Women and finance. It’s not a secret and we all are well too aware of it: Women lag behind men when it comes to their finances. Sadly, despite some of the glass ceilings that have come down over the recent years, financial inequalities between men and women continue to be a hot spot of major concern. I guess on the surface it may be puzzling for you to hear a man say it and that he would write about such a subject or even care about it. But I do care. It’s an important subject to understand and to make it change. So the discussion today is about how women can boost their financial power.
The Basic Facts
Many women try to do it all. They care for the kids, for aging parents, and even for their partners. With all these responsibilities, they try to earn money, be a great wife, and in the end, get totally stressed out along the way there. It creates an enormous amount of pressure that women didn’t face as recently as just 50 years ago. Ironically, the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s may have ended some problems, but invented new ones.
One example of a “new problem” is all about earning money and investing and saving it. Women significantly lag behind their male peers when it comes to salary and net worth. This gender difference is often blamed on women’s caregiving roles, and that is true, partially. Despite the fact that an increasing number of men have assumed these responsibilities over recent years, women are still bearing the brunt of the child-rearing responsibilities and it has affected them in the workplace.
Women raising children have often led them to scale back their working careers. When that happens, they are more likely to choose more flexible jobs that come with built-in lower pay. It is a way that has become the norm. But there is an additional factor to child rearing. According to most surveys of women over age 18, the other overarching factor at play here is a lack of confidence.
While a large percentage of women say that they want to learn more about financial planning and want to be more involved in their finances, the majority also say they feel uncomfortable talking about money. That’s true even with friends, spouses, and financial professionals. When asked, women say they avoid talking about finances with someone they’re close to because the topic is just too personal, or it feels uncomfortable to discuss.
Why This Is a Big Deal
When you think about it, most of us, including women, developed our earliest memories based around the fact that dad handled all the family financial matters. Mom probably didn’t work, or if she did, she didn’t have the “big” high income job that dad had.
Watching mom and dad assume these traditional roles with family and money from a child’s perspective lays groundwork that becomes a big part of the thought process when they grow up. It’s difficult to break even after you are out on your own.
Besides just the handling of the routine of paying bills and making everyday money decisions, this part of the “the conditioning” about money has also led to women feeling less confident when it comes to investments and even retirement (despite studies showing that women tend to be better investors).
Another reason that a women often falls out of the money decision-making loop is the challenge of middle age and the stress that comes from caring for aging parents. As mom and dad get older and get sick, it’s the women who have careers that often have to make a decision to stop working to take care of parents. The numbers say that it’s typically the daughter in the family who takes on that elder care role.
Rely on a Man? Maybe the Answer Should Be No!
It’s a big deal in the 21st century. Women shouldn’t and can’t rely (and never should have) only on a man to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to money decisions.
If a woman has a partner, then there should be a “partnership” in all aspects and especially about money. That should be the rule and not the exception.
It’s particularly important that women embrace finances. The skill and the management of money are important because at some point in their lives, 9 in 10 women will be the sole financial decision makers. That is a fact simply because of the divorce rate and the differences in life expectancy between men and women here in the US. Women outlive men.
How Women Can Gain Confidence with Money
1. Attend a free seminar
Check out a workshop from a financial services advisor or any company that helps women understand money issues. You can even find such meetings at your local library. The focus can be on investing or it can be just sharing experiences. This is a basic first step.
2. Read a book
Reading is “fundamental” as they say so find a book about this subject. Two great books I discovered are “Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together” by financial journalist Nicole Lapin and “Ladies with Loot” by financial advisor Erica McCain. Both are available for free at local libraries.
3. Get help and guidance at work
You can take advantage of workplace programs that offer retirement and financial guidance planning. Many employers offer free workshops and educational materials and advice, so take the steps and get them free usually offered through your human resources department.
4. Get online and do it yourself
Learn on your own in the comfort of your home and use your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Fidelity, Citigroup, Bank of America, SunTrust, Chase, and most other financial institutions offer free articles, retirement readiness calculators, and information about money issues on their free websites. And of course there are a multitude of personal finance blogs to check out.
5. Find a money mentor
Find someone to be your “money mentor” and have a chat! It may seem awkward at first, but chatting about money with a friend can often lead to new insights and even encouragement. Find a financial “buddy” to talk with regularly about money and specific challenges and goals. Successful people love to mentor others and you can find someone to help you if you make an effort.
6. Turn to a pro
If needed, get a professional to help you understand and plan your financial future. It may cost you a fee after an initial consult, but if it can offer you a life-saving course change, isn’t it worth it? If you lack the confidence and you are worried about it, when all else fails. seek out a proven financial advisor whom you can trust.
After over 50 years of working with many women in business, I think I have a valid opinion here about the subject of women and finance. Women have proven over and over again that they are fully capable in handling important jobs and big money matters and decisions. Despite that fact, men continue to try and inhibit women from doing it and still make it very difficult for women when they try. The glass ceiling may have a few cracks in it, but family responsibilities and traditional roles still dominate the financial and family landscape.
Help is within women to claim and depending on others to change these rules isn’t a good option. That seems to be moving much too slowly, doesn’t it?
Have you experienced the “glass ceiling” at work and/or have you had to fight for better pay for your job simply because women weren’t paid equally for equal work? How did you handle it and did it change anything?
Are you the caregiver at home? Do you defer to the men in your life when it comes to finances? Are you an equal partner in your financial future?