Author, Barbara Provost, EdD and found of Purse Strings
As an education consultant in the financial industry, I could see how financial institutions were overlooking the female market. None of the marketing materials spoke to me as a woman, to my life situation, what I thought I might need financially. They also failed to answer any of my questions about the product.
The sales process was linear and was usually designed to result in a sale – and if it didn’t, the sales professional was told to move on to the next prospect.
All the materials were dense with financial “speak.”
And last, these financial professionals looked nothing like me – a young single professional woman.
Nothing about any of it resonated with me. In fact, it was a turn-off.
Fast forward to my own divorce when I met other bright, smart and talented women who revealed their own insecurities about money. They didn’t know if they could afford to get a divorce, and weren’t sure of household finances, much less long-term investments.
I’d run my Saturday morning errands only to find women of retirement age working retail, bagging my groceries or stocking shelves. It let me wonder why these women were working these jobs.
The triangulation of these separate but connected observations and experiences led me to commission a researcher to find out how financial institutions were working with their female consumers and how women were prepared for retirement.
Financial services wins the prize as the industry least sympathetic to women—and one in which companies stand to gain the most if they can change their approach.
The data confirmed all of my experiences and observations. I followed up my research with many focus groups to ask women about money, their experiences, feelings, insights and how their thoughts about money were formed.
All of my data gathering was confirmed in one sentence I heard over and over by the women. They don’t even look at me.
Why would you hand money – much less your nest egg – to someone who won’t even acknowledge you are in the room?
Having an EdD in Adult Education, with years of experience in the financial industry, I knew that knowledge was power. Women needed a destination location where they could ask their questions, get answers, learn and feel confident and competent to make smart financial decisions. Also, women needed great, top-tiered financial professionals who understood women, would take the time to answer their questions, give them the time and space to think through their decisions, follow-up with them and be a part of their financial team.
And, so, I created Purse Strings.
Purse Strings offers straight forward financial advice and an available-for-hire network of vetted professionals who specialize in serving women.
Some of the biggest challenges midlife women face is that they are forced into financial decisions at a stressful time – a death, a divorce, a job loss – and they don’t feel equipped because they haven’t been a part of the short- and long-term financial decisions. Often they’ve trusted someone else (a spouse, financial professional, relative) to “handle” the money – only to find that now they need to make some decisions for themselves and they don’t feel equipped.
Many women find themselves suddenly on their own. The average age of a widow is 59, and gray divorce is more prevalent than ever. Women then find themselves in charge of their own finances. They may have been out of the workforce and may need to find a job to meet their monthly bills.
If women have been out of the workforce raising children, they may not have had enough retirement funds to actually retire. And, they may need to upscale their skill sets to find work that is meaningful and worth their while.
That’s why we really want to equip and educate women on why and how to take charge of their finances. Women need to understand that statistically we will outlive our male partners and will most likely age alone. This is a very expensive time of life. Women will typically need health and welfare oversight that can be expensive. If they don’t have enough retirement funds or Long Term Care insurance, the weight of these responsibilities could fall on their children or other relatives. Also, Social Security was not designed to take care of all her retirement needs– it’s just added support.
My advice is first, you can’t do anything until you know exactly where you are now, financially. So, find a trusted financial professional who will teach you how to determine where you are today financially, every single dollar as well as expenses. Get a true and thorough understanding of where you are now.
Once those numbers are clear, you can work with a professional to assess your personal goals, constraints, opportunities, skills, side-hustles – everything – so that you can make a conscientious plan to move ahead to plan toward a solid financial future.
Be open to making changes now that will help you get on track financially.
Women need to know their numbers. At any point in time they should know where they are financially. How much do they owe and how much do they own? What’s in their bank accounts? How much debt do they have? What are the financial goals they are working toward? Knowing your numbers at any point in time will help you make smart financial decisions and keep you on track.
Most importantly, let go of the shame. Women feel embarrassed, ashamed and guilty for not knowing how or not making good decisions. It’s not their fault. No one taught us these life skills. We need to start teaching financial literacy in schools starting at a very young age. These are life skills that are not being addressed. : the value of money, budgeting, what things cost, family expenses, purchasing a home, types of insurance, investments. All of this should be a part of the regular curriculum from first grade through graduate school. It’s just not happening to the degree it is needed.
Women are up against so much. We need to help ourselves and be proactive. Start here:
- Consistently learn how to manage money. Read articles, attend webinars, listen to podcasts, continuously seek out information.
- Be very clear about the money in your household and the cashflow. Know what money is coming in and going out. Know what your savings and debt are at any point in time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you are worth when it comes to pay. Know what your position pays in other organizations. Keep a record of your successes and the value you add to your organization. Have the information at the ready when it comes to asking for a raise.
- Consider a side-hustle or part-time job for funds that can be targeted as your fun-money or your vacation money or your get-the-heck-out-of-town money.
- Take advantage of any company match programs when it comes to retirement. It’s free money.
- Increase your retirement contributions each year – even 1% can make a difference.
- Treat yourself!
Know that those who are millionaires are often driving a second-hand car. They typically don’t have the biggest house on the block, and their vacations don’t break the bank.
It’s best to make a plan and work the plan. Adjust as necessary.
Barbara Provost has a Doctorate in Adult and Higher Education, and has had a long career in the financial industry. With a background as an educator and consultant, she became a nationally-recognized entrepreneur when she founded Purse Strings in 2015. Her passion for serving the female market is evident as Purse Strings is aligning with leading individuals and prestigious organizations targeted to women’s financial independence and growth.