To change something about your life for the better, you need to change something you are currently doing. In other words, you need to create a new paradigm. A paradigm is a set of ideas, assumptions and values used to view something in a particular way.
When you operate from a particular paradigm, it means that you have certain beliefs or assumptions about the way things are and the way you need to behave. You may also believe that unless you do these things, you won’t get the desired result.
In this article, I’ll identify a couple of paradigms or belief systems that are common among women, and explain how these can cloud your vision when it comes to getting financial advice and building wealth. Then, I’ll share some proven tips and strategies to help you reject these paradigms and create new ones.
In my experience, a very common paradigm or belief among women is that they simply aren’t any good with money. And this belief is present regardless of their age, career or social status. Very often I hear statements like: ‘I’m no good with numbers,’ ‘I love to spend,’ and so on.
For a long time, I struggled to understand where these limiting beliefs were coming from. It wasn’t until I started paying closer attention to the language we use around children – and the different language we use around girls versus boys – that I began to understand the problem.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago I was attending a mothers’ group catch-up. I went to pay for my coffee with my eight-month-old baby, Emma, on my hip. She was playing with my wallet, prompting the lovely man at the counter to say, ‘Oh, you will be good at spending your parents’ money! Girls are good at that. I should know – I have two of them.’
Now, obviously he didn’t mean anything by it. But these sorts of remarks have been said to Emma (or to me about Emma) many times, by people of both genders and from different generations. But here’s the thing: No one ever said this to my son, not even at that age.
When Nicholas was about two years old, he absolutely loved ‘helping’ me pay for things at the supermarket with payWave. When it was time to pay for the groceries, he would pass my credit card over the EFTPOS machine with a big grin on his face.
No one ever commented that he would grow up to be a big spender. In fact, the comments were focused on how cute he was, how quickly kids grow up (look, he already knows how to use EFTPOS!) and what a good helper he was. Yet, the message I regularly hear with Emma is: ‘Girls are great at spending.’
Just as many of us will instinctively offer a girl a doll to play with, or a toy kitchen set, whereas boys will often be handed toy cars and tools, so too it seems we have different messages for them about money.
If we are to be successful in achieving full equality for women – including bridging the gender pay gap and the super gap, converting the cost of childcare from being a women’s problem to a parents’ problem, and boosting women’s confidence with regard to financial literacy – then we must change the messaging we give to young girls (and boys) about money, and the behaviour we role model for them.
If you find yourself thinking you are ‘no good with money’, that you can’t understand tax or investing, or that you struggle with other money matters, I really encourage you to pause for a moment and think about where this belief comes from. The thing about beliefs is that they become self-fulfilling prophecies – what you believe influences what you think, and what you think affects what you do.
As women, the second paradigm we tend to operate from – and, as a result, our first priority above all else – is the belief that it’s our responsibility to look after the household. In doing so, we tend to place everyone else’s needs before our own. The end result is that we carry an increasingly heavy mental load, which becomes even worse once you introduce kids into the equation.
The mental load refers to the seemingly never-ending to-do list we face with regard to work and social schedules, domestic chores and childcare activities. Research has shown that the responsibility of completing this to-do list falls disproportionally to women. A couple of years ago, an illustration by a French cartoonist made headlines because it resonated so strongly with women around the world. Titled ‘You should have asked’, it depicts the mental load and the household challenges faced by women on a daily basis, even those with a supportive partner.
While I don’t disagree with the depiction, I can’t help but feel like the comic not only gave women across the world validation for their struggles, it also gave us an excuse. And it is one I hear often: ‘I have all this other stuff on my plate, so how can I possibly find the time to learn about money?’
You simply can’t afford to think this way.
While it is real, the mental load is not what is stopping you from getting ahead – be it in life, your career or financially. What is stopping you is your decision to let it get in the way.
Like most things in life, working on your finances takes time and focus, and, unfortunately, not enough people make the time, regardless of their gender. Living in such a fast-paced society, we tend to lead busy lives with jam-packed schedules. As a result, we start reacting to what life throws at us, rather than being in control.
Without us even realising, we prioritise the things that do not improve our financial future over things that do.
For example, we prioritise housework over budgeting. And while we carve out time at the end of each day to watch TV, peruse social media or read a book, rarely do we set aside time for managing our finances. We are happy to spend hours browsing the shops looking for that perfect outfit, yet we lack the same level of patience when it comes to selling off our stuff on Gumtree.
To change something about your life for the better, you need to change something you are currently doing. Among other things, this means carving out time to look after and improve your finances.
Think of your household like a business. Countless businesses have failed over the years because the owners were too busy working in the business instead of working on it. For a business to succeed, it needs to be managed with strategy and direction, and the same goes for your finances.
If you want your household and finances to succeed, you need to work on them rather than in them.
Action Item: Carve Out Time for Your Finances in Three Simple Steps
The idea here is to set aside at least thirty minutes for yourself every day, without adding to your already busy schedule. You can use this time to clear your head, get organised, work on your finances and track your financial goals. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Write up your to-do list for the week and apply this information to a weekly calendar. Be as detailed as you can. Include any events you have to attend, chores that you need to complete, and anything else you’re likely to do – even if it seems trivial (like watching your favourite TV shows or scrolling through Facebook).
Step 2: Cull! Look at what tasks you can skip, postpone or delegate. Once you’ve done this, your schedule should be less busy.
Step 3: Looking at the gaps in your schedule, allocate at least thirty minutes of each day to your finances. Make it a non-negotiable task to complete every day.
Women face plenty of obstacles when it comes to money. The biggest challenge we face is overcoming the mental load and learning to make time for our finances. The key to tackling the mental load is becoming resourceful and allowing others – particularly our partners – to help us with some of the mundane daily tasks we all have to complete.
No one else will do this for you. If you want to get ahead financially, you have to make it your focus and carve out time in your schedule to devote to your finances.
This is an edited extract from the book Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money available on Amazon and Kindle.