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Women & Money Shame: How to Break the Cycle and Take Action

Women & Money Shame: How to Break the Cycle and Take Action

February 10, 2022

On a good day women have a tendency to be pretty hard on ourselves. There’s a lot of negative self-talk that often goes on in our minds and it can be difficult to break that cycle.

Add to that the shame that many people feel when it comes to their finances, and you have a messy mental situation on your hands.

Do any of these thoughts feel familiar to you?

  • “I’m embarrassed about what I spent on _________.”
  • “I’m behind everyone else when it comes to saving and I’ll never catch up.”
  • “No one would ever guess the amount of debt I have.”

Compound those thoughts with any “I’m not good enough” dialogues you might have with yourself, and you might feel like you don’t have what it takes to stop the cycle of shame.

Time and income level might also play a part in this. If you’ve been working for a long time and have benefitted from pay increases, you might think that others assume you’re on the right track financially. The truth is that you might have spent years getting to your dream professional level and once you began bringing in the money you worked so hard to earn…it became hard to not live in the moment rather than save for the future.

And that might have you feeling embarrassed (or self-conscious).

“Shame interacts with avoidance to create a vicious cycle. When you’re filled with shame the natural tendency is to avoid facing whatever is making you uncomfortable. That avoidance itself leads to additional shame and more avoidance. Next thing you know your taxes are overdue and it’s six years since you decided to finally make that appointment to see a financial planner and it still hasn't happened.” (Forbes)

Many professional women have found themselves in the same boat. The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to start turning that ship around.

5 Tips to Help Stop the Money Shame Cycle


Honestly assess your situation.

Income, expenses, debt…all of it. Face the truth and write it down. Yes, you might feel overwhelmed, but remember you didn’t learn how to read, write, or drive a car overnight. You started with small steps, and they led to the outcome you wanted.  As with any big and important task, take one step at a time. 

Take the first step to create a new savings habit.

Start with the basics - an emergency fund with enough money to pay your rent, your food and utilities, and any other necessities for three months. Make it even easier on yourself and set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into your savings. Once you get used to it, you’ll likely not even notice it’s missing.

One more step in the right direction.

Now that you’ve got the savings habit down you can move forward with the bigger picture. Do you have a retirement savings plan available to you at your job (401(k), 403(b), profit sharing, etc.)?   Ask Human Resources for information on the program. 

Next, enroll in the program.  Whether or not you receive an employer match as part of the program, start saving 3-5% per paycheck.   This will give you an easy way to save money for yourself, payroll deduction.  Hopefully, you will be able to talk to a Representative of the Financial Firm to assist you with your enrollment.  The guidance and investment assistance can be very valuable. 

Find a local financial planner.

While it could feel counterintuitive to spend money when you’re trying to save money, investing in yourself and your financial future can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s important to interview a few advisors first and then choose someone you trust, you are comfortable with, and whom you understand.             

Talk to your friends and your family about money.  

Even though money is a very delicate and personal topic, the more you talk about things, the better.  Be curious; ask trusted co-workers, friends, teachers, etc. Your knowledge will build your confidence, which will pay off greatly over your lifetime.  Better decisions and believing in yourself is worth its weight in gold! 

An Important Thing to Remember

First of all, you’re not alone. No one is born knowing how to deal with money and our needs and lifestyle are constantly changing, which means we have to pivot as well.

In a 2019 article for Forbes, Prudy Gourguechon said this about money:

“No one is entirely rational when it comes to money…. It’s worth thinking about money as something with which you have a complex relationship. Your money (and more broadly your personal finances) is not a fixed entity, but rather a complex of data points, challenges, and opportunities you circle around, interact with, and have feelings about. You make decisions about money that impact your financial situation and these impacts in turn reciprocally affect your feelings and future behaviors. And it’s a relationship that evolves over a lifetime.”

Debbie Charpentier has been serving clients since 1989 by using a holistic, comprehensive approach that helps clients create the life they value and the legacy they envision. Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a Bakersfield, CA Financial Planning practice that offers fee-based financial planning services. To contact Debbie, email Debbie Charpentier is a registered representative offering securities and investment advisory services through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., (Member SIPC). Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a marketing name for registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors. CRN – 4276745-020422