Women and money: myths that hold us back


By Dr. Disha Spath, WCI Ambassador

Women don’t usually talk about money. Get my five or six close friends together for dinner and the conversation doesn’t stop. Usually it’s hard to get a word over the edge. We have so much to talk about! We talk about everything, our children, our jobs, our relationships. But, we are not talking about money.

I wanted to change that. So I organized a “happy hour wine and silver tasting” at my house with some close friends. We had a pot of conversation starters with questions like, “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” or “How much would an item cost without telling your spouse?”

Before the event, I thought I should provide a little encouragement to get the conversation started. But, truth be told, it was hard to call the end of the night. There was so much to say! And it was so necessary. We finally got to talk about a topic that we had neglected for so long but was so integral to our lives. We spent a few hours together talking about money and finances before heading home with our children. It was glorious.

Over the years, I have spoken at many conferences for female physicians. Through these experiences and my recent happy hour, here are some of the general themes I picked up on money and women.

#1 We insist on money

Many of us lose sleep at night thinking about our financial situation. We save and economize wherever we can, usually by reducing spending on personal care. But often we don’t know how to start managing our money.

#2 We think investing is for professionals only

We’re good savers and a lot of the financial advice for women is about saving (I’m guilty here), but we don’t realize we’re also investors already (in our 401(k)s or 403(b)s ) . In a recent study by Fidelity, we learned that while women feel confident being the CFO of the household and managing day-to-day finances, only 1/3 of women consider themselves investors. But an analysis of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the past 10 years found that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points or 0.4%.

Due to our disbelief in our own skills, we often end up giving our accounts to others and paying too many fees that reduce the magic of compound interest on our accounts.

More information here:

How to improve your feedback? #InvestingLikeAGirl

#3 We believe more money is more trouble

An interesting theme that emerged during my last silver happy hour was when attendees were asked what they would do if they won $1 million. Most said they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Some even said they could refuse it.

#4 We are motivated to help our families

Often when I talk about finance or try to encourage women to learn about finance, the concept of financial independence or even high net worth doesn’t spark interest. But talking about the success of our families and children investing in 529s or creating generational wealth by investing for them in Roth IRAs gets women excited about learning how to invest. My story is similar. While financial independence was a concept I was familiar with, spending more time with my sons and preparing them for a stable and prosperous future gave me the real push to learn how to invest in stocks.

More information here:

How I teach my children about money

#5 We are the sandwich generation

As professional women, we are in a position to take care of our children and our parents. It involves much more than the provision of care itself. It involves money. This involves planning for daycare, college, and all expenses in between. As the spokesperson for health care authority in our families, we are also often tasked with estate planning, care planning for aging parents, and the execution of wills. We are often woefully unprepared for these responsibilities and pushed into these roles when it is a little too late to talk to our parents about them.

#6 Building our relationships with our spouses is very important to us.

women and money

At my last happy hour, all the women were earning more than their spouses. They really didn’t want their spouses to feel bad about it. So they didn’t talk about money at all.

More information here:

Moving from Broke to Financially Fit in just 5 years

These are my experiences after speaking to a small cohort of women in finance medicine. So, feel free to jump in if you have different experiences in the comments. What I find interesting is that the solution to many of the problems identified above is readily available on this blog and other financial websites. The cure for financial stress in relationships and in general is a good budget and a regular budget date. The remedy to help overcome the difficulties of the sandwich generation is to have conversations with our parents about advance care planning and estate planning, long before they think they need to. And the remedy to help us get started with investing is to learn about long-term investing in index funds, the magic of compound interest, and the importance of having a written financial plan.

Why isn’t the word getting out to women? Well, I’d like to change that.

Have you ever wanted to break the ice, get real, and talk about money with other female healthcare professionals like you? How do we invest? How do we get our spouses on board? What do we outsource? There is so much we can learn from each other! So grab your favorite drink and join us for our Girl Talk Happy Hour: Let’s Talk Money! virtual event on Friday, September 23 at 6 p.m. ET (come join us whenever you leave work). No judgments, no explanations. Just real women talking about money. Also, don’t miss our free promotional gifts during this event. Register here today. We look forward to seeing you there!

I hope a lot more virtual money will talk about happy hours with women in the future. Our families will thank us. After all, there is so much to say.

What other women and money topics would you add to my list? Do you think these behaviors can be changed? Do you think talking about it with other women can help? Comments below!

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