Women and men think differently. Studies show this. There are numerous books written on the topic. And our real life experiences tell us this. There’s one difference that’s always puzzled me, and that’s the confidence gap between the two sexes. As women, we hold beliefs that limit us from fulfilling our potential. Too often, we tell ourselves we’re not “smart enough”, “talented enough”, “experienced enough”, and not “attractive enough”.
These are stories we tell ourselves. They’re not facts. They’re not truths.
The fact is women are amazingly competent, intuitive and great multi-taskers. The truth though, is our lack of confidence is sabotaging our ability to live out our life dreams – professionally, personally and certainly monetarily.
Take career progression for example. When a woman looks at a job description and sees she can do 8 of the 10 required skills, she will think she’s not capable of doing the role and won’t feel confident enough to apply for it. Now, if a man can do even 6 of the 10 skills, he thinks he’s a rock star! It comes down to confidence, not competence ladies.
I can’t explain why we women understate our abilities – I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. But I do know that this limiting behaviour permeates into so many aspects of our lives, including our capability in managing our finances and making sound investment choices. It stops us from reaching that state of financial gratification that we want and deserve.
If you find yourself dissatisfied with your financial situation, you’re not alone. But you can do something about it.
Here are four ways to get your head in the right mindset and be financially empowered.
Act the Part
I was once given a great piece of advice when I was positioning myself for a promotion: to start acting like I had that role. I imagined myself in their shoes. How did they think? What were the 2-3 behaviours or traits that they exhibited that I currently didn’t do? After all, we are what we believe right?
So when it comes to your financial situation, think about the 2-3 areas you’d like to improve on. What would a woman who had complete control in those areas do to be successful? How would she think? How would she prioritise her time differently?
Start small. Give yourself time to change your habits. I guarantee you’ll see meaningful results.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Women are often more cautious than men. It’s not that men don’t have fear, it’s that they don’t let fear stop them because they focus more on the upside. I’ve learned that growth and rewards come only when we get out of our comfort zone.
Many people don’t know this about me, but I used to be incredibly shy, and like most, had a huge fear of public speaking. Never could I have imagined that one day, I’d be a Tv presenter for CNBC, the world’s most acclaimed business and financial news network, and be doing live reports to more than 300 million households. Talk about terrifying! I was scared, but I embraced the feeling and I laid out a plan to conquer it. I took improv, I studied presenters who I admired, and I practiced – a lot! I also kept moving forward and believed that with time and discipline I’d succeed.
If the idea of investing, or learning about financial matters feels uncomfortable and overwhelming – first, acknowledging it is a huge step. Second, start small but think big. If it’s knowledge you want, allocate a block of time every week to read, whether that’s content on my website or other sites. If you want to invest, allocate a small portion to test the waters. Embrace the feeling of “not knowing” and think about the “possibilities” that will come through planning, discipline, and repetition.
Be Curious. Ask Questions About Finance
I know my fear of looking silly used to get in the way of my learning. If I didn’t understand something I didn’t ask questions. In the 80s and early 90s I didn’t have access to such a thing called the “internet”. So, if I wanted to learn, I knew I needed to “raise my hand”.
My mantra when it comes to questions about money and finance – Ask! Ask the why’s, ask the why not’s, be curious as to how something’s relevant to you. Ask an investment professional, or a trusted and knowledgeable friend or family member. And if you don’t get the answer that satisfies you, look it up online. You have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips today. You have no excuse!
Build your Money Community
When I decided I would train for a marathon in 2003, I joined a running club. I surrounded myself with people who had the same passion, needed the same motivation I did to run the long distances week after week, and had the same questions about nutrition, injuries etc…
Find a few people who share your interests in developing better financial habits or greater investment knowledge. The encouragement and dialogue make it so much easier to keep you motivated, and you won’t feel like you’re on this journey alone.
Women have numerous strengths at play: We tend to look at the big picture and connect the dots to reach our goals. We have a natural inclination towards protection and safety that can serve us well when it comes to financial security. And more often than not women have a great support system. Every day, I read about the amazing work women around the world are doing to empower each other – notable examples being Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and author of “Lean In”, and Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.
So I leave you with this thought: If you were to play on your strengths, and remove any doubt you have in your ability to become financially empowered – what would your life look like?