Sense & Centsibility Blog
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Financial wellness for women

In honor of Women’s History Month in March, this blog covers women’s financial wellness, tips for improving it and financial issues impacting women.

The Racial and Gender Pay Gap

Women are gaining ground in their wage gap with men; in the past year, it moved from 82 cents for every dollar a man makes to 83 cents, according to the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) website citing the data is from the latest U.S. Census figures. While this number applies to all women regardless of race, a closer look shows that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) women are not making up as much ground, according AAUW’s Equal Pay Day Calendar.

Equal Pay Day is one way to measure and call attention to the racial and gender pay gap. This day represents how far into the current year an average woman must work to equal an average man’s earnings for the entire previous year. This year, that day was March 15, the earliest date since this data was compiled.

However, that date extends further into the year for the groups below:

  • May 3 is Equal Pay Day for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women.
  • Black Women’s Equal Pay Day isn’t until September 21.
  • Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is November 30.
  • Latina’s Equal Pay Day doesn’t happen until December 8 — almost a full year later to keep up with men’s pay.

The wage gap is persistent too; estimates show it won’t go away for all women until the year 2451, when Latinas finally reach pay equity.

This is not only unjust. Unequal pay hurts women throughout their lives, all the way into retirement. Because of lower wages and earnings, women’s Social Security benefits are lower, and it is more difficult to save for retirement to fill that gap. They live longer on average than men, so this makes things even more precarious as more women reach retirement age. Unequal pay harms families, too, as half of all households are headed by women.

While the wage gap is a societal wide phenomenon and won’t be easily fixed without “changing employer behavior, implementing public policy initiatives and increasing public awareness,” according to the Urban Institute, there are steps women can take to ensure their long-term financial security.

Be Proactive with Your Finances

Being proactive with finances looks different for everyone.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are you earning each month?
  • How much is being spent?
  • Are you saving for emergencies and other goals?
  • How much debt are you carrying?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine what actions you can take to be more secure. For example, do you need to earn more or spend less? Is debt standing in your way of progress?

If you have a partner, be involved with the financial decisions in your household. A report by the investment bank UBS in 2020 found that 49% of women defer to their (male) spouses when it comes to finances, with millennials being the most likely to do so. While it is tempting to let someone else take control, especially if a person is not confident in their money management, knowledge or skills, it puts the uninvolved spouse or partner in a vulnerable position if their spouse/partner were to pass away unexpectedly, or if the main individual in control of the household finances is abusive.

The UBS Report also states that a “significant majority of both men and women believe women need to be equally involved in long-term financial decisions to achieve true gender equality,” even though nearly half of women let their (male) spouses take the lead.

How can you get involved? Schedule money dates with your spouse/partner to cover these important topics, plus whatever your personal goals may be:

  • Discuss what is coming in and going out and specifically where your money is being spent.
  • Create a list of assets and debts so you both know your financial situation.
  • Make sure both partners have login access to all accounts.
  • Review beneficiaries and discuss life insurance policies.
  • Seek out answers to your questions, from either your spouse/partner or a professional financial advisor.

Learn to Negotiate a Salary That Reflects What You Are Worth

Negotiating salary can feel overwhelming and daunting, especially if you don’t even know what the value of the position is or if you have never stopped to evaluate what you bring to the table. In other words, it’s important to know your worth! If you don’t have the first clue how to negotiate for a fair salary, the AAUW has a phenomenal online course called Work Smart you can take for free.

Negotiating salary has three basic parts:

  1. Know your own value. Take an inventory of your accomplishments, skills, education and life experiences and how they add to your value to a company you currently work for or want to work for.
  2. Research salaries and benefits in your field. The first step to this is to understand different job titles in your field and what type of education and experience they require. Then do your research at sites like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, or a college or university’s career development centers. Finally, establish your target salary range. If you know the typical range of salaries for the position you are applying for and what your personal worth is, you can establish a reasonable salary range and decide the lowest salary you will accept. (No one wants to work for a company that underpays their employees!)
  3. Create a strategy for negotiation. Go into that negotiation with a positive attitude and avoid confrontation. Remember, this is a conversation, not a battle! When interviewing for a position, make your pitch for how your experience and skills match the employer’s needs, and deflect any salary discussion until you have the job offer. It is important to avoid salary discussion for as long as possible; the potential employer will most likely use previous salary as an anchor for what they will offer you in the future position. 

A Note About Salary Deflection

The Minnesota Legislature introduced a bill in 2021 that would outlaw the practice of asking about previous salaries in Minnesota: it passed the House, but is held up in the Senate. In states that passed similar legislation, salaries for job changers increased by about 5%, with larger increases for women (8%) and African Americans (13%). Until it passes, employers can still ask this question, so come up with a strategy to delay answering it until you are offered the position. 

Don’t Delay Building Assets

An asset is defined as “property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments or legacies.” It is also defined as “a useful or valuable thing, person or quality” ( Education and homeownership are excellent ways to build assets in your life. Education builds wealth through higher wages (even with student loans), and women have been outpacing men in educational gains over the past 30 years, according to the Urban Institute. Homeownership is the American dream for many people, and the number of women who are homeowners has also increased, from 50.9% to 61.2% between 1990 and 2019. The Urban Institute reports that this increase is one area where women of all races have gained ground over men.

Everyone has assets that are nonfinancial — education, community, skills, family, etc. — and while these assets add value to our lives and even a bit of security, it’s important to build financial assets for long-term financial security. I mentioned earlier how women tend to have lower Social Security benefits due to their lower wages over their lifetime and that they live longer than men. That’s why it’s essential for women to make room in their budgets for investing in retirement accounts, starting at a young age. The younger you start, the less you must contribute monthly, thanks to time and compound interest. Believe me, your older self will thank your younger self if you start young. Didn’t start young? The second-best time to start is now!

LSS Financial Counseling is here to assist you with improving or maintaining your financial wellness! Our trusted, nonjudgmental financial counselors can provide tools, advice and support on budget and debt management, understanding your student loan repayment options and preparing for homeownership. Call 888.577.2227 to schedule a free, confidential appointment, or get your support online.

Shannon Doyle


Author Shannon Doyle is a Program Manager for Partnerships and Financial Education with LSS Financial Counseling.