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This is nothing like you wanted.

Your personal timeline had you in your own home by now. You wanted marriage, kids, definitely a job that allowed for nice things, absolutely a job you enjoyed.

That’s what you wanted. That’s not what you have. In “Think Like a Breadwinner” by Jennifer Barrett, achieving your dreams can take a slice of work.

Get this: some 70 years ago, 40% of all women between the ages of 25 and 54 were the breadwinners in their family. In 2019, that number had jumped to 75%.

Barrett is one of those breadwinning women, having started not too long ago: while tending to her young son in the middle of one night, she looked around her apartment and realized that things were “unsustainable.” She and her husband wanted another child, a bigger home and nice vacations, but they had no savings.

The biggest, first lesson Barrett learned is the one she imparts early in this book: “you – and only you – are ultimately responsible for your future.” You can’t wait for Prince Charming, a better job or a lottery win. Single or not, you have to do this. “On. Your. Own.”

Chances are that you weren’t given much financial instruction as a child. Most girls, says Barrett, have Princess Fantasies and are taught to “budget,” while boys are taught to invest. Ads feature women shopping with credit cards; men are shown in power suits. All of which is to say: we have work to do.

Imagine what life would be like, debt-free. Visualize having the freedom to quit a job you hate or start a business or leave a relationship that’s not healthy. Know that it’s not what you make, but what you save, and that every dollar in interest you pay on debt is a dollar that’s not earning interest for you. Learn how easy it is to invest. Do research before asking for a salary or raise. And finally, this: “You get to decide how your story is written.”

Write well.

So there are a lot of zeroes in your savings account. Zero yesterday, zero last week, zero last month. “Think Like a Breadwinner” can help you find the mindset to change that, and you’ll get righteously outraged while you do.

With an abundance of first-person stories and statistics that are eye-opening, Barrett shows readers that financial woes have deep roots, but that they alone have the power to fix it. That one word resonates in many forms inside this book and in many personal accounts, and it’s used like an irritant first, then like a soothing lemon tea made with SuperPower elixir: it stirs a reader up, then calms her desperate, fed-up mind, unleashing a strength that grows as this book progresses.

Though this book is meant more for younger women who have years of work life left, there’s no reason that a woman eyeing retirement couldn’t glean something from it. Look at your bank book again. Isn’t “Think Like a Breadwinner” what you’ve wanted?

“Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less)” by Jennifer Barrett, c. 2021, Putnam, $26/$35 Canada, 340 pages

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