Are You A Woman of Independent Means?

One of the questions I’m asked most often when being interviewed for It’s Your Money: Becoming a Woman of Independent Means is why I wrote a book specifically for women?

No, money doesn’t have a gender preference.  Nor are men or women smarter or dumber about money

But women do face some unique circumstances in their lives.

Women live longer. We outlive men by about 7 years.

Women more often leave the work force to have and care for children. And they are the primary caregivers to other family members too. There are all the women looking after not only their own parents, but also their in-laws. There’s the woman who puts her business on hold for a year while she move in with her brother’s family to help him die at home.  And there’s the woman who takes time off work every week so she’s available to help her father as he cares for her mother with Alzheimers.

When a woman and a man divorce, his standard of living most often goes up while hers goes down. This is closely related to the next fact…

Women head more single family households than do men.

As women we need to stop sticking our heads in the sand and face up to the reality that we must be independent. We must be capable and willing to take care of ourselves. We must be an island, and then a peninsula.

If you are not strong on your own, how can you be strong in a relationship? Gone are the days when women can count on getting married and being taken care of for their rest of their lives. Anyone still living with that illusion needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

You have the option of setting your own rules for your life. But before you can do that, you must figure out what you really, really want. Not what you think you want: a big house, a fancy car, to travel to the sun every winter. What you really want, the things that will truly make you happy.

When I was first offered the hosting job on TDDUP, one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to spend too much time away from my family. I was very up-front and said that I was only available to shoot 2 days a week. I was told it couldn’t be done. They needed a four-day commitment. I walked away. I stuck to my two-day statement and said buh-bye to a career in TV. I KNEW what was really important to me.

They adjusted the schedule and the rest is history. To this day I hear that you can’t make a TV show shooting just two days a week, but I’ve been doing it for almost eight years.  Back at the beginning, I wasn’t a big shit. Nobody knew me from Adam when it came to being a TV host. I had no “right” to demand anything. And so I didn’t demand anything. I just made it clear that my two-day issue wasn’t a bluff or a pretense or an attempt to manipulate. It was what I really, really wanted. And I was prepared to live with the consequences.

One of the reasons I could walk away from a potentially lucrative career was that I had all my financial I’s dotted and T’s crossed. I had enough money in the bank to see me through to whatever my next job would be. And I knew what my priorities were. Not shoes or vacations or fancy dinners out. Options. Like the option to walk away from a job if it conflicted with what I really, really wanted.

So what do you really, really want? And what have you been prepared to give up to have what you really, really want?

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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46 Responses to “Are You A Woman of Independent Means?”

  1. Gasp! I get to be the first responder!? Holymother!
    Yep, I consider myself one of those there bra burners. However, as my name implies, my bad habits have impeded on my ability to become financially secure and make appropriate decisions. But I’m on the mend…
    What I would like to discuss, if I may, in this area is in response to Paragraph 5. Women having babies and careers. I am one of those.
    I am the main sole breadwinner around these parts. Proudly so. Daddy is stay at home because (a) he is capable and (b) his income has only ever been part time seasonal at best and it simply makes sense. However, due to this fact he has not enough hours to qualify for EI and – MY personal beef is, EI pays absolutely diddly squat to women for mat leave. I was lucky my employer “topped up” my EI for 6 months or I wouldn’t have taken that much time off. I find it stunning, in 2012, that women like myself who are the main breadwinners and career people, are paid a mere FRACTION of their normal wage while legitimately at home caring for their newborn(s)?! WTH is with that?I have paid WELL and above into EI over the years what I just “used” while on it. Never been on it before, hope to never again. I think it’s incredibly poor that maternity leave pay from the government is so little for a family of three to live on.
    Does the government think because I am a girl that my income is secondary and therefore supplementary?!
    Anyhoo, to respond to your post Gail- I did plan this pregnancy and plan the return to work and yes I fully agree you can design your life to your desires. (Vision Boards are amazing things, people) You need a vision, a plan, proper execution and a passion.

