A lot of us live with many unconscious, limiting beliefs about money. Most of these beliefs were learned from childhood while the rest have been picked from different life experiences.
By the time you’re 17 or 18, your money identity is already formed. Your family background shapes your emotional relationship with money.
As an adult, this identity is usually not in sync with the amount of money in your bank account.
Have you taken the time to think about how your childhood and upbringing contributes to your financial wellbeing?
Financial therapist Rick Kahler says that “only about 20% of financial planning clients respond to logic and education.”
The other 80% of the population uses emotions to make financial decisions.
From my research and conversation with The Wealth Tribe Community, almost all of us have a negative money emotion often referred to as money scripts that direct our relationship with money, and therefore affect our financial wellbeing.
Some common money scripts include:
1. I don’t deserve to earn so much money.
This is common among women.
2. Money is bad/evil.
People who believe that money is bad are likely to sabotage their financial progress.
3. My riches are in heaven.
This money script is common among people in charity professions and those with strong religious beliefs. This is often used as an excuse to impulse buying, not to plan for the future or retirement and generally, not to learn about money.
4. As long as the money is in my account, I need to spend it.
People who believe in this script are often deep in debt, live above their means and retire into poverty.
5. I don’t believe in saving. As long as I’m a good person, the universe will take care of me.
This money belief is common among people in charity professions and those with strong religious beliefs. This is often used as an excuse to not plan for the future.
6. It’s not good to talk about money.
Money conversations are often viewed as a taboo topic despite the availability of financial literacy resources. Money is often a deep source of shame and secrecy, both for those who have much and also those who have little. Talking about money is considered a sensitive topic.
7. Money will solve all my life’s problems.
People who worship money may have different money disorders including compulsive buying & hoarding, unreasonable risk-taking, gambling, workaholism, overspending. Scientific research has proved that there’s no significant increase in happiness once a household’s income is above $75,000 per year. Pursuing a more balanced lifestyle is better than obsessing over money beyond the $75,000 per year mark.
The above money scripts affect both men and women.
Women, however, still face more challenges while trying to navigate the financial systems due to the many myths and misconceptions about women and money.
8 common myths we believe about women and money
1. Women need extra help managing their finances than men
Before I became financially conscious and started writing about money, I used to believe this myth. I believed that my brother was automatically better at managing money than I am, simply because he is a man. I believed that men automatically have more money, and have better money management skills than women.
Yes, due to the gender pay gap, men do earn more than women, which means they have access to more disposable income. But that doesn’t automatically translate to men having better money management skills.
Research has proved that there’s little difference between men and women’s financial habits and knowledge.
Why is this myth still in existence? Because just like the former me, most women still believe it.
Helaine Olen, the author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the dark side of the personal finance industry explains:
“I think that myth persists because women themselves believe it. It’s the old joke: Men think they’re expert if they just see something about something. Women have a PhD in a topic and they’re still concerned they don’t really know enough, that’s a large part of it.”
The financial services industry, being the predators that they are, take advantage of this perceived lack of financial knowledge amongst women. They’re numerous books, websites, banks and other financial services specifically marketed for women.
This myth, coupled with the fact that women tend to live longer than men, is a strategy that the financial industry uses to convince us that we need more help managing our finances.
Helaine Olen suggests that instead of the financial industry treating the symptoms, they should address the root cause of this challenge, by closing the gender pay gap.
From my experience interacting with The Wealth Tribe Community which is a community for both men and women, it truly is a myth: Anyone can be terrible with money if they’re not deliberate about learning and talking about money.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her book Dear Ijeawele or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions: “The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have. It is also a skill that can elude both men and women.”
The same logic applies to money management. It doesn’t come pre-installed in men’s reproductive organs.
2. Women are naturally risk-averse
Again, due to the gender pay gap, women have significantly less money than men. As Helaine Olen says “people who have less money generally take less risk.” This applies to both men and women.
When the financial services industry carries out their studies, the results are that women have less money in high-risk investments. This leads to the conclusion that ‘women are naturally risk-averse.’ What’s their solution? That we need to invest more in higher risk, higher return investments in order to have more savings for retirement.
How about equal pay for equal work?!
When you have less money, you don’t have the luxury of gambling with it. You can’t afford to lose even a dime when you’re unsure of the payoff.
Women ask more questions before signing up for investments and also take longer to make investment decisions (which good because you should only invest in something that you understand) which contributes to the myth that ‘women are naturally risk-averse.’
3. Women can’t save because we buy too many shoes
It’s true. We do spend a lot more on clothes and shoes than men.
But men spend waaaaay more money on autos, liquor, and electronics than we do. The difference is that they don’t get criticised!
Instead of focusing on this myth, that women are spending more of their savings than men, the world would be a better place if we were taught about financial systems. .
As Olen explains “We live in a world in which our salaries are falling and our costs are rising. That is obviously going to make it much harder to save money. And it would be much more helpful to explain how that works to people than just give them 10 tips on how to cut their grocery bill.”
4. Women don’t have the Math skills necessary to make investment decisions..
All the women in me are tired of hearing this myth. It has been peddled around since the world began!
The real reason why this myth still exists is that the financial industry is deliberate at complicating financial information. Credit score, inflation, tenor, yield to maturity, SIPs, coupon rate, value date…all these terms can seem daunting to all first-time investors.
If women are unable to understand the terms & conditions of financial decisions, it can lead to assigning their financial decisions to their significant other or completely fail to acquire financial literacy skills.
