Sadly, it’s no surprise, given that up until the 1990s, women were blocked from many aspects of the financial community in the United States.
Historically, women have had less generational experience dealing with money than men outside the home. For example, did you know that it wasn’t until 1976 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act made it illegal to deny access to credit on the basis of sex, marital status, race, or religion? Or that until 1988, a woman still needed a male relative to co-sign a business loan? Even now, women do over 60 percent of the world’s work, yet generate only 10 percent of its income on a global scale.
Luckily, all of this is changing at a rapid pace.
Women are crashing glass ceilings left and right, and even though we may invest less, studies show we invest better, making higher returns on average than our male peers. Even though the wage gap (and opportunity gap) persists, particularly for Women of Color, we are steadily making more, and killing it in industries previously dominated by men, like science and technology.
So, who runs the world? You already know.
Given that this progress is so recent, however, you may have trouble finding a female financial role model in your life. Yet, having a woman you can talk to about money is not only important to inspire and educate one another, but also because some of the financial circumstances that we deal with as women are different from men.
The products we budget for are often different than men, such as personal care expenses and feminine products. The level of income we bring in over our lifetime will likely (sadly) be lower, even more so for women of color. And the financial circumstances we go through, particularly as it relates to the financial impacts of maternity leave, and saving for retirement on a lower salary, are different. And sometimes, it’s just nice to have someone who gets it.
A female financial role model can help you identify, talk through, and take advantage of the financial opportunities that could drastically improve your life. Don’t have anyone in your family you can turn to? Here are a few places you can start:
1. Get together with your girlfriends
A 2018 study from Capital Group of approximately 1,200 adults found that many would rather talk about almost anything, including politics and religion, rather than their salary, debt, or retirement savings. Money is often considered a taboo subject, but the truth is, we all deal with money every single day. Chances are that between you and your friends, you have a few financial situations and lessons covered. Talk about them! The next time you get together with your girlfriends, instead of asking about their latest Tinder date, ask them if they have any favorite money apps on their phone. Do they use a particular credit card for travel rewards? Have they ever negotiated their salary for a job? It doesn’t have to be super specific, it just has to get the conversation started.
2. Host a monthly money club
You’ve probably heard about a book club or a wine club, but what about a club that can help with your money? Consider hosting a monthly get-together with your friends to discuss questions, strategize, and celebrate successes when it comes to your money. To keep things light, you can focus it around a potluck dinner or some other event, but keep 30 to 60 minutes devoted to talking about various money topics. You might even keep a list of discussion topics on-hand to get your friends talking (i.e. money and fitness, saving for retirement, family expectations about money, etc.).
By talking about your experiences, lessons learned, and goals, you’ll become each others’ mentors, educating and inspiring one another about money.
3. Find a mentor that gets you
Maybe you’re the first woman in your family to graduate from college or to rock that Ms. Independent lifestyle. Amazing! But even though you’re an empowered woman, there may be more men in your life you can go to for financial advice than women. This is true in the financial services industry as well, where approximately 80 percent of financial advisors are men, as Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck told InvestmentNews.
To make up for the slim pickings, consider joining a women’s professional group like Ellevate Network, the Six Degrees Society, or HeyMama, where you can find fellow ladies supportive of your money goals. You might also ask a colleague you respect if she’d be willing to talk over coffee or a cocktail, about salary negotiation or retirement, for example. If all goes well, ask if she’d be willing to make it a regular thing.
4. Ask (or pay) for help
If you’re looking for specific financial advice beyond a role model or mentor you can look to, consider a professional financial advisor. Companies like Ellevest offer an investment platform for women, coupled with financial advising you can use to get your money right. You might also look to financial coaching services, a blog, or a podcast where you can learn more on your own about managing your money.
Lastly, while I recommend finding a female financial role model, be smart enough to take good advice when you see it. At the end of the day, while our considerations and expenses may be different than men, many of our goals are exactly the same: make more, spend less, pay down debt, and invest smart, so don’t forget that you can likely still learn a thing or two from the fellas too.
Regardless of who you get your financial advice from, by having someone you’re comfortable talking about money with, you’ll be better prepared to make money moves that make sense to you. Because while not all financial advice is the same, it’s nice to have a fellow female in your corner.