5 Questions for Single Ma about “Women, Ethics and Personal Finance”

I might as well have titled this post - “Lesson in Ethics: What Single Ma Taught Me about Keeping Your Word”. Here’s what happened. Back in February, I hosted the Carnival of Ethics, Values and Personal Finance. In honor of the carnival I declared the whole week as Ethics, Values & Personal Finance Week and interviewed several prominent bloggers about their opinion on this matter. One of the bloggers I contacted with my list of questions was Single Ma from the popular blog Single Ma's Fabulous Financials. Unfortunately though, Single Ma was very busy at that time, and asked me if she could answer my questions later when she had some time. I said, of course, yes. Frankly though, I did not expect her to reply back. On this stage of personal finance blogging, I am a little bitty starlet, while Single Ma is a popular diva – so why would she remember to respond, right? Wrong! Imagine my surprise when I checked my mail yesterday and saw her response to my interview questions! Not only did she remember the promise she had made me, she also had spent a lot of time and effort in coming up with some really great answers! Who better to talk about "Women, Ethics and Personal Finance" than the woman who blogs about personal finance and has such good ethics?

So, without further ado, I present to you the interview with Single Ma about "Women, Ethics and Personal Finance".

ISPF: Many women in the work force get slightly lower salaries than their male counterparts, even though they are equally skilled. Obviously, this is not a problem that is going to go away overnight and we women need to gain ground inch by inch. What advice would you give for women out there in this situation?

Single Ma: This is an interesting question. In fact, I blogged about it recently right here. I think society has a LONG way to go before women are considered equal in the workforce. However, I think we [women] need to understand that earning a degree and learning the technical aspects of a job are only half the puzzle to being "equally skilled." By nature, women are nurturers, not competitors. Some of us lack the intangible skills that are required to compete in the workforce (e.g. dealing with confrontation, problem solving, politicking, negotiating, etc.) These things are NOT taught in a classroom, yet they are valuable to the progression of one's career beyond mid level. Therefore, my advice would be to brush up on those skills that are typically regarded as "manly." Get a mentor, more than one - from both sexes and of any race. Read books on negotiating and the art of persuasion. Also, know your worth, don't be afraid to ask for what you want, roll up your sleeves and PROVE that you are equally valuable and don't be discouraged by men in fancy suits.

ISPF: Women have to face the difficult question of whether to go to work to help improve the financial situation at home, or stay at home to help raise the kids in a better fashion. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. How did you deal with this in your personal life and what have you learnt from your decision?

Single Ma: First, I don't think a parent staying at home helps to raise kids "in a better fashion." My mom worked and all of my friends' parents worked. Other than the typical growing pains during the teenage years, we were all raised as happy, healthy children. And turned out a-okay if I do say so myself.

As for my personal choice, I was not married when I had my daughter so caring for her and providing financially were equally important. Not only did I work, but I also pursued higher education so juggling competing priorities became a way of life for me. I don't think I've ever entertained the luxury of "staying at home." If I had to do it all over again, other than waiting until I was married before having a child, I don't know if I would choose a different path. I have a lot of respect for stay at home moms but I think I'd be bored out of my mind. I love being a mom but my career is a major part of what makes me...well...ME. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now that she's a teen, we both have a life and we're both very happy.

ISPF: "Learning starts at home" they say. How do you teach your children basic money lessons that are solidly grounded in good values and principles?

Single Ma: Yes, yes, and yes! I do believe learning starts at home in every aspect of life. I teach my daughter basic money lessons that are solidly grounded in good values and principles by first leading by example. I've shown her the results of hard work, good money/credit management, spending wisely and planting the seed for future harvests by giving back - not only to others who are less fortunate but to anyone who is in need.

When she was younger, we had this piggy bank with four compartments: save, spend, donate, invest. It wasn't a favorite of hers. In fact, she HATED that thing because she just could not understand why she couldn't SPEND all of HER OWN money, but it sparked discussions and served as the foundation for many money lessons to come. I took advantage of every opportunity to "talk" about money almost everyday. Now at 14, it's second nature for her to mentally compartmentalize her money. She knows 10% off the top is to be saved (only when savings reach a certain limit do we invest), at least 10% (and often more at her discretion) is donated, and the rest she has the freedom to spend however she pleases. Now she's an obsessive saver so the latter is rarely a problem.

My strategies are to TALK about money anytime there's a relevant opportunity and LEAD BY EXAMPLE to reinforce the lesson.

ISPF: Women tend to be less interested in finance related issues than men in general. What got you interested in finances? Was there a defining "Aha" moment or was it something you were interested in since childhood? How can we get more women to take a more personal interest in their finances?

Single Ma: I don't know if I can pinpoint any one moment that got me interested in finance. I think it was just ingrained at childhood - not by a good role model or anyone who was financially savvy. I only witnessed people who struggled to make ends meet so I figured there MUST be an easier way. Besides, I've always been a numbers person and math was my favorite subject in school, so perhaps I was doomed from the start. LOL

How to get more women to take a more personal interest in their finances? This is a good question and I'm still trying to figure it out. The primary reason I started my blog was to share my story and appeal to women. I try to make finance lingo fun and apply it to things women care about. I've been somewhat successful, but I still have a lot of work to do. I'd love to read any ideas shared by others.

ISPF: This question is at the foundation of the Carnival of Ethics, Values and Personal Finance. I have asked this in previous interviews and each person's view is different. So, let me ask again. How do your personal values impact your everyday financial decisions?

Single Ma: My personal values impact everything I do so I'm sure they impact my daily financial decisions, but to be honest, I've never thought about "how" it impacts me. I guess if I had to think of one example, I'd say the value of personal responsibility. I think every adult should be held solely responsible for his/her own actions/decisions. Therefore, saving/planning for emergencies and my future are a very high priority.

Since I'm a gainfully employed, healthy, and mentally sane adult (the latter may be questionable lol), it is MY responsibility to make wise spending decisions and exercise sufficient personal control. Almost everyone wants a huge home in a beautiful neighborhood, drive a luxury car, own all the latest gadgets and wear designer clothes. However, compromising financial security in exchange for immediate gratification to keep up with (or be) the Jones' is immature and irresponsible.

As such, my values dictate my financial priorities, which in turn, influence my daily financial decisions.

Now tell me, wasn’t that fabulous interview really worth the wait? I would like to thank Single Ma for taking the time out and providing such thoughtful answers. You can read more about what Single Ma has to say at Single Ma's Fabulous Financials or subscribe to her feed. And of course, you are most welcome to respond to her right here in the comments!

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Single Ma said...

Hi ispf

Thanks for the shout out! You give me way too much credit. LOL I try to keep my word, but I fall short sometimes. :-)

I was honored by your request for an interview and I really enjoyed answering the questions. I look forward to reading the others linked at the bottom.

Have a great weekend!

Poly Muthumbi said...

manyFINANCIAL women do not play an active role in managing family financial matters till their husbands die or become sick or mentally incapacitated.