Black women utilized every available platform on August 13, 2020 to honor #BlackWomensEqualPayDay, which included shedding a light on the income/wage disparities experienced by Black women in the workforce. Over the span of 40 years, Black women have become the most educationally accomplished demographic by obtaining advanced degrees; however, they continue to make less than their non-Black and white male counterparts. Additional fast facts included but were not limited to:
As my timeline became flooded with conversations surrounding pay inequity, I was fulfilled and yet sad. It is no secret that the current public health crisis, economic downturn, and racial reckoning has thrown 2020 into a tailspin. As a Black woman with intersecting identities, navigating the complexity that is 2020 has often left me emotionally and mentally drained. Moreover, as I grapple to process rising unemployment, the rising rate in which families (particularly Black and brown families in New York City) will be evicted from their apartments once the freeze lifts, and the gaps widening in education and healthcare, I am cognizant to explore these through the lens of class, gender, and race. As a result, these seemingly “separate” issues affect me mutually.
Exploring how the pandemic has affected women as a collective, there are many unique challenges that have emerged. From stock market volatility, to job loss, women have had to deal with a myriad of negativity. To dissect these challenges further, Experian took to Twitter and hosted a #CreditChat on Women & Money: Guide to Financial Empowerment on August 26th. I had the pleasure of participating in the chat and am thrilled to share my responses. Enjoy!
Q1: What unique challenges do women face when it comes to their finances?
WW: When focusing on the gender wage gap, it is widely known that women earn disproportionately less than their male counterparts. Additionally, when many women partake in motherhood, they are stuck between a personal and professional rock and a hard place. #CreditChat
Q2: How can women be more proactive during times of uncertainty and volatility?
WW: For women who are keen planners, continual financial planning that is as unique as their financial circumstance is highly encouraged. For women who are unsure of where to start, visiting places such as @NerdWallet is optimal for information is abundant. #CreditChat
Q3: Why are most women so hesitant to talk about money?
WW: Conversations about money have long been considered taboo. Likewise, because women should always act with "decency", money is an "improper topic". However, as income disparity widens, it is crucial that women talk about money and engage in salary negotiations. #CreditChat
Q4: How can women improve their money mindset?
WW: I will always promote filling in knowledge gaps. Therefore, women can boost their fiscal knowledge by borrowing books on money management, listening to financial wellness podcasts, or subscribing to top financial powerhouses’ newsletters for insider know-how. #CreditChat
Q5: What are some tips that can help women advance in their careers and advocate for their work?
WW: Cultivating a strong professional network, consistently updating one’s cover letter and résumé, taking on new projects within your capacity, and scheduling coffee chats with colleagues in other departments to amplify current work is a start. #CreditChat
Q6: What are some strategies for women to achieve financial independence?
WW: Given the current public health crisis and the recession, achieving financial independence may be an afterthought. Nevertheless, it is important that women exhaust all options such as identifying and eliminating risk and continuing to pay off debt. #CreditChat
Q7: What are some financial measures all married women should know about their money?
WW: Secure credit in your own name and continue short, mid, and long-term planning individually. Additionally, stay up to date on all financial activities made within the family – this is the time to flex those receipt-keeping skills! #CreditChat
Q8: What can girls and women do to become more financially confident?
WW: Girls should know that it is never too early to learn about proper money management. Therefore, these girls should know organizations such as @CouncilEconEd, @investgirls, and @JA_USA and begin exploring their websites and completing their interactive activities. #CreditChat
Q9: What are some smart retirement strategies for women?
WW: Women should not only take advantage of employee matching but should invest in a Roth IRA. Likewise, because women tend to be risk averse when investing, asking the right fiscal questions (no matter the number of questions) can start to ease fears. #CreditChat
Q10: Any last-minute tips or thoughts on financial empowerment for women?
WW: Although women face multiple economic barriers to success, this should not deter us from expanding our fiscal knowledge and applying the theories learned to practice. Also, having a community of women financial advisors to learn from is a key to long-term success. #CreditChat
To close, I implore you to continue amplifying the voices of the women, especially women of color, in all aspects of your interactions. Therefore, do your part for #NativeWomensEqualPayDay on October 1, 2020 and again for #LatinaEqualPayDay on October 29, 2020.
It’s 5pm and another Monday working from home has concluded. As I shut down my ThinkPad (work laptop), I am pleasantly surprised to find that my days have not become a blur. Having worked from home since March 12th, I assumed that the pause to my daily commute would have also stopped my sense of time. Alas, I am fully aware. In this awareness, I have been intentional about embracing my newfound stillness, taking advantage of moments to sit in silence or daydream. Moreover, when I grow tired of silence, I binge-watch Billions (for obvious reasons) and House of Cards. Ahh, there’s nothing like head-to-head battles between a billionaire hedge fund manager and an oft corrupt Attorney General and political back-stabbing to increase adrenaline. Finally, when I need a reprieve from scripted shows, I scroll through Twitter in search of comic relief.
