Quick Read:

  • The fear and anxiety surrounding personal finance is real
  • Privacy concerns + a lack of confidence further exacerbate the confusion around personal finances
  • Actionable items: Conversations, reading, and baby steps are the key to beginning to taking hold of your financial education and life
  • S.M.A.R.T: Realistic and relevant personal finance goals will work to chip away at any fears or anxieties

The Deets

I’m not even going to front, I kind of feel like Rebecca Bloomwood (aka. The Girl in the Green Scarf), to be writing for a financial start-up, while I myself am terrified of thinking of my personal finances. I’m here to learn though, and to invite anyone else who also shares that immense feeling of dread when checking their bank account or ever having to discuss finances to join me — I’ll try not to compare your platform boots to investments, but can’t make any promises.

When thinking about the barriers to financial education among women, I can think of several factors that play into creating and sustaining those barriers, however, I’ve decided to start internally. Say, there were no barriers to financial education, would I still be scared to discuss my finances? One thing I know for sure is that society would probably look a whole lot different if this was a natural conversation for me and my friends, so probably not.

Part of being afraid is being uncertain, and so having access to personal finance knowledge could mitigate uncertainty which in turn can decrease fear. When talking to other women about their exposure to financial education, they couldn’t name one time in which they engaged in conversations about finances with their friends. When asked if there was a reason for the lack of conversation, the general response was the presence of fear and obscurity surrounding finances. It’s like there’s a force that just looms above us making finances seem like a weird entity that we’re socialized to not discuss with friends because it’s personal.

So, is there a personal finance force?

Yes, there definitely is. You are not abnormal or inadequate for not wanting to talk about your finances or for constantly worrying about them but not necessarily taking action. There are real reasons out there that prove this fear exists. A recent study revealed that about 80 percent of women refrain from discussing their finances with family or friends.  The research found that the two main reasons women didn’t discuss their finances were due to concerns over privacy and a general lack of confidence. A lack of confidence generates fear and anxiety.

I truly believe that this lack of confidence generates a fight-or-flight type of response, in which we choose to deal with the anxiety by escaping it (ignoring the issue or not actively taking it on) or fighting it (constantly checking our accounts to make sure we are doing okay but never changing our behavior to achieve the security we want). We grow up in a society in which finances are taboo to discuss – it is socialized as highly personal – but financial independence and success are somehow expected.

Action Items

There are so many ways to begin to tackle this problem BUT discussing all of them or even thinking about them can be paralyzing. So here are three action items I am going to start with and would love for you to join me:

Have conversations: Start a conversation. Just writing this article has given me the opportunity to ask friends about their personal finance woes and triumphs, their questions and their advice. Let’s be honest, these conversations would most likely not happen if it weren’t for this article as an excuse. So if you’re having trouble starting a conversation with friends, be intentional about it. Say that you really want to just know how everyone else feels, and if anyone else is feeling the same way as you. I can guarantee you will find at least one person experiencing the same emotions you are.

Start some reading: We are told we are special and we are unique and for sure, we all are. However, our concerns about money generally aren’t and that’s a good thing! That means that there is information out there that can be relevant to you. Start your financial education journey here on Nav.it. Read about other experiences women have managing their finances, how to negotiate a salary, and how to save. This can serve as a reassurance that if people are talking about it, then there are ways to overcome that anxiety and come out financially savvy.

Be SMART about your goals (make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound):  once you start looking for information you will come across hundreds of pieces of advice. Choose something that is relevant and specific to your personal finance situation. If saving ten percent of every paycheck is unrealistic and unattainable, reduce it to five percent or two. The value is in just starting somewhere and working from there. In order to ensure that your goal is sustainable, make it time sensitive. For example: “I am going to save five percent of my paycheck for the next six months. Within six months I will evaluate and see if I can bump that five percent to seven percent.”


Image Credit: Mirjana Jesic