Invest in Your Future, Not in Your Nails
I was surfing the web recently when I saw a cover article on the front page of msn.com. It showed three women sitting in beach chairs and the article was discussing the latest advances in topical tanning creams. This is news? This was accompanied by an advertisement for eyelash enhancing mascara and followed by a photo picture of a slender woman tanning on a tropical beach in the bright sun.
I logged onto USA Today and looked at their advertisements. Theirs were of a similar nature with respect to the women, but changed dramatically with advertisements for men. One large advertisement caught my eye. It was for an “Entrepreneur and Investor Conference.” The ad showed serious men in business suits, and touted “the most successful business speakers in the industry” as an eye-catching attraction of their conference. There was not one single female pictured in the entire ad.
Okay. So maybe that is just mainstream America. Let me look at the veterinary industry journal advertisements. To their credit, I didn’t see any make-up ads. Most of them showed only animals as their spokes-“people.” But the humans were divided 50/50 by gender. I thought that interesting, considering 80% of graduates these days are women.
So the professional, veterinary magazines are OK, but everywhere else we are hit with it. Countless ads telling women what we need to make ourselves look alluring to the other sex.
It appears that in order for women to be worthwhile and attractive we need to buy lotions, creams, make-up, jewelry, True Religion jeans, Manolo Blahnik heels and Kate Spade handbags. In order for men to be deemed worthwhile and attractive, they need to shave and enroll in a business course.
I’d say the guys are on to something.
Couldn’t we just shave and enroll in a business course?
Why are we spending money on luxury items and expensive personal beauty products and pricey clothes that we really don’t need? Why are we not confident enough to know that our minds, our intellect, our personalities, and our positive energy quite suffice to make us attractive to the opposite sex?
I understand the tendency to spend excessively at the beginning of a career. Especially a career in which one is single and does not include children.
That first associate pay for many young veterinarians is the most money that they have ever earned. The temptations and the tendencies are to splurge. Many take fancy vacations. One associate that I know just bought himself a new $5,000 camera and a $1,300 souped-up road bike. The young doctor has yet to use the bicycle (the clip-on pedals are challenging) and the last pictures that were taken on the camera were during an 8 day vacation in a tropical country many months ago. This associate has huge student loans and owns a dog that now needs expensive knee surgery. That charge is going on the credit card. Other young associates have hit the Virgin Islands, Europe, Belize, and the Grand Caymans with nary a care in the world. They did look very tanned when they returned.
However, there appears to be a disconnect between the reality of what is (average small animal associate pay of $65,000/year along with average associate debt of $130,000), and what associates want it to be (exotic vacations/expensive toys/high rents in favorable neighborhoods). Of course this behavior is massively reinforced by the deluge of advertisements, television and movies that one’s self-worth is defined by what one drives, by what one wears, by how one looks, by where one lives.
For women especially this unnecessary debt and the unrealistic lifestyle can cause huge fiscal pain later on in life. The stakes are much higher for us than they are for our male counterparts.
Remember that women exit the full time work force at a much higher rate than men do after the birth of children. (When is the last time you heard a man say to his co-worker, “You know, Sam. I am just not sure I am going to continue full time work after my wife has the baby. It’s just too much pressure and stress.”)
Women start out with $10,000 more, on average, in student loans than men. That adds up to tens of thousands of dollars in extra interest payments over a 25-year loan lifespan. We can’t afford that along with high rent, auto loans and credit card debt.
So, I say, “Women, let’s get on the fiscal ball. Let’s start making some wise financial choices while we still can.”
Rather than spending money on more useless credit card debt service and wasted rent, how about investing in real estate – purchase a home in which to live and, as more importantly, as an investment. Start earning equity as soon as you can. According to the State of Nations 2009 Housing Report, compiled by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, single women are now twice as likely to buy a first time home than their single male counterparts. This is good news.
The study also noted that one quarter of the nation’s single mothers spend more than half of their incomes on housing as compared with one-tenth of single fathers who spend half their incomes on housing. This is not good news.
The study says that it is because women, on average, earn less than men because they are in the full-time work force a much shorter time than men (along with lingering gender bias in rates of pay for the same work). With 50% of us ending up divorced, and 5 out of 6 of us retaining primary custody of the children, these figures should be eye-opening.
Let’s start building up equity now, while we can. That could relieve some of the financial burden later on during out child-rearing years when our income stream becomes much lower than that of our male counterparts, never mind getting divorced and supporting a family on one veterinarian’s salary.
Build up some type of emergency fund. Take a look at your male associate. Is he spending substantial amounts of money on make-up, expensive jeans, frequently hi-lited hair, mani/pedi’s, waxing, eye brow shaping, designer high heels, and fashion shampoo? Perhaps for Halloween. The rest of the time he is taking his money and investing it in his 401 (k) portfolio and building up his emergency fund.
You can too.
For every pair of flashy heels you want to buy, purchase a cheaper pair at half the price, or wait until the expensive pair appear at a discount shoe store, and put the saved money in an investment account or a retirement account. Instead of buying dozens of colors of make-up and eye liner and lip stick, limit yourself to a few selections. Do you really need 10 pairs of designer jeans? Consider buying two jeans and 8 eight shares of a mutual fund. Can you apply your own nail polish to your toes? You can do surgery; do you really need to pay for a manicure? All of these items add up. Every little bit saved early compounds for years.
So, how about it? Is it crazy to suggest we ditch the heels and make-up for Charles Schwab and home ownership? Let me know.