Transcript: Cash Talks – The Washington Publish

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MS. SINGLETARY: Good afternoon, and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist here at The Washington Post, and I’m a fangirl of this next person. But my first guest today is Teresa Ghilarducci. She’s a professor of economic policy analysis at the New School in New York. Teresa, thank you so much for joining us today, and I hope I don’t go overboard, because I love, love your work.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: You started before I could start. I’m a fan of yours and have been for decades. And in fact, you’re an inspiration for me–I’ll just say it–for me applying my research work to actual people’s lives. So, thank you for being an inspiration.

MS. SINGLETARY: Yeah, and I really appreciate you speaking out on this topic so much. So, let’s just dive right in. So, let’s talk about the economy. Oh, my gosh. You know, it’s been so volatile the last few months, really the last year, and it’s impacted the way that we spend and save our money. So, talk to us about what Americans should think, especially women. Should we be mindful with–of our spending habits. You know, how is the economy impacting our finances?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Right. So, as soon as the pandemic hit, I worked twice as hard. Probably you did too, because it up–it changed women’s roles in their family and their workplace. They were the ones that were taking their laptops into the closet and–because the other family was in the other part of the room needing care and going back and forth. They also took time–women took–to take care of not only just school-aged children, but also–and I think this was underground–to take care of older adults. When their mother couldn’t leave the house, it was the daughter, the adult daughter who went and brought her groceries. So, there was a lot of elder care and childcare demands that impacted their labor force participation. So, I’m really watching how much that one-year or two-year absence from the labor force will affect eventual wealth accumulation. So that’s just not–you know, not working and not saving because you’re not working.

The other thing that happened was a big cost of living increase, and that meant that women’s savings were called upon to help fill those gaps in a family budget. We’ve always known that the–a woman’s individual retirement account or her 401(k) was kind of a family business. You know, it was seen as the pot which the family could dive into. The fathers or male IRAs and 401(k)s aren’t invaded as much as women’s 401(k)s. So, I’m also watching to see how those withdrawals and the lack of savings is going to impact women’s wealth accumulation.

MS. SINGLETARY: So, you talked a lot about the differences. Specifically, how has the economy, the aftermath of the pandemic differed between men and women? So, you talked a little bit about the retirement account. Are there other ways that we saw women being impacted differently than men and how they responded differently than men might have?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, the biggest one was labor force participation. You know, the mothers would drop out sooner than fathers, but women have bounced back. When healthcare and education went back online, the women went back to work. So, I’m very happy to say that labor force participation gaps are now closing, and women have recovered in terms of their economic engagement.

And you’ve talked about this in your own life, Michelle. That’s the key to life-long security, and maybe self-empowerment, is stay connected to the labor force. Jobs have a lot of problems. You know, the subordination you have at work have a lot of problems. But not having a job is a problem. So, I’m very happy to see that women’s attachment to the labor force has come back. But I do think it will have–women went into debt more, and women’s wealth went down because of their–of inflation and because of absences from the labor force. They invaded their already smaller retirement funds.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: I think we’re going to see some health differences over time because of the cortisol levels that women face more than men. And that’s a broad brush. Things weren’t easy for men. There’s no way they have–they had a picnic, you know, while women didn’t. But women tend to be more involved in the intimate and social and emotional care work at work. And since those were–those depressions and those stressors, which are much higher for family, it’s going to impact, in general, the female more than male because of the gender division of labor.

MS. SINGLETARY: And because it impacted us a little bit more, are there lessons learned going forward, particularly as it relates to retirement security? Because, you know, we do tend to live longer, although my husband says because I nag him more. But I mean all joking aside, I mean, you almost have to have a sense of humor about this, because we don’t want to come at this so–in such a depressed–you know, depressed way of looking at it. But there really is a difference between what women have in terms of retirement security than men, right?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, and also, you know, what we’re doing here is analyzing the obvious. But because women invade their savings more, earn less to begin with and have fewer years in the labor force, they have less money when they retire. I mean, that’s amazing, because men on average will retire for about 14 years, and women on average about 18 years. You know, so just the differences in retirement time.

Also, women are more likely to have morbidity or needing assistance with daily living activities. So, they’re going to need more home health care and more help in general. So, women’s expenses in retirement are going to go up for every year, and the years are higher.

