Marriage changes a lot of things – and it can have a significant impact on how you deal with your finances. Marriage can contribute to your financial empowerment too, but not many of us are taught about how we can actually do this successfully and easily.
Before I married my second husband, I was a single mom of young twin-girls, and I was doing great in my career and finances. In fact, I was a Vice President of Programs & Services working with Fortune 100 companies and top government agencies, owned a penthouse condominium, had no debt, and my salary was twice as much money as my husband-to-be.
Shortly before we got married, my father passed away and so much changed in my career and life priorities. One of those changes, once I got married, was to leave the technology sector and my lucrative executive job to work as a Senior Vice President at a not-for-profit organization taking a 40 percent pay cut in my salary.
It took me some time to realize that in addition to a reduced pay in my career, I had also given up some part of my financial empowerment when I got married. The irony was that although I was the “CFO and COO” of the family by managing the household, paying the expenses, taking care of the children and our home renovation projects, something had gone off-kilter with my capacity to generate more money for me. My husband, however, was continuously increasing his income.
I sometimes joke that I am the executive that finally got her “groove back.” I love business and creating money, it took a few years to realize I had (somewhat unconsciously) decided that being married meant changing my priorities to make sure my husband was the leader of the family; empowering his business to make sure he was the main breadwinner. My husband isn’t the kind of man who would ever need or expect that in our relationship, so I knew that I had to change things and enjoy being married and financially empowered.
"There is nothing wrong with changing your priorities and taking on different financial roles in a marriage – in fact, you and your spouse can create more financially together than you ever did as individuals."
It all started with me challenging some of my hidden ideas about money and marriage, and taking pragmatic steps to consciously increase my financial possibilities.
No matter your current financial situation or relationship status, you can expand your financial possibilities both as an individual and within a partnership or marriage – and here are five essential keys to help you get started:
1. Examine your points of view about money and relationships – and prioritize your financial prosperity
There is nothing wrong with changing your priorities and taking on different financial roles in a marriage – in fact, you and your spouse can create more financially together than you ever did as individuals.
Part of getting my financial groove back was examining more closely the points of view I had let subconsciously run the show in my marriage – and honestly asking myself whether those points of view were true for me, or could I change them and allow something different to be created.
Are there places in your life where you have let other people’s points of view about your relationship or marriage limit or stop you exploring your capacities with money? Have you prioritized care of your spouse, family and house, and assumed that you cannot easily have the generation of money as a priority as well?
Even for unmarried women, it is common to prioritize money less and to focus more on the creative and contributive aspects of their business or career. Women can let themselves get stuck in a polarized idea that there is an either/or universe when it comes to care-taking and money-making, and decide they have to or should drop financial priorities when they get married or have a family – when this isn’t the case at all!
You don’t have to give up on your financial priorities and desires. It can be as simple as proactively putting the priority for your financial prosperity back on the table, and then taking some simple actions.
2. Know your expenses and income – to the dollar!
The first part of empowering yourself financially within a marriage is knowing exactly what money is coming in and going out. This clarity is essential because, without it, you won’t know where you are or what to aim for next.
Take time to sit down and write down all your monthly personal and business income and expenses, or get a copy of your profit and loss statement from your accountant.
Give as much attention to knowing the income as the expenses – you need to be aware of both so that you don’t form an untrue picture of what is happening in your financial world.
People often pay more attention to expenses as they see the money being spent, while not really looking at what they are bringing in. A lot of people are surprised at how much money they are actually generating each month, especially if they are running their own businesses. You may already be creating more money than you think!
3. Have financially empowering conversations with yourself and your partner
Money is one of the main sources of argument in relationships. Many couples do not talk about money unless it is around big events like a holiday or buying a house or car, and few couples have the right tools to have proactive conversations about creating with finances in a way that is generative and even fun.
Make time to have a ‘money date’ on a weekly or at least monthly basis to talk about different possibilities with your finances. Have this conversation both with your partner and with yourself.
Ask questions that get you to explore possibilities and new choices for generating money:
- Where are we now? Where would we like to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now?
- What do we desire to add to our lives?
- What other ways can we bring in income we haven’t considered yet?
- What ways could we educate and invest in our future with our money we haven’t considered?
Avoid conversations that are just about budgeting and cost-cutting. There may be expenses that you realize are not contributing to your lives and choose to let them go or reduce them. But keep your attention forward-focussed and generative in outlook, and you will be more likely to take expansive steps towards financial empowerment.
"Give as much attention to knowing the income as the expenses – you need to be aware of both so that you don’t form an untrue picture of what is happening in your financial world."
4. Educate yourselves and each other about money – and enjoy it!
Educating yourself about money can take many forms. You can research the history of money to get an insight into how it works (The Ascent of Money series by the BBC is a great start) and you can also educate yourself on different ways you can invest your money to make it grow.
Prior to our wedding, I educated my husband about diamonds. I taught him about the way diamonds are graded and we selected each diamond on my engagement ring ourselves. In the end, I had a ring that was not only beautiful to me aesthetically, but we had invested in something that will continue to increase in value.
I still buy jewelry as it is one of my favorite ways to invest my money. My husband jokes that I make investments that I can wear, but it works for me and makes me money. That said, I also have a diverse portfolio of stocks, cryptocurrency, and real estate.
Learn about items of value, or ways of using your money to make more money – and let curiosity and enjoyment be your guide!
5. Be the CFO of your life and your marriage
If you were the CFO of your life and in your relationship, what would you choose differently than you are now?
Everyone has different interests and capacities with money and finances – and all of us have an untapped capacity for creating more money and changing our financial worlds. Ultimately, it’s time to explore what works for you in your life and relationship – because it truly is different for everyone.
Continually explore your options and ask more questions to empower you financially in your relationship: Are you using your natural capacities to financially empower you and your marriage? What roles could you each take, and what else could you bring to the table? What are your strengths? What are your partner’s strengths? Where do you both require input, assistance, or more information?
There is no right or wrong way to become financially empowered in your marriage. Just as every couple is unique and every individual is unique, the way you create your financial world independently and together will be different too.
If you are willing to gain clarity on your finances, educate yourself, ask some different questions and have some different conversations about money - and let your curiosity and enjoyment guide you, you will begin to discover what is truly possible in your financial world.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.