  2. @ BadHabits: Mat. Leave should be a planned expense. EI’s original intent was to help those who were laid off unexpectedly (ie: factories closing, etc.) Plus, if you’re staying at home and not working AND you don’t have to even look for a job, you’re expenses should be less. Having a baby increases expenses, yes, but that’s true even if you’re working. When you’re not, you can keep these expenses to a minimum by using cloth diapers, making your own baby food, etc. You’re not spending money on gas, your clothing and lunch expenses can be reduced, etc. I’ve been on mat. leave while my husband was also unemployed. Neither of us saw any money coming in for 2 months after our child was born. I didn’t receive any top up pay, and neither of us were in high income brackets to start with, but we were very frugal with our money. It was hard work to make it work, but I don’t necessarily think government money handed out to you should come without a cost to you.

  3. Gail, “When a woman and a man divorce, his standard of living most often goes up while hers goes down.” is SO true. How often have we all seen this happen and it is very difficult to witness. As such, in our practice, our role is to ensure that when a separation happens, both are on equal footing leaving the marriage, in assets and in their individual abilities to have sufficient income to be financially capable to face the future. Thank you for sharing.

  4. “I knew what my priorities were” says it all. That statement, a plan and resilience will get ou anywhere.

  5. I agree completely with all that is said, especially the paragraph with “If you are not strong on your own, how can you be strong in a relationship? Gone are the days when women can count on getting married and being taken care of for their rest of their lives.” Even in a strong, stable marriage women need to be able to take care of themselves and not be dependent on someone else. If you take time off from work when your children are young you should continue to upgrade your skills and work part time, if possible, so transition back to work will be smoother.

    @Cas – You as so right. Unfortunately too many people think the government (tax payers) should be funding their maternity leave.

  6. I am yes, and very proudly so. I’ve been a single mom for over 10 years now. I have worked full time, along with numerous serious health issues as well as multiple hospital stays. I credit living within my means, only ONE credit card with the lowest possible limit and just for emergencies. Its seriously not about what you don’t have, but being thankful for what we do have. It can be done, and I’m living proof of it. I have never been on any type of government assistance, and only have used a food bank for about half a year.. I now donate to our local food bank every month. Its hard work, really, really hard work. and it certainly has not been easy. But I’ve done it all myself. :)

  7. I get frustrated when I hear women complain how much they put into EI and then expect their mat leaves to magically be paid and their time at home with the new babies paid in full. MANY of us NEVER have that LUXURY. My husband worked lower paying general labour since day one. He now makes good wage, but nothing fabulous. I stayed home with our first, we lived on $20K a year. Managed. Did get into financial issues by the time our 2nd child came along, mostly due to some house emerg that caused damage to our home. I started PT with that child but still we had no mat leave for either. I started this career and got preggers to #3, again no net to feel comfy with…and managed to get this career going and am still juggling it now with her at home. Hard as hell, still not making what we need to catch up and start saving, but we’re on our way. I have friends who had mat leave and I’m amazed at this entitlement. It is as easy or hard as you make it.

  8. I’m with April and Cas on this. I can’t believe anyone expects the gov’t to give them 100% of their wages for mat leave (or pat leave). Those using EI because of a job loss don’t get that so why should someone on mat leave get it? And as for having paid more in–that’s how it works. Someone has to subsidize those who are out of work or on mat/pat leave. We’ve certainly paid way, way more in than we’ve taken out (no mat/pat leaves here as I was a SAHM).

  9. I don’t often get red faced while reading the comments here but I am today. I had a big one time seizure lost my drivers licence. Turned out to be a benign brain tumor. It was very small and close to the out side of my skull. I applied for EI as I lost my job I couldnt get there. I was DENIED. They told me to apply for disability. I was denied. I literally went without any money from any government agency for 8 months. I am a drug addict. I had a brain tumor for goodness sakes! I am good now, but seriously? your upset over two weeks? Get over it!!

