When it comes to walking and talking money, the baton is instinctively passed on to male members of a family. It’s almost like a societal norm for the male member to manage the money, but also women themselves shy away from the task.
If you’re a woman reading this, do you know what negative beliefs you are triggering when you say, I don’t understand numbers? Do you realise how you restrict the potential to expand your horizons, when you avoid participating in those important investment decisions? Despite all the good intentions, do you grasp the disservice to your future financial security when you are handing over the money reigns completely to someone else?
Contrary to this intuitive behaviour we see all around us, an Oct 2021 survey by Fidelity Investments revealed that when women do invest i.e. get into the numbers, the outcomes top their male peers. The conclusion it reached was that women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 bps or 0.4% (in investing). In 2020 Goldman Sachs Investment Research found in its own study that women hedge fund managers are superior return generators as compared to men in the same role; they outperformed by at least 1%.
Clearly, the belief ‘I don’t understand numbers’ is a myth when considered for an entire gender.
What we need to unpack here are the limiting behaviours and beliefs that lead women, across different walks of life, to feel like money and investment conversations are not their domain.
Limiting behaviours that women need to overcome
I can save but not invest – Whether you are a homemaker or an office goer, you’ll find that the household budget and managing daily expenses is a task that falls in your lap. This is as much true for married women, managing a family’s expenses, as it is for single women.
Inherently, doing this task requires a level of budgeting, bargaining and saving, done well. When you can confidently handle an entire household’s budget, why shy away from conversations that involve investing or growing money for your future?
Arguably, women who are at the centre of their family’s budget are also more in tune with the wants and desires of family members, adults and children alike. Imagine bringing that knowledge to table at a financial planning discussion with an advisor. This is the insight that can bridge the gap in a family’s future financial security. Rather than leaving this onerous task to just one male member; inputs from women on the needs of a household and aspirations of its members, now and in the future, are the key in relevant to have relevant investments in place.
The same applies to single women, who themselves are in the best place to understand what they want to achieve in life, then why leave your savings in the hands of a father or a brother or an uncle, to decide the course of your life?
Saving money under the mattress or leaving it in your bank means destroying its value thanks to inflation or price rise you cannot control. To build yours and your family’s financial future, knowing where to invest gainfully is not just necessary but also critical.
There is no time to do this as well – Managing a household singularly is a tough task. Add to it additional responsibilities at work and the task that many women do by juggling home and work, becomes even tougher. Then where is the space to add another task of managing money?
The idea that you have to manage money is not about doing everything yourself. Rather it is about understanding money concepts, investment return and risk. This will require a one-time effort, however, the concepts themselves are not complicated. Neither do you need to do a lot of different things and make a variety of investments.
Once you know the risks your money faces, most importantly the risk of inflation which eats up the value of your money and the ability of certain types of investments to fight that risk, the task is not hard.
You then have the choice to automate your investments with the help of a qualified advisor. In this way you can secure your financial future without sacrificing time today. In other words, invest some time initially to make yourself aware and then delegate or outsource your job to a trusted advisor. Do this in partnership with your spouse or an elder member if you are single, if family finances are the key.
You may be indulging in delegation already with household help or a team of subordinates at work, then why not apply the same strategy of outsourcing when it comes to planning and executing your money management goals?
Talking about money is uncultured – Catch a woman talking too much about money, the phrase ‘gold digger’ is bound to come up in context. However, talking about money is healthy and doesn’t make you greedy. Unless you communicate and share your ideas around money with your family members, shaping your (and their) financial future will never be as per the design that suits you or your family.
Without discussing ‘your’ money you don’t stand a chance to achieve your ( and your family’s ) goals. Instead you’ll work hard at saving and the male members in your family will work hard at investing, many years pass by and you forget what life’s purpose really is. You’re saving just for the sake of it.
Talking about money with your family enables you and them to understand what the real fears and stresses are. Also, what are the values which guide us as human beings and help us make life more meaningful? Understanding this can help in bringing awareness around where these fears stem from and how to use your money to live your life with the values that guide you as a human being. Once that is in the open, the decisions you make collectively around money will be to the benefit of everyone in the family.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, Fidelity Investments® released new research in March 2023, showing women are taking action with their finances despite external stressors. According to the research, “stress” (46%) is the number one word women use to describe their emotions surrounding money, far more than men (34%), whose top term is “hopeful” (42%).
However, money decisions should be relevant – neither stressful nor hopeful. If you want your money decisions to be relevant, then start talking about money now. Shun the old beliefs around difficulty in understanding numbers or the stigma attached to discussing money. The way forward in a world riddled with complex external pressures, be it around earning or investing, is to start communicating and sharing better when it comes to money.
When it comes to money, women and men have similar abilities, but different behaviours. Thankfully, behaviour needn’t be permanent and transforming it is in your control. Now is as good a time as ever to start this journey.
Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a financial coach and founder of moneypuzzle.in