Driving home from work today, I was thinking about the importance of sharing diverse financial stories with the world. Today I’m going to talk about why I think it’s important, despite the fact that some people feel it’s not (or are even annoyed by the subject), and share a bit more about the passion behind my mission. As a bonus, I’ll tell you about a new forum I’ve created where you can connect with me and other amazing women, share your stories, and ask for advice.
One of my missions with this site is to share the financial stories of amazing women from around the country, and around the world – as you’ve seen in reading my interview series on Breadwinning, Six Figure, Millionaire Moms and Women on FIRE. But why?
I’ve seen people question what’s the purpose of yet another financial site – after all, isn’t everything you could possibly need to learn already written? Why not just go read some of the personal finance classics, or pick up an all-in-one personal finance book and call it day?
I’ve also seen people debating the importance of sharing diverse stories. Can’t we all just read stories written by, and about, successful white men and call it a day? It’s not that different, right?
There are a few reasons I think sharing the wonderful and diverse stories of regular people – of different ages, backgrounds, life situations, races, religions, you name it – is important. Let me tell you why.
The Power of Stories
It’s human nature to be drawn to stories. There’s a reason why most dry financial books contain sprinkles of stories – because they keep your attention and draw you in.
Even Harvard Business Review agrees – stories are instrumental in helping people understand, getting them to buy in, and engaging your audience. Ever heard of The Richest Man in Babylon, or The Wealthy Barber? They’re both well known books, using stories to teach financial lessons. In fact it was reading The Wealthy Barber as a teenager that set me on the personal finance path.
Side note – one of my goals is one day to write a story-based financial book myself.
It’s not enough to just tell any old story. No, the story has to have a compelling character. And when you can see yourself in the story, it’s all the more powerful.
And what else is a blog than one big, long story? This is why people enjoy reading personal finance blogs. It’s science.
Same Old, Same Old Stories
One of the common criticisms of financial stories in books, and in the media, are usually of men. The Millionaire Next Door, one of the four books that changed my financial life, was literally all married men of unknown, but likely white, color. I assume this because in one of his other books, he makes sure to mention when he’s sharing the story of someone who’s not white.
Dr. Thomas Stanley wrote a much lesser known follow-up called Millionaire Women Next Door, which…prominently featured the story of a man in real estate. It’s sad that he couldn’t find just one more woman in real estate? His rationale was “women could do this too!”, but it’s still somewhat weird.
What’s wrong with not featuring stories of other kinds of people?
Despite what some people think, it’s not about “being PC”.
It’s because when you can’t see yourself in any of the stories you’re surrounded with, you can’t see a path forward for yourself.
If all the stories you’re reading and hearing are of financially successful men, and you’re a woman, you have a hard time applying that advice to your situation. If you don’t know any women who have succeeded in business, it’s difficult to find success for yourself. If you have no stories of someone of your race, religion, or orientation finding financial success – how can you find it yourself?
This is why folks loved the story I featured Wednesday of Frogdancer. She’s not a 20-something millennial digital nomad, who has been saving and investing since she was fresh out of college. She’s a single mother of four boys who didn’t get her financial act together until her 30’s were in the rear view mirror. You don’t often see financial success stories about women like her, and I think we should. After all, if you’re a single mom in your 30’s who is just trying to get her financial life together, what better place to find inspiration than in the story of a woman who’s been there, done that?
In my interviews, I’ve featured African-American women. Women of all ages. Women who were money-smart early on, and those who found financial success much later. Single women and mothers of many kids. A lesbian. And I don’t go around in those interviews proclaiming “LOOK AT ME, HOW DIVERSE I AM!!!” – I simply share their story.
Heck, this whole site was born because I couldn’t find the kind of financial blog – and stories – I wanted to read. Where were the successful corporate women? The breadwinning moms? The moms seeking financial independence? I couldn’t find them. So I created this site, and I give them a voice.
Why? Because I hope someone reading will see themselves in a story, be inspired, and feel just a little big less alone. Very much like I have been over the years.
Superstar Women and The Traditional Media
The other reason I think diverse stories of ordinary people are important, is because the traditional media only ever seems to feature “superstar” women. You know – the kinds that make a million dollars a year from their RV, the ones that are executives of companies, actresses, TV and movie stars, and so on. The traditional media is full of those stories.
Yes, they are amazing women. And they are people, just like you and I. But I don’t see myself in them.
I work in a corporate environment and earn a high income, but I’m not an executive pulling down millions of dollars a year. I’m never going to become an actress, TV or movie star. I’m not going to be a 20-something earning six figures and traveling the world, because I’m 37 and have three kids.
I don’t earn enough where I could pay for a nanny without blinking, or can jet-set around the world with my kids without a second thought. I don’t think I’m going to start a business that brings down seven figures annually – although one thing I’ve learned through my life is you never know what the future holds.
When I started doing interviews and sharing stories, I decided I wanted to share the stories of other ordinary women. They could be your neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They’re not famous – they’re the wealthy women next door. They likely practice stealth wealth and don’t go around talking about how rich they are, how fat their bank account is, or usually brag about money. In fact, they may be reluctant to share their story, because they wonder why someone would want to hear from someone ordinary like them. They may suffer from impostor syndrome – the feeling that they’re really not good enough, rich enough, successful enough to be an inspiration.
To me, it’s the fact that they are ordinary that makes their story so compelling. You can see yourself in these women. They’re not some unattainable, dream person. They share your struggles, your ups and downs, your background. They’re just like you – maybe a bit farther down the financial path, but still, like you.
Your Story Is Powerful
It was reading stories of other women who were successful in business that helped set me down the path to that MBA. It was not seeing the stories of women like me that inspired me to start sharing my story, and those of breadwinning moms and women on FIRE. The way I see it, there are plenty of other sites on the internet where you can go to read the stories of successful men, or superstar women. There aren’t many where you can find people like you, if you’re an ordinary financially successful women (or want to one day become one!).
I feel strongly that sharing diverse stories is important. It’s not about being politically correct, or scoring diversity points.
It’s about inspiring and helping other women. It’s about showing people who might be behind you on the financial path that yes, it is possible. It’s about finding women that are ahead of you on the financial path to see again that yes – it is possible. And it’s about making everyone feel welcome to pursue financial freedom for themselves.
Someone just like you did it. And you can do it too.
Where We Can Chat
I often hear from readers that feel alone. They don’t know anyone else like themselves in “real life”, and have a hard time finding them online. If this is you, you don’t need to feel alone. Not only are you of course always welcome to email me, you can join two Facebook groups I’ve created and chat with other women just like you.
Breadwinning Women – A group for female breadwinners, with kids or not.
Women on FIRE – A group for women looking to achieve financial independence, no matter what their age, life stage, or situation
Note – if you’re an anonymous blogger but still want to join in the discussion, come on in! You don’t have to be anonymous there.
I hope you’ll join the groups, and share them with other women who might be interested. Whether you talk about your story, ask for advice, or simply chat with others like yourself – lets connect. The more women who join and interact, the more interesting the groups will become!
P.S. Did you catch me on Andy’s Marriage, Kids and Money podcast on Monday? If not be sure to check it out.
Want to share your story – or know someone I must talk to? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Interested in more stories on women seeking financial freedom? Find the full list here.
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