In honor of the last day of Women’s History Month and the millions of women who are working tirelessly to close the gender wage gap, the gender confidence gap, and every other gap we can think of, we wanted to share a few numbers:
- Between ages 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%.
- Between their tween and teen years, girls’ confidence that other people like them falls from 71% to 38% — a 46% drop.
- Girls are 22% less likely than boys to describe themselves as confident.
- 1 in 3 girls believe that boys will make more money in life.
These are scary numbers, and as girls and boys move through their teen years and into early adulthood, girls never catch up to their male peers when it comes to finding confidence… At least those were the disheartening statistics as of 2020 — statistics that will hopefully be a thing of the past very soon. Our guests on this week’s episode are working to change those numbers and give girls the confidence they so richly deserve. Writers Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are both award-winning journalists and authors of the book, “Living The Confidence Code: Real Girls. Real Stories. Real Confidence,” which just debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List at #1 in the Middle Grade Books category. Listen in as they share details on their mission to empower the next generation of young women to make a difference in the world.
The pair discuss their book, and how the girls profiled are not “perfect” girls. On the contrary, a lot of their stories start with massive failures, and all incorporate details of their fears, their insecurities, and their inabilities to find confidence. That’s all by design, Katty and Claire say — girls don’t need more role models who seem flawless. Instead, they need role models who are real, who are “work in progress” models.
We also talk about the pivotal cultural moment we’re in now for women’s leadership and representation. We talk about Kamala, Meghan Markle, and more women who are showing us that it’s okay to face setbacks, to be told no, and to live a life with countless ups and downs.
Katty and Claire acknowledge that it’s not just younger women who struggle with finding confidence, and they share some of their favorite ways that we can all give ourselves (and the women around us) a boost.
In Mailbag, Jean advises a listener who is concerned about identity theft after a data breach, and we speak to a woman who is concerned that she and her boyfriend have vastly different levels of savings as they head into retirement. Lastly, in Thrive, we talk about how to escape your work-from-home productivity slump.
We’ll leave you with a line from Katty and Claire’s book that we hope you’ll think about this week, and reflect on after you listen: What would you like to do once you tap into your confidence? How will you write your story?
This podcast is proudly supported by Edelman Financial Engines. Let our modern wealth management advice raise your financial potential. Get the full story at EdelmanFinancialEngines.com. Sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines – Modern wealth planning. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416
Katty Kay: (00:01)
One of the things that really strikes me is how teenage girls become obsessed with this notion of whether they’re pleasing people – whether people like them. You color in the lines. You obey all the rules. You’re really well behaved in class. You raise your hand only when you’ve got the answer really right. And I think as a society then, as parents and educators, what we tend to do is we inadvertently reward that behavior.
Jean Chatzky: (00:29)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. Whether you want to get your savings back on track or you’re working toward a brand new goal, Fidelity has tips and tools to help you meet your short and long-term savings goals. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more.
Jean Chatzky: (00:44)
Hey everyone. I’m Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for joining me on HerMoney today. If you are listening to this podcast the day that we publish it, it is Wednesday, March 31st. It’s the last day of Women’s History Month. And as we close out this month together, I just want to start with a few numbers. Between the ages of eight and 14, girls confidence levels drop by 30%. Between their tween years and their teen years, which is a phrase that is really hard to say, girls confidence that other people like them, falls from 71% to 38% – a 46% drop. And I think that is just a fact that every middle school girl, or every woman who has ever gone to middle school, can totally attest to. Girls are 22% less likely than boys to describe themselves as confident. And one in three girls believe that boys will make more money in life. And as girls and boys move through their teen years and into adulthood, girls never catch up. They never catch up to their male peers. At least those were the disheartening statistics as of 2020. Stats that we hope will be a thing of the past very soon as we, all of you and my team here at HerMoney and my guests today, are working to change them as we speak. Writers, Katty Kay, and Claire Shipman are with us today. They are joining us from their homes in Washington, where they both work as award-winning journalists. They are the authors of the book, “Living The Confidence Code: Real Girls. Real Stories. Real Confidence,” which just debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number one in middle school books. And they are on a mission to empower the next generation of young women to make a difference in the world. Katty, Claire, welcome.
Katty Kay: (02:58)
Jean, great to be with you.
Claire Shipman: (03:00)
Yeah. Thank you, Jean.
