Many of the young women of the millennial generation fully expect to go to college and develop their own careers regardless of whether they get married and have children. In fact, the growing expectation of freedom and autonomy today’s women possess may explain why both men and women in the United States are waiting longer to get married (the average age for a woman is 27, up from age 20 in 1960) and to have children (in 1970, the average woman was 21 when she had her first child. The average age today is 26). This wasn’t always the case!
Before the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, a woman’s primary financial plan was…a man. Even in the decades after, many women still went to college primarily to pursue their “MRS” degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 43.9% of women were in the labor force in 1972. Additionally, even the women who did hold jobs in that era often made far less than their male compatriots. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women’s work outside of home and marriage was restricted to a handful of occupations such as domestic service, factory work, farm work, and teaching.”
A Man is Not a Financial Plan
In the past, women were expected to leave their jobs when they married and to entirely rely on their husbands for financial support. Today, the world is a very different place. Women are graduating college in record numbers, closing the wage gap with men (in 2014, women earned 83 cents on the dollar compared to men), and building long-term careers for themselves.
As women embrace their earning potential, they must also accept the responsibility of effectively managing their finances. This means saving for retirement, which is even more important for women who live an average of five years longer than men! It also means protecting their assets with a prenuptial agreement before marriage, managing debt, and budgeting to keep from overspending.
If you happen to fall in love with a man (or woman) and get married, don’t allow your partner to hold all of the purse strings. If you decide to leave the workforce to take care of the home and/or the children, make sure this is a decision that you are both comfortable with. Relying only on a man (or your partner) for all your income needs to be a strategic decision, and you must face the reality that you could lose that income in the event that your partner loses his or her job or the two of you divorce.
At WIFE.org, one of our taglines is, “A Man is Not a Financial Plan!®” The goal of our organization is to empower women of all ages to take control of their financial destinies, whether they are single, married, divorced, or windowed. Embrace your earning power, grow your financial intelligence, and take control of your financial future! Check out our Savvy Women articles to start improving your financial knowledge.