Get Rich with…Feminism

uma thermanWhat has feminism got to do with financial independence?

Well…quite a lot actually. The Escape Artist knows a lot of complicated shit about finance.  I don’t usually include it in my blogposts but today I’m gonna start with some advanced level stuff:

All else being equal, a couple that both work are likely to earn more than a couple where one of them is at home chained to the kitchen sink

I know! With content like this, it’s no surprise that The Escape Artist was recently voted second best finance blog in THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE by my Mum (she prefers Mr Money Mustache).

You may say this is obvious…but during my career, I noticed that some (mostly high-earning) males didn’t want their partner to work.  Some wanted the convenenience of a permanently stocked fridge and well-ordered household. Some probably wanted the sole title of breadwinner to boost their ego / self-identity.  I guess this is OK if you’re earning mega-bucks and both partners agree that’s what they want.

But generally, if you’re interested in financial independence, you’re gonna want both members of your partnership contributing to household income.  For people in the accumulation phase, The Escape Artist says:

All other things being equal, the more your partner earns the better

This may seem obvious…but its surprising how many people don’t see it.  A female friend once suggested to The Escape Artist that he “wouldn’t be able to handle it” if he was out-earned by a woman he was going out with.  Not true!  The Escape Artist would have been DELIGHTED to be out-earned by a girlfriend / wife.

That’s not just some theoretical point….its been the reality for much of the last 3 years.  Those 3 years have seen my income fall off a cliff as my former employer seized on the fact that I’m no longer working for them as an excuse to stop paying me.

Meanwhile, my wife’s part time accounts job has grown.  She has out-earned and out-worked me for much of that time. In fact, as I write this I’ve just made supper for the kids whilst my wife is out at work. Despite that, The Escape Artist remains secure in his masculinity.

Getting to financial independence is hard enough with two incomes, let alone one. So guys, if you have a woman in your life that wants to work, it would be madness not to support her in that.

[As an aside, the equation obviously changes when you introduce babies into the mix…there are good financial and non-financial reasons for one partner to stay at home then…but that’s not what I’m talking about in this article.]

One of the reasons for the incredible increase in prosperity over the past 100 years is that we fixed the crazy situation where the talents of half of the population were suppressed or ignored. So, yes, The Escape Artist is in favour of sisters doing it for themselves. 

You would’ve thought that we could all agree on this and get on happily with the business of becoming wealthy. But The Escape Artist has noticed that this subject seems to make a small but vocal minority of people disproportionately angry.

When you see a commentator who’s angry with the other sex, its often because something bad happened to them in their earlier life for which they blame the opposite sex. So what do angry feminists and angry misogynists have in common? Bitterness.

millie

Image credit: Viz

When you hear an angry feminist ranting about The Patriarchy or that students should sign consent agreements before sex on campus etc etc, that’s a clue they may have been treated badly by men earlier in their life….possibly even assaulted.

Something similar goes for angry misogynists…they’ve probably never quite got over being dumped / rejected by women.

So when you read stuff from these people, the appropriate response is to try to understand and sympathise with them. But don’t take most of their policy prescriptions too seriously; they’re usually unworkable.

If you read or watch The News (which I don’t recommend) you’ll see plenty of nonsense articles and debates about gender inequality.  This is a problem because if people think the deck is unfairly stacked against them they’re likely to give up…even if they are wrong and the system is (mostly) fair.

I’m not saying that all workplaces are always fair.  That’s not realistic.  But in my working life, I learnt a bit about the hard choices required for career success, including the different participation rates of men and women in this game.

When I first trained as an accountant, women were outnumbered and it was still felt necessary to encourage more into the profession.  By the time I quit work 20 years later, the entry statistics had tilted something like 55:45 in favour of women. This progress happened fast and attitudes didn’t always keep up.

So has equality been achieved? Well it depends how you define equality. There’s a HUGE difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

The Escape Artist believes in equality of opportunity. But I don’t believe in equality of outcome anymore than I believe in leprechauns.  It’s never existed in any country under any economic system in all of human history.

