From restrictive myths to a growth-oriented mindset

SEPTEMBER 02, 2022

Women tend to get misrepresented in the media when it comes to their financial know-how. It’s time to leave behind the restriction-oriented mindset that focuses on what women supposedly shouldn’t or can’t do and move toward a growth-oriented mindset that focuses on earning more and investing with impact. 

Four steps to prove the truth about women and money

Last time, we laid out some of the widely circulated myths about women and money. Women are often portrayed as excessive spenders rather than as earners. They’re seen as somehow less capable of handling and investing money. And they’re thought to be able to function financially only as part of a couple rather than as independent actors. The images and language that perpetuate these falsehoods restrict women, rather than enable them to grow1,2.

Women have a chance to take back control of the narratives surrounding them. They can shift perspectives around women and money by developing their own strong financial strategies. It’s time to leave behind the restriction-oriented mindset that focuses on what women supposedly shouldn’t or can’t do, and move toward a growth-oriented mindset that focuses on earning more and investing with impact.

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, but that’s only true – or helpful– if you use that power to make a difference. For example, you may know that the gap between men and women continues to exist in earnings, savings, and investment. You can’t change your past, but you can shape your future and take steps to shift that gendered investment baseline.  

  1. The first step in growing your financial future is growing your earnings. It may be time to ask for a raise or a bigger 401(k) match from your employer. You don't always have to wait for the boss to come to you. It's a good idea to put yourself in the best position to make the case for more money by preparing for the conversation on your terms3.
  2. Save more by maxing out the retirement tools already available to you, such as your 401(k). Not putting enough into your IRA? (What, you don’t have an IRA?) In addition to increasing your automatic retirement account contribution through your employer, you can arrange to have money transferred automatically each month from your bank account to your IRA or other retirement accounts. Automatic savings is the key; you can save far more than by making payments you might decide to skip or forget to make.
  3. Plan for your obligations to parents and children. Suddenly having to take greater care of an aging parent can cut directly into money you would have otherwise put toward your retirement, or the time you need to earn that money. Your retirement plans can be similarly impacted by adult children who return home or need help paying back college debt. Talk with your financial professional about ways to help those you love while minimizing the hit to your nest egg.
  4. Keep your eyes on the prize. Because women research investments more, and more closely, than men do4, it’s possible to get lost in a torrent of web pages, reports, news items, and more. Keep the focus on articles, reports, and recommendations that reflect your specific situation, especially gender-based barriers that may affect you much as they affect many other women.

In addition to putting more money into your pension and investment accounts, you want to ensure that you’re earning as much as possible on that money – while also protecting what you have. Risk and protection can feel like opposing goals, but successful portfolios are generally balanced for each. Is yours?

One factor in achieving that balance is deciding how much risk you’re comfortable with. There’s no right or wrong answer here – only choices and consequences. Accept more risk and you can consider more aggressive growth targets, with the possibility you could lose some or all of what you’ve saved. Accept less risk and you may need to postpone your retirement, continue to work part-time or accept a more modest lifestyle.

Many financial professionals recommend diversifying a portfolio to include both secure investments that preserve your principal and can offer guaranteed returns – think lifetime income products such as annuities* – and higher-risk investments, such as mutual funds and individual securities. In addition to “hedging your bets” with this approach, lifetime income products can give you the confidence to also include investments that feature the potential for greater financial rewards – and risks.

*What is an Annuity?

Annuities are long-term, tax-deferred vehicles designed for retirement. Variable annuities involve investment risks and may lose value. Earnings are taxable as ordinary income when distributed. Individuals may be subject to a 10% additional tax for withdrawals before age 59½ unless an exception to the tax is met. There is no guarantee that a variable annuity with an add-on living benefit will provide sufficient supplemental retirement income.


1. "#MakeMoneyEqual," Starling Bank, February 2018

2. "Starling fuels campaign to improve representation of women and money," Evie Rusman, Retail Banker International, May 21, 2021

3. "How to ask for a pay raise as a woman successfully in this economy," Emma Johnson, Wealthy Single Mommy, July 18, 2022

4. "Why Women Are Better Investors," Emily Guy Birken and Benjamin Curry, Forbes Advisor, March 30, 2021

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