Women debtors face a unique set of challenges that cause them to turn to debt to make ends meet and then prevent them from being able to keep up with their debt repayment. In our latest bankruptcy study, we discovered that over the last 5 years women have been filing for bankruptcy in higher numbers. In 2012, 42% of women filed insolvency and by 2017 that number reached 48%. But, it’s not that women are suddenly using more debt. They face unique challenges that make dealing with debt more difficult. For example, two thirds of women are either single or divorced and struggle to manage expenses on a single income. Moreover, women earn 9% less than male debtors and are also 3 times more likely to be a single parent than a male debtor.
This is what our average female client looks like. But, why is it that women are increasingly finding themselves in trouble with debt? What can they do to better tackle debt problems in addition to other life challenges? Sharing their expertise today are guests Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Kerry K. Taylor, and our Trustee in the Oshawa office, Alison Petrie, with co-host Sharon Hoyes.
Gail Vaz-Oxlade agrees with our findings that women’s life circumstances are completely different from that of men’s. That’s why she suggests women need a different approach to money:
We need to be far more vigilant about what we’re doing because we’re going to have to live on whatever we save for a lot longer time.
Table of Contents
So, how can women protect themselves in life emergencies?
According to our experts, preparation for sudden life changes is key. Gail believes women need to change their mindset of being caretakers of everyone else and not themselves. She suggests that although there may be love and trust in a marriage, there’s no downside to having “his and her” accounts:
If you end up getting divorced, if your husband ends up getting smashed to pieces on the highway, you will be so glad you have money in your own name. I don’t understand why that is a problem.
And if you’re a stay-at-home mom, Gail says you should pay all the bills and whatever money is leftover should be split 50/50 between husband and wife.
Kerry Taylor seconds this and believes women should try and “disaster-proof” their lives:
Just because I know bad stuff happens to good people all the time and you need to account for the future as well as the present.
How should women handle debt in a marriage?
Gail’s number one piece of advice: Never co-sign on your spouse’s debt:
It’s not your debt, don’t take it on…if he created this mess for himself, you let him clean it up as a testament to how much he loves you.
Alison Petrie, the Licensed Insolvency Trustee who manages our Oshawa location, says she has seen the dark side of co-signed debts playing out in divorce agreements:
The man works for a large corporation or a government agency and has a great big registered pension plan and there’s all this co-signed debt. And in the divorce agreement, he says if you don’t touch my pension, I promise to pay off all the debt. And then after it’s all signed, he goes bankrupt and she pays off the co-signed debt and she didn’t get an asset in exchange for doing that.
So, the key takeaway? Don’t sign on the dotted line for debt that isn’t yours. Just because you’re married, it doesn’t mean you inherit your spouse’s debt.
How should women plan for student debt?
When it comes to university and the pay gap, we know that more than 60% of university graduates are women. But, they’re not earning the income. Why? Because women are more heavily weighted to the humanities, which don’t often pay as well as science and engineering. So then, should women be thinking about changing professions?
According to Gail: No. She believes in following the things you’re most interested in. But, she also puts partial blame on high school guidance counsellors who suggest that going to university means you will automatically make more money, when instead, pursuing a trade could be much more lucrative.
From her personal experience, Kerry addresses the potential issue in women pursuing more male dominated careers and suggests women stay strong:
So, you know, I want to encourage women to go into trades and, you know, stem jobs but you’ve got to realize that the environment isn’t always friendly to you and that’s a reality and it’s really tough when you’ve done all this work.
Again, both Gail and Kerry agree that to combat change, it’s important to be vocal for yourself and not to give up if you’re in a culture that’s not as supportive.
All our guests today realize that life is hard. We don’t all start from the same place. But it’s important to remember that only we can control whether or not we believe in ourselves.
As well, there are key steps we can take to prevent money problems. So, just because a marriage involves a union, there’s no reason why each party can’t have cash set aside for an unfortunate event like death or divorce. What’s more, as women in particular face unique battles, it’s that much more important for them to plan ahead.
To hear the rest of today’s lively discussion on why women face bankruptcy in higher numbers and tips to prevent money problems, tune in to our podcast or read the complete transcript below.