So yes, a gender gap remains.  There are more men than women at the highest pay levels…and these high earners skew the averages so that on average men get paid more than women. But its bizarre when you see articles that say a pay gap is conclusive evidence of sexism in the workplace.  Has anyone even considered the possibility that many women just don’t want to do the more bonkersly extreme (and high paid) jobs?

Those people that say that well paid jobs like CEO or corporate law partner or finance rainmaker should be made more family friendly to attract more women have it 180 degrees wrong.  Those jobs are well paid in large part because they are brutally family unfriendly. They are hard to get, then harder to hold down (see here for tips) . Women are just as capable of doing those high pressured jobs as men but perhaps they often choose not to?

When I was working in the City, I knew one high powered woman who was head of the corporate department for her law firm.  She died in her late 40s of an alcohol related illness.  Alcoholism is commonplace amoungst senior lawyers, doctors and other high earning professionals (male and female) who often use it as a coping mechanism.

Maybe the question is not how can we encourage more women to do those jobs? Maybe the question is why would they want to?

Men and women are equal but not the same.  I’m gonna have to spell out the obvious here….so we need to have a little talk about the birds and the bees.

Men and women evolved different sexual characteristics.  Women have only a limited number of eggs and are the only sex that gets pregnant.  Differences in biology cause differences in behaviour. So, for example, it makes sense for women to be choosier (on average) in their mating strategy than men who can disappear over the horizon after conception.  It seems obvious to me that’s primarily a biological difference…more down to nature than nurture.

The truth is that guys are often more prepared to put up with corporate nonsense in return for ever more money and more status.  Men evolved to specialise in hunting (which requires single-minded focus and tolerating gore) and this may explain their relative lack of squeamishness compared to women.  Women on the other hand are generally better at balancing work and life, better at managing relationships, more emotionally intuitive.  As a result, women are far less likely to end up as Walking Wallets. Maybe women know something that many of us men don’t?

Its sad when politicians, journalists and internet commentators try to whip up anger at the fact that women don’t do those extreme (often soul destroying) jobs as often as men.  The implicit assumption is that everyone should always want to earn the most money possible…regardless of the costs in terms of stress, long hours, lack of freedom etc.  They see the world through a frame of consumerism where more money => more stuff => more happiness. Its all bullshit.

The Escape Artist is all in favour of people earning more and achieving as much success as they are capable of.  But its important to ask yourself what your motives are.  For me, ~10 years hard graft in the second half of my career was a price worth paying to get to financial freedom.  Doing that forever just to buy more stuff would be insanity.


Further reading:

  1. Feminism for Guys (or how not to be a Walking Wallet)
  2. Financial coaching

37 comments

  1. vanexelfan · · Reply

    Gee The Escape Artist sure isn’t afraid to to toe a rather controversial line here on his blog.

    1. take…not toe 🙂

    2. Greg the Egg · · Reply

      Controversial only because some choose not to distinguish between the idea of equal dignity/value of the genders and that of equal abilities in all areas for the *average* member of that gender (which is in any case only descriptive, not prescriptive).

      1. Thanks Greg. I was expecting a few more counter-arguments but seems like everyone agrees around here (or is not that interested in the subject)…curious

      2. Greg the Egg · ·

        I guess a lot of the outrage you see in the media on these kinds of things is fairly confected. Of those I’ve met in real life who have expressed outrage most, ironically, have been rather privileged middle-class young women, who if anything only experience positive discrimination in their nice, middle-class careers (https://fullfact.org/economy/UK_gender_pay_gap/)

  2. I’m being brave and replying..

    I am a stay at home mum, although I earn a bit of money working from home as a childminder. I think there is a massive issue for the child-caring parent to get back into work where there is enough flexibility to continue to care for their children. I worked in accounting before having children and I gave up my career so that my children could be brought up at home. I know that it doesn’t make my husband a walking wallet as I do contribute to our income in more ways than just money – I add value to being at home such as cooking from scratch to keep our food bills rediculously low, fixing things etc. If I had to go out to ‘work’ we would have to outsource much of what I do, our food bills would rise as I would not have time to cook or grow, we would have to cover childcare expenses etc.