So, there are public policies that we can put into place. One is to put back all those care provisions that were in the Democratic infrastructure bill. I know that sounded really nerdy, but that had paid sick leave and that had home health care expansions that improve the work that home healthcare workers get. Since women do that, it’ll help their lives as well. So, we need to fund care work and not just make that a private tax, you know, on women. That will help their retirement security.

We probably need to lower the Medicare age, you know, to 60 so that women workers can stay in the labor force and their employers, you know, won’t have to pay for that health insurance. That will help a lot, help men as well.

You know, we also need to have some kind of long-term care insurance. Women are much more likely to have to use long term care, because women take care of their older husbands. So that has to be part of Medicare.

MS. SINGLETARY: So that’s a big laundry list. And we know the state of Congress. It’s going to be even more challenging with the new Congress being so split down the middle. So, margins, do you really think any of that’s going to get done, in particular, the long-term care? You know, as part of Obamacare, they had a provision in there for long-term care coverage, which was just decimated. I mean, think about that, if we had that before the pandemic? Is there any hope that any of that will get through to this Congress that is so divided?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: You know, I asked about five people in preparation for this–for our interview and asked that same question to experts in the field. And I was reminded by very eminent sociologists, look at 20 years ago, this would not even been a major demand. You know, the idea that women–that women are doing necessary care work for free, it’s necessary for the economy, and that all families, sons too, are going to be faced with long-term care needs of their parents is now a national conversation. So, in short, the answer is yes, there’s lots of hope, because need is affecting tens of millions more people.

Back in the day, when we first talked about it, there were probably 10 million fewer people who are reaching those ages of vulnerability. So just the sheer size of the boomers, you know, coming into their needy years and the generation behind them being more educated, this is going to be a demand. Just like Social Security was obvious, this is totally obvious.

MS. SINGLETARY: Yeah, that’s good. Well, there’s hope, then.

MS. SINGLETARY: So, can we switch to the confidence gap? There’s lots of data that shows there’s a confidence difference between women and how they handle their money and men. I see it in my work, in the community. And it’s always interesting, when I look at the data, it’s not as if they’re smarter than us. By no means! But why is there that competence gap with women when it comes to their money?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, we–you know, we both have looked at this for decades. Some of it has to do with math confidence differences starting in fourth grade. Well, that’s closing. But it’s not just the quantitative, you know, ability or confidence. It’s also the many different needs that a woman’s dollar has competing for it. When women make a dollar, they’re also allocating some of that dollar for their kids, you know, or for their longer lives when they’re going to be alone. So, there’s lots of pressure and stress on whether that smaller dollar of savings is going to go. So, I think some of that confidence gap is explained by a higher level of anxiety.

But again, this–and also just the lower levels of earnings that women have will make anybody with lower incomes a lot more risk averse than people who have maybe $10,000 a year to kind of throw around. So, some of it isn’t gender specific. It has to do with social and gender division of labor, but also just because of the economics of it, that women make 83 cents for every dollar a man makes.

MS. SINGLETARY: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Can you take a couple of questions from our audience?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: I’d love that. My favorite.

MS. SINGLETARY: So, let’s go to a question from Krista from Maryland. And Krista asks what advice do you have for the parents saving for college and retirement? What is the best ratio of where to put your money? I love this question. What do you think?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, no, I’ve been talking to hundreds of women, you know, all at once, and they–and that question almost always comes up. The ratios should much more be weighted towards your retirement. Lots of reasons, because a dollar spent for retirement and saved will accumulate more investments just because you have a longer time to save. Also, your children’s college costs are really uncertain. If you have a big college savings fund, you may make yourself ineligible for a lot of financial aid. You may stretch yourself and send your kid to a college that is really too expensive to go. And I teach at one of those expensive exclusive private colleges. Sometimes, you know, a public school is a lot better deal even if it’s for the first two years. So, the cost of college is–you know, kind of meets whatever money you have, then you’ll spend all of it. So, by far, the priority is your retirement savings. So, I would put it at 90/10: 90 percent for your retirement, 10 percent for college.

