In this episode of Fierce Lab, Tara talks with Jennifer Barrett, Head of Content at Fidelity Investments and     author of the book Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More and Worry Less. Jennifer discusses what it means to think like a breadwinner and explores differences in how parents teach kids about money, how credit and investing are viewed, what happens after a woman becomes a breadwinner, and her thoughts around whisper networks.

Thinking like a breadwinner and how we teach our kids

Jennifer talks about the conventional model where men are the breadwinners and women oversee the household budget. This traditional paradigm has shifted, with more women becoming the main providers. Culture, however, has not caught up with this reality, which can be reflected in the way parents teach their children about money. Generally, boys are more often taught about building credit and investing, while girls are taught about budgeting and spending smartly. This sets kids up for the previously conventional roles.

Credit and investing

Jennifer discusses the importance of having good credit. Building credit has generally been presented to women as a way to close the gap between the life we can afford now and the life we want, rather than an important way to build wealth. She also debunks some of the myths around investing. Many believe investing is difficult and requires outside help, which leads to women investing less and later.

Gaining financial independence

The way women are culturally conditioned to think about money differs from the way men are. Women tend to take on most household responsibilities, even if they’re the primary breadwinner. Jennifer says women should start viewing themselves as wealth builders, rather than wage earners, and use every paycheck to become less dependent on the next in order to gain financial independence.

After becoming a breadwinner

Once women have shifted into the role of being the primary breadwinner, many may feel unprepared or have questions. Women are culturally conditioned to be caregivers, and they feel the pressures of motherhood. However, Jennifer says we must set our own expectations. Tara and Jennifer also discuss the tendency of women to feel the need to “do it all,” which is unrealistic. Jennifer says that we need to define our own “all” and not let others define it for us.

Whisper networks and knowing your number

Whisper networks are made up of trusted people with whom you can share earning data. Until recently, men had professional networks where they could discuss income and make connections, while women would have to discuss income on the side with friends. Through whisper networks, discussing income is normalized, and women can learn from each other about how to negotiate for more. It’s important to know your number, as well as the top of the salary scale and the lowest rate you’ll accept.