Although my timeline has now been dominated by 24-hour coverage of COVID-19 and its devastating global effects, the small pockets of laughter emerge. When the comedy stops, I interact with fellow economics advisors, educators, and students for I find solace in my #finlit community. Thus, as engage in discourse centered on analysis, facts, and opinions, we find ourselves on common ground with two items: the cancellation of student loan debt and the misinformation around the Economic Impact Payments. A large majority within finance and borrowers agree that the current public health crisis, broken healthcare system, and necessity to shelter-in-place overrides the necessity of individuals paying back their student loans. Additionally, as the number of Americans filing for unemployment rises past 12 million, the time for cancellation is now.
As of this morning, the student loan debt total is $1,719,965,109,124. Within this total, there are roughly 45 million Americans, me included, who owe a portion of this lump sum. Moreover, two-thirds of women contribute to this debt, with Black woman bearing the largest burden. Even if you have been fortunate enough to maintain employment and work from home, every penny earned has been dispersed to food, shelter, and filling in other monetary cracks. Therefore, if employed workers are treating their student loans as an afterthought, I am certain those who have been furloughed or unemployed are not hard pressed to repay Sallie Mae.
As I re-read the above paragraph, I am reminded though that federal student loans have been placed into forbearance until September 2020. I am also reminded that Economic Impact Payments of $1,200 continue to be deposited into the bank accounts of tax filing citizens. Two lights at the end of turbulent tunnels are not without baggage, however. With every deposit of the impact payment follows contentious commentary. For example, conversations have ranged from those casting judgment on those anxiously awaiting assistance, to those above the fray, and to those who strongly urge individuals to practice risky financial planning (investing in volatile marketplaces) versus practicing sound, risk-averse planning. What has begun to grind my gears is that the commentary is not derived from economic schools of thought or economics degree-holders, but passive enthusiasts. It is one thing to speak with facts, it is another to speak from misinformation. To quiet the noise, I will continue to practice due diligence.
Now that I have waded through the noise, I am happy to report that I created a plan of action, one that sees a blending of my financial education and receiving the stimulus – paying down on my student loan principal. I like a few am fortunate that my bills are up-to-date and my needs are met. As such, I intend to one-up Sallie Mae and pay down on my principal before September. If you are in a similar position, I implore you to pay down on your principal balance, too. With interest rate accrual halted, the time to loosen student loan debt’s hold is now.
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global economic, political, and social landscape, do not forget to prioritize your well-being above all else. Faulty markets will continue to exist, just like citizens playing the blame-game with their respective governments will continue to exist too. In the end, find peace in your stillness and invest in your wellness.
As we reflect on the bewilderment, chaos, and uncertainty that was March 2020, let us remember that in this trying time, our best recourse outside of following CDC and state department of health guidelines is going above and beyond for one another. Yes, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate media across all platforms, as well as continues to drastically change the face of modern medicine, many are using their time at home make sense of the world around them. Specifically, the activities of the day have varied from monitoring CNN, eating, stressing, and obsessively checking both checking and savings accounts, credit scores, and 401k/Roth IRA accounts.
In examining the world and its shaky financial circumstance further, it is disheartening to see the effects of this pandemic. Widespread layoffs, exponential unemployment applications, and the rapid rise of food and housing insecurities have left even the savviest of economists concerned. Thus, if the world’s leading experts are being transparent about the dire economic straits we find ourselves in, imagine how everyday citizens feel? Moreover, when looking at the United States, imagine how working class and poverty-stricken individuals feel against the crashing tides? As a working class individual, I harbor fear; I also harbor resentment for the choices made by elected officials who swore oaths to protect and serve the public. And yet, in that resentment, I still find pockets to bestow gratitude.
Today is the first day of National Financial Literacy Month and regardless of your sentiments surrounding financial literacy, and the privileges that extend to many, it is crucial to have ongoing conversations about finance and the multiple roles it will play in your lives during and long after the public health crisis. To jumpstart the conversation, take a look at March 25th’s Experian’s Twitter chat:
Q1: How is everyone doing during this Coronavirus pandemic?
WW: Mentally, I am anxious. Such uncertainty leaves me craving an answer that is not there. Additionally, as an educator who now relies on virtual learning, I am working overtime to ensure that the academic and personal needs of my students are met. #CreditChat
Q2: What are your thoughts on panic buying?
WW: This is a contentious topic, but needs to be addressed. The fears surrounding scarcity are real, however, this fear should not result in hoarding essential items. Specifically, hoarding common, everyday items to the point of wiping out shelves is irresponsible. #CreditChat
Q3: What are some ways we can help those around us during this financially-straining time?
WW: Ask close friends and family how you can be of assistance in providing the basics: food, clothing, and perhaps shelter, if your circumstances allow. The percentage of unemployed workers is high, as well as the percentage of strain. Do your part wherever you can. #CreditChat
Q4: What are some ways to manage our budgets with many unexpected expenses?
WW: For those still employed and receiving scheduled paychecks, budget the best way you know how. For those who cannot financially commit to budgeting, do not feel ashamed or pressured. The financial effects of this crisis are massive, so again do what you can! #CreditChat
Q5: Many people will have larger credit card bills in 30 days. What tips do you have for repayment?
