One of the realities of your personal economic situation as a woman is that you are likely to earn less money over your lifetime than your male counterparts. Not only does that result in a lifetime wage gap of nearly $500,000, but it also means that women are more likely to fall behind in terms of financial well-being over time.

Studies and reports on the overall financial health for women show, time and again, that women are vulnerable when it comes to money. Whether it’s because they work in jobs that pay less or  take time out from the workforce to raise children or for some other reason, women are likely to face huge challenges later in life.

Not only do women miss out in terms of making as much as men do over their lifetimes, but the loss is compounded by the fact lower pay means less money to invest in retirement accounts (especially if that lower pay is the result of staying home).

So, how do you close the gap — especially if you decide to stay home at least during some of your working years? Here are some ways to close the funding gap:

Negotiate a Higher Salary Up Front

Last year at FinCon, I spoke with a male colleague who told me what he charged for a freelance post. It is three times what I charge for a similar type of post. Why does he get paid so much more than I do?

Because he asks for it.

Gloria Feldt, a well-known women’s advocate and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women can Change How We Think About Power, once told me that the almost $500,000 pay gap is due largely to the fact that many women are afraid to negotiate higher salaries when they start a career. As a result, they are behind their entire working lives.

Even worse, many women don’t ask for raises or promotions, even though they may deserve them. This means that they end up making entry-level wages far longer than they should be. If you are a woman, negotiate your salary up front, and negotiate throughout your career. That can go a long way toward reclaiming your wages.
Invest, Including in an IRA
If you really want to make up the difference, you need to invest. The returns on your investment can be a great way to make up for the fact that you make less money over time. If you have extra cash, invest it.

You can even invest for the future using a retirement — even if you decide to stay at home. Your spouse can contribute to an IRA on your behalf. The best part? This money is yours once it’s in the account. It’s in your name, and not your spouse’s. There’s nothing wrong with asking your spouse to contribute to an IRA in your name, since you are staying home and taking care of the kids and the house. Just frame it in terms of how you can double your IRA contributions of a household if your spouse contributes to your IRA as well as his/her own. As a stay at home spouse, your retirement planning is especially important.

Start a Side Gig
You can earn more money by starting your own business. A side gig can be the perfect way to close the income gap. Even if you stay home, or work part-time, you can take advantage of a side gig. There are plenty of women who make money on the side, from a home office, in between taking care of the children and fixing dinner. I had a business meeting on the phone the other day, while cooking dinner. Completely professional? Probably not. But it got the job done.

Take the money you earn from your side gig, and put it to work toward your savings goal, or invest it in a retirement account. Put your extra cash to work on your behalf, and the compound returns can help fund your lifestyle later — and you won’t be so dependent on someone else for your financial well-being.

What do you think? Are you worried about your financial vulnerability? How are you combating it?

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