This is a summary of our Magnificent Midlife Podcast interview with Rebecca Robertson, an independent financial advisor on a mission to empower women financially. You can listen to the full interview here.
The link between financial independence for women and our financial security
How comfortable we feel about our finances often depends on where a woman is in terms of her life cycle and where she is in her journey. As we age there’s a greater need to think about financial independence and security, and it’s so important for older women because they may not have had a focus on it in the past. There’s lots of stress in life and unfortunately, sometimes that can go back to financial decisions made in the past.
It’s important because making certain decisions and having certain things in place, means women have more choice and they can decide to retire earlier or when and how they work, or maybe have a completely different career and do something they always wanted to do.
Financial independence and freedom allow us to make certain decisions to live the lifestyle we want. There are many hurdles, especially for women in midlife. Women in their 30s have much more opportunity.
We have gaps in our employment, insurance, and pensions because of the life choices we often make for other people, to be able to give back to our family and to look after our family. Therefore, it means that when we come to that point when children are flying the nest or we’re splitting from our partners, we feel like we’re starting all over again. Women often don’t have the financial independence they need in midlife and that impacts their financial security.
I strongly believe in financially empowering women and for many of us, financial independence is part of that. Once I see women empowered with their finances, and they’ve really got their mindset, and they’re clear, and they’re not feeling overwhelmed, they can start to make such amazing decisions and start making choices. It might not be all perfect, and might not be all smelling of roses, because sometimes these things take time. But it means they’re able to strive for more.
The importance of being proactive about our finances and not abdicating responsibility
There are two levels to this: “I’m not proactive about it, because it doesn’t interest me and I’ve got my husband’s pension.” and the “I’m just not that interested in it.” They abdicate the bigger decisions and the general future decisions to their partner and just give it over. The bigger issues will come maybe in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time, either because they’re separating, or because their partner’s passed away, or they’ve not actually understood the implications of what would happen if their partner died.
By abdicating and not actually understanding things, we’re setting ourselves up for failure, and then we’re beating ourselves up for it.
You don’t have to be an expert in financial planning but it’s important to look at what you’ve got, and see how comfortable you are. Ask some relevant questions so that you can understand the “what if” scenarios. You may have to have some difficult and awkward conversations with your partner. There are different ways that you can approach these things, you haven’t got to be quite so literal but it’s crucial to talk.
There’s a difference between abdicating because it’s a generational thing and that’s the style of relationship you have and abdicating because you just are not interested. Whatever the reason, there are different levels of importance and different reasons why you need to tackle it.
The need for setting boundaries when it comes to money
When it comes to money it’s important for women to set boundaries. Sometimes women are very generous and kind. They can over give.
If you have a new partner, for example, even though maybe things have happened in the past, where you gave away to friends, children, and you might be giving away to a new partner, it’s really important to still protect your financial independence. For example, if you’re buying a house together, it needs to be done correctly.
Make sure you’re getting the correct legal advice to ensure that if you were to pass away, and that asset was to go into that new partner’s name, you can still pass your share on to your family if that is what you wish to do. It’s getting the right legal advice, depending on what you’re doing, to ensure that things are all equal.
Conversely, some women who have been burned a lot in the past, they’re very careful with their money when it comes to new partners and they’re very financially independent. People are on different spectrums at different points. There’s no wrong or right but it’s doing what feels right for you, and making sure you’re getting the right advice in the process.
The mistakes midlife women sometimes make when it comes to money and financial independence.
It’s important to consider making sure you have some money for yourself, your own emergency fund so that if you need something, you don’t have to go and ask for money. There are real control issues around money.
Quite a lot of women have to go and ask their husbands for something or the money is going into a joint account and they’re being questioned about how they’ve spent the allowance or the household money. It’s hard when you’ve been in a relationship for a very long time to change things. They’ve always been a certain way and men aren’t great with change but you may need to create change. It’s important you have some money to spend on yourself on the things that you want, without having to be questioned or asking for money.
For women in a relationship for a long time, one of the first hurdles I hear them talking about is when they want to start investing or they want to do this and they want to do that, but their partners aren’t on board. The relationship with your partner at this stage is a crucial place to start.
If you’re in a loving relationship, I’d hope that your partner would listen to your concerns, but it’s worth talking it through with a girlfriend or friend to work out how you could frame that conversation. Men like to be providers quite often, so if they feel they’re not providing for you, that can cause some friction in relationships.
I’m not saying that’s a mistake, but I think in terms of moving forward, you need to get clear on these issues, so you can move on to other things, you can start investing, you can start looking at where your money is, and have more detailed conversations around the “what if” scenario, your pensions, investments and other areas.
We also tend to not look at our spending in general but in reality, we have to be consciously mindful of it. It is a case of having to consider what stage you’re at, and what’s the first thing for you to focus on and then you layer on that and build from there.
The need to take responsibility for learning about money and finance
Women aren’t any worse than men when it comes to understanding money and finance. In actual fact, once I see clients in a phase of being open to understanding, they start to build their knowledge. If anything, I find women highly intelligent in this area once they give it a chance.
