The secret? There are no egos involved!
I am many things. I am a woman. I am a Millennial. I am a first-generation immigrant from Vietnam. I am a hard-worker. I'm also someone who thinks about the value of money, because growing up that wasn't something that myself or my family had a lot of.
These days, I think about money a lot. That's not just because I have a career in the finance industry, but because in my marriage, I chose to. I am the wearer of the theoretical “financial pants." While it's not the most “traditional" or romantic role that I fill in our relationship, its one that I really enjoy - even when it means making difficult financial decisions for me and my husband.
To fully unpack what it means to be the financial “pants wearer" in our marriage and how we came to this agreement, I think it's important to go back to square one and look at why I'm more inclined to this role in the first place.
I grew up in Vietnam, a wonderful and vibrant country that I'm extremely proud to be from. That said, when thinking of the most financially prosperous countries in the world, few would put Vietnam at the top of that list - and rightfully so, workers in Vietnam average $148 a month in take home salary.
While my family was lucky enough to earn more than that, we were not frivolous. We recognized that our material comfort came from my parents' hard work and aggressive saving on a middle-class income, so that they could afford quality education for me and my sister. We were fortunate to be around when money was discussed at the dinner table, among other topics that my parents believed we would benefit from knowing from a young age. We were a team after all, they said. Instead of treating ourselves to meals out, we got an annual membership to a warehouse club that gave us access to quality ingredients and bonded over cooking our own meals.
My mother agonized over buying a new handbag, but never said no when my sister needed tutoring lessons.
I thought we had everything we needed. But that all changed when I enrolled at a magnet high school further from home, where my friends' parents were executives and government officials at places I had only heard of on TV. I started to realize that we would need more than my parents' middle-class incomes for me to attend language immersion camps, among other enriching experiences that would have real impacts on my future success. For the first time, I was made aware of the very real disadvantages that not coming from a lot of money may have in my academic and life progression. It was then that I vowed to give my own kids the opportunities that my parents couldn't always afford for me and my sister.
I made do with what I had, and won a full-ride scholarship at a liberal arts college in upstate New York. It was there that my interest in finance and money intensified. I ended up majoring in Economics - which taught me a ton about not only about how money works on an individual scale but also how the entire economy of the United States and other countries operates. Straight out of college, I paid off my student loans and immediately began using budgeting apps to get my finances in line. These apps allowed me to better understand my expenses and budget - which helped me balance both saving and taking advantage of all the fun things to do in New York City - where I lived at the time.
Cut to several years later, in the midst of grad school (and even more loans), I met my future husband and as they say, the rest is history. With our common Vietnamese heritage, we immediately clicked on our shared heritage and admiration for each other. What did we not click about? You guessed it: money. From the outside, few would suspect that our attitudes toward finances diverge. From the inside, it couldn't be further from the truth.
Unlike me, my now-husband didn't grow up in a money-minded household. My husband's parents came to the US as war refugees and picked up blue collar jobs. Eventually, they bought and owned a small tire shop to earn their living and put he and his two siblings through college. My in-laws worked hard to make sure my husband and his siblings would have a better life, but when it came to managing their careers and balancing a young-professional budget in expensive cities, they were on their own. It wasn't until his late 20s that my husband acquired a copy of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad." Looking back, it's easy to see how this stark difference in our upbringings affected our attitudes towards money.
Where I really saw this difference wasn't so much in our day-to-day spending habits, but in our long-term financial goals. While I maxed out my 401k, put much of my paycheck towards paying down my students loans, and consistently used finance-tracking apps and software, my husband took a more lax approach to his finances. While he had a general idea of his current finances, he was content with a “I'll get to it later" attitude when it came to his planning for the future. He also scored a well-paying job right out of college so “making it work" wasn't as much of a worry for him.
Thankfully for us (and the health of our finances), we recognized these money-related differences in ourselves pretty early on. Just by recognizing it, we were able to have an honest conversation about our priorities around money, our preferred roles and what we wanted our financial future to look like. With this, I assumed the role most natural to me: the financial planner and “pants wearer."
What does this really mean? Day to day, I make sure the bills are paid, and long term, I plan our finances ahead of new phases of our lives - like when I entered graduate school or when both of us started working again. It's at those big life moments that I take into account our new incomes and financial goals and make adjustments.
Four years into our marriage and I have to say that discussing our philosophies towards money was one of the better things we've done for our relationship. My husband has absolutely no qualms about me setting the direction for our financial future, and there are no egos involved. That doesn't mean there aren't small hiccups here or there, but overall we're truly happy with how we divide and conquer our financial roles and responsibilities.
I've heard of stories of couples fighting over money dynamics, and I honestly cannot put a finger on why we were so successful. Perhaps it is the mutual agreement of each others' strengths and weaknesses when it comes to financial management. Or maybe it's the open communication, and staying honest when I want us to pursue or financial goal, or when my husband thinks we can cut back.
Like many things in life, money reflects our life experiences and deep-seated values. While everyone's experiences and values can be different, it's important to take the time to sit down, reflect and discuss these things with your partner - preferably before you walk down the aisle. For us, I'm more than grateful for our journey, as it only helped us reconcile our money differences and bring us closer and more appreciative of what each other brings to our special relationship.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.