Have you dreamt about living a financially free life? Financial independence for women is not only possible, but it’s easier than you may think. Who says you have to depend on someone else for independence?
It’s time to change the dynamic and be the person you’ve always wanted to be without the help of anyone else. Here’s exactly how to become a financially independent woman.
What is financial independence?
Financial independence means you can support yourself without the need for a job or anyone else’s help, including a spouse. When you are financially independent, you have control over your finances, understand your financial position, and handle your financial obligations.
Why is it important for a woman to be financially independent?
Financial independence is important for everyone, but especially women, because of the challenges they face, including:
Earning less than men – According to a Pew Research study, women consistently make 84% of what their male counterparts make. Women must work an additional 42 days versus men to equal their incomes. This gap in pay is even more prevalent for black women.
Having a financial literacy gap – Women are 5% – 10% behind men in personal finance knowledge in areas like saving, borrowing, investing, and understanding risk.
Outliving men – Women outlive men by as much as seven years in developed countries. This means that we’ll need to know how to make and manage money apart from our spouses.
Women have to work harder, get help in understanding personal finance topics and have more money saved to last their lifetime. Financial independence for women is the only way to ensure they meet these issues.
How can a woman be financially independent?
Financial independence for women comes down to financial literacy. Understanding personal finances, how to make big decisions, and how to manage your money is important.
Being financially independent doesn’t mean not asking for help from a financial advisor, banker, or even trusted friend. It means empowering yourself to make your own decisions, have your own money, and know that you can stand on your own two feet when needed.
How a woman can be financially independent in marriage
Financial independence and marriage don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, and it definitely throws a wrench into things, but it’s not impossible.
For many reasons, you’ll want to join your finances, especially for tax-related benefits, but that doesn’t mean 100% of your money must be tied together. There are still ways women (and men) can have their financial independence:
- Have separate accounts for individual financial goals or spending money
- Have separate retirement accounts
- Set up individual trusts and/or wills
Work with your spouse on the finances, but together have individual goals and ways to meet them, so you aren’t 100% dependent on one another.
10 Steps to financial independence for women
Financial independence for women doesn’t have to seem abstract, difficult, or frustrating. With these steps, you can make financial independence a reality for you.
1. Map out your work-life ideals for financial independence (FI)
Married or not, work out what you want with your life regarding your career now and in the future. What does FI look like for you? Do you want to work now and stop working when you have kids? Will you go back to work when the kids are a certain age, or will you work while having kids?
Map it out now to see what goals you have and what steps you will take to get there. This doesn’t mean you can’t change your plans or do something different. Set a time to check in with yourself regularly to see how you’re doing with your life goals.
2. Calculate your financial independence/retire early (FIRE) number and time to FI
If your goal is to be financially independent AND retire early, work the numbers out early. Learn what it will take to reach your goal, and then create a plan to make it happen.
No two people will have the same path to FI or FIRE. Think about what FIRE looks like for you, including what age you’ll stop working, how you’ll live your life (where, what you’ll do, etc.), and what you must change today in your financial life to make it happen.
3. Create a solid spending/saving plan (budget)
No one can become financially independent without a plan. A budget is the first step. Make a budget that includes regular savings. Determine how much money you can save each month and continually try to increase the number, so you save more.
4. Take full advantage of investing
Investing is the best way to grow your money without actively working for it. You have many reasons to invest your money, including college funds for your kids, emergency funds for the unexpected, and retirement.
Whether you ‘invest’ in a safe savings account, CD, or you take a chance and invest in the market. The key is to diversify your investments. Keep some money ‘safe’ in a savings account, but take larger chances with some of the funds too so that you can grow your money even faster with the higher rate of return.
Make compound interest and compound earnings your friend! Invest as much money as you can in your savings account and leave it – let the interest earn interest.
The same is true of any investments you make. If you earn dividends, reinvest them and if you have an employer-matched 401K, take full advantage of the amount your employer will match.
Need tips on investing? Check out these books.
5. Eliminate debt and build your credit
Debt robs you of the chance to be financially independent. If you have high-interest debt, you’ll never be able to save more or earn more than the interest you pay.
Eliminating debt also helps you build better credit. As you pay your debts down, you decrease your credit utilization rate, which increases your credit score. You also show financial responsibility for paying your debts off, which will make it easier to get lower interest rates on loans that matter, like your mortgage or a car loan.
6. Stay consistent with good habits
It’s easy to get off track financially when things go wrong. Instead, check-in with yourself or get an accountability partner. Stop and ask yourself how you’re doing. Are you spending needlessly? Did you stop budgeting?
If you have an accountability partner, set dates to check in with one another. Also, have ‘distress signals’ when either of you is about to make a poor financial decision. You can hold one another accountable by reminding each other of your financial goals.
7. Advocate for yourself in the workplace
Just because women generally make less money than men doesn’t mean it has to be that way. If you feel you are worth more than what you’re making, or you know a male in your exact position makes more, advocate for yourself. This will help you find positions that you enjoy and deserve at a fair salary.
8. Prepare for life’s changes
Life can throw us crazy curve balls when we least expect it, and they can wipe out even the best-laid plans if we aren’t careful. Instead, plan for these speed bumps, so they don’t wipe you out, including:
What would you do if you divorced? It might be challenging to move forward if you’re dependent on your spouse. If you’re financially independent, though, you can roll with the punches, support yourself and make your dreams come true.
Will you work when you have kids? Think about your plans when you have kids. Will you take time off, or will you work through their childhood? Think about whether you’ll work part-time or full-time. Also, plan for when the kids grow up – will you stay in the same career or start something new?
Think about retirement and what you’ll do. Retirement comes a lot faster than most people realize. Saving now for retirement will ensure you can retire in peace, living life how you want rather than letting money rule your decisions.
9. Create an estate plan
If you’re financially independent, you must plan who those finances go to upon your passing. This can be an empowering step in your process to become financially independent because it’s the sign that ‘you made it’ and have money to pass down to others should you die.
10. Join a community for support along the way
Don’t try to do any of this alone. As we said, women are at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Join forces with other like-minded women and get the support you need to make the tough decisions necessary to achieve financial independence for women.
Financial independence for women can be a well-earned badge of honor. Women have a few more steps to take than men to achieve financial independence, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the right steps, dedication, and support, any woman can stand tall and say that she, too, is financially independent.