“Because you’re worth it.” How often do we women say this to our friends, daughters, sisters, mothers?
We say it because we know that women so often need to hear it. But—how often do we say it to ourselves?
Not early enough, judging from our financial accounts.
According to a recent report, women don’t invest nearly enough in their futures. Women of the baby boomer generation have $109,000 saved for retirement, for instance, compared to $211,000 for men. For all women, the numbers are even bleaker: $34,000, less than one-third of what men have saved ($115,000).
On the face of it, this disparity makes no sense. Women are generally known as the nurturers, the caregivers. Why, then, don’t we take care of ourselves?
Is it the “Cinderella Complex,” as the author Colette Dowling wrote? In her 1981 book of that name, she describes the unconscious desire many women have to be taken care of.
Some attribute this dependence to DNA. Back in the hunter-gatherer days, they say, men provided the meat and wielded the weapons, and women cared for the children and were taken care of.
Evidence shows, however, that women also hunted, and that all members of the tribe, male and female, cared for children and the elderly.
Instead, the reliance of the “weaker sex” on a male provider seems to be a message that culture instills from childhood. Remember Snow White singing, “Someday my prince will come”?
Women’s role, we’re taught, is to care for others—not for ourselves. This may be why so many women struggle with boundaries. They don’t realize that if they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be able to care for the many people in their lives who need them. This applies not only to physical and emotional care, but also to finances.
If this sounds like you, never fear: it’s never too late to change. There’s no time like the present to get started. Here are some suggestions for how:
- Enroll in automatic savings from your checking account to a mutual fund. Pick an amount—10 percent, say—and see if you miss it. In six months, if you haven’t missed the amount, increase it. Keep doing this, and soon you may see your nest egg grow into something substantial.
- If your employer offers a retirement plan, sign up and participate. If your employer makes matching contributions, the free, matching money is all the more reason why you should participate.
Maybe it’s time for women to learn what men have always known: that money is power—not to be feared, but to be embraced, because the power it provides is the best kind: the power to live our best lives.
Whether your “best life” means, for you, having great experiences, being comfortable in your old age, or making a difference for someone you care about, having it starts with taking care of yourself financially.
Here’s another secret men learn from childhood: we are all, ultimately, responsible for ourselves.
This means you. Don’t wait for Prince Charming: you don’t need to kiss that frog. Instead, look in the mirror, love yourself, and start planning for your future. Because you are worth it.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.