In Grand Rapids, just before the pandemic arrived, a small group of women met and carefully broached a taboo topic: money.
It wasn’t an easy discussion, sharing salaries, family finances, retirement plans and investments, topics usually considered to be the ultimate in private information. But the insight and encouragement we gained from each other during these sessions about women and money ended up leading to raises and promotions for all.
With 21st century women more and more often responsible for money at home and on the job, we need to build confidence in our ability to steer finances. It’s time for women to pull back the curtains on our financial lives. When women share information about career and finances, goals, hopes, dreams and, yes, fears, we can find crucial support that we need for success.
Women and money
Research in a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company Financial Services showed that by 2030, women will control much of the wealth being left behind by the Baby Boomer generation — estimated at $30 trillion. In addition, Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy study in 2009 estimated that women will inherit 70% of the money flowing down over the next two generations.
Women also are making more money at their jobs. About 6% of women earn $100,000 or more annually. And the number of women business owners went up by 21% from 2014 to 2019, accounting for $1.9 trillion in revenue, according to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
Yet, Swiss bank UBS noted in 2019 that while 85% of women control their families’ day-to-day finances, few make long-term financial planning decisions.
In the U.S., women and money were legally separated for centuries. While single women and widows had more financial control in early America, it wasn’t until the 1960s that married women were permitted to open their own bank accounts, without their husbands’ names on the account. It was the 1970s before a woman could get a credit card in her own name, without a male co-signer.
So, it’s not surprising that even today, women are less confident when it comes to handling money, according to Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center data released in March.
Women with financial confidence
We need to build confidence in the driver’s seat. How can we do this? By learning, sharing ideas and creating a better support system for women to push for more in their careers.
Women need to create safe communities to empower each other’s financial expertise. Friends, relatives and mentors can become financial doulas for each other by learning, sharing ideas and creating a better support system for career management.
I believe that for a woman, there’s more to financial management than hitting a certain return on investment. It’s about funding a life that has meaning for her.
Right now, the general consensus is that the financial services industry is falling short of women’s expectations. Why does it take a traumatic experience such as divorce or widowhood for a woman to be put in the driver’s seat? It shouldn’t.
Most of my professional women friends are in control of their household finances and outearn their husbands but are shy to talk about compensation structures or ask for what they want in terms of benefits, compensation or professional advancements.
About a year-and-a-half ago, two of my closest friends and I broached the subject. We had an open conversation about topics such as on-the-job earnings, saving for retirement and how to position ourselves during annual reviews. It was so insightful and encouraging.
Each of us, when we talked about raises, for example, would make excuses; that’s when the others rallied around, saying, “You are worth it. Ask for that raise, state what you want and what would make you happy.”
Wine, women and money
Writing for CNBC.com, financial journalist Alicia Adamczyk described the “Money Salon” she conducted in early 2020 over snacks and wine with a few close women friends. While they didn’t resolve each and every issue, just freely discussing money was a good experience, she reported.
How to assemble your own “Money Salon?” Adamczyk shared these ideas:
- Invite just a few friends who are comfortable around each other, and who can be trusted — and agree — to keep private information private.
- Set expectations ahead of time. Make this a “judgment-free zone.”
- Have a list of specific topics to discuss, but let the conversation flow naturally.
- Ask questions.
- Be open to new perspectives.
Why isn’t there more of this? There needs to be.
Anastasia Wiese, JD, CFP, is senior financial adviser with Grand Wealth Management.