Fear. Anxiety. Inadequacy. These feelings are extremely common around money issues and personal finance, regardless of income level. It’s especially true of women, who often have a sense that money matters are “beyond them” or simply belong on a list of things that are somehow inappropriate or otherwise irrelevant for them personally.
Women often grew up watching their mothers and grandmothers turn the household finances over to a husband. Frequently this model included trusting the male partner’s judgement and power for all financial decisions and relying on him to perform the routine tasks like paying bills and reconciling bank statements.
In some households this segregation of duties was taught as the only proper way to approach family finances, with parents of both sexes conveying the clear message that making, managing and deciding how to spend money was a man’s privilege as well as his responsibility — that a woman deserved to have this job done for her and would be out of line to engage personally with money.
And outside of the home? Lessons in money management are often nonexistent. Personal finance, budgeting, taxes and investing … with standardized testing driving curriculum and many demands on precious in-school hours, these topics are rarely covered in the classroom at any level, from kindergarten through college.
Whether learned by example, in explicit messaging or through simple lack of familiarity, the notion that money management is not something women can or should do lurks behind thousands of difficult stories: The widow, suddenly required to handle household accounts; the young graduate, wielding charge cards until she’s drowning in debt that will hold her back for years to come; the stay-home mom, now divorced and clueless about earning or budgeting an income.
Men, too, suffer negative consequences due to sexist beliefs around money. The assumption that finance is a male right, privilege and responsibility frequently leads men to feel that they should somehow just know these things. But how would they?
Getting the message that money is your bailiwick isn’t very helpful in the absence of thorough instruction in how to manage it, and men go to the same schools that women do. Afraid that asking questions or admitting that they haven’t the first clue about financial management would be an admission of male inadequacy, they can wind up getting into terrible financial predicaments that didn’t have to happen.
For women and men of all ages and incomes, financial education is the key to preventing and resolving these scenarios and their countless variations. Removing the fear and bringing personal finance under the umbrella of “things I do, of course” transforms helplessness and paralysis into a situation that can be managed and improved. And the sooner we learn to take that can-do stance toward our own financial world, the more empowered we are to create the outcomes we want for ourselves and our families.
This article is excerpted and adapted from my Financial Education Resources for Parents, a guide for parents to help them raise financially savvy kids. For a copy of this comprehensive resource, click here.
Meredith C. Moore, Registered Representative, offering securities through NYLIFE Securities LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC, A Licensed Insurance Agency. 1125 Cambridge Square, Suite C, Alpharetta, GA 30009 (770) 587–0281. Financial Adviser offering investment advisory services through Eagle Strategies LLC, A Registered Investment Adviser. NYLIFE Securities LLC and Eagle Strategies LLC are New York Life Companies. Artisan Financial Strategies, LLC, is not owned or operated by NYLIFE Securities LLC or its affiliates. Neither Artisan Financial Strategies, LLC, nor its advisors provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This is provided for general informational purposes only.