Kara Stevens’ work on her website The Frugal Feminista and in her book, Unmasking the Strong Black Woman, aims to help Black women use money to live on their own terms. Easy Money talked to Stevens about how financial self-care can intersect with emotional self-care — and how to quickly turn your financial life around.
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This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
In your book you address the intersection of financial & emotional self-care, how can people achieve both?
I think you need to create concrete plans around both, especially where they intersect. As far as finances, Black women need to understand that their financial goals and dreams are one, valid and two, come before the expectations of others.
This is seemingly a no-brainer, but general cultural expectations for Black women demand that we place the emotional and financial needs of others before our own, even if it’s detrimental to our holistic wellbeing.
Once Black women recognize that they have every right to pursue their financial goals unapologetically, a possible next step is to ask for support and help, whether it be an accountability partner, a therapist to talk through some past trauma, an investment club, or seeking a financial adviser.
And finally, I’d say execution is the final way that Black women can achieve emotional and financial self-care. There has to be a commitment to maintaining financial structures and systems (e.g. automation, money dates, financial calendars) and emotional routines and rituals (scheduled therapy, exercise, heart-focused meal planning, scheduled play) that support this wellness.
What challenges do Black women face when building wealth & how can they overcome them?
If there were a direct solution to ensuring that all Black women could overcome these challenges systemically, we would have done it already. But rather than disrupt the system in its entirety, we find success in pockets through making the most of their networks, research and personal resources. We also are beginning to put our support behind politicians that serve their interests as well as proactively seeking Black-owned businesses to support.
Black women are also leaving corporate America in droves to start their own businesses. For the ones that stay, we are speaking up more to negotiate better pay, asking for pay transparency, and are seeking mentorship.
Why is it important to have a healthy relationship with money?
Your quality of life is largely contingent upon the quality of your relationships. And your relationship with money, though many people don’t think about an inanimate object that way, carries a lot of power and holds a lot of influence in your life. So if you find that you treat money respectfully and thoughtfully through the decisions you make around spending, saving and investing, you’ll be able to enjoy a sense of security and peace of mind.
What’s the No. 1 takeaway from your 5-day Financial Reset Plan?
You can actually change your finances in five days. You don’t have to be overwhelmed when it comes to shifting your thinking and ultimately your actions around money.
Do you have a financial golden rule?
Invest in yourself. This goes for spending money on learning, self-care and in engaging in financial activities that generate income.
What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve made & how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest financial mistake I had was saving too much money. I know that sounds weird, but saving money does have diminishing returns. I could have invested the money or spent the money on an experience or item for myself or someone that I cared for in the past to add an element of joy to my life and those around. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself especially when you’re able to afford it and let go of the guilt.
What’s your unconventional money hack?
Marry or partner with someone with whom you can build wealth, have honest conversations about life and money, as well as give you space to pursue your individual dreams.
What’s the worst financial advice you’ve ever received?
Get a good job, work for 30 to 40 years, and retire after that. Essentially, the advice was to play it safe. I think it’s important to take calculated risk, especially when you’re young, single and have no children.
What’s the best money you’ve ever saved?
I was able to save up enough money to leave a toxic workplace environment without feeling desperate or worried about how I’d survive.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent?
The first $200 I spent to create my first iteration of The Frugal Feminista. The Frugal Feminista started as a side hustle and a blog. If I never tipped into my savings to take a chance on blogging, I would have never been able to help Black women heal their relationship with money or to see where pursuing a passion project could lead.
A close second is the money I paid for out-of-network therapy for close to a year.
Image: Nastia Kobzarenko