From dry cleaning to shampoo, women spend upwards of three times more for products and services than men. And even though we're long past the days of the mentality in which "men need to make more because they're the sole breadwinner," we have yet to close the wage gap.
Women still make only 73 cents on the dollar of their male counterparts.
Divorced women in particular know they're supposed to pay attention to their financial affairs, but many don't. However, it's never too early or too late to take control of your finances. And the truth is, just like losing weight or giving up smoking, it's something only you can do for yourself. So if we earn less, carry the majority of the financial responsibility after a divorce, and were never taught how to be cash-confident and savings-savvy, what can we do?
Here are a few ways to save more, make more, and level the playing field:
It's time to stop saying things like, "I'm just not good with money" and take the necessary steps to learn how to manage money in a way that's empowering. Money knows no gender, it will respond equally to whoever is handling it properly.
No matter your marital status, you cannot afford to not save money! Women live an average of 9 years longer than men, so you'll need more saved to support your lifestyle over a longer period of time. First, you must have an account solely in your name — this is just a smart thing for every woman to do. Second, you must commit to saving at least 5 percent (preferably 10) of everything you earn. Third, find the best saving vehicle. For example, ING Direct pays 3.4% (more than you can get on most no-minimum savings accounts).
• Max out your 401k plan, or at least up to the company match. These are pre-tax dollars and will allow you to save automatically while reducing your tax obligation.
• Give your kids the proper credit. If you pay someone to watch your children (under age 13), you may qualify for as much as 35% of $3,000 for one child, or $6,000 for two or more kids. Be sure to find out if you can implement this cost saving strategy.
If it's been 18 months to two years since you've had a merit-based raise (or raised your fees if you're self-employed), it's time to ask for more money. Period. Do some research to see what your industry standards are if you know you've worked hard and actively contributed to the bottom line and then set up a meeting with your boss to "discuss your compensation." Ask for a raise because when you don't ask, you don't get.
• Consider switching jobs. There are about 39 career fields in which women make upwards of 26% more than men for the same job. Don't be afraid to try something new, especially if you'll be richly rewarded for it.
• Start a business. According to the Small Business Association, women are starting businesses at a rate of 3 to 1 to men. They're making their own money and changing their financial lives in the process. From turnkey network marketing opportunities, to consulting and cleaning services, women are taking a more active role in business ownership — maybe you should to!
Level the playing field
One big mistake that women make is they often let their credit history lapse when they're married. If all financial accounts, leases, credit cards and bills are filed jointly, your personal credit history stops building.
• A good way to build your own credit history before you're divorced is to open a credit card in your name only. To build a history, you must use the card, but it's essential to build a good credit history by paying off your balance in full every month. Once you're divorced, the best way to re-establish credit is to secure a credit card in your own name.
• Get your cleaning done at a flat rate service versus a drycleaner that charges per item. Also, buy consumable items such as shampoo and feminine care products in bulk to keep your spending down.
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