Jean Chatzky: (03:01)
So nice to see you both. Katty, I have to say, it’s especially nice to say your name. We say it a lot in my house. Because whenever you show up on Morning Joe, it’s a lot more fun to say then that phrase that I just uttered. We’re like, oh, Katty Kay. Katty Kay is here. So I’m very happy that Katty Kay is here on the podcast. And Claire it’s been too long. It’s very nice to see you too.
Claire Shipman: (03:24)
Jean Chatzky: (03:24)
All right. So those numbers. They were the impetus behind your book. Is that right?
Claire Shipman: (03:32)
That’s right. We saw something of this drop when we wrote a book for women years ago, “The Confidence Code,” and we were examining why women often feel less confident in the workplace. And we’re not, of course, as confident that people like us. And when we started to trace it back to its origin, it was puberty. And we became fairly obsessed with figuring out ways in which we could gerd against this process, starting in girls. And we realized that it involves risk and failure, because those are the ingredients for confidence building, and that girls weren’t getting enough of that in their diet. And so we wrote “The Confidence Code For Girls,” and then we realized girls learn better from other girls. As much as they really want to listen to us – we both have girls – they actually just want to listen to people their own age. And that stories are such an effective way to learn, we thought this would be a great next step.
Jean Chatzky: (04:26)
And so Katty, you gathered stories from teen girls around the world. What made you decide that stories were actually the magic element here?
Katty Kay: (04:38)
I think we all learn really well from stories, right? Adults, children, men, women, everybody loves a good story. And we were talking with our publishers about how we could take all of the science, because Claire and I have done a lot of research with neuroscientists and psychologists and school counselors. And all of our work is really based on science and on research. But we thought, how could we make this so that girls would get the science and the research, but in a form that really resonated with them. And we were talking with our publishers and we thought, well, they said, initially, why don’t we do, you know, 50 girls around the world. And Claire and I being journalists thought, 50 girls around the world. We will never find 50 girls. That is a monumental task. And then actually, of course, it turned out that we could have filled four books with girls’ stories from around the world, because there are so many girls doing incredible things. So this is a collection of 30 girls stories. These are girls who live in Indonesia, Nepal, Ethiopia, the United States, the UK. We really wanted this to be a global book. And many of the girls have challenges that girls in America would never know. There is a 12 year old girl, Yacaba, in Ethiopia, whose father comes home one day and says, you’re getting married. She’s being signed into a child marriage. That’s not a challenge that a girl in America will ever have. But the way that Yacaba gets out of this, and in the process grows her own confidence, the risks she takes in speaking up and building a team and letting adults know and getting her voice out there, that process of building her confidence is the same. And that’s what I think is amazing about this book is, the challenges and the cultures are different, but the way the girls expand their confidence, like Claire said, by taking risks and struggles and failing and overcoming that, it’s the same.
Jean Chatzky: (06:32)
It’s interesting. It’s not just Yacaba, right? They are, many of them, if not most of them, not perfect girls. They fail. They climb back up. And that I think, as somebody who had a dreadful time in middle school, would have been incredibly helpful.
Claire Shipman: (06:52)
That’s what we’re hoping. I mean, we were looking at this concept recently and we wrote a piece for the New York times about it. What makes a perfect role model. And it turns out actually being imperfect is the way to be as a role model. And that girls, sometimes when we point at these role models who look as though their journey has been so smooth and they’ve just sort of achieved without any kind of bumps, that has the opposite effect. That intimidates as opposed to encouraging. And so we really wanted to deconstruct the stories. And I think that’s one of the things we looked for in the girls, is girls who were willing to be honest with us about their struggles and their failures and their fears, their emotion. I mean, it’s just incredible how often you’d have a girl talk to you about, I was terrified to do this. I never thought it would work. I couldn’t even believe I was going to try this. And also just having really monumental failures right at the beginning. Anahib, one girl in Texas who started this incredible secondhand store in her high school, so that so many of the kids in our high school who have no means could suddenly feel they could get a winter coat and it wouldn’t be embarrassing, right? And it was this kind of amazing idea. When she first set out to do it, the first all call for goods was an utter failure, right? Nobody came. And you can imagine that most of us would just bury ourselves in bed and think we weren’t meant to do that. And just how she picked herself up. And I mean, we’re just hoping girls will connect to this.
Jean Chatzky: (08:25)
I’m sure that they will. I’m wondering if, as you look back on your younger selves, you connect to it. I would never be 13 again, if you paid me all the money in the world. Like never ever. Katty, how was it for you? Was it a tough slog?
