Why women don’t talk about money and why we should

Many of us grow up learning that money is one of a few topics — like politics, sex and religion — that you should avoid in polite company. You don’t brag about your financial achievements, you don’t share your salary with colleagues, you try not to ask your friends about their rent, even if it helps put your budget in perspective.  

In business, women can often be reluctant to ask for money, whether that’s in salary negotiations (57% of men negotiate their salary when starting a new job, while only 7% percent of women do), pitching to investors, or taking a salary from their business. But it’s time to change that.

On top of the social stigma, money can also be attached to emotional meaning. The presence of money can mean opportunity, security, status, acceptance and power. Conversely, its absence can mean the opposite. No wonder it’s such a loaded topic.

But knowledge is power and subscribing to the money taboo can seriously undermine the financial stability of women.  If we don’t compare experiences with each other, we don’t learn what’s worked for other women and which mistakes they’ve made so that we can avoid. The most striking effect is the wage gap. The reluctance to talk about money means that many women earn less than their male counterparts for similar jobs — in virtually every profession. Overall, women earn $0.83 on the dollar compared with men.  

“I think money is amazing. It is the most incredible tool that you can use, not only to take care of yourself and your family, but more importantly that you can funnel to ideas and causes and real problems in this world that take resources to help fix.”
—  Marie Forleo

It’s time to push past this taboo and normalise talking about money.

So let’s get started with some ways we can talk about money:

Firstly take time to educate yourself:

If you’re intimidated by personal finance and unsure of where to start, remember that you don’t have to learn everything about money at once. Start with one financial lesson at a time. If you have a hard time saving, focus your literacy on emergency funds. If you want to get out of debt, research different debt payoff methods. 

Some online resources include: She’s On The Money Podcast, The Barefoot Investor book, Youtube channel Sugar Mumma TV by Canna Campbell (financial planner and entrepreneur).

Talk about money with co-workers:

If you want to talk about salaries with your co-workers, it’s best to ask politely and explain it would be helpful for you to know and always respect when a person doesn’t want to share. It’s also a two-way convo, so be prepared to share your salary as well. Remember that even though it may be awkward, it will lead to a more even playing field in the end.

Talk about money with friends:

Money talks with friends are only awkward because they’re not currently normal. This isn’t to pry, it’s to build up your group knowledge and find out about common concerns; just like any normal girl chat you’d have with them. 

You could ask for advice (e.g. budgeting apps, or how they applied for their loan), talk about your favourite financial resource, or share your own experiences with money and the lessons learnt.

Talk about money with your partner:

If you’re in a long term relationship or living together, I’m sure there has been some convos around budgets. Step up your talks by setting up a money date and talking about your goals: for saving, investing, insurance; and documentation (i.e., what money’s where, how much of it, who gets it). If something should happen with your partner (let’s hope it never does!), the last thing you want to think about is tracking down and figuring out the finance stuff.

Talk about money with your kids:

Kids have mostly formed their basic money concepts and habits by age 7, but 41% of kids don’t get any financial education at all at school. We need to make sure that we’re not passing our own anxieties and societal biases we’re currently dealing with on to them. Ways to do this could be setting family financial goals, talk about things like wants vs needs, try an interactive money site together, or read The Barefoot Investor for Families and implement their strategies.