By Professor Roslyn Russell, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University
As a woman researcher trying to understand the complexities around women and money, I often experience a recurring, somewhat uncomfortable thought – I wish I knew earlier what I now know. Having raised a daughter who is now a young adult, I am faced far too often with my own reflection about how I managed money when she was growing up.
Here are three important lessons that I have learned through my research about women and money that I want my daughter to know.
The kids are watching
We may not realise it but every time you spend or talk about money when your kids are with you, they are watching and learning. Your day-to-day use of money is one of the most important ways your children will learn about managing their finances in the future.
Our research also shows that mothers have the most influence in passing on financial lessons to their children. Childhood experiences – either negative or positive - have long-lasting effects on how adults view money and how they use it.
By knowing this, we as parents can take advantage of many day-to-day opportunities to pass on effective money management attitudes and skills to our kids.
Look after yourself
Looking after yourself financially is the best way to care for your family. Women are carers. Our natural instinct is to put ourselves last so our family have what they need. Often it means going without the things we want so our children don’t.
When it comes to our future though, the best way to keep caring for our families is to make sure we ourselves are financially secure. So many women in our research lamented “I just don’t want to be a burden on my family” or “I would love to visit my family who live interstate more often but I can’t afford to”.
Investing in your own financial future is not selfish - it is the best thing you can do for your family’s financial future too.
Knowledge is power
Another way to ensure you can look after your family is to be on top of all the financial decision-making that occurs in your household. A common finding in our research was hearing women say they wished they had known more about what was happening to the money in their household. Many found out the hard way and were left with debts they didn’t know about when their spouse passed away or the relationship ended. Or they felt ‘thrown in the deep end’ when left with no choice but to manage the finances themselves. This adds enormous stress to situations that were already difficult and painful.
Women are faced with a range of external factors that make managing and dealing with money often difficult. I know that organisations like Good Shepherd Microfinance and its 247 local community providers hear the challenges and the success stories of women and money every day.
A positive finding from our research was that when women did take control of their money, their self-confidence increased enormously, their stress levels reduced and they felt more positive about their future.
This is what I want for my daughter.