How Saying ‘Yes’ is Costing High-Powered Women $20,500 a Year

Issue 80. June 21, 2024 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo Credit: Getty Images

In my boundaries coaching business, I coach some pretty high-powered women. There’s an enormous toll on them personally, professionally, physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially. There are many factors that lead to this, but it’s mainly because they keep saying yes when they really want to say no, and they neglect themselves because they’re so focused on other people. 

I decided to delve into the financial toll on these women, but I wasn’t sure how to come up with that information. So I went to ChatGPT.

I asked it first to calculate the amount of money that’s lost by the average professional woman per year because she keeps saying yes to things she really doesn’t want to do and neglecting herself because she’s focused on other people. It added up to

$20,500 lost per year

Wow! I’ll share all the assumptions and calculations below for those of you who are data nerds and want to delve into it. Even if you’re not a data nerd, if you’re a professional woman or you work in organizations of professional women, this is a wake-up call.

We’ve got to stop saying yes and neglecting ourselves. It not only costs us our physical, emotional, and psychological health and relationships, but it costs us our wallets and our wealth as well. 

Speaking of wealth, when I went back to ChatGPT to ask the cost to a professional woman over a 30-year career (compounded over time), the answer was


Some of the reasons women, say yes when they really want to say no is that they don’t want to be rude, offend people, or be thought of as bad people or unhelpful. Personally, I thought of myself as “nice.” I thought I did all those things for others because I was a nice person. It turns out I was really invested in what others thought of me. It’s not that I didn’t want to be helpful, mind you, but the reason I went overboard and said yes when I didn’t want to, and got to the point where I regularly neglected myself was because of what others thought. I cared about those more than my own well-being. Sound familiar? If so, you’re a perfect candidate for my private coaching program!

I also didn’t want people to think I was selfish. It’s astonishing how that word can stop just about any woman, no matter how powerful or successful she is. God forbid a woman be perceived as selfish! Women have been taught to care – to be nice, helpful, and selfless. Not that there is anything wrong with caretaking, we need to take care of others. But we don’t need to do it to our own detriment. And that’s what we do. 

If you’re a professional woman yourself, or you work in an organization of professional women, I want you to know it’s possible to change that without giving up being helpful to others. I’m living proof. I worked full-time at Yale University for 17 years and had volunteered for 13 different non-profits by the time I learned how to build healthy boundaries. In terms of hours per week, I give more service to my community now than I did when I was a volunteer-a-holic. Learning to build healthy boundaries does not mean you’ll no longer be helpful. It means you’ll learn to make strategic decisions by choice (not by compulsion) for when, where, and how you’ll help. It also means you’ll learn to include yourself in the “help” you provide by filling your own cup first so you can pour from the overflow, rather than trying to pour from an empty cup.

For those of you who want to see how the numbers above were calculated, they’re listed below along with the questions I asked ChatGPT.


“Calculating the monetary loss for the average professional woman due to constantly saying “yes” to things she doesn’t want to do and neglecting herself involves several assumptions and variables. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Time Spent on Unwanted Tasks:
    • Estimate the average number of hours per week spent on tasks she doesn’t want to do.
    • Calculate the equivalent salary for that time.
  2. Opportunity Cost:
    • Assess the potential opportunities missed (e.g., career advancement, skill development, rest, personal projects) because of the time spent on unwanted tasks and neglecting self-care.
  3. Health and Well-being Costs:
    • Consider potential health costs due to neglecting self-care, leading to increased medical expenses or reduced productivity.”

It then broke down these factors into more details. 

For Time Spent on Unwanted Tasks, it made several assumptions, which you may or may not agree with but it’s a place to start.

  • Hours per week spent on unwanted tasks: 5 hours
  • Weeks worked per year: 50 (assuming 2 weeks of vacation)
  • Hourly wage: $40/hour 

I wasn’t sure where the $40/hour figure came from so I asked some follow-up questions. The first was. “What is the average salary of professional women in the United States?” It gave me some historical data and some median earnings, but not a mean average. What it did was give me some categories to ask about: women in management, professional, and related occupations.

I then asked it to give me the average of the women in the category of management, professional, and other related occupations, and the response was $103,168. That calculates to about $50/hour so I used that figure going forward.

The next factor was Opportunity Costs. This includes things like potential salary increases or bonuses missed due to a lack of focus on career advancement because of the continual focus on others and people-pleasing. AI estimated $5000, which seems pretty low to me, but since I have no other basis by which to come up with a figure, I’m going with that.

The last factor was Health and Well-being costs. The assumptions made by AI here were that there would be increased medical expenses of about $1000 due to stress and self-neglect. That too seems low to me, but again, I have no basis on which to come up with another figure. AI also assumed about $2000 because of decreased productivity due to burnout. Again, that seems low but we’re going with it.

Putting that all together here’s what that looks like:

Assuming an average salary of $103,000 equates to about $50/hour.

  • Time spent on unwanted tasks = 5 hours/week x $50/hour = $250/week = $12,500/year
  • Opportunity cost = $5000/year
  • Health and well-being costs  = $3000/year

That totals $20,500 per year. Granted there have been lots of assumptions made here, but based on the women I work with, the assumptions are low. The high amount of stress caused to women who keep saying yes to things they don’t want to do causes them all kinds of physical, emotional, psychological, and relationship issues.


The cost of self-neglect is incalculable, especially when I consider my own experience of neglecting (and even abusing) myself for decades. There’s no dollar amount you can put on loss of joy, fulfillment, health, and easy relationships. In addition, these figures don’t include the massive amounts of money these women often spend rescuing, fixing, and saving others as well as buying others’ affection. One of my clients told me that last year alone, she spent $85,000 enabling her adult son!

If you’re done donating $20,000 a year to the cause of people-pleasing, sign up for a free 30-minute Better Boundaries call with me.


Sticky notes

I frequently write notes to myself on them as reminders. I often use them to jot down some line in reading or from a podcast I heard that I don’t want to forget especially if it’s a good inspiration for me to share something on social media or my podcast. I also have them as reminders in various places in my home. I just love them!

Did you know they were invented by accident? The 3M company was trying to invent some kind of stronger adhesive and look what the result was! That’s why you should keep going, you never know when your “mistake” will lead to something so great!

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