    On the flip side, we are totally dept free (including mortgage) and working our way towards FI, so it hasn’t really damaged our dreams by having a stay-at-home parent but we couldn’t have done it without my husbands salary contribution over the last 9 years and we probably wouldn’t have been much better off if I had a ‘conventional’ go out to work type of job (that typically pays much better!)

    It’s such a complicated arguement when you start to take into account bringing up children and something that I think about a lot at the moment.

    1. Hi Marie…firstly, well done for being brave! But what were you worried about? 🙂 The Escape Artist believes in free speech (but does not feed the trolls).

      Secondly…you are allowed to stay at home to look after children!

      Thirdly…I agree that just because your husband works, that doesn’t make him a Walking Wallet.

      Fourth…you might want to scale up your side hustle(s) in future years..you could start here

      Sounds like you are on a good path…all the best!

  3. I’ll echo Marie’s comments that once kids are in the mix, if you consider the insane costs of childcare, having both parents work might be a losing proposition financially.

    With no kids in the picture, I’m baffled as to why some people would ask their spouse to not work. It seems weird to me. A normal house/flat for two people does not require a full time employee to take care of groceries + the house.

    1. Yes, I agree its a different set of considerations when you have young kids…I’ve clarified the article on that point (which will probably be the subject of a future post…)

  4. Hello Escape Artist, enjoying your blog but I am going to quote you the quote on the back of Mary Beard’s excellent book “Women and Power: A Manifesto”. She says: “You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change that structure.” Forget the women here for a moment – why should you men have put up with “brutally family unfriendly jobs”? Why should you have to put up with anything brutal? At the end of the day we are all just people, so shouldn’t we be trying to change the structure to improve life for all of us? All the best! Sandra

    1. Excellent question. Here’s the correct answer.

      No one should have to put up with anything brutal! That’s because no one is forcing men or women to do those high status jobs. We always have choices.

      No one is forcing Theresa May to be Prime Minister…but that is a brutal job by its very nature and because there are always so many people competing for it.

      The only fair way to allocate those high status jobs is to allow everyone access to them via fair competition. That means the people willing to endure the most “pain” (long hours, politics, hard work, criticism, stress) often end up at the top.

      1. keren parsalidis · ·

        So glad this isn’t how we pick our Olympic squad.”OK you were fastest but you cried when I critiqued your breathing style so you are off the team!”
        Using talent alone as a yardstick saves us cringing embarrassed in these and many other situations (think Trump..)

      2. This IS how we pick our Olympic squad!…we pick the people that are the best at that sport…which will be the people with 1) some natural talent and 2) who are prepared to endure the most pain / long hours / hard work / criticism in training and in competitions.

        People compete for top jobs…just like they compete for top level sports prizes

  5. I agree with you that no-one is forcing people (men and women) to do the jobs they do – in theory. Perhaps you mean in practice, in which case I disagree. In practice people are “forced” into certain jobs because of the way we have built our society – we do things unconsciously. We as a species are irrational, often lazy thinkers in ways that I think Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) explains really well. I think the interesting energy is spent thinking about how we think – with the aim of (ideally) people becoming conscious of their thinking in order to make more suitable choices. Thinking on gender is obviously a key area here. I thought Robert Webb’s book “How not to be a Boy” is a really good – and entertaining – example of the kind of process that re-thinking our assumptions and biases on gender is, from a bloke’s point of view. It’s not an easy process. I would also like to see “high status” jobs becoming other things than jobs like prime minister. Who do we want looking after old folk, i.e. us – in the next decades? Personally, I’d like someone “high status” for that kind of job. Why does high status have to equal “willingness to endure pain”? Why can’t it equal “patience and compassion”, as one example?

