Uncensored Money Season Four: This IWD, I want you to believe you’re enough
Melissa Browne: Ex-Accountant, Ex-Financial Advisor, Ex-Working Till I Drop, Now Serial Entrepreneur & Author, Financial Wellness Advocate, Living a Life by Design | 07/03/2023
In this solo episode for International Women’s Day, Mel shares why it’s important for women to take back our power when it comes to money and how to stop scarcity and comparison from derailing your finances and your life.
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Today is International Women's Day, and I want this to be our International Women's Day chat. This is gonna be our very own International Women's Day event because I've gotta tell you, there are some things I wanna talk to you about, particularly on International Women's Day.
But today you can guarantee there's gonna be a lot of pink. Now I'm a fan of pink. I don't mind it. What I hate is pinkwashing where companies roll out a speaker who they probably haven't paid, talking about gender equity and women's issues, and not actually doing anything tangible in their workplace. They'll probably be some obligatory breakfasts and a lot of talk about equity.
But here in our chat, I wanna talk to you about something different. I want to talk to you about taking back our power when it comes to money. I mean, if there is any day that's worth having a rant about this, I think it's today.
And I wanna start with our opinion of ourselves, with how you see yourself, how you talk to yourself.
Now, I believe it's a very female trait to have a scarcity mindset where you do not think you're enough. Perhaps it's that you're not good enough, that you're not thin enough, that you're not smart enough, you're not pretty enough, you're not talented enough, you're not safe enough, not certain enough, not fit enough, or maybe it's that you find yourself judging that you are not a good mother. A good friend, a good sister, a good girlfriend, a good wife, a good partner. I'm sure you can add your own version here.
Now for blokes listening along, no doubt you are thinking this is freaking exhausting. And can I emphatically say that it is. As someone who has lived with many of these voices over the years, it's bloody draining.
The problem is for many women, it's pre-programmed and it's ingrained. The thought of 'not enough' occurs automatically before we even think to question or examine it. It's where this is background noise from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. It's almost passed down. It's inherited from mother to daughter.
But if you add to this scarcity mindset, our comparison culture, where we are constantly assessing and comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, our communities, how we look, how our finances are, to unattainable, media-driven images of perfection, or a fictional social media filtered account of just how great someone else has it, then it's a toxic cocktail.
We're setting ourselves up for failure because of the internal and external environments we're cultivating. The problem for many women with this combination of comparison and scarcity mentality is that we receive scarcity because we live it. I'm gonna say that again cause I really want that to hit home.
The problem for many women with this combination of comparison and scarcity mentality is that we receive scarcity because we live it. I know that for a fact because I've seen it and I've lived that. Now I understand that may not be a very popular notion to talk about on International Women's Day. I mean, aren't I supposed to wave the pompoms and rah-rah, the sisterhood?
But I think that we as women are often our own very worst enemies. Don't believe me? Let's talk money for a moment and look at a few areas where I think we could be doing something different. And let's start with business. So owning your own business really should be an area where women should be on par with the blokes, yet study upon study including ABS, so Australian Bureau Statistics studies, every year report that women in earned almost 500 bucks less than men in business per week. That's over 25 grand per year, $25,000 per year. And let's not even begin to talk about the percentage of women in business who aren't contributing a cent to superannuation because they don't think they're worth it or because they're prioritising everyone else's needs and not their future self.
Instead as women too often I hear businesses referred to as 'my baby', or it's ‘just’ a home business, or it's ‘just’ a part-time business. And other words intended to diminish or keep small and safe their enterprises. Calling your business 'your baby' or using the word 'just' is part of a language and value shift that we as women are doing to ourselves.
Guys don't call it ‘just’, guys don't call it ‘baby’. We are calling it that. We are placing that limitation on ourselves and as women, we need to start calling each other out on it. It's a scarcity mindset that's designed to keep ourselves small and encourage others around us to be small with us. That's one example.
