Women and Money

“Women really do rule the world. They just haven’t figured it out yet. When they do, and they will, we’re all in big, big trouble.” – Doctor Leon

We live in a society built on a framework of stereotypes and traditions. This can be seen as a good thing when it comes to creating a sense of stability and order but it can be a challenge whenever we choose to step outside of the “norm” and carve a new path. There’s no doubt that, when it comes to gender equality, much has changed for the better in the past 50 years. Women are taking on roles in the workplace and at home that were inaccessible to our mothers and grandmothers and are competing and succeeding in arenas that just decades ago they were not allowed to enter. However when it comes to the arena of money, far too many women still lag behind when it comes to investing and financial planning. Studies estimate that only one third of women have a financial plan which is especially worrying when you consider that currently, almost 50% of marriages in Canada end in divorce and the average age for a woman to be widowed is 56.

Women live longer

Male And FemaleDemographics suggest that the majority of women will be on their own by their mid-60s. Given that women live longer than men, this means that the average women will be responsible for managing their finances on their own for the last 15-20 years of their life. Relying on our parents or handing over the responsibility to someone else just won’t be an option and this is why it is critically important that we take an active role in understanding money and taking control of our financial wellbeing at an early age in order to prepare ourselves. The challenge with this for many women is simply that they feel intimidated by financial planning and would much rather leave the long term planning and investing decisions to someone else.

Often a woman in a relationship will choose to take care of managing the day to day household expenses and let her partner manage the investments. Many woman without a partner will often choose to take the “head in the sand” approach to investing and either not save at all or stay within her comfort zone by putting money into a safe, low risk, low interest savings account, missing out on much of the opportunity for long term growth. In a study by dailyworth.com, 60% of women said that they considered their investing/planning skills to be below average. The reality is that investing doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it have to be time consuming. If you have the ability to do a little research and to ask questions about the things you don’t understand then there’s no reason why you can’t work with a financial advisor you trust to develop a plan and set up an investment portfolio that’s in line with your goals and time horizon.

The trouble is that, after centuries of deferring money management to men, the roles are still deeply ingrained enough in our society that it’s just too easy for a woman (and the people around her) to let herself off the hook. If she makes the decision to actively manage her money and invest for her future she is the exception rather than the rule and that’s a much harder place to be. Just like smart girls in school tend to play down their intelligence in order not to stand out, so money savvy women will often play down their knowledge and abilities, especially around other women.

Money and relationships

Women also worry more about the impact that wealth will have on their relationships. 79% of wealthy women surveyed by Campden and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management said they were concerned that their wealth would complicate relationships with partners, co-workers and friends. In comparison, only 22% of the men surveyed shared the same concerns.

No matter how much progress we have made when it comes to gender equality, results like this seem to suggest that both women and men are much more comfortable with men fulfilling the role of provider and wealthbuilder. If men tended to marry older women and outlive them, this would be less of an issue but the reality is that the vast majority of women will be forced to manage their own finances in their later years without the support of a partner. This puts a great responsibility on the shoulders of women in their 30s and 40s to take their own financial education seriously because our planning and investment knowledge will be needed both to empower our daughters as they grow and to support our mothers as they age.

What do you think about the relationship between women and money? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Written by Sarah Milton

Sarah Milton is currently stretching her professional wings in Edmonton, Alberta in a role that allows her to combine her talent for writing and speaking with her training in the financial services industry. She is passionate about inspiring people to get excited about their money and empowering them to take control of their financial future. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @5arahMilton

6 Responses to Women and Money

  1. I have attempted to do exactly what you said – sit down with an investment advisor and work out a plan. What happened (on several occasions, with different advisors) was that I was required to sign something stating that my level of investment expertise is less than expert, and then I was required to put almost all of my funds into “safe” investments which pay (apparently) just enough for the advisor to earn their money. I have had an effective return of 0% for the past decade or so. And that includes trying to be proactive and move to a more responsive investment advisor twice. I do know a few people who seem to be happy with their advisors and claim to be earning a reliable rate of return, but their advisors won’t take me on as my portfolio is not “important” enough.

    So, yes, investing has become more complex than it used to be. When I was young, I read the financial columns and knew who the good mutual funds were, and actually made some money – until all the returns were wiped out by the market correction in the late 80s. Then child-bearing, family-raising, separation, the struggle to survive as a single and another significant market correction have meant that it will be difficult to achieve anything at this point. Particularly having lost a decade to incompetent financial advice. And yes, I am more than a little bitter.

    However, I would like to point out that in the few couples to whom I’m close enough for me to know anything about their investments, it is the woman making more of the investment decisions and/or dealing with the broker. Not all men are particularly interested!

  2. Hazel, don’t be bitter and don’t give up. Honestly, nobody will care about your financial situation more than you. So my advice to you is to take charge of things yourself. I strongly recommend the book “Millionaire Teacher” by Andrew Hallam. You can pick it up at the library or local bookstore. It’s an easy and fun read, with a very specific recommended course of action. I’ve now read it a few times and have loaned it to friends and recommended to others. I only wish it had been around and I had followed it 20 years ago. But better late than never.

    Really, good luck Hazel!

  3. Have a read of “he Four Pillars of Investing” By Bernstein.
    Mustaul funds are a good asystem to transfer your money to your advisor. With all the fees, many hidden, you are lucky to make any money. Hence, as you said, a 0% return. Guess who got the money.

  4. Hazel, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I totally understand why you feel so bitter; I experienced the same challenges of not being “important” enough to warrant the intention of the advisor who was responsible for my RRSP. Wanting to do something to change that for others was one of the driving forces for me going into the financial services industry but I’ve realized over the past few years that the way the industry is structured makes it very hard for advisors to deliver quality service to all their clients and stay in business. It’s a challenge that has left many people frustrated.

    There is money to be made in mutual funds but there are also many ways to lose so, unfortunately, your experience is not as rare as it should be. There are advisors out there who will treat your portfolio with the importance you deserve and if you’re looking for resources that will help you make a more informed decision about your portfolio, the books that Ricardo and Rhys recommended would be a good place to start. Websites like moneysense.ca and getsmarteraboutmoney.ca (and Retire Happy of course) have some excellent information, straightforward strategies and real life scenarios that are useful to investors of all ages and experience levels and i recommend them to clients and friends on a regular basis.

    I know it’s hard not to be discouraged but it’s never too late to make a difference to your future so please don’t let your experiences to date deter you from building the financial future you deserve.

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I am a regular reader and a financial professional who, like you, has a passion for educating people about money.
    Your advice to Hazel is excellent and wise. I also had a similar experience many years ago with a previous investment advisor. It can be tough to find a good one but they are out there. Asking money-smart friends or family members for recommendations is always a good start. So is learning about some simple investment strategies that can lead to success while minimizing risk. One such example is Money Sense magazine’s “Couch Potato” strategy that focuses on diversification, low costs and minimal time/effort involved.
    It is wonderful of Hazel to share her story because there are so many others out there just like her. Over time, I hope we can make a difference to help people like Hazel.
    Hazel, if you are interested, my blog also focuses on educating people about money. Feel free to visit . I wish you luck with your future investing success.

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