Resources Mentioned in the Show
FULL TRANSCRIPT – Show 188 Why Women Face Higher Bankruptcy Risk
Doug Hoyes: It’s obvious that debt is debt right? A credit card is a credit card regardless if you are tall or short, old or young, male or female. That’s true, but today on Debt Free in 30 we’re going to look at data that shows women face different debt issues than men. We’ve just released a new study that explores whey women are filing for debt in higher numbers.
Back in March when we recorded our second butter tarts podcast, we gave an advance look of the data to Gail Vaz Oxlade and Kerry Taylor and after we recorded that podcast we kept the microphones running to get their thoughts on this issue. The study was prepared by my wife, Sharon Hoyes, who is a chartered accountant and also the Hoyes Michalos chief information officer. So since she is familiar with the numbers let me turn the podcast over to her to set the stage with some numbers.
Sharon Hoyes: Okay. We’ve been looking at insolvency for trends since 2007. One aspect we look at is gender. Historically, men are more likely to file insolvency than women. In fact between 2007 and 2012 men filed between 56 and 58% of all insolvencies. However, we’ve seen a big shift in this trend beginning about five years ago. Since 2012 the percentage of insolvencies filed by women has risen each and every year. By 2017 it was almost 50/50, 48% of insolvencies were filed by women, 52 by male debtors.
It’s not that women are suddenly using more debt, in fact women debtors owe less money than male debtors when they go bankrupt. What we know is that the profile of our average female client is different than our male clients. Two thirds of women debtors are either single or divorced, they’re struggling to get by on a single income. Women earn 9% less than male debtors. They are three times more likely to be a single parent than a male debtor. Women are twice as likely to have student debt and 15% are seniors living on a fixed income.
But those are numbers. That’s what our average female client looks like. The big question is why? Why are women increasingly finding themselves in trouble with debt? Gail, what are your thoughts on that?
Gail V: Okay, so about a billion years ago I wrote a book called Women of Independent Means. And when Harper Collins republished it, they republished it as It’s Your Money. But really it was about a woman of independent means. That’s what the whole gist was.
And I wrote a book specifically for women because women’s circumstances are completely different from men. So for instance I wrote women get sick and men die. Men die, women get sick, which means that we stick around and there couldn’t be anything worse than old sick and then adding poor to the equation, okay? But that’s what we do to ourselves. We bear virtually all the responsibility for caregiving, be it our children or our elders that’s always been our job. And when we divorce, a man’s standard for living actually goes up while a woman’s standard of living goes down.
So because there are all these very specific things that happen to women, leaving the workforce to have children, taking time off to take care of an aging parent, because there are all these things, we need a different approach to money, we need to be far more vigilant about what we’re doing because we’re going to have to live on whatever we save for a lot longer time. Me, I’m just going to go out to the back forte and ask somebody shoot me when my money runs out.
Sharon Hoyes: So yes we have to be vigilant. Okay, let’s say I become a single mom, what should I be prioritizing? Why am I not prioritizing my future over today?
Gail V: So part of, I believe part of it is that when we go through divorce and become single parents, or we just become single parents, we are in no way prepared for what that actually is. I remember how long I thought about having kids before I had kids. And I watch people pop kids out at a wicked clip and then complain about daycare costs like they didn’t think that that was going to be part of the equation. What? You had one child and you knew what the daycare cost was. If you couldn’t afford it why did you have a second one? Okay. But we take this as if it’s our due, everything is our due. We’re entitled to have as many children as we want, we’re entitled to live in a nice big house. We’re entitled to drive relatively new cars. And these things that are all our due, become due un-payable.
Sharon Hoyes: You were talking earlier about the daycare costs. So, if you’ve become recently divorced and so now obviously you have to go out and find a fulltime job because now you’re living on your own, you’re living on our own income, now all of a sudden you’re caught in a daycare trap almost.
Kerry T: Yeah, well I was just looking at some of the Stats Can information and the average age for women getting divorced is around 41 years old and it’s 44 for men. So if you’re looking at having kids later in life like say 35 or in that ballpark, that’s when I became a parent, you get divorced at 41, you finish the stint, the child care at home and now you’re looking at getting back into the workplace and maybe you need daycare or before and after care for your kids. That’s a really tumultuous time, you know, especially considering there’s other factors at play as well. Women pay equity gap, we make about 87 cents on the dollar to men.