Katty Kay: (08:43)
You know, I was listening to some of the research that you cited at the beginning Jean. And some of that is research that Claire and I have actually done ourselves. We conducted a survey on this. And one of the things that really strikes is how teenage girls become obsessed with this notion of whether they’re pleasing people, whether people like them. And I think I was definitely in that category of wanting to make everybody around me happy and wanting to be liked, and how that sort of sits like a kind of bogeyman on your shoulders. So it stops you from doing things that are different or taking risks in case you fail or upsetting people in any way. And it means that you become this person, and I think we see this with a lot of teenage girls. You color in the lines. You obey all the rules. You’re really well behaved in class. You raise your hand only when you’ve got the answer really right. And I think as a society then, as parents and educators, what we tend to do is we inadvertently reward that behavior. We tell those girls you’re such a good girl, right? I wish we could ban that phrase. You’re such a good girl because you’ve got everything right and you haven’t rocked the boat and you’ve colored in the lines and you’ve followed all the rules. Meanwhile, the boys are going off and ragging around and playing sports and failing and messing up. And they’re just being boys. But what we do when we tell our girls, you’re such a good girl, is that we reinforce that behavior. They know that if they behave perfectly and they please everybody, they will get rewarded with praise for being a good girl. So I think for the parents listening, that’s a really important lesson for me, certainly as a parent. I mean, yeah. I was like that myself as a 13 year old. And then my first daughter was quite like that too. And I barely even noticed it. And that’s another thing that our research has shown is that moms don’t notice this as much as dads. Because dads think, wow, what’s happened to my daughter who thought she could do everything and now suddenly is afraid to raise her hand in class. And I think I kind of reinforced that behavior in my oldest daughter. And then luckily we did this research, and by the time we got to my second daughter, she’s much less of a people pleaser, so I didn’t have much of that challenge anyway. I definitely saw myself in my oldest daughter.
Jean Chatzky: (10:48)
Claire, you’re nodding, you too?
Claire Shipman: (10:50)
Yes. I was the classic people pleaser until fairly recently. I mean, even as a grown woman and we all are in this television, journalism. And it’s been a slog figuring out how you can be yourself, right? And try not to please everybody. And I think I see this now with my parenting that it’s almost as if there’s this code inside of me that, when I see my daughter stressed and wanting to be perfect, my first instinct is, well, yeah, let me help her do that. Of course, she wants to get everything right. And let me see how I can assist. And that’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. And so I’ve learned to step back and allow more room for failure or struggle, which is really hard for me as a parent. I really wish when I read these stories that I had taken more risks. I was so cautious. I just love that idea of just trying things and doing them. I mean, it’s really exciting what these girls are doing, big and small.
Katty Kay: (11:51)
One of the things that we found our research is that girls tend to exaggerate the downside of a risk. So another thing that we can do as parents is think, you know, if your daughter is wanting to try out for the soccer team or the school play, or go to a party at a new girl’s house or invite a new girl over to her house or raise her hand in class or whatever it is, and she’s thinking, oh my God, if I do that and I failed, the sky will fall on my head. You can talk her down from that. I mean, you can go through the steps of what really is the downside of the risk you’re thinking of taking. Because nine times out of 10, it’s far smaller than your overactive brain is making it out to be.
Jean Chatzky: (12:32)
Well, and I just want to take everything that you just said and apply it to investing, right? Apply it to what goes on with women in the world of money. I don’t know if you saw yesterday, Anna Maria Lusardi, who’s a researcher in DC, released a story on what she calls fearless women. And she looked at financial literacy in women and compared the answers that they gave on two forms of essentially the same financial literacy test. Except one version of the test had “I don’t know” in the answers as an option to every question and one version did not. And when the “I don’t know” answer was there, women chose it. And when it wasn’t there, we chose correctly. But when you think about why we don’t invest the way that men do, why we don’t go for it or believe that we can succeed when it comes to Wall Street or as economists, I mean, it’s all over it.
Claire Shipman: (13:36)
That’s so interesting that she did that because, Katty, it’s so similar to the research we say in The Confidence, which was looking at again, it was sort of a spatial reasoning test and trying to look for a difference in gender. And the researcher realized that women were skipping questions, right? Our scores were lower, no surprise to him, because we were skipping all these questions. And when he went back and said, nobody’s allowed to skip a question, we scored the same, right? Men and women scored the same. And so there’s this sense of, if I’m not perfect, I’m not going to take the risk. And that really is debilitating.
