I was so glad when I found out that my reading audience is divided almost evenly between men and women. I find this encouraging because to me, this signals that more Filipinas are increasingly taking control of their financial futures. I also want to mention that the most engaging and informative finance blogs in the Philippines are written by women, some of which are included in my list of the best financial blogs in the Philippines for 2020, posted here.
Still, the fact remains that the most popular personal finance advice both online and offline overlook the specific needs and views of women. Not only are these advice written by men, these also operate and mostly work well in a framework that benefits men to the detriment of women.
So even though our numbers and online presence are increasingly becoming substantial, there is still a huge gap between the available personal finance writings and the feminist take on money.
With that in mind, I wrote this post for women and girls. Here, I will share my thoughts about women, relationships, and money. Some of these concepts may be controversial or new to you, even if you’re already a feminist. Just read with an open mind, and as always, feel free to write a comment below so that we can get a good discussion going.
This is the first post for my women and finance series, two topics very close to my heart as a personal finance advocate and a radical feminist. You will be seeing more of these kinds of posts in the future.
Okay, before we start, you might be asking who am I to talk about this? Well, I know and have observed individuals, couples, and families from almost all walks of life.
From rural plantation workers, the urban poor, the middle class, young professionals with substantial disposable incomes, and people from – for lack of a better term – the intellectual, financial, and governing elite.
So ladies and girls, listen up to Auntie Katie Scarlett.
WHY TALK ABOUT WOMEN, RELATIONSHIPS, AND MONEY?
It’s a recognized fact that who you surround yourself with will leave a huge impact on how you handle your money. And next to your parents, the next most influential person in your life when it comes to finances is your spouse or partner.
You have no control over who your parents are but you can make sure that you and your spouse or future spouse are on the same page when planning your life together. If both parties cannot reconcile their financial values prior to getting married (or combining finances as a couple, whichever comes first), they are dooming themselves with a turbulent, frustrating life, resenting each other. Many married couples from all walks of life fight and break up because of financial problems, not just the poor.
But talking about money and relationships for women need deeper discussion and examination because of gender stereotypes that disadvantage women. Some examples of this stereotype include:
- Women are bad with money and tend to spend on frivolous things like makeup and clothes.
- Women are too fearful and emotional to be good at investing while men are logical, hence, great investors.
- Women who want to be rich and want to have rich boyfriends/husbands are shallow and greedy gold-diggers.
- Men should be the breadwinner of the family, therefore, his career should be prioritized.
- The well-being of the family is the responsibility of the wife (even if both the husband and the wife work).
These are harmful stereotypes but you would be surprised that many modern and progressive individuals of both sexes subscribe to these ideas, even if these ideas obviously contradict each other.
We need to examine the status quo from the feminist perspective. And as women, it is our responsibility to ourselves to make our financial interests and happiness as priorities when getting into relationships.
WOMEN BRING A LOT INTO RELATIONSHIPS
When a man is in a relationship, his life automatically becomes better, regardless of the education, income, or age of the woman (woman = adult human female). For better or for worse, women take on the carer role in the relationship and take charge of relationship maintenance.
She sets up romantic dates, remembers anniversaries, plans holidays. With her influence, the man, at the very least, becomes much more hygienic, healthier, and better dressed.
You’ll say that in the Philippines at least, men still court women. It is the man who initially put in a lot of effort to impress a woman and convince her that he is relationship material. True. Initially.
You have to admit that in most cases, the grand romantic gestures peter off and then stop a few months, give or take, after the man and woman become a couple. Once he gets her commitment, she is now expected to take charge of the “romantic stuff” because she’s the woman. She is expected to take on the mental and emotional load of the relationship.
The same thing happens when they finally decide to get married. The man plans grand and public proposals. When the woman agrees to marry him, she will then be expected to plan the wedding itself.
The assumption that she would be in charge of the daily planning and maintenance of the rest of their lives will be left unstated but will be expected not just by her husband but by the rest of society.
Emotional labor is a concept both simple and complicated. At its simplest, it is “the labor of caring.” To illustrate what this involves, here are some examples:
- Instead of telling your spouse the preferred way to clean the house or bathe the baby, you do it yourself because it’s too tiring and complicated to explain, especially when you’re already tired. Plus, he still can’t/won’t do it properly despite the fact that he has been living with you for years.
- Being the only one in charge preparing and dressing the kids for church while at the same cooking breakfast and dressing yourself. On the other hand, your husband is already dressed, sipping his morning coffee, and reading the papers while wondering what’s taking everyone so long.
- Remember those times when you were a kid and your father was in charge of the house because mom had to be somewhere else for the next couple of days (gave birth, took care of your sick grandparents, traveled for work, etc.)? Remember how the house was a mess, nobody was eating on time, and you were allowed to sleep way past your bed time watching tv? That’s because nobody was “in charge”.