So all these things clipped together, we spend less time in the workforce when we have kids, we earn less right out of school because we’re paid less then we, you know, we take time off for kids and if we get divorced, you know, all these factors come into play. At the end of the day we live longer than men so we live about three to four years longer. And if you look at the years in retirement so if women aged 65, if you retire at 65 and men retire at 65 and women live longer. So women have 22 years in retirement, men have 19. It doesn’t sound like a lot but when you do the math that’s a 15% increase in retirement time that we have that we need to make that less money we’ve accumulated throughout our life last. So that’s why maybe you’re seeing women in their senior years file for bankruptcy because there just wasn’t the money earlier on.
Sharon Hoyes: So are we making the necessary decisions then when we’re in our 30s, when we’re in our 40s to say I need to be prepared? I kind of have as nurturers we want to take care of our kids, as nurturers we take care of everybody else. So do we need to say okay I need to change that mindset since I’m on my own, I need to take care of myself because if you don’t you’re actually not helping your children out long term either if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Gail V: So one of the things that I find so interesting about the women dilemma is the whole idea that we’re so focused on caregiving, okay? Because we take care of our children and we take care of our elders and so on and ultimately we pay the price because we don’t take care of ourselves properly.
The reality is is that if you are earning less than your male counterpart, if you are having your income interrupted on a regular basis, be it because you’re taking care of kids of what have you, somebody’s fallen sick you have to run and take care of that problem. If you’ve just been through a divorce you don’t have the where with all to make good decisions, okay? You are running from crisis to crisis in terms of just coping with life and that’s one of the reasons why you see women just get exhausted and just dissolve because there is just no way to deal with all that pressure. Kerry has talked about in the past the significance of stress, well go ahead and become a single mom and see how stressful life is. Go ahead and have a second baby and have your partner leave and now you’re there with two kids.
For most of my life I said I was never going to have children. And when people ask me why I said I barely have enough energy to take care of myself how would I take care of a child as well? And then I met a man who said it was the best thing in the world and he talked me into having kids and it was fabulous. It was absolutely fabulous. But when we divorced and then I had to spend time away from my children because shared custody, you know, heart wrenching. Everything in life comes with a punch in the nose or a pat on the back and there are more punches in the nose than pats on the back for women.
Kerry T: And I mean advocating when I worked in computer science and found out I made significantly less than my male counterparts, there’s a different system in place for women. Because if you go in and ask for pay equity you’re seen as, you know, greedy, money grubbing, selfish.
Gail V: You’re bigger than your boots, what’s wrong with you?
Kerry T: Yeah, how dare you ask for this money.
Gail V: You’re lucky to have a job.
Kerry T: Yeah and you feel lucky to have job, right, because gee not many women are in computer science. Look around the room, who’s there? It’s not a lot of chicks. So it’s like you try to advocate for yourself and it doesn’t matter the industry, I’ve worked in media too. And I’ve stood on an X on a set where the guy made 10 grand and I made $300. And I thought I was doing well because I negotiated up from 100. So if things aren’t transparent and you can have that conversation with your employer and ask for more it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. So, I mean it’s really challenging because it’s like you want to earn your equal pay but there’s just sometimes it just doesn’t come to you.
Sharon Hoyes: No and sometimes you’re in a situation where I can’t afford to lose this job, like I’m raising my children, I need that money.
Gail V: Absolutely, that’s a huge part of it and so if you are the one that’s being counted on. So, many years ago when my last husband and I first got together, he lost his job, his company went into CCAA and he was the last guy in so he was the first guy out. And my face started to twitch, okay? Just – and he said to me, you know, is this pretty stressful to you? It was the first time I had an inkling of what it was like to be the male breadwinner of the family and the weight that that carried, right?
And I always swore that I would never, ever be dependent again, I would never be dependent because I was never going to put myself in a position where the other people had the power to make my life something I didn’t want it to be. One of the things that I have been a big proponent of is his and her accounts. All the time I hear from women we’re a partnership, you know, blah, blah, blah, we love each other, that doesn’t show much trust.
