I was watching TV with my daughters a few nights ago and I saw this commercial for TD Bank. “Banking on the beach”, indeed technology has made our lives so much easier and freeing. It was a good commercial, we see an older couple on a beautiful beach getting a massage. The Mom’s phone rings and it’s their son asking for money to buy textbooks. The mom is happy to oblige, she turns to her husband and he opens up the TD App and voila the money is sent to their son. It’s pretty cool when you could be in another country getting a massage and do your banking at the same time. Amazing!
Then it dawned on me, the son called the Mom to ask for money and the Mom turns to Dad for him to send it. Why didn’t she send it? Was it technical thing, where you can’t be on the call and simultaneously send the money? Even if that was the case, why not let the Dad answer the call and let Mom send the money?
What I saw in that commercial was the perpetuation of the stereotypical message that women don’t deal with finances. It was so normal and expected that the Dad would be the one to send off the money. So built into our psyche that the few people I asked, didn’t pick up on that subtle point. This commercial reaffirms the old paradigm where women leave all the financial decisions to the men in their lives, whether it is their father, a brother or their husband.
Now, it might be that the target group for the commercial is in fact the older generation, but even then it’s not of service to the women in that generation. First of all the women will outlive the men, so when the husband passes on, the wife is left to manage on her own. In my consultancy practice all too often I have seen widows who don’t even have the time to mourn the passing of their husband because they are stressed with having to deal with making sense of their finances. Many are totally in the dark about their financial situation because they always left the finances to their husbands. In some of the worst cases, the husband made very bad financial decisions and the window is left with debt instead of an inheritance.
Similarly, in cases when older couples who have been married for over 25 years get divorced, many ex-wives suffer tremendous financial loss because they were not aware of how the finances were structured. In the end these ex-wives come up empty handed. Each person should have some basic education and knowledge of how their financial life works. So that when the day comes and you are on your own, you will know how to manage your financial life or at least know where to start.
The younger generation of women are not immune to this type of thinking either. Many women feel that they are not good with money. Added to this, are the stealthy marketers who know how to pull at female’s emotional strings from cosmetics to baby food, they get their products sold. Popular culture also perpetuates this stereotype. You know the one where women are glamorized for buying tons of shoes and clothes that she never wears. The implications here are that women are not concerned about finances. Their focus is on fashion and looking good. It’s not stylish to be concerned about money, savings and the future. No, it’s all about living life in the moment and spending like there is no tomorrow! This is serious when you consider that there is still a huge gap in women’s earnings. For all the progress that women have made in the workforce, wages have yet to keep up. This is even more reason for women to take more control of their financial lives and ensure that they can achieve their goals.
On the flip side, this old paradigm is not serving men either. It puts more pressure on them to be the bread winner, when perhaps their significant other is the one that is employed and bringing home the bacon. Talk about the male crisis. Traditional gender roles are slowly eroding and with that we need to ensure that each person, regardless of gender, is educated on managing their money.
I believe that the best way to foster effective money management skills and eradicate high levels of future personal debt is to start educating the children. My mission is to teach young children positive behavioural traits that will facilitate effective money management. Children learn by example. To date, women are the primary caregivers. They have a significant influence on a child’s education. How can we expect the mothers, to teach the next generation of children financial skills when they themselves feel that this is not their forte? What example will they set for their sons and daughters?
Everyone, regardless of gender, age or status need to understand the role money plays in their lives. It is not acceptable to pass over this responsibility to anyone else. Recent research is showing that there is no such thing as a “female” brain or a “male” brain. All brains are equally capable of all functions. It is just that some are conditioned to believe they have limits to what they can do. It’s time we start reprogramming women’s brains to deal with money and show them that they have both the capacity and ability to do the job.
The next time a bank commercial comes on, take a second look and notice if there are any underlying messages. Drop me a line and let me know what you discovered.