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What We Can Learn From Barbie Land Thumbnail

What We Can Learn From Barbie Land

“What are you wearing? Dress or suit? Either way, that power looks so good on you."

Cue Barbie’s new intro song.

I admit, I recently saw the Barbie movie, while I was excited to take a stroll down memory lane, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I promise there won’t be any spoilers in this piece.  After 90 minutes, I came away feeling more than just a little amused; there was a clear message of confidence and independence, something we all aspire to in life. In the lead up to the matinee, I was having flashbacks, playing with Barbies many unrealistic expectations that came with comparing myself to an impossible body type and thinking “you have to have it all, at once, always”.  After watching the movie, a more pragmatic quote came to mind from a very influential female : “You can have it all, just not at the same time”.

As a financial advisor, I work with all kinds of clients and my goal is to meet them where they are. Some clients are focused on every little technical detail i.e.  P/E ratios, Beta and Sharpe Ratios, etc. Other clients are more focused on the high-level plan, trust and the relationship between advisor and client. Regardless, when working with clients, it is extremely energizing to build an unbreakable trust and watch both financial confidence and independence grow.

So, what makes the “Barbie Standard” so elusive?  How about the fact that Barbie went to the moon before Neil Armstrong, owns the nicest house on the block and always has the perfect outfit?  I am still waiting to meet an astronaut who doesn’t see a spacesuit as the perfect “uniform.”

And talk about prolific, Barbie has over 200 careers on her resume, it’s about exploring new things and finding your passion. It also illustrates how valuable education can be for upward mobility.  Of course, higher education is not free and with the student loan payments about to restart, that is a concern that is front and center for many Americans. Loans hamper students’ savings potential and unfortunately not enough time is spent reviewing the importance of choosing a career that can cover those costs now and into the future. Education does not stop with college, taking a professional development class being offered at work or attending a monthly alumni meeting creates relationships and opportunities you may not otherwise have. In our world financial literacy is the buzz phrase that is usually used to talk about getting young people prepared, but this is not necessarily an age issue, it’s an access issue. You aren’t living in Malibu if you haven’t stepped your game up. 

So how does Barbie do it?

Frankly, in the real world, with real clients, it’s not about trying to live up to some made up standard, it is about helping each one of our clients live their best life. In that same “real world,” women investors and women professionals face unique challenges that should not be ignored.

  1. Women live about 4.4 years longer than men.  - In general, a long life that is well lived is a good thing, right?  Of course it is, if you are prepared for it!  Building up financial acumen over a lifetime is critical, based on this stat, at some point women will be the sole decision maker. 
  2. The wage gap – women are most often the main caregiver to children.  According to this CNBC article women make $16,000 less each year because of motherhood which is extremely significant over the course of a career.

Given these headwinds it makes it even more important to understand and execute on some investor basics. First, live below your means - save at least 5% of your take home (after tax) paycheck in an emergency fund and once you get to a comfortable place with your account balance, invest that 5% in a growth asset. Take advantage of all the “free” matching retirement money your company will give you on top of any other benefits that can help you get ahead. Try to get to a point where you are saving 15% or more of your paycheck towards retirement. While you are at it, try to max out your Roth IRA contributions each year too.

My husband and I often debate the age-old adage of whether or not “money doesn’t buy you happiness.” Having a career in finance blossomed out of a need to pay my student loans, rent, and other expenses and not wanting to worry if I can afford my next car insurance payment, I wish I could say it was more altruistic than that. Your career will always be a moving target and you really have to ask yourself what you can do to better allow you to thrive as well as to save and invest. The more you earn, the more flexibility you will have to try new things that fit better with your personality.  That is true independence. 

To me it is a no-brainer that money buys you independence, peace of mind and to pursue the things you actually love. I come from a place where resources were scarce and was often told there was not “enough”.  I made a choice that I do not want to live the rest of my life like that, therefore I have chosen specific, realistic (and some stretch goals) to ensure that reality. I’ll acknowledge, it isn’t all about the money, but it is about what that money can help you accomplish when you have a clear end in sight. It can be simple pleasures like planning a vacation when you know you need a break, being able to afford therapy, to larger goals like saving enough money now to retire at 55 or send 2 kids to college without having to refinance your house. 

In summary, the main premise of the Barbie movie. She was searching for her purpose in being “Stereotypical” Barbie. If you start with money as the goal, it may or may not fulfill you in the long term, but if you start with understanding what you really want and the end in mind, you will realize what financial independence can offer you with clear stepping stones in how to get there.  According to the 2020-2021 report from Strategic Business Insights and MacroMonitor, individuals with a financial plan have nearly 3x the net worth of those who don’t, so work with someone who keeps you honest and realistic while giving you a map of how to accomplish what you want.

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