And I think baby, let me tell you something. If you end up getting divorced, if your husband ends up getting smashed to pieces on the highway, you will be so glad you have money in your own name. I don’t understand why that is a problem. But, you know, as women we’re perfectly happy to defer to the old system where we just pool all our money. So women have said to me what if you’re a stay at home mom? I said that’s easy, you pay all the bills and whatever is left over gets split 50/50 between the two of you. I mean that’s the agreement you made when you stayed home, right? But women don’t do that. They won’t demand what they need in order to be safe.
Sharon Hoyes: Well even more one of the other issues we see is co-singing on your spouse’s debt so you’re debt – you know, your spouse comes into the marriage with student loans, his hers and ours, right? Like no, okay you can make a family plan to pay it off but it doesn’t mean that you have to sign on the dotted line.
Gail V: Oh my gosh, I say this to people all the time, like it’s not your debt, don’t take it on. But I have a better of credit history so I’ll get a better interest rate. Baby, if he created this mess for himself you let him clean it up as a testament to how much he loves you. If he doesn’t love you enough to clean it up, don’t marry him. Feel free to sleep with him all you want, screw his brains out but do not marry him.
Doug Hoyes: There’s the quote for the show right there. So, we’ve got in the room Alison Petrie who’s our trustee here in Oshawa because that’s where we’re recording this today. Have you seen what Gail is describing Alison?
Alison P: I’ve seen it many times over. I also wanted to talk about divorce agreements because the man works for a large corporation or a government agency and has a great big registered pension plan and there’s all this co-signed debt. And in the divorce agreement he says if you don’t touch my pension I promise to pay off all the debt. And then after it’s all signed he goes bankrupt and she pays off the co-signed debt and she didn’t get an asset in exchange for doing that.
Doug Hoyes: Yeah, which is back to Gail’s point which is if you sign for it, it’s yours.
Gail V: Absolutely.
Doug Hoyes: That’s how it works.
Gail V: And more importantly if you didn’t sign for it, it’s not yours so don’t believe the bank when they call you up and say [unintelligible [00:14:36] the answer to that is please do go and take a break.
Doug Hoyes: That’s something people don’t get, just because you’re married don’t mean you inherit the other person’s debt. So, it’s true when you get divorced, the property gets split, whether your name’s on the house or not, but the actual debt is whatever you singed for, it has nothing to do with who you’re married to.
Gail V: Absolutely. And so as women if we want to protect ourselves, if we want to – and you know what, women if you don’t want to do this for yourself, if you don’t think you’re with it, I get that it’s fine. You have crappy self esteem and you don’t think you’re worth it. Aren’t your children worth it? Because if you aren’t protecting yourself, your children are also going to suffer.
Doug Hoyes: You just mentioned the word crappy self esteem and earlier on you used the word entitled in something you were saying, so is this a theme you see consistently?
Gail V: I do see this theme consistently, perhaps because I did the television show for so long and so these were the people I was very often exposed to, this sense of I want what she has, whatever she has I want it. I can’t tell you the number of girls that were walking around with $2,500, $5,000, $12,000 purses that had nothing. And when I went to take those purses away from them, they sat on the floor and they cried.
Kerry T: It’s their status you took, with a name on it. Their self esteem was in their bag.
Gail V: That’s it and so if you are wrapping yourself up in stuff, if that’s your self esteem, if you’re not accomplishing something and feeling good about what you’re accomplishing, just look at your babies, that’s what you’re accomplishing, that’s what you should be focusing on. Never mind all this rubbish with who has what? That sense of entitlement leads us to do things that are totally counter to our long term financial health. And if we don’t also demand to be paid fairly and we don’t also demand that when you say to me as a woman, you know, your job’s so important, you’re raising children, then pay me for that. If you think that is such an important job, show me the money.
Kerry T: You know, when I was growing up my mom – I grew up in a very – my mom was – she controlled the money in the house. So when I was young she showed me just in case she were to get hurt in an accident, I knew where the wills were, I knew where her bank accounts were, I knew what banks they were at, I would go with her to the bank. I watched her pay bills I watched her, you know, manage things.
And so when she raised me I managed my own bank stuff as well. And so I think if it doesn’t start when you’re in your 20s or early ages, you know, I think that’s where I credit my ability to see in the future because I saw my mom go through it. And it’s really tough. She basically disaster proofed her life before she had kids and then taught her daughters how to deal with the situation if it went poorly.