  10. I’m following this thread on mat leave with interest as I’m due with my first next April. I work as a part-time faculty member in a university, and what burns me is the wording of my contracts. For example, a contract to teach from September to December is listed as 25 hours — for the four months! That is supposed to include lecturing, office hours, email contact with student, prep work and marking. Ridiculous. I spend at least 20 hours each week per course. So while I’m “working”, my contract says otherwise, making me ineligible for mat. leave.

    Knowing that, my husband and I planned accordingly. I know that it can’t work for everyone, but we purposely got pregnant when we did so I’d have the summer off and still be able to work in the Fall (either part-time, but preferably, full-time should any of my applications pan out). And even if it didn’t work out that way, we have built up a “baby savings fund” to help cover costs in the event I wouldn’t be available to work during the school year.

    I agree with Gail, here: it’s about creating options for yourself. Otherwise, we’re always at the mercy of other people’s whims, and that’s not where I want to be.

  11. lmao its supposed to say I am not a drug addict

  12. I agree Gail in every way but I also believe that women (and families for that matter) need a backup system if they are going to make this double income/small kids situation work. Or one income for that matter. I have heard lots of stories of single moms working full time, going to school and raising babies but I have never seen it work without someone else filling in the blanks when that system falls apart, as it will from time to time. You need someone to take the baby in when you have to work and he is too sick for daycare. You need someone to drop a casserole in the fridge when you are ill and haven’t been able to get out for work or groceries. You need someone to take over for a bit while you are in the hospital (as in the above example) and have kids who still need tending. I have been that person for years in many different situations, as was my mother back in the day. I took in friends children when they were under the gun and I helped my mother to die when the time came. It made me wonder what happens when we don’t have anyone out of the workforce to fill in these blanks and keep the home fires burning when everyone else is trying to make a living while the young and the old receive inferior care somewhere, or possibly none at all. Ask your mother, your sister, your neighbour, your friend if they will back you up (and you them of course) when the caca hits the fan!! Be prepared.

  13. I agree re: mat live not entitlement — but let’s not all pile on the mat leave… I’d still like to hear what everyone would really, really want….

    I really, really want to be able to make a living from being creative, instead of working a job that pays really well like my current job, but doesn’t challenge me, and which I don’t respect the business.

    @D – that makes alot more sense…. 😀

  14. I am a woman of independent means. And I am a single mom of two. Emergency funds are a wonderful thing for peace of mind. I have been driving all of these things into my girls’ heads. They know that they are supposed to support themselves eventually. No one will be picking up the bill for the lives that they choose.

    They also have a strong role model in me. I’m on my own, I have recreated my life, and I own my house, and a cottage. We kayak, mountain bike, and adventure run together. We live life for experiences not stuff (unless it is gear of course). When I have a difficult decision to make, I ask myself “what message do I want to send my girls?”. It makes it pretty easy most of the time. It is easy not to be accountable to yourself, but being a role model is different.

  15. Hi Gail,

    Thanks for this post. I have a friend who’s been struggling with that for years, since her husband left her, but I can’t argue this with her any more. I think she’s starting to confuse her emotional need to be taken care of with the financial practicality of having to rely on someone.

    Maybe you could speak to that in a post?

  16. avatar BluenoserChick Says:
    November 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    “So what do you really, really want? And what have you been prepared to give up to have what you really, really want?”

    I would love to move home to Nova Scotia. I miss it every day. But I gave that up to have a great career in the west. Never could I make in NS what I do here. That’s a conscious decision to secure our future. Because of the six figure salaries we enjoy here, we are saving as much as possible so some day we can return.

