Money Confidence is a Feeling not a Statistic

I’ve read several research studies on women and how they don’t feel comfortable engaging in financial discussions; or don’t feel they have enough saved for retirement.  Some of these studies even feel free to pass judgment on women and what they should be doing.

But I think we’re looking at this information the wrong way.

Are Women Less Competent Just Because We Feel That Way?

When women complete these surveys, we’re sharing what we feel.  Our financial acumen isn’t being measured in a side-by-side comparison to men. We’re being asked where we think we stand in financial knowledge compared to others, and whether we think we’re ready for retirement. Since very few of us know what the average person has saved at a certain age, we’re going only by what we think we need to achieve. We’re being measured by money confidence.

I’ve lived in the male dominated financial services industry for almost 30 years.  And before I go on, let me say that I have a lot of male friends, a great husband, and many male colleagues for whom I have tremendous respect.  But let’s think locker rooms or sports for a second. Guys like to put on a sense of bravado, and boasting, and wanting to be the alpha male.  Women don’t.  Fast forward to financial services, where lots of men put on that same sense of bravado. I know it’s just bravado – because I’ve seen a lot of real accounts managed by men, and watched the stocks for years just like they have.

Guys have more confidence, but I have yet to find them any better at money knowledge or ability.  They like to talk about the great stock, or the great trade they made.  They just fail to mention the 5 that went not so well.  Women are more likely to worry about the 5 and beat themselves up.  So, when men and women answer how they feel about their money situation– is it a fair comparison?

Culture Bias or Ability?

We are learning that women with equal salaries are better savers than men. Many women have less in their savings – but this has more to do with being paid less than men, needing more flexible jobs so they can be the primary caregiver, and taking time off to have all the wonderful kids we see around.  This is more of a systemic bias in our culture than it has to do with a woman’s ability. If a man were in the same situation, where would he be?

Women talk more about child rearing – in “female language”. Men don’t engage as much in those discussions.  Men talk about money in “male language”.  Women don’t engage as much in those discussions.  There are many people, both male and female who need money education, but let’s be clear.  It is much more about changing the language and building confidence in women than it is in their abilities.

How Can I Understand on My Terms?

As a woman, you need to understand that you are now a “hot commodity” in the money world. And it’s not because of your good looks.  Women are now often bread winners, making good incomes, and/or likely to inherit by outliving your partners.  You have TREMENDOUS POWER.  So, here’s what you can do with that power:

  1. Don’t be intimidated. Some advisors will only talk with clients who have over $1 million. But there aren’t anywhere near enough $1 million clients to make all advisors happy. You can qualify with a lot less than that, especially if you talk about your continued earning potential.
  2. Make bankers/advisors talk in plain English. If they can’t, they probably don’t understand themselves. Walk away.  If they won’t, you can find better. Walk away.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When people work in an industry all day, they accumulate jargon, and take their knowledge for granted. If you had a child sick in the hospital, it is very likely you asked questions until you knew exactly what was going on and what the options were. Take a lesson from that play book. There are no stupid questions.
  4. Don’t be pressured. Women like to research more as shoppers. So, if you feel you want to interview 2 or 3 advisors or banks, by all means do that and compare. A smart advisor will voluntarily send you more information after a discussion if they know and understand women.
  5. Find a good relationship. You will want to stay with a good advisor or banker for a long time. And talking money can be pretty intimate. You’ll want to find someone who clicks with you.

Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Behavioral Cents, LLC and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

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