So because I saw all these things in place to prevent her daughters from being destitute, if both parents were taken out basically, I’ve done that with my own life, so we have life insurance, we have emergency savings, we have retirement savings. Just because I know bad stuff happens to good people all the time and you need to account for the future as well as the present. But I mean this is all well and good but I had this planned out before I got married. So it’s almost like daughters and young women when they go into school and they take on this debt, they need to have a plan before they graduate or before they go to school so they don’t have this burden right out of school because it just it can snowball from there.
Gail V: But everybody needs to do this. I mean one of the things the media used to ask me a lot, so is there a difference between the way men and women manage money and I would say nope. There are just as many stupid men as there are stupid women. And it doesn’t matter what their age is, there’s just as many stupid old people as there are stupid young people. And it doesn’t matter what their socioeconomic background is, there’s just as many stupid rich people as there are stupid poor people.
It boils down to how determined are you to be the master of your own life? If you are determined to be the master of your own life then you will assume a certain amount of discipline and you will do some planning. And if you are just quite happy to be the dead leaf being carried along on the little river then you should not be surprised when you get stuck down under the water and you drown.
Doug Hoyes: So you’re a big believer in self determination then.
Gail V: Absolutely. I remember as a child my mother saying to me you can have anything you want if you’re prepared to work hard enough for it. And I raised my children with the mantra you can have anything, you can have everything you want, you just can’t have it all at the same time. So you have to be willing to choose. Sometimes you will get one thing and other times you will get another thing. Over your life you will have it all but you can’t have it all in one place.
Doug Hoyes: So how do you reconcile that with some of the stories Kerry’s just told them? I guess what I’m asking is where on the spectrum am I? Am I completely responsible for everything or am I not responsible for everything? If I’m driving to work today and someone rear ends me, okay that wasn’t my fault.
Gail V: No, but you have insurance.
Doug Hoyes: So I have to mitigate that.
Gail V: What you have to do is you have to recognize that crap happens. I mean that’s why we say to people have a big fat emergency fund, we say to people have enough and the right kind of insurance. As soon as I opened my mouth and said he word insurance I had the whole life guys diving on top of my head one side and the term guys diving on my head on the other side. And I say, you know, neither one of you is right, let’s ask the customer what the customer needs, okay?
And that’s what it boils down to if you haven’t taken the time – and I just want to point out that I do not have a university degree, okay? I did not come to personal finance from accounting or from – I came to it from training. And the way I did that was I worked for a consulting company and we won a contract, I won the contract, to write training material to teach bank personnel their own products and services. And they literally shipped me their product brochures, their background stuff, their technical manuals and I waded through it and created curriculum.
And that’s how I got my financial education, in other words I taught myself money. If I can teach myself money, anybody can teach themselves money, this is not a hard thing to do, there are some aspects that are complicated. Estate planning is a little complicated, insurance is a little complicated but overall investing is a little complicated but overall the nuts and bolts of money management is grade five math.
Sharon Hoyes: And applying some common sense.
Gail V: Common sense but common sense is rare. You know, I listen to the way some people talk about – so here’s a story. So, I’m doing a workshop and I’ve taken my daughter Alex along to help me because we’re going to go from station to station as people work through their budgets and so on. And Alex sits down with a woman who hasn’t got her budget to balance and she has a category in there for cigarettes. And Alex says you have to take the cigarettes out and the woman says I need those cigarettes and Alex says don’t let my mother hear you say that, okay?
Because what people perceive to be needs is way out of whack. Needs are things people need to keep body and soul together. If you don’t fulfil the need, you’ll die. So you have to have shelter but you don’t have to have expensive shelter and you have to eat but you don’t have to eat steak and you have to keep clean but you don’t have to go to some fancy store to buy your soap. What we consider to be needs is really probably 10% need and 90% want.
Doug Hoyes: So what then is the solution then? So we’ve kind of gone through some of the big numbers, are there any other points that you wanted to –
Sharon Hoyes: Well, I think maybe you touched a bit on it on university and the pay gap. So we know that 60%, more than 60% of graduates are women, women are going to university but we’re not earning the income. A young person going to university today how would you tell them to choose –
Gail V: First of all we’re not earning the income based on all women. But for new graduates, they’re earning 95 cents on the dollar, on the male dollar. So they’re doing significantly better than we did when we graduated.