  17. EI is given to some already (public service), and should be given to all, to serve strategic interests. As a society we want educated and employed people who want kids to have kids. Making it a financial burden serves as a disincentive. Whether it is EI or another program (EI preferred as it is already established), it should be extended to all Canadians, including men for parental. The federal public service/ Canadian Forces uses a formula whereby a woman can take a full year of maternity, or she can give some of that time to her partner so that they can have some leave too.
    And when people aren’t scrimping or hard up financially, some of that money goes back into the economy via spending or taxes.
    And there should be accessible and inexpensive (costed so it is appreciated), regulated childcare. Then just tax the crap out of thosepeople who have higher incomes. As a doctor, I’d be fine with paying more taxes to improve our system.

  18. Lisa, you hit the nail on the head about being a role model. I’ve been a single mother to two boys since they were 2.5 and 5 years old. I’ve always tried to set the best example I could because I knew they learn so much by watching. I tried to teach them to think of others and do the right thing, work hard and find happiness in the small things. Examples like using the crosswalk at the corner of the street and not jaywalking even though you’re late count even though it seems so small.

    There were times when I felt married co-workers looked down on me. I remember one comment was “kids of single moms are always the worst.” Well, mine are grown now but still live at home paying room and board. One is taking policing in college and the other is studying to be a commercial pilot. It has been a struggle every day but I couldn’t be prouder.

  19. Great post Gail! I agree completely that it is important for women -or anyone!- to be able to support themselves independently should it become necessary. While I trust my husband completely, you never know what could happen, he could be hit by a bus tomorrow, you just never know. That’s why while all of our pay goes into the joint account, I have two accounts of my own that I transfer money to each month, I have my own RRSPs and my own separate investments. I don’t have a ton saved but every little bit counts. We also had our will updated last year. Regarding mat leave, I think it wonderful that we have that here in Canada, they don’t in the US. We are far behind many European countries in it, but they also have much higher taxes so it’s a give and take. I am currently on mat leave and if you don’t want to struggle while on the reduced income you must plan, and if you can’t afford it, then as Gail always says you go back to work early.

    I totally agree with Gail’s approach to her career, I did a similar thing. I took a one year contract to gain some experience and about 1/2 way through they offered me a full time position which I turned down as I couldn’t face the 1.5 hour commute (one way!) indefinitely. I was aware that this company offered telecommuting to certain workers so I had worked very hard to prove myself in the hopes that they would offer this to me. Once they found out why I turned down the job that is exactly what they did. But I had to be prepared to follow through on leaving the company if things didn’t work out the way I had hoped. As soon as I turned down the job I had resumes out and 2 other jobs lined up closer to home.

    As for what I really really want, career wise I have most of what I want and I think that by continuing to work hard and go the extra mile for them they will continue to give me the flexibility to achieve the work, life balance I want and continue to give me more challenging projects. My husband and have started a family so that goal is well under way. The only thing we don’t have that we really realy want is for our farm to be at the point where we we can stop worrying about investing in it and instead enjoy it and make a good living off it. My husband only recently started farming full time, but we will still need my income as the farm still is not large enough or paid off enough for my salary to be “extra” instead of needed. But to achieve this goal we don’t spend in other areas so we can eventually get there.

  20. I have been on my own for 12 years and most of those years have been mired in debt with no savings. I have cleaned up that mess now and am proud to say that within 2.5 years, I will have cleared up my entire debt of 90K and will also be on my way to having a healthy emergency fund. I will also own that the debt was mine only (not from a divorce) because I can be incredibly self indulgent. No other person involved :). I am also a transplant to the prairies and want to return west but my career is in a very specific industry and I can’t get back home to the west coast without taking a 75% pay cut – no that doesn’t work for me and therefore am will shortly be going back to school to get my degree so that the pay cut isn’t so drastic and so that I can have a portable career – one that lets me go anywhere and still do ok. Within about 8 years, I want to be back on the west coast – one because it is one of my favorite places in the world and two – because as an only child, I will have aging parents that will eventually need some help and so must prepare for that.

    I have no children but would like to comment about the Mat leave. I agree that it is a very low amount and maybe that amount should be looked at a bit but I also believe that with so many options for different types of employment (contract etc) employment nowadays, the government may need to look at the qualifications for mat leave to make it a little easier. At some point, I believe that we have all paid into the system and precluding some people because of contract work etc…doesn’t seem fair to me. Having said all that, I also think that as Gail says, these things have to be planned for.

