To celebrate International Women’s Day in 2018, I’m joining in with MamaFishSaves in #womenrockmoney, and writing a series of feminist posts, with a finance theme. Today’s topic is mentors; specifically financial mentors or money mentors. International Women’s Day seems an appropriate day to reflect on how women are influenced financially. And it seems embarrassing to admit, all of my financial mentors have been men. And all my role model and financial idols were also men. This feels quite problematic to the feminist in me.
My privileged background
So, to set the scene, I was privileged to grow up in a white middle class home in the UK. Growing up was always comfortable, but frugal. To give an example, we owned our house and I’ve always had my own bedroom yet my family has a strange affection for Ladas as cars. Note the plural; they replaced one Lada with another Lada in succession. To those across the pond, Ladas are not the sexiest cars, and this was reflected in their pricing. Which made my parents love them. Their stable approach were also reflected in their occupations, both working for the government and having final salary pensions. Combined with a low tolerance to risk, this fact meant they were both never exposed to investing in the stock market. Hence I was taught to be frugal, always save, but never to invest.
Financially, nothing very exciting happened in my twenties. I was textbook normal for white middle class university graduate. Earning between £16k and £30k, I followed my parents financial model. I saved, saved and bought property to live in. The idea of investing never crossed my mind. And besides I didn’t really have much spare money then.
My early thirties
Things started to change for me just after hitting thirty. I got a break and moved to London with a commensurate bump in salary. And then a few years later, my salary started to increase dramatically (see this post for details of my eventual rise to £100k). Despite the geographical difference between us, I was still following my parents model. Save, save and buy property to live in. I had no friends or mentors that followed a different path, and the idea of investing was foreign to me.
Men who talked about investing
At my first six figure job, I was working alongside a team of mainly older men. As our desks were crammed, we all took lunch together in the canteen. This is when I noticed a different dynamic to my previous workplaces. Amongst some other geeky topics, we also talked about money. And investing. In particular shares and funds were openly discussed. Along with commentary on the market and political influences. This was the first time I had been exposed to such investing talk, and began to realise that yes, it was normal to invest.
At this time I also got interested in money, and started to research online. Given my atheism Dave Ramsey obviously didn’t appeal. But I did find a straight talking geeky guy I could relate to. Enter Mr Money Mustache. So, you can guess my confession. I’m embarrassed to say, but my financial mentors look like this image. See anything? It’s exclusively male. Not just one man or two, but a full on collection of them. But that was the reality of my life. Female colleagues did not talk about money or investing, but male colleagues did. Friends were not interested in talking about finances either and did not invest. I was 100% influenced financially by men.
Taken individually, does it really matter if my mentors were male? After all I am only one person. We all know a sample size of one is meaningless. Then I asked around, and the majority of mentors quoted were also male. So we were seriously lacking in female financial mentors. As a bigger societal picture this is more troublesome. Therefore as well as occupying less power positions, women are paid less and have less financial role models than men. Money and power have traditionally been very male dominated spheres, and indeed these traditions still remain true today. It is not hard to see that females may feel marginalised around money, and be uncomfortable talking about money and investing. As part of #womenrockmoney we want to empower women to manage money, and having access to diverse financial mentors and role models is key.
Can we get new role models?
As the previous section shows, I needed some new role models to influence my thinking. And I’m pleased to report I have found some. There are so many varied and diverse financial gurus in the financial independence community, there truly is someone for everyone. You can find many here, in MamaFishSaves campaign for #womenrockfinance. And Tread Lightly, Retire Early has a whole post celebrating the Women of the Financial Independence movement. I’d urge you to bookmark and make your way through all these inspiring blogs. Get thee a new financial role model now.
My hopes for the future
So back in wider society, how do we get a more diverse set of financial mentors out there? Are you able to step up and help? And if you are reading this, do you talk to women about money and investing? Can you be a financial mentor for someone?We all need to look deep into ourselves, and be willing to help those around us, and make sure everyone gets onboard. Then together we can #PressforProgress, which is the apt theme for International Women’s Day in 2018.
Over to you?
- What are your thoughts?
- Who are your personal financial mentors?
- And your financial role models?
- Can you step up and be a female financial mentor?
- You can checkout my Feminist Utopia Pinterest board below, please follow me, and let me know if you also want to contribute. The more the merrier.