On becoming a financial feminist

“Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. […] Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry.”

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

What personal wisdom or advice would you offer to other women? If I were asked this, my first recommendation would be to learn about personal finance and basic economics as early as possible. 

I learned about money and economics early in life because of privilege. I grew up in a middle class household where enough money was always available. My parents – especially my mom–- explicitly told me that money is important and showed me many ways one can use money. You can solve problems with it, you can invest it to create more money, you can support your favorite political party with it, you can protect yourself with it by buying insurance, you can borrow it to spend on things that improve your life and more. I learned that wealth can provide security, influence and freedom.  

At the same time, my experience as a woman with mixed heritage also influenced my relationship with money. I learned from watching tv and those around me that it would be harder for me to create financial security as a woman of color, and that becoming a “good worker” and a “good wife” would be necessary for ensuring my survival. The implications of these messages were huge. I understood that I should center my life around education, work and men; prioritizing them before myself if I’d have to, if I wanted to be safe and successful.

I became a good worker and was rewarded for it. (I have yet to learn how to become a good wife, which I say with a wink and a smile!) I got a degree in finance and followed it with a 15-year career in the financial industry. I had a good salary. I learned and benefited from the financial decisions of my friends, colleagues and people I found online. Those around me helped me develop my career, get a mortgage, invest and more. I found a sense of belonging and identity through my job. (It’s dangerous when either of those things are dependent on a contract, I’ll add.) I built and tweaked my financial system and portfolio along the way.

Being a good worker is easier for some than for others.

I prioritized my employer over my own body because I believed my survival depended on it. Part of this belief was true – being an expat meant that my life in the Netherlands depended on my employment contract. Another part of this belief was driven by my programming as a woman of color. Internalized white supremacist patriarchal capitalism told me that I had to continuously compete and prove myself to my employer in order to keep my job. It’s still better to be a white man in the financial industry. If I wasn’t somewhere on the burnout scale then I wasn’t working hard enough.

I left my last job when I took it as far as I could go. I ended my ‘successful’ career still feeling sick, lonely and confused. And yet, my finances were able to temporarily generate enough income to afford a simple lifestyle by that point. I am now two years into a mini-retirement; much of which I’ve spent recovering, asking big questions and seeking other things to orient my life around.

Financial independence changes the whole game.

Becoming financially independent has allowed me more intellectual freedom which I am still learning how to exercise. Here are some examples of perspective shifts I’ve experienced and the questions that I now ask. 

  • I used to feel dependent on employment and romantic relationships for security and validation. I placed both of these above myself as a result. I’m now learning how to create security and validation from other sources such as friends, other women and activism. What could a good woman without a good job or a good man look like?
  • Capitalism is enabling me to have more ‘freedom’ than possibly any woman in my known ancestry might have imagined. Capitalism is built on competition and inequality though. Now I understand that the ‘freedom’ I have is reliant on the labor of many, especially of women and marginalized people. Is it possible to be an ethical capitalist? If everybody cannot be ‘free’ under capitalism, what does this mean for feminism?
  • I’ve learned that no amount of money can make me feel loved, safe and valued (inspired by the book Black Imagination.) What skills and practices do I need to cultivate what I actually want?
  • My perceived need to focus on my own survival distracted me from noticing how my struggles (like feeling inadequate) were normalized and upheld by society’s norms. Now I have the capacity to examine how bigger systems influenced my experiences and to learn alternative ways of approaching life. What might happen if more people could get out of survival mode?
  • I used to feel the need to compete against myself and other people (especially other women I confess) to get and maintain employment. This bred a need for constant “improvement” and feelings of being not-enough. It took me a long time to learn what having and being “enough” feels like and how to share it with others. Who benefits from women not-having and being “enough?” How do they benefit? 

Studying the technologies of black radical feminists is helping me to navigate these questions. These feminists have helped me unpack the subtle messages I’ve learned as a woman of color that helped me become ‘successful’ at the expense of my health. Looking at money from an intersectional feminist perspective helps me imagine what changes could make our economic systems more equitable for all; for example, policies that ensure safe working conditions and workers’ rights. Learning counterculture paradigms and practices has helped me recenter my life around how I feel over what I do and my relationships over what I produce. I admire and spend more time with people who are trying to rebuild the world, even if it’s just their own. It’s an ongoing, uncomfortable, process that challenges me to go “off script” from what I see modeled in society. 

Doing this is a form of resistance and activism. Personal finance is a key life skill that most people I’ve met have not been taught. (I wonder why?) Understanding how our financial and economic systems make financial wellbeing harder or impossible for some groups of people helps me question and challenge them. 

My advice to learn about personal finance and basic economics does not mean ‘be like me and do what I do.’ I want for you to learn how to thrive in the systems we live in and how to create the systems you want. I want for you to learn about financial systems and practices so that you can both critique and benefit from them in your own way. I want for you to be able to navigate and influence changing economic situations and conditions. I want for you to find or create safe workplaces that also support your non-working lives. I want for you to experience the intellectual freedom that financial wellbeing can create.


If you don’t know where to start, here are some practices and resources for inspiration and critique. Please share your practices, resources and questions below or contact me at

My personal finance tips for complete beginners

  • What would make learning about personal finance more fun or worthwhile? Answer this first. 
  • Track your money monthly. I use a budget app and Excel and track my finances based on the six pillars of personal finance: earning, spending, saving, investing, borrowing and protecting (insurance.) 
  • Build a financial routine. It is a self-care routine. Some friends find it helpful to treat their financial routine as “rituals.” Examples of rituals can be reading personal finance content, tracking your money monthly or setting goals quarterly.
  • Build an emergency fund. Mine covers 2 months of expenses.  
  • Don’t wait to invest. You can open a free trading account with fake money on eToro if you want to practice. (Edit March 2024: I learned that eToro supports ideas that I strongly disagree with so I’ve closed my account. Many other app-based trading platforms offer similar features; however.) Learn about exchange traded funds (ETFs) and invest in one.
  • Determine your ‘enough numbers.’ How much do you need just to get by? How much would a ‘good enough’ lifestyle cost? 
  • Cultivate 2-3 healthy relationships and take care of your health. 

My imperfect financial feminist paradigms and practices

  • I want a sustainable life for all, not the accumulation of wealth for the few. 
  • I am and have enough. I want what I have. I create and share “enoughness.” This means that I’ve determined the minimum budget I need to afford a comfortable enough life and live by it. ‘Keeping up with society’ is out and cultivating healthy relationships is in. (It gets easier as I get older.)
  • Challenge the taboo of talking about money. When I feel insecure about money talk, thinking about who benefits from my insecurities and these taboos helps me activate “sexy bad girl mode.” This version of myself knows that I can figure things out together with others. I created a dedicated space for money talk by creating a chat group for it with friends.
  • Invest in ETFs that are focused on gender equity and the environment and in a venture capital fund for women-led businesses.
  • Redistribute 10% of my income to people and causes related to gender and environment. This organization is meaningful to me. 
  • Work with female financial professionals; work with people from marginalized communities when possible and pay them well.
  • Center life around friends/sisterhood/community. 
  • Learn about alternative paradigms, practices and tools such as mutual aid or community savings pools and workplace democracy. Learn about the experiences of marginalized groups e.g. poverty scholarship
  • Vote for parties that support women and marginalized groups. 

Personal finance resources

Resources on feminism and finance

Resources for thinking about economics

Content curators that are worth checking out

  • Personal finance
    • Ramit Sethi on YouTube, Netflix and IG @RamitSethi
  • Feminism and finance
  • Radical economics
    • IG: @neweconomycoalition

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