Fiscal Fitness

At the March Valley Business Women’s luncheon, I heard Elsie Rose speak about the penalty for being born a woman. I did not take offense to her topic or her premise as I have preached that sermon many times myself. As a member of the American Association of University Women I was made amply aware of the statistics that Ms. Rose used as part of her presentation, and in fact, she used AAUW statistics in her presentation. The presumed penalty for being born a woman comes to $849,000 in simple math terms. To see a slide of this, see Type “penalty for being born a woman” into Google and you’ll see many entries. This is not just an American issue. One of the articles you would read if you did a Google search is for Australia. Another is for The Netherlands. One website called being born a woman a “major financial mistake” as if this was a choice for most of us.

piggy bank

I “came up” when women were only 25% of the graduating class of my law school and it was difficult to get a job because I didn’t have a Y chromosome in a very competitive job market in the midst of the mid-1980s Texas oil bust (where I was living at the time).

I remember when a woman still needed her husband’s signature to get credit and when the wife was not even added to the utility bills. Female clients whose husbands died found they were not credit worthy simply because they had been married and none of the marital credit worthiness was attributed to the wives, only to the husbands. Imagine having to pay a deposit to the electric company when you had paid the family’s electric bill for the last 50 years! When I was getting divorced and was establishing my own auto insurance policy, I needed my soon to be ex’s permission to acquire certain auto insurance benefits with a well-known insurance company (that shall remain nameless) because we were still married and he had a policy with those same benefits. He had to agree to let me have those benefits too. I was lucky he agreed. I imagine not all exes are as amenable. By the way, that was only a dozen years ago.

Honestly, I have such fatigue realizing that the same fight I was arguing about in 1986, the year I graduated law school, is the same fight I’m arguing about today.

Authors and news people, Katy Kay and Claire Shipman claim that the key to fiscal fitness among women is being confident and asking for the job you want at the salary you want (The Confidence Code, Harper Business, 2014). I don’t know that it is that simple. If you are a Katy Kay (of the BBC) then maybe you can command enough clout to walk into a boss’s office and demand what you want (job, hours, salary). I am not so sure that a woman working at Handy Mart for minimum wage can do the same. I doubt that a teacher can do the same. I know that I wasn’t given that opportunity either. I still hear about this from other women I talk to as well. Frankly, I think that if we weren’t still hearing about it, we’d know that either we had succeeded at being in charge of our fiscal fitness and closing that $849,000 lifetime gap, or had totally given up.

I don’t see us giving up, at least in my lifetime. So what I really want to know from the Valley Business Women readers being directed to this blog entry, as well as any woman (or man) that reads my blog, is what do you think we have to do to close this almost $1 million gap? Are there skills we, as women, need beyond our education, our innate intelligence, and our willingness to work really hard? Or is it something else?

© Suzan D. Herskowitz



Am I the only one that has a list a mile long of things to do, things I want to do, things I need to do, things other people need me to do, things I should do, things I should stop doing, things I should do differently??????

Yeah, I thought so!

My list has a lot of moving parts – running a business (dealing with clients and administrative matters), straightening the house, cooking food, shopping for groceries, laundry, exercise at least 3 days a week (can I squeeze that 4th day in for yoga?), cleaning litter boxes, calling my parents, writing my best friend, networking, setting new goals, eating right, just to name some of the things I do daily and/or weekly. Plus, I have to sleep and work in some down time, right?


Prioritizing may just be the hardest thing I do. Squeezing everything I want to do in a 24-hour period is tough to tackle. Mike Robbins put it like this, “I think we clutter up our lives with too much “stuff”. We’re too busy, over-committed and information obsessed“.  Now and then I have to employ tough love with myself. As much as I hate to say it, getting up at 6 a.m. to exercise 3 mornings a week sometimes takes a back seat to taking that extra moment to just sit and drink some green tea, especially on those mornings I wake up and feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Not enough sleep, running on all cylinders, burning the candles at 3 ends will do that to a person.

