Money Talks: How Conversation Can Raise Women’s Financial Confidence
June 16, 2015 | Focus on Women
When women talk, not many topics are off limits. Beyond mundane subjects like weather and fashion, female friends are game to discuss some of the most tender, stressful aspects of life: overbooked schedules, career challenges, parenting struggles, relationship issues, heartbreaks.
Women go boldly into such conversations due to a sense of underlying confidence that they can handle important personal matters. According to a recent 2015 study by Forbes Insights and Northwestern Mutual, about three-fourths of women feel they can achieve close fulfilling relationships, raise happy children, and pursue their own social values.
But confidence lags around money. Only 27 percent of women feel they will achieve what their goals are in terms of financial wealth.
Opportunity for Mutual Support
Little wonder, then, that money seldom makes the list of hot topics when girlfriends get together. But do women not talk about money because they lack financial confidence? Or do women lack financial confidence because they don’t talk about money?
Whether it’s the chicken or the egg, Julie Prince is adamant about getting women into the conversation—because when women talk about money, they can establish a sisterhood of financial confidence.
As a wealth management advisor for Northwestern Mutual, Prince helps both men and women develop financial plans to help achieve their personal and business goals. She is especially passionate about encouraging women to strive not just to hit basic financial goals, but also to reach for maximum potential.
“Women are not as big on taking risks as men can be,” said Prince. “Some women fear risk so much, they focus on just ‘making it,’ instead of aiming for the big opportunity. We need to move from minimum financial requirements to stretch goals. We need to have maximum expectations of ourselves!”
Honest Conversation Is the Key
That may be a big leap for a woman who’s never even chatted about money with a girlfriend. So how does Prince move women from fear and silence to confidence and action?
She sees clients achieve the greatest results when they share freely and honestly about what matters most—the hard stuff that shakes their confidence.
“When a person feels comfortable enough to open up and share her fears, to get vulnerable about her financial plan, then I can really help her,” she said. Prince herself is a single working mom who can empathize and relate shared experiences with women navigating financial stressors like divorce, single parenting, and entrepreneurship.
“Together, we can drill down on what’s driving those fears and discover what it will take to tick them away.”
This kind of talk does change women’s feelings about their finances. In the same Forbes Insights and Northwestern Mutual study, when asked if they are confident they will reach their retirement goals, 60 percent of women who do work with a financial advisor said yes—compared with only 34 percent of those who don’t.
Jackie Loewe, a self-employed consultant in Chicago, attests to this shift. “Before we met our advisor, I wasn’t sure we would ever have enough to retire,” said Loewe. Although she knew exactly what her assets were, she couldn’t imagine how they would grow to be enough. “But even in our first discussion, our advisor showed me that we had a stronger start than I realized. Now, I actually feel a sense of pride and confidence in what we have.”
This confidence has motivated Loewe and her partner to plan next steps that will not just protect what they already have, but build up even more resources they can use now and in the future.
Let’s Start More Conversations
What does it take to get women engaged in discussion about financial security? It might be as simple as speaking up. If you are a woman with confidence in your finances, sharing your experience could move a friend or colleague toward greater certainty.
“There are so many ways to help yourself, your daughters, and other women,” said Prince. “People don’t know what they don’t know. If you’re a strategic thinker, and you see potential in someone, you can help her set goals and make plans to achieve things she can’t even imagine are possible.”
And if you’re not so confident, ask a question. How are your girlfriends managing college loans or saving for retirement? What budgeting tools do they love? Who’s working with a financial professional she trusts and recommends? You might be sitting next to one of those confident women, and her input could be just the motivation you need to improve your own finances.