Jean Chatzky: (14:14)
And expensive. I.
Claire Shipman: (14:15)
It’s expensive and it’s dreadful. I mean, all of it.
Katty Kay: (14:18)
That’s a great way to phrase it. It’s expensive.
Claire Shipman: (14:21)
It costs us. Yup.
Jean Chatzky: (14:24)
I’m wondering if and how much you think Kamala will change this. And I also, as I’m asking this question, I have Megan Markle in my head. I mean, I do think we’re at this pivotal cultural moment for women’s leadership and representation. What do you think that’s doing for young women’s confidence?
Katty Kay: (14:45)
I think especially actually in the case of Megan Markle, because what she did was a risk, right? Was talking about her own mental health and how that had been challenged when she was living in Buckingham palace, and exposing that vulnerability and saying, look, I’m going to take the risk of talking about something that is difficult and potentially embarrassing. And then I’m also going to talk about how I sought help and I changed my situation. I think that process is really what Claire and I have found is the root of growing confidence. But it’s also what’s important in what we are calling these imperfect role models. She’s not the fairy princess. Things went wrong. There were problems and she struggled. And that’s why it’s so important that we don’t try to present our daughters with role models who are perfect because it’s the worst thing we can do for them. And so I think for me, that’s why Megan, in particular, is an example that is so valuable to our daughters, because she’s shown that she’s not perfect.
Claire Shipman: (15:49)
And I think being able to bring into these discussions, right? Anytime you can have a conversation that involves context, right? Not just, I mean, obviously I’m a lazy parent half the time and you want to sort of think, oh, look. Go look at Serena Williams. Now you know, you can do anything, right? Do I don’t have to say anything more, do I? But of course the conversations help in the context about what are the values that Kamala Harris had to deploy? What were the missteps? Kind of all that nitty gritty stuff, I think, is what makes it powerful. But there’s no question the sheer volume of role models out there now is beneficial, right? It’s just in the air. I was doing an interview yesterday with somebody, a radio host, who said, why is international women’s day suddenly such a big deal? Okay. I don’t think it’s really that sudden. But it was just funny, like for this guy, he suddenly was, for him it was sudden, right?
Jean Chatzky: (16:49)
Exactly. It’s been around for a while, but all of a sudden it hits you on the head. I want to come back to tactics. Because I think tactics, especially for my audience, I know are really important. But before I do that, let me remind everyone that HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. When the market is uncertain, it’s more important than ever to have a plan for your savings. And that’s where Fidelity comes in. They’ll work with you to create a savings and investment strategy and help you fine tune it whenever life changes. Plus they have tips and online tools like their planning and guidance center that can help you meet your short and your long-term goals. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more. I am talking with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of “Living the Confidence Code.” There is a line in your book that I’d love to share with all of our listeners. You write, what would you like to do once you tap into your confidence? How will you write your story? I know that the book is designed to be an inspiration to younger women when they start losing their confidence. But I read that and I just realized there are so many takeaways for adult women as well. How do we react to and reflect on that statement Katty?
Katty Kay: (18:08)
For me personally, it is a question of looking back at all those times since I was in my kind of early twenties. And I thought, I can’t do this because the risk is too great. And of course the risk wasn’t too great. I was just afraid. And I think to myself, what could I have done if I hadn’t been afraid? And actually a lot of the men that Claire and I speak to tell us, yeah, we have lapses in confidence too. Yeah. We’re afraid too. The difference is it doesn’t seem to stop them from acting in the way that it has stopped me from acting and that it can stop women from acting. So Claire and I, when we’re talking to girls, but it applies to women too, we have this phrase, do it afraid. Yeah. You’re afraid. It’s normal. People are afraid. You may fail. It’s a risk. But do it anyway. Because confidence comes from taking action.
Jean Chatzky: (19:06)
I think that’s so true in the world of money too. I mean, so much of it is fake it till you make it, and not having answers because some answers are just not knowable, right? I mean, where is the market going? Where are interest rates going? What is going to happen with inflation? Are we going to have robust economic growth? Maybe. Maybe to all of those things. And maybe we’ll have a pandemic. And who really knows. But if you can get yourself to the point where you’re just investing through all of it, history has shown us that that’s the right thing to do, even though the answers are unknowable. So Claire, if you have a young woman in your life, how do you start instilling this confidence in her? How do you help her find her voice?
