BREAKING THE MONEY TABOO

INSPIRING, WORK & MONEY

It’s easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to money, or switch off when someone mentions the word ‘pension’, and it’s definitely something I’ve been guilty of in the past.  And I have paid the consequences. But more recently, I’ve started to sit up and take more of an interest, and you know what? It’s REALLY empowering.

Money is still shrouded in secrecy and jargon but as Laura Dempster explains, we should be teaching basic money management in schools, and we should start talking about it and learning about it; we need to normalise it. Money is part of all of our lives.

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  • “Laura, don’t be so rude!” my mum scowled at me as I asked my auntie how much the Playmobil set she had bought my brother for his birthday cost.

  • I was admonished. Ran crying to my room with my cheeks burning with shame. I wouldn’t come out, even when my auntie knocked on my door to say goodbye.

  • I didn’t understand. I was embarrassed at being told off in front of my glamorous auntie who I admired so much.

  • The thing is, aged seven or eight, I just wanted to see whether I had enough money in my piggybank to buy the same Playmobil set for myself.

  • Until years later, I didn’t clock the fact that me asking that question meant that my auntie would have to reveal how much she had spent on the gift.

  • A big no-no in the adult-world.

  • This moment has been imprinted on my mind for over 20 years.

  • It was my first realisation that talking about money was not “the done thing.”

  • 20+ years later, I realise that socially, money has been an off-limits topic for decades.

  • But I found myself asking – why is that?

  • When applying for my first job after uni, I wasn’t keen on the salary I’d been offered. I felt it was too low for the job I would be doing compared to other similar positions that were being advertised.

  • I looked to my dad for advice on how to negotiate the starting salary.

  • He said: “I wouldn’t do that! No need to be greedy. You could lose the job offer.”

  • Well, I certainly didn’t want that.

  • So I accepted the offer I perceived to be too low for the position and got on with it.

  • The working weekends without time off in lieu.

  • The unpaid overtime I did. Every. Single. Day.

  • I left after a year.

  • And it left me with the question – why the secrecy when it comes to salary?

  • Why can’t we negotiate? Isn’t it better to come to an arrangement that everyone is happy with?

  • As I set out looking for another job, I was again faced with the issue of negotiating a new starting salary for my new role.

  • I was apprehensive. My Dad’s words lingered in my mind. What if they thought I was some greedy money grabber?

  • But then I spoke to my (soon to be) father-in-law. He jokingly said: “At our place, we rub our hands together when someone doesn’t negotiate their salary! It’s expected.”

  • And so I steeled myself with the notion of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

  • And I asked.

  • And I got.

  • And so I learned.

  • I learned.

  • And I learned.

  • That talking about money can actually benefit everyone.

  • But money is currently still shrouded in secrecy, shame, jargon, stigma, lack of education.

  • We learn algebra but we don’t learn how taxes work. How to invest. How to budget. Basic money management.

  • Instead, we take away learnings, beliefs and assumptions from our family, our peers and our favourite TV shows.

  • ‘Friends’ was a firm favourite of mine as a teen (and still is). And when Rachel gets upset about a relationship? She goes shopping. She shops for shoes, handbags and clothes and falls exhausted onto the sofa after her shopping trip.

  • Now, I can’t blame Rachel for my own emotional spending habits. But when I’m feeling blue or having a crisis of confidence? My first instinct is to shop.

  • Shop to feel better. Spend to get that buzz of satisfaction. Shop to feel good and forget your feelings, say Rachel Green and Carrie Bradshaw.

  • In low moments, it’s now a conscious choice not to spend money. It’s taken me years to realise that I can make an active decision to not spend emotionally.

  • Emotional spending is a money belief that I’ve taken my sweet time to undo.

  • And you’ll still find me indulging myself when I feel low (usually my remedy of choice is chocolate), but you won’t find me shopping for England any more, Rachel Green style.

  • When I started to unravel the things I had learned about money as a young person, I realised I didn’t really know much at all.

  • All I knew was others’ perceptions of money.

  • It was time to learn more about money for myself, and fill in the information gaps that I had.

  • I was soon Googling things like… how much do you have to earn to get a mortgage?

  • How do you invest?

  • Where does the money you put into your pension actually go?

  • When you put money in the bank, what do they do with it?

  • I knew pretty much nothing about personal finance. And Google was my starting point.

  • When I moved to London aged 24, my bills were high. HIGH. And my salary was low. There was a tiny amount of wriggle room between the two.

  • That first month in London saw my bank account balance rapidly depleting. I got scared about checking my balance and realised I needed to do something to stop myself getting into hot water.

  • I had leaned on Google on several occasions before, and here it was again, offering its infinite words of wisdom on the topic of personal finance.

  • I found information about how to manage my money through budgeting, tracking my spending and planning ahead.

  • With careful planning I was able to save for things like weekends away, holidays and birthdays well in advance. I’d no longer be scrambling to find a way to pay for things a week before they happened.

  • Once I had the basics covered, I was interested in learning more about money.

  • Turns out, there’s no shame in negotiating your starting salary, nor asking for pay rises either!

  • So I asked for them, and I got them.

  • I look back now and wonder where I’d be if I hadn’t taken the leap and put my financial future in my own hands. Would I have got a pay rise if I hadn’t asked for one? It’s quite possible that the answer is no.

  • I got addicted to challenging the existing beliefs I had about money.

  • And soon after, I found out that not only was there a gender pay gap, but there was also the gender pension gap. The gender investment gap.

  • I wanted to change that, and I wanted to inspire other women to do the same.

  • So I opened my investment accounts, increased my pension contributions, and started to take my financial future seriously.

  • When I first started talking about investing with friends and family, the overwhelming response was one of fear. “That’s so risky. You could lose all of your money, you know.” “I would avoid the stock market if I were you.”

  • I don’t blame them for the beliefs they hold about it. Many of us have been told our whole lives that investing “isn’t for us.” That “we wouldn’t understand.” That investing is for the men in suits and no one else.

  • But it’s simply not true.

  • The thing is, for most people, if you have a pension, you are already investing in the stock market.

  • Most of us are already investors.

  • We need to redefine who we think of when we think of ‘an investor.’

  • It’s me, it’s you, it’s our mothers, our sisters and our friends.

  • It’s artists, and nurses and teachers and small business owners.

  • (And many more).

  • And if we’re going to close that gender investment gap, we must start undoing a lot of the existing financial narratives that circulate.

  • Personal finance is a feminist issue.

  • When we start to treat it as such, we can start to close those gender money gaps.

  • We can start by re-writing our own beliefs about money.

  • Just like we don’t have to share the same views as our parents on politics, religion and parenting, we don’t have to share their views on money either.

  • When I realised that it was ok to do things a little differently to what my nearest and dearest recommended to me, I felt free.

  • They supported my decisions.

  • And I felt financially well.

  • I felt like by taking care of my money, I was taking care of myself.

  • Both now, and in the future.

  • I’m nowhere near reaching ‘financial independence’ (when you have enough money to cover your expenses for the rest of your life without having to work).

  • But honestly? That’s not my goal.

  • After learning so much about personal finance, my goal isn’t to be rich, but to be comfortable and care free when it comes to money.

  • It’s about knowing the numbers. It’s about having your money in plain view. It’s about having a plan for your money.

  • And it can be a simple plan. One that supports you and your lifestyle.

  • And that’s what I talk about on my blog and Instagram page where I hope to inspire other women (and occasionally men!) to take their finances into their own hands and create the life that they want to live.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

The Money Advice Service: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

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** ‘But why aren’t we rich?’ ‘But why doesn’t money grow on trees?’ and ‘But why do people work?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to preorder now  and also on audiobook.**

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FANCY READING SOME MORE?

–  Read Rachel Kerrone’s insightful list on Talking To Kids About Money which, as a mum to three boys and a money expert, is full of really useful tips and advice.

–  Listen to journalist and author, Alex Holder, on Honestly podcast as she discusses Money, the link between salary and self-esteem and why it’s one of the last taboos.

OR HOW ABOUT WRITING A LIST?

Find submission guidelines here.  All writers and topics  are welcome, but we are currently particularly looking for lists on:

–  Internet trolling

–  Prison

–  Pain killer addiction

–  Extremely large families

–  Estrangement

–  Lottery winners

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