It’s not a big secret that girlfriends talk. We talk about dating, relationships, marriage, kids, travels, jobs, bosses, colleagues, and even our entrepreneurial dreams. But some things we still shy away from – like sharing the number of romantic partners we’ve had and how much money we make. Coming off the powerful wave of 2023 deemed the “Year of the Girl,” we saw just how much economic power women bring to the table. So why is discussing money still considered “taboo”?
Most taboo topics remain in hush mode because they’re tied to fear and lack of knowledge. The phrase that makes us cringe – imposter syndrome – closes in and adds fire to existing self-doubt and insecurity. Shut that voice up in your head and open your mind to gaining financial confidence. The more we talk about money, the less uncomfortable it will be. My mother always said, “it’s like wearing a new pair of shoes for the first time (in my case high heels). They pinch, they’re tight…but the more you wear them, the more comfortable they become.”
I’m acutely aware that women are more tight-lipped about finances than men, and with an extensive background in research, I had to dig deeper. In partnership with Wells Fargo, The FQ conducted a research study, “Our Secret Numbers: Women, Men, and the Taboo Nature of Financial Health” to uncover which numbers we keep hidden. These included the usual suspects: age, weight, salary, credit score and savings. What we discovered is a stark confidence gap when it comes to how men and women discuss their money and personal finances.
Men are significantly more likely to talk to a financial professional about their financial health compared to women (29% vs. 20%), while women are also more likely to say they don’t talk to anyone about it (35% vs. 26%). Meanwhile, men are more likely than women to describe their relationship with money positively, while women are more reluctant. As women avoid the topic of finances, potentially creating more anxiety around it, men are openly discussing their own financial realities and goals.
Women will celebrate their friend’s successes, like earning or a promotion or a raise at work, but won’t celebrate their own. Even if we were taught to be modest or don’t want to seem boastful, it’s time to get over that. The reality is: if we don’t talk about our financial wellness, we will never be financially confident, and the pay gap will never budge.
Here are some ways women can be bolder when it comes to money:
- Educate yourself. You don’t have to follow every market across the world or have a ticker scrolling across your phone, but familiarize yourself with business developments that affect your current and future investments.
- Pay off debt first. A 22-26% credit card rate negates any savings account.
- Have an emergency fund of four to six months’ salary. All it takes is one illness, one layoff, one unexpected circumstance to cripple you financially. Just like you contribute to a 401k or retirement plan, stave off a little each paycheck to this fund.
- Share your numbers with your partner. Finances are a leading cause of marital strife and the dissolution of relationships. As in all things, it’s better to find out from a partner rather than someone else (like a debt collection agency) share the news.
We can’t let the perception that talking about money is taboo stop us from taking power into our own hands. Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest who is “all about getting more money into the hands of women,” notes that “uncertainty is even more stressful than the certainty of pain. Get clear on where you stand and make that plan. That’s financial self-care.”
Krista Phillips, EVP, Head of Consumer Credit Cards and Marketing at Wells Fargo, shares that her biggest piece of advice is to “shake off the shame you might feel about money and start talking. Ask questions. Discuss it with your friends. Meet with a financial advisor. You are more than capable of responsible money management and pursuing your financial dreams.”
Don’t forget, it was just 50 years ago when women were finally able to get a credit card without their father or husband co-signing. Today, every woman has the power to take control of her finances, but many lack the confidence to do so. As Haley Saks, aka Mrs. Dow Jones, so clearly put it: “we’re conditioned to believe that in order to make financial decisions for ourselves, we have to wear a business suit and work on Wall Street, but it’s actually not that complicated or hard.”
It’s time to close this confidence gap. It’s time for women to open our purses and boldly embrace our own financial narratives. Start asking questions and learn what you don’t know. We have the tools at our fingertips, we must take the first step of speaking up about our financial goals and wellness. It’s not taboo, it’s how we empower each other. And don’t forget to shop smart, including for the financial advisor you add to your collection.