MS. SINGLETARY: Wow, I didn’t–I didn’t think it would be that high. But can I push back just a little bit? You know, I’m still a fangirl. So, when people–when women and men, families hear what you just said, what they translate into is all in retirement, not much for college. But if women are earning less, we are living longer, perhaps the conversation isn’t that you shouldn’t try to do both but that the college–make better choices when it comes to where to send your kids to college, which you addressed. Starting out at community college. Despite the fact that you work at a great university, maybe you just can’t afford that. Is that–can we push that message through even more? Because they hear 90 and 10, and they really just hear a hundred.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, and I almost want to say a hundred. You know, you should–you should make sure you have enough money so that your child knows that you want them to go to college, and that you’ll pay for those first six months. But that college money is really their investment to their human capital. You know why I’m really stressing that it’s more important to save for retirement? Because that’s what your kids want. Your kids want you to be secure in retirement, and they want to live their own lives. That’s the best thing you can do for your kid.

Also, in America, private schools and public schools are really equivalently just as good. And so this idea that a private school is much better than a public school is marketing. So, we really have to pay attention to the cost of college. It’s really too expensive for most people.

The other thing is, is I’ve heard so many parents say, all right, I’m taking money–mothers–I’m taking money out of my 401(k). I’m going to start saving to send my kid to, you know, insert name of private college. Maybe he’ll take care of me when he gets old, you know, teehee. Well, that’s an intergenerational kind of legacy burden that doesn’t have to be there. So somewhere along the line, expensive college became kind of a middle class aspirational good, and I think we need to change our mindset about how most Americans can get a really good college education for half the cost.

MS. SINGLETARY: That’s such a great point. I’ve got three 20-some-year-olds, and I keep asking, are you going to take care of me in my old age. And I’m telling you, there’s a lot of pausing.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yes, exactly.

MS. SINGLETARY: You know?

MS. GHILARDUCCI: And do you mean it? Do you mean it, or what are you saying when you’re saying that? I’m–do you mean it?

MS. SINGLETARY: So, what I–yeah, go ahead.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: No, go ahead. No, I want to hear. Sorry, I asked you this question.

MS. SINGLETARY: No, so what I mean is, actually I mean are they going to make sure they oversee my physical care and the money, because my husband, we’re putting away a lot of money because I’m not trusting some 20-some-year-olds to put out of their pocket. So that’s actually what I mean when I say it. But I think a lot of other of those actually do mean are you going to, like, help pay for me. And to your point, I don’t think we can count on that.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: Yeah, I don’t think so. I think there’s a lot of problems that happen when you do that. Launching your kids to be independent adults is the best thing you can do and you being independent is really necessary. I hear a lot of my college students really freaked out about the way their parents manage their money. You know, their parents are kind of aging boomers, and they say I don’t want to save like my parents. My parents never thought ahead. And they’re the ones that probably mortgaged their house to pay for their kid’s college, but their kids wanted them to be independent.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: So–you know, and also to your point at the very beginning–and we’re going into Christmas season, and this is when I become a humbug and talk about, you know, what are the real needs and watch your Christmas budget. But we really all–as Americans in a capitalist society–just say it, you know, out loud–we have to be really mindful of buying things to make us happy for the short run. And when I’m saying short run, the neuroscientists say that the serotonin and dopamine hit you get from buying something lasts for about 24 hours.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: That most people, it’s 24 to 48 hours. And often what that buying does is just create another need for another dopamine surge to go buy that next thing. So, it will often breed more dissatisfaction than satisfaction. So being mindful about the pumpkin pie and the buying is really important for the next six weeks or five weeks.

MS. SINGLETARY: Wow. Oh, my gosh. Our time is almost up. I do want to try to get this last question in like really, really quick. So, Tiffany wanted to know what criteria should I use to select a financial advisor? And I know that’s a big question in like 30 seconds. But if you could do it.

MS. GHILARDUCCI: It’s so easy. I wrote a Bloomberg opinion blog about this article, and I think it’s the most popular one I’ve ever written. “How to Pick a Financial Advisor” is the name of it, and it’s one that is not conflicted, one that only charges you a fee. Run away from advisors that say, oh, there’s no fee involved. They get paid. Believe me, they get paid with kickbacks from the products that they sell. So, you’ll want to spend about $800 to $1,000 to have someone come in like you would like, you know, a doctor to look at your whole case, to give you some advice, and then have that relationship terminate. You need the tools to run your own money. You may need someone to set you up, but get a non-conflicted advisor.

