Each spring, come tax time, we have the opportunity to take stock of how much we’ve made, how much we’ve spent, and overall, how we’re doing with our money. If, as the saying goes, “Money talks,” – what is its message to you after this year’s tax season has come and gone and tax returns have been signed sealed and delivered?
Maybe money is urging you to start an emergency fund; invest more in your 401K; cut back on take-out; or do a much-needed kitchen remodel. Or maybe money has a far more profound question for you…how does your relationship with money reflect the way you value and care for yourself?
In her book, Women & Money: The Power To Control Your Destiny, financial guru, Suze Orman says paying attention to money is a critical part of our self-care. “We have to develop a healthy, honest relationship with our money,” Orman explains. “How we behave toward our money – how we treat it – speaks volumes about how we treat and value ourselves.” Orman also notes that money is an important part of self-empowerment. “If we aren’t powerful with money, we aren’t powerful period,” Orman says.
So how do you care for yourself by caring for your money? Do you have a “healthy honest” relationship with money? Do you feel empowered when it comes to your finances?
For many women, a “healthy, honest” relationship with money is still a work in progress. The Financial Behaviors & Experience Among Women Study, conducted by Prudential in 2014, found that the women surveyed had not been actively seeking to expand their financial literacy. The study’s findings highlighted the fact that women felt they were no more comfortable or informed making big financial decisions than they had been a decade earlier.
Amanda Steinberg, author of Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms and founder of Daily Worth, says that gender roles can play a part. “As women, many of us were raised to believe that finances should be a man’s job,” Steinberg notes. “Men approach finances as if it should be their responsibility, while women hesitate because we’re not so sure it’s a good thing to get involved.” Steinberg identifies the biggest hurdles standing between women and financial confidence as guilt and shame, and Camille Gaines, of the website Financial Woman, agrees. “Guilt and shame play out as avoiding our money, underutilizing our skills, and giving away our power around money to the men in our lives,” Gaines says. “The first step to confidence is knowledge.”
Lack of knowledge plus anxiety around money can keep women stuck and often embarrassed about reaching out for financial advice. It’s been humorously bandied about that women would rather discuss their weight or sex lives than talk about money, and the findings in the Money FIT Women’s Study bear that out. The study, published by Fidelity Investments in February 2015, found that eight in 10 women avoid conversations about money because the subject is “too personal” and they feel “uncomfortable” when the subject is broached. The majority of women in the study felt that money was a “taboo” subject – which makes sense, since so many of us were taught that it was “gauche”/ “not proper etiquette” to talk about money as we were growing up.
It may seem daunting to start wading into what seems like an ocean of financial do’s and don’ts, but Amanda Steinberg suggests starting small. “Money can get a bad rap, so start reflecting on how you think about and language money,” Steinberg says. “Maybe there’s a belief that ‘money is evil’, or that there’s ‘never enough’. Think about your opinions about money, and ask yourself, ‘Are these beliefs serving me, or should I reconsider them?’”
Our beliefs about money, often planted at an early age, can have a profound effect on how we view and handle money in our adult lives. In next week’s post we’ll continue the ‘Money Conversation’ with tips for excavating down to the heart of your beliefs about money and abundance.