  21. Gail, My dad must have had you on speakerphone while he was raising me! We’re about the same age and I’m still incredibly grateful that he lectured me on being independent at a time when that wasn’t really the norm for most young women. I suppose I took it too far at times, like when I announced 20 years ago that I was keeping my maiden name. My soon-to-be husband knew to pick his battles. And I’ve ensured I was always financially stable and could function on my own. Now I manage our assets and I’ve been careful enough that my husband was able to walk away from a stressful corporate career to finally do what he wanted in life. Work for himself.

  22. Thank Gail,

    I will look in to it!

  23. Mat leave comes from taxes. so the rest of the country would be paying for YOUR year off because YOU chose to have children. Children are a wonderful thing, and we are so lucky to have a year mat leave, but with the EI you get, plus baby bonuses, i really dont think the government is “stiffing” you in any way. We are very fortunate.

  24. Being a woman of independent means includes preparing for foreseeable situations like an upcoming maternity leave. The reason EI and maternity leave payouts are “small” is that they are meant to cover BASIC expenses. The people saying this is not a large enough amount to live on are most likely living beyond their means. Also if you can’t get by on maternity leave income – what are you going to do when you go back to work and have additional expenses like daycare and increased transportation costs? This is why many people are “surprised” when they go back to work they don’t find the light at the end of the tunnel they expected.

  25. As someone who was in the military, I have contributed to EI for nearly 40 years… because I get a pension and this is considered income, I will continue to pay EI premiums until the day I stop working, and there is no way, no how, not a chance I will ever collect a red cent. I’m one of the people you can say thanks to when you collect those “paltry” EI checks while on mat leave. I have never had children, though it wasn’t my choice, and it really burns me that this is considered an “entitlement” to collect 100% of your earnings while off on mat leave. I have a friend who tried for 5 years to have children, when she finally did have twins she was shocked that when she went back to work after her year (topped up by the company, yes) those two weeks til her first paycheck she was broke!!! Husband working, and no planning? Not good…..

    I shake my head….

  26. I apologize to all for sounding “entitled”. Not my point. Nor would I want a full yr off from my job which is far far too long (for me) nor full pay via EI. I simply suggest that EI pay you based on (ie) your number of dependants and or have a more variable scale.

  27. @Aimee, I disagree that EI / maternity leave payouts are enough to cover basic expenses as long as you’re not living beyond your means. I have to assume that you live in a smallish town, and not in a major city (with resultant real estate prices). In Toronto, you can barely rent a well cared for 1 bedroom apartment in a good neighbourhood for the MAXIMUM EI monthly payment (after taxes – about $1200). Also, you have to keep in mind that “beyond your means” is necessarily dependant on an individual’s own means – I might live very much beyond your (Aimee’s) means, but I live very much within my own means.

    That said, I also agree with other posters who wrote that it isn’t supposed to be a lot – that maternity leave, if one chooses to take the full year, is a planned expense that has to be saved up for. I don’t think it should be more than it is, even though when I go on mat leave next year (fingers crossed!), the EI payments will be about 1/6 my monthly income, and won’t even be enough to pay my mortgage each month. That’s why I’ve been saving $ for a year now. I’ve been putting my best estimate of the amount a 12 month old baby will cost each month (daycare being the biggest expense), about $1200 per month, into a separate account, and while on mat leave, that account will supplement the EI benefits – though actually, given the amounts involved, it’s actually more like the EI benefits will be supplementing my savings.

    Also, @ Jen, I’m confused about your comment about how in the military, a woman can take a full year, or the father can take part of it, and that it should be extended to non-public service employees . . . but that’s already the case: it’s not just in the military / public service; that’s the Canada-wide system, as long as both parents qualify for EI in the first place. Or do military / public service employees get 100% of their income? That sounds crazy, and if that’s the case and that’s what you’re suggesting, the country simply couldn’t afford to extend that to everyone.