- Listening to your partner vent about their day at work.
To fully understand this concept and get an insight into what involves emotional labor, read this linked document.
Of course, there is nothing inherently bad about emotional labor. In fact, it is a crucial part of relationships. People who are in relationship usually do not mind taking on emotional labor when it is acknowledged and matched by their partner.
But let’s face it, most of the burden of emotional labor is carried by women. Often, it is unacknowledged. It’s only noticed in its absence because the woman will be accused of being a lousy homemaker who can’t keep her house in order. A bad wife, a bad mother.
Emotional labor is exhausting. Yet, many don’t have the vocabulary needed and can’t verbalize their growing discontent and resentment about the unfairness and imbalance in the relationship. Now you know what it is. It’s emotional labor.
Of course men (and women) will inevitably rebut: why don’t you just communicate, why don’t you tell him?
Because… you shouldn’t have to. And also, I’m very sure that most women have already tried. And have been ignored.
Women shouldn’t have to tell their husbands how to clean the house and bathe the baby the right way. The husbands should know. They live there and they are functioning adults with eyes.
The husband should automatically share the housework and child care without being asked. Even asking for help and explaining why you need help is emotionally draining.
All over the world, women carry the brunt of unpaid labor. Data from UN Women show that women carry out at least two and half more unpaid housework, child care, and care for the elderly, per day compared to men.
A study conducted by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) confirms that the same pattern is true in our country. Across all age groups, women perform at least twice the number of hours in a week in unpaid labor than men.
Although the data shows that men spend more time doing paid work, women still work more hours than men in total.
The implication is that women have less money (because they spend less time in paid work), more tired (because they spend more time working in total), and have less leisure time, than men.
Not only do men participate in paid labor more, which means they have more access to money and other resources associated with employment (such as health insurance), they also spend more time relaxing and engaging in other leisure activities (playing computer games come to mind, admit it!).
SET FINANCIAL STANDARDS WHEN CHOOSING A PARTNER
Ladies, I know that many of us are scared to set financial standards because society has conditioned us that women who look at money when getting into relationships are shallow and are gold-diggers.
But the more I think about it, not having financial standards doesn’t make any sense. It’s just like any other preference that you have.
We are allowed to have preferences for people with whom we will spend our time, introduce to our families, and have access to our bodies and health . Men and women choose spouses based on looks, physique, educational background, and ethnicity. But somehow, when women choose boyfriends or husbands based on the man’s financial stability and earning capacity, they’re called gold-diggers.
I have always found the concept of gold-digging laughable because it’s a label put on young women who marry older, rich men. Society has no problem with grandfathers marrying women the same age as their grandchildren while at the same time vilifying the young women these old men marry.
Meanwhile, the men who marry these supposed gold-diggers have no problem funding their young wives’ lifestyle. So it’s mostly people who are not in the relationship who have a problem with this kind of arrangement.
People call all types of women gold-diggers, it’s ridiculous. If a woman has any standard (however low), there is a chance somebody will call her a gold-digger. Prefers a boyfriend who has a car? Gold-digger. Wants to eat in a (not even five-star) restaurant for a date? Gold-digger. Will only date educated and highly-paid professionals? Gold-digger.
Hell, even Mackenzie Bezos who married Jeff before he made his Amazon billions is being called a gold-digger.
Poor finances threatens your life and health
Among the many reasons why women should set financial standards is that the state of your spouse’s finances affects your life and health. This is connected to biological realities of being a woman.
I remember that when I gave birth to my son, I realized that there was a very real possibility of me dying. Although I had a normal and uncomplicated delivery, I knew that the Philippines ranked (and continues to rank) among the worst in the world in terms of maternal mortality. I had decent prenatal care and we were reasonably prepared. But how about those women who don’t have the same privilege?
In our area, it was common for women who were advised to have an emergency caesarian section to request that the operation be delayed. These mothers are hoping that they can have their child via normal delivery. Why? Because they can’t afford it.
Imagine having to delay giving birth and extending labor, risking all sorts of medical complications for you and your child. All because your husband can’t afford to pay for the necessary operation.
Ladies, protect yourself and your child by having financial standards.
Of course as you know, giving birth is just the beginning. You have to recuperate and nurse yourself back to health after it’s been decimated by the cute little human you birthed. Although us Pinays can usually lean on our mothers and female relatives for help and guidance, we don’t want to take advantage of their generosity. Your spouse should be able to afford to hire people and buy things that will make your life easier and comfortable after you gave birth to his child. Periodt.