WW: Call your credit card company and ask about flexible payments and if they can waive your interest and late fees. #CreditChat
Q6: How can families still have fun without spending money while #SocialDistancing?
WW: Cooking meals and having fun together is a start. Family game and puzzle nights are an option, too! Also, movie nights with bargain snacks will never fail. #CreditChat
Q7: As the outbreak grows, more people are #WorkingFromHome. What are the challenges with #RemoteWorking?
WW: For me, I find that I work longer hours when at home. Because commuting is no longer a factor, I start earlier and end later. Also, I have to force myself to work from my desk rather than my bed so as to maintain a routine and structure. #CreditChat
Q8: What are some smart ways to cut back on expenses?
WW: Truly eliminate the expenses that you don’t need (only you know what those are). Remember, cutting back on vices will not catapult you into a higher tax bracket, but the consistency and effort put towards saving incrementally will yield positive results. #CreditChat
Q9: What are some ways to keep your #CreditReports and #CreditScores strong during the Coronavirus outbreak?
WW: Check your score regularly and quickly speak up should anything should be out of order. Be sure to also contact your lender(s) if you need a little more time paying monthly bills. If you are fortunate enough to pay your monthly statement, pay on time. #CreditChat
Q10: Any final tips on coping with the Coronavirus pandemic?
WW: Be vigilant, but not to the point of obsession. Be intentional about where you are receiving your information, and who the messenger(s) is/are. Be open to introspection and use whatever downtime available to financially and personally plan for the months to come. #CreditChat
Economic educators, enthusiasts, and supporters alike – Happy New Year! 2019 was arduous, exciting, and often exhausting as the ebb and flow of these feelings left many emotionally, mentally, and physically scarred. Thus, whether the year was equal parts traumatizing and triumphant, there is a consensus: we are ready to embark on all-things new. As the celebrations continue, I want us to take a moment to be intentional about our 2020 academic, financial, personal, and professional goals. As such, these goals should be crafted and executed with care. In examining the crafting and execution of goals further, I want to share mine. Thanks to Experian for providing the blueprint and foundation that will serve as the path to achieving fiscal success in 2020. Below you will find my 2020 financial goals:
Q1: What are your financial goals for 2020?
WW: To continue making a sizable dent in my graduate student loan debt; to save two to three times harder than I did this year (2019); to shed all of the financial baggage from 2019l and to utilize all professional raises responsibly.
Q2: What is your favorite app/software to help you create a budget?
WW: For individuals without internet access or access to smartphones, manually tracking expenses will be ideal. For individuals with access to high speed technology, apps such as Mint and PocketGuard are the go-to choices. Likewise, NerdWallet provides interested parties with free budgeting worksheets.
Q3: What are some ways to start getting into a frugal financial habit?
WW: Create a realistic plan. As such, whether your plan includes saving $5 weekly, or utilizing rideshare (Lyft, Uber, etc.) services bi-weekly or three times a month, your plan should not only be tangible, but allows room for change (especially should you fall off course).
Q4: How is monitoring your physical health helpful in maintaining your financial health?
WW: It is no secret that economics and healthcare are intertwined. It is also no secret that healthcare is an expensive business often leaving many in massive debt. Even those with adequate healthcare insurance are not exempt from exorbitant costs and fees; therefore, it is crucial that individuals maintain their health so as to eliminate the need for ongoing care and spiraling into further debt.
Q5: What are some financial mistakes you made this year (2019) that you'd like to change to perform better next year?
WW: I was not as diligent about budgeting as a I should have. I teetered between automatically saving 5-10% from each paycheck to manually saving less than 5% when I could. As a result, this financial inconsistency proved to be ineffective. Likewise, with financial raises came the propensity to overspend. Thus, I had many moments of buyer’s remorse, which I look to decrease in 2020.
Q6: What's your favorite personal finance podcast/Instagram account/blog/book, etc. to increase your personal finance expertise?
WW: My favorite personal finance blog is Wealth With Whitney and my favorite accounts are @CouncilEcondEd, @ElyssaJK, @FinLit_Dating, @MyFabFinance, @peerlessmoney, and @scribesays.
Q7: What are some ways to get out of debt faster?
WW: If you can, please pay more than the minimum balance. Even if your payments are automated, you can adjust monthly payments to reflect a higher amount.
Q8: What are some ways to help you start investing?
WW: The first place to start is your retirement plan. If you are fortunate enough to have employee matching, utilize this to your financial advantage. As such, set your percentage between 3 and 5%.
Q9: What are some steps you can take to start on the path to good credit?
WW: Continue paying monthly credit card statements on time; continue paying student loans on time. If you cannot repay your loans, please contact your loan provider to discuss alternative repayment plans or possible deferment.
Q10: Any tips to improve your finances in the new year?
WW: Be intentional and serious about your short – and long-term financial goals. Finances are complex and the work to maintain financial stability is exhaustive but worth it when done correctly and when provided with adequate access and resources.
Education enthusiast whose mission it is to see Financial Literacy receive well-deserved shine.