Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Overly plucked eyebrows. Cringe-worthy haircuts from years past. Blurry, tequila-fueled hook ups with men that haven’t quite figured out they’re gay yet. There’s always something we, as women, can look back on with regret. Thankfully, the pain of these awkward memories usually fade, just as sperm-shaped eyebrows always grow back. But sometimes women make terrible mistakes that stick around for decades (just like that shamrock-shaped tattoo you got in a tent outside of a bar on St. Patrick’s Day — yes, that really did happen). Money mistakes can take many shapes (fortunately, most aren’t in the shape of a lucky plant). Here are 4 of the most common mistakes I see women make with their money.
Trying to keep up with Ms. Jones
Your favorite celeb posts an Instagram picture wearing her new waist trainer, so now you have to have one too. You can’t make your car payment this month, but you definitely can’t miss your bestie’s bachelorette weekend in Vegas either. You can’t be caught dead in a car that doesn’t have heated seats and built-in GPS. Whether or not we like to admit it, women care about how other people perceive them. We want to be the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented, or the wealthiest, just so we can impress other people that probably don’t even care about those things to begin with. Unfortunately, this usually comes with a price tag (both literally and figuratively). We buy things to make us appear more like the person we want to be. It’s fine to buy things that make us feel good about ourselves, take ourselves on a relaxing vacation, or even reward ourselves for a job well done. It’s not OK, though, to buy ridiculously expensive designer sunglasses then not have enough left over to pay the rent or buy your baby’s formula. It’s all about balance. Make sure you pay for the essentials first (including putting something into savings), then by all means spring for those hot new shoes if you have extra cash leftover.
Assuming he’ll take care of you forever
“My husband has a retirement account, plus a pension from the military, so I don’t need to save for retirement.” But what happens if you get divorced? “That will NEVER happen.” What if he dies young? “He’s perfectly healthy.”
This was a conversation that I had several times with a friend, and it absolutely kills me to think about all of the what ifs. No one ever plans to get divorced or expects their seemingly healthy husband to pass before you’re both old and gray, but guess what? It happens! It happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME! My dad was 71 when he passed away, which is still relatively young. My 63 year old mom suddenly found herself solely responsible for the mortgage and day-to-day expenses, despite my dad’s pension and social security income being slashed in half upon his death. Thankfully, my parents were always very smart with their money. Plus they had ample time to get the finances in order prior to his death. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many widows lose their homes, have to live with their children, or just simply not even know how much money they have or where to access it.
Long story short, never rely solely on your significant other to manage your finances and your financial future.
Rushing into things
Along those same lines, I’ve seen women totally screwed when they moved too fast in a relationship. One friend purchased a home with her fiancé, only to divorce him less than a year after marrying him. She kicked him out, he didn’t have a job, so he quit paying his portion of the mortgage. I don’t know the specifics on how much of a struggle it was for her, but I know she moved in a few roommates and a new boyfriend soon after, which I assume helped her make the payments.
Similarly, I have a cousin that signed an apartment lease with a guy she’d only been dating a few weeks. Sure enough, her crazy started showing through and he bailed. She tried to sue him for his portion of the rent that he’d promised to pay when they signed the lease. That failed miserably when she saw him across the courtroom and fell for him all over again. Oddly enough, he bailed once again, just as soon as she dropped the lawsuit. Go figure.
Not asking for more money
It’s no secret that men make more money than women. Just last week people were posting all over Instagram in support of Equal Pay Day, which highlights the wage gap between men and women in the United States. Part of this is a broken system. But part of it is that most women are afraid to negotiate their pay. I have hired a few employees in my day, all of them women, and not a single one has ever tried negotiating with me for higher pay. I’ve also spoken to several friends who tell me they’ve never tried negotiating their pay either upon hire or after a performance review, out of fear of rejection or fear of coming across as greedy. I don’t know how greedy I’ve come across, but in all of my negotiations, I’ve never had anyone flat out refuse. Maybe they didn’t give me as much as I’ve asked for, but they’ve always increased the offered amount. In my opinion, it’s better to ask and be turned down than to risk not asking and losing out. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.