Let’s face it: High school didn’t even come close to teaching us about the really important things in life, like how to meet friends as an adult, how to file tax returns, or how to invest for our futures. Financial literacy — among other essential life skills, including communication and interpersonal skills — just wasn’t a part of the curriculum. What’s worse? When it comes to finances, women aren’t’ (and simply haven’t been) a part of the conversation.
According to a recent study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company, women are still struggling to make progress with financial confidence and decision making.
“These findings were quite surprising because women have come a long way when it comes to our roles in work and family, yet we don’t feel prepared financially,” Aimee Lynn Johnson, vice president of financial planning strategies, Allianz Life tells Forbes. “This begs the question, at a time when women are accomplishing so much, why aren’t they feeling more empowered about their financial future?”
Women, Money, and Power: An Ongoing Fight for Equality
For years, women in the U.S. have fought for equal pay, rallied for financial autonomy, and proven themselves time and time again as capable and competent in roles of leadership. Even so, we’ve got a long way to go.
Think about it: Women couldn’t even own property until the early 1700s, under the condition that their husbands were physically or mentally unable to manage the property themselves. It wasn’t until 1848 that the state of New York passed the Married Woman’s Property Act, which grants married women the same financial rights as an unmarried woman, excusing her from liability for her husband’s personal debts (AKA giving women an equal footing with their male counterparts).
What’s more appalling is that women couldn’t even open a personal bank account until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 — that was only 46 years ago.
Women Gaining Financial Dependence Is More Important Now Than Ever
According to the Pew Research Center, between February and May alone, women lost 11.5 million jobs; only one-third of those jobs returned in May and June. Beyond that, the pandemic has brought about additional issues concerning caregiving responsibilities, for children and the elderly.
“Financial planning is all about taking care of your dependents, and women feel like they have more dependents right now,” Megan McCoy, a financial therapist and professor of financial planning at Kansas State University tells The New York Times.
Invest Like a Woman: 5 Ways Women Can Take Control of Their Financial Future
Despite the fact that our male counterparts, including a handful of financial advisors, have made it nearly impossible for us to gain complete financial independence, there are a few ways to “get our foot in the door.” So, in an effort to help you kick that proverbial door down, here are five things you can do to take control of your financial future.
Invest in Yourself
The thought of investing seems a bit intimidating — according to a survey conducted by Fidelity investments, only 9% of women thought that they’d outperform men when it came to investing. In reality, however, female investors earn higher investment returns than their male counterparts.
What does this mean? Investing (in literally anything) is better than not investing at all.
Think about it: Women retire with only two-thirds the money of men, even though we live longer. It’s time we’ve fixed the gender investing gap and the best way to do it is to start. So, instead of stashing your cash under the mattress, in a shoebox, or savings account, consider investing a percentage of your savings.
Sure, a savings account seems like a good idea (and it is!), but the only way you’ll be able to retire is if you invest — whether it’s through an IRA, 401(k), or a personal investment portfolio.
There are online courses on everything from Hypnosis 101 to Communicating With Your Animal Telepathically. (Yes, really.) So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that there are more than a few investment courses out there designed for beginners.
Udemy, for example, is a learning platform where users can browse through 130 thousand online courses. Of those courses, you may be interested in enrolling in the Fundamentals of Investing and Basic Investing Concepts, both of which include more than one hour of valuable content to help beginner investors get on the path to financial freedom.
If you’re unsure or hesitant to spend money on a course from Udemy, consider taking a college course on investing. Universities, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Open Yale, and Stanford, offer online not-for-credit courses to whoever’s interested in putting in a bit of time and effort.
Invest in Female-Led Companies
Before you jump in, do a bit of research and invest in a company whose values align with yours. Ellevest, an investing app made by women for women, for example, can give you a competitive edge while creating social and economic change. The best part? Memberships are as affordable as $1 per month, so you can get started working on your financial future right away.
Ellevest isn’t just an app-based portfolio, it’s a financial knowledge base curated by and for women. In addition to allowing users the option to set up a digital bank account, investment, and/or retirement account, users can sign up for webinars or opt to go one-on-one with a financial coach.
Join an All-Female Investment Club
An investment club is exactly what it sounds like, a club for like-minded investors where members can chat via online forms and message boards about their financial worries, goals, and accomplishments. If you’re new to investing, joining a club can provide you with a safe, non-judgemental space to talk about your money troubles.
“It’s confidence-boosting to be in the same room or online group as other women claiming their power and autonomy with their money,” Lauren Winfield, CEO of fintech startup Signum City and an early member of the Austin’s Women’s Investing Group, tells the NY Times.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to find a club in your area, don’t be! There are hundreds of virtual clubs you can join via Meetup. There are also quite a few Facebook Groups designed to help female investors and entrepreneurs, alike.
Make It a Habit
Investing, like anything else worth doing, requires consistency. Even so, it’s important to do what works best for you and your situation — whether that means investing a percentage of every paycheck or every other paycheck, investing once per week, month, or quarter.
If you’re unsure of how much to invest, Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck suggests investing 10% of your take-home pay. If you can’t afford to invest 10%, start at 1% and aim to work towards your 10% goal.