Recently I spoke at a financial conference to give the consumer’s view of money advice. I explained that female consumers often have a different mindset from men when it comes to money, so I believe the messaging for them needs to be adjusted.
“You’re so wrong about women,” said a man afterwards. “Women in my company resent anything that’s specially ‘for women’. They say it’s patronising and they don’t want to be treated differently to men.”
And yes, I have to admit that, as a woman, if I’m honest I feel the same. When I set up MoneyMagpie.com, quite a few people said I should aim it at women. But I disagreed. Personally I can’t stand ‘women-only’ things (unless they come with the promise of lots of the folding stuff that has a woman’s head with a crown on it).
Anne Boden, founder and chief executive of Starling Bank, says the same: “There have been women-only financial advice firms, women-only insurance companies and the like, but none of them have really lasted.”
Anne herself could have set up a ‘women’s bank’ but, sensibly, she didn’t. However, she does point out that women are still poorly advised and portrayed in the media. When Starling Bank did a survey of 300 magazines they found that when it comes to money, the women’s ones were largely about scraping and saving, while the men’s mags covered investments, cryptocurrencies and making big profits. She’s running a ‘#MAKEMONEYEQUAL’ campaign to wake us all up to this bias in our culture.
So what should be done? On the one hand, there is overwhelming statistical evidence that women are different. We have quantifiable distinctions that need to be specifically addressed. For example, women earn 18.4% less than men in the UK but live four years longer, and a single retired woman currently receives £85 a week less than her male counterpart. A new survey by online investment service Willis Owen has found that 34% of women claim they don’t have a pension as opposed to just 17% of men. Of those women without a pension, 41% said they had no intention of starting one.
Also, women really are too cautious with their money and they lose out because of it. They say women save while men invest, which is why 57% of cash Isas are owned by women and 43% by men.
There are still some females who firmly believe that the best way for sisters to do it for themselves is this: hold your nose and marry it.
A few years ago I interviewed Tina, a receptionist at a City firm, for a glossy magazine. She lived with her mum and dad in Southend and had managed to rack up £22,000 in debt on designer clothes, a sports car and a boob job. When I asked her if she was worried about all this debt she said: “Nah, I might die tomorrow! Anyway, I’ll marry a footballer one day.”
I explained that she was as likely to die tomorrow as Kim Kardashian was to utter the words “I’ll just go for the natural look today”.
And as for marrying (and staying married to) a footballer, I’d say it’s extremely unlikely.
But that doesn’t stop the persistent belief among some women that someone else (i.e. a spouse) will sort out their money arrangments for them. If you point that out, though, they’ll deny it and brand you as sexist.
Sisters have to do it for themselves whether they’re partnered or not.
JASMINE BIRTLES is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.