Why do women earn less than men? Over the last 30 years we have seen the introduction and implementation of a range of legislation aimed at addressing the gap between the earnings of men and women and yet there is still a significant gap. The UK Equal Opportunities Commission has stated that it will take at least two more generations to bridge this gap. What part does our mind and our attitude have to play in determining how much money we could or should be earning?
There are certainly enough motivators. We hate the fact that we don’t have enough money, we know we probably spend too much and we certainly know we don’t save as much as we should. Every day we read horror stores about inadequate pensions and old age poverty. These are still not enough to spur us into action and take control of our income generation. The answer lies in our conditioning and is intrinsic to who we are. Until we understand how this impacts our attitude to money, all the changes in legislation and extended maternity leave in the world will not raise our earning levels.
In our earliest years our conditioning is determined. Between the age of 0 and 8 we learn a set of values of beliefs. In fact, David McClelland, Distinguished Research Professor of Boston University, proved it could be as early as 0 to 3 when our ‘values’ are determined by our parents and those most closest to us. These values impact how we feel about and respond to all sorts of things including our attitudes to money, wealth and the types of work we should be pursuing.
The emphasis on should is deliberate. Values are all about what we believe we should be doing to please others, to please society in general and to fit in.
For women and money this is complicated. Women today are taught the importance of being financially independent, to be self reliant because, afterall, ‘a man is not a plan’. However, sometimes the messages we hear growing up are inconsistent and conflicting. On the one hand, we’re taught about the importance of money the need to spend and save it wisely. On the other, we’re implicitly and explicitly taught that it’s equally important to be kind, nurturing and collaborative; that the most important thing is our relationship with others and not our relationship with money. We are different to men: we are not taught how to be powerful or how to win at all costs. This makes us reluctant to demand what we think we deserve, including equal pay.
To add insult to injury, we are told at a very early age that girls are poor at maths. From this we conclude that we must be bad at finance and managing money as well. As a consequence, we lack confidence in dealing with money, preferring others to take charge.
If our parents were raised during or shortly after the war, we also inherited a mentality of scarcity which continues to impact our attitude to risk and money as we become adults and parents in our own right.
What has been the result?
Besides the earnings gap which persists, a recent survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Barclays Wealth showed that we are far less likely to take risks with our money, whether in personal finance or business affairs. Women tend to place less importance than men on our income from investments and we save to reach a goal. Once the goal is reached we will often act to protect what it is that we have built up. This means we are limiting our potential to create even more wealth and be superrich.
Men have a different attitude and game plan. The same survey showed that men claim to have better knowledge than women of every aspect of personal finance. They are more confident and as Dr Ros Altmann, Governor of the London School of Economics states, “Men have more of a mindset that you have to just go out and get it and you can see their attitude towards risk taking in the games they play.” It may just be a matter of confidence or bravado, but men play to win, take less time researching investment products and invest in the longer term.
Does this all mean we are doomed to stay poor for the rest of our lives? No! It means that what you focus on is what you get and it’s time to focus on getting rich. Being rich is a positive thing. It is about flexibility, freedom and being in control.
What do we to become rich?
1. Choose to do something about your financial literacy Financial skills are not innate but learnt. We need to learn financial skills and practice them to gain confidence. This means undertaking short courses in financial literacy which teach you how to prepare a balance sheet or income statement. Read the financial pages of daily newspapers to build an understanding of the financial world at large. Don’t be put off by ‘big words’, buy a jargon buster such as “The Dummies Guide to Investing”.
2. Spend don’t save Invest a defined amount (minimum 10% of your net income) every month into a high income bearing savings account but don’t leave it there. Once you have accumulated enough, buy an asset which will produce passive income indefinitely. This could be a buy to let property which produces positive cash flow. Invest the money from this investment to buy a second cash flow generating asset and so on, continuing to build assets.
3. Develop financial goals and stick to them After you’ve built your financial skills and have learnt to prepare a balance sheet and income statement, define how much income and assets you need to make you feel ‘rich’. This will be different for each individual. If you are planning your retirement fund aim to build a fund that contains 25 times the annual amount you want to have when you retire. So, if you want a total income of 30,000 each year when you retire, you need to have 750,000 in your retirement fund.
4. Reward achievement in investment don’t use spending as an emotional crutch
Our client wanted to buy a new Audi sportscar for 500 per month. Our challenge to her was to develop a stream of passive income to produce 500 per month within a year and then buy the sportscar as a reward.
5. Network, network, network but network with financially literate and clever people.
We are told that women are great at networking so use this skill to build networks with others (both men and women) who are interested in building wealth. Ask around to identify good tax accountants, IFAs, property companies and so forth. Build your own ‘wealth team’ with those individuals and companies who share your views and your ideals.