Money myths: 5 stereotypes about women and finances that we need to bust right now
It’s the 21st century, and women are more empowered than ever. They are flying planes, fighting enemies at the border, and spearheading global business empires. However, is our society still free of the false belief that men are better than women when it comes to managing money? Well, doesn’t seem so. According to a study(1) conducted by DSP BlackRock and research agency Nielsen, about 77% working women are dependent on their spouses and/or their parents for financial decisions. In another study(2) by Fidelity Investments, eight out of 10 women confessed to having refrained from discussing money with those they are close to.
What has led to this practice of not allowing women to take charge of her finances? We can safely attribute it to long-established social norms and cultural attitudes. Let’s dismantle some of these.
1. Women are bad with money
The idea that women are impulsive when it comes to money is a damaging stereotype. Movies, pop culture, and literature have only added to the fallacy. A study(3) by Fidelity Investments held last year revealed that women not only save 0.4% more than men, but their investments also earn more annually by the same amount. So, how does the new-age woman bust this age-old money myth, while also building a sound financial ground of her own? Start taking note of where your money is going; no matter how small the amount is, as that is the only way you can boost your savings. Maintaining a diary is a good way to plan a monthly or weekly budget. Also, cut down on expenditures wherever you can.
2. Women will be ultimately dependent on their husbands
Why does a woman have to depend on her husband for all her daily needs? Why does she have to let her husband/father decide how she should spend her money? “It’s all because of patriarchy. If a woman starts taking decisions in the family, will it only mean that she is crossing ‘gender barriers’?” says Mahasweta Pal (30), a Gurugram-based writer.
The reality, however, is that Indian women are more than capable of making their own decisions. As managers in their homes and leaders in their offices, women are rarely dependent on anyone when it comes to achieving their objectives. Most urban families today, in fact, follow the double income structure, with both partners contributing to household expenses. However, despite being full-time earning members in the family, most women are rarely involved in long-term financial decisions and investments – leaving such matters up to their spouses. This mindset clearly needs to change.
So, whether you want to buy a house, start a business, or even educate your children in a reputed institute, you need to start planning right now. Don’t depend on anybody. Of course, you can always reach out to your loved ones for advice, but never compromise on your life goals because somebody else didn’t approve of them.
3. Women cannot comprehend financial matters
Stocks, SIPs, credit score, inflation…are these financial terms too difficult to comprehend? As per popular myth: yes. “This stems from the same belief system that makes science and mathematics male-oriented subjects and humanities a feminine one,” says Rikhiya Banerjee (26), an employee of a Bangalore-based non-profit. The belief has been so deeply ingrained in the consciousness of people that women inevitably assign financial decisions to their male family members, or fail to educate themselves about money. But, how do we explain the women who hold powerful positions in the financial world? Four out of the top five banks in India are led by women, with some of them being the most influential ones in the banking sector.
For all those women who think that saving and investing are rocket science, it isn’t. They are pretty simple, and knowledge about these can only help you to establish a lifetime of financial well-being. Some of the best long-term investment plans are Unit-linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs), equity funds, and Public Provident Fund (PPF).
4. Women’s duties are confined to the domestic space
Since time immemorial, men are viewed as breadwinners. On the other hand, the duties of women are restricted to taking care of the household and raising children. Even in cases where a woman is working, it’s her job to carry out domestic chores, not the man’s. However, is it right for societal roles to be assigned on the basis of gender? Aren’t there women soldiers, doctors, and athletes? Don’t we find women taking up jobs that are hectic and challenging?
A study(4) by the Korn Ferry Hay Group and published in Psychology Today shows that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies, thereby making them better leaders at the workplace. Therefore, women should stop undermining their abilities and have an equal say as that of her husband when it comes to making any financial decision. “In today’s world, women are educated and have access to a world of information. There is no reason as to why they should not be a part of key financial decisions,” says Jui Banerjee (37), a Noida-based homemaker.
5. Women don’t need financial protection
In most Indian families, men are the first ones to get insured, especially when they are the primary earning members. However, even in double-income households, women fall far below men when it comes to financial protection through insurance – be it term plans or health covers. In the same vein, single earning women, who are more than eligible for strong insurance protection often neglect the importance of financial planning, not realizing how dangerous the pitfalls can be.
Consider this: according to this research(5) by the Ohio State University and Mayo Clinic, long work hours can lead to four chronic diseases among women, including cardiac ailment, diabetes, arthritis, and non-melanoma skin cancer. So, if something unfortunate happens, what would that mean for her family and dependents—in terms of both physical and emotional loss? In times like these, a life insurance policy always comes in handy. It is but a safety instrument that women can leave behind when they are no longer around to take care of their families.
A point to note here is that nearly all insurance companies provide policies to women at lower premiums, as compared to their male counterparts of the same age, since women generally have a lower mortality rate.
Looking to protect your future? HDFC Life offers a range of investment plans that you can opt for to manage your finances as well as seek cover for a lifetime. Money management is not a man’s prerogative. A woman, whether single or married, must be financially literate so as to be truly independent.