Episode 20 – Book review: “Financial Feminist” by Tori Dunlap

Episode transcript:

[musical intro]

Jenny

Welcome back to Fund Your Future with DRS. Today we’re doing a book review and one of the best financial books that I’ve probably come across in my short years. The book is called “Financial Feminist” written by Tori Dunlap.

And I actually started following Tori a few years ago on social media. And she’s just so passionate about helping women gain confidence around their money. And she decided to write a book about it.

Seth

Yeah, you mentioned this book to me before it came out and I added it to my library hold list, and then it came available and I read it over the course of a weekend, and I think immediately after I read it, I sent you an email and said: “Jenny, we need to do a podcast episode about this” because I think it’s a wonderful book and I think you’re 100% right that it is very empowering.

And I think just maybe before we get too far along the lines, we wanted to let our listeners know that it does contain some adult language. Our podcast will not have any adult language in it, but the subtitle is very clear that it is a little bit strongly worded in areas, but I love it.

Jenny

Yeah, so it’s just fun and sassy. She writes with a lot of humor. She has a ton of pop culture references, so the official title of the book is: Overcome the Patriarchy’s BS To Master Your Money and Build a Life You Love. Yes. Yeah. So just uses a ton of humor just to cover all these things, but also make it relatable.

It is maybe a little bit… some of the references are a little bit more for the younger generation Millennials and Tori is, even younger than I am. But it covers all the budget 101 basics. But I like that it also is a finance book that covers things like how to negotiate a salary at a job, and how you should negotiate your bills, like calling up your Internet bill or your phone bill to negotiate once a year.

And Tori kind of walks through and gives you specific examples of things that you can say for negotiating things and salary. So, it’s a fantastic book as a groundwork. I’m going to say this a couple times, even though it is called the Financial Feminist, it is geared towards women, but obviously this is for women, men, anyone who wants to learn about how to manage their finances and all those things.

Seth

Yeah, there are a lot of basics in it that you would find in any financial book. I actually really appreciated the perspective and it certainly helped me think about things from a perspective I might not normally think about.

Jenny

Yeah. Do you care to give an example?

Seth

Yeah. Oh gosh. There is a number of examples that hit a little bit close to home for me. I think when I talk about finances or think about examples of like controlling your spending, oftentimes there’s an examples of like, oh, you know, somebody got so many handbags or dresses in the closet that have never been worn. And I was thinking about, Man, there could be so many more examples that target habits that maybe are more male.

Like, Oh man, I’ve got so many video games that I’ve never played. Or personally, I was thinking about the example of power tools like, “Oh, I need to, I need to buy a new power tool and then I never use it.” And those are all very stereotypical things. But I really appreciated her context that oftentimes times things that are seen as more stereotypically female might have a negative consequence, and things that are more stereotypically male have a positive consequence when you think about finances.

You mentioned negotiating salary, and I think that’s something that can sometimes feel really fraught in the workplace, like a man is expected to go in and negotiate their salary. And if a woman does, that can be seen as like overstepping and just like totally misogynistic. And it really is not something I think people are aware of until they talk about it.

And I thought the book hit on so many of those topics that was really, I know, enlightening to me, maybe not enlightening to other folks who live that every day.

Jenny

Yeah. Yeah. The book is really… it touches on a ton of those themes of just how ingrained this is in our society. And, you know, we talk about Why is financial education sexist? Why is that that men are given again stereotypically more of an education?

There’s a great quote from the book that says: “girls are significantly less likely to receive a financial education. They’re taught to restrain their spending. While boys [traditionally] are taught about investing and rewarded for pursuing wealth.” And it’s just the more you think about it, it is just hugely ingrained of our society. It’s like traditionally the woman would stay home and take care of the children and buy groceries while the man would go out and work the job. And all of those things. And it’s just it’s still creating this disparity in our society.

One of the things that was shocking to me to learn, I don’t remember if I read this in the book or online, but in 1974 they passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that finally allowed women to have their own bank account and their own credit card without the signature from their husbands.