MS. SINGLETARY: Wonderful. Oh, you did it. You did it. Look, we are out of time. I could just spend hours talking to you about this. So, Teresa, thank you so much for joining us today. And I’m actually going to do a column about that whole, you know, high that you get from that pie.

So don’t go away folks. We will be right back. My next guest is C. Nicole Mason. So please stay with us because this is a great conversation.

MS. SCHLESINGER: Thank you for having us here today. I am Jill Schlesinger, CBS News business analyst, and I am joined by Denise Chisholm. She is senior equity strategist at Fidelity Investments. Denise researches investments and the market using historical probabilities and data. She’s going to explain what’s happening in the markets right now and why it matters. We’re going to break down inflation, volatility, how it might impact your money, the outlook for markets, and next steps and actions you may want to consider.

So, let’s just set the scene. As we come into this period, we know that we had a very long time of low inflation. This is before the COVID era. But over the past year or so we’ve seen the highest price increases in decades. At the same time, markets had been volatile. There’s so much uncertainty and economic pressures, and of course this impacts the way we see opportunities and challenges.

So, let’s get right into it, Denise. Inflation is top of mind. Let’s start with some context. Why has inflation risen so dramatically, and what does it really mean for the economy and for markets?

MS. CHISHOLM: Sure. What you’re seeing this year is obviously investing involves risk as well as return. We saw the return coming out of the pandemic, but the risk this year–and sometimes that risk involves capital loss. And part of the driver behind that this year has been those high levels of inflation that you’ve touched on. Coming out of the pandemic, we really saw unprecedented fiscal stimulus globally, coupled with supply chain disruptions, that really have led to those elevated prices that we haven’t seen in the better part of 40 years. You see it at the pump, you see it at the grocery store, you’ve seen it in house prices.

What’s important for investors to understand is that not all levels of inflation are actually a bad thing. In fact, too little inflation can be actually problematic for equity market investors as well. But regarding the high levels of inflation, that is why the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates at a very rapid clip, to get inflation under control, to grow the economy at a more normalized level historically. And what you’re seeing is what has been, you know, evident in history, which is when policy is normalized by the Federal Reserve, you have an equity market correction.

MS. SCHLESINGER: So, the market corrects. Let’s talk a little bit about the broader economy. With the Fed raising rates, does that necessarily mean we are headed into a recession?

MS. CHISHOLM: It doesn’t necessarily. But what we have seen before this quarter is two sequential declines in real GDP growth, which has oftentimes been correlated with recessions in the past. Now, it’s not a technical recession, given the National Bureau of Economic Research hasn’t called it a recession, partly because unemployment rate has stayed low and job growth has been strong. But regardless of how you look at it mathematically, real GDP growth has been quite poor.

But what’s important to understand as it relates to recessions is it’s really not an on/off switch, yes or no, and not an if/then statement of if recession, then this happens to the market. There’s a lot of variability around both the recession and the stock market correction, where you can often see mild recessions. Not every recession is the great financial crisis. And you can often see more mild corrections in the stock market. Not every correction in the stock market is a peak to trough contraction 50 percent.

MS. SCHLESINGER: So that’s–thank goodness, because we don’t want 50 percent. But when it comes to markets, what are you keeping an eye on right now?

MS. CHISHOLM: So, what I look at and what I focus on is the fact that stocks are a discounting mechanism, and that kind of essentially means that they can price in bad news faster than it occurs. So oftentimes, at turning points, you can end up in this situation where stocks actually advance even though the news either didn’t get any better or might have even gotten a little bit worse.

And we can use some mathematical indicators to gauge how much of the bad news the equity market has discounted. One of those measures is valuation spreads, and it’s just a mathematical difference between lowly valued stocks on [unclear] and highly valued stocks. And it’s a measure of fear because what you see is during times of crisis, investors sell anything they think is risky, they buy anything that they think is safe. And even though past performance is not a prediction for future results, that oftentimes, over a one-year time horizon, provides you opportunities in the equity market despite the fact that the news gets no better. And oftentimes the market is led by economically sensitive sectors, like consumer discretionary, or financials, that may have discounted the recession or the contraction earlier than most other sectors.