    1. Hhhmmm, tricky…its almost as if there are no easy magic wand solutions…perhaps you could tell Mary? 😉

      1. I think she knows 🙂

  6. keren parsalidis · · Reply

    I really enjoy reading your blog, but I was very disappointed reading this article.
    Imagine for a moment how the culture of these “top” jobs evolved, with their long hours keeping the poor men doing them away from their families and having to do awful things like go out “networking” in bars and restaurants? Hmmm
    When they realised that this arbitrary culture kept women away from these high paying jobs was any attempt to change things? Or was it encouraged even more?
    As for being squeamish, and avoiding long unsociable hours, we’ll women can always look forward to looking after the elderly, the dying and a but of midwifery. These jobs are a doddle, which is reflected in the pay and benefits. Having meetings and dealing with numbers, now that’s really really tough on the soul.

    Its sad to see someone I admire buying into and propagating these archaic views. The system should and easily could be family friendly, children benefit for being with both parents and with shared paternity/maternity leave where both parents get proper paid time off we could break this destructive cycle of men being locked out of a large part of their children’s lives from day one (or day fourteen). Society as a whole would benefit.
    Many Scandinavian countries manage to be happy, productive, and even make some decent money whilst adopting such schemes.
    Maybe, as someone with a great platform for sharing “crazy ideas” you could do a bit of research and let us know if you think it’s something that we in this country could aspire to rather than going down the route of the US ?

    1. Yes I was a bit disappointed as well. Very brave of TEA to write about this subject, but in the second half of the article I also found myself wondering why high status jobs have to be brutal. More out of the box thinking required I feel to really get to grips with why there are so many arrogant men in charge, often not doing such a great job (think banking crisis of 2008 for one example).

    2. What you say is spot on and I was also disappointed to read this post after reading lots of other good stuff here. I live in Germany where we have very many measures in place to make it easier to combine having kids with working – a real sticking point in creating gender balance. Schools, for example, are open 12 hours a day for about 363 days a year – there are a couple of days off for Christmas and New Year. That means 8 of those hours are free childcare and the hours from 6-8 am and 4-6 pm and all school holidays have to be paid for by parents, but at a means-tested price which is minimal – because the government wants to enable people to work. This, along with sensible leave for sick dependents, means both parents can realistically manage jobs. High taxes are what makes it all happen, but we are very happy to pay them, because it creates a better society for everyone.

    3. Sorry guys and girls…to avoid disappointment in future please try typing “where can I get my pre-existing beliefs confirmed?” into Google

      ps I’d vote for schools opening early & late to provide subsidised childcare…its common sense to use existing assets more efficiently 🙂

      1. keren parsalidis · ·

        Of course it’s your blog and you can write whatever you want to, I get that. Its nice to have an exchange of ideas and opinions though!

      2. We’re still friends Keren 😉

  7. Survivor · · Reply

    A Tale of 2 sisters. I personally know these 2, they’re close in age attractive, smart & at the peak of their careers. What’s interesting is that one is very feminist in outlook, while the other doesn’t even actually think about it much, so the experiences they have had are useful for telling something about the reaction to different attitudes/practices in the workplace. The laidback one ironically understands that nothing is fair, [so is not at all weak, deluded or condoning] just believes that ignorance comes in all forms & is inevitable, so works rather on how best to circumvent it vs getting angry.

    ‘Laidback’ sister therefore turned consultant as soon as professionally possible, dresses seriously smart (understanding that even the highest paid cityboys have to endure an expensive & uncomfortable dresscode) & learned how to quickly spot dinosaurs/misogynists. If there is any hint of a toxic culture at the interview stage she doesn’t take the job, while if it only becomes apparent later, she bails out seamlessly. This practice is applied to all needless unpleasant workplace behaviour, like attempted bullying, but this ability to have the choice was painstakingly built up over years of hard work in the form of an impressive CV at a number of her industry’s main players & a serious buffer of Fk-U money. (in her case a minimum of a year’s expenses so as to walk out at the drop of a hat without losing sleep)

    Psychology is huge in these life-changing issues & as it becomes clear she doesn’t take any sh*t, she even gets to name terms as they ask her to stay on – though she still never goes permanent, believing that is leads to being taken for granted & so losing the whole advantage. She sees things as nuanced in that for every negative she’s experienced due to gender, there have also been positives …..times when the role favoured women or the hirers simply preferred a pretty woman vs a guy in the role, even if they never tried anything disrespectful afterwards.

