“I’m so bad with money!”
I hear this phrase fall from the lips of my female clients with startling frequency. I hear it even more often when I’m working with a client who is divorcing.
Is it really possible that all these women are just naturally “bad with money?"
Being a woman, I can tell you: It isn’t a girl thing.
I’m not the exception that proves the rule, either.
For every woman I work with who claims to be bad with money, I can find another who confidently runs the money for her household.
So, what gives?
The messages you received around money started early. We know that parents are more likely to talk to their daughters about “fiscal restraint” and to their sons about “building wealth.” So you may have been taught early that you are bad with money and that you need to learn how to not be wasteful.
Meanwhile, your male peers were taught to invest and build their money up — to take risks (the underlying assumption being that unlike us, males are not naturally spendthrifts who need to be saved from themselves).
So the damage is two-sided.
First, you got a message that you’re naturally reckless with money. Second, you missed out on early learning about investing and building wealth.
This is not an auspicious start.
Fast forward to young adulthood, and the messages about your money skills are now coming from the media — boy, do they have opinions. Any money-related articles targeted at you were likely tucked in the pages of lifestyle media.
These articles tend to focus on how hard it is to manage money (it’s not), and how the money problems young women face are due to frivolities like shoes and lattes (they aren’t).
The early messages you got about how you are “bad with money” are only being reinforced, and you are still missing out on vital education.
Meanwhile, your male peers are consuming financial media built for them, and they may be getting their first lessons real-life investing lessons in the boys’ club that is finance.
Now you are an adult who is possibly married or in a committed relationship. You’ve been told for years that you’re “bad with money,” and you’ve yet to receive any meaningful education to help you navigate money.
So you throw up your hands and ask your partner to handle the household finances. And now you’re falling even further behind as your partner learns by doing, and you do not learn at all.
What’s worse, your partner may also be reinforcing these negative messages around money, especially if you find yourself in a toxic or abusive relationship.
Controlling money, restricting access to money, and reinforcing negative messages around money are some of the ways that abusers keep their victims from leaving.
Here’s the truth: You are not inherently bad with money. You likely just lack the knowledge and skills to feel confident — and it’s not entirely your fault.
Where was the personal finance class in high school or college?
Where were the articles that truly spoke to how money management works as an adult? Where were the truth-tellers to point out the ways that women are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to money?
So, how do we fix it?
No one learns about much of anything entirely on their own. Yes, we read books and articles, but we also take classes, work with mentors, and hire professionals to help us learn what we need to know.
For example, my knowledge and understanding of technology are limited because it’s a topic I’ve never studied. That doesn’t make me “bad with technology;” it makes me uninformed.
So, when I have a technology problem, I search for articles online, call a friend who is technology-oriented, or call tech support. And I ask questions — lots of questions. As I navigate each new issue, my knowledge of and comfort with technology grows.
If you are learning about money late in life, there will be a steep learning curve to navigate, but you can do it.
I’ve taught dozens of women about money and investing, and each woman I’ve worked with has been perfectly capable of mastering the same concepts her male peers learned long ago.
No, you aren’t “bad with money.” You’re likely quite good with money and just don’t know it yet.
 How parents talk about money differently to their sons and daughters, Fast Company, January 14, 2019