It is noon, and the ferry is leaving in just a few hours. My partner and I are in Puerto Montt, in southern Chile, trying to reach the southern tip of the continent.
Despite it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere, it's cold as hell. We had spent the last three hours riding in the rain. Originally, we were to cover the trip entirely by road on a motorbike.
I’m soaked, cranky, and exhausted. Do we want to continue the ride for another week, or board a ferry for three days and stay warm, but miss out on what we considered would be the “real” adventure?
The ferry, which they attempt to pass off as a “cruise ship,” is far from a floating luxury hotel. It's a cargo ship that runs supplies to remote communities and makes some extra income packing a few tourists on board. Online reviews say the $690 price tag per person for three days will get you college-cafeteria-style meals and a shoebox to sleep in. For the two of us and the bike, it comes to $1,600. Okay, we’ll bite the bullet because it is too cold to face the roads.
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The cabin doesn’t have an en suite bathroom. The saleswoman is asking for an extra $740 for the privilege of a cabin with a shower inside.
No way, I tell my partner. That’s almost $250 a night. I’m not paying the price of a fancy hotel on top of an overpriced cruise just for a private shower. The idea of paying $690 for a three-day “cruise” is already making me cringe.
My travel mate pipes in, “You just pay the $690, and I’ll cover the difference.” Instead of me being grateful, a heated argument ensues in front of a confused saleswoman.
Even though my partner has more money than me, that isn't a reason for me to take advantage — he worked just as hard for his money as I did for mine.
Now, I hope to have kids someday. But even if I were to be a stay-at-home parent, I like to picture myself covering half the bills.
The Importance of Financially Preparing for a Breakup
I talked previously about a past breakup, and how within 24 hours, I had booked myself a last-minute air ticket back home at twice the usual price without blinking. That, to me, is freedom.
I wish all women had the same power: the means to leave an abusive relationship or to stop being roommates with someone you don’t love anymore because you can’t afford rent on your own. Some call it a “Fuck You Fund.”
Whether a relationship or a job, having the power to leave on your terms does matter. Or even the power to simply to say, “Hey, I love you for you, and because you don’t have to provide for me, you can be sure that if I'm sticking around, it's not because you make my financial life easier.”
I am not judgmental about kept women, as long as they are happy in their relationships. But many of my friends have gone through nasty divorces and found themselves unable to maintain the lifestyle they had while married.
Striking a Balance During Your Relationship
To be fair, things aren’t always so cut-and-dry, but the situation I found myself in while traveling with my partner in Chile was immediate and pressing. It’s possible to maintain a feminist stance while allowing a partner to treat you sometimes.
“If a man is financially much better off than his date, then he can pay for the meal and perhaps she can buy him ice cream or pay for the taxi home,” says Alexandra Filia, author of Love Is a Game: A Marriage Proposal in 90 Days. Experts seem to agree that splitting costs proportionately is acceptable.
And let’s not always assume it’s men who are the primary breadwinners. Though they are few and far between, the Pew Institute has found seven locations in the U.S. where women outearn men. Seven. Ouch.
“Equality is better defined in areas such as the workplace, major family decisions, promotions, pay, and the like,” Filia says.
“When it comes to dating, women often prefer to have a prince on a white horse. And men get excited about flirting with a mermaid and saving a maiden in distress. It is only a game, and feminism has nothing to do with it.”
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Why Financial Independence Is a Necessity
It may be a fun game for some when casually dating, but I can’t imagine letting a guy float me in a more serious context. Financial independence needs to be an ever-present thing for me, personally.
Imagine, for instance, going through a divorce with someone who made significantly more money than you. Now you’re suddenly left out on your own. Can you even pay rent for an apartment to live alone?
I have a friend who ended up in this exact situation. After her divorce, she wound up in a 400-square-foot apartment that she shared with my niece. My friend slept on the couch for two years, and her rent was 70 percent of her take-home pay.
During her marriage, she had elected to rely on her husband as the breadwinner and didn't land on her feet when they eventually separated. It breaks my heart to see or hear of women in that situation.
How to Prepare for a Breakup
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If everything turns out okay, you can give the savings to your grown-up kids to help them go to college and all will be good. But if things go south, you should absolutely have the means to leave.
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Living in Guatemala, I often lament the lack of financial independence for women. Women in my country manage the household with whatever is left after their husbands are done partying on payday. They typically have three or four kids and no way to make a living on their own. So they stay, sometimes enduring abuse, infidelity, and worse.
Watching these situations makes me realize I never want money to be the Damocles’ sword hanging over my head. I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t love my partner, but don’t want to leave his wallet. I never want to have to beg for alimony to feed my kids after a divorce.
Being a strong, independent woman is one reason I started saving money. I encourage all women out there to do the same.