    ‘Gender-sensitive’ sister on the other hand doesn’t see the fact that every issue has pros & cons & only acknowledges the negative …..yet simply complains, vs doing something practical about it. I don’t deny that often women don’t have choices all of the time & so put up with pain only for that reason, but argue that a lot more is under our control than we tend to think. The first sister’s career has been noticeably better, but the lesson I think is so much more in how you deal with what life throws at you. For the avoidance of doubt, let me be clear that all bad behaviour at work is vile and should be stopped, but it happens. A lot …..& seems particularly resilient in the UK.

    1. This comment is wise, balanced & thoughtful….almost a lost art these days…read & learn people

      1. I agree with a lot of what you say – helping people to change their thinking is where the energy needs to go – but we’re still dealing with the “pretty woman vs the guy” as you say, not the “pretty woman vs the good-looking guy” …

      2. @ TEA, I agree, I think modern-day life with it’s habit-forming, go-go rushing around, doesn’t give time to think …..& culturally this is a great loss, because analysis [the basis of good decision-making] as well as creativity, need headspace/quiet time. Given that your life can radically change on the basis of a single momentous decision, this leaves us poorer.

        Another way thinking is impoverished is by people coming in with past baggage that has coloured their perceptions, so that they are intolerant to views differing to what they already want to believe. This can be to the extent that their brain doesn’t see facts to the contrary, because they’re wedded to their ideology – this is so obvious with some of the comments bludgeoning you right here in this article. You read some of them & think ”That is so not what he is saying, how did you even reach that interpretation?” …….the answer being simply that they already wanted to see that.

        Most people inadvertently create their own problems in life, by not thinking or really listening much …..it’s the principle behind taking the time to stop running on an escalator going the wrong way [because you’re exhausted] for a while at the price of ‘falling behind’, to work out that you can get out of the gainless pain simply by turning around.

      3. @ helsingskitchen, I suspect you’re still missing my underlying point – ‘but we’re still dealing with the “pretty woman vs the guy” as you say, not the “pretty woman vs the good-looking guy” …’

        Humans are emotional animals, only making rational decisions when they don’t care enough about the thing involved, otherwise the process is often ruled by emotion – as such, we judge to some extent through the filters of our preconceived ideas. In the example you use, I didn’t write ‘the good-looking guy’ because I had no interest – only because I am a heterosexual man – while I mentioned that the girl in that situation was pretty because it was relevant to the story in that she would be judged on that both for good & bad in the workplace whatever she did. [Also, she is my baby sister, so will always be pretty to me however she looks, sometimes it’s really just that simple]

        Conversely when in my 20’s, I now realise I was good-looking, but so naive that I didn’t know then …..only much later with the wisdom of hindsight/knowledge was I able to work it out. I could tell the difference because as I steadily lost those looks, everything became harder, there were no more easy wins. It also went both ways, depending on the baggage of the person you were dealing with, I got massive hostility from a lot of men [unless they were gay – only later it became obvious a lot of kindness was from them & women] with no explanation which was disturbing, but generally I got jobs easily, was served first, talked to more, chosen for everything …..the benefits of popularity. Later, having lost the looks, I realised that back then I wasn’t even a nice person – only by having become invisible now could I then contrast the reactions to understand how things work in society.

