I sat nervously in the waiting room of the student health clinic on my husband's medical school campus. I booked my appointment when my husband had a break between classes so he could be there with me, and I was waiting for him to arrive.
We were there to confirm that I was, in fact, pregnant. Clearly, the five positive pregnancy tests my Type A self took the days prior were not enough for me. I needed answers. Facts.
My husband arrived, and we were led to a small, freezing room where the ultrasound tech was waiting for us. The tech wasn't a man of many words. He hardly greeted us except to tell me to lie down on the cold table so we could start the ultrasound. I shifted nervously, the paper crinkling beneath me, the silence deafening.
There we were, two hopeful (possibly?) new parents, and the tech wasn't speaking as he worked. Doesn't he want to ask me any questions? Doesn't he at least want to talk about the weather? I glanced at my husband. He didn't seem to mind the complete silence. He was watching the screen intently, so I thought I should probably do the same.
I looked over at the blobs squinting, trying to make out something, anything. I waited.
It felt like an eternity before tech spoke. Really, it was likely only a few minutes. But, the question he asked tore through the silence like a freight train. His question would change my life forever.
“So, do twins run in your family?”
There's nothing quite like the moment you find out you're going to be a mother. And we all have different experiences, whether we were expecting it or were surprised by it. Maybe you were waiting an exceptionally long time for it to happen or perhaps you waited years to adopt and the phone call finally comes.
In that moment, when the tech showed me my twins, I felt a healthy dose of shock. Much as my husband and I were trying to start a family, I did not once expect to be staring at a screen with two little dots on it. That was probably evident from the fact that I said, “Holy shit” over and over and over again, completely unfazed by my husband, who kept whispering, “Shhh, stop saying that!”
I went home that day in a daze, holding the long sheet of ultrasound pictures with little lines pointing to the dots that said, “Twin A” and “Twin B.” I cut one of the pictures out and put it in a frame by our bed, and I stared at it. I just couldn't believe it. I felt different. I had two extra people with me! The responsibility felt enormous, but from that moment forward, it was clear I had to prepare and plan—after I went and vomited in the trashcan, of course.
One of my core beliefs is that all of us are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. On the day I found out about my twins, I truly didn't know how I was going to manage being a mom to two babies. I was 26 years old with a job, a growing side hustle as a blogger and freelance writer, and a husband who was a second‐year medical school student (with such a long, long way to go before he reached the end of his training).
But I knew that, one way or another, I would figure it out. That's the thing; we all have an enormous ability to learn new things and to hone our skills. And, if you're a mom, you already know how to think on your feet. You've already managed incredible levels of responsibility. You know how to plan. And managing your money fits in well with that skill set. Right now, though, you're overwhelmed and you likely don't know where to start. That's why I'm here to help.
For the past decade, I've been supporting other moms in my career as a personal finance writer and financial educator. Through my work and talking to hundreds of other women, I've noticed that money, more than any other topic, produces the most anxiety and emotional baggage. It's also a source of shame and rarely do women feel confident when talking about it.
But, the great thing about personal finance is that the knowledge is available to everyone, and you can build wealth once you find a method that works for you. If you picked up this book, I'm hoping it's because something about the title Mom's Got Money: A Millennial Mom's Guide to Managing Money Like a Boss resonated with you.
I want to encourage you by stating I believe anyone can succeed with money no matter who they are, where they come from, or the type of education they have. Some of you have very different starting lines. You may even be the first person in your family to go to college or open an investment account. You may be wading through generations of financial trauma and unfair setbacks. You may be starting with nothing or recently left an abusive relationship. I see you. The best way I can help, as an ally, is to be your guide and have a steadfast belief in your ability to win with money.
I will walk you through the steps to gain financial confidence and take control of your finances. This book is more than teaching you about budgeting or how to raise your credit score. It's about helping you recognize your own abilities as a mom and showing you you're highly capable of making financial decisions.
Right now, you have a lot on your plate. Your family looks to you to make most of the household decisions. Sometimes, the weight of your daily decisions takes a toll. I know it's exhausting to be the glue. But, we have a choice.
