Fashion, Law, and Personal Finance
My interest in personal finance blogging started with a ruffled suit.
I was searching for a plain black suit for on campus interviewing after 1L at law school. But ruffles were the fashion that season and every suit had some sort of ruffle element incorporated into it. Professional working women generally do not wear ruffled suits, and there were no shortage of plain suits for men. It made me wonder, does the fashion world believe professional working women exist? (Side note: when looking for stock images of “Woman business suit” most of my results were women in bathing suits, men in business suits, or brides).
I felt like I was in some alternate universe. I felt invisible.
And it turns out, that fashion was not the only place where I felt this way. When I read general personal finance advice, the tips are geared toward a different demographic- typically men. To the extent that women were associated with money in these stories, they tended to be bad at it. The typical script was a low-earning women overspending and stressed or a low-earning woman married to a high-earning husband and living it up. I was afraid reading about personal finance was subconsciously making me think that I was supposed to be bad at money.
But I’m Asian, and I’m the child of immigrants. I maxed out my 401k on an entry-level salary. Saving and living well on an attorney salary – almost five times my entry level salary – was easy, even with sizable student loans. This didn’t mean that I couldn’t use some financial advice, but the advice needed to be tailored to fit my lifestyle.
Being a Woman Lawyer Navigating Money
Meal prepping is good advice for people who have regular schedules. It is not as helpful when you’re eating Seamless at the office on the regular. It’s easy to say, cut the cleaning service, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. But if you’re making quadruple the average household income as a single woman, and you hate cleaning, why is it so wrong to hire some help? Having $0 for a clothing budget is fine for software engineers. But suits are usual business attire for lawyers (that show about lawyers was called Suits, and not Jeans, after all) and suits are not cheap (even if they have ruffles on them).
When I read personal finance articles, I am drawn to stories about female lawyers, and other women in professional careers. Even though I had a high salary, I also had high debt and little knowledge about investing. I seemed to know what I was doing but inside I was becoming increasingly worried that I was doing it all wrong.
I devoured articles about shattering the glass ceiling while secretly envying stay-at-home mom friends married to male lawyers, doctors, engineers. Sometimes I dreamed of being the woman who wore the ruffled pink pantsuit. She was probably wearing her suit to host poolside cocktail parties while I was wearing mine to sit in my office late into the night.
Being Our Own Saviors
Many of my college friends married in their 20s and became stay-at-home moms. In my 30s, I was going on increasingly weird dates and working long hours. It felt at times that I had made the wrong decision. Everyone else, it seemed, had found someone to take care of them and I only had myself. And I wasn’t sure if that was enough.
Student loan cancellation was in the news constantly when I was paying off my debt. My boyfriend at the time told me to stop fretting about it – forgiveness wasn’t in the cards for wealthy attorneys. And rather than being deflated, I felt empowered. There was no prince on a white horse coming for me. There was no savior. Instead I would have to be my own savior. And I could be my own savior.
I want to use this site to help women lawyers know that they can be their own financial saviors. Which is good, because I’m not getting on a horse unless I’m the one holding the reins.
Hi! My name is Lisa. I worked for seven years as a litigator in a law firm in the Washington, DC area. I’m currently on a year long sabbatical. I write about professional women, law, and personal finance.