New stats show 69% of female students worry about money negatively impacting their mental health compared to 59% of male students
Financial confidence may not be a term you use regularly, or have even heard before.
Ask yourself this – do you feel like you’re as clued-up when it comes to your money as you could be? Honestly?
If the answer to that was a no, don’t worry: you’re far from alone. New stats show 69% of female students worry about money negatively impacting their mental health compared to 59% of male students. Plus, the report found that the gap in financial confidence starts before young women make their higher education choices but that their monthly budgets are 10% less than men’s.
We’ve chatted to Vivi Friedgut, founder of fintech for education, Blackbullion, for her insight on why we need to rethink the financial wellbeing conversation for women, plus her top tips for boosting your financial confidence, too. Keep reading.
Financial confidence: your step-by-step guide
What is financial confidence, in its most basic form?
According to the expert, financial confidence – a bit like financial wellness – is about taking control of your own financial situation and knowing you have the ability to fulfil the goals that matter to you.
“In its crudest form, it’s knowing that you can pay for anything you have to pay for,” she explains.
“Financial confidence gives you options – whether it’s leaving a relationship, supporting a cause you believe in or buying something for your kids. It’s that freedom.”
For women, it can be the ultimate empowerment, too, she shares. “There’s so much guilt and anxiety attached to money and how we spend it. Financial confidence is knowing you have control over your money, rather than your money controlling you,” she goes on.
Why is financial confidence important?
Mental health and financial wellbeing are inextricably connected, or so shares the expert.
Case in point: their research found that 57% of female students regularly experience anxiety, compared to 30% of males, and 66% of female students found financial worries regularly trigger stress, compared to 43% of male students.
“This leads to potentially life-changing choices, like dropping out of university altogether. Financial confidence can help buffer this and allow women to start taking control back,” she reckons.
So, why is this so important now? Sadly, evidence points to women being hardest hit by the pandemic fall-out in terms of jobs, home responsibilities and money.
“With so many of us feeling we’ve lost that sense of control, small steps towards financial confidence can help us take some of that power back,” reckons Friedgut.
Why do women suffer from lack of financial confidence more than men?
Financial wellbeing isn’t a women’s issue, but the data points to the real implications on issues like gender equality, ‘especially if we think about longer-term financial decisions like investment, pension plans and savings,’ shares Friedgut.
“Women also make a disproportionate number of decisions in families,” she goes on. “Poor financial wellbeing gets you trapped in a cycle of low levels of confidence which affects women’s life chances, opportunities and standards of living, especially given our longer life expectancies.”
She stresses that we need to look at opening up a transparent conversation around money and strip back the secrecy that shrouds money issues.
“We see so many toxic behaviours like debt-shaming and judgement, which in themselves prevent women from seeking support and financial education,” she shares.
De-stigmatising money issues is like breaking the last taboo. “If we can shake off that shame and confusion, we give each other permission to open up the conversation too, which removes that sense of isolation. Imagine how freeing it would be to decline an expensive hen weekend invitation because you want to put the money towards paying off your credit card debt?”
Think what Sex and the City did for sex, but for money – making it a brunch conversation and putting the choice back in your hands.
What changes could be made?
In short, a huge levelling up that needs to happen. “Issues like equal pay, completely reimagining childcare and revising pension ages have had a major setback in the last fifteen months so they need to be brought back to the top of the agenda, given the economic fall-out for women,” she stresses.
There’s lots the industry can do, too. So much financial advertising is skewed between the genders and there’s a thread that runs through financial marketing that women can’t make brave choices with their money. “At the same time, there’s a wider need for more clarity and transparency around finance product messaging, to make them inclusive and easily understood by everyone,” she goes on.
Finally, prioritising financial education is also key. “Not as a PSHE add-on in year ten, but starting as young as possible and doing it consistently. We’d argue it should be built into the curriculum in a meaningful way. It starts here – money skills can be, and should be, available to everyone,” she adds.
5 top tips for boosting your financial confidence as a woman
There’s a number of simple but powerful steps to take to grow your financial confidence, according to the expert.
1. Build your money skills
Connect with the many trusted resources out there, she recommends.
“From My Frugal Year, to Vestpod, to Rainchq, to Go Fund Yourself – there are incredible free tips and tools out there helping you build your financial confidence,” she shares.
Many high street banks offer money mentors, too, to help you build a roadmap for your financial future.
2. Reclaim your financial identity
Aka, start distancing yourself from the ‘I’m rubbish with money’ persona.
“By taking small steps to owning your financial life, you can take control of the stories you’ve been telling yourself,” she explains.
Top tip: A simple budgeting chart – balancing income and outgoings each month – is a great place to start.
3. Set a financial goal
Whether it’s reducing your credit card bill or starting an emergency fund, even saving £10 pounds a month helps.
“Seeing your money skills and financial position grow will be a huge confidence boost,” Friedgut shares.
4. Know the value of your money
Think about the purpose of what you’re spending money on. Does it get you closer to where you want to be?
“A monthly brunch out with a friend that inspires you, brings you connection and joy, could be a great way to spend £15, for example,” Friedgut explains. The Sunday night pep-you-up-impulse- buy likely.. isn’t.
5. Take good care of your money
Finally, finance admin is something women tend to avoid. Top tip here: don’t.
“As an unknown, it becomes unnecessarily harder than it is,” she explains. “Some basic steps are checking you’re using your full ISA allowance and making sure you have adequate protection on insurance. Even taking fifteen minutes to move your credit card to a 0% provider can save the average consumer over £600 a year in interest,” she shares.