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There are a lot of assumptions for Black or Brown woman who study economics, which I learned while studying economics. The biggest one is that people simply don’t expect you to be studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, which includes economics. Statistics back them up; women in the STEM workforce made just 27% in 2019. Looking specifically at racial groups, I found that during 2015-2016, the percentage of Black and Latinos to obtain a degree in economics, whether a B.A., M.A., or Ph.D., was 5.1% and 10.2%, respectively. Furthermore, the percentage of Black and Latinos who obtained a degree in a STEM field in 2016 was 6.6% and 10.7%, respectively. While I was doing my master’s in applied economics, I was the only Latina among my peers, reflecting these statistics.
Another assumption I discovered is that, if you’re studying economics, then you should excel at managing your personal finances. My professors definitely made that assumption as they never taught about the connections between macroeconomics and personal finance.
It’s not true that if you study economics, you understand personal finance. While I learned how companies and individuals make rational decisions (microeconomics) or how countries handle their finances and their money (macroeconomics), I didn’t learn about managing my own bank balances or the dangers of predatory financial offerings or the best financial moves to make when you have a modest income.
That oversight in my economics program meant that when I got my first job after college, I wasn’t sure about the best way to spend the new money I was making. I didn’t make a spending plan, let alone save. Eventually, I started spending a lot on things I wanted, going out to have dinner or to party, traveling, and doing everything without budgeting. The result? I ended up having a high amount of debt in less than two years, and I couldn’t understand how that happened.
The funny thing is that now I get it: I didn’t have any financial plan, budget, nor savings while spending way over my means. Thankfully I have been able to pay off my debts, and now I’m conscious of not only the importance of budgeting, planning, and saving, but also putting all those plans into practice.
This experience has taught me not to make assumptions and to share information that’s important for people’s day-to-day lives. So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t created a budget or financial plan, don’t worry. The best time to start is now! The best first step might be making a list of your monthly expenses, the things you have to pay, the things you want to buy, and what is left (if there is something) leave it for savings. I wish someone had told me this before; it would save me from lots of stress and anxiety. I now know planning and organizing your finances is the beginning of a neater financial life and will save you from headaches.
Here are a few resources you might find useful:
RichandRegular – this blog shares tips and tricks for financial independence from a Black couple who are a part of the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement
Stepping Stones to FI – this is another financial independence blog with great tips on how to get your personal finances organized
You Need A Budget – if you can press through the overwhelming whiteness of this site it is an excellent personal finance tool and had some really good tips
I look forward to meeting you back here next month with new economic topics to be discussed. If you have questions for me about economics, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer it!