3 Stepping Stones to Improving Financial Literacy

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hen was the last time you discussed your salary with your manager? Or your finances with anyone for that matter? It’s easy to hide behind excuses of poor-taste but doing so puts you in the same bracket as 78% of other British women who are uncomfortable discussing a pay-rise with their employers. It’s unsurprising considering that women are brought up with the belief that discussing money is bad manners, but a recent study conducted by Totally Money pulled the curtain back on a worrying trend; women are paid less, but a lack of financial understanding holds us back even more. “That confidence gap can feel like a Catch-22” says Emily Birken of the Personal Finance Syndication Network; “you feel foolish for not knowing things, but asking questions feels too intimidating. So you continue worrying in silence and assuming you don’t know enough to talk intelligently.”  Indeed, the case remains with lending, as 95% of British women admit to being uncomfortable borrowing money. But with the gender pay-gap at a stationary 9.4% in 2015, the lid needs to be lifted on Pandora’s Money Box. Talk may be cheap in some circles but when concerning monetary matters, it’s never had greater value.

Coined in 2008 under the Bush administration, the term ‘financial literacy’ was manifested through a need to make the money conversation universally accessible. Carrie Schawb-Pomerantz, president of the Charles & Helen Schawb Foundation noticed how women in mid-level positions in a post-recession America were crippled through their lack of understanding of how to discuss their money; “a friend of mine who has been studying how financial education affects behaviour…came up with a study that the inequities in retirement [almost] 30-40% can be accounted for by a lack of financial education.” Now spreading the message across the US through her own financial management company, Schwab-Pomerantz is adamant that financial education be integrated in schools from an early age as a measure to close the gap between genders, “imagine if we all just knew what we could do with that little bit of knowledge.” This is not a process that can be learned immediately but one that takes time and patience; start your education with our 3 stepping stones.

— 1 —
Get Educated

Although our education and formative career years provided an in-depth understanding of our own finances, the offerings beyond that have to be outsourced  - potentially the root of the problem. “A couple of years ago, I was inspired by a study that came out on obesity” Carrie Schawb-Pomerantz said, as part of her Ellevate seminar, ‘The Money Conversation’, in light of the fact that toddler obesity had depleted by 40%, thanks to an expansion of education in children’s health and diet. “It made me think – Boy, couldn’t we do this with financial literacy?”. Schwab-Pomerantz saw the value of education and how, when applied to touchy-subjects, results were generated. Especially after the great recession…we live in world where we have to do it ourselves and if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will.” Investing the time in efficient ways to distribute your finances is a worth-while venture; if time is money, then getting educated is money well spent. In creating  "the Weight-Watchers for personal finance", LearnVest CEO Alexa Von Tobel has done everything from writing for Cosmopolitan to hosting multiple Wall Street TEDTalks to kindle interest in the younger generations and educate women on financial literacy. Von Tobel insists that getting educated is the way forward in conquering financial fears; "learning how to face fear makes you invincible because you stop being scared. For everything that scares me I think through the worst case scenario and realise it’s not that bad. At the other end of it, I’m still alive, I’m still healthy.”

— 2 —
Talk (So You Can’t Be Cheap)

Discussing your salary is an inevitable sore spot of our careers. Our colleague relationships may be robust but there is nothing like the topic of money to make things murky. founder/CEO Mary Ellen Tribby stresses this in her work in supporting mothers through the transition back into the workplace with the brutal but true fact; “by far the most important principle of negotiation is knowing your audience”. Harbouring a positive working relationship is the first step to the money conversation but the devil is in the detail; exactly how you verbalise – and the fact that you should verbalise – your salary justification is what will seal the deal. “Research isn’t enough” says J.D. Roth, author of ‘Get Rich Slowly’, “the purpose…is to sell yourself. If you don’t believe you’re worth the price you’re asking for, your employer won’t believe it either”. Focusing on the value you bring to the role and how this could be improved with increased financial compensation; it’s about performance justifying pay. Discuss the transferable qualities of your accomplishments, the times you went above expectations and make a direct connection to monetary value and be open to the next step…

— 3 —

When Sheryl Sandberg was being ‘wooed’ by Mark Zuckerberg to join Facebook, she wanted to jump, feet-first, at the offer she was made. “I was thrilled and ready to say yes, until my husband pointed out “you won’t be valued unless you negotiate.” Although Sandberg went in guns blazing with several proposals after doing her research, it’s a lesson she reiterates to the thousands of women she speaks to concerning their careers; “When you’re more valuable, the people around you will do more to make it work.” Negotiating is what will secure your value; the black and white number that holds you accountable to a standard whilst also being your motivator. Knowing when to walk away from an offer that doesn’t reflect your worth and knowing when to push for more sends a clear message of your self-belief and commitment to your work. Or as summarised by Dr Randall S. Hansen, of Quintessential Careers, “the biggest mistake you can make is to simply settle and accept whatever offer you receive.”

 Words by Emma Corr

Business & Career

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