        So, yes, you are judged all the time, it’s human nature, there are pros & cons to everything …..& yes, the default human condition is to admire beauty. [whether people like it or not, there is little fair in life, nature is basically an endless series of oncoming random events] I for example have no embarrassment with taking great pleasure in simply being able to see beautiful flowers or paintings in the same room; it’s not always about lust.

      4. @Survivor

        Man, you are ON FIRE today!

        Ooopps…I meant Gender Neutral Person, you are on ON FIRE today!

      5. @TEA, sorry, no time for this, @Survivor, sorry not to have the energy to give your thoughtful post the answer it deserves. All the best to everyone and greetings from Berlin, where the first snow of the year is falling.

  8. @TEA,

    Haha, yes, but that’s pretty [in a non-judgemental sense of the word] understandable given the context – it’s a beautiful day & I’ve no responsibilities for the entirety of it, so am completely free and luxuriating in gratitude for that. A quick look outside my window shows 2 beleaguered parents wearing santa hats bundling small children into their car – their day to come must be forced jollity.

    On the way out of my cul-de-sac, they have to dodge some poor b*******ds [not picking on gender, they are all men & I don’t know their parentage] from a utility company spending their saturday ripping up paving while I can enjoy the laziness of commenting on your blog. the hardest thing I face today is the decision of what to have for meals.

    This is not to gloat, because my finances are modest & for that I paid in pain over many years, even now there are limitations I have to accept as the price for this freedom. But that freedom via FI is what made everything worth it, it’s the main point of living for me, every minute of every day, I can choose. In an abstract way, this too is pure and utter beauty. Salud, Dinero, Amor…….. 🙂

  9. @ helsingskitchen,

    Good day to you, my best friend who I have known since we were in school lives near Munich, I go there every year & could not believe how beautiful it looks around there, especially at this time of the year with the snow outlining the trees and the Alps. I have been told Berlin is so interesting…..

    Gesundheit 🙂

  10. Hi I’ve just started following your blog. It’s very interesting. You are a good writer. I hope you’ll follow me too, I think you’ll find it interesting too.

    https://beingraped.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/it-really-happened/

    1. Whoa, I’ve just taken a look at your blog…I am so sorry about what happened to you. I hope that piece of shit gets put away. Keep fighting….this male is on your side.

  11. Thanks for this interesting post, TEA.

    However, I feel that you might be delighted that your missus is earning more than you while you are basking and relaxing during your FI but would have you have had the same warm fuzzy feeling had she been earning more than you during your highly-paid days working for the Man? The male ego can be a fragile thing!

    In my experience (friends and close family), some men say they’re ok with their wives earning more than they do, but actually, they’re not. I think it’s a society thing or perhaps cultural.

    But it’s great to hear that all is good with the TEA household 🙂

    Also in my experience, women do want to work at the top (including the silly hours and the travel etc) but it can be difficult to penetrate the ‘jobs for the boys’ attitude that is still prevalent in many corporates.

  12. After all the revelations of the last 6 weeks, with all sexual abusers and harrasers popping out of the unending Sexual Haraser Advent Calendar, I would like to point out that even if women might be prepared to put up with the “brutal” nature of the top jobs, they might not get those chances because they’re not actually prepared to have sex with the men in power.

    I would like to point out that this explanation can be just as valid as the “but women just don’t want the jobs” one. Maybe they want the jobs but they like their privates not groped more.

    1. Toglow

      Yes, that would be the explanation you’d get if you took everything in the mainstream news media at face value. But then again, if you took The News at face value, you’d be looking to retire at 70 (shortly before dying of obesity).

      I don’t agree with the implicit assumption that the main way to get top jobs is to have sex with the men in power. It certainly wasn’t the route I took.

      Nor was it (I suspect) the route that Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, Emma Walmsley etc etc took.

      Although I haven’t worked in Hollywood, I’ve long suspected that the casting system there is often corrupt…hence the phrase “casting couch”.

      But its lazy thinking to just project that onto the top jobs in business and politics without some evidence. So if you have that evidence (either empirical or based on your own direct experience) please share it.

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