Let’s not mince words. COVID has been bad for the entire world, but it has been especially bad for women. So much so, that Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and Alejandra Y. Castillo writing for NBC News have termed it the “Shecession.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 11.5 million women lost their jobs between Feb and May of 2020 compared to 9 million men. This is because women are over-represented in some of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, including retail, tourism, food service, and childcare. Those women who are able to keep their jobs have faced additional stress as schools and childcare facilities have closed and re-closed across the country. A recent article in the New York Times highlighted a report that noted “…many families appear to be deciding that if they need one parent to give up a job and prioritize child care, it should be the lower-paid parent – usually the mother.”
In light of the many warnings that the pandemic is causing backsliding in the gains women have made over the past decades, how can women survive and even thrive in the recession?
Know Your Benefits
As noted, women are more likely to be laid off in the pandemic, especially lower-income and minority women. Losing a job is incredibly stressful, but the federal government and state governments have passed unprecedented stimulus packages to help provide some form of a safety net for women out of work.
The most recent $900 billion stimulus package signed on December 27, 2020, will offer additional individual payments, extend unemployment benefits, though not as much as the original CARES Act, and extend a moratorium on evictions through Jan. 31st.
Check the site, Benefits.gov to learn more about where you can find pandemic-related resources.
Reconfigure Your Budget
If money is tight, this is the perfect time to reassess your budget or to create your first budget. Figure out how much money is coming in and where all your money is going out. This is a good opportunity for you to cut unnecessary expenses and to gain a full understanding of your monthly costs. For example, now might be the time to cut your cable bill if you need to preserve funds, or you might realize you can save big at the grocery store by shopping more mindfully.
Finally, take a good long look at your debt. If possible, refinance your debt at a lower interest rate or tackle your debt with the highest interest rate. You might also be able to freeze your student loan payments, which can help you tackle more pressing debt.
Figure Out Childcare Responsibilities
One of the hardest-hit segments of the population during the pandemic have been mothers. With children at home, mothers often find themselves taking on more childcare responsibilities and domestic chores than their male partners. In fact, a report by Boston Consulting Group found that while both men and women were doing more chores around the house, women spent 15 hours more per week on domestic labor.
Uneven distribution of domestic work can add stress and make it hard for women to progress in their careers. Now is the time to have a heart-to-heart with your spouse or partner and to get their buy-in to take on more home-related duties.
Is Now the Time to Consider a New Career?
If you’ve been laid off or if your hours have been cut, there might be a silver lining to be found. This may be an opportunity for you to seek out a bigger and better career in a field you love or even to start your own business.
Certain types of businesses are doing really well in the pandemic and are actually hiring. Many other businesses have reconfigured themselves to allow for remote work and flexible work schedules. Don’t give up. Polish up your resume and search for the career you really want. Alternatively, you can check out these ten simple (and sometimes odd) ways to make extra money on the side.
Time for a Relationship Check-In
The pandemic may provide an unplanned stress test for your marriage or long-term relationship. If there were already cracks in the foundation, then working from home together or trying to manage the kids without daycare may make those cracks even more apparent. Research suggests that divorce rates are rising due to the pandemic. Now may be the time to seek out relationship counseling or to finally pull the trigger on the divorce you’ve been considering for years. For more information on how to prepare for divorce, sign up for a Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area.
Reimagine Your Retirement
Oddly enough, one of the rare bright spots in 2020 has been the stock market, with the Dow Jones set to end 2020 above a record-setting 30,000 points. Women who have been stashing money away for retirement are likely to have seen their 401k and other investments grow in a big way. This may be an opportunity for you to reimagine your retirement or even retire a little earlier. Just make sure you keep your portfolio balanced and move to a more conservative position as you move closer to retirement.
On the flip side of the coin, women who have lost their jobs or left the workforce to take care of children may need to reimagine their retirement in a different way. Maybe their retirement will now mean downsizing or will need to be pushed a few more years into the future. It may be a good idea to sit down with a retirement specialist to help understand how the pandemic has affected your retirement plans.
Is Now the Time for Giving?
While women have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, a good number of women have managed to thrive. Women working in white-collar fields, especially those without young children at home, may be doing better than ever. These women are saving money on commuting and stashing away money that would have been used on travel, eating out, and spa days. This may be a good opportunity for women who are thriving financially to consider giving back.
The year 2020 wasn’t just notable for a pandemic. The year started with massive wildfires in Australia and also included massive demonstrations for racial justice. The pandemic devastated the arts community and made the ravages of income inequality clearer than ever. If you were fortunate enough to thrive during the pandemic, consider giving some of your money back to the causes you believe in to make the world a little better for us all.
Thriving during the pandemic requires a new focus on self-care. Fortunately, being home-bound has given women more opportunities than ever to explore their hobbies and passions. Technologies like Zoom make it easy to stay in touch with family, and endless apps and YouTube videos make it easy to exercise at home, meditate, and be mindful.
Take care of yourself and your family. Here are 25 ways to perform more self-care at home.
Hope Is Already Here
The pandemic turned our world upside down, and many women are struggling to get by. Fortunately, scientists and researchers from around the world have developed a vaccine in the shortest amount of time ever. (How cool is that?) Even as you read this article, the vaccine is being distributed around the world. The beginning of 2021 will probably feel a lot like 2020, but things will change. As the world begins to open up, new opportunities will emerge, and businesses will need to hire more workers to cater to everyone who wants to travel again, eat out again, and adventure again.
Take heart. Hope is already here. In the meantime, if you need to tighten up your finances, take a look at our many previous blog posts on budgeting, investing, and preparing for retirement.