In November, we held our first “Let’s Talk Money” discussion. The idea and event sponsorship came from long-time Minnesota Women’s Press supporter Joan Gilles, who wanted to get together a diverse group of women in a social setting to address questions about money that we are sometimes reluctant to ask — or don’t know who to ask. As a financial planner, Gilles knows the difficulty women can have in meeting individual and collective needs because of money issues.
We gathered a small group together for a 2.5-hour conversation at an Uptown restaurant owned by entrepreneur Kim Bartmann, with future plans to discuss more about entrepreneurship, long-term investments, and other topics raised by the group — such as developing more financial literacy for youth.
The group of 12 included Gilles, two members of the Minnesota Women’s Press team, a woman connected with those re-entering after incarceration, three women leaders with foster care lived experience, someone who teaches high school financial literacy, and two women at the Association of Black Economic Power (ABEP) — which is launching a Black-led credit union.
- Can we set up healthy optics for kids who come from families that have experienced financial trauma, perhaps encouraging ideas for entrepreneurship and other basics of financial literacy. Many women in the discussion said that they did not have role models who taught them what to do about developing credit, saving for a car, or finding stable housing. Topic of future discussion: How can we develop a financial literacy system for those who don’t have it in school or at home?
- Karen Washington of ABEP said her insight to others is to find passion and purpose to set up financial and emotional success. She says her question to others is “tell me what excites you” and advises that career and education is about “discovering, not deciding.”
- Deneal Trueblood-Lynch is a re-entry facilitator with Goodwill. She said some of her clients are re-entering after 20 years in prison, with clothes that are out-of-date or prison-issued. They are given a “gate fee” collected during the time they were incarcerated to help them start over, but it can be daunting to know how to restart without falling into old habits with old friends to access more funds quickly.
- Lola Adebara, founder and CEO of Partnerships for Permanence, works with high-achieving young leaders with foster care and adoption lived experience who are setting goals over a twelve-month period in a support group of like-minded working professional women. The Leaders Changing the System program, in collaboration with KARA Fin Lit, is creating a network of women dealing with financial barriers, resolving credit issues, and achieving goals.
- One participant noted that anyone who comes out of a difficult background or is living in survival mode needs self-care — which might mean getting nails done without feeling guilty about it.
- Being part of the sandwich generation, taking care of children while also caring for aging parents. One woman said she is essentially working four jobs simultaneously; boundaries have been hard to set to maintain time for self-care.
- One woman reported that, having had foster placements in six families during her childhood, she learned what she knows now about finances from TikTok videos.
- There is a large gap many people don’t understand about the security that came from even modest generational wealth. In the 1950s, largely white, middle-class families were given government-supported home ownership and college education that has been passed along to future generations. Other families had far fewer opportunities and resources, including if they served in the military.
Eventually the discussion led to a pondering of “What I wish I had known earlier” topics:
- Understanding the difference between wants, needs, and wishes.
- How compound interest works
- Putting your money where your heart is — socially conscious investing is the future
- What help and support did people need to get where they are? Sometimes we need help getting onto stable financial footing, and more people need to understand that is okay, and is more common than we think.
The conversation included a recognition that it is odd that talking about money tends to be taboo among women. How do we teach each other if we don’t have conversations about it? We can do more collaboratively to teach the next generation as well.
- Involve multiple generations in aspects of care, so that kids are part of the caretaking role with elders, and vice versa. Putting self in center as the only caretaker is a recipe for burnout and doesn’t allow others the dignity of being of service. This requires asking for specific help.
- Automate bill paying and get into the habit, like exercise, of creating and checking a monthly or weekly budget to track the money. Also automate savings to make it easier and simpler.
- Gilles said women tend to be smarter investors with stronger track records than men in general, according to statistics. Yet they tend to be afraid of taking a risk or making a mistake in choosing an investment. If $25/month can be set aside into an investment, it can make a tremendous difference in the long-term. The goal is to let it sit for ten-plus years.
- Gilles indicated that investing funds in a Roth IRA is a smart way to save for a home, because you can hold the funds tax-free for five years and then draw $10,000 without penalty if used for the purchase of a home. To avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), Gilles suggested, try to put 20 percent down. If that is not possible at the start, PMI can be removed when one has 20 percent or more equity. Typically, one should not use more than 30 percent of income (minus existing debt payments) toward a mortgage. It is important to be realistic about what you can afford over the long run.
- There are capital gains and estate planning benefits to consider in detail with a financial planner, even if you feel you have a modest lifestyle. For example, a Transfer on Death Deed (aka TODD) transfers ownership of the home to the person listed on the deed. This avoids probate and gives recipients a better tax break. (Their basis in the home is not what you paid for it, but what it was worth on the date of your death should they decide to sell it).
- Putting money into a rolling CD is a good short-term investment, because it is like a liquidity ladder — you can pull money from it for an emergency. Also consider an online savings account, which has a lower entry point for investment than a treasury bill.
- When paying for college, Gilles recommends that parents take care of their own retirement first before offering funds to children for college. It gives them “skin in the game” for their own education. Parents can opt to pay the loan interest accrued during the year. The 529 Plan is a good option for saving for long-term education goals because it is a non-taxable investment (if used for post secondary education) that can be passed on to a beneficiary specifically for school.
- College is not for everyone. There are strong jobs in the trades that pay good money, and the 529 Plan can be used for that as well.
- Community land trusts enable collectives to buy land in a city so that someone can purchase a property there without the added expense of the land; equity builds in the house that is later shared with both the homeowner moving to a new property and a new owner.
Plans are now in process to develop future “Let’s Talk Money” conversations. If you would like to be a part, contact Crystal@womenpress.com