Claire Shipman: (19:56)
With the exception of my daughter, who’s very blatantly rejected my, she’s 15. So let me say start before 15. But I think the key is, and this goes back to the line you just quoted too, which is, you can emphasize risk-taking, normalize it for them. Help deconstruct taking risks. Make it seem more appealing. Help the young woman understand that risks are and failure are ultimately part of success. But I would say the other thing, that’s almost a confidence hack, is at the heart of that question, what would you do, which is figure out who you are, which sounds really nutty crunchy. But you know, it’s the last part of our advice for women, which is be authentic, right? It’s do more, think less, be authentic. And once you can tap into that stuff that really makes you passionate, you’ll find it’s easier to take risks around that, right? A lot of our time when we’re spent pleasing everybody and figuring out, oh, I should do this, I should do that, it’s a lot harder to take risks on that stuff that isn’t at your core. And the girls in this book, a lot of them have figured that out, right? They’re doing something they feel passionate about. And so they can kind of bootstrap their way to confidence because they’re helping other people.
Jean Chatzky: (21:16)
Can we unpack the do more, think less part.
Katty Kay: (21:20)
Claire and I now talk in code because we’ve been living with “Confidence” and this has become our “Confidence” code. So, the do more part, I’ll talk about that. And then Claire can perhaps talk a little bit about the think less. The do more part of our confidence code is this notion that you grow your confidence by getting outside of your comfort zone and taking risks. It comes from a professor at Ohio State University who told us that his definition of confidence is, confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action. And the more action you take, the more confidence you grow. Because in taking action, you are trying things. You’re overcoming hurdles. You’re mastering things. So act more.
Claire Shipman: (22:04)
And then the think less is that so many women we know, and studies have shown, women tend to think and overthink and ruminate more than men do. And sometimes our excessive thinking is useful. But a lot of times it can inhibit action, right? Not only is it painful, stressful and a time-waster often, the more sometimes you think about something, the less likely you are to act, right? Because we just can think it to death until we look for what exactly is, as you would put it. What’s the market going to do? And since it’s unknowable, we might never act. So for women, we really say, do more think less. And then that authenticity piece, the be authentic, if you can tap into that, what makes me passionate, where do I feel flow, that helps you do those first two things?
Jean Chatzky: (22:56)
Have you come across any strategies, any tactics, for financial confidence in particular?
Katty Kay: (23:04)
I think financial literacy is a huge one. And to some extent, I’ve worked with nonprofits who are helping women become more financially literate. And that actually, by the way, financial literacy is a way for women to get out of abusive relationships. It’s a way to grow your independence. And it’s a way to grow your confidence. And that is a process of learning and taking risks and overcoming hurdles. But I think one of the things that we’ve both found, and we have worked quite a bit with financial organizations, is that having a woman across the table as your financial advisor, who has your values and who you can talk to as another woman is so useful. I mean, having female financial advisors, when women, we know the power of the female purse is growing every year. We are better educated than men. We are increasingly earning more than men in the country. And so having a woman with us who is there as our partner in our financial investments, I just think that’s a huge advantage. That’s not so much of a personal thing, but actually, maybe it is. Because it’s a question of going out there and saying, actually, you know what, I’m going to take control of this. I’m not just going to leave this to my husband to take control of. And I’m going to find somebody who’s going to be my partner in this venture who understands me and understands my values.
Claire Shipman: (24:18)
Jean, I mean, you must know so much more about this than we do, but starting young, what we’ve seen with girls is, when they are given some sort of financial responsibility early, they rise to the occasion. And it can make that desire to have absolute perfection over something dissipate to some extent, right? Because you get used to the risks and decision-making around finances. So that’s something else that some of these girls have done who have started businesses, that was terrifying to them, but they sorted it out.
Jean Chatzky: (24:52)
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s an especially important point when it comes to our daughters. There’s some discouraging research out there about the tools that we give our daughters when it comes to finances, as compared to the tools that we give our sons. That more sons think that their college education is being saved for and more boys have credit cards. I think it has a lot to do with responsibilities and expectations. And if we expect our daughters to be less competent than our sons, they will be. And so we can’t, as parents allow ourselves to go there, we have to give them the responsibility and the tools to take it.
Katty Kay: (25:29)
That’s so interesting.
Claire Shipman: (25:31)
Jean Chatzky: (25:31)
I know that, because I’m on your email list, I know that you are teaching The Confidence Code in a course. Tell us a little bit about that.
