Bolstered by cultural assumptions, women have been made to feel they can’t manage their own finances. This has led to a lack of financial knowledge, which has in turn, led to women not being financially independent. Unfortunately, many women believe someone else, a partner, parent or advisor will handle their finances for them. I see women in my practice that have no knowledge or confidence to learn to be in control of their financial lives. According to a study by the National Center for Women, 80 to 90% of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. There have always been more widows than widowers, and divorce and choosing the single life are adding to the numbers of women facing life without a partner.
Educating women on how to be financially independent will take a great deal of work. On a national level, it will take education to raise awareness and classes directed at teaching girls and young women. On a local level, I’m starting Women’s Circles to facilitate women learning from other women. Eleanor Blayney, CFP® wrote a great book, ‘Women’s Worth, Finding Your Financial Confidence’ after speaking to groups of well educated women and discovering their basic ignorance of elemental financial issues. She holds that ‘women have always learned well in a collaborative, supportive environment’, and circles have been a natural way for women to support one another. From sewing circles, quilting bees, investment groups, recipe swaps, book clubs to my United Methodist Women’s circle at church, women like to be with other women, and learn from each other.
I’m taking a section from Eleanor’s book to discuss at each gathering. Once we work through the book, topics will be chosen by the women in the circle. My desire is to have the circles function independent of me. The women in the circle will choose their topics and learn about them together.
It’s been a joy to watch the women in other circles I’ve assisted come together to learn and bond with one another. They are open with each other about their individual circumstances and have been willing to share very personal information. They feel safe and accepted, which is what caring women do for one another.
One of my roles as a facilitator is to put financial concepts into a language that women can hear and understand. In one circle, I assisted a husband in deconstructing his spreadsheets and formulas, into a language that his intelligent, but spreadsheet adverse wife, could appreciate and grasp. They left feeling closer about finances than when they arrived. She understood all he had done to prepare for their retirement, and was thankful. He in turn, felt validated in his role as head of their household. Should he predecease her, she will be ready to step in to manage her finances in a way she couldn’t have before. She continues to come to the circle and leaves each gathering stronger and more confident than when she arrived.
If you have a group of women that would like to start a circle, please reach out to me; I’d love to facilitate one for you.