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This Week In Your Wallet: Closing the Gap

Jean Chatzky  |  October 23, 2019

What's really holding women back?

When it comes to issues of gender in the workforce, the pay gap usually seems to garner the most headlines, but this week The Wall Street Journal is tackling the issue of gender imbalance in positions of power, looking at data from a five-year-long landmark study by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org. According to this research, what’s really holding women back from reaching the top isn’t the glass ceiling or career breaks — it’s their ability to grasp the first rung of the management ladder early in their careers. 

Though men and women enter the workforce in equal numbers, men are promoted to entry-level manager positions at a rate of nearly 2-to-1 over women. Over the course of the five years that follow, that translates to more than one million women left behind as their male counterparts rise. Not surprisingly, the study showed that one of the best ways to change this is for management to take an active role tackling the gender imbalance found in those initial promotions. If that doesn’t happen, it’s going to take 30 years for the gap between entry-level male managers and entry-level female managers to close…“But fix that broken bottom rung of the corporate ladder, and companies could reach near-parity all the way up to their top leadership roles within a generation,” writes the WSJ’s Vanessa Fuhrmans. 

What’s standing in the way of that happening?  Bias — in who you know, or in preferring those people likely to operate the same way you do.  Fortunately, a number of companies are already on the case. BioMarin Pharmaceutical, for example, launched a career coaching platform for its employees, and has seen 35% of the female participants move up into new jobs. Also, according to the study (which looked at 329 companies) 40% of companies have now set gender diversity targets for senior management. 

I Need You To Do That, Please (And Thank You)

Another gap that needs to close is the one in delegation — tasking others with taking things off our plates. New research from Columbia Business School shows that there are big differences in the ways males and females delegate, and women just simply aren’t doing enough of it. When we don’t, we have less time for things like big-picture work and mentoring employees, which could hurt our chances for advancement. If you’ve been reading this newsletter long enough, you know we’re big proponents of asking for what you want, including raises, promotions, and more opportunities at work. The old adage really is true — you miss every shot you don’t take. 

Even Our Health Insurance Needs a Check-Up 

Medicare Open Enrollment launched last Tuesday and continues through December 7. Enrollment doesn’t mean just that, though. For those already covered under Medicare, this is the time of year you can revamp your coverage for 2020.  That means it’s time to do a checkup on your plan, says Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post. 

To investigate what you’re currently paying for, and to see any recent changes, head to the Medicare Plan Finder, says Singletary. From there, “don’t just focus on prices. You should balance affordability with coverage, making sure your plan provides the health services you need.” The updated online guide from the Medicare Rights Center is also helpful.  It will lay out your options for you  — some of which are new this year, so you know what you could be getting out of your health care. 

For those of you not covered by Medicare, it is still crucial to reevaluate your health insurance plan going into the new year. The average annual cost of a family plan is up 5% percent, totaling almost $21,000, with families responsible for $6,015 of that, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Do not assume your plan will stay the same, says Tracy Watts, a senior partner and national leader for health policy at benefits firm Mercer, and “do your homework” so you know what you are going to be paying in 2020. 

Cutting the Cord Might Not Be Cutting the Cost 

And, it turns out our health insurance isn’t the only thing we should be reviewing as 2019 comes to a close. How many subscription services do you pay for? Subscription fatigue is a real thing, and it’s on the rise, says Edward C. Baig of USA Today. He reminds us, subscriptions don’t stop at entertainment streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. You can get beauty products delivered to your home, cloud storage costs you a monthly fee, and home security even comes at a price. “Overwhelmed yet?” he asks. 

It’s no surprise we’re emptying our pockets on all of these services — there are over 300 streaming options to choose from, says Kevin Wescott, Vice Chairman at Deloitte, noting: “We definitely have a problem.” Millennials subscribe because they love the comfort of the up-front cost, says Virna Sekuj, strategic insights manager with GlobalWebIndex market research firm. He adds that we’ve moved toward a “sharing economy,” where people would rather “rent” than own to have access to things they wouldn’t have had before. 

Bottom line: You’re probably paying more for these subscriptions than you think. Last year, 84% of people thought they paid less than they did, and the average subscriber paid $237 across 21 categories of services, according to an analysis last year by the WestMonroe consulting firm of the budgets of 2,500 Americans.  With that said, it might be time to get a handle on your subscriptions and cut a few out of your monthly payment plan. Check your credit card statements to figure out where you’re spending and choose which are of most value to you. Then, cancel the rest. 

And A Blue Ribbon To….

After you graduate college and enter the real world, it sometimes feels like four-years of lessons taught you nothing, especially when you suddenly have to learn how to budget and take out loans for college — these are lessons calculus didn’t teach. For students at Bismarck’s Legacy High School in North Dakota, this isn’t the case. In their mandatory senior-year economics class, co-teachers Matt Thornton and Steve Schultz dedicate one day a week to teaching personal finance. At the beginning of the semester, the instructors have their students plan for their financial future, taking into consideration the average income for their expected career path, cost of college, cars, scholarships, savings and debt. These kids leave their classroom “more financially prepared than adults twice their age.” (I’m hoping some of you will prove that statistic wrong.) What first was “bizarre,” discussions about retirement savings and potential debt are sending these 18-year-olds out into the world better off than their contemporaries who are struggling to “adult” for the first time. 

Have a great week,


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