Huffington Post

The First Step to Talking Money With Women

Feb 8, 2013

Women have stories. We share our stories with one another and make sense of our lives through our stories. Our lives consist of seemingly endless stories woven together with bits of thread and a little bit of patchwork along the way. Within the stories we find our meaning and our connection — to each other and to ourselves. Where men find comfort in facts, women find comfort in each other’s stories.  How does this work when it comes to money? Consider this example:

Fifteen women are gathered together in a 90-minute workshop talking about women, emotion and money. We’re examining what money means to us, what we do with it and how we spend it. The conversation ambles comfortably as we share examples of our secret purchases and our guilty pleasures. Then, one woman speaks up and the room falls silent.

“I have a secret to confess.” As the facilitator, I catch my breath. What will I have to deal with next? Am I ready for it? Secrets are scary things. How will I manage this? Her next sentence results in a collective exhaling of breath. And giggles. What did she say?

“I haven’t opened my statements from my financial advisor in a year!” The women sheepishly, but with great pleasure, look at each other. And then one by one they say “Me neither.” There. It’s out. The group confession. From there, we tell our stories of what this ostrich behaviour meant to us, why we did it, what we were avoiding and how we can face our fears. By the end of the workshop, these fearful women were excited and asking for another workshop — this time a full day. They had found a space where they could share their stories, their fears and really talk about what matters to them.

This is how women relate to each other and through this process they learn and grow. Money is one of the last taboos and is something many of us are uncomfortable discussing. Creating safe and open spaces for women to talk about money is one of the missing gaps in financial and investor education. For sure, financial literacy is a major problem. However, the solutions, which are offered by financial institutions, are all the same — workshops and courses on investing, budgets, wills, and getting your finances in order.

For many women, the issue runs much deeper than simply getting the facts. Before women can pay attention to the facts, they need to understand their feelings about money and why they have disconnected from it. Why have they chosen to give up control? As research by Sheconimics has found, 80 per cent of women shop to cheer themselves up.

Women also shop when they’re feeling good. Women’s inability to exercise control over this area of their lives is costly to them. In fact, 70 per cent said they would spend less if they had better self-control. Therefore, simply informing women of products and services is ineffective if women have an underlying self-control issue. Investing and saving require self-discipline.

What is the answer is for financial professionals to accompany women on journeys of discovery? Workshops need to provide an environment were women can explore issues of relevance to them. Advisory meetings should be designed to help women sort out how their money affects all parts of their lives. Providing direction to women about their tough money and life issues — this is where women are looking for support.

Listening to her story, encouraging her to explore her money choices and decisions through the stories in her life are where professionals can add real and meaningful. Help the female client to understand how her story impacts her money past, present and future. You’ll be rewarded with a grateful and loyal client.

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