International Women's Day 2023: Why Women Need to #EmbraceEquity & Take Charge of Our Finances
Topics that circle around differences between genders are usually pretty touchy.
Whenever we talk about things specifically about women and men, we must tread carefully with our words to not perpetuate gender stereotypes.
While it might seem safer to write on matters addressing the crowd as a whole, there is indeed value in addressing a more personalised audience.
I strongly feel that there is a need to address this topic, knowing that there is so much more we can do for ourselves.
As much as I hate to admit it, money is power, and women need more of both.
Of the 2,668 billionaires on the latest Forbes World’s Billionaires 2022 List, only 327 or 12 per cent are women.
The reasons for this are another debate altogether. But, part of the reason for this could be that women or at least Singaporean women, are choosing not to manage their own finances.
According to UBS Global Wealth Management’s report, 8 in 10 Singaporean women leave major financial decisions to spouses.
Which is a shame if you ask me.
Although International Women’s Day has become more commercialised over the years, I still think that this day is meaningful.
International Women’s Day 2023 Theme (IWD 2023)
After all, according to the folks over at International Women’s Day (IWD):
IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. … celebrate women’s achievements. raise awareness about women’s equality.
This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity:
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity.
IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid.
But how do we put this into practice?
I came across three simple ways in this article by best-selling author and Forbes contributor Dr Margie Warrell that resonated with me.
- Challenge the doubts that fuel a sense of inadequacy.
- Challenge the limits and labels others put on you.
- Challenge more women to back themselves more often.
And one area we can do so is in terms of our finances.
It’s Time To Talk About Money
Since I graduated and started my first full-time job, I have gone down the rabbit hole of finding ways to manage my money.
I love talking about money.
Be it saving money, stretching money, or growing money.
I was fiercely devouring personal finance articles and would always sign up for webinars on such topics enthusiastically.
I even started a personal blog to document my personal finance thoughts.
After a while, I realised that not everyone shared this newfound love for personal finance as I did.
It wasn’t something that was commonly discussed between my female peers and me, especially for topics like investments and long-term financial planning.
And the statistics proved that to be true as well.
In a survey done by investment management company Merrill Lynch, 61% of the women mentioned they’d rather discuss details about their own death than talk about their money.
In addition, women cite a lack of knowledge and confidence as their two biggest challenges to achieving financial stability.
Does This Mean That Women Are Not Good With Their Money?
Instead, we are possibly more financially literate than we think.
According to a GoBear study, Singaporean men and women are almost equally financially savvy.
However, Singaporean women would underestimate their financial literacy more, with a gap of 22 points between the actual (81%) and perceived (59%) financial literacy.
Singaporean men showed a smaller gap of 13 points between their actual (83%) and perceived (70%) financial literacy scores.
In the same UBS report mentioned earlier, women are also not fully sitting out on financial decisions.
They are usually the ones actively involved in day-to-day money matters, with 80% paying bills and 85% regularly managing expenses.
Unfortunately, this level of engagement does not extend to long-term financial planning.
Why Are We Not Taking Charge of Our Money (Yet)?
It’s not that women are not aware of the need to work on financial planning.
A BlackRock survey showed that both men and women consider saving and investing important.
However, despite having similar financial goals, women tend to cast more doubt on their investing abilities.
It is common for most women to downplay their knowledge and achievements, including financially educated female professionals.
According to a 2018 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) report, women often answer ‘don’t know’ when surveyed.
This reflects the level of confidence women have, which might lead to them being more open to seeking assistance.
This confidence level is also reflected in how women commonly defer long-term financial decisions to their spouses.
In Singapore, a startling 90% of women leave long-term finances to their spouses because they feel that their spouse knows more about this topic than they do, despite having similar levels of financial literacy.
Also, we would think that older women would stereotypically be mainly the ones leaving such decisions to their partners.
Interestingly, it is the younger women (gasp!) that are perpetuating this behaviour.
In addition, some might be overwhelmed by the technicalities of financial instruments.
As a field known to be filled with lots of jargon, financial products might seem complicated.
It might seem as if we are not working in the finance industry; investing might be something a little more difficult to understand.
Why Is Personal Finance Especially Important for a Woman?
Long gone were the days when it was common to have men be the family’s sole breadwinners.
In today’s society, dual-income families are commonly seen, where women are empowered to seek a career of their own as well.
With higher educational qualifications and increasing work opportunities, there is a higher probability of women earning more than in the past, and therefore a need to look into long-term approaches to manage this money.
How Can We Get Started?
We wouldn’t want to reach the stage of being unprepared to take control of our finances when circumstances and events in life force us to do so.
Fortunately, we can all start if we want to do something about it.
Besides adopting these habits to be financially savvy, here are some ways you can look into planning for your financial future.
Take the First Step
Finance itself might seem like a huge topic.
When we think about it, some of us might visualise huge numbers, scary statistics and technical jargon.
Which makes this topic pretty intimidating.
It is important to know that financial planning does not have to be difficult.
We do not need to be an expert in complicated graphs and candlesticks to get started on this journey.
Various websites nowadays break down personal finance knowledge into digestible bits for us!
If you’re someone who prefers videos, there are also YouTube channels for you to follow as well.
Or if you prefer comics… there’s also something for you too.
Compared to our parent’s generation, we have many resources to help us get started.
Once you start gaining knowledge in these areas, it’ll empower you with more control of your life.
Plan According To Your Goals
Planning might be easier when you jot down what goals you wish to achieve.
This could include planning for your child’s education or planning for your retirement.
Take time to sit down to review and work on the estimated amounts required for these life events.
A clear idea of the required amount can provide a headstart for planning towards these goals.
Setting vague targets like ‘I want to retire earlier’ is common, which might seem far-fetched with no proper planning.
Know your objective so that you’ve got something concrete to work towards!
Keep It Simple
When it comes to investing, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
There are so many terms and jargon out there, along with investment advice and whatnot, which might make this whole investment deal very overwhelming.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get started at all.
In fact, women have personality traits that make us good investors.
Contrary to popular belief, women are risk-aware instead of risk-averse.
This means that we are willing to take risks but would prefer doing some homework before making an investment decision.
As a result, trading historically performed by women generated long-term higher returns (according to a Vanguard survey).
Women generally take a longer-term approach to investing and trade less frequently too.
These are traits that work well for an investor.
According to British financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown, women’s investment returns were 0.81% better over 3 years.
This is equivalent to a portfolio worth 25% more than a man’s if it continues for 25 years!
Keeping a simple portfolio is good enough to get started in the world of investing.
If you want to keep it simple – just stick to investing basics, develop a plan, diversify and rebalance.
One of the uncomplicated ways of investing I like is the Boglehead 3-fund portfolio.
Ladies, It’s Time To Manage Our Money and Be in Charge of Our Finances
I enjoy managing my finances, learning how to grow my money and working out long-term plans.
It gives me a sense of security and accomplishment, knowing that I can be completely independent and clear about my goals and how to achieve them.
I would wish for this level of security for all my fellow ladies, where we could all take charge of our finances and thereby take charge of our lives.
Also, to echo one of the biggest hits of all time:
Ladies, it’s time to take charge and be our own Chief Financial Officers. 💁♀️
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