And 1974, like this was not that long ago. And as a modern person who was born in the 80’s, this is absolutely shocking to me to learn. I’m married, but I also have a number of my female friends that are independent, they live alone and the thought, the idea that they would have to have some sort of cosigner or a parent or a husband specifically to be able to have even a credit card or a bank account is shocking.

Seth

Yeah, that’s. And how much of that has been kind of baked in to the way we live our lives? I really appreciated that example because it yeah, same things like striking to me in the way…you know everything that while we have been alive has been one way. But just before we were alive, things were dramatically different. How much of that is probably carried over and impacted people’s lives, our parents lives, people that we’re still working with as well.

I really appreciated the sort of — and you touched on this in your comments as well — this idea about how household finances can be broken up by gender.

Jenny

Yeah.

Seth

And how those two things really need to be interconnected. When you’re talking about long term savings, you need to build capacity in your everyday budget. And if those two things are considered completely separate, you’re really not being able to be as efficient or maybe as honest with yourself, or yourself as a couple.

I really appreciate it in the book the additional challenges that a single woman might face or a woman of color might face. Additional compounded challenges that are societal, that it’s not just, you know, an individual problem, it’s a society thing. And that’s why we wanted to talk about this as well. It is a challenging topic because one of the other things that I noticed when I was reading this book, I don’t know if embarrassed is the right word, but kind of surprised…

I have a lot of conversations with people about money. It’s just a topic that comes up often and especially when I’m running, friends that I run with…We end up talking about our investments or our budgets. And I was running with a female friend and all of a sudden, she started talking about finance and I kind of froze up, felt like a little bit more awkward in the conversation and it was tough.

I really appreciated that she was willing to have the conversation. I realized it was a bias that I had, that I didn’t… I don’t know if I would have realized if I hadn’t been reading the book at the time.

Jenny

Oh, interesting. Yeah. Do you feel like you were just shocked that she brought up the topic?

Seth

A little bit? I mean, and part of that’s one of the things I appreciated the book as well, you know, to the start talking about just the kind of the biases we have, but also the taboo about talking about money. You and I have talked about a lot already on this podcast.

Jenny

And I think what the book touches on is that as a society that’s true, but it’s even more so with women that we’re taught to, you know, hold your place, stay in the background, maybe. But, I can definitely relate to this. You know, I grew up going to church and we were taught to donate. And it was just sort of this very idea of being humble, which is good trait to have, but that you know, somehow looking back on it, I think I was… maybe not afraid to be rich, but, I thought that rich people were sort of snobby or that if I became rich, I would become snobby, or just all these you know, I didn’t want to be greedy or rude.

So one of the things she talks a lot about is just these narratives in society that when people get to a point in their life where they have their first job or they get to college or they start, maybe they’re having trouble with their finances and they start looking into managing their finances and go, “Oh my gosh, you know, there’s all these things of that, you should know: how to manage your money” or they think, “Why didn’t I know this sooner?”

And then so, all of a sudden there’s this sort of guilt around, “why don’t I know this?” and Tori talks about in her book that basically you really just need to set that aside to recognize that we have these narratives in our society and be able to say, “okay, that was the past. Now I’m going to focus on my finances and I’m going to do what I can.”

Seth

Yeah, there was a lot in the book about the sort of emotional side of money, and it’s one of the things that I’ve picked up as I’ve been reading a lot of personal finance books. I feel like the ones that have resonated the most with me have really understood that it is not just a math equation, that there is a lot of psychology and emotion and habits.

Jenny

Yes, Yes. That we learned from the adults around us, as well as society.

Seth

She specifically referenced this the phrase of, you know, ‘money doesn’t buy happiness.’ And I certainly have heard, you know, comedians talk about this as well. But it buys a lot of things that make you happy or…

Jenny

That phrase ‘money doesn’t buy happiness.’ Well, try telling that to somebody who’s never had money. A lot of money.

