When my mother handed me a copy of Suze Orman’s Women & Money in college, she thought she was giving me a leg up. After all, her parents never taught her anything about money. She cashed savings bonds to fund the down payment on our childhood home. Spendthrift frugality and dutiful contributions to her 401(k) helped stave off lifestyle creep as she worked her way up from a typist to a techie. As a Black woman in 1980s fintech, she was ahead of her time, but also severely underpaid. Yet the promise of a dignified retirement became her pot of gold.
When I, her free-spirited eldest, finally landed a 9-to-5, my mom let out a church shout: “I thought you’d never get a job with a retirement plan!” Previously convinced that I would artsy my way through adulthood, she promptly advised that I read Orman’s book. “Sock away just enough to make the company match for retirement,” she insisted. I complied, but was never convinced that I liked this bargain—after all, age 65 felt like a lifetime away. Surely that was too late to finally stop working for someone else?
One thing this past year has hammered home for many of us is that we can no longer use our parents’ personal finance models to navigate this brave new world—in which a pandemic rages, student debt is high, job security is low, and womxn and people of color now have published pay gaps to support decades-long rumors of chronic under-earning. The welcomed rise of a new set of “money gurus” has made space for those of us who don’t look or think like Dave Ramsey to increase our net worth, improve money habits, and finally retire the term “retirement”—for good.
These must-follow financial independence (F.I.) influencers are setting the pace for a more diversified personal money management community that corresponds with today’s realities.