The issue sometimes is that women ask more questions and they want to understand it, truly understand it and the emotional intelligence around that really does kick in. They have so many questions and that’s often very technical questions.
Unfortunately, I see all too often that women feel it’s not for them because they don’t earn enough, they’re not wealthy enough, not clever enough or it’s just simply not for them.
I totally disagree with that and in actual fact, it’s so important that everybody is doing financial intelligence and asking these kinds of questions because it’s what everybody should do. It should just become a normal part of life.
The importance of your social circle on how you interact with money and finance
For a lot of women, their circle of friends has a lot to do with how they are influenced when it comes to financial matters. You need to surround yourself with people who talk about these financial issues like a normal part of the conversation. Surrounding yourself with other influences, listening to podcasts and reading books, allows you in terms of your own personal confidence and personal growth to get to a point where you’re able to competently ask questions.
A lot of it comes down to women’s ideas of their own self-worth and self-confidence. I encourage people to look at that first and to actually consider what they want from their money and their emotional connection to money. That’s often what’s holding us back and stopping us from taking our financial independence to the next level.
You have to start to become very self-aware around these different matters. You might have to start thinking about how you were brought up around money and what influence your family has even if you had a fantastic upbringing and your parents are brilliant.
Money has some really strong historic anchors that we carry with us for years. In the UK, in particular, we have a strange relationship with money and there are residual cultural influences that it’s not something particularly nice/well-mannered to talk about or to focus on. But having money can empower women especially to do great things.
How to improve financial independence for women
A lot depends on where you are in your career and if you’re still working, how much you’re earning. Quite often, women are probably not earning enough. It doesn’t matter how much you have to play with, you’ve just got to maximize what you got and make it work as best as you possibly can.
If you’re thinking there’s no point in bothering, there’s always a point. If you’re thinking it’s just too late and you should have done it 20 years ago, it’s never too late. If you’re 55 and you’re thinking it’s too late, if you don’t do something now, you’ll get to 60 and wish you’d done it five years before. It’s never, never too late and there’s never too little money to work with.
The question is “what to do?” The first thing I would say if you have very little coming in is to think about how you can bring more in, whether it’s doing more hours with your job, getting a (second) job, looking at your skillset and starting a business, whatever it is to actually increase your overall wealth, revenue coming in.
You also have to look at your spending, how you’re spending, what you’re spending on, and putting money management steps in place to ensure that is as efficient as possible, Then look at what you’ve got spare and what you do with that spare money, how you can invest it, whether it’s in a pension or just a general investment account, and looking at ways to squirrel more away and allow that money to grow. The more you’ve got coming into the pot, the more you can squirrel away, it’s a simple system.
Possibilities for investing money you can afford to lose
Money to play with is an interesting subject. For me, you should never play with money that you can’t afford to lose. There’s talk of Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and buying gold and I tell my clients to only do those things with money you can afford to lose. If you’re just investing £100 a month and that’s all you have, then I wouldn’t be playing with it in that context.
My advice would be, if there’s an area that you are interested in, go and find out more about it and find people that are working in that area. Women tend to like property so they’re not actually that into alternative investments.
When it comes to alternatives, I always believe in looking at actually getting the bread and butter sorted first. So it’s doing your pensions, looking at how you can have a diverse portfolio that’s going to provide you with an income later in the most strategic way and then start looking at what would be maybe more alternative.
How the world would be different if more women had more of its wealth
In the future women are going to be holding more of the world’s wealth because we’re living longer and men are passing away sooner. It’s a case of what we’re doing with our money and how we’re spending it. We have such power that we don’t even realize and having more of the world’s wealth in the hands of women will only be good for the world.
We’re starting to see that more with ethical investing now because women want to invest in those areas. We’re also starting to see that millennials, both men and women want to know that their money is having a positive impact in the world, which is fantastic.
The more we can empower our children and grandchildren around finances, influencing them to make small, right decisions as early as possible, will mean we’re able to generationally pass on more, and the world’s wealth will be more evenly distributed.
Currently, unfortunately, the wealth gap is only getting wider. The rich are getting richer and the poor are unfortunately getting poorer. I believe that the world’s wealth should be much more equal. I don’t mean that everybody should have the same because people are doing different things at different points in their life, but I feel that financial education allows us to be more financially empowered and to pass that knowledge on to our children and our grandchildren.
Find out more about Rebecca:
Rebecca’s Websites: rebeccarobertson.co.uk
Listen to her podcast: Accelerating Your Wealth podcast
Watch her TEDx Talk: If women ruled the world…
You may also like: How To Financially Plan In Midlife – What To Consider and Top Tips For Budgeting For Retirement
Rebecca Robertson is an award-winning author, TEDx speaker, founder and independent financial adviser with 20 years of experience in financial advice. She is passionate about empowering women to take control of their finances, gain confidence in planning their financial future and create structures and processes.