  28. Interesting debate… Just as a counterpoint, there are countries in which the parent who takes leave gets a higher percentage of his/her income than we do here. It is a choice as a society to value the work that women tend to do that is not well remunerated (namely in this case, bearing, feeding, and caring for children). I’m not saying that this is what Canada should choose to do, just a comparison. I think there is an assumption that women should just suck it up and work harder to be independent(which I guess I kinda agree with on some level, from an empowerment standpoint), but there are societal assumptions and realities that make it much more difficult for women to do so. Gail has listed many of them above-women tend to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves; children, ill, elderly. If society made it a priority to take good care of the vulnerable, women would not have to take on this role so readily at their own expense. The tone of the debate here reminds me of the debate that arises whenever people who are more vulnerable (and relatively speaking, women are more vulnerable than men on the whole in our society, like it or not, due to the things Gail noted among others) receive some kind of benefit. The assumption is that if only X (in this case women) worked harder, planned better, lived more frugally, they wouldn’t need that benefit. I’m all for personal responsibility, and yes, everyone should live within their means and be financially independent as much as possible, but it is unreasonabel to make the assumption that everyone starts at the same level. I recognize this fact, and (for the most part) don’t bemoan the huge chunk of my paycheque that goes to taxes to help those that are less fortunate that I. Yes I worked hard to get a good education and a well-paying job, but I had supportive parents (not wealthy parents, but supportive of my efforts), a stable family life growing up that allowed me to study, work, and do extracurriculars, and I was blessed with the abilities to do the job I have. Not everyone has those things in their corner starting off. This is not to “make excuses” (the other feedback I get whenever I raise this issue), and of course there are exceptions where people work extremely hard to get out of difficult circumstances to succeed, but really, not everyone is equal or has equal opportunity in our society, as much as we’d like to believe that. Sometimes the government has to play a role in evening the score a bit for things like raising children and caring for the ill and elderly, IF (and only if) we think these things are important. Our neighbours to the south don’t seem to have these priorities (as evidenced by lack of universal healthcare, spotty to non-existent mat leave, etc.) and hence have lower taxes. They made different choices about priorities as a society, just as Gail demonstrated we have to do as individuals.

  29. @psychsarah, I completely agree with you. I don’t begrudge paying the taxes I pay (and I pay a whole lot), because I pay a lot for two reasons – (1) I worked really hard to achieve the success I achieved, and continue to work hard to maintain it, and (2) I had a lot of advantages in life that many other people didn’t get, some due to the luck of being born to wonderful, stable, and successful parents who could guide me and support me, and some due to the luck of being able-bodied and able-minded. I think of it like a marathon – I got a head start, but had to work hard to maintain a solid pace.

    I think it’s part of my job as a human being living among other human beings to contribute to a functioning society, where those who didn’t have the advantages I had don’t starve to death or, to bring this back to the initial topic, don’t have to forgo having their own children because they can’t possibly save enough to get by without any government benefits while raising their infants. I think a long maternity (and/or once the physical recovery is complete – parental) leave is extremely important for individual families and by extension, for society as a whole.

    So, really it comes down to drawing that line – how much support, through the taxes of others / the community at large, should new parents receive? Some would say 100% salary for 2 years, some would say much less than what the current benefits are. I think the current benefits are fine where they are now, though they should increase with inflation each year (I’m not sure if they do that now; they may) and should be more inclusive to take into account those who may fall through the cracks, because I think it requires personal responsibility, but also provides much needed help. There’s no right answer though, and no doubt everyone would draw that line in a slightly different place.

    It does annoy me though when people complain about how high their taxes are, but then want way more government benefits than they’re currently getting (not that any of the above posters did that, just in general).

  30. I have an aunt who should read this! She’s convinced women need “land a man” who will take care of them. She hasn’t woken up to the reality that things are different!
    While I was working hard to ensure I had a good career, she kept asking when I would have a boyfriend, get married, etc.

