Barter Babe 1.0 Shannon Simmons
As founder of The Barter Babes Project, I provide young women with financial advice in exchange for a bartered good/service rather than a fee. I never thought of myself as a social entrepreneur before. But now, upon consideration, I’m proud to say that I may just be one!
Gen Y has more debt at a young age than any generation prior – and most of it has nothing to do with Jimmy Choo shoes. Higher education is no longer an option but a necessity, with an Honours BA now the equivalent of Grade 12 thirty years ago. As education costs continue to soar, the easy answer is credit – student loans, cunningly marketed credit cards and lines of credit. The routes to debt are without number, and none of them come with an instruction manual on how to manage the load.
And then after graduation – but before we’re thirty-five – we are all expected to:
1. Land a fabulous job
2. Wear fabulous clothes – you don’t want an unfabulous photo tagged on Facebook do you?
3. Be fabuously debt free
4. Take fabulous vacations because “the time is now, before kids”
5. Have a fabulous, lavish wedding
6. Buy a fabulous home… fully furnished without hand-me-downs.
7. Have fabulous babies who are in fabulous extra-curricular activities because otherwise you’re a fabulously terrible mother.
8. Oh, and don’t forget to save for retirement because if you don’t, you’ll outlive your assets and eat not-so-fabulous cat food in your old age.
With costs of living on the rise and wages stagnant over the past decade, we’ve discovered that fabulous is the last thing we can afford.
Our financial constraints leave us feeling like there isn’t enough money to buy any kind of house, or take a trip outside of the GTA. This reality has suddenly become palpable and terrifying. We’re yearning for financial advice, a plan that will allow us to stop thinking about money all the time, but we can’t afford the advice we need. Fee-for-service financial planners charge an average of $150/hour, and we certainly don’t meet the minimum asset requirements for investment firms.
Of course, I’m not the first to recognize this problem. The market is flooded with financial self-help books, blogs etc. marketed toward young women. So why aren’t we all on track financially? Why are we struggling and why are we still afraid?
Barter Babe 42.0
The answer is simple: information overload, too much of a good thing. Which book do you pick up? Which blog do you follow? More importantly, who do you trust?
Like diet books, financial books are a dime a dozen with just as many theories. Imagine a woman who is terrible with details and lists, picking up the latest diet book that emphasizes the importance of tallying her daily food intake. While that system may have worked wonders for her data-hound friend, this method won’t work for her at all. She’s setting herself up for failure the moment she carts that book to the checkout.
The same holds true for financial advice. While one method might work wonders for one friend, another woman can feel overwhelmed by the demands of that same program and end up feeling like it’s somehow her fault when it doesn’t work.
Adding to the problem is the way most of those self-help books are marketed to perpetuate the idea that we need to be rich and fabulous. Titles like “Young, Broke and Fabulous”, “Smart Couples Finish Rich” and “Rich by Thirty” do nothing to alleviate the pressure. Even titles like “Shoo Jimmy Choo” keep breathing life into the myth that young women are struggling financially because we can’t resist buying designer shoes, when in reality all we really want is to ensure we have enough each month for a TTC pass!
Is it any wonder we are feeling utterly defeated before we even begin? Our financial goals seem insurmountable and far-fetched. We aren’t even sure how much money we should be putting away towards these goals, but we assume we don’t have enough. It’s exhausting and frustrating and we risk entering into a dangerous “this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot clean it up, there is NO WAY AT ALL” mindset.
So how do we stop the cycle of defeat? Where can we find the kind of one-on-one financial advice we need in order to set goals that matter to us while mapping out a realistic plan that has us taking action in a way that makes us happy.
Barter Babe 2.0
Enter the Barter Babes Project with its triple bottom line:
1. Being a Barter Babe is affordable – it costs nothing but your time and effort.
2. The financial advice you receive is one-on-one, helping you form a plan that works for YOUR life, not someone else’s
3. Bartering proves that you’re worth more than just what’s in your bank account.
The Barter Babes Project aims to demonstrate that while money is a necessity that requires a realistic plan, it is not a measure of our value. We all have skills, knowledge and talents but because we can’t put a dollar value on them we often dismiss those talents as worthless. As a Barter Babe, your love of cooking, your knowledge of art, your photography skills or creativity with knitting needles are valuable assets that will get you the financial advice you’ve been looking for.
So while the mess may feel so big, and so deep and so tall for many of us Gen Yers — there is a way to clear through the mess and really clean house!
As Barter Babe 24.0 said: “I’m really excited about this plan. I never thought I’d say that about finances.”