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For Financial Independence, Keep Talking About Money

Ask for compensation. Discuss salary. Negotiate. Be financially independent.

By Leah Eichler (Contributing Writer, Femme-O-Nomics)

My first job in journalism, as an intern at a magazine in Jerusalem, paid approximately $500 a month. At the time I felt thrilled by the opportunity and promptly found a part-time job in retail to support my full-time job as a journalist but I think the consequences may have haunted me throughout my career.

Looking back, this wasn’t the only time I downplayed the importance of proper payment for work. Like many others, the topic of compensation makes me uncomfortable, especially when it relates to work I love.

I often wonder what role our ambivalent feeling toward money plays in the wider discussion of the wage gap. It seems obvious to say that we need money to survive so don’t forget to get paid for a job well done. Then how come many of us struggle to talk about it?

We must learn to talk about money and talk about it often because dismissing its importance leads to a host of other issues that impact more than just your financial independence.

“Getting paid is so important because it fosters that feeling of financial confidence,” explained Barbara Stewart, portfolio manager with Cumberland Private Wealth Management Inc. Ms. Stewart warns that not focusing on getting paid for your work matters since the trend can be habit forming, which may lead to a lifetime of under-valuing your accomplishments.

Women and their relationship with money remains a topic close to Ms. Stewart’s heart. She not only manages people’s wealth but over the last year she travelled the globe interviewing accomplished women on their views about money and published her findings in a research paper entitled Rich Thinking: A Global Study – A Guide to Building Financial Confidence in Girls and Women.

In her research, Ms. Stewart uncovered 10 major themes but the one that struck me the most focused on this issue of getting paid for your work. She interviewed a successful painter in Berlin who bucked the notion of the starving artist after watching her mother, a baker, lose her business by not charging enough for her cakes. The artist refused to make the same mistake.

“The over-riding message that permeated across all of the 10 themes was to be independent. Being independent means understanding that what we want costs money and that means dealing with money yourself and understanding the link between work and money,” observed Ms. Stewart.

Remaining meek when the topic of money arises impacts more than your financial statement. Vancouver-based Kim Sarrasin, a self-proclaimed soulmate success expert, who coaches women who want a healthier relationship with men and money, frequently encounters women who settle for less because they don’t feel they deserve to “have it all.”

“Money is a highly emotionally charged subject. Women find it much easier to talk about their sex life versus their money issues — even with their best girlfriend. Money is a deeply intimate subject so if a client is not willing to look at money in the eye, it’s a clue I need to find out what else she’s not looking in the eye,” explained Ms. Sarrasin.

She suggested that women who avoid talking about money frequently have other relationship issues that need to be addressed. “Working through major money blocks will release a host of other limiting beliefs women have developed over their life time with regard to worth and value,” insisted Ms. Sarrasin.

So, is this bashfulness around money a youthful trait that some of us never outgrow? For her part, Jessica Tobianah, a student in the Rotman Commerce program at the University of Toronto plans to turn to online resources such as Glassdoor to ensure that the summer internship roles she applies for pay appropriately and relies on the experiences of family and friends as a benchmark. But like others in her shoes, Ms. Tobianah’s concerns focus on getting the right role over the appropriate paycheque.

“As a student, it’s most important for me to build a solid foundation of transferable skills and to prove to professionals that I am intelligent… Depending on the task and the employer, I know when it is appropriate to ask for compensation and when it’s better to simply lend a helping hand,” said Ms. Tobianah.

This post was originally published at Femmeonomics.

Photo credit: 401K on Flickr.

About the guest blogger: Leah Eichler is the Co-Founder of Femme-O-Nomics, a networking application and content portal for professional women. She is also a well-known columnist on issues surrounding women in the workplace. Follow her on Twitter at @femmeonomics.