MS. SCHLESINGER: You know, I think back in the recent past and–when the stock market has gotten beaten up, you could look to your bond positions and be like, oh, thank goodness that’s doing okay. But not this year. Bond investors have had a really rough time. So how do you see the outlook for bonds?

MS. CHISHOLM: Right, partly that’s been a function of inflation, which is why the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates so rapidly and that interest rate rise is negatively correlated to the prices of Treasury securities, the bond portion of your portfolio. But that’s really where we’ve been. And the question is, where are we going? And the data has changed quite dramatically in the fixed income markets, the way I look at it. So, what we’re seeing is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, which is the core PCE deflator, the annualized run rate over the last three months is running around 4 percent, and that’s about in line with the two-year Treasury yield. When you get close to parity, that oftentimes provides opportunity in the fixed income market as well, and especially so when the two-year Treasury yield is in advance of some underlying levels of measures of longer-term, breakeven inflations.

So, I think that the risk/reward has shifted dramatically from where we were a year ago in the fixed income portion of the market, and I think that there is opportunity there as well.

MS. SCHLESINGER: You know, I love hearing your optimism. I presume that fidelity professionals talk to a lot of different kinds of people. So, what are their clients most concerned about right now?

MS. CHISHOLM: I think most investors are concerned about the high levels of inflation and the market volatility really eating into their potential financial plan and financial goals for themselves. And here, I think it’s really important to work with a financial professional. We have people at Fidelity that help you think through your individual goals, your individual risk tolerance, and come up with a plan that can work for you, and you have someone to call if at any time life happens and you need to change your plan. So, if you have a plan, I think it’s time to dust it off and talk to a financial professional about it. And if you don’t have a plan, it might be time to call someone and think through the tradeoff between the risks that we’ve seen to date and the, you know, potential returns that you’ll see over the course of your financial plan’s portfolio.

MS. SCHLESINGER: Unfortunately, it’s time to wrap this conversation up. Thank you, Denise, for all the great insights.

And now I’ll hand it back over to The Washington Post.

MS. SINGLETARY: Welcome back. For those who are just joining us, I’m Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist for The Washington Post. And my second guest today is Dr. C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Welcome to Washington Post Live, Nicole.

MS. MASON: Thank you so much for having me. Very excited to be here.

MS. SINGLETARY: Oh, wonderful. I just love talking to women about money. We may not be on all the money, but we definitely can handle the money. So, listen, so you coined the term “shecession.” What is a shecession, for those who don’t–have never heard that term before?

MS. MASON: So, for those of you who may not know what a shecession is, but it’s an economic downturn that disproportionately impacts women. And during the pandemic, what we noticed is that women bore majority of the job losses in the early months of the pandemic, more than 55 percent, and also economic losses. So that is a shecession.

MS. SINGLETARY: Yeah, great. All right. So, what is the long-term consequences of an economy or women being forced out of the workforce?

MS. MASON: Well, it really–it really depends. So, women early on in their career, so just on ramping into the workforce at the start of the pandemic, many of them have had their careers derailed or have had to go into other sectors that are unrelated to their degrees or jobs.

And then also, if we look at the other end of the spectrum in terms of retirement, many women were forced into an early retirement because they were also employed in some of the hardest hit sectors. So, we see at both ends of the spectrum, and women who were solidly in their careers, they also had to–in many cases had to offramp because they were responsible for a majority of caretaking responsibilities and families.

MS. SINGLETARY: So, when that happens–and I know from my own experience many people are not prepared to live off a retirement income–so now that they’re off-ramping sooner, do you think that they are able to handle this early retirement? Are they prepared for it? What would you suggest that they do if they they’ve gone into retirement and they go, uh-oh, there’s something wrong?

MS. MASON: So many women who retired early, many of them were married, and so they were able to retire earlier than they had anticipated. But we have to understand when anybody retires earlier than they had anticipated, it does have an impact on their bottom line, especially for women of color, and women in general. Because of the pay gap, women at the end of their careers have, you know, earned less than $469,000 compared to their male counterparts and for women of color, their pay gap is wider. The earnings–the loss in earnings over a lifetime can be up to a million dollars. So that really translates into dollars out of their pocket and not–that doesn’t go towards their retirement, or you know, a secure retirement or a secure future later on.

