(This is a post I wrote as a guest columnist for a Women Entrepreneurs website: She Owns It.)
“I suggest women reverse the golden rule and treat themselves as well as they treat others.” - Gloria Steinem
As entrepreneurs, we give everything to our business and always put the customer first. Both of these tasks come easy.
However, women often prioritize the needs of others, and in doing so, we often postpone or neglect our critical self-care. As we all know, taking care of ourselves is important, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.
As business owners, we need to schedule it in, or it doesn’t happen.
SCHEDULING “ME TIME”
When we think of self-care, we tend to think of stress relief: bubble baths, mani-pedi’s, or gab-fests with our girlfriends. Many of our go-to self-care approaches cost money, and personally, I love a little retail therapy. Nevertheless, paying the bills a couple of weeks later can create a vicious cycle.
Does thinking about finances stress you out? We all carry some anxiety about money which can backfire when we need a little self-care to undo the other stresses of giving and caring for others first.
Life is expensive, and it gets more complicated when you’re running a business, so taking time out to decompress is essential.
Have you ever considered the fact that financial planning can be a great stress reliever, too? When you take time to plan for the future and get your ducks in a row, financially, you’re taking care of your future self.
So schedule a time to sit with yourself and think about your financial life. Reflect on where you are now and imagine how you’d like things to be in 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road. We need to carve out time in our busy lives today to think about what we’re trying to accomplish.
Bring a pen and paper because someone has to keep notes for the meeting!
HONING YOUR FINANCIAL PHYSIQUE
We live in a world where instant gratification is not only common but expected. Therefore, resisting impulsive consumerism takes self-discipline, and financial planning helps you hone in on this important skill.
By establishing specific goals to focus on what is most important to you, you can avoid distractions that sidetrack you.
Thus, every time we spend money, we should ask ourselves:
"Does this align with my financial goals, or is it diminishing my capacity to fund them?"
Now let me be clear: Budgeting is difficult, and it means saying no to things we may want now to have more of what we desire later. However, the discipline needed for financial fitness is similar to that required for physical health and wellness.
In the U.S., women are bombarded with messages that teach us that physical beauty is our most valuable asset. For example, how much energy do we spend focusing on the shape of our figure rather than figuring out how to improve our financial lives? Even Helen of Troy's beauty could not rival one of our most powerful tools as women: our wealth.
Your wallet or purse – be it Coach, Fossil, Anne Klein or Mossimo – goes everywhere you go, and how you use it matters. • In the U.S., women hold nearly 40% of the nation's investable assets: $11.2 trillion. • Globally, women hold 27% of the world's wealth: $20 trillion.
Despite this substantial power we hold in our pocketbooks, women face unique financial challenges that make managing our money that much more critical.
Here are the top five factors that hold us back financially:
1. Wage gap: We make less than men. The stats show we make 77-81% of comparable men's earnings, depending on the study you choose. For black women, it's even worse: they earn 67% of white non-Hispanic men's wages.
2. We live longer than men, so we need more money for retirement.
3. We are the caregivers for the world, and much of that work is uncompensated.
4. The financial industry is male-dominated. It can also be confusing to navigate and easy to be misled or unwittingly victimized.
5. Once bitten, twice shy. We take fewer risks and hold back from investing, which stalls out the growth of our assets.
Many of these factors seem out of our control since they're embedded in our culture. So we can either make lemonade with the lemons we've been served or work on changing the culture. It's not all sour lemons, though, and living longer sounds like a very good thing to me.
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
The Gloria Steinem quote above that inspired me to write this post is from a Jean Chatzky podcast in which Jean asks Gloria about her plan to live to 100 (or 110) and Gloria’s quip back to Jean was priceless, “I have to just meet my current deadlines.”
Whether we live until 80, 90, or 110, the cost of living and care we’ll likely need will be inflating from now until then. Stashing away more money now and investing for the future of your dreams is good self-care.
Reverse the golden rule in your financial life and commit to treating your future-self the way you’d really like to be treated.