Fashion, Law, and Personal Finance
My interest in blogging started with a ruffled suit.
I was searching for a plain black suit for on-campus interviewing after my first year 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. That doesn’t mean we can’t wear stylish suits with interesting details but the ruffle makes the outfit seem frivolous (see below for an example). It’s hard to be taken seriously while wearing ruffles. Further, there were no shortage of unruffled suits for men (men generally don’t wear ruffles). When looking for stock images of “woman” and “suit”, most of my results were women in bathing suits or brides with their grooms in suits.
I felt like I was in some alternate universe. I felt invisible. Why aren’t there images of people like me? Why aren’t there clothes for people like me? It made me wonder, does anyone believe professional working women exist?
And it turns out, that fashion and stock photography were 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 blogged about money, they tended to be bad at it. The typical script was a stressed-out low-earning single woman or a low-earning woman married to a high-earning husband sharing her “frugal tips to make millions.” I was afraid reading about personal finance was subconsciously making me think that I was supposed to be either bad at money or a phony.
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 doesn’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 with 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 childless woman, and you hate cleaning, why not hire some help? Having $0 for a clothing budget is fine for software engineers. But suits are de rigeur for lawyers (that lawyer show was called Suits, and not Jeans, after all).
When I read personal finance articles, I gravitate toward 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 hosting poolside cocktail parties. It was far better than wearing the lonely serious black suit sitting in my office late into the night.
Being Our Own Saviors
I grew up middle class. My mom and my friends’ moms all worked, in part, because they had to and, in part, I think they were paving the way for my generation of working women. I expected to march through the glass ceiling with all my female college friends. Instead, 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 been sold a bill of goods. It made me think of Ali Wong’s famous line that women don’t want to lean in, they just want to lay down. I must have missed the memo that instead of pursuing a career, I should have found someone to take care of me.
But something funny happened. 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.
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.
Oh, by the way, hi! My name is Lisa. I worked for seven years as a litigator in a law firm in Washington, D.C. Then, I took a two-year career break and am now working as an attorney for the federal government. I still only own one black suit.
If you want to contact me, you can use the form below or email me at alawyerandhermoney at gmail dot com. You can also reach me on Twitter at @alawyerhermoney.