I could also talk about money conversation when it comes to childcare and whether it's worth it. You know, when I was a financial advisor, I think every time I met with a couple that was going to have a child or their kids were in childcare, I could almost guarantee you, it would've been 99% of heterosexual couples, either one of them would say to me that childcare wasn't worth it. Now I wanna be clear that I believe in choice. I wanna be really clear that if you are choosing to stay at home with your children, I absolutely applaud that and I want you to have the choice to do it. If you're choosing to work part-time, I absolutely applaud that, and I want you to have the choice to do that. If you wanna go back to work full-time, I absolutely believe in choice and I want you to have the ability to do that. For me, the important thing is choice, but what I wanna do is call out the BS arguments that we are using to justify that choice. And as I said, too often when it came to childcare, one of the parties would say that it wasn't worth it because it would "take up half of her wage", to which I would instantly say, don't you mean a percentage of both of your wages, which makes it around 20%. Surely that's a lot more palatable? Now, that alone was often enough to make someone sit up and go, huh oh yes, of course. And it was interesting the number of people who simply didn't think that way because, as I said at the beginning, this is ingrained, but what's missing here is the real cost of that break to stop and have kids. And again, I talked about business earlier and said that women weren't paying super, this applies to you too. So listen up.
So if you took five years off to have children, yes, you are missing out on superannuation paid per year. And on an average wage, that's about $7,700 per year, which can add up fairly substantially over five years. If we compound that, you're looking at about 45 grand. However, what's not thought about often is the compounding returns of that lost super. So if I kept going and if I extrapolated that to 30 years, that's lost superannuation for having that break is now worth $459,000.
Now if I had one child at childcare just say it was 500 bucks a week for five years, that's 200 grand. So here, even if we're only comparing super, super is more than twice that. And again, this is one of the things that we are forgetting because our financial literacy is declining, we don't even think, to (1) not compare as a percentage of both wages, and (2) forget about the super that would've been paid for the five to seven years that we were having off. Not having off, you are working, don't get me wrong, but off paid work. And (3) the compounding returns of super. And again, this is where it's about understanding, so that we start to speak up.
We start to say no, actually, if we are going to do this, let's actually have a plan. If we're gonna have kids, let's make a plan to catch that up. Let's make sure that my super is covered so that this is not something that I miss out on. It's about catching up that super and having the agency to be able to ask for it because you know to ask for it. Or doing that for yourself earlier, or catching it up later in life.
Or third example. Let's talk about how the media talks to women about money. A Starling Bank research looked at 300 articles from a mix of outlets aimed at men and women, and found that 65% of articles defined women as excessive spenders. 90% told us to cut back, and 71% of articles suggested we bargain hunt. Yet 70% of articles directed at men said money makes you more of a man. 50% used fear as a technique against men, and 60% of articles recommended investing apps. So if we are absorbing a diet of these articles, is it any wonder that we believe that we are a spender that just needs to tighten our belt?
Why should we contribute to the household finances? Why wouldn't we just abdicate responsibility to our partner? Because according to a US study where 93% of people believed that women were worse investors than men, this is part of the reason why.
And then that feeds into that not enoughness that we already feel. And it's why this International Women's Day, I believe it's time to call bull$hit on the notion that we as women are not enough. Because let's just look at that last study. A Warwick Business school longitudinal study actually showed that both men and women outperformed the index when it came to investing in shares and women outperformed the blokes so we can be amazing at money. We don't need to be fed a diet of being told that we're spenders and that we need to cut back.
So sometimes this is about both understanding how we think, but also understanding the environments and this comparison and scarcity environments that we are creating for ourselves, that we are feeding on and saying, no it's actually time to stop that. And the fact that you are listening to this means that you are starting to feed yourself with things other than that diet of media articles that I talked about. You're wanting to be challenged financially. Because let's be honest, women are strong and capable of causing disruptive global change if we believe that the cause is worthwhile, and I believe it's time we believed in our own cause of financial wellness and the transformation we can create for ourselves, our families, and our communities if we decide to make real change here. It is time we start to embrace our own worthiness and create positive life-altering change when it comes to our finances. Yes, we could wait for organisations to catch up, but you know what? That's gonna take a freaking long time. Yes, we could wait for industries that are mainly female-based to increase the wages that they're paying. But let's be honest, that's not gonna happen overnight. So instead it's about taking back our own agency, our own control, knowing that we are have enough to do it, to ask for that pay rise and to leave if we're not valued, to price appropriately in our business, to understand our investments, to spend on ourselves when we've planned for it without guilt, to appreciate the numbers side of our business, to understand the levers to pull, to have the results that we want, to have the conversation with our partner about splitting super or them contributing to our super if we take time off to have children and to invest financially for ourselves, for now and in the future. Why? Because we are good enough and we are bloody worth it.
This International Women's Day, let's actually believe that. And most importantly, let's actually start living it.