Equal Pay Day - My Battle With Gender Wage Gap

This day symbolizes a lot of things for me - how hard a woman has to work and what a woman must do in order to earn the same amount as a man. To give you a better picture, on average, a woman makes 81 cents for every dollar a man makes (this number is even less for women of color). Our antiquated system tells us, "You can be a wife, but you can't have a career. You can be a mom, but you won't be able to make money." It's always a dialogue of if this or that vs. why the heck can't we do both?

Today,  I'm going to share with you my own personal story in hopes of letting you know that you're not alone.

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Instance #1: 

A few years ago, I was working as - an executive assistant/digital brand strategist/every other role you can possibly imagine - for a married couple who was well established in the Youtube space. For the first couple of months, I was their only employee until they decided to scale the company and brought on two more team members (one guy and one girl). After taking on several responsibilities and roles, I figured it was time to ask for a pay raise. No one was more excited than me at the time for this opportunity. I prepared a deck, practiced my pitch and come time when I had to deliver it to my bosses, they told me, "No." I asked them, "Well, how come?" And the only thing they could say to me what that I needed to work harder and that I haven't quite earned it yet. For some time thereafter, they "rewarded" me with more projects, more responsibilities, they even had me download an app to track my productivity down to the tee every day. I shut my mouth, never once brought up the idea of vertical mobility again and like a lot of you, I decided to work in silence. 

Time passes and I later learned that not only did they give my male coworker a higher pay, they even asked him if he wanted a raise. As in they've reached out to him and asked him if he's okay with them paying him more. The irony was that he wasn't doing more of the work, his roles haven't changed much, we had the same work schedule and was asked to work on the same projects. 

DAFAK?  

Instance #2: 

I was offered a position to work for a great company and the recruiter couldn't have been any less welcoming; I was ecstatic, to say the least. Before I accepted the job, I learned that my colleague offered the same role (there were a few openings) but with a higher base salary. 

Reluctantly, I started to question myself. 'Did they not like me enough? Or did they see more value in him?' I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. On paper, names aside, our accomplishments were quite similar. We both graduated from prestigious universities, we both have the same years of experience, we were expected to complete the same daily functions, held to the same quota---the only noticeable difference was our paycheck. 

But this time, unlike the first incident, I called my recruiter back and laid everything on the top. I would only take the position if and only if I am able to receive the same equal salary as my counterpart. PS This is one of the most ballsy things I've done in awhile. I held me breathe while waiting for a response and fortunately enough, my recruiter said, "Let's do it."

As a millennial, I'm not asking people to go easy on me. I'm not asking for opportunities to be handed on a silver platter either. I'll work for it, every last bit of it. All I ask is for people to see and acknowledge that women clearly have the skills and competencies to succeed at any level. We'll earn the rights to lead, but we need to be treated on common benchmarks. Judge us by our work ethic, character, performance, and integrity. 

That's all I have for you today. Thank you for reading. Fight On!

How to Get Started Investing in Your 20s

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"The easiest way to get rich is to inherit. The second best way is knowledge and some discipline." - Seth Godin, Author of Tribes

In college, I never took a class on "How to Get Rich" or "How to Save Money and Get Ahead of My Finance." I blamed the education system for the longest time for not teaching me about taxes, stocks and the power of compound effect. However, personal-finance pieces of training existed. There are hundreds of books on Amazon. The truth was that I didn't care enough and frankly, quite lazy. What did I do next? Instead of placing the blame on others aka the American economy, the lack of funds, the fear of risks, etc. I focused on what I needed to change myself. So when should I start? Am I too late in the game already? What the hell do I do?

Like anything else, the first step was the hardest but between doing nothing to doing something, I knew that doing nothing was worse of the evil. So let me walk you through my thought process: 

Set a simple mission. My mantra is "Live your best life and let money serve you." Then isolate 3 digestible approaches.

  1. Take small bites. I took out a pen and paper and started to write down measurable goals. For instance, I want $180,000 for a home down payment in 5 years. I can start with $45,000 and add $2,000 each month. Then I let the magic of compounding do the rest.
  2. Educate yourself. In order to gain confidence, I knew I had to improve my financial literacy. You can't walk the walk if you can't talk the talk. Towards the end of 2017,  I read 5 different books on finance and spent at least 30 minutes every weeknight reading. A book recommendation for you? "The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy" https://www.amazon.com/Compound-Effect-Darren-Hardy/dp/159315724X
  3. Start somewhere, anywhere. I decided that the first step for me to "save" was to open up a savings account. That would make sense right? So I took a portion of the money that was sitting in my checking account (with inflation...having all your money there is a big no-no) and transferred some to my savings. It took me less than 15 minutes to do it. Tip: Find a bank with a high APY. 

Like me, if you are in your early or mid-20s, you are most likely enjoying the same freedom I am having — no spouse, no mortgage, no children except for your pet or two.  But if you are a woman and you're reading this, you will also have a disadvantage. On average,  we tend to live longer than men. We are also typically paid less than men *Cough, gender wage gap* therefore, it is important for us to start saving and investing while we're young.

This is also time for you and me to start having different goals. Maybe we want to buy a rental property, maybe we want to buy round-trip tickets to Asia, maybe we want to upgrade from that old car...whatever it is, I've learned from experience that if you don't #1 save and #2 invest, the path to achieving those goals will be much more arduous. 

 

Paying Off My College Student Loans

When I landed my first job at a technology company over a year and a half ago, it was the role that got my foot into the world of corporate. All at once, I finally had full coverage health benefits, stock options and a steady income well above minimum wage. 

Before the offer came, I had gotten used to hustling, making job hunting my full-time job and supporting myself by working odd roles like giving out free samples at Costco and being an executive assistant to an ex-attorney and a Youtube star.

I would take on any temporary jobs in order to pay off my student loans and much of my savings went to either 1) rave events (poor investments, by the way) 2) my $30,000 loans at Chapman University (P.S. I had a full ride academic scholarship to USC so I had no debt there). 

Right after graduation, high paying jobs were difficult to come by, and I was incredibly wary about my future. The first valid step I had to take was deciding to move back to my parents' house in Orange County in order to lower the cost of living expenses and food. I also adapted to a minimal style of living by not shopping for things I didn't need while asking my parents to help me pay off all of my high-interest loans first (I paid them back later on).

I remember thinking, "Could this be my life? Is this my trajectory?" The thought of busting my ass off for a college degree from a prominent institution to now grinding it out for the next 5 years and still be struggling financially scared me.

Then, when my grandmother passed away, I had a constant voice in my head that told me I had to start my own side business and that was the birth of my wedding and events hustle. Today, I am able to contribute 21% of my paycheck to my retirement investments, another 40% of my personal savings/stocks, etc. and leaving me enough money to live comfortably.

One of my greatest achievements is now being able to live debt-free. At the end of the day, it was about the kind of life I wanted to build. At the time, I valued financial freedom over an extravagant lifestyle so I had to write down all of my spendings down to very the last penny. Whether you are earning a six-figure salary or entry-level income right now, it really comes down to saving and investing that money appropriately. 

Until next time, 

Fight On!