Nice Girls Don't Get Rich
Women and Wealth
Women have been so brainwashed by the destructive female culture that taught them to associate money with sin, evil and everything crude, that it would take an entire book to disentangle the subconscious fears and incredible fantasies that the simple noun “money” evokes in most women.
BETTY LEHAN HARRAGAN,
Women and money. What a complex relationship. We bemoan the fact that we don’t have enough of it. We don’t save as much as we know we should. And we too often rely on others to manage it for us. Despite the fact that in childhood most of us get all the right messages about the importance of being financially independent, we do all the wrong things when it comes to accumulating the amount of wealth we need to be truly financially independent. Why? Because throughout our lives we’re given multiple, often conflicting, messages. On the one hand, we’re taught about the value of money and the need to spend and save it wisely. On the other, we’re implicitly or explicitly taught that it’s equally important to be kind, nurturing, and collaborative; that our real roles revolve less around money and more around relationships.
This double bind causes little girls to limit their interest in acquiring wealth and ultimately their capacity to acquire it. They don’t aspire to get rich, they can’t see themselves as rich, or they reduce their opportunities to get rich. As a result, they frequently lack the skills needed to create wealth. Getting rich requires you to do two things: financial planning and financial thinking. If you’re like most women, you don’t “think” rich—and if you don’t think rich, you certainly don’t consciously engage in behaviors that will contribute to getting rich. The point at which you call yourself rich is determined by your values, your lifestyle, and your risk tolerance. It’s not determined by someone else’s definition, needs, or expectations of you. Being rich is about having the ability to live your life abundantly—however you define abundance.
Although I realize that life can be rich in many different ways, for the purposes of this book when I use the term rich, I refer to the acquisition of financial wealth. Most of us already know that one can be rich in love, work, family, and so on. You don’t need another book to tell you that. Defining rich in financial terms is another thing. The actual number, the point at which you consider yourself rich, is something only you can decide. Most of us will never be as wealthy as the people on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the richest people in the world. Yet you may aspire to more than you currently have. Therefore, throughout this book when I use the term rich, I am referring to the ability to live your life as you want to free from financial constraints.
Speaking with women around the world about getting rich, I got the distinct feeling they were uncomfortable talking about money. It was as if rich was a dirty four-letter word. Whereas a woman may be called a “rich bitch,” there are no similarly pejorative terms to describe a man. And Lord knows we avoid the b-word even more than we avoid talking about money! It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re twenty-five or fifty-five. As a woman you are less likely to focus on methods for becoming rich and more likely to focus on “doing good.”
Having been raised as a typical “girl,” I spent the first half of my adult life believing that doing good and doing well were mutually exclusive. Whereas my two brothers were encouraged to pursue college degrees that would lead to high-paying professions, I was encouraged to go into a helping field—preferably teaching so that I could be home with my hypothetical children during summer vacations. While I was working as a clerk in the radiology department of the local hospital during high school, my mother (the director of nursing at this same hospital) was introducing my younger brother to doctors at the hospital and encouraging him to become a physician. Although I worked my way through master’s and doctoral degree programs, I only recently discovered that my mother offered to pay for my younger brother’s graduate education if he would consider becoming a lawyer. Is it any wonder that both my brothers became independently wealthy at a far earlier age than I did? While they were thinking about making money, I was thinking about “doing good.”
“Nice girls” don’t get rich in large part because of the social messages they receive when they are growing up:
*Money is power, and most little girls are not taught to be powerful—they’re taught to be “nice.”
*Girls are socialized to be caretakers, nurturers, and accommodators in society—not necessarily breadwinners.
*As child bearers and caretakers women often work jobs discontinuously and are penalized for it. Alternatively, they’re put on something demeaningly referred to as “the mommy track.”
*Women are more likely to spend their income on their children and the household, whereas men are more likely to be prudent about investing.
*Women are reluctant to ask for wages, perks, or raises reflective of the value they add to their organizations because they’re not sure they “deserve” it.
Need I go on? It is abundantly clear that women don’t get rich because (1) we don’t envision ourselves getting rich, (2) we are more concerned with playing our social roles in a way that others consider appropriate, and (3) we don’t develop the skills needed to make wise financial decisions. Does this mean we can’t acquire wealth on our own? No! It means that what you focus on is what you get, and it’s time to focus on getting rich. Just as in my previous book getting the “corner office” was simply a metaphor for achieving your professional goals, being rich is a metaphor for living the life you want to live free from concerns about money. It’s not the amount of money you have that matters, it’s the ability to act with independence that defines a rich life. And you will never have it if you don’t start thinking and acting like a rich person.
Given these parameters, a woman who owns her own home free and clear, does work that she loves, and knows she has enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life could be considered rich. She would be no less (or more) rich than a woman who lives in a home with a $500,000 mortgage, has $3 million in the bank, works so she can afford to travel, and wouldn’t be worried if she were to be laid off tomorrow. What point would that be for you? Envision yourself living that lifestyle. If it’s not where you are now, then this book was written for you.
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