Do questions about money or your finances make you feel inadequate?
When you compare yourself and how you handle money with others, do you feel ashamed?
Do you worry about debt? Or get embarrassed because you’re not earning enough? Or earning too much, especially if that happens to be more than your partner?
When you spend too much, do you feel guilty?
Negative messages about money, who suffers
Unsurprisingly, many of the negative messages around money are mostly aimed at women.
Girls are often taught to be careful with money. Boys to pursue and grow it. Boys are taught to be confident around money while women are more likely to be treated as children: marked out as incapable of understanding finance and investment, as well as shamed for being frivolous.
For men, going out for drinks after work is networking and building business connections. For women, it’s gossip… or an alcohol issue.
Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO of Ellevest, an American digital financial advising company specialising in investing for women, has looked at how women are shamed and ‘mansplained’ to when it comes their finances, saving and investing.
She notes that the patronising tone of any number of financial self-help books, which follow “in a long tradition of personal financial advice for women packaged into simplified, bite-sized nuggets that boil down to giving up frivolous expenses, starting with the fancy coffee”, isn’t helpful.
Avocado toast and lattes
In Australia, financially shaming younger people is probably one of the few areas where gender neutrality reigns. Demographer Bernard Salt wrote in the Australian in 2016 that if young people stopped going to “hipster cafes” and eating menu items like smashed avocado on toast, they could purchase property.
I’m still not sure how forgoing coffee or avocado is going to get you the deposit you need for a home in a housing market that rates as one of the most expensive in the world but shaming is not a helpful strategy for building people’s confidence when it comes to saving and budgeting.
Build financial confidence and resilience
Financial knowledge and positive financial behaviours - like budgeting and saving - are major drivers for building financial resilience. The ability to ride out financial shocks becomes increasingly important in an economic climate of slowing wage growth.
There are eight behaviours that have been identified as helpful for increasing your financial knowledge and contribute to your ability to grow your financial confidence and literacy.
Open a bank account
The process of researching and setting up an account – which could include more complex financial products such as term deposits - can be a hugely valuable experience for building confidence.
It might seem simplistic but knowing what your bank account provides is important. Knowing your account’s features, especially around fees and costs, interest bonuses, etc., is a fundamental step in engaging positively with your money.
Increase your savings
Increasing your savings is hard, not least because it seems pointless and boring… unless there is a goal.
The best way to work out where you can begin saving is to know what money you have coming in and what money is going out - a budget. Stopping or reducing where you spend helps you save.
Use credit wisely
Credit, in this case money the bank provides you via a loan or credit card, can be a tool for ‘good’. It is a way to pay for something you need now but for which you don’t have all or some of the cash. For example, if you have a business and need a new computer, which will increase your efficiency bringing in more money in the future when your repayments are due, purchasing on credit makes sense.
For most of us though, credit is about instant gratification or, maybe, amassing reward points. Knowing the terms and conditions of your credit – when it’s due to be repaid, how much must you repay to avoid interest repayments or reduce the principal and interest repayments, etc., is important. It’s financial knowledge that can put you in control.
Avoid over indebtedness
Borrowing money from formal and informal sources increases your risk of not being able to cope with financial shocks. Why? Because people may want their money back faster than you can repay it or something may happen to you that means you can’t repay it, all of which can leave you financially vulnerable. Reducing any debt you’re in as quickly as possible can feel a bit like running a marathon, but it’s worth it.
Adopt new technologies
Knowing about and using new technologies, such as apps, online banking, new investment and saving options (Fintech advice lines), can improve efficiency, provide opportunities and will often save you money. Westpac’s Davidson Institute has free tools and financial webinars you can use to setup your own working budget or put together a financial and savings plan using this Good Money Management tool. Online side gigs, such as e-bay or Airbnb, can help you think more creatively about your finances and your financial position, as well as broaden your knowledge around financial wellness.
Reduce your chances of fraud
Safeguarding your financial and personal information is a top priority for financial institutions and is a place where you can work with your financial institution to protect your identity and your money. Keeping your contact details up to date and enhancing the security measures you use, helps protect you, your family and your business against fraudulent transactions.
To ensure your finances are safe and that your livelihood and well-being are protected, especially if you are a business owner, report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately. Always keep an eye on your accounts and account activity. Be aware of people trying to control your finances for you or depriving you of financial information.
Shop around and compare offers
Just like any market, financial markets, including banks, offer their customers opportunities to save or get better deals. Shopping around and comparing financial products and offers will increase your financial knowledge. The more you know the better position you’re in to make decisions, and the more confident you will feel.
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness of the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.