Women’s Financial Health is An Invaluable Asset
Apr 30, 2019 02:43PM
By Nicola Pierre-Smith
The most recent Philadelphia census revealed that 52.7 percent of Philadelphia’s population is comprised of women. Consequently, it is important for Philadelphia to address the health and financial well-being of the people that make up more than half of the city’s population. Women are typically viewed as the heads of households, as they are primary caregivers.
According to Merrill Lynch, 44 percent of women’s adult lives is spent outside the workforce and in caregiver roles. That time spent outside the workforce results in a loss of income that can negatively affect women’s health. Although it is difficult to think about women without thinking about families, money and well-being, 61 percent of women prefer to talk about their death than to talk about money, according to the Merrill Lynch report Women and Financial Wellness: Beyond The Bottom Line. Women’s perception that having a conversation about money is a social taboo reflects the view of the general population.
It is important that women change their narrative about money, because money is interwoven into their lives as it relates to personal and family well-being. Philadelphia continues to be identified as one of the poorest large cities in the nation. The Philadelphia Commission for Women found that in 2017, 60 percent of children under the age of 18 in Philadelphia are growing up in female-headed households where wage inequality and lack of access to affordable health care contribute to women’s fragile health and financial instability.
There are many situational factors such as time scarcity, rising cost of health care, inflation, stagnated wages or pay inequality, limited awareness of cost-effective wellness practices or personal financial resources, and poor nutrition choices from living in a “food desert” community. These factors may be the primary culprits for compromising women’s health and financial stability.
There are microeconomic ways for women to ensure their health, family and finances remain stable. Women must talk honestly about money and health with loved ones and confidants so that they can set boundaries around money. Up until this point, the focus has been on health. Other beneficial steps toward improving their financial and personal well-being are to negotiate wages, request pay increases and monetize natural talents or hobbies for an additional stream of income.
Women can also consider improving their health along with their finances by exploring meal options that are cost-effective and practical for their family’s lifestyle without sacrificing nutritional value. It is important for women to schedule annual wellness checks with a physician to ward off long-term health complications that could negatively impact the family’s overall earning potential if poor health contributes to work absences.
The first step women can take toward correcting the financial imbalance is to identify personal financial sins. In the book Dollars and Sense, Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler identify financial sins as impulse buying, lack of planning, short-term thinking, external pressure, denial of reality, justifying needs and greed. Though this list is useful for self-reflection, it is important for women to practice self-compassion and recognize that health or money problems may not be relegated only to these financial “sins”. It is also important that women surround themselves with people and resources that possess accurate information.
Both Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey provide financial education information that is freely accessible through podcasts and YouTube videos. The Free Library of Philadelphia also contains a variety of books on personal finance and wellness for women. Women must also learn to improve their time management and financial skills by learning to budget, automating their savings and practicing the snowball method, which focuses on paying off all debts, starting with the smallest, and rolling the money up into the largest debt until all are paid. These approaches to money management take the guesswork out of saving money and provide women with structure for their finances.
Philadelphia offers a variety of yoga classes that are accessible to all ages and income levels. The great outdoors is nature’s way of caring for us, so take advantage of the change in weather by getting on a trail or by planning trips to national parks. For women that are athletically inclined, the Philadelphia Sports League offers opportunities to increase physical activity and build social connections.
As Orman states, “A wise woman knows when her life is out of balance and summons the courage to act to correct it.” Women can’t help their families if they are broke or broken. Consequently, it is important for women to balance taking care of their family, money and health.
Contact licensed professional counselor Nicola Pierre-Smith at [email protected].