MS. SINGLETARY: Right. So, what could–what advice do you have for women who find themselves in this situation? It’s a huge–a million dollars, I mean, that’s a lot of money. What can they do?

MS. MASON: So, the truth of the matter is, is that once you get to retirement, there’s really not much you can do. You are sort of dealing with what you have in your pockets. And so women are strategizing and figuring out how to stretch, you know, the money that they do have in retirement. Many women are taking on second careers or going back to work. So, that’s how many women are handling it.

And then sometimes they’re having to depend on family members and their children in order to make ends meet. So, when I think about where women end up at the end in terms of retirement, it really points me in the direction of the things that we might be doing to help women retire more securely.

MS. SINGLETARY: Right. Yeah. I wonder what you think about–and I know I find this in my own work in my community, and even in my family, because we tend to be caregivers and we are givers oftentimes. We’re giving to adult children. We’re giving to grandchildren. Do we–do you think some of the women need to turn this spigot off a little bit so that they have a better retirement?

MS. MASON: Yeah, so the case are–what’s true for Black women and Latina women, we are more likely to support family members, whether it’s our children, or a cousin, or an aunt. And so really thinking about–even if you have disposable income, thinking about what that–how you might take that disposable income, and to, you know, save for retirement and being able to say no. And for many families, especially when families are struggling and you’re in proximity, the–your impulse is to help. But saying, you know, I have to help myself first and put money aside for your retirement, which, for some people seems so long away, but it’s really not. You know, most–you know, most people, myself, I’ll be retiring in about 15 or 20 years. And so making sure I’m able to do so comfortably is top of mind.

MS. SINGLETARY: Fifteen? Girl, you look like you’re 20.

MS. MASON: Well, that’s good to hear.

MS. SINGLETARY: Well, let’s talk about women in the workforce today. So, we know recent data shows that earlier this year, men recovered about $875,000–not thousands–875,000 new jobs versus women who recovered only about 62,000 jobs. So, what do you think would accelerate women’s job recovery?

MS. MASON: So, I think a couple things. So I think better workplace practices and policies. Many women who exited the workforce during the pandemic did so because workplaces didn’t have flexible work policies, no childcare policies, no paid sick or family leave. And so that really made women make some tough choices, constrained choices, because they’re really not choices. And so I think the first thing is making sure people’s work, you know–especially in the absence of federal legislation–that workplace policies are fair and equitable and support women’s reentry into the workforce and being able to sustain employment.

And the other thing is, I think many women left jobs like, you know, in sectors like childcare, leisure, and hospitality. And they’re choosing not to go back to those jobs because they weren’t high-quality jobs, meaning they didn’t pay fairly or a decent wage, didn’t have health care or paid sick or family leave. So, one of the things that we can do is to make sure that the jobs that women are–the sectors where women are overrepresented, that those jobs are actually high-quality jobs. And I think you heard Congresswoman Ilhan Omar say that if you care about these workers and you believe that they’re essential, we have to treat them as such.

MS. SINGLETARY: So that’s a great point. So how do we do that? So, we’ve got an industry where women are dominating, they’re underpaid, taking care of children, caregivers, both young children and perhaps elderly parents, you know, seniors. It’s–that pays not very well. But then you have women who need to be in the workforce who need that care. How do you mesh that to–and then they’ve got demands on their salary. We all–we know we are still paid less. So, there’s less money to devote to caregiving. I mean, my goodness, how do we resolve that disconnect between making sure that the women who are going to be taking care of our children and our parents also earn a decent living, while, you know, we can’t afford the kind of pay that they might need to do that very job?

MS. MASON: So, the cost of childcare for most working families is out of control. So, families can spend up to 30 percent of their income, sometimes more, especially if you have more than one child, on care. So, for me, there’s really no way around it. We do need universal childcare or federal support for childcare to support families. You know, and it sounds like a utopia or sort of dream big about these things. But you know, we have to remember that one time–when we needed women workers in the workforce, we did have subsidized childcare, and many other countries just similar–in similar positions as the U.S. also has universal childcare. And I think it would be really a game changer for not only women’s earnings, but also being able to focus on other things like housing, buying a home, saving. Like if you’re not spending 30 percent of your income on care, you know, what else can you set yourself up for in terms of retirement and in terms of saving?

