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Women talking about finances is quite often still considered a taboo. If you are wondering why, here are five reasons and five ways to talking about it.
Let me ask you something.
When was the last time you spoke to your friends about money? How many times have you discussed investments or mutual funds or share markets over coffee? Or how often do you call up a friend to her their opinion about the real estate market? Do you and your friends debate over the best tax-saving schemes to invest in this year? How many online groups are you a part of where you discuss which stocks to buy?
Or when was the last time you and your mom sat down to discuss the best investment options that give the largest returns? At a family gathering, how often have you and your maasi/chaachi/bua discussed the best mutual funds to invest in?
I am sure you are laughing by this point. You probably should be. Because chances are, a majority of women would NEVER have had these conversations.
Most of the money-related conversations among women tend to go something like:
“IT returns? My dad’s always taken care of that for me.” “My husband takes care of investments, I take care of shopping!” “Mutual funds? Please, don’t spoil this party with your boring topics!” “Why are you so obsessed with money? Can’t we talk about something more fun?”
Trust me, these are real conversations. By real women. With other women.
I had a colleague who didn’t know how to open a fixed deposit account or carry out a NEFT transaction. “I don’t bother about such things,” she used to declare. “My husband takes care of it.”
As women, we have been programmed to believe that money somehow isn’t our concern. ‘Don’t talk about money’, or something to that effect, is one of the most deep-seated unspoken rules of the ‘lady-like etiquette.’ A woman in unabashed pursuit of wealth is considered brash, materialistic, and a gold-digger. This is perhaps why most of us are reluctant to even bring up the topic.
And yet, money is one of the leading causes of anxiety and friction in our lives. It is one of the root causes of fights between couples, of households breaking up. Also of women choosing to stay in a relationship/marriage as opposed to walking out, and the ultimate pointer of social status.
If anything, this should tell us that at least now, it’s time that we stepped up and addressed the elephant in the room. So why is it that women don’t talk about money, and what can we do to change it?
The problem with the topic of money is that it can get a lot of people very touchy, very fast. And because we’re so worried that what we say might hurt someone’s feelings, we prefer not to say anything at all.
But here is what you can do about it. Talk about your own experiences. Put a hilarious spin on it.
Talk about how you attempted to invest in the stock market and burned your fingers. Or how you realised you need to stop maxing out your credit card and took concrete steps to curb your spending.
Once you open up about your own money-related concerns and insecurities, you’ll be amazed at how much your friends want to discuss it. Most women do want to talk about money, and have genuine questions they desperately want answers to.
As women, we’re never actively pushed to learn about money or discuss it. Unless you have a degree in finance or work in the financial sector, there’s a good chance that money never enters into your day-to-day conversations.
Now you’re at a friend’s party and there’s a guy in a shiny fancy suit. And he is talking about how endowment plans are the best things to invest in, you nod and pretend to understand. You vaguely remember reading that they are a bad idea. But you’re not sure, and you don’t want to look stupid in front of everyone. So you keep quiet. As do ten other women in the room who had the exact same doubt.
Don’t be embarrassed about it. Instead, ask that question! You have nothing to lose. Chances are, that guy doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.
What’s the worst that could happen? It would lead to a discussion, and you’d probably learn a few things along the way. Conversely, if he’s a total financial whiz, you’ll end up with way more knowledge than before.
The parameters that women use to measure their career advancement is different from men. A woman tends to consider herself more successful based on the balance she can strike between the workplace, and home.
We want to have a career and be there for our families. What we basically want is to find the middle ground where we can be seen as the reliable employee, the dependable coworker, the perfect boss. At the same time, we want to be the perfect daughter, mother, wife and sister. Rarely do women aim solely for monetary growth, as opposed to men, who generally measure their career climb in terms of growth in earnings.
This perhaps is the reason why we don’t discuss money. Because we feel it’s not as important as talking about family or home or kids.
To solve this, bring family and money together! Start with having regular discussions with your spouse regarding your earnings, investments, debts, insurance policies, monthly cash flow, and retirement plans.
Even if you are not an earning member of the family, stay abreast of your financial situation. Involve your kids in your financial discussions. Let them learn at an early age that you encourage talking about money and being mindful of it.
If you are planning an inheritance for your kids, discuss it beforehand. Talk to your parents. They have a wealth of experience – ask them how they saved and invested, and what lessons they learnt.
This is the commonest reason women shy away from money talk. We think we’re not good enough, not capable enough, and not knowledgeable enough, to make our own decisions.
Take action! Pull out your salary slips and start tracking how much you have earned over the years. And how your salary has changed, and how you have handled your money till now.
Read up. There are SO many amazing personal finance books out there. Read about investing, about planning for the future, about getting out of debt. Test the waters.
Want to invest in mutual funds? Do your research and then wade in slowly. Start with small amounts and track your funds. Educate yourself about money as much as you can and start applying it to your life.
As someone who has been called money-minded many times for simply bringing up topics of money and wealth, I can fully attest to this fact. In pop culture, women’s roles are generally confined to serial shopping, splurging on things she can’t afford, or being buried in credit card debt.
Splurging is sexy. Investing is dull.
Understand that people’s opinions aren’t going to pay your bills. Their snide remarks aren’t going to build your portfolio and make you financially independent.
So be the woman who isn’t afraid to talk about money. Because unless we actively start talking about money, the taboo isn’t going away!
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Pexels
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