Splitting bills 50/50 is not equality
I’ll be honest. Before, I was a big proponent of paying bills equally between 2 partners. I thought that despite the salary differences, both parties should pay and contribute to household expenses equally. This was my arrangement before when I was still with my ex.
At the same time, I had this nagging feeling that I can’t pinpoint about the unfairness of the modern family situation. I only was able to verbalize this when one night, while discussing male-female dynamics, a friend told me: “I didn’t invent biology!”
And he was right!
Us women have been supporting men financially while men do not support women biologically. And we are expected by society to divide everything 50/50 in the guise of equality.
But that’s not equality! It’s the biggest scam against modern women.
Let’s think about this. Women perform unpaid labor and carry the bulk of mental and emotional load of the relationship. Then when couples decide to build a family, the cost to women skyrocket. She has to carry the baby for 9 months and give birth to it (forever altering her body), nurse the baby, and care for it until at least it reaches 18 years old. Multiply that by the number of children you decide to have.
And you want women to pay 50% of the bill?
I believe in equality between the sexes. But equality does not mean we’re the same. Men are different from women. Recognizing this fact does not make us bad feminists. Women give birth to children and are often the carers and nurturers of the family. The least that men can do is to provide for their wives and not demand that they pay 50% of the bill.
Demanding that women pay 50-50 is fake equality. And if the man in your life demands this, he’s the gold-digger.
Oftentimes, women do not think of money when we are in love or are in relationships. But I urge everyone to incorporate financial matters when making important life decisions such as marriage and family. There’s nothing wrong about setting standards and thinking about your interests and priorities. If your man cannot meet your financial standards, you may consider cutting your losses and walking away.
As many of you know, I’m currently based in South Korea and I observed that South Korean women have gained a reputation of being “materialistic” and “shallow” because they set high standards for the men they date. Korean women are ruthless in vetting their men to test their capacity to provide. Although many expats, foreigners, and even Korean men decry Korean women’s strategy, I for one think we should emulate our Korean sisters.
It pains me to say this because some of these complaining men are friends and colleagues but women are better off without these men in their lives.
Look, if your date wants to pay 50-50 for a $100 dinner, do you think he will agree to paying the majority of bills in the future, or will he insist that you pay 50% of everything once you’re married?
Of course, because we’re setting these high standards, we should also do our part. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work at all and just stay at home all the time (unless that’s what you want). We as women should also level up and improve ourselves and our status. If we want to attract quality people, we should be high quality ourselves.
Do you agree or disagree with what I said above? Why or why not? Please let me know in the comments.
Pin to read later!
I’d love to read more on the dating part Katie! Kidding aside, I appreciated this perspective. Quoted many parts of this to the hubby. Hehe. He certainly must do more re the emotional burden side. This situation describes a typical marriage to a traditional Filipino, or well any man for that matter.
Luckily, Frugal Husband does his share of the household chores. Most female lawyers I know (myself included) aren’t exactly very skilled in the homemaking area. Marriage, to me, remains a give and take situation, we pickup the slack where one spouse fails, and vice versa.
Re vetting the finances of a potential partner, there’s not exactly a fool-proof way to do this unless one demands for the guy to open up his financial statements to the woman. I’d recommend of course talking to the guy that one is dating re any existing utang (loans), assets, family obligations. Very unromantic and requires full disclosure on the girl’s part too. But necessary. There’s the chance that a guy lies. So a prenup before a lifelong civil commitment–marriage is always BEST.
All these being said, I had no financial checklist for a potential husband. I just wanted a responsible and frugal guy who shared my ideals. (And attractive lol) That was all. Most of our dates were in Jollibee or a fast food joint, not in fancy places. Looking back, most women (lawyers) probably would’ve bailed. FH was very frugal and viewed fancy restaurants as wasteful hehe.. I only found out that he was a millionaire a few months before our wedding. And he found out about my high net worth about the same time too.
You do, however, make a good point of vetting a lifetime partner carefully! Made all the difference to level of happiness and financial security for us.
And yes, there’s no shame in setting minimum preferred standards.. Glad to see you writing again!
I should probably add a dating section for financially-savvy women. 😀 Thanks George!
Hi Katie! It’s been a while since you posted this entry, so I hope you still see this comment.
What are your thoughts on a partner who isn’t earning as much as you, but has good financial management? Meaning, he is able to allocate well with the money he has. But the woman is still earning more than him (for now).
It depends on your goals and standards as well as your age range. For example, younger adults may still be finding their way around their career, building their business, and other related factors. This becomes a bigger issue when both of you are already well into your 30s or at the age when your careers should already be established. Since I’m in my mid-30s, a man earning a lower income than me is a hard pass. Managing your money well is the bare minimum for all adults, whatever the income level may be.