Every now and then, people in the know share insights through this column. This week, Lauren Zajac, who is the chief legal officer at Workhuman (which provides human capital management software) and is an advocate for the empowerment of women, offered thoughts on how women make -- or don’t make -- financial decisions.
One of the topics we discussed was professional women who have very successful careers but often abdicate to their husbands on financial affairs. Why would they do that?
Zajac said she did this in her own life, adding that “I think there’s some level of indoctrination around who typically makes those decisions in the family. At least for me, there was some kind of mental block: He knows how to do that so I won’t get involved.”
Zajac related the story of buying a car. When the dealer pointed out that she was a tough negotiator, she said, “That’s kind of what I do for a living.” When he followed up by asking what her husband thought about it, she responded, “Did you really just say that?”
Allianz Life Insurance’s 2019 Women, Money and Power Study (tinyurl.com/yaz2jmkp) found that 57% of the women surveyed said they wished they were more confident in their financial decision-making. A single mother of three children, Zajac said that “being in control of my finances has brought a lot of security and confidence to my life. The first time I bought a car or when I closed on my house, I was elated, because I accomplished it myself.”
So at what point should women become involved in their family’s finances (if they aren’t already)? Zajac said it depends on the individual’s situation, adding that “I think it’s all part of a woman’s self-awareness and self-worth journey.”
“One of the things I’ve been working on over the last couple of years is recognizing ‘You can do this,’” Zajac said. “Whatever path you’re on, I think that you start to become aware of those places where you give away your power, and those are the places you have to take back first.”
A Fidelity study released last year (tinyurl.com/y9ta6dsl) found that after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of the women surveyed (67%) said they were more engaged in managing their money. Among the other survey results were that women were taking steps to “better educate themselves” (36%) and had become “more comfortable talking about money” (35%). Ideally, employers should see this trend and look to enhance it by offering financial literacy seminars and bringing in speakers to talk to women in business. How important is it that companies have a role?
“I think it’s important, especially for bigger companies, and I do think there’s a focus now,” Zajac said. “In America, there are certainly lots of conversations happening about pay equity. And there are lots of conversations about different types of leadership and the course of women in corporate America.”
“It's one of these areas that women are sort of hesitant to get into,” she said. “Like what do I need to know to financially plan for my future? What do I need to know to refinance my mortgage? Certainly, this is one of the places where I think corporations can help, as they are sort of the last bastion of true continuing education.”
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Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers Inc. of Stamford, Connecticut) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please visit www.juliejason.com.
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