me a line or leave a comment below.