The truth is, you need grade 3 math to invest and manage your investment portfolio. It’s not rocket science.
The Wealth Tribe is dedicated to breaking down all personal finance & investing jargon so that we can have many more women on their way to financial freedom. You can start by downloading the easy, step by step investing guide below.
5. Women will ultimately depend on their husbands.
We’re in 2021. The 21st Century. Where more and more women are deciding not to get married or have children. This doesn’t mean that marriage or having children, is bad. Women should be free to choose what they want whether it’s in choosing a marriage partner, the number of children to have or decisions about how to manage their finances. We are capable.
Studies show that companies with women in C-suite positions are more profitable. That’s evidence enough that we should be deliberate about giving women financial literacy skills as opposed to teaching them that they’ll find financial freedom in the hands of their husbands.
Remember that ‘power shifts where the money is.’ This means that women, too, should make (and we do!) and have their own money if we are to have control over our lives.
“Women should be financially independent. It doesn’t matter who your father is, it doesn’t matter who your husband is gonna be, it doesn’t matter who your brother is, it doesn’t matter who the man in your life is. You need to be responsible for your finances and be financially independent.” – by matured_women on TikTok
A man is not a financial plan, your financial success is up to you. – Brenna Smith
7. Women are bad at investing.
This myth is related to the ‘women are bad at Math’ one.
There’s loads of evidence to dispute this one.
BlackRock Investment strategist Nelli Oster noted that ‘women tend to view investing in a longer-term, non-monetary mindset that balances independence, financial security, and quality of life. Men, on the other hand, who tend to be more competitive and thrill-seeking by nature, often focus on the short-term track records of their portfolios.’ Women are also more likely to seek professional help from financial advisors and are known to read more than men which is beneficial when it comes to curating the best investment portfolio that’s aligned with your financial goals.
I started investing in the stock market around the same time as my friend…let’s call him James. That was back in 2018. Between 2018 and now, my friend has traded (buying & selling) his stock portfolio thrice. For the three times, he was convinced that he had predicted the market and that he was trading at the right time. I, on the other hand, haven’t traded since. This overtrading has lost him money because every time you buy and sell, you incur management fees & taxes.
My friend is not the only one with this challenge. Men overtrade due to overconfidence. Women, on the other hand, buy and hold. That’s how women win in the investing game.
8. Women should follow all the rules, we’ll be okay.
I recently helped create a customized investment portfolio for a client. She’s in her late 40s and has been investing consistently for the past 15 years. She’d hit a financial roadblock when she realized that she’s been working for many years but still doesn’t have enough money to retire comfortably. Her desire is to retire before the age of 65.
When I looked at her current investments, I noted that most of them are policies sold to her by insurance companies that have been charging her up to 30% of her investment principal in management fees. With such hefty fees, it’s impossible to build wealth. She was literally working for both her employer and these companies.
The truth is, she has been following the rules for many years. Working hard, avoiding debt, sticking to a budget, saving consistently every month and investing. But she didn’t escape the monster of misleading companies. Through these management fees, she has lost a huge chunk of her money.
We’re often made to believe that if we follow all the rules like her, we’ll be okay. Unfortunately, life is unpredictable. There are many other things that can derail our journeys to financial freedom such as medical emergencies, unexpected unemployment such as what is happening during this pandemic, or outliving our retirement savings. Remember that women tend to outlive men, which means we need more eldercare services that keep rising as you get older.
It’s possible to save 7 figures for retirement and still end up with nearly nothing. We don’t exist in a vacuum, we exist in a system. Economic systems and other systems within our countries.
We should be at the forefront of advocating for better systems, systems that ensure that each of us has a pension scheme.
Understanding that my experiences with money are tied to a flawed economic system, as opposed to personal failure, was life-changing. – Tahira Alexander Green
9. Personal finance is just personal.
Now that you understand that you exist in a system, you’ll understand what Helaine Olen meant when she said “We can’t afford to save for work, save for college, save for emergencies, and all the rest, in an environment in which the cost of housing, education, and healthcare is soaring.”
She insists that this world doesn’t work for very many of us. Look at the elderly people in our society. If we lived in a better system, they wouldn’t have to suffer so much in old age. The government should be able to take care of them and all other vulnerable groups.
Olen thinks that “we need stronger legislation to make a real difference in the financial challenges we face today, including the pay gap, stagnating salaries, and the complicated paperwork and convoluted disclosures involved in getting a mortgage or setting up a retirement account.”
There are many financial challenges associated with being a woman such as the fact that women’s earnings drop after having a child (which is a huge financial responsibility) while men’s earnings either rise or aren’t affected, the pink tax, the gender pay gap (women would need to work approximately 60 more days per year to catch up with men), student loan debt disparities which means that we don’t start off from a level playing field!
Despite all this, women give more money than men. 64% of all online donations are made by women. That’s not frivolous spending and we need to get more credit for it.
The bottom line is, women have proved that they’re capable of making their financial decisions. I do hope that bursting these misconceptions has helped you reframe your mindset around women and their relationship with money.
Remember that “as a woman, over time, investing can help you overcome the impact of the wage gap especially when done consistently.”
Which of the above myths have you believed?
To empower yourself to have more nuanced conversations about money and to understand how your experiences with money are tied to a flawed economic system, you need to read Helaine Olen’s book, Pound Foolish: exposing the dark side of the personal finance industry.
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