4 financial mistakes I see women make and how to begin empowering yourself around money

One of my main goals as a financial counsellor is to empower women to take control of their finances so they can make informed decisions and they can live the life they want.

This is a huge part of my “why.” It’s what keeps me motivated and driven in my business and it’s where my clients often see the most transformative results.

I didn’t grow up with money, and while my mother was illiterate, she was able to financially support herself and her children. But I watched her throw it all away when she met my stepfather and she handed over control of her money to him.

The impact of that decision, to give up control of her money, is still felt to today – four generations later. As I watched the impact that had on her life and her children’s lives, I knew I wanted better for myself. So, I did the work and educated myself about money, which led me to a career in financial literacy and counselling.

In my practice, I have noticed that most of my female clients feel overwhelmed, confused, intimidated and lost when it came to their money. And because of these feelings, they end up handing over control of their money to someone else – most times to the men in their life.

Here are a few common pitfalls I see women fall into that negatively impact their relationship with money and their ability to have control over their money.

  1. Women often have an inherent belief that they are “not good with money.”

For example, according to US News, stats show that 61% of women wish they had more confidence in their financial decision-making and 63% wish they knew more about financial planning and investing. If we’re not taught about money growing up (which many of us aren’t), it’s very easy to make mistakes around managing it.

Mistakes such as only paying off the minimum amount due on your credit card or taking a cash advance to pay off your credit card (both mistakes I made), usually has it’s root in the negative belief that women “are not good with money”.

My advice would be to recognize and acknowledge if you are doing this and ask yourself why you are doing this. Keep asking why until you feel you have reached the core or root of your why.

  1. Many married women, in heterosexual relationships in particular, don’t want to “rock the boat” in their marriage so they let their spouse have control over the finances.

Often the woman will not ask to look at the bills or bank accounts or to understand their budget and investments because she is afraid it will look as though she does not trust her spouse.

Others feel it is simply the “man’s responsibility,” and so again they avoid playing a role in the managing of the family’s finances.

When one person in a relationship takes complete control over the finances, it is, from what I see in my practice, a big red flag and this can lead to an unhealthy power dynamic, and financial abuse. According to a MoneySense article for example, around half of women in shelters in Canada indicate they have experienced financial abuse (while it often goes unreported).

Having a clear understanding of where you stand financially, what your budget as a couple or family is, and how your money is managed, is extremely important in maintaining a healthy relationship. I often like to suggest keeping a separate bank account or having some separation between the finances in a relationship, in order to help each party maintain control and autonomy over their finances and life.

Know that you can be in a relationship and still have separate bank accounts!

  1. Having the “stay-at-home-mom” belief that they did not “earn” any money and therefore don’t deserve a say in the family finances.

I often see women who stay at home with their kids feel that since they don’t “go to work” or bring home a pay cheque, they didn’t earn any money and therefore they don’t have as much of a say in the home finances.

This is again, simply not true. As a couple, you are making the decision to have someone stay home, or to hire out childcare where accessible, and therefore there should be no guilt associated with staying at home!

Most of us recognize the huge job being a stay-at-home-mom is, and therefore even if it doesn’t involve a pay cheque, it is taking a huge stress off of the family and is saving the family the expense of having to hire out childcare or other home management tasks (cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.).

Of course, if you want to go back to work or start a business from your home that’s okay! But there shouldn’t be financial pressure from your partner, or from you internally. The guilt is unnecessary!

And regardless of your role in the home, having knowledge about your financial status and situation is important for the wellbeing of your relationship and family life.

  1. Not feeling confident asking for raises.

This was another mistake I spoke about in my blog, Financial Mistakes You Might Be Making. Women often simply accept the first offer given by a company when in reality companies expect you to negotiate. Their first offer is generally lower than they are actually willing to give!

Luckily this seems to be slowly shifting, as younger women are more likely to feel like they have more earning power, and are also more likely to pursue a raise or promotion as compared to older peers. However, if you still feel uncomfortable negotiating a raise, I recommend you do some money mindset work and begin to recognize the value you bring to the role!

Do research to see what similar roles at other companies are paying, begin conversations with your coworkers to learn what they are making (this also helps to take some of the stigma out around money conversations), and know your worth: how many years of experience do you have? How much did you spend on school (financially and time-wise) to get the certifications you have? How much would it cost the company to go out and train someone for your role?

How to start empowering yourself around money

I believe that knowledge is power. When you understand how money works and how to manage it, you can use that information to make decisions that will positively impact your life.

You’ll begin to recognize that money isn’t hard or complicated, and so instead of avoiding it you’ll become confident with i

So, start today.

  • Read books and articles, and listen to podcasts about money management.
  • Acknowledge and seek out help to navigate some of your money mindset barriers and limiting beliefs so you can become more confident with your finances.
  • Engage with your financial institution on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your banking, investments, recommended steps, etc. Make sure you understand why and what they are doing with your money.
  • Talk to your partner, friends, and family about money so you can start removing some of the stigma around money

Empower yourself by educating yourself.

Of course, please feel free to reach out if you would like to learn more about this topic or about what I do.