Seth

And the ability to reduce stress. And I think and I think for a lot of folks, more money can often times lead to more expenses. You get on that treadmill of “I earn more, I need to spend more, I spend more, I need to earn more.” And I think that’s also one of the things I really appreciated in the book was kind of understanding what you value and making sure that you are using your time and money for things that are important to you and how you want to have a greater impact on the world.

I really felt like there was a lot of connection to kind of what your place is in society and how you can help others. And I think really one of her driving forces, you know, she has had this education in finance and really wants to help spread it to others and especially to women who may have not had as many opportunities to learn or have positive influences around money.

Jenny

Yeah, definitely. I definitely feel like that’s one of the huge themes of the book is that the importance of learning about this is not so you can just buy more stuff. Is that really the baseline is when you can manage your finances. It allows you to have choices. Yeah, and that is huge, especially for people who are stuck in maybe a toxic job.

And Tori actually talks about this example of when she was in her early twenties and just out of college, she found herself in a very toxic job. And luckily, she had had the financial education from her parents and she had emergency savings account that she was able to walk away from that job. But as she acknowledges, a lot of people don’t have that option.

So that’s why there’s really just this advocacy for how important it is to save your money. But my favorite part of the book and what I’ve probably learned the most from Tori is about investing. And so, she has a whole chapter about just investing and how important it is. And she even admits that if you want to stop working someday and retire, then you have to invest.

And how important this is for folks. So, that’s been my biggest takeaway from Tori in this book is that I would not have money invested in the stock market right now if I hadn’t basically read this book.

Seth

Yeah, I really appreciated that she has a target for folks, when you’re thinking about investing this phrase called my first hundred thousand. And that also really resonated to me, I think, for a very young person, a high schooler, it might make sense to say, I want to save my first hundred dollars or save my first thousand dollars.

But for a young adult, maybe I want to save my first $10,000 or I want to save my first 50, that whatever those numbers are, it can help you kind of get the ball rolling. And I really felt like that was one of my takeaways as well in the book, is that setting that target that is a little bit scary.

I’m having to reach and stretch, but it’s giving me direction and focus, but it’s also something that is achievable that I feel like I’m going to see it, I’m going to hit it. And for folks at different stages in life, sometimes that’s “I want to pay off all my debt. I want to get back to zero. I want to pay off one credit card” you know, whatever those things are, setting that first realistic goal and then building off those financial wins I think is really important.

Seth

You know, she clearly tells lots of stories about how she’s done that and built that going forward and worked with lots of other folks who have had similar successes.

Jenny

Yeah. And I also love her approach. She talks a lot about like financial priorities and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this one and then this one and that this one. You can work on all your different financial priorities. You can pay off debt and invest in the stock market and build your emergency fund. In her chapter about investing…

We talk a lot in society about how there’s this pay gap between men and women. But she says, you know, the investing gap is even larger. There is a recent survey that found that only 28% of women feel confident in investing. And when most of them are, you know, asked why they don’t invest, they say, “oh, you know, it’s too intimidating or it’s gambling. It’s complicated, it’s difficult.”

And I love the… you know, speaking of the disparity between men and women and how this is ingrained in our society, she has a great example that at the New York Stock Exchange out in front, there’s a giant 11-foot bronze sculpture of a bull. And there’s this folklore that, know, you’ll get good luck if you rub the backside of the bull.

And she writes, “This is so strange that the symbol of financial progress in the world’s epicenter for wealth is a massive masculine symbol. So no wonder we as women don’t feel that investing is for us.” She talks about this in the book, but she and her team have gone on to create a non-judgmental platform called Treasury that provides investing, education and community that helps people understand stocks and index funds and ETFs.

And it’s very approachable way for people to be able to do that.

Seth

Yeah, one of the reasons I know you and I wanted to start this podcast and start talking about money in general, is this understanding that there are a lot of voices out in the personal finance space and it’s really important for people to try to find the folks that relate to them that you can connect with.

