When it comes down to the science of handling money, many women will say that they do not feel confident in their abilities, or comfortable in making big decisions and investments. In 2017 just 43% of women said they felt confident in their investments, compared to 56% of men. In a society where it has traditionally been the men who are at the financial helm this attitude is not a surprising one, but it is one that definitely needs to change.
With that in mind we've laid out some key tips that women should know when it comes to handling their personal finances.
- Other people aren’t a financial plan
For many reasons, reliance on another human being for financial security is an unsafe situation in which to find yourself. Not only because nothing is certain, but also because you lose your independence and security and are utterly beholden to this other human and their continued financial success.
Entering into a relationship where resources are pooled and burdens halved is one thing, total reliance on another’s income is quite another. It is always best to maintain control over your own finances so that you are free to make any decisions that you see fit for your own life. Don’t be in a hurry to relinquish this freedom.
- It’s ok to ask for a raise
It’s a well-documented assertion that women are less likely to ask for a raise than their male counterparts. Amongst other reasons, it is seen as ‘aggressive’ behaviour, and they receive far move negative feedback when they do ask for one.
However, it is crucial that you do find the courage to do so for two major reasons. Firstly, by asking for a bonus, or increase in salary, you are consciously assessing yourself and your worth within the workforce. This stops your forgetting about your own professional value, and allowing yourself to be taken for granted.
Secondly, it reminds your boss of your value to their workforce, and by demanding that you be paid what you are worth you are conveying a message that you expect to be respected and duly compensated for your skill set. And, with the mean gender pay gap in the UK in 2018 being 14.1%, there is still a way to go before we reach natural salary equality.
- Plan for pregnancy
Despite some employers or colleagues who may try to make you feel otherwise; being pregnant is not a sin. It’s not as if you can turn around and say “I know I’m going on maternity leave this year, but don’t worry, Tommy's said he's got the next one.”
Biologically, the responsibility pretty much lies with you for pregnancy, which is why you should know your rights, and have a financial plan put in place to cover any extra leave or activities you should require when pregnant.
In the EU, the Member States have to follow the Pregnant Workers Directive (passed in 1992), as a minimum. This means that all women are eligible to a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave, with two weeks compulsory leave before ‘confinement’ (birth).
Depending on which country you live in, or company you work for, your maternity leave and agreed maternity salary will vary in accordance with individual internal regulations. Read up on them and make sure you know exactly what you are entitled to.
If you wish to be at home with your child for an extended period of time after they are born you also need to make sure you have put money away and have savings you can live off to supplement your usual income.
In addition, there are many pregnancy classes, as well as mother and baby information classes which first time mother’s may wish to attend that will need to be paid for. To ensure you can afford these things, and to avoid causing yourself unnecessary stress at an already highly stressful time in your life, work to put money away in the years before your pregnancy.
- Learn how to budget
In a study by Prof KJ Spine, she theorises that women’s relationship to money is more than just financial. For many women, spending money can be related to an emotional trigger that sets off a complex emotional and mental response. In these cases, money is more than just money. In general, she says, women are still less financially literate than men.
By learning to budget successfully you are taking control of your finances and making conscious decisions on what to save and what to spend. By forcing yourself to be constantly aware of what you’re spending (and why) you are making positive steps in your own financial education. A successful budget is a way out of harmful debt and spending cycles, and reduces stress around a subject which is known to cause significant anxiety.
- Take control now
There’s no time like the present. If we are living in a world where men are more financially literate than women, where only women have to negotiate the social and financial complexities of maternity leave, and where they are still facing a very real gender pay gap in almost every industry; then there is no time to lose in taking control of your finances and making a difference in your own life.