Knowledge is power. Girls, it’s time to take control of your own financial literacy. Here are some of the best reads to help you understand finances in a fun way.
I recently caught myself complaining about the new tax bill to a friend, primarily because my Facebook feed was blowing up with negative headlines and status updates. But when I asked my financial advisor how it would affect me as an independent contractor, he patiently explained that it would actually benefit me. After cringing and wishing I could take back my uninformed remark, I made a pact with myself to become more financially literate in 2018.
The next day I downloaded a dozen highly rated books and podcasts about money (Watch out, Wall Street!). A few pages in, I couldn’t help but notice my new book on investing had already used three men as examples, but no women. I was also spending more time looking up the definitions of words than actually reading the book. An hour later, exhausted from the jargon and unrelatability, I moved on to “Big Little Lies”.
Though I felt like a failure, I couldn’t help but wonder: Are there any books, podcasts, or online resources about money that are written for women like me who are educated and eager to learn?
To find out, I sat down with my girlfriends Catheryn, Bethany, and Jen to talk more about financial literacy and learn how they stay informed on money-related matters. Catheryn MacMillan is a 32-year-old management consultant who recently graduated from business school. Bethany Martinez, who just turned 30, quit her corporate job in public relations two years ago to become a full-time yoga and Pilates teacher. Jen Richards, a 27-year-old with a background in healthcare, is currently searching for a new startup gig.
On a rainy evening in San Francisco, we huddled around my kitchen table (armed with tea and take out) to talk finances—a new experience for all of us. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
What financial topics do you care about right now? Why?
Bethany: Since I’m an independent contractor, I end up paying more in taxes since they’re not taken out of my paychecks. It’s taken me by surprise every single quarter. I’d like to understand more about taxes, and how I can do a better job preparing. For example, what percentage should I be setting aside from each paycheck for taxes? I’ve heard anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. Also, what’s the difference between a W-2 and W-9? 1099?
Catheryn: Yeah. They could have at least come up with more intuitive names for the forms, right?
Bethany: Also, who is “they”?
Catheryn: For me, since I took out loans to go to school, I’m focused on paying off my debt. One of my goals this month is to look into refinancing my loans to see if it would put me in a better financial position.
Jen: I’m interested in learning more about equity.
I want to learn more about student loan refinancing, too. How do you go about educating yourself on these topics?
Bethany: This is going to sound bad, but I’m just going to say it: I don’t really educate myself on a lot of financial topics. For some reason I’m intimidated by money. I think I’m ashamed of my lack of knowledge, which just makes the situation worse. I end up just passing everything off to my accountant.
Catheryn: I can relate to that. But it’s almost like we’re set up to fail. Money is a tool that everyone—literally, everyone—must rely on to live. But what good is any tool if you don’t know how to use it? We’re often without an instruction manual. I don’t think there’s enough information out there for women on money.
Bethany: Yeah. I mean, that’s all my hard work and earned money—my livelihood, really. And it’s in someone else’s hands. It makes me uncomfortable.
Jen: So, I actually think there’s a ton of content out there, it’s just rare that something makes me go, “Wow, this is for me.” It doesn’t feel like most of the articles I read are written by other women trying to figure this whole thing out. Like, please tell me someone else out there has tried to do equity calculations on an iPhone calculator and Starbucks napkin while sitting on the toilet before going into an interview?
Catheryn: I would read about that. It’s real. It wouldn’t make the reader feel stupid for not understanding something. It would make me like and trust the author more. You should write about it—seriously.
I would read that, too. I’m curious—what resources about money are actually getting this right, if any?
Catheryn: After I graduated, I ordered “The Debt Escape Plan”. What stood out to me is that the book is interactive, and you can personalize it. It has a quiz called “Your Money Personality” to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. I’m a sucker for personality tests and quizzes! The book even includes pay-off plan templates that I can edit to reflect my own debt situation. I tore it out of the book and put it on my fridge.
Bethany: I highly recommend Skimm Notes. I listen to it on my commute. It’s a podcast that breaks down the most important issues. But it’s done in a way that feels like your best friend explaining it to you over a glass of wine. They refer to Kim Jong Un as Lil’ Kim.
I’m also in the middle of a book called “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Money”. While the title sounds sexist and old-fashioned, it’s not. The term “Prince Charming” refers all the things women often assume are going to happen, like getting a raise or inheriting money from a relative. For me, I realized I was relying on my accountant to magically take care of everything. This, in turn, causes many women to procrastinate or avoid taking control and ownership of their finances. It sounds harsh, but the author writes in a compassionate tone without ever being patronizing or condescending. This book is probably the reason I’m beginning to open up about my avoidance. It’s helping me come to terms with it and create a plan for addressing it.
Jen: I sometimes listen to the podcast Brunch & Budget, too. Their whole motto is that it’s not a podcast about personal finance, but rather about making finance personal. I’m a healthcare geek, so I’ve loved listening to their coverage of the Trump administration’s impact on the Affordable Care Act.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in investing, she recommended the book “I Will Teach You to Get Rich”. In the introduction, the author explains that nutritionists aren’t the only ones capable of losing weight, and automotive engineers aren’t the only ones who can drive cars. So why should people who work in finance be on the only ones who can manage money, invest, and get rich? That really stuck with me. Plus, he uses phrases like “Aww, yeah!” and references The Real World, which keeps it entertaining.
After talking with my friends, I ditched my current finance read and picked up Bianca’s recommendation, “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Money”. So far, I’m happy to report that all of the examples have been about women and it’s jargon-free. I haven’t felt the urge to pick up “Big Little Lies” once—not even in the bathtub. To be honest, I’m much more excited by the idea of becoming my own prince charming.