Whenever I see titles such as “5 Most Common Mistakes Financial Advisors See Women Make,” my mind goes sour. I am tired of reading negative stories about women and money. Especially with the anxiety of 2020 heavy on our shoulders, do we really need more articles about “mistakes”? Besides, in my opinion, the mistake is not that women are messing up, the mistake is that people keep trying to insist women are making mistakes with money when in fact, many women have become quite good with finances.
I want to help you understand where I’m coming from. I have the privilege of being connected to an intergenerational group of women working in the financial services industry. We live all over the country, ages 20 to 60, lesbian and straight—just women gathering in a circle on social media. We agree we work in a male-dominated industry that has not seen a net growth in the number of women who see this industry as an inviting career in decades. We are creating change by focusing on this challenge.
We help each other with self-development, including supporting each other’s leadership, education and network to build the stairway of success. We share our perspectives, triumphs and worries. To me, it feels like we are a financial support group.
Through this group of women, I am reminded that women are resilient and are not making as many “mistakes” with our money as we have in the past; I am seeing more and more women push to succeed in the financial world.
I asked my support group to help me with this article and their thoughts are woven together here. So instead of 5 more mistakes, here are 5 common misconceptions about women’s relationship with money. I hope some of this resonates with you.
1. Women don’t want to take care of their finances or ask for help.
I find this concept so interesting, as I often find the opposite to be true. Women, in fact, often take ownership of their finances. The women I know as peers and clients believe it is important for them to be part of, if not solely, in charge of the financial decisions that impact them.
Many of us learned from our mothers to be involved and take control of our money from a young age. Even if some women find personal finances boring or difficult to understand, many recognize the importance of being involved because we never know when we will find ourselves alone and needing to take full ownership of our finances.
Many millennial women are also choosing to stay single longer. They are buying their first homes by themselves, contributing to retirement plans at their first employer and, to the surprise of their parents, having confidence in these decisions!
Whether gay or straight, many women are waiting later in life to marry and combine financial resources, often keeping finances separate much longer than women in prior generations. Now many divorced women are choosing not to remarry or if they do, deciding to keep their financial life separate. Widows are choosing to enjoy companionship without the financial commitment of marriage.
2. Women don’t want to talk about money.
Like my first point above, I often see the opposite of this misconception in my work. My women peers and clients express their financial concerns and questions with confidence. They want to talk about money and they share their knowledge with their families and friends. They understand the importance of working with an expert and show up with specific, amazing questions. They know what they are doing and what they are asking. They often research financial concepts online, read books and articles prior to our meetings and forward items to add to the discussion agenda. They are eager to understand how their social values can translate into their investment choices and impact their social beliefs as well.
They are creating trusted women support groups, either formal or informal, and talk about their money choices honestly and openly with them. They compare their decisions while empowering each other to seek out the knowledge they need to really feel successful.
3. Women are impulsive with money.
I disagree! Let’s talk about this. Many women take care of everyone in the family first—parents, siblings, their children, spouse or partner, etc. Their daily focus is on being the center of the family and nurturing everyone. That also seems to be the expectation in our society—some things change and some things don’t.
So women may seem impulsive when choosing to buy something nice for themselves. I don’t believe that’s true. I believe we buy things and spend money on experiences we value. In the past, generations of women may have saved money “under the mattress” for a rainy day.
Nowadays, capable millennial moms are savvy investors who contribute to retirement accounts and college savings plans for kids and keep a “buffer” in their household checking accounts—before making that purchase for themselves. I recommend to them that they keep a separate “spending” account, so they have money to spend on items they want to enjoy rather than discussing all financial choices with partners or spouses. They have earned it.
4. Women should rely on their partner or spouse for financial support.
Women are redefining their roles constantly and challenging old belief systems to make room for the creative, new ones instead, and a lot of these new belief systems have women at the center of their financial decisions. A place of true empowerment! Yet, something else is happening as well. More and more millennial women who have done well financially are simply deciding the “traditional way,” of being only a mother or caretaker while their spouse is the breadwinner, is not the only way or in some cases, even the “right way” for them.
More and more, we are seeing this idea turned around. It is no longer just about relying on a partner or spouse for financial support. In fact, many of the women I speak to have expressed that when they make the decision to let their partner handle the finances of the household, it is because they can’t juggle everything at once. They need help, and the finances, while they know how to handle them, is one area where they can relinquish control.
5. Moms don’t need to focus on finances because they are taking care of the kids.
Yes, many women still are the primary caretaker in a household whether it’s a lesbian mom or straight mom. Yet, they are also simultaneously increasing their role in the workplace. They want meaningful work outside of the home, something for their own inner self. They are choosing to take on the roles of breadwinner, mother, housekeeper, educator and caretaker—all at once. Sometimes, this results in passing the financial responsibility to another. It’s not that they don’t need to focus on the finances or stop focusing on them, they just need to delegate some things. They are trying to balance all the family and household demands. Women are asking for help—what’s wrong with that?
Overall, women are changing their roles in the world and becoming the center of many financial conversations. We have powerful women in charge of financial decision making at all levels in our world now. My hope is we begin to see more positive and deliberate focus around financial literacy and money. I realize we need more work done in this area, especially with underserved markets and people of color. However, I believe more and more women are showing up to the table to lead these discussions, build community and teach others about money, and I for one cannot wait to see where this growth continues to take us all.
To all the wonderful women in the financial services industry and your friends, clients, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, mentors, etc., I would like to say thank you for changing the way you handle money, make decisions, talk openly about it and enjoy how successful you have become over the years. Cheers!