Hey Women: Invest It In Yourself

Many say that women fear success, but I don’t buy that. 

I have seen so many women who have all the necessary elements for success but their trajectory flattens at the mid career stage, a crossroads where men tend to get ahead. 

It is at this critical juncture that it is imperative for women to make smarter decisions.  When it comes time to accept more responsibility, women tend to lack the support that men naturally have. 

Men are given access to these resources; or if not, they demand them.  Women, on the other hand, tend to wait for someone else to take care of them.  

To succeed like men, we need to invest in ourselves like men do.

Although I welcome all readers, this post targets young women who are early to mid level career professionals.   I’m sending out this tip to every 20-40 year old female who has a dollar to her name: invest it in yourself.  Here are the top 5 recommendations on my Buy List.

1. Spend your money on a college education and a graduate degree before you adopt other social roles, such as caring for ageing relatives or having children.  Education is the only thing that nobody can ever take away from you.  It offers the potential to generate results that are non-correlated to the market, and its value can compound exponentially.  Knowledge brings independence.  Even if they take the diploma out of your hand, the ability to think for yourself and make your own decisions will liberate you, over time, from the control of others.

2. Devote time to finding a mentor.  A good female mentor is hard to find, but her value is that of a diamond in the rough.  Role models are powerful tools because they are tangible images of a favourable outcome to work towards.  The moment that you can see what you want to become, you make it real.

3. Know the monetary equivalent of an hour of your time.  More effective than calling out the men who underpay them as they ascend the ranks, women should take control.  The problem is that many women themselves do not know their own value.  How can you negotiate salary with other people, if you haven’t calculated your own worth?   Calibrate your annual salary with this hourly amount to determine if you are earning being compensated fairly for the time you invest working. 

Time is an intangible asset; yet because it occupies no physical presence like a green bill of paper, we easily waste it.  Lost money can always be made back in the future, but lost time is gone forever.   I frequently hear male lawyers, doctors, and financial advisors say things like, “I bill my clients $500 per hour.  I’m wasting my precious time even responding to this email about whether I want to eat fish or chicken at the company holiday party,” or “At $500 per hour, missing 20 minutes of work to photocopy this form is not worth of my time.”  

If you honestly feel that you are underpaid and there is no way to gain the value that you deserve, don’t be afraid to strike out on your own.  The ability to work for yourself is liberating and empowering.  Often people are surprised to learn how relatively inexpensive it can be to create your own company.   You are likely to find free information about how to register an LLC on the Internet or at the library.

Many women who have worked up to senior roles at established companies hesitate to set up their own shop.  Don’t be afraid to invest your capital in your own ability to make money, instead of someone else’s.

4. Find a good lawyer, before you need one… and program the number in your speed dial.  This is one arrow in the quiver that you need to have to protect yourself.   As women progress into management roles, pressure situations can sometimes degenerate into a macho test involving intimidation and threats.   As women, we may be more likely to succumb to emotion, rendering us victims of coercion.   Knowing that a lawyer is just a phone call away is empowering in pressure situations.   The best response to, “Do this or I’ll sue you”, or “Do this or you’re fired” is to dispassionately say, “You’ll be hearing from my attorney”, and walk away from the shoving match.

5. Set up a brokerage account, and invest $500 per year.   Yes, it is a tough economy.  But women would be a lot richer if we could accept ourselves as we are, instead of spending money on things that are supposed to transform us into what the beauty industry tell us to look like.  Men are not so induced to waste their money transforming into thinner and younger versions of themselves.  On the contrary, certain professions reward men for ageing because they appear more seasoned and experienced, whether or not they truly deserve that image.

To locate the source of $500, form an Excel list of anything you bought this year that you probably would not have spent money on if you were a man.  Examples include:  wrinkle cream, diet pills, makeup, hair dye, lip injections, plastic surgery, etc.  If you started to invest at 30 years old, this long term value of this $500 savings is enormous.   If you calculated the 20 year value of a $500 annuity (compounded at market return in a tax free account with dividends reinvested), you would see how much richer we would be if we invested in the stock that really counts.

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