Before I was exposed to the world of FIRE and 4% withdrawal rules, financial independence had a significant and different meaning for me. It wasn’t a label just for the independently wealthy. It was a label for anyone who could function financially without assistance.
Functioning on my own financially is important to me not just because of pride but also because it means that I can take care of myself no matter what happens.
This sounds basic, like a given.
But it’s not.
Until very recent history, as a woman, I would not have been able to hold a job, or if I did, it would be one in my father’s or husband’s business. If I ventured out to start a business on my own, I might be labeled a witch.
Even if I did start my own business, there’s a strong probability that I would have been required to hand it over to my father or husband to manage. Today, we’d call that financial abuse. But not so long ago, it was just what you did.
Financial independence means that I can make my own decisions about my work, property, family, and relationships. Without the ability to achieve economic autonomy, none of these things would be possible.
There will be times in all of our lives where we’re not financially independent, where we need help from others. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. In these moments of need, we should reach out and get help so that we can recover and become independent again as quickly as possible. If we don’t get the help we need today; we won’t be able to extend help to others tomorrow.
When we’re back on track to economic independence, we’re able to not only manage our lives as they currently are, but we’re also capable of building big, beautiful dreams. Want to own a beach house someday? If it’s a priority, you can totally start saving for that. Wanted to go to the Outback since you were a kid? Save up some cash and make it happen.
You can do all that because you’re allowed to bring in and manage those dollars independently.
As I mused on my great luck of being born into such a time when all this was possible, I couldn’t help but think of those for whom it is not. I have friends, acquaintances, and family members in various disability communities. Contrary to common perception, having a disability does not always mean that you can’t work; it just means you can’t work in a traditional manner without accommodations. You can make valid and important contributions to this world. In fact, sometimes, you wouldn’t be able to make those contributions without your disability.
When you’re collecting government benefits–sometimes even something as direly important as your state’s Medicaid plan–you’re not allowed to work past a certain amount. At one point in the past few years, the most you were allowed to bring in monthly was somewhere between $700 and $800. Again, in some states, if you earn more than that, you’ll lose the health insurance that, in some cases, is literally keeping you alive.
So you’re forced into poverty. You learn to get by on what little you have–a few hundred in income, Social Security benefits, maybe insurance payouts depending on if you had a disability policy or not.
There is no pathway to financial independence.
And that’s not okay.
As a woman, there are still hurdles in my pathway. But there is a road to pursue. As we work to take down the barriers we face as female residents of this country, like the wage gap, investment gap, and the unfair distribution of both domestic and financial responsibilities based on gender, let us also remember to make sure everyone has access to the road.What does Financial Independence mean to me? #InternationalWomen'sDay Click To Tweet
March 8th is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, I got together with some fab personal finance bloggers to arrange a blog tour. Each one of us answered the question, “Why is financial independence important to you as a woman?”
To read more amazing blog posts answering this question, click here.
5 thoughts on “Insisting on Equal Access to Financial Independence”
I love the idea of a “blog tour.” I’ve never heard of that before. What a creative idea?! Also, I love anything that has some tidbits of history. I can’t imagine handing over a business to brothers or dad. How absurd!
It’s crazy how little financial freedom was given to women! We have to be grateful for what we have and work to help those who don’t have the same freedom we have.
As far as being stuck in a situation where you cannot aquire wealth if you have a disability and work, it is horrifically true.
I went back to school to get out of this roadblock, but it may have backfired. During the pandemic, in healthcare, our roles changed. If in management, we had to do anything that needed to be done, with staffing, supply and trucking shortages, that kept us often working 60-80 hour weeks- physical work.
I became ill, asked for time off, which was approved by HR but Dr didn’t want to sign off on it- we didn’t have another manager, is my guess as to why. I reminded them that I was a person in a protected class, I have been classified as having a disability, to no difference. I was told I could possibly be sued, at one point, for leaving a vulnerable population vulnerable. Later I learned that wasn’t true.
I have significant heart issues and a muscle condition, both of which flared up tremendously. I ended up in ED three times one year! By the time I put in my notice, I couldn’t walk without severe pain.
I took some time to heal and spent the money I made.
I was told by a provider for marketplace insurance that if I had Medicare (we get to retain hospital insurance for five years after ending disability payments) I would not be able to use marketplace. If I tried I could be fined $1,200.
So, being ill, having no insurance I just chose to wait it out, heal a bit and get back out there. We’ll, I ended up in ED with a thousand dollar bill (not sure why Medicare isn’t paying?). My calf muscle in one leg, and the other a day or two later, contracted so badly that it was very painful and I could not move it or walk. The PA prescribed zorelto, which is a very dangerous drug that breaks up blood clots). It was $1,000! I bought a weeks worth and returned to that hospital to ask more. The nurse was appalled at that, because there was no diagnosed blood clot, just inflammation of vessels and reduced blood flow. She told me it was very dangerous if I had an scientific or fall.
Guess what? The following month I fell. My legs were so weak that I simply stood up from my sofa and fell to the floor. I broke both ankles, one significantly; three break and dislocated. I had two surgeries and lots of pins, rods and bars.
It’s been four months and I still cannot walk. I asked to have the disability payments reinstated to get me through (I have now used all except $29.00 of my savings, and most of my meager investments. Because I can shower myself, I no longer qualify for any kind of help around the house, so have to pay out of pocket. I am thankful for a handful of friends, my church and my grown sons. I live alone.
I had no insurance except the Medicare that was supposed to pay, but I haven’t seen anything to say that it has.
Now, with my student loans (with Social Security and work, I didn’t qualify for much in aid), medical bills and now some coming for collections, I have amassed a huge amount of debt. It seemed it would have been more prudent to do what an savior who looked at income versus very frugal expense said; work only up to the allowable and no more.
Then, as you say, be doomed to never move ahead, never feel you’ve offered contribution, even though you’re able. With working part time, management, which is a wealth builder, sometimes, is out of the question.
I can work some jobs at 40 hours a week, but physical ones, around 30 hours before it wipes me out. 60 and 80 hour weeks near killed me!
It seems we are penalized for moving ahead.
Thank you, for bringing this subject to light. I get so mixed up with emotion with it that I feel I don’t write about it effectively.
Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that happened to you. We need to keep fighting so that EVERYONE, especially those who need it the most, have equal access to financial independence.
Pardon the above word checked comment. Sometimes, my words are changed to nonsensical. Weird!
“Savior” supposed to be “advisor”. “Scientific” was supposed to be “accident”.