It isn’t always easy to say “no” when a friend asks to go out mid-week for drinks after work but some days I have to say it – nicely – NO. “I’m sorry, I have other plans.” That plan may be going home to drink a cup of tea and read. It may sound disingenuous to say that but if a friend won’t take no for an answer, you do what you have to do. It’s not lying. It’s prioritizing your own health and well-being as first priority. If next week is better, I just say, “not this week, how about next Tuesday?” It’s better to be honest with your friend and yourself instead of silently fuming that you got roped into an afterhours drink. Besides, your friend didn’t rope you in. YOU roped you in. Even Mahatma Gandhi knew this when he said, ““A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

You can’t chair every committee you’re asked to chair. Heck, you can’t even be on every committee you’re asked to participate on. When do you get the rest of your life done if you do that?


That brings up the big point. I need to be honest with myself. We all strive to be Wonder Woman (or Wonder Man) but we are all human. There really are only 24 hours in a day and while most of the women (and men) I know are indeed super women (and men), all of us need to prioritize or we look more like Wile E. Coyote after being hit by the Acme anvil. None of us need that. According to Mike Robbins, “we may not know what’s most important to us or at least have some internal conflict about what “should” be. Whether it’s our lack of clarity or it’s this phenomenon of “should-ing” (or maybe a bit of both), focusing on what truly matters to us can be trickier than it seems on the surface.”

I decided to look up what some time management, life coach type people had to say about prioritizing. One of my favorites is Marie Forleo (#MarieForleo) at Marie TV. I highly recommend the video on this page of her website,, which I found only after I wrote most of this blog post. Don’t you love when the Universe aligns with your intention?

My take on this, when all is said and done, is that some days you just need to relax and breathe. Do what is important to you and do your best to not let other things suck away your very precious time.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Steven Pressfield, which I learned about from watching Marie Forleo’s video. “The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

[Welcome Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Valley Business Women!!!]

© 2016 Suzan D. Herskowitz

The 80/20 Rule and Swindoll’s 90/10 Rule Converge

The Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule, states that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. It suggests then that the goal we all should implement is to maximize that 20% and stop wasting our time on the majority of the tasks we do on a daily basis because they do not assist us in achieving the best outcomes.

Comparably, Charles R. Swindoll said that “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

I’ve been thinking about the convergence of these two principles and how to harness them to maximize satisfactory results, whether that is in work, home, relationships, health or spirit.

Of course, sometimes you need to perform low input tasks in order to become more proficient; so the 80/20 rule cannot always be applied. It stands to reason however that the better you become at doing those tasks that are less effective, at some point, you will be doing more of those things that yield the highest results. If you cannot gain the skill needed for a task, you either don’t continue with that task (if you can get away without doing it without harming yourself, your business or others) or delegate to someone who can. For example, I maybe a good bookkeeper but I hate doing it, so I delegate it to someone who does it easily. Freeing up time from what is a chore for me allows me the opportunity to perform activities with a high output. It is financially more rewarding to me and a lot less stressful.

Pareto Principle picture

Sometimes however, you can’t get away from the stress. That’s where I think Swindoll’s 90/10 principle comes into play. I believe that this is really a balancing act. When I was younger, for example, I operated on the principle that if the money was green, I would perform the tasks. I had demanding and unreasonable clients and I was spending an excessive amount of time placating them. Now, I am learning to ask myself whether it’s worth the high output, if my reaction to it, in terms of stress, lack of sleep, physical health symptoms, and lack of free time is having an overall deleterious effect on my health and wellbeing. Sometimes, the answer is still yes but I am more aware that I am making the choice to react in that manner. Sometimes, the answer is that the stress is just not worth the trouble and I refuse the work in favor of other work which is just as high output but much lower input on both the Pareto and Swindoll scales.

What choices do you make to maximize your life output and reduce your input? Please share!


© Suzan D. Herskowitz