MS. SINGLETARY: Right. Now, we don’t have that kind of thing in place yet, and doubtful this Congress, it’s so divided, might actually put it in place. So, you’re in this situation now. The policy hasn’t happened yet. What can you do to afford care or provide the care that you need that will allow you to work? Because if you’re not in a workforce and you can’t save for retirement, it just seems like a crazy cycle. So, what advice would you have for women who find themselves in this position and policy has not caught up to the need yet?

MS. MASON: So really, it’s a lose-lose situation for women and families. So, I just want to say that. But in the absence of federal action, businesses, private businesses are on the frontlines of this conversation and should be on the front lines. And many businesses are, you know, doing something to help support families with issues related to care. Even at IWPR, we–at the start of the pandemic, we provided $4,000–and we’re a small organization–$4,000 for care to families, care subsidy. And many organizations and companies and corporations are doing the same. They’re reexamining their workplace policies and seeing how they can be of a support, you know, to working families. So, I would say that, yes, there’s inaction at the federal level. But there’s an opportunity for private sector, the private sector, businesses and companies and corporations, to take the lead. And so women and affinity groups within companies having that conversation and opening it up to, you know, have a conversation but about what is a fair and equitable workplace for women so that they can advance in their careers. And childcare is one of those issues that come up time and time again.

MS. SINGLETARY: Yeah, that’s so great that you do that for your workers. I’m just–I’m so glad to hear that. Very progressive. I mean, you know, because obviously, you’re talking about this and you’re putting– you’re an example of what you’re calling for other people to do. And that’s not always the case. So, kudos to you for that.

So, we’re talking about this. This is a great way to segue into sort of the gender pay gap, right? If we’ve got more money, we’d have more money for childcare. So, has persistent gender pay gap hurt women as they build their financial futures, and how has that pay gap affected Black women in particular?

MS. MASON: So, you know, you already know the answer to this.

MS. SINGLETARY: I do. I’m asking you anyway.

MS. MASON: You know the answer, we all know the answer to this. So, you know, if we keep at the same pace, it will take, you know, 60 years for us to close the pay gap that’s at 89 cents on the dollar. But for Black women, it will take a hundred years, for Latino women it would take 200 years to close the pay gap. And it’s only closed about 20 cents in the last 50 years. And so what I like to say when I talk about the pay gap for women especially is that–because it seems so existential and something very abstract–I said no, that’s money you don’t have, you know, for a down payment on your house. Your goals get delayed. That’s less money you have to pay for your children’s education, to save for retirement. So, it really does hurt your bottom line, even if all you want to do is go to brunch. You can’t do that with less money. But for many women, it’s really consequential in terms of, you know, their financial goals and their financial–their financial futures. And so, you know, when I think about our work, and what we’re trying to do here at IWPR, it’s really good at the crux of that gender pay gap and really try to, you know, work to uncover it and close it, accelerate the closing, because we really don’t have, you know, 200 years to wait to reach to reach pay parity.

MS. SINGLETARY: Right. As good as we look, we definitely don’t have no 200 years.

MS. SINGLETARY: So, you know, I wonder if that leads us to the discussion about pay transparency, right? You know, if that–is that a problem, and that keeps the pay lower? It’s so interesting. I heard a conversation about someone, a woman who was being recruited by another company, and the current manager was like, well, I’m not going to pay–you know, I’m not going to pay her that much more, without recognizing that she probably was underpaid when she got that position. And that is often the case. And a lot of that is because there’s not a lot of pay transparency. And of course, we could have the conversation at the end of this question about how do you ask for what you are worth and how difficult that can be for women. So that’s a two-part question. Pay transparency, what do you think about that, and how we can resolve that. And also, what can women do to advocate for themselves for better pay?

MS. MASON: So I think we just need to democratize pay and make it transparent, fair, and equitable, so that everybody knows what–if you’re in a company, you have a compensation scheme where there’s not a lot of discretion between managers, so this manager is paying this much to a man and another manager for the same role is deciding to pay another person with the same qualifications a different salary. And pay transparency is one of the ways that we can do that. And by pay transparency, that’s really bold. So, it’s about salary bands. So, knowing for a position how much a person can be paid.

