Friday, January 30, 2009

Fiscal Feminist Freak-Out: Relevant Finances

I recently opened my 401 K statement, and I knew it would be bad, but my stomach nearly fell through my feet. What ensued was a full-tilt "what the heck have I gotten myself into" feminist freak-out. Financial fireworks aside, those women who have "off-ramped" will completely understand what I'm describing without going to much further. I know about financial cycles (I was raised by a very pragmatic financial analyst, MBA mother), and although this is as bad as I've seen personally in my adult life, I factor my age and other sensible data and tell myself to chill out. 

But this still doesn't quite cut it, because it doesn't address the fundamental feeling of vulnerability that women of my generation feel when we let go of our former careers, decide to take time for our families, and perhaps launch ourselves into new and unfamiliar and non-traditional professional territory. My generation was raised with cautions about not having their own little piece of the pie by a generation of older women who were finding upon death, divorce, and /or financial ruin that if all your finances were derived from, and/or were in your husband's name, you were effectively screwed. And I use that word intentionally I might add.

So when my husband walked through the door that particular evening, he was assailed with my angst and worry that no doubt soon he would toss me over and where would I be without one half of my former retirement nest egg? He is familiar with my periodic dramatic histrionics, and he tried to calm me, to reassure me, but the feelings of insecurity lingered. He assured me that we lived in the best state (CA) for me to effectively get half anyway, and a host of other serious, but tinged with humor tactics (he's learned that these work best).

When good sense, and let's face it a huge helping of faith, come to bear, I remember that life, and financial markets, for the most part are a serious of cycles, with occasional disasters thrown in to force retooling and growth. And, largely these disasters inevitably occur when we stray from what is right, placing our blind faith in false idols. I am inspired by the many many women I have encountered in the social media world that showcase the force of femininity--resilience and creativity. They find ways to make it work, they start their own businesses, they care for their families, they find time to fulfill their passions (and maybe not the ones they started out with either), and they even occasionally find time to fix their hair and face properly. 

I couldn't imagine the life I'm living three years ago, so I have learned that I just need to roll with it, adjust, and relish the creativity that comes out of previously barren and scarred ground.

Need some more input and reassurance? Have a look at these articles recently:
  • I should say for the record that I do not like the 401 K system one little bit, and never had. It is definitely flawed. But I do agree with the advice, given certain factors, that it is best not to panic, and typically the markets will recover before the jobs reappear, so hold on campers.
  • The thing that really gets my hackles up is the 529 plans though. This is a travesty for a generation of young people. But many are questioning our higher education's relevancy in the current global environment as I recently wrote about here. Who knows, education may also be in for some fundamental institutional shifts as well.
  • I find it slightly ironic that the reality of how women who are employed have to make it work in a pretty untenable situation normally (part-time, off schedules, etc.) actually turns out to be a factor that gives them a bit more job stability in this environment.
  • As a direct dependent of the banking industry, I watch the news of what is and will happen to our banks with more than a little interest. It can, I'm sure you know, make you go buggy at times. In trying to understand nationalization, I found this article helpful.
  • If you are a woman who wants or needs to on ramp, check out this article about how to address your time out of the game.
And here are two tools to definitely bookmark to help you balance your personal balance sheets:
Photo Credit jwowens 

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