Women and Money : It’s Complicated!

As women most of us were given messages by our families that were appropriate to developing money skills. Most of us were told to save, to spend carefully, to work hard and to watch out for debt. These are in fact useful money habits but by themselves they are not enough to help women become truly skilled in their money lives. We must also look at the real world factors and the role of societal messages that impact women and their money.

What are the 3 biggest money mistakes that women make repeatedly?

They do not plan their money lives. By that I mean they are not taught to look at the big picture from a young age and see the whole in front of them. Women are generally encouraged to look at the details (“Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”). The big picture determines whether we enter a high-paying field, how much student loan debt one can carry with that career, how we view advertising about fashion and beauty expenditures, learning to take appropriate investment risk and understanding the challenges of a longer life span.

They do not count. Women are socialized away from numbers and math beginning in middle school and taught that counting and figuring are boring and burdensome. Many families do not put young college women on a budget and do not insist that they plan and count the family money they receive. To begin to relate to money in the real world it must be counted, managed and looked after. This can be time consuming to start up when one has let it go for a period of time. But we have such wonderful technologies now with Quicken programs and internet online trading and brokerage sites that it has become within most people’s skill range to do a good job with it. I wish I had learned that investing is fun and interesting before I heard about the Beardstown Ladies!!! And guess what ….it is more like a puzzle to be solved that it is a drag to be endured.

The third biggest mistake women make with money is to worry too much about being seen as a nice person who is ever nurturing and generous. Women give away too much of their money for unnecessary expenditures when often they cannot afford it. I remember sitting with a young woman as she cried over the amount of money she felt obligated to spend on a friend’s wedding and bachelorette party when she could not afford it ….and the resulting credit card debt that became a burden to her. Women are afraid to confront the money question more directly as it often creates an awkward and uncomfortable tension in the room. But there is no shame in saying that “I care about you and I have to do something more in line with my budget right now”. The competition in women’s groups is not about who is most successful as it is in men’s groups..it is about who is the nicest, the most caring, the most generous.

Think about your own life and your learnings and see what of this applies to you and your own relationship with money. If changes are needed, notice that too. If you are on track, then congratulate yourself!