And I know you certainly had a connection with Tori and we wanted to be able to speak to public employees and kind of give them a place where they could feel connected. But then we also expect people are going to go out and find their own people, their own world as well. And I know I mean, personally, I for some reason, I’m always attracted to single men who are drive in Volkswagen vans and living in their van and living as simply and cheaply as possible.

Maybe, maybe it feels like an alternative life to me that I think I could have had when I was 22 or something like that. But I think it’s one of the things I really like about personal finance, because there’s a lot of overlap, as even Tori says in the book, that you know, a lot of this is basic stuff that you’re going to learn no matter what book or blog or Instagram post you read.

But there are things that help make it more relatable to your situation. And depending on who you are listening to and trying to find a group of folks to kind of bounce ideas off of or pick up different things, I think is really beneficial. I know I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to talk about different books going forward or different articles or things that people might be interested in doing some research.

I think we also want to hear from our listeners on folks that they find inspiration from.

Jenny

Yeah, I think that’s a great point that you put it on. Now, Tori comes from this finance background. What I appreciate about her is that she’s very much down to earth. You know, she’s a younger woman and, you know, she’s smart with her money, but, you know, she’s not running around in a three-piece suit, you know, And the cover, she’s wearing like a jean jacket.

So, it feels very approachable. Like you’re just chatting with a friend. Yeah.

Seth

I also appreciate [that] she’s from Seattle for some reason. I also have those connections like, “oh, this person kind of had a similar exposure as I’ve had.” And I think that’s true for a lot of folks. When you’re reading or listening to something, you kind of find those connections that make it, make it a little bit more personal.

The other thing I just wanted to make sure we highlight on I was initially a little bit concerned to talk about this book just because of the title honestly, and that sometimes people think of feminists as a bad word or a polarizing word. And I read a book a few years ago by bell hooks, who’s a feminist author, and the book was called “Feminism for Everyone”, which I just I loved the title initially, and I was like, I just want to learn more in the quote I really liked was that she had defined feminism just as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

And it just seems like that’s something we should all agree with and understand. And I think and specifically, it tied perfectly with this book. And as you mentioned, you know, there are lots of societal gaps, institutional problems, but there are also things that we might not be aware of as an individual that we need to maybe reflect on, on how we can help be more of a financial feminist no matter who we are.

Yeah, the theme of this book is that having money and focusing on your finances obviously isn’t bad, and that allows you to have these choices. And Tori said, you know that she was able to walk away from this toxic job because she had an emergency fund. She goes: “this is the feeling that I want for every woman and every person really to be able to have those choices in their life.” And I think that’s just really powerful.

Seth

It so much is. One of my other favorite finance writers refers to it as a FU money but it’s Freedom Unlimited, I think, is how they describe it. The ability to have that freedom to walk away. In the story, she starts off in the book of being able to know like, I’ve got enough saved that I can go figure out what else I’m going to do is really empowering for anyone.

And I think a lot of times people feel stuck because they don’t have that emergency fund or cushion, and it’s scary to walk away and try something different, but that it’s such a beautiful goal to have for everyone else and not just for yourself. And I think that’s one of the things that I really appreciated about the book is that that sharing of knowledge.

Jenny

Yeah, I love it. I’ve definitely, you know, recommended this book to a lot of my friends and talked about it with a number of people and glad that I’ve inspired you.

Seth

Yeah. I think one other thing I just wanted to mention is that we certainly would be interested in recommendations from listeners if folks want to email us.

Jenny

drs.podcasts@drsretirestage.wpengine.com

Seth

Yeah. So, whether it’s books or other folks that you think we should talk to about any other finance or retirement related topic, we’d certainly love suggestions. We’ve got a lot of other episodes in the hopper, but certainly appreciate feedback from the audience or if there’s questions that we need to answer that we topics we haven’t talked about yet.

Jenny

Yeah, we would love to cover those. And like you said, hear what other people have to say and how they’re inspired on their financial journey.

Seth

Yeah. Awesome. Thanks, Jenny.

Jenny

Thank you.

[music outro]

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