This is the second of a two-part series on the importance of empowering women. We previously examined how established norms have prevented women from having agency in their financial lives. This time, we will discuss how women can gain and keep it.
Women’s empowerment has gained momentum in popular culture. Yet, beyond the hashtags and headlines, how can women strengthen their professional and financial lives?
It’s not as if the desire isn’t there or that women aren’t reducing the gap. Let’s start with some statistics:
- A 2020 report by McKinsey, 30% more married women were making financial and investment decisions than they were five years before.
- In 2021, Fidelity reported that since the start of the pandemic, 50% more women in the US showed more interested in investing
- UBS found in 2021 that 68% of women had started talking more about finances within their families.
- In a recent report from UBS, some 67% of women are now investing outside their retirement plans, compared to 44% in 2018.
- A 2022 BNY Study notes that if women invested at the same rate as men, investment capital globally would spike $3.22 trillion.
The implications are clear.
Marketing and advertising researchers tell us that women make the big buying decisions for their households. However, it seems as though many women have been indoctrinated to leave investing and financial management to the men in their lives – their husbands or partners, their advisors, anyone but themselves.
How can women and society change the mindset, that discourages them from taking the reins on their finances, whilst claiming to encourage them to take control? The following steps could be a start…
- Recognise the situation and take ownership. The first step toward personal improvement is realising there is an issue. Many people – women and men – wander through life content with the way things are. Whilst that’s OK, for some, it may leave others feeling less satisfied or empowered – emotionally, socially, financially. So, they need to pursue change. Only with self-awareness and realisation can one seek a correction.
- Have family meetings to discuss roles and responsibilities. This includes the wife’s, mother’s or matriarch’s role in the family and its finances. Invite everyone – including the children – to speak freely and express their thoughts and concerns, without intimidation or recrimination. Honesty can only thrive in environments where everyone feels comfortable. By including all the children, you increase the importance of empowerment particularly on the daughters. Revisit the discussion every six months and address successes and obstacles, with the goal of advancing the results.
- Create a personal or family mission statement. As part of those conversations, lay out your family values – and be clear on where the wife, mother or matriarch fits into that matrix, this includes her handling of family finances. If it’s not in writing and agreed upon, it’s like to flounder. Document your shared values and hold each other accountable.
- Outline your role. If as the wife / mother / matriarch, you want to handle some of the finances, make clear which ones you want on your plate. Is it the checking account, the investments, long-term planning? Say it clearly. Then, download the mobile app for each of your financial institutions and ensure you have your own user ID and password.
- Put a support system in place. Who can you turn to for emotional support when progress falters or you hit a wall? Who can relate to your situation? Your mother, sister, closest girlfriends, maybe even your supportive spouse? Share your intent and goals with them; for example, how you intend to invest your funds. Tell them to check on your progress and encourage them to hold you accountable. Having this backstop is not a sign of weakness; it shows you’re serious. It’s a sign of strength.
Perhaps you feel intimidated to have these conversations. Maybe your husband or significant other, with whom you commingle financial affairs, closely controls your finances or has never taken your interest seriously. Ask yourself, what’s the best way to discuss this topic in a manner that makes you feel comfortable?
You could ask a family member – like a sibling – to casually bring it up anecdotally over a family dinner. Do they handle paying the bills, investing, or discussing long-term planning with their financial advisor? Maybe they just have banking apps on their phone and maintain follow the progress of their in shared finances.
This and any conversation, about financial affairs and empowerment should be finessed, unforced, natural and unintimidating. Subtlety is an art form.
Keep in mind that your spouse or partner, may have assumed you had no interest in the shared finances, because your interest was not clear to them.
It’s time to make your interest clear and start your path towards personal empowerment.