Katty Kay: (25:40)
This is something we’ve always wanted to do. And so, we partnered with a company that develops online courses. But the course is fun because it’s super interactive. You see Claire and I are very much part of it. And quite often we’re making fun of ourselves and talking about how we’ve grown our own confidence and doing silly quizzes. We actually took the work we’ve done with our girls books and the knowledge we learned from that about how to make things interactive. Because what we did with the girls books was we took all of the science and the research, but we put it into a format that girls find fun. So it’s all quizzes and lists and scenarios. And imagine you’re doing this, what would you feel? Well, that’s kind of, in a way, that’s the same process as doing an online course it turns out right. You’ve got to make it interactive. You give people choices. You give them quizzes. You give them the information, but you put it in a kind of bite size form that is fun to learn from. And that’s what the course is. So we’ve really enjoyed doing that. I think it also appeals to Claire and I coming from the kind of television broadcasting background that it was fun to put together. We had fun. We laughed a lot. I remember there was something about sex and frogs. I don’t know how that was related to it any more. But it was an exercise where, this is it. You have no experience, but for a minute, you’ve got to talk to a camera and pretend you’re an absolute expert on, here’s the flashcard. And one of them was frogs.
Claire Shipman: (26:59)
Can you imagine for most women. I mean, that is a terrifying experience.
Jean Chatzky: (27:04)
Yeah. I took a theater class in high school and I remember vividly having to do three minutes on Cher, right? I knew nothin., But, you know, made it up as I went along and it was a lot of fun. And this conversation was a ton of fun. Where can we find out more about you and the book?
Claire Shipman: (27:23)
Well, we have a great site for the girls books, ConfidenceCodeGirls.com. We also have The Confidence Code for our adult stuff. And then an Instagram account @confidencecodegirls.
Katty Kay: (27:37)
And the book is, of course, everywhere available on Amazon. We’ve partnered with Target. So it’s available in Target stores and online too.
Jean Chatzky: (27:44)
Fantastic. Claire, Katty, thank you so much.
Katty Kay: (27:47)
Thank you, Jean.
Claire Shipman: (27:47)
Thank you, Jean.
Jean Chatzky: (27:49)
And we’ll be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag.
Jean Chatzky: (27:52)
And HerMoney’s Kathryn Tuggle joins me now for your mailbag. Hey Kathryn.
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:03)
Hey Jean, how are ya?
Jean Chatzky: (28:05)
I’m good. So just a little bit of a secret behind the scenes for our listeners. So I’m working from home, as I have been all pandemic. I didn’t tell Elliott that we were recording with Katty Kay, cause he’s such a big fan. Like he would have just been banging down the door.
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:23)
That is amazing. I love seeing who he’s a fan of over the years. He fan girled so hard over Danica McKellar. I loved seeing that. So it’s interesting now with Katty.
Jean Chatzky: (28:33)
Yeah. That’s funny. And Claire too. I love that they do these books because it’s such an important topic for girls and for women alike. I could completely relate to so many of the things that they said.
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:46)
Absolutely. And I think that all women listening to this, we have noticed times in our lives when our confidence falters, and we can remember how tough those middle school ages were. I don’t even think that the popular, quote, unquote, mean girls in high school were having a good time, right?
Jean Chatzky: (29:05)
I hope not.
Kathryn Tuggle: (29:05)
Like I think they were probably all so miserable, but they decided to take it out by being bullies. Whereas other girls kind of suffer in silence. Like no one is enjoying themselves at that age. So I think that’s why these books are so important.
Jean Chatzky: (29:21)
A hundred percent. Let’s dive in. I know we’ve got a bunch of letters today and I want to make sure that we get to them.
Kathryn Tuggle: (29:28)
Absolutely. Our first note comes to us from Noelle. She writes, hi ladies. I love this community. I’ve only been listening for a month and I eat it up – taking notes as I go. My question is this. I went through a bankruptcy eight years ago and I’ve fought my way back to an excellent credit rating. I just bought a home, a motorcycle and a car – busy year – and I plan on freezing my credit, and now I definitely need to. My state labor department made the mistake of sending out 50,000 names, social security numbers, and other personal information to the wrong people. As you can imagine, I’m very upset about this. My question is, will this hang over me for the rest of my life? Is there anything else I need to do to protect myself? Thank you for what you do to inspire confidence.