  31. Sorry – need “to” land

  32. @Jen “Then just tax the crap out of thosepeople who have higher incomes. As a doctor, I’d be fine with paying more taxes to improve our system.”

    Really??? Why should I pay more taxes because I chose to go to school and build a career to improve my circumstances. It might be fine for you but I would like to keep some of the hard earned cash I make – I believe I all ready pay hefty enough taxes.

  33. I agree with this post 100%. I grew up being raised by a powerful, strong and independent single mother who spelled it out for me early on in life…be able to take care of yourself and save your money. Now I didn’t heed her advice when I was in my teens but I started to get my act together by my mid-twenties and haven’t looked back.
    I got into debt, and I got myself out of debt. I was able to leave a marriage that wasn’t good for me because in part I could afford to support myself. I am now happily remarried to a wonderful provider, but I too am a solid provider and that is reassuring to my husband that I also have his back if need be.
    I don’t expect anyone to do for me what I am able to do for myself. Neither should anyone else.

  34. Please remember KK there are somethings in life no matter how hard you try no matter how much you plan and save you will not be ready for.

  35. @Megan, no I don’t live in a small town and I have a mortgage of $1,100 a month. My point was that average people with average salaries with average expenses can get by on EI without going into debt by dropping some extras. If your EI will be only 1/6th of your usual income, you are not by any means the norm.

  36. I don’t have kids but I’m glad that at least a few of my tax dollars are going to help support the people who are raising the next generation. I know that kids who have a parent at home with them in the first few months at least tend to be better adjusted and healthier. So the payoff is pretty quick – less tax dollars required for the police force and the health care system.

    Another poster mentioned some people are choosing to have kids. Thank you for making that choice. When I’m old and everyone in my generation is retired, your kids and grandkids will be my pharmacists and librarians and the people who make my life better. Even if they’re not my own kids, or the kids who I CHOSE to have, making sure the people who’ll be running my country and taking care of me in 40 years are safe, well-educated and healthy is a good investment for me.

  37. @psychsarah – exactly!
    “If society made it a priority to take good care of the vulnerable, women would not have to take on this role so readily at their own expense. “

  38. @psychsarah- yes, many European countries have differing coverage for women on maternity leave as well as leave for fathers.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave
    @GS-agree agree agree!

  39. @Aimee – I certainly don’t think I am the norm, my only point was that when one’s ‘income’ drops to $1200 a month, if that isn’t enough for the basics, it’s not necessarily an indication that the person is living beyond their means.

    I don’t know if you fit into the ‘average/norm’ category, but your mortgage I think does. And even assuming your were entitled to the maximum EI benefits, it wouldn’t even be enough to pay your mortgage and property taxes (let alone other basics such as groceries/hydro), and I don’t see that as an indication you are living beyond your means. I think unless the average person is living significantly below their means, while on leave, most average people have to supplement EI with savings, and if there aren’t any savings, debt is unfortunately what a lot of people turn to.

    I realize I’m sort of ignoring the fact that many people have spouses/partners who’s income would supplement EI benefits. If there are 2 parents making approximately the same average income, a drop to EI benefits for one parent might result in a total of 75% of their combined income during a parental leave, in which case I completely agree with you that a family should be able to get by without going into debt unless they were living beyond their means. It’s just that a lot of people, especially in the current economy, don’t have that or at least can’t count on that.

    Of course, I’m in no way advocating going into debt (if a person can’t save money before having a baby, I’m not sure what money they think they’ll use to pay off the new debt, especially once expenses go up after having the baby), and I’m not complaining that EI benefits are too low – I’m advocating saving every penny possible before a baby is born to prevent going into debt when/if EI benefits aren’t enough. After all – even when a pregnancy is a surprise, the baby sure isn’t (except if you’re on that TLC show “I didn’t know I was pregnant”).

