A leafy path... to freedom

Financial independence as a radical act

I am continually inspired and impressed by the quality of the content that is produced by the personal finance bloggers and podcasts I follow. It’s especially cool seeing so many women in this space, as historically the world of finance and investing hasn’t been particularly female-friendly. That’s changing now, because badass women are making that change. No one invited us to the party, but we’re showing up anyways, and we’re bringing our friends.

Thankfully, we live in the age of almost unlimited access to information, and therefore to self-education. We can decide we’re going to become financially literate, regardless of where we come from or how “the industry” or the education system or anyone else may perceive us. To me, that’s incredibly empowering. I love that no one can close those doors on us. The information is available, and where it used to suck, and be unnecessarily (and perhaps even intentionally) confusing and exclusionary, we’re out there making it increasingly accessible for anyone who wants it. I aspirationally include myself in that “we,” but really it’s rockstars like Frugalwoods and Broke Millennial, as evidenced by this recent post, regarding Broke Millennial’s new book (which looks awesome). 

Empowerment over despair

I found the above post incredibly inspiring, and it also happened to be a stark contrast to something else I came across this week. I stumbled upon a podcast that sounded like it would be a fun, fresh take on personal finance. The tone of it, unfortunately, was one of repeated despair and helplessness. As though the fact that we exist in an imperfect, unequal system is a valid reason to give up and stop trying. That’s crazy! The fact that the system sucks, and that it extra-sucks for women, people of colour, marginalised communities, etc, makes it extra important for us to arm ourselves with knowledge, and resist by lifting each other up instead of reinforcing the status quo.

I’m aware that I exist in a space filled with all kinds of privilege, but it just so happens that I do not come from a wealthy background at all. No one taught me about how to manage money (and in particular, no one teaches you how to handle money in a new country! I’m working on that…), and for a long time I was too intimidated to try to learn how for myself. But now that I do have a modicum of knowledge, I echo Mrs. Frugalwoods’ sentiment that we as women need to declare our financial independence. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to others still stuck in despair.

I feel that as women, we especially benefit from having our “fuck-you” money sorted. This can take many forms. It doesn’t have to amount to full financial independence (but it will be oh so sweet when it does), to be incredibly impactful on our lives.

When one of my beloved younger sisters was planning a big, bold move last year, that was my one bit of serious older-sister advice to her, and it’s my advice to all women:

Make sure you have your fuck-you money ready.

At a base level, to me that means money that allows you to say goodbye to any immediate situation that you’re uncomfortable with. From there, you can build on that. But having that baseline of self-sufficiency is powerful. We women need that irrespective of our marital or relationship status, age, orientation, geographic location, employment status or lack thereof. And we shouldn’t compromise it for anyone.

No matter where you’re at, commit to do better, and to lift others up along your way. Here are some things you can action, now, today, to get freer. Make it an act of joyful rebellion. (Points if you were like, was that a reference to a great mid-00’s hip hop album from Canadian artist K-os? Because yes.)

  1. Beginner: Get your baseline fuck-you money together, be it only a few hundred dollars/euros to start. You do that by reducing unnecessary spending and treating that money as sacred. It will grow, but you have to start!
  2.  Intermediate: Amp up your savings rate. If you’re currently saving 10%, that’s something. But what would it take to save 20%? 30%? Look at your spending line by line, and say a big, happy “fuck-you” to the forces that work to keep us down with every additional percentage point you take back.
  3. Advanced: Work on your side hustle and/or spread the knowledge. One of the ways the system works against us is by keeping us silent, under the taboo that you don’t talk about money. So get after it, and talk about it. Share something on your social media. And keep hustling. As passionate as many of us millennials are about injustice, we are also steady on our side hustles. I see these two as working perfectly in sync. Get free and help others get free.

Just because the gender, racial, or generational deck may be stacked against us, doesn’t mean we need to admit defeat. As for me, I unsubscribed to the whiny podcast of woe, and will continue to follow those who provide a more uplifting example. And hope to pay it forward myself in some small way.