We can let this responsibility frustrate us or intimidate us. We can stay up at night worrying if we're making the right decisions for our families. Or, we can step into the role of boss mama with full confidence. Because you see, taking charge doesn't mean being perfect. It means being powerful, being a planner, delegating, and anticipating that mistakes will happen. It takes leadership, some guts, and a little bit of know‐how. And guess what? You have what it takes.
By the end of this book, you'll no longer be a mom who worries about money and her kids' future. You'll be an organized leader who possesses all the skills necessary to run your family ship effectively.
You can have a 9‐to‐5 job or be a stay‐at‐home mom or a single mom and still become the boss of your financial life. Stepping into that mindset means you've committed to learning about money, and nothing is going to stop you from improving how your family handles it. It means you have so much fire in you, so much oomph, that nobody—especially not the naysayers—is going to stop you from reaching your goals.
From now on, when you think about your financial journey, I encourage you to consider that you have limitless potential. I want you to think back to when you became a mom, about how much responsibility you took on. If you can do that, surely you can handle a little thing like money, right?
But, how can you get there? The best way I can explain it is your brain is incredibly powerful. With it, you have the ability to cultivate a worldview and a mindset that can lead your family and you to a better life. Every single one of us carries within us lessons, triumphs, scars, and failures as they relate to our past, our relationships, and our money. We can use the failures as examples of why we're undeserving of the life we want. We can self‐sabotage. We can be overwhelmed. Or, we can decide to do something different.
But, in order to do something different, you have to radically shift your mindset. Your mindset is, to put it simply, your outlook on life. For example, when people discuss having a positive mindset, it usually comes with the glass half‐full analogy. But, what many people don't realize is that you can have a friendly, cheerful disposition while simultaneously harboring a negative money mindset, a lack of money confidence, and the weight of intense emotional labor (which I'll explain in full in this chapter).
Let's start with the first one. A negative money mindset, also called a scarcity mindset, shows up silently. It creeps quietly in the moments when you're deciding whether or not to donate to a cause (“I don't have enough money to donate”). It comes when your child asks to go to camp (“We can't afford that”). It slips in when your boss tells you to enroll in your retirement plan (“I've always been so bad with money. I don't know how to do that”).
When you have a negative money mindset, you feel like money is hard. It's confusing. You tell yourself it's too complicated, that you've always been bad with money, and that you can't figure it out. You try to learn about money but you quickly get overwhelmed. You might not want to ask someone for help because you feel like, as an adult and a mother, you should know the answers already. When you have a scarcity mindset, you believe—whether you realize it or not—that you don't have enough. It's hard to part with your money. You're afraid someone's going to come and take it. The worry sometimes keeps you up at night. Negative money mindsets are tricky like that.
Now let's couple that with a concept called emotional labor that's been gaining popularity as it relates to how women feel within their households. In 2017, Gemma Hartley wrote an article for Harper's Bazaar entitled “Women Aren't Nags—We're Just Fed Up.”1 This article deeply resonated with women, so much so that Hartley wrote a book on the same topic the following year, Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward. Emotional labor, as she describes it, is the mental weight women feel because they manage hundreds of tiny, seemingly insignificant tasks for their households and their children.
Same‐sex couples also experience emotional labor. Trish Bendix wrote a response article to Hartley's piece entitled “I Live With a Woman—We're Not Immune to Emotional Labor,” which was also published in Harper's Bazaar.2 In it, Bendix explains that same‐sex couples can struggle with the same imbalance. For example, if one member of the partnership works from home, she might feel like she has to do more household work. For single moms, emotional labor is amplified. There is no one else to ask at home to help pick up the slack.
These tasks, which take up so much mental space, aren't necessarily put there by partners, spouses, or other family members. They are often the result of cultural norms and how society has evolved. For example, my husband never told me specifically, “Hey, you should be the one to email the twins' teachers, book parent/teacher conference time slots, and RSVP to every birthday party invitation.” And yet, I do these things. Part of it is because I like being involved in my children's schoolwork and lives, but maybe part of it is because I'm doing what I saw my mom do, even though she was a working mom too.
