June 4, 2023

Money management is a hole in our education system and women have long paid the price; but luckily, all that is changing
I like to consider myself an independent woman. I have earned my own money since I was 18, have worked hard to build a career and I pay my way on most things at home. However, if truth be told, I’ve never felt I have a proper handle on my finances
Perhaps my loathing of numbers goes way back to my aversion to algebra in maths classes. So now, if you show me a spreadsheet, I’ll show you a woman on the verge of a panic attack. Don’t get me started on doing my tax return – while I know HMRC isn’t going to sugar-coat it, why does it feel like an alien is writing to me from Mars in a code language that no one else speaks? And why does my husband somehow just get it?
Most women I know feel the same. We have been working hard to level the gender equality playing field at work, in sport and in the media, but all of this is undermined if we aren’t managing our finances properly. But who can blame us? Until recently, the entire finance industry has been geared towards men.
Sophia Damianou, a managing director of private equity firm Northleaf Capital Partners as well as a private investor in female-led finance companies, says: “For so many generations, women weren’t in control of their finances. We have internalised the message that it’s too complicated and we aren’t good at it.” 
The entire finance industry is dominated by men, and, while we hear a lot about the gender pay gap, Damianou explains, the bigger problem is the wealth gap. In short, while earning less than men, women also save a fraction of what men do, leaving us vulnerable and much poorer than them in old age. But all this is starting to change.
The biggest buzz phrase in women’s health right now is “financial wellbeing”. “Your financial health impacts everything”, says Damianou, “we look at our mental, physical and spiritual health – but the missing pillar is often our financial health.” Financial wellbeing is about facing our finances, prioritising them, getting a handle on them and planning for the future. As Holli Rubin, head of multi-disciplinary therapies at mental health clinic The Soke, in London, says: “The impact finances have on mental health is major and is a main stressor in marital relationships. Yet for so many people the subject of money is taboo.”
Thankfully, the female financial paradigm is really beginning to shift. From the rise of female financial bloggers, or “Fin-fluencers”, to money podcasts and female-led wealth management businesses, more women are encouraging us to be financially fit. Whether you are newly divorced, planning for retirement or feel the need to educate your daughter or granddaughter, there are a wealth of female experts now offering advice at our fingertips. They speak our language, too, because, as Damianou says: “There is more jargon in the finance industry than any other.”
One woman putting money-making choices firmly in women’s hands is Emilie Bellet who is the chief executive of vestpod.com, an online community that helps women of all ages achieve financial independence. 
Bellet runs courses such as her six-week Money Bootcamp, which helps women get their finances in shape, and has a female finance podcast called The Wallet (170,000 downloads and counting). Author of You’re Not Broke You’re Pre-Rich, she is also launching a finance festival this September called Money Matters at the Ned in London. Bellet quit her job in 2016 after the stark realisation that she didn’t have her own finances in order and couldn’t find anyone to help her do so. She says: “Women in the UK are paid 90p to every £1 for a man, and we are likely to take on caring roles and invest less. This takes a huge toll on our pensions and the average woman retires with half as much money in her pension pot as a man.”
So, I ask her, how do we take back the control? “It’s about education and changing the conversation,” she says. “Financial wellbeing is all about managing our finances and paying off debt. We often read about women raising money and selling their businesses, but most of us just need practical daily advice.”
Zanna van Dijk is best known as a wellness influencer with 386,000 followers on Instagram. Recently, she has teamed up with finance management company First Wealth to create the education platform Thrive Money, after the firm helped her get her own finances in order. She says: “There’s no point in drinking green juice, doing your squats and cardio three times a week when you’re staying up all night stressing about money.” Targeting a younger audience through social media, webinars and courses, Van Dijk hopes Thrive Money will stop women making the same mistakes she did. Van Dijk realised there was a gaping hole in education around money – not just for women “but women need it more”, she says.
With the divorce rate in the UK estimated to be 42 per cent and the number of people choosing to get married declining, it is more important than ever that women have enough financial know-how to stand on their own two feet. Once we are on top of our finances, we can then, says Bellet, think about investing and growing our money.
Thankfully, the typical vision of the investor – a Wolf of Wall Street character – is slowly beginning to change, too, and thanks to companies like Ellevest in the US, an investing platform that aims to “get more money in the hands of women”, it is becoming easier than ever. Sadly it’s not available in the UK yet, but Bellet would argue that we don’t need an app to invest for us, it’s about doing it and learning ourselves. As Damianou says: “It’s not sexy, but it’s not supposed to be.”
In Bellet’s Money Bootcamps, she asks women about their mindset and beliefs about money. She gets her clients to ask themselves: What does money mean to you? What financial habits did you have from a young age? Are you an impulse spender? Do you need to buy something to feel better? What’s your money persona? How would you describe yourself?
Everyone’s financial goals are different – it could be saving for a car or being able to go to the cinema. Bellet says it’s about thinking: “This month I am saving for this goal,” then putting together a saving plan.
Bellet acknowledges this is hard for many people, but do it daily and it will get easier. This way you will see what’s coming in and out, like your phone or internet bills. Can you cancel subscriptions you don’t need? Bellet says: “If you manage to save £100 a month, you can save or invest it and pay yourself instead of paying other companies.”
Bellet recommends printing them out and highlighting your fixed expenses such as rent, mortgage, phone. Then she suggests highlighting how much you spend on other things. Then look at how much you are saving, if anything. Can you put a plan in place to transfer some money into a pension so you can’t spend it?
Can you put in place a repayment plan? Call your bank. It’s stressful, but if you can talk to someone you will sleep much better at night.
Do you save any money each month? Bellet says: “This is so important in case you got ill or lost your job.” Advisers will recommend you have three- to six-months’ worth of savings up your sleeve. One great app is Moneybox, which helps you put money away every month and will help you invest.
Your property, your cash, your pension. “The goal”, says Bellet, “is to build your assets. Building this pot of money so that one day you can draw an income.”
“Ask yourself, how do you make sure you are confident and working towards a better life? How can you enjoy life today while planning for tomorrow?” says Bellet.
No one wants to think about retiring when they are young, but Bellet suggests that any time over 30 we should be. “Think who you want to be in 30 years, and how much money you will need to do it.”
Bellet suggests starting on a small scale. Slowly build up once you have your emergency savings. Make sure you are invested in funds so the money is growing with the economy.
Follow for advice on money and the menopause, pensions, and a beginners guide to investing
An all-bases-covered guide to money management. They excel at researching the best Isas, pension plans and advisers.
Thrive includes budgeting apps and saving tips. Look out for the course “Finance Fundamentals – everything I wish I’d been taught at school”, coming soon.
Emilie Bellet runs workshops and courses on financial wellbeing, managing money and investing. Plus, she holds meet-ups around the UK. Her podcast The Wallet covers everything from “getting approved for a mortgage” to “breaking down investing barriers”.
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