Sharon Hoyes: Expect for they’re heavily – when you look at where they’re going to university, women are heavily weighted to the humanities, which are not paying as well. They’re less weighted to the maths and the sciences, should they be thinking about that or should they just be saying no, I’m going to go?
Gail V: You know, I don’t know about you but I think that when you follow your bliss you sort of have to sort of follow the things you’re most interested in. You couldn’t shove me into a science program because I would be not good at it. I am a writer so I am a humanities person, okay?
I think more importantly guidance counsellors have misled young high school graduates tremendously by continuing to issue the statement if you go to university you’ll make more money than if you don’t go to university because that is not necessarily true. So I met a young man very recently, he’s 21 years old and he’s finished his plumbing apprenticeship, okay? He’s making bags of money at 21 years old and he’s done, okay? What we’ve done and I said to my daughter I wish you would go into a trade, I wish you would go into a trade.
Kerry T: Well, the government just announced programs to get more women in trades because of the gender budget that came out.
Gail V: You mean by that that lovely man that is Ottawa? I don’t understand why they hate him so much because he’s doing so many good things and compare to what we had before, anyway.
The point is that we go into courses without looking at what the outcome will be at the end. The best example of that is teachers. There are gobs of kids that are still going through university to become teachers, they actually changed the course from a one year course to a two year course so they can take more of your money and when you graduate you still won’t get a job because none of the other teachers are retiring. There are no jobs, unless you have French you’re screwed. So, all those people that are going out to become teachers – and to a large extent parents encourage this, blue collar parents encourage their children to go to university to become white collar workers when they couldn’t be much better off reaming blue collar workers and being able to support their families.
Kerry T: Okay so there’s something else. So I did computer science and I worked in [Stem] so I spent 12 year working in computers. And as, you know, a girl in a very male dominated environment I noticed the women drop off pretty quickly. So it’s almost like we had kids and then we didn’t go back to work. And it’s – I wondered what was happening. When I was in university I started a summer camp for programming for both boys and girls sand I noticed very quickly that we only sent the boys to the high schools or to the junior high schools, only boys came back as – when we sent the male instructors there only young boys signed up. When we sent equal 50/50 of the camp counsellors women and men, we had gender parody.
So we were bringing all these girls into computers and teaching them about technology and the internet and these girls went to university and studied math and science and computers. It has to start young. But then I watched it drop off after I became a parent I’m wondering where are all the women going because we’re not advancing to managerial positions, we’re not on boards, we kind of stop at entry level, mid level work.
And, you know, there’s a whole system in place once you realize you were getting paid less, you have kids, you have to pay daycare. It’s the choice between the man and the woman staying home, the husband generally earns more money. It becomes a financial decision that the wife stays home and they didn’t go back to work. And then there was all this stuff that was happening post me too that we’re hearing about now and times up about the harassment.
So, you know, I want to encourage women to go into trades and, you know, stem jobs but you’ve got to realize that the environment isn’t always friendly to you and that’s a reality and it’s really tough when you’ve done all this work and you’ve done the research and, you know.
Gail V: Well again you have to have a healthy ego because somebody is going to call you a bitch. If you’re a strong woman and you’re not going to take anybody’s flack somebody’s going to call you a bitch and you have to be able to look at them and say I’m okay with that.
Kerry T: Yeah, you have to have that conversation with yourself.
Gail V: Call me anything you want because I’m not stopping because I’m not stopping till I’m making what you’re making.
Kerry T: Well and I see this post me too and it inspires me so much because those conversations weren’t happening when I worked in that environment, when I went to university. These conversations are happening now and now as a freelancer when I approach an employer, I say what’s your guy making? And I’m not afraid to say that because we’re in a culture now where we can have that conversation about money, where women can be more strong advocates for themselves.
And yeah you might get called a bitch, I don’t care. If you want my work, if you want to have a woman’s voice in this environment, which yes you need to have, thank you very much, we’re half the population, you’re going to pay me equally, right? And if I have more experience than the dude or anyone else on that panel or paper or whatever else it is, computer science team, then you’re going to pay me more.
Gail V: The thing is we have settled, for too long we have settled.
Kerry T: Yeah, we’re happy to have the work.
Gail V: We’re happy to have the work. And I’ve never had this problem.
Kerry T: You get paid by the word, you get paid by the show. There’s no other Gail.
Gail V: I wasn’t always famous though. You know, when I started out I was determined – so I worked for a consulting company and what happened was I topped out in an admin role and they said the only way I could make more money was to go into sales. So I went into sales and I puked every day for a year before I cold called because I hated it. And I won myself some contracts and eventually I made so much money that the partnership of the business broke up because some of them wanted to fire me and some of them wanted to keep me and they couldn’t agree.
Kerry T: Just by –
Gail V: I was making too much money.
Kerry T: You were too successful for the company, how does that even make sense.
Gail V: They would never have said that to a man.
Kerry T: No, they would call him a high performer.
Gail V: They would never have said of a man working in the job I was working in, he’s making too much we’ve got to get rid of him, okay?
Sharon Hoyes: Okay so getting back though then to –
Gail V: What women can do?
Sharon Hoyes: A woman who is basically looking at herself in this situation and okay I’m newly divorced, I’m this, I’m that. I think what you’re talking about is be vocal for yourself. You’re responsible for yourself.
Gail V: You have to be, yes. And so you have to set up the circumstances to be responsible for yourself. I mean I’ve been married multiple times, okay? I have a long trail of broken hearts behind me. And never once was I ever dependent on any of those men. And I remember when I was leaving my second husband and the lawyer said to me, because we had only been married, we had been together a long time but we had only been married about five years, and he said to me well, you know, you don’t really have a claim on the house because it’s only been five years and I said well, I paid him rent every month. And he said what? I said I wrote him a rent cheque every month.
Now there isn’t a woman out there that I know that would do that, okay? But I was not going to be the girl that was being kept. First of all he was a lot older than me so that was one thing I had to fight against. So I paid him what I had been paying in rent on my apartment every month. But you have to be worth it, you have to decide that you’re worth that kind of investment in yourself.
Sharon Hoyes: So be vocal for yourself, be an advocate for yourself, be responsible for yourself.
Gail V: And most importantly don’t take anybody’s shit, okay? When there is stuff being shoveled at you, pick up a shovel and shovel it right back because that will earn you more respect than if you tucked your tail between your legs and run away.
Kerry T: If you’re in an office environment where you’re being harassed, bring in your cell phone and tape the conversations. I mean women are doing this now. Harassment is huge, that pushes women out of the higher paying jobs.
Doug Hoyes: So I’ve got one final question. Do you have any comments there Alison or is that –
Alison P: No, sorry that was a thumbs up.
Doug Hoyes: You were totally agreeing with that. So, here’s my question then and Gail what you’re saying is stand up for yourself, shovel it right back, that sort of thing. So if I was in an environment where the boss was an idiot and, you know, men have idiot bosses, not the way you’re describing but, you know, so my solution was I started my own company.
Gail V: Yes.
Doug Hoyes: So is that something women should be thinking about?
Gail V: I think more and more women are thinking about it. And I believe that we’ve finally gotten over the hump where women have to pull each other down to feel better about themselves because that’s been a thing for awhile where women treated each other very badly. But I believe there is now such a sense of camaraderie in terms of starting new enterprises together, using each other’s skill sets to make it work. That I think we’re in a much better place now and I encourage women that if you can’t find a job that works for you, works around your family, does what you need to do so you can have the life that you want then make yourself a job.
Doug Hoyes: Which is what a freelancer is obviously and obviously there’s pros and cons to that I would assume.
Gail V: Totally. I mean for a long time when I was working as a consultant every time I ended a project I would go into the shower and cry for an hour because I was never going to find another job because it meant I had to get on the phone and start cold calling again and I hated it but I did it. I don’t like paying my GST either but I do that.
Doug Hoyes: Yeah, it seems to me we live in a different world that we did 50 years ago where a company meant you had to buy a lot of machinery and big stuff and needed to raise a million dollars, there are a lot of companies – we’ve got technology now. We can do a lot of things, we can be –
Gail V: But recognize that not every woman is cut out to be self employed, okay? And so even those people that are within organizations working, talk to your co-workers find out what everyone is making. If your company has a policy that says you don’t discuss salary you’re working for the wrong company because that’s how they keep you in the dark. So figure out what everybody’s making and get yourself into a position where you are the best at what you do. When you are the best at what you do you’re really hard to fire.
