Finance 25 July 2019
Photo Credit: www.thebalance.com
The human mind and money have an overly complex relationship.
A cause of shame, anxiety, depression, and oftentimes thought as a source of happiness, people have long associated money with emotions. And this is why people seldom handle their personal finