Dear Liz,
This isn’t a business question. I hope that’s okay. 
I recently got divorced after six years. I fell into the same pattern as my mother and grandmother before me and let my husband manage the finances. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. As a bit of a math wiz, he’s always been better with money. It kind of burns a hole in my pocket, which my (thank GOD) former husband always used to make fun of. I’ve been like this my whole life, and now that we’re no longer together, I find myself struggling to keep my bills paid even though I make real money for the first time in my life. It makes me feel really stupid. Why can’t I get it together? I need help.
Lydia M.

Hi Lydia,
I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I think everyone has had someone they cared about and trusted who made them feel small or less than, so please don’t feel like you’re alone or somehow at fault for those feelings. You clearly aren’t stupid; you got out of a bad marriage and are now able to support yourself financially.
The fact is, financial literacy is a skill and not one that’s commonly taught, especially to women. I’ll never understand why such a vital skill is rarely taught in schools. 
Financial literacy is especially lacking among women because of antiquated expectations and assumptions about women’s roles in society and in the family; so many women grew up with less of an expectation that they would need to stand on their own financially. That’s even more true for my generation. The idea of independent women working and living for themselves was still relatively new and controversial when I was in college in the late eighties, let alone in the sixties and seventies. Generations of women were raised solely with the expectation to marry well and raise a family, and I count myself immeasurably lucky that my own parents didn’t raise me anything like that. But that’s just the thing; it was luck. And if you grew up poor, that’s an even wider bridge to cross.
We’re supposed to learn the basics of financial literacy when we’re still young (and insulated should we make a mistake) by being trusted with money and taught not only how to spend and save it, but how to manage it as well. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have that experience, and that fact certainly doesn’t say anything about your intelligence or abilities. It just means you have a new skill to learn. 
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our employment prospects, knowing how to use money wisely is more important for women than it’s been in some time. But the fact that it’s a skill means there’s a solution; you can learn to handle your own finances. In your case (because you mentioned that you’re making good money), it’s time to start looking for a financial adviser who doesn’t make you feel stupid for not knowing these things yet. You need someone on your side who makes you feel comfortable and is eager to help you understand your finances. I’d start looking locally for women financial advisors who you can speak to frankly about your history with money, your complicated feelings around it, and anything else she might need to know. I recommend looking into the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, which has been providing women with financial planning assistance for decades.
In the meantime, here’s some big picture advice I’d like to offer:
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These tips are just some of the basics; your financial situation might be completely different. But whatever it is, getting it under control is key to having genuine freedom and independence in your life (along with some peace of mind). I believe in you, and in all women, to learn how to treat money like a tool and not a problem. You got this!


Liz Elting