Jean Chatzky: (30:15)
Thanks for the letter Noelle. I can totally relate to this. I don’t think that my state labor department did this with my information, but I did just receive a piece of mail from the New York State Department of Labor that indicated that somebody is trying to apply for unemployment in my name, which sounds like just the kind of situation that you are hoping to avoid, as you should. Freezing your credit is the best thing that you can do right now because it will prevent somebody else from indulging in full-blown identity theft in your name. It’ll prevent them from being able to get a mortgage or get a credit card or get any other type of financing. Because, in order to obtain that, the underwriter would have to pull credit and your credit will not be pullable because it is frozen. It won’t be pullable even by you. And so, if you want to apply for credit at some point in the future, you are going to have to unfreeze your credit or lift the freeze as they call it. We’ve talked about that before on the show. It’s a very easy thing to do. It’s no big deal. The other thing that I would suggest is that you get some credit monitoring. You can get it for free. Sites like Credit Karma offer it for free. They will use the information that they have on you to try to market to you, to try to sell you inexpensive or less expensive loan products than you have right now. But if you don’t want to pay for credit monitoring, that’s a fine way to get it. This breach from your state labor department may also provide you with free credit monitoring for a period of a year or a couple of years. And if they’re offering you that, by all means, go ahead and take advantage of it. The other products that people buy in this space are products that cost them a monthly fee. They’re names that you know, like LifeLock. And what you get in addition to the monitoring is some help on the backend. If something were to happen, if somebody was able steal your identity in a way that became expensive for you, they would help you shut it down with legal help and financial help, if need be. If you are feeling like you can’t sleep at night because of this, it may be worth paying for that kind of coverage for a while. But I got to say, as somebody who has recently been breached, I think that freezing your credit, as I’ve done for a long, long time, is probably sufficient. And the other thing that I want to say to you is, way to go. I mean, way to go for going through this bankruptcy, coming out the other side and emerging at excellent. It really shows what we can all do if we put our minds to it. And I think your story will probably inspire confidence in a lot of other listeners who may be struggling right now. So thanks for sharing those details.
Kathryn Tuggle: (33:36)
Yeah. Thanks Jean. You’re absolutely right. It’s so impressive what she’s been able to do. Our next note comes to us from a member of our private Facebook group. She writes, I’m 60 years old, was married 30 years and got divorced in 2012. My ex and I bought out his father’s family business. I stayed home to raise my kids for many years, then decided to take a paycheck from the business since I worked part-time in it. I should have taken it earlier so I had more paid into social security, but I’ll at least get something. Instead of alimony, my ex bought me out of my portion of the business. Nine payments over nine years, tax-free. His last payment is due to me next year. I’ve been working with a financial planner and I have a decent plan, I believe. My planner tells me I could retire now, but I’m a bit hesitant due to health insurance. I’m currently working full-time at a job I do not particularly love, but the benefits are good and the pay couldn’t be better. I met a great guy who has many endearing qualities, and I do love him. However, he has very little in retirement. He does put a small amount in his work retirement fund, but will have nowhere near what he needs to retire. He does contribute to the household finances and we split food and utilities. And he also gives me a bit more and does lots of jobs I could not do. We’ve lived together in the home I own for five years. We are not married. I worry about what the future will look like for us since we’re in a different place financially. We’ve talked and I will most certainly retire before him and pursue my hobbies. He and I get along so much better than me and my ex did. While married, we ate out a lot and did travel more, which we don’t do as much of now. But I don’t mind that. It’s more important to be with someone compatible than in a loveless marriage that may have been more comfortable money-wise. Sometimes I feel like the only one in the world in this situation. My brain goes into anxiety when I think about it too much. We have no plans to marry, but I would love to hear if you have any other guidance for my situation. P.S. I’d love to see an entire podcast devoted to this topic. Hint, hint.