  40. @Megan, I make about $45,000 a year gross, which equates to about $650 take home per week. I pay about $650 a month in daycare costs and another $200 in fuel plus additional costs for business attire and the requirement for a second vehicle in order to work which since it is paid off requires insurance and maintenance only. So I actually see less than $1,500 of the $2,600 I earn every 4 weeks. On EI, I was earning about $720 bi-weekly or $1,440 for the same 4 week period. Therefore, my actual income was almost identical between working or being on maternity leave – which is why a lot of middle class people are surprised that going back to work really isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel. I am married, my husband also works full time, and most of my friends and family members fall into the same category. Obviously our situations must be different, but I don’t know why you seem so bothered by my opinion? You’ve got yours, let me share mine with those who can relate to it and move on if you can’t.

  41. I believe gov’t programs should be a “hand up” not a “hand out”.

    I also think the gov’t should go a diet and lose the deficit. If we can’t run our homes that way and just rely on credit to fill in the gaps, why should the gov’t? Imagine how much $ they would have if they we weren’t paying interest on the debt? Works just like Gails’ system – short term pain, long term gain 😉

    For those that would like to pay more tax you can do so by sending a cheque to the Rev Can requesting it be attributed to the debt. And I say this with sincerity not sarcasm

  42. @Aimee, nothing about your post bothered me at all. I thought we were each just commenting our differing points of view about an interesting topic. I apologize if my tone lead you to believe I was upset in any way or that I didn’t think you should be able to express your opinion. I’m not sure what gave you that impression, especially since I agreed with you in large part in my last post. Apparently I didn’t communicate that very well, so I’m sorry about that.

  43. I look forward to reading your book, Gail. I’m hoping that you cover the following sticky situation. I’m the spouse with the income, but my husband thinks he has all the good ideas (he’s semi-retired with a very small pension and he doesn’t want to work any more). My husband doesn’t see financial matters the way I do. He’s more of a dare-devil, so he wants to take the quick route…stock market, poker, etc. But we keep losing money. How can I get him to listen to me, without taking away his ‘manhood’?

  44. @BadHabits;
    EI is an insurance programme.

    Review paystubs for the total of all premiums that were deducted versus the total amount of EI benefits that were paid under your name. In many situations the premium contributions are extremely low in relation to the rate of return ( benefits paid)

    EI is not a guaranteed income programme

  45. Great post Gail, I love it and find it very inspiring. However, the discussion around mat leave in the threads concerns me. The UN Status of Women rankings place heavy emphasis on a country’s maternity leave policies because those policies directly correlate to women’s quality of life, and abilities to have successful careers and make income parity with their male colleagues (no country has achieved income parity yet, but it’s better in countries with better mat leave). Mat leave isn’t about not being able to stand on your own two feet, it’s about women’s equality in the work force. The problem with the whole “plan for the mat leave” – while a good idea in theory – is that pregnancy is a biological function, and many many women get pregnant when they aren’t planning to, and many others have a very hard time getting pregnant when they didn’t expect to (this then can be very expensive and throw off any sort of “plan”). Children are not a commodity or part of a lay away plan. They come, or not, often outside of our best planning. Mat leave is designed precisely for what EI stands for – employment insurance. It’s a guarantee that your job is there when you go back to it, and that you are not penalized in your career for the time away. The problem with it not coming with any financial guarantees is that it means women already in good jobs do well, but a 20 year old who gets pregnant – or anyone else living on a minimum wage job – has no income if they take mat leave. Think about that for a minute – the most vulnerable are the least cared for. So, they have to figure out child care (expensive, of differing qualities, and almost impossible to find for newborns or small infants – not to mention the bonding challenges for mother and baby) and the cycle of poverty continues. I FULLY SUPPORT Gail’s advice on getting your head out of the sand and making plans, but we need to be careful not to take that very sound financial advice and start blaming people for poverty. The Nordic countries consistently rank highest in status of women, highest in how they address poverty issues, AND have the most comprehensive and longest parental leave programs in the world.

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