© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman passes by a reflection of a poster of a Benjamin Franklin 100 dollar bill at a money changer in Singapore
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK (Reuters) – While men have traditionally held the title of “breadwinner,” times are changing. These days, moms are the sole or primary provider for their households more than 40% of the time.
Jennifer Barrett, the chief education officer for popular investing site Acorns, wrote about her experiences in this role in her new book “Think Like a Breadwinner,” which highlights how women can shift their financial lives into a higher gear.
Q: For women who want to take their financial lives to the next level, what advice would you have?
A: It starts with income, because that will be the springboard for all your wealth-building efforts. You want to be making the most you can in your role at any given time, and that does mean asking for it. Women traditionally are paid and promoted less, so it’s important that we advocate for ourselves.
Step two is to use every paycheck as an opportunity to become less dependent on your next paycheck. The ultimate goal is not just earning more, but building wealth. So with every check that comes in, put some into savings and investments, so that money is working for you and you’re not working for your money.
Q: Millions of women have been leaving the workforce during the pandemic. Are you worried about that trend?
A: We’re in an extraordinary time here. This crisis has really increased the burden on working parents, because now they have to be childcare providers and home educators on top of their jobs. That has pushed them to the breaking point.
As schools reopen and childcare options increase, a lot of women will go back to the workforce. And what this pandemic has done is shine a light on issues that have always been there, like women doing most of the household work. I’m encouraged by the fact that we are now having conversations about that.
Q: You talk a lot about self-criticism and self-doubt – do you find that is more prevalent among women than men?
A: When parents talk to daughters about money, they talk about budgeting and spending. When they talk to their sons, they talk about investing to build wealth. So if women are not getting that message, it’s not surprising they feel anxious about investing.
That’s why women need to get comfortable talking to each other about wealth. Ironically, women are more successful investors than men, so there is a big disconnect between our actual performance, and how we perceive ourselves.
Q: Can being a female breadwinner bring up any relationship issues?
A: Both my husband and I grew up in families where fathers were the primary breadwinners, so we didn’t have a roadmap for any of this. One thing I can say from my own experience, is that one of the most important things you can do is communicate openly with your partner about expectations and assumptions.
For instance, my own expectations about motherhood came right up against my responsibilities as a breadwinner. I tried to do everything and got completely burned out. I had difficult letting go of some caregiving, because I thought it would mean I was a bad mom. That was really rough emotionally, but I’m on the other side of that now. It’s not about the quantity of time with your kids, it’s the quality.
Q: Having been through this breadwinning journey, any final takeaways?
A: If you are maximizing your earning potential, if you are saving and investing from every paycheck, if you are building your credit so you get the best rates on mortgages, you are setting yourself up to support the life you want without having to worry about being dependent on someone else. That’s a wonderful place to be.