Doug Hoyes: Yeah, you’re in demand.
Kerry T: I’m a big advocate of transparency and pay. Talk to your colleagues, talk to the guys, talk to the gals at your, you know, job level and find out what they’re making. As Gail said I had an HR department that said you’re not allowed to talk about your pay and I’m like why not? How are you going to stop me, you know? Let’s all discuss it. And we all found out the boys made more than the girls and we did something about it. Like, you know, not all of us stuck around but you’ve got to talk, you’ve got to gather the information and yeah not everyone’s cut out to be self employed.
Gail V: Self employment is just you have a whole bunch of other bosses. People think you’re going to work for yourself, you don’t. You work for every single client that you have.
Kerry T: You’ve got to keep them all happy.
Gail V: That’s right, they can be very demanding and they can pay late.
Kerry T: They pay very late.
Gail V: So you have to have all those things in place but if you thought it out and you thought to yourself okay this is what I really want to do and, you know, you do a business plan and you create a cash flow and if all of this sounds like it’s just too much work and you’re just not prepared to put the effort in then don’t whine about your life, shut up.
Doug Hoyes: That’s an excellent way to end it.
Kerry T: She’s so full of butterflies.
Doug Hoyes: I know and happiness and ponies.
Kerry T: So this is the thing, Gail wrote a book called The CEO of Everything.
Doug Hoyes: I read it, yes, it’s an excellent book.
Kerry T: And it – I basically cried after reading it because it’s really hard to read but I think it’s such a valuable resource because all women, you know, it’s very likely you could get divorced, you could get widowed, you could get single and just choose to, you know, have a home of your own. However you choose to live I think there’s such an empowering message in there, how to prepare, how to be the boss of your own life, how to figure out if you don’t understand it. How to deal with the emotional loss, the financial stress, it’s all in there and it’s such a valuable resource. I mean I’m still married but I’m like well, that’s a disaster proof thing I hadn’t thought of, I should plug that in.
Doug Hoyes: Well and that’s what insurance is, I hope I don’t ever need it but I should be ready for it and that’s really what that books goes through.
Kerry T: Go get that book.
Doug Hoyes: CEO of everything.
Gail V: Doug, when people don’t have insurance the thing that runs through my mind is that either you’re dumb or you think God’s holding you by your pom-pom or you’re selfish. Because the $90 or the $120 that will cost you from cash flow a month, isn’t worth the safety of your family, come on. If I promise that I will keep your family safe for $120 a month, aren’t they worth that?
Doug Hoyes: Yeah and obviously in your book, which you wrote with Victoria Rice there’s a lot more than just insurance obviously. It’s the whole mindset of if something happens am I ready? And it’s looking forward to the future is really what it’s all about. So I agree, it is an excellent resource, I will put links to that in the show notes. Anything, other comments from anyone, we’re all good?
Gail V: Yep. The last thing I would say is every one of us has the ability to be in charge of our own lives. Every single one of us has that ability it’s just a matter of whether we believe in ourselves enough.
Doug Hoyes: I like that. Obviously we all face challenges. Life is hard. We aren’t all starting from the same place but I agree with Gail, we can control whether or not we believe in ourselves. That’s a great place to end the show. Thank you to Sharon Hoyes, Kerry K Taylor, Gail Vaz Oxlade for being here today and thanks to Alison Petrie for letting us use the Hoyes Michalos office here in Oshawa.
That’s our show for today. Full show notes, including a full transcript and links to everything we discussed today, including our study on why women are filing bankruptcy in higher numbers and links to the book Gail wrote with Victoria Rice, CEO of Everything, can be found at hoyes.com.
We’ve got some great shows coming up. Next week I’ve got an interview with a guy from a company that believes they have a solution to the problem of credit scores and credit report data hacks. Later in the month I’ve got a show on how you can cheat your way to financial success. It’s not what it sounds like but it’s a good one. So until next week I’m Doug Hoyes, thanks for listening. That was Debt Free in 30.