It's interesting that even as moms have entered the workforce in droves over the past few decades, we never quite lost that long to‐do list that comes with raising a family. Somehow, we feel responsible for, well, everything. For stay‐at‐home moms, there still remains the cultural pressure to be perfect, to plan dinner, to cater to everyone's needs, and to put yourself last. There's so much silent suffering and pain for someone who means so much to their family.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?
After all, many families have joint responsibilities today and strong partnerships. For example, my husband is a phenomenal cook. He likes going to the grocery store (why, I'll never know.) You can often find him wiping down the counters and loading the dishwasher. He actually prefers to be the one putting dirty dishes in rather than taking clean ones out. Please, someone explain that to me.
But emotional labor, as Hartley and Bendix describe it, is more of a mental labor. It's the weight of the thousands of daily decisions that have to be made. It's anticipating everyone's needs, especially our children's. It's being one step ahead. It's a brain full of choices, of important dates to remember. It's feeling devoid of energy and conjuring up some more anyway.
It's the constant pressure to squeeze into the idea of what we believe is a good mom. And all of this internal chatter is invisible, so no one else knows it's there. How can our families show appreciation or say thank you when it's hard to quantify or see everything that goes on behind the scenes to keep the engine running?
Now, let's take this concept and apply it to money. According to KRC Research, “One in five moms (22%) is a millennial mom, accounting for approximately 9 million people.” And guess what? Those 9 million millennial moms “control 85% of household purchases and have a U.S. spending power of $2.4 trillion.” Even further, “33% [of millennial moms] are the majority contributor to their household's income (vs. 26% of moms in general).3 Talk about money power. And yet, do most millennial moms feel powerful when it comes to money? Do you?
Every occasion you spend time thinking or worrying about paying for school supplies or back to school clothes, you're exercising some emotional labor as it relates to money. One time, I researched for hours to find a “better” backyard playset for my twins because I felt they had outgrown the $200 Walmart version. That was me spending some emotional labor. I even got to scoop some mom guilt on top of the emotional labor when I eventually decided their Walmart playset was fine, and I'd rather save $1,500 than spend it on a nicer cedar playset. I later mentioned it to my husband, and he said he never once thought about the type of playset they had.
That made me wonder if the emotional weight of money decisions goes away once someone becomes incredibly wealthy. Joint research by Vanderbilt University and Regions Bank says perhaps not. Their 2015 Women and Wealth survey specifically targeted private wealth management clients who had estimated household income‐producing assets of over $2,000,000. As part of their survey methodology, they said the goal of the study was “to obtain deeper insights into the perceptions and attitudes of Regions affluent customers.”4
What they found was that “More women than men say they are solely responsible for making financial decisions for their households; however, women express lower levels of financial confidence and optimism than men.”
An earlier 2013 study by Allianz Insurance showed some interesting statistics as well. They called it the “Women, Money, and Power Study: Empowered and Underserved.” In this study, Allianz surveyed many different types of women from ages 25 to 75 who had household incomes of $30,000 or more per year.5 They included single women, single mothers, married mothers, divorced women without children, divorced mothers, widows, and those living with partners who were not married.
Among this diverse group, they did unearth some positive findings – namely, 62% of women who responded to the survey had a “strong interest in learning more about finances and retirement planning.” Furthermore, 49% of women who responded said that “they have a great deal of responsibility for major financial decisions” and “over half say they are the primary decision‐makers.”
Yet, even with all this decision making power, lack of money confidence persisted with 49% of women respondents saying they worried about ending up broke and homeless. The study even identified a certain subset of women they dubbed “Women of Influence.” Women of Influence have higher incomes than the average woman, are more likely to be successful at work or in business, and are 25% more likely than the average woman to feel financially secure. The study said Women of Influence, who make up about 20% of all women, have more money confidence than the average woman. Yet, a startling 46% of them responded “often” or “sometimes” when asked how often they thought, “Deep down, I worry about becoming a bag lady.”6
I share this because many women believe if they could just have more money, managing it would be easier. Yet, that's not necessarily the case. Sure, having more money is nice when you're making many, many purchasing decisions for your family. But, both of these studies show that having more money than the average woman doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a dramatic increase in money confidence.
That confidence part—that's what I'm trying to help you improve. That's where my lessons of managing money like a boss come in. That research shows more money won't necessarily solve the financial worries women have. So, we have to find another way, a strategy for you to feel content and confident with what you have right now, whatever your financial status may be.
