Tenacity, Confidence and Conversation – How to Harness Women’s Strengths to Create Financial Empowerment

From roles in the financial professions to household investing, there is still a gender gap when it comes to the world of finance. Although women have come a long way, men continue to be the main investor and financial manager in the family. A UBS survey of affluent married, widowed and divorced women found that while 85% of women said they manage day-to-day expenses, only 23% said they take the lead in long-term financial planning.

Why is this important?

Financial independence is a necessity for both men and women. As a financial planner, it always worries me to see a spouse take the lead financially – and more often than not, it’s the wife. Women who do not manage (or co-manage) their finances with their spouse do not gain the valuable experience and knowledge to ensure that they can be financially independent. Not only are these tools a necessity for financial security, but without these tools women can (and often do) face incredible hardship if they were to divorce or become widowed.

Recently named one of the “Most Influential Women in Banking 2020,” Erminia (“Ernie”) Johannson, Group Head, North American Personal and Business Banking at BMO, gave on a mission to empower and advise women on what they can do (or do more) to feel confident in their financial decisions and roles. Johannson believes the key to women’s financial empowerment lies in three innate qualities. “Women have three things on their side: tenacity, confidence and speaking up. We do them so well in all other parts of our lives, imagine if we applied them to finances.

  1. Tenacity: Whether it’s juggling the day-to-day or achieving long-term goals, women have the ability to achieve a goal they set for themselves despite the difficulties or obstacles they face. Johannson says women should “harness that tenacity and ask themselves, ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ Then apply the same tenacity you use every day to achieve those financial goals”
  2. Trust: Apply the same trust you place in other relationships to find a financial advisor or professional who can guide you. She compares this relationship to that of a shopping cart. “The advisor is like a golf caddy. They give you advice and you shoot. Johannson also tells women to trust their instincts when meeting with financial advisors. If you don’t feel well, then walk away.
  3. Talk: Women are verbal by nature, especially in terms of connecting on a real human level. Apply this ability to communicate to your relationship with your advisor; be open with them about your goals and fears. She also recommends applying it with friends and especially spouses. Talk about your goals, ask questions, and engage in open discussions about finances.

“Leveraging your build, using your natural strengths, and surrounding yourself with the right team is key to achieving any of your goals, especially financial goals,” says Johannson.

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