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 a dinner and the conversation doesn’t end. Usually, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. We have so much to talk about! We talk about everything—our kids, our jobs, our relationships. But, we don’t talk about money.

I wanted to change that. So, I hosted a “wine tasting and money happy hour” at my house with a few close friends. We had a jar of conversation starters with questions like, “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” or “How expensive an item would you buy without talking to your spouse?”

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

Over the years, I have spoken at many conferences directed towards women physicians. Through those experiences and my recent happy hour, here are some of the overarching themes I have gathered about money and women.

#1 We Stress About Money

A lot of us lose sleep at night thinking about our financial situation. We scrimp and save wherever we can, usually by cutting spending on self-care. But oftentimes we don’t know how to get started with managing our money.

#2 We Think Investing Is for Professionals

We are good savers and a lot of money advice directed towards women is about saving (I’m guilty here), but we don’t realize we are also already investors (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 see themselves as investors. But an analysis of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the last 10 years found that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points or 0.4%.

As a result of our disbelief in our own skills, we often end up handing over our accounts to others and paying too much in fees that cut into the magic of compounding interest in our accounts.

More information here:

How to Improve Your Returns? #InvestLikeAGirl

#3 We Think More Money Is More Problems

An interesting theme that emerged during my last money happy hour was when attendees were asked what they would do if they won $1 million. Most said they would not know what to do with it. Some even said they might decline it.

#4 We Are Motivated by Helping Our Families

Oftentimes, when I talk finance or try to encourage women to learn about finance, the concept of financial independence or even a high net worth doesn’t spark interest. But talking about setting up our families and kids for success by investing in 529s or creating generational wealth by investing for them in Roth IRAs does get women excited about learning about investing. My story is similar. While financial independence was a concept I was familiar with, spending more time with my sons and setting them up for a stable and prosperous future was the actual impetus for me to learn about equities investing.

More information here:

How I Teach My Kids About Money

#5 We Are the Sandwich Generation

As professional women, we are in the position of taking care of our kids and our parents. This involves so much more than actual caregiving. This involves money. It involves planning for daycare, college, and all the expenses in between. As the healthcare voices of authority in our families, we are also often put in charge of estate planning, care planning for elderly parents, and executing wills. We are often woefully unprepared for these responsibilities and are shoved into these roles when it is a little too late to talk about it with our parents.

#6 Building Up Our Relationships with Our Spouses Is Very Important to Us

women and money

In my last happy hour, all the women earned more than their spouses. They really didn’t want to make their spouses feel bad about that. So, they didn’t talk about money at all.

More information here:

Going from Broke to Financially Fit in Just 5 Years

These are my experiences after talking to a small cohort of women in medicine about finance. So, please feel free to chime in if you have different experiences in the comments. What I find interesting is that the solution to a lot of the problems identified above is readily available on this blog and other finance websites. The cure for money stress in relationships and in general is a good budget and a regularly scheduled budget date. The cure for helping with the struggles of the sandwich generation is having conversations with our parents about advance care planning and estate planning, long before they think they need it. And the cure for helping us get started in investing is learning about index fund buy-and-hold investing, the magic of compounding 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 medical professional women like you? How are we investing? 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 beverage and meet us for our Girl Talk Happy Hour: Let’s Talk Money! virtual event on Friday, September 23 at 6pm ET (come join us whenever you get off work). No judgments, no mansplaining. Just real women talking money. Plus, don’t miss our free swag giveaways at this event. Sign up here today. We can’t wait to see you there!

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

What other themes about women and money would you add to my list? Do you think these behaviors can be modified? Do you think talking it out with other women can help? Comment below!

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