So, how do we do that? Well, we know emotional labor is present in women. And, there's also a lack of money confidence, even though women make a significant amount of financial decisions for their families. The lack of confidence can lead to anxiety and worry, which produces money scarcity. The money scarcity is what I referred to earlier in this chapter as a negative money mindset, the worry that you don't have enough or won't have enough one day.
So in order to gain more confidence with money, you first have to combat the negative money mindset that's holding you back from achieving your financial goals. Managing money like a boss is about letting go of the typical, overwhelmed mom mindset and taking on the mindset of a confident leader. It's about stepping out of the muck, the difficult stuff, and stepping into your fabulous, mom power.
A boss mindset involves running your household and your financial decisions as if you were the CEO of an organization. And I hear you, it's not easy to feel like a CEO when you're negotiating with a toddler or a teenager (and they're totally winning.) But, that's why our idea of a leader needs to change.
Being a boss doesn't necessarily mean you have all the answers, but it does mean you have the ability to go out and find them or confidently outsource the search to someone else. And, there's no doubt that being a strong leader takes incredible mental strength. You need to motivate your family team, and you'll have to make crucial financial decisions when the outcomes aren't clear yet.
But, I want to make sure you realize that great leaders don't do everything themselves. It might be uncomfortable at first, but part of developing your overall confidence and belief in your own self worth is telling your partner or your kids that you need help. It means becoming a master delegator.
If you're a single mom, it might be uncomfortable at first to enlist the help of others, but it can have a dramatic positive effect on your daily life. Sometimes being strong means directly asking for help. You don't have to suffer to show strength. The more adults you have in your life to trade off help with your children and other duties, the better.
If you have a partner, you might think delegating tasks means more emotional labor for you. After all, isn't delegating going to be exhausting, and why can't they all see that we need help? But, according to a New York Times article by Britni de la Cretaz entitled “How to Get Your Partner to Take on More Emotional Labor,” communication is key.7 The article illustrates that it's possible to improve the negative effects of emotional labor, but both partners have to be willing to compromise, check in with each other, and talk about it in a healthy way. If that doesn't work, getting an unbiased, third‐party opinion in the form of a relationship therapist can be incredibly helpful.
The goal here is to improve your mindset and how you feel about yourself separate from anyone you live with because that will impact how you feel about your decision‐making. You're already making a lot of financial decisions, but I'd love for you to feel confident they're the right ones for your family. I want to encourage you to get excited about money, to be curious, and to keep learning.
Remember, as moms, we are already incredibly influential in our families. We shape and mold our children in a way no one else can. But too often, instead of feeling empowered by that reality, we feel exhausted by the weight of our decisions.
In order to transform into a boss mindset, first practice replacing the thoughts of overwhelm with empowering ones. We need to fill our minds with kind and motivating thoughts of what's possible, not ones that make us feel unappreciated and underqualified. This is especially true when it comes to money.
Here are some examples of negative mindset statements as well as examples of boss mindset statements you can use to replace them.
|Negative Mindset Statements||Boss Mindset Statements|
|I can't do this anymore.||I was born to do this.|
|These kids are driving me crazy.||I can handle this.|
|I've always been bad with money.||I know I can learn how to handle money.|
|My culture and upbringing have made me distrustful of money.||I get to learn and decide how I feel about money.|
|I hate being broke.||I have the power to improve my financial situation.|
|My parents never taught me about money.||I can learn anything I want about money.|
|The world is against people like me.||There are allies in the world who will help me.|
|Why does everyone expect moms to do everything?||Of course they're asking me to do everything. I am the best when I put my mind to something.|
|I'm so tired.||I'm going to put fresh sheets on my bed and treat myself to an early bedtime.|
|Managing money is hard.||I do hard things all the time, and once I get the hang of them, they're not that hard anymore.|
|I'm not good at math.||It's only math. Plus, calculators exist for a reason.|
|I have no idea if I'm doing this right.||I'm the mom. I know what's best for my family.|
|Why doesn't my partner realize I need help?||I'm telling my partner I need help.|
|I feel so alone as a single mom.||I believe there is strength in asking for help.|
|Don't they see I'm overwhelmed and drowning?||I'm telling them I'm overwhelmed and need them to step up.|
|I'm such a bad mom. Why do I yell so much? Why can't I afford that for my kids?||I am a good mom. Full stop.|
Ultimately, I believe that all moms have the tools and talents within us to step into that boss role, to realize our greatest potential, and to lead with confidence. We absolutely possess all the intellectual capabilities to tackle hard problems, make difficult financial decisions, and decide what's best for our families. It's just that we've been overwhelmed with our responsibilities and unsure if we're doing things right in a modern world full of opinions and choices.
