Financial independence for women is about more than the ability to manage your own money– it’s about the ability to create your own life, manage your own time, and live a fulfilling life (whatever that means to you). There isn’t an area of life that your finances won’t impact, so being able to make informed financial decisions is vital for your long-term success and happiness. As of writing this, 60% of women in the United States say they are financially independent, but financial independence for women is more recent than you might think.
- A brief history of financial independence for women
- Why women should be financially independent
- How to become financially independent
A Brief History of Financial Independence for Women
Historically, women have faced significant obstacles in achieving financial independence. Societal norms and legal restrictions often relegated women to domestic roles, limiting their opportunities for education and employment. Even when women entered the workforce, they typically earned less than men for similar work.
The struggle for financial equality has been ongoing, with significant milestones such as the suffrage movement and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Progress continues to be made, but gender pay gaps and disparities in financial literacy persist in many parts of the world.
1862: The Homestead Act allowed single women, widows, and deserted wives to claim land in their own names, a significant step toward financial independence for women in the U.S.
1903: The Women’s Trade Union League was founded, advocating for better working conditions and fair wages for women, contributing to their economic independence.
1919: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote, a fundamental milestone for their political and economic empowerment.
1974: The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibited credit discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status. This allowed women to apply for credit cards and loans in their own names without male co-signers.
1978: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibited employment discrimination against pregnant women, helping women maintain financial stability while starting families.
1981: The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act made significant changes to retirement plans, allowing spouses to contribute to their own IRAs, which helped women secure their financial futures.
2009: The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act further strengthened protections for credit card applicants, making it easier for women to access credit independently.
2010: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to healthcare and contraception, reducing the financial burden of healthcare costs for many women.
2020: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of financial preparedness for women, emphasizing the need for emergency funds and financial independence.
Why Women Should be Financially Independent
Financial independence provides a safety net in times of unexpected financial crises, divorces, or the loss of a spouse. Financial independence can reduce vulnerability and enhance overall well-being.
Achieving financial independence is a crucial step towards closing the gender pay gap and achieving gender equality. When women are financially independent, they have more control over their lives and can advocate for their rights.
Financial independence ensures that women can retire comfortably and maintain their quality of life in their later years. Women often live longer than men, making financial planning essential.
Financial independence empowers women to make choices that align with their values and goals, whether that’s pursuing a career, starting a business, or contributing to their communities.
How to Become Financially Independent
1. Financial Education
Start by educating yourself about personal finance. Understand concepts like budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. Numerous online resources, books, and courses are available for this purpose.
2. Set Financial Goals
Define your short-term and long-term financial goals. Having clear objectives will help you create a roadmap for achieving them. Some good questions to ask yourself to brainstorm your goals are:
What would financial independence mean to me?
What would my life look like if I were financially independent?
What has worked for me in the past when it comes to my finances? What would I like to improve?
Do I have high-interest debt I need to pay off?
What are my retirement goals? Do I currently have a plan to retire? Do I want to be able to retire early?
You can find some more information on starting your financial plan and money mindset in this free guide.
Create a detailed budget that outlines your income, expenses, and savings goals. Stick to this budget to ensure you are living within your means and saving consistently. Often times when we say “budget” it can put a bad taste in some people’s mouths. So let’s reframe what it actually means. A budget isn’t to restrict you, it’s to help you feel empowered to spend on what matters most to you.
There are tons of different ways to budget. Here are some examples:
4. Learn to Invest
Investing is one of the best ways to make your money work for you. And? It can be easy! Investing doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t let the finance bros get to your head. If you want to gain financial independence, learning to build additional streams of income should be high on your priority list. And you can learn to invest in one hour, for free, with this class.
5. Build an Emergency Fund
Save at least three to six month’s worth of living expenses in an easily accessible account to provide financial security in case of unexpected events. Now, remember. This is three to six months of emergency expenses only. You don’t want to keep a bunch of cash on hand that you could be investing or putting into other streams of income. Why? Because of inflation, if you have a bunch of cash in your savings, your total amount of money will actually start to depreciate.
6. Open a High-Yield Savings Account
Now that you have an emergency fund, it’s time to think about where you are storing your money. A high-yield savings account is similar to a regular savings account except often it does not have a debit card attached. The good news? High-yield savings accounts offer you interest payments every month on the money that you have in the savings account. So if you are going to have an emergency fund with three to six months of emergency savings, you might as well make money on it.
7. Negotiate and Advocate
Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary and benefits at work to ensure fair compensation. Know your worth and keep track of all that you accomplish while in your role. If you aren’t having regular conversations with your manager, make that a priority. It’s time to advocate for equal pay and advancement opportunities so that you can get paid what you deserve.
8. Make Stretgic Job Changes
You might have heard this by now– it can be extremely beneficial for you to change companies every two years. But why is that? Did you know that you can get promoted within a company and end up making less money than someone who was an outside hire? But what happens if you are an outside hire at a different company?
If you haven’t made a significant increase in your income after being at a company for two years, it’s time to make a strategic change.
9. Track Your Finances
One of the most important steps to financial independence is tracking your progress. On top of budgeting, you can track your progress on your own, or by using a pre-made wealth planner. This will help you stay on track and feel accomplished as you watch your goals become closer and closer.
Depending on your financial goals, it could be worth considering entrepreneurship. Starting a business can create additional income streams to help you gain financial independence.
11. Passive Income
Passive income is a way to generate income without constantly trading time for money. In a traditional 9-5 job, you are ultimately paid for your time. Passive income takes time to set up but has the ability to generate income even when you aren’t working on it. Some good examples of passive income include:
Real Estate Investments
Investing in rental properties or real estate investment trusts (REITs) to generate rental income or dividend payouts.
Purchasing stocks that pay dividends, providing you with regular income without selling the stock itself.
12. Side Hustles
Side hustles can also provide additional streams of income to help you gain financial independence. Some good examples of side hustle include:
Leveraging your skills or hobbies by offering freelance services online. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr can connect you with potential clients.
Have something you are an expert in? Help others refine their skills!
13. Revise as Necessary
Any good plan still needs edits. As you make progress on your steps to financial independence, do an audit and see if there are parts that need to be revised. Maybe you need to revisit your goals. Are these still your goals? Are the steps you are currently taking leading you to these goals?
14. Minimize Debt
Focus on paying down high-interest debt like credit card balances to free up more of your income. One of the hot topics in the finance world is if a person should be 100% debt free before investing, and we think the general answer is no! You can still be building wealth while you have debt, but high-interest debt (let’s say anything above 10%) should take priority. Once the debt is paid off, you can use more of your income for things that generate wealth, which can help you achieve your financial goals quicker.
Keep up with financial news and trends to make informed decisions about your finances. If you want a free resource library, download this guide. Plus, you will automatically get signed up for our email list where we will send you regular financial tips and free education.
Having financial independence is important, especially for women. It’s crazy to say, but it was not that long ago that in the United States a woman couldn’t open a line of credit on her own! Thankfully, today women in the United States can achieve financial independence. Though they may encounter a few hoops along the way, it is entirely possible, and more and more women are achieving this every day.
Financial independence looks different from person to person, but some of the core ideas are that you are able to provide for yourself, have regular access to your own funds, and have the ability to pursue income as needed or desired. This can lead to goals like retiring early, buying your own home, owning rental properties, and having the ability to provide for yourself and your family.
The best first step to financial freedom is to have a clear plan. The only way to make a clear, functional plan is to have a financial education. If you are looking for regular financial education for free, download this money guide and you will automatically be signed up for our email list where we send you regular money and mindset tips.