What Hetero Parents Can Learn From How Lesbian Moms Approach Money

Here's what hetero parents can learn from how lesbians approach money—and tips for all moms to feel as financially healthy as this here lesbian mom. 

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I grew up with a deep sense of independence. As a small child, when I fantasized about my adult life, I always envisioned carrying a briefcase, sitting at a kitchen table paying my own bills, and wearing amazing blazers. These ideas were likely a combination of my mother's feminist rhetoric about the importance of making my own money, and a subconscious knowing that I'd never have a male counterpart to take care of me in the way I saw depicted in pop culture and in mainstream media.

When I entered my first serious relationship with a woman (which would be my only serious relationship with a woman, because we stayed together and married six years later; I know, I know, insert lesbian U-Haul joke here), it was clear that we would both need to have strong understandings of our finances. This was especially true once we became parents. Unlike our own mothers, as lesbian moms we needed to know how to plan for our own financial futures—there was no man to be the default breadwinner and bill-payer.

It's something of a stereotype that lesbians are know-it-alls; this comes from a very real need to know...it all. Someone must change the lightbulbs, rote the internet, and understand investment funds. As a lesbian couple, my wife and I have some unseen advantages compared to our straight female counterparts. For one, we are used to not being a part of the typical American family structure, so it's more natural for us feel empowered to take charge in areas that aren't historically "women's work"—i.e., our finances.

A 2020 study from UBS revealed that over half of married millennial women defer to their spouse for financial decisions. It would be easy to look at this statistic with outdated viewpoints regarding heterosexual couples and the role of women. However, it's more useful to examine this as a question: What systems are at play that cause women to not be as actively involved in their finances as they are in other areas of their lives?

For starters, the financial system in our country is rooted in patriarchal and white supremacist culture. For centuries, the system has purposefully been set up to keep women and minorities out. Specifically, as moms, we've been long fed ideas that finance is super complicated and requires a specialized knowledge set and credentials to even engage with it. But, like all systems that are built to keep people out, this isn't true. (As the famed civil rights attorney Elle Woods once said: "What, like it's hard?")

What systems are at play that cause women to not be as actively involved in their finances as they are in other areas of their lives? 

Here's what hetero parents can learn from how lesbians approach money—and tips for all moms to feel as financially healthy as this here lesbian mom.

Educate yourself

Over the past few years, the resources available to / aimed at helping women engage in their finances have been multiplying rapidly. We now have a wider variety of educational choices aside from just Suze Orman (god bless Suze, but we can't have just one female finance expert).

It's no surprise that the UBS study found that 67% of married women overall believe their spouse knows more about financial health than they do. That's because finance historically has wanted to seem like a complicated system in order to leave women feeling like they can't participate. But the information is all out there—and it's not rocket science either. Here are some of my favorite sources to get you started:

  • Mrs. Dow Jones: Mrs. Dow Jones offers entertaining and informative content that breaks down the system of finance (what is an NFT, what is a ROTH IRA versus a traditional IRA, how much do I need in my emergency savings account?).
  • Jamilia Souffrant: Souffrant is the host and founder of the Journey to Launch podcast, which guides listeners through the path to financial freedom with resources, guest speakers, and concrete steps. This podcast has a variety of topics for entrepreneurs, those wanting to pay off debt, and those wanting to save more. It also highlights the overlap between the black American financial experience and obstacles such as the "Black Tax."
  • Sallie Krawcheck: Former president the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, Krawcheck is now the CEO and Co-founder of Ellevest, a digital financial advisor platform for women that launched in 2016. She understands the importance of women—and particularly moms—earning income and building wealth. She founded Ellevest to help close the gender money gap.

Talk to your spouse

This seems so simple, but that UBS survey found that 58% of married millennial women (35% overall) did not talk to their spouse about finances because they did not want to cause a disagreement. For lesbian couples like me and my wife, talking through our issues can feel like an extreme sport—and talking about our finances is no different.

Sitting down to communicate about what you both want as family in the near and distant future is a vital step in getting your financial health in order. And talking about goals and goal-setting is a great way to start engaging with your finances; even if it causes discomfort at first, talking is the only way to have your voice heard. It will feel easier to get the conversation started once you feel like you have the knowledge and education to back it up—see above!

View yourself as an individual with individual financial goals

Yes, as a mom, you are a part of your family as a whole. But you are also your own person. Think about financial goals that revolve only around you. Perhaps you want to take a special trip, start a new hobby, or have an account of your own (my mother and famously Lucy Liu refer to this as "fuck you money"). Figure out what feels important to you when it comes to finances and plan how to do it. Remember: No first step is too small.

While lesbian moms might have the right foundation to be confident with our finances, it's important to remember that all couples are different. And, of course, lesbian moms can have their own unique financial difficulties; chiefly the fact that women continue to make less per dollar compared to men. We might have all the skills needed to be financially successful, but until women are paid the same as men, we'll still be behind.

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