How many times have you had an unresolvable situation that gets resolved when you call a girlfriend? I’m not talking about an acquaintance. I’m talking about that kind of sister-friend who you can share anything with.
Sisterhood is powerful. And sisterhood has a certain zing-zing that swirls around each woman and lifts her up. Where would we be now without the sisterhood of Suffragettes? What about the sisterhood of, Your husband does that, too? OK, now I feel better. And let us not forget that all important sisterhood of the only people that will talk to you about your deepest secrets and still love you — maybe even love you more.
So, why is the subject of money so often off the agenda of what the Sisterhood talks about? According to Kerry Hannon, personal financial retirement expert and author of the national bestseller "Great Jobs For Everyone 50+," it has a lot to do with outdated expectations and social norms.
“Boomer women grew up in an era where there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on women doing math and science,” says Hannon. “I think women still have insecurity about math to a certain degree, so money seems to fall into that category. I think there are many women still out there who never expected that they were going to have to learn to be in charge of the big picture finances.”
Hannon, who’s been covering and working with women and money for nearly 30 years, adds that she sees this dynamic changing with younger generations. However, women still need a boost up — they’re living longer and, at some point, will be responsible for their own finances (if they aren’t now). They need to step up to the plate.
It’s also important to remember that the financial services industry has been dominated by men. Although the industry gives lip service to wanting to appeal to women, it’s still a world where women have a tough time finding an advisor who doesn’t talk down to them in some way.
“Women tend to be more money-cautious and when they’re with other like-minded women, that tends to be a kinder environment to learn in,” Hannon observes. “It’s just a matter of confidence to not be a deer in the headlights when you’re thinking or talking about money. I know so many women, even women with plenty of money, who literally still have a fear of becoming bag ladies. Why is this still true?”
So, how can women help other women who may be intimidated about dealing with or discussing money? Hannon offers up three tips to get the conversation started.
1. Make money a regular topic of conversation with your close girlfriends.
Make talking about money part of the fabric of your life. You don’t have to immediately start talking about what stocks and mutual funds you’re investing in, but you can start bringing up financial topics with your friends. You might say, “We’re thinking about refinancing our mortgage,” and then have a conversation about mortgages, or other topics like long-term care insurance. As you talk more about different topics, you might mention an article you read.
2. Start a money book club.
Women love book clubs. And it doesn’t have to be a boring book! Try something like Sheryl Sandburg’s "Lean In" or Jean Chatzky’s "Money Rules." There are many great personal financing books out there right now. You can invite a financial author or journalist who lives near you to come by, meet with the club and talk.
3. Start a money circle discussion group.
Get a group of friends together and have regular conversations about finances. You might have somebody lead the group and you might start a discussion about what you were taught about money as a child, what your first experience with money was or how your parents handled money. This gets women talking among themselves about their fears about money and why it is that it still has this power to intimidate us.