I don’t think that’s enough. I think you also need to be–it needs to be experience and education-based, because that band is–can be like a $40,000 band, and it’s up to the person or the woman or–to negotiate that salary. And we all know that when women negotiate salaries, they often lose out. They can actually end up getting less.

One of the other things I think is really important is that employers do away with what many companies have: asking about salary history. Because as you just said and pointed out, that if I started out my career earning a particular amount because I wasn’t able to negotiate, or I didn’t know to negotiate, that figure becomes–that’s the basis of my salary, even as I climb the career–my career ladder. So, I would say, also banning corporations or companies from, you know, asking about salary history is also really critically important.

And then the last thing I’ll say is also collecting pay data. Because when you collect pay data, which California has a has a new, really great law, but when you collect data, you can see the discrepancy by race and by gender. And right now, we actually don’t know how deep the pay gap is, because we don’t have the good data on it.

MS. SINGLETARY: So that’s really good. So again, this question is, till a policy catches up, whether federal or the company themselves, what tips do you have for women to ask for a raise? And particularly, should they use inflation as a strategy to say I need more money? You know, I know in my own career, I’ve gotten better at it, about making sure that I ask for what I’m worth, and that question that sort of comes up, well, so and so makes–you know, you’re making more than so and so. I was like, listen, it’s like for me, it’s like a star, marquee player on a baseball team. You don’t ask–you don’t tell him he needs to pay with someone else coming in as a rookie. So, what tips do you have for women to ask for that raise, and should they use inflation as a strategy to get more money?

MS. MASON: Well, I mean, I think you can use inflation, but employers are aware of inflation at this point. And so inflation might be one of the things that you point to, to ask for a raise. But really being able to stand on your work and what you’ve–you know, what your returns and what you’ve brought to the company, you know, I think is really critically important. But I don’t–also don’t want to, you know, undermine or–you know, like this is a very structural problem. So, although individual women are negotiating for raises and promotions, this issue is bigger than any one woman. I think as Megan, you know, Rapinoe the soccer player said, like, you can’t outperform inequality, so you can be the best worker, credentialed, and you still are not going to–you may not be paid what you’re worth. So, I think–so that’s why it’s important to, you know, ask your employer to do a compensation–internal compensation study to see where everyone lands, and really start to open up the conversation.

By the way, you have to know that it’s not illegal for employees to discuss their salaries amongst one another, even though most–you know, the–certain offices or certain culture–work cultures frowns upon those kinds of discussions. But I think once we start making and normalizing those conversations, it makes it easier for women and people to negotiate.

MS. SINGLETARY: No, that’s such a great point. And I love that. You’re right, you can’t–you can’t outperform this pay gap and the history of being underpaid. But I will say this, that for you as an individual–I know I do this at the beginning of the year–I create a document and I document everything so that when I go into that conversation, I’ve got the evidence base, and it’s not just based on emotion, it’s not just based on inflation. It’s like this is what I did–done through the year. Here are the notes that you sent to me during the year, hint, hint, my boss, you know? Because, you know, there’s policy and individual. And I think that’s what you’ve been saying. You know, we’ve got to have these policies in place, both federal and corporate. But as an individual, you know, you know–you should know what you are worth. Ask those questions. Be bold about it. Because if you are not, it can impact your financial security for your family and your retirement.

So, Nicole, oh, my gosh, I could talk to you for another hour or two. Thank you so much for joining us today at Washington Post Live.

MS. MASON: Thank you so much. This has been great.

MS. SINGLETARY: Wonderful.

So, thanks to all of you for joining this conversation, and I hope you’ll continue this among your friends and on Twitter and your social platforms. It’s such an important topic. If you have any questions about what we discussed today, I want to hear from you. Send your questions on Twitter using the handle @PostLive, and I’ll try to address them in a future column. I’ve already got a couple of column ideas from these two conversations that I’ve had today. So, to check out what interviews we have coming up, please head to WashingtonPostLive.com to register and find more information about our upcoming programs.

And let me just tell you, this platform is where you can find intelligent conversation, not just glib stuff, about your life, your money, healthcare, the economy, the climate, all kinds of topics that I think that you are so interested in. So, I hope you go to WashingtonPostLive.com and sign up for future conversations. I’m Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist for The Washington Post. Thank you so much for joining us today.

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