I know switching negative thoughts to positive thoughts is a lot easier said than done. As I write this book, we're in the middle of the Covid‐19 pandemic. Families are suffering. Millions of people are filing for unemployment. Lots of people lost their livelihoods, and many people are getting sick. Moms all over the country found themselves with more tasks to do, teaching their kids at home, while still having numerous other responsibilities. It's been a challenging time for so many people.
I'm quite literally in the trenches with you as I punch the keys on my computer to turn a group of words into a book. Throughout this entire process, my twins have been interrupting me every couple of minutes while I work saying things like, “Hey Mom, guess what? We turned the entire basement into a fort. We used every blanket in the house!”
I never imagined that I'd be writing this book with my kids at home and my husband working at the hospital in a gas mask. Every word in this book was hard‐won, hard‐fought, and punctuated with words you can't see like, “Please, for the love of God, go in the other room!”
It's funny, though. As challenging as it's been to work and write with the kids in quarantine, something else happened over the last few months: I had to pause. All of us did. We all had to reevaluate our priorities.
Many of you lost jobs and tragically lost family members and friends. An untold amount of you had babies during the pandemic and didn't get to show them off to your family members due to Covid‐19 restrictions. All of a sudden, in the haze of the uncertainty, we all clearly understood what mattered most.
It wasn't online sales or salon appointments or extracurricular activities. It was our health, our kids, and our communities. We had to face certain realities and think about what would happen if we lost income for a week, a month, or a year.
I don't know about you, but during the pandemic, I realized a lot of things in my budget that I could “never give up” or “couldn't live without” weren't as necessary as I thought they were. Right now, my budget has the fewest line items it's had in quite some time.
All of us have had to pull strength from places we didn't know existed. We've had to learn how to sit with our thoughts, even the negative ones that are deeply ingrained in our system. We've had the very uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what's to come and if we can keep our kids safe.
We haven't been able to see friends as often or travel, head to the gym or go shopping just for fun. There's been nothing to insulate our feelings or suppress them. This is part of why the pandemic has been so hard for moms, for families, and for the world.
But, the beautiful thing is now you've seen you are very capable of handling something big, something unexpected. You've cared for your family against all odds. You've already led from a place of strength. You've zoomed and homeschooled with the best of them. Truly, moms are the most capable beings on the planet. Will we ever give ourselves enough credit for everything we do? You might not think you've handled hard times well, but you have. You have strength and leadership within you; you're the place your kids call home.
You've proven, especially now, that moms have an incredible capacity to learn and implement change quickly. That takes incredible strength on a daily basis. If you had a minute to really think about it, you'd realize we literally raise and mold and shape human beings—even in the middle of things like broken bones, fires, and even pandemics.
Don't you think someone who is capable of all of that, who can weather storms that big, can do something as basic as create a budget and figure out how much life insurance to get? I sure think so. Remember, money is just some numbers on a screen. It's you who gets to give it meaning and tell it where to go. You get to be the boss of it, not the other way around.
With practice and patience, you can step into that boss mom mindset with full confidence. It's already there; you already have it. You just need to give yourself credit for everything you've done and everything you're capable of.
Once you're there mentally and recognize your own power, there's no stopping you. Once you're there, your entire outlook shifts.
And, now that you have some acknowledgment of all the hard things you've endured and many new positive thoughts to practice, it's time to talk about the tools and the strategies that will help you become financially successful.
But, before you start dreaming of your future wealth and all the goals you want to achieve, you have to know where you stand. We'll start by facing the numbers. You can't know where you're going unless you know exactly where you are today.