When it comes to money, age won’t make someone wiser or give them confidence if there is no real-world experience backing it up; even having a career won’t. For women, the situation is particularly dire.
According to the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center’s Working Women’s Financial Capability Study, working women lag men in basic financial literacy (31% vs. 52%); the gap is more pronounced in advanced financial knowledge (12% vs. 24%).
As a mother to sons, I may be all wet on this one; but I am a daughter. I credit my parents, my father in particular, with being diligent in raising independent daughters.
My father, born in 1917, was nearly 50 when I was born. As a first- generation American of Italian descent, his thoughts on gender roles were traditional with a capital T. My mother stayed at home with their seven children while he worked. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I discovered he had dropped out of high school, earning his equivalency in his 40s.
Yet, my father was progressive in many ways. He valued education, though he himself had little formal training. He also encouraged all of his children to be independent, resourceful, work hard and to save money.
He invested religiously and even opened an IRA for my mother; he had money invested in joint name (men of his generation thought of earnings as exclusively theirs).
Perhaps he wanted his daughters prepared in the event of a sudden change in marital status. Either way, we were not indulged in the way that fathers might spoil their girls.
He was practical and there were expectations placed on us. When I went off to college it was understood that my degree would take four years; there was no margin of error for a “bad semester.” I had to live up to my end of the bargain; frankly, it never occurred to me not to.
I watched how friends of mine seemed to have an easier time; they had their way paid for, they always had more frills than I did. I was envious.
But, when I graduated, I had a tremendous sense of accomplishment that really didn’t have all that much to do with the degree I had earned. It was how I had earned it — and what it had cost me — that made it more precious.
Earnings from my summer job paid for all my books and living expenses; and I worked while I was a full-time student, contributing to my room and board expenses. I had amassed some very manageable loans (a starting point for my credit history).
I felt strong, free and capable; and not beholden to anyone. My parents were not “Plan B.”
Adages like, “It’s as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man,” are damaging. The underlying sentiment is, “You better hitch your cart to a wagon better than your’s, because your potential is quite limited, sweetheart.” My father never thought of his daughters in need of protection because we were fragile or less than; he protected us because we meant the world to him, as did his sons.
When it comes to money, age won’t make someone wiser or give them confidence if there is no real world experience backing it up. Even having a career won’t.
Allow your daughters (and sons) to experience money in the simplest ways:
- Earn it – There is no greater way to value money than to earn it.
- Save/Invest it – Money can continue working, even when the work day is done.
- Spend it, wisely – When money has been painstakingly earned, it’s harder to part with it on impulsive buys.
- Donate it – Causes near to the heart are worthy of good will.
Build their confidence and self-esteem by showing them that they are able to direct their financial future so they can choose self-possession over being someone’s possession.