Jean Chatzky: (35:37)
I think it’s a great idea for an entire podcast. What to do when your financial situations or your financial attitudes and your spouses are not the same. Differences in relationships. I don’t think we’ve done that in a while, so we will look to pull that together for you. I think the reason that you’re not sleeping is because you don’t have enough solid information in order to plan a future with this man that you clearly love. And I think that it’s something that you have to do together. You say that you’ve talked. But you don’t say whether you’ve put pencil to paper and figured out, when will he retire? What will he have at retirement? What will you be responsible for paying at retirement? What will he be responsible for paying at retirement? How often do you think you’re going to want to travel once you retire? And do you think you’ll be able to afford those things? I’m just spouting questions that are popping into my brain, one after another. But it’s clear that, as somebody who has been divorced, you don’t want to, or need to, go back to that position again, where you were worried about charting your future. You’ve charted a future, and it’s a future that you can depend on. You’re just adding this other element to the mix. And I would see if your new partner is willing to sit down with you with that financial advisor. If he is willing to go through the process of developing a plan that works for both of you. That takes into account what his earnings are and whether he should be contributing more to his retirement. And whether his investments are allocated appropriately for that life that you’re both planning. And what happens if one of you needs care or the other one needs care? I think that process would just put your mind at ease a bit. It is possible, I could see a scenario where he says, yeah, I’m willing to see a financial advisor, but I’m not sure I want to see your financial advisor. I think that might be okay too. I would encourage you to try to go together if you can, but if you can’t go to yours, then maybe yours could suggest a third party that the two of you could just talk, to to get on a consistent page so that you can move forward. Lastly, the other thing that you mentioned in this letter that I just wanted to comment on is the not wanting to retire due to health insurance. I totally get that. I think that it is a relatively large unknown having to bridge yourself six years to Medicare. And things do happen and medical emergencies do crop up. And so, I think that you’re wise to stick with working in a job that provides you with those benefits. Maybe not this one, but for as long as you can see fit. So I’m good to go with that decision as well.
Kathryn Tuggle: (39:00)
That’s great advice, Jean. And it is so tricky in any relationship when there is a financial disparity. Even with a girlfriend and you’re trying to pick a restaurant where to go out to eat. And especially in a situation where your partner has less than you or is going to retire after you.
Jean Chatzky: (39:18)
Yeah. I see some parallels to my own relationship. I mean, we’re different earners. We are different spenders. We are of different ages. And we have worked together with one financial advisor in order to bring it together. And this was a financial advisor, I’ve talked about this on the show before, who had worked with my mother. And then I started working with him. And it was only in the last couple of years that my husband started working with him as well. And it’s helped us become more cohesive in terms of our financial life. We haven’t merged everything. I don’t know if we’ll ever merge everything. But it gives both of us, I think, a greater sense of comfort about the life that we can live together.
Kathryn Tuggle: (40:05)
Absolutely. Thanks so much, Jean.
Jean Chatzky: (40:07)
Thanks, Kathryn. And in today’s thrive, how to finally escape your work from home productivity slump. Lately, when you wake up in the morning, does your ideal to do list consist of a movie marathon, cuddling under the covers with a hot drink and having your favorite comfort foods delivered right to the door? Well, that list may be truly wonderful for a Saturday or a Sunday, but it’s less than ideal if you’re right in the middle of a busy work week and you need to increase that work from home productivity. We get it. We are now headed into year two of working from home and it is tough to get motivated. But despite all this, there are ways to ramp up your productivity as spring comes into view. Here are just a few favorites. First, take stock of your productivity. Spring is a great moment to do this. Are the challenges that you were facing last year resolved or are they on their way to being resolved? Are there new areas of improvement that you want to focus on for 2021? It’s very easy to succumb to negative self-talk by focusing only on those things that have us stuck. But instead of nursing those negative thoughts, start thinking of the areas that you actually want to work on in a way that will create excitement about the future and about the possibilities that will await If you put in the energy. Next, make a change. Yeah, change is daunting. But it’s also nearly always a good thing. How can you change up your day to ensure that you’re knocking out your most unpleasant tasks first or that you’re tackling your most time-consuming projects when you have two or three uninterrupted hours to spare? Sometimes we just need to restructure our daily operations. Third and finally, take a day off when you need it. At the beginning of the pandemic, those of us who were new to working from home might have felt like every day was just like half a day, since we no longer had the commute, or we were still able to keep appointments with the cable guy. That train of thought led many of us to thinking, I don’t really need a day off. And with vacations a no go, why bother taking days if we don’t need them. But here is the thing, we do need them. Because when we don’t have them, we get burned out, overwhelmed, and fatigued. And all of those things immediately lead to a drop in productivity. So instead of considering time away from work as the enemy, except the importance of physical and mental rest when you’re looking to increase your output. It’ll increase your happiness and your productivity as well.
Jean Chatzky: (43:01)
Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks to Katty and Claire for walking us through how we can find our confidence and accomplish our goals, as well as elevate other women in our lives at the same time. We all struggle to be confident in ourselves, our work and our role. So let me just remind everybody who’s listening, you are killing it. We hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple podcasts. Leave us a review because we love hearing what you think. We’d like to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk soon.