In my work as a family law attorney, I’ve met many couples in the throes of divorce. I’ve also worked with couples as they craft their prenuptial agreements. One thing that has always startled and saddened me has been seeing countless women unnecessarily at a disadvantage due in large part to a dearth of financial literacy.
Although in recent decades, women have made great strides forward in the battle for gender equality, attitudes surrounding women and money are still somewhat antiquated. In many countries around the world, men are still expected to provide for women, whereas women are not expected to be financially literate; money is the domain of the male partner, whereas the home is the domain of the female partner. It is only in the past few decades that women being a part of the workforce has become normalized in the US. Unfortunately, old attitudes about finance not being a woman’s domain are still salient in the American subconscious, despite the fact that outwardly our world has moved on.
As such, women may not be expected to be financially knowledgeable. Women are wary of talking about money, and it isn’t as normal for groups of females (or women in general) to engage in detailed conversations about finances as it is for men. However, being financially literate as a woman is extremely important. Money is indeed an important part of securing opportunities for oneself and one’s family. Without financial literacy, opportunities and growth potential are more limited, and women are more likely to be stuck in dead-end financial cycles that could be broken by learning about and utilizing personal finance principles and tools.
When women are financially literate, on the other hand, their chances of securing comfortable lifestyles and a range of new growth opportunities not only for themselves but also for future generations are far higher.
Below we’re going to share a few rather dismal finance-related facts about women, then shift to the more uplifting topics of how financial literacy and empowerment can be gained.
- Women take out an average of 9.6% more money in student loans compared to their male counterparts
- 58% of all student loan debt belongs to women
- Women take an average of two years longer than men to repay their student debt
- 75% of divorced mothers don’t get full payment for child support
- ~33% of divorcing home-owning females with children lose the house
- 20% of divorcing women fall below the poverty line as a result of divorce
Investments and Retirement
- Women are more likely to prioritize family and paying down debt over saving for retirement.
- Men, particularly in the millennial generation, are more likely than women to have non-retirement investments, despite the fact that research shows women are better at investing.
- Because, on average, women live longer than men, their retirement funding needs to last longer. However, as a result of the gender pay gap and the gender wealth gap, women earn less and own less wealth and therefore have less money available for retirement.
- Women also save less than men (at least partially as a function of the gender pay and wealth gaps), which means less money available to invest.
- The victim’s credit is negatively impacted in 59% of abusive relationships
- About 98% of domestic violence cases also involve financial abuse
Financial Literacy for Females
Luckily, there is now a wide range of resources available for women who would like to become more financially literate. These are some of my favorites:
- WIFE.org: This stands for the Women’s Institute for Financial Education. They’re a nonprofit that provides financial education to women who want to improve their financial literacy and strive toward financial independence. Their motto is “a man is not a financial plan.” They provide counseling on topics like taxes, retirement, estate planning, family, marriage, and divorce.
- Savvy Ladies: These knowledgeable women provide free financial education in service of empowering women and helping them make informed decisions concerning finances. They even have a free financial helpline that matches women with finance experts and allows them to ask all their money-related questions and receive sound advice, among other services.
- There are some great books about financial literacy, as well. Check out Clever Girl Finance: Ditch Debt, Save Money, and Build Real Wealth, Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties, and Real Money Answers for Every Woman: How to Win the Money Game With or Without a Man. These in-depth resources can help you restructure your thinking around money and empower yourself to amass more wealth, which you can then use to benefit yourself, your family, and those you care about.
Beyond obvious strategies like budgeting and paying off debt, here are two powerful tips for financial empowerment.
Advocate for yourself. Women are generally more agreeable than men. That can lead to us accepting conditions that aren’t fair or avoiding things like asking for more money in the workplace in order not to make waves. By learning to negotiate for higher pay and face the discomfort that comes with being assertive and asking for what we feel we deserve, women can increase their earning potential and therefore have more money available to invest.
Learn about investing–and start planning your retirement. It’s best to start investing young, but it’s never too late. Remember that women are innately better at investing than men; use that to your advantage. Check out some of the many articles written about this in well-reputed publications if you’re feeling intimidated by the prospect of investing. If you’re a beginner, you can read up on investing here, here, and here. It’s also worth your while to consider consulting with an experienced financial planner or investment consultant.
Financial Literacy and Prenups
Stereotypically, prenups are meant to protect men from gold-digging wives. In reality, however, prenups can also benefit women–so long as they’re written fairly. An important part of financial literacy is recognizing when you’re getting a fair deal. Here are a few things for women to ask themselves as they’re in the process of drafting their prenups in order to help determine whether the agreement is truly fair and balanced:
- If we get divorced with this agreement, will I be worse off financially than when I entered the marriage?
- Does this agreement account for potential non-financial contributions to the marriage, such as my taking time off from work to raise children?
- Does this agreement account for the income and future earning potential I will lose if I stop working, scale back my work, or otherwise sacrifice career growth in favor of staying home with kids?
- Am I protected from my future husband’s debt, including future debt?
- How will I be taken care of financially if I have to leave my job to take care of a family member? (Keep in mind that women are 300% more likely than men to be the ones to shoulder this burden if it arises).
These questions can get you started, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in learning more about prenups, here are more details about what a prenup is. You can also check out Hello Prenup’s blog for more information about a variety of prenup, marriage, and relationship-related topics. When you’re ready to draft your own prenup, you can do so at a fraction of the normal price by using HelloPrenup’s online platform. It guides you and your partner through the entire process without either of you ever having to set foot in an attorney’s office. Here’s how it works.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]