Personal finance is different for women – they earn less on average, take time out of the work force to raise children and live longer than men. According to Janine Rogan, author of a new book called The Pink Tax, women face an even bigger burden in the form of a financial system that works to keep them broke. The Pink Tax explains how women can “patriarchy-proof” their finances. It’s personal finance with an overlay of financial feminism. To find out more, I invited Ms. Rogan to do an e-mail Q&A for this newsletter. Here’s an edited version of our exchange:

Q: Janine, can you tell us a bit about your background and your work in personal finance?

A: I’ve been in the personal finance space for 12-plus years, and I’m a designated Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). My journey started when I was in business school learning how to manage businesses’ finances without actually being taught how to manage my own finances. I spent over a decade in the corporate world as a tax specialist and now I work for myself educating and empowering women to build their wealth! My company The Wealth Building Academy offers online education for women to learn how to start investing.

Q: Can you dig into the concept of the pink tax and how it extends well beyond the higher prices that women pay for shampoo, razors and such?

A: It started as the difference between the cost of men’s and women’s products but you’re right – it’s so much more than that. It extends into almost every fibre of our society. Women are living in a system that wasn’t designed for them. We see it in everything from lower credit scores and higher mortgage interest rates [for women], to the motherhood penalty and the wealth gap. It’s all interconnected because we have a society that hasn’t addressed the bias in our financial system.

Q: How big an issue is money shame for women? By that I mean, feeling shame about how you manage money?

A: I think a lot of women have shame around their money. It could be for a lot of reasons, but one that sticks out is they are overwhelmed with how to get started. It’s important to remember, though, that women have been left out of financial conversations for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the 1960s that women could open their own bank account without a co-signer like their father or their husband. It’s no wonder women feel shame – we have been told for so long that we don’t belong in this conversation.

Q: What financial advice do you have for young women starting careers, getting married and having children?

A: Negotiate everything, find a way to earn as much as you can and start investing as soon as possible. Becoming financially secure as a woman is incredibly important. Even if you choose to share your life with someone, unexpected things can happen. You want to make sure that you are in a position to be able to weather those events without financial impact. If you choose to spend your life with someone or have kids with them, both of you need to be really open and honest about your financial situations and what you value. A lot of divorces are caused by fights about money, and the best way to avoid that is through transparency. Lastly, that person needs to have your best interests at heart when it comes to public policy and how they vote. Looking at who we are electing to make change as a country is imperative if we want to achieve women’s economic equality.

Q: What about women who are retired and struggling with their finances because they have either lost a partner or been single throughout their lives?

A: Finding someone you can trust to help you work through some of the challenges is going to be really important. Whether that’s a financial adviser (please choose fee-only) or someone else that knows what they are doing when it comes to money and isn’t biased to sell you anything. If money is tight, I’ve seen some really interesting stories of older single women choosing to live together as “roommates.” This gives them the socialization they need while also cutting their costs.

Q: If you were coaching the financial industry to better address the needs of women, what are a few key changes you’d recommend?

A: Where to start … I think we need to be far more open about the fees being charged and how different people in the finance industry are making their money. The use of financial jargon also needs to decrease because it makes this industry unapproachable to many. I would also say that advisers need to focus on connecting and listening to women. Many women leave their adviser once their spouse dies, and this tells me they aren’t being heard. Lastly, I would suggest leading by example in the financial industry. Looking at gender parity in the top executive and C-suite positions, creating maternity leave policies that don’t economically disadvantage women, and more pay transparency in annual reports would be a great place to start.

The Globe and Mail, July 11, 2023