International Women’s Day is on Friday, and that means it’s the perfect time to talk about women’s issues. Money is one of those issues. Sure, it’s not solely a women’s issue, but it is so interlinked with just about every other part of our lives that makes it such an important topic.
In February 2018, Leger conducted a survey of Canadian women asking them about financial matters and what they struggled with. The results are eye-opening. They give us a better understanding of how many women lack confidence when it comes to money. That’s a big deal because money is emotional. Not being confident in your knowledge and execution of money stuff means you’re more likely to sit on the sidelines and take the do nothing approach. Creating safe spaces for women to learn, talk, and ask questions is huge when it comes to educating and building confidence. It’s so much easier to have open communication when you don’t feel like the only beginner in the room.
Lack of Knowledge
For me, the most concerning finding in the survey are the 38% agreed with the statement ‘I know very little about issues related to finance and investment.’ Knowledge is confidence, and therefore a lack of knowledge is a lack of confidence. This is especially prevalent with younger respondents. Women between 18 and 34 agreed with that statement 55% of the time. Yikes.
I won’t start ranting about the importance of incorporating personal finance into the education system, but OH MY GOSH THAT NEEDS TO BE A THING!
The issue of knowledge is a tough one. How do you get started when you don’t know where to start? Not understanding interest rates and the downside of debt makes credit cards look a lot more attractive when you’re struggling to pay the bills. The information is out there. Obviously, those of us who are out there reading and writing personal finance blogs know that, but how do we get that information in the hands of the people who need it? I know I’ve indeed asked myself that before.
Making Money Less Taboo
How many of you talk to your friends about your relationship? Most of us I’m guessing. But how many talk about how you divvy up of spending as a couple? Not so many. And I bet everyone rants about their job, but few mention how much they’re paid. Or go on shopping trips with friends but never bring up credit card debt. It’s a weird thought that females can sync up menstrual cycles with roommates and yet have zero awareness of their financial situation.
Money is a part of just about everything we do with our friends, but it’s rarely a topic of discussion. Changing that would go a long way to closing the knowledge gap.
Next up I want to talk about the 28% of women who agreed they ‘rely on someone else to help me make ends meet financially.’ I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for everyone to have their own money. Money they can access in case shit hits the fan. No matter how A+ your relationship is today, you never know what may happen in the future and having access to money is a safety net. Too often people (especially women) get trapped in dangerous situations because they rely on their partner for money.
This can be a touchy subject, especially in relationships where there is a clear breadwinner. But you know what? Part of creating a stable and equal relationship is ensuring everyone has the access and the means to do what’s best for them. Hopefully what’s best for one will always be what’s best for both, but we all know that’s not the case.
The FU Fund
I’m sure many of you have heard about a ‘Fuck Off Fund’ to describe an emergency fund that gives the holder access to money to get themselves out of a bad situation. That could be a bad relationship, but can also be back-up for a leaving a job you hate.
To be useful, your FU Fund needs to be the following:
- Yours – it should be in your name only, not a joint account
- Accessible – do not lock it up into an investment like a GIC or anything that has a term
- Safe – this is not the place to take risks; think high-interest savings or very low-risk investments
The final point I want to touch on from that survey is the debt vs. savings question. High debt levels are a problem. The average Canadian household has $1.78 of credit market debt (includes mortgages) to every $1 of household disposable income.
The Leger survey doesn’t exactly paint a prettier picture indicating that 34% of Canadian women have more debt (outside of real estate) than savings. Debt can be a useful tool in certain circumstances. Most of us would never be able to own a home without taking on a mortgage. But debt can also get you into a lot of trouble. And once you’re in it, it’s tough to get out of it. The fact that 34% of respondents have more debt than savings means that too many of us are using debt to get by in a life we can’t otherwise afford.
Financial Advice for Women
People can get pretty sensitive when we start talking about creating spaces and advice specifically for one group. The problem with that kind of thinking is that the people getting cranky tend to be the ones who have been the target group for so long. You don’t have to go back too far in history where female voices did not exist in finance. Even today they’re still not the norm.
I’ve seen firsthand how a female only space can create a dynamic you won’t find in a mixed group. The conversations flow more freely, questions are raised, and the tone feels more uplifting than patronizing.
Women also have different issues that need to be accounted for when it comes to their money. We tend to live longer, earn less, and have less confidence when it comes to investing. It’s unfortunate, but these topics aren’t covered nearly as often as they should be by financial advisors, writers, and the media. Things are changing, but it’s still a problem.
Our Concerns are Valid
My parents are an example of this. For years they worked with a male advisor before deciding to make a switch. Why? My mom didn’t feel heard. She felt like he only ever spoke to my dad and would brush off any questions she had. Now, they’re with a female advisor who treats my mom as an equal partner, and she feels much more confident and in the loop as a result. This isn’t to say they had to go with a woman; they just needed someone who was willing to teach.
Based on life expectancy stats, there is a good chance my mom will outlive my dad. Women tend to live longer, and she’s younger. A pretty typical situation for baby boomer couples I would think. And you know what that means? At some point, she will be dealing with the finances solo and needs someone who she feels is on her side.
Specific financial advice for women and creating safe spaces for women to open up about money are vital to increasing knowledge and building confidence.
This post was proofread by Grammarly.