Women & Retirement: Overcoming the Emotional Side of Money

Recently I was having lunch with a girlfriend who at one point confided that she let her husband handle all the finances, because dealing with money scares her. Ironically, I’ve had many clients who at one point felt the same way.

Money can be an uncomfortable topic for women, because for them, money is emotional.

The topic usually triggers negative emotions, because they represent what we money coaches call a “money blind spot” or a limiting belief.

The four most common negative emotions around money are guilt, shame, resentment and fear.

Guilt around money represents judgement. The question I like to ask women is, “What if judging yourself were no longer acceptable to you?” When the client replaces self-condemnation with self-acceptance, she becomes open to forgiving herself, which in turn, increases her self-confidence with money. This is an essential step to financial empowerment. Guilt can keep women from having money. For instance, there are women who make a six-figure income but then spend it all, because they believe they don’t deserve abundance.

Shame commonly shows up when debt is present, which interestingly so, I find more common with single women. Shame is an emotion that causes a woman to really question her self-worth. It is usually accompanied by berating and self-condemnation. There is usually some type of story the client is telling herself and perhaps reliving over and over in her mind, reminding herself of her short-comings and unworthiness, which, for her, the debt represents.

Resentment is common for women who have nurturing personalities. Feelings of resentment surface when they take care of other people in their life financially but neglect their own financial wellbeing. Women may find themselves paying for things for other people out of a feeling of obligation or in an attempt to please. There is usually an issue with a lack of boundaries, especially around money and self-care. These women tend to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. For them, creating healthy boundaries around money is particularly important, as is the deeper exploration of why they feel compelled to take care of others by giving them money or paying for things when really they should be taking care of themselves financially. It would also behoove these women to explore areas in their lives where they might need to implement more self-care.

Fear and worrying about money is quite common for women when they avoid dealing with their money.

Fear of the unknown tends to cause excessive anxiety. They worry about not being able to take care of themselves financially, and since financial security is important for women, this is a big deal.

One irrational fear that women face is referred to as the Bag Lady Syndrome. According the AllianzWomen, Money & Power study, forty-nine percent of women fear ending up broke and homeless regardless of their current income level. Among the women surveyed, a third of the highest income earners (those earning $200,000 and more) couldn’t shake this fear. The study states that “the pervasiveness of this worry may point to a deep-set financial insecurity that seems to be particular to women.”

In addition to the four emotions explained above, there are a host of other negative emotions that can get triggered for women around money, such as:

  • Denial
  • Avoidance
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Resistance
  • Blame
  • Guilt
  • Complacency
  • Overwhelm
  • Sadness
  • No one wants to feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, so if the topic of money triggers these emotions for women, they’ll simply avoid it.

    This mindset poses a big problem for women as they contemplate their retirement years, because it perpetuates those pesky bag lady fears.

    For instance,

    53% of baby boomer women are concerned about outliving their sources of retirement income, and 28% of baby boomer women don’t think they can afford to retire.” (The Allianz Reclaiming the Future Study, 2010)

    Rather than tolerating negative emotions, women can take a stand for their financial security, vowing to take care of themselves instead of depending on someone else to do it for them.

    My best advice for women who fear the topic of money is to start where you are.

    Focus on increasing your financial literacy, and educate yourself on retirement planning. Make a plan to do everything you can to start saving more.

    If the thought of taking charge of your finances feels overwhelming, go slow, take baby steps. But do get started now.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to wait until you make more money.

    I have clients who manage to save money on annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to over six-figures. Your level of income doesn’t matter. It’s not what you make, but what you keep.

    Start where you are right now. Decide that you will become financially savvy with what you have to work with. Decide that you will connect with your money, which means you know how much is coming in each month, you know what your expenses are, and you know how much you need to be saving for retirement.

    Having a plan is the best antidote to fear when it comes to money and retirement.

    Make becoming a financially literate woman a priority this year.

    I believe in you, and I support you 100%!