I was flooded with worry in the doctor’s office. She was explaining a diagnosis that would upend our lives and usher us into a new, more expensive, normal. Even though at that point, I had been translating for eight years, I was still financially vulnerable. I had a few steady clients, but they paid me in my husband’s name, and in Mexican pesos. When our treatment plan required that we shift our home base to Canada, I was suddenly spending in dollars. I quickly racked up debt and anxiety. Like many women, I needed to earn my own money.
While our medical crisis helped wake me up a little sooner, I’m not alone. Statistics show that women, especially older women, face greater financial hardship than men. Many of us, as caregivers to children or parents, have reduced our overall earning power. How can freelancing help us get it back?
Increased self-worth and net worth – Do you remember your first paid job? I was nine when I started helping my sister with a paper route. Although I only earned $8.25 every three weeks, it felt like a LOT more. I could finally start saving and spending my own money! Knowing that your time and skills are worth something is very empowering. And spending your own money makes you hyperaware of how much things actually cost, leading to healthier spending. Once you start to earn, you can set your own savings and spending goals. As a freelancer, you can also set your own hours!
Healthier relationships – Raise your hand if you’ve ever fought about money. No? Just us? Our struggles taught us that every woman should earn, not just have, her own money. This doesn’t mean that you can’t set up a family business; just make sure that you get your salary and contributions on paper. My husband and I coordinate major purchases, but because I earn my own money, I don’t have to ask for an allowance like a child. Setting our own earning and spending goals also gives our children a healthy pattern. They they see both of their parents working, studying, investing in our professional development, and contributing. They’re proud of both of us!
Healthier retirement– Even if your marriage is still intact, don’t assume that you’ll be taken care of. Ask your spouse if his retirement contributions are only in his name, or if he is contributing to a separate account for you. You may be surprised. We had this uncomfortable conversation 15 years into our marriage. I realized that I needed to start planning for my own retirement. My husband has always encouraged me to set big goals in terms of my own education and professional development. However, neither of us had thought to establish a separate retirement account for me. Women who have not invested in their retirement or financial future may suddenly find themselves on their own. We have fewer years left to work and the impending costs of illness, disability, and eventual long-term care. Freelancing can help make up for this shortfall.
Financially, I upped my game to work smarter, not harder. The first step was to change my mindset. I stopped working just to “help out” and for “extra cash” and started earning enough to become financially independent. The next step was to redesign my business to earn more in less time because I’m still a busy wife and mother. As a freelancer, I can select the projects that work with our family schedule. And even though I work fewer hours, I can still hit my financial targets. I pay into our university savings plans, my own insurance and retirement plans, and one trip sans kids or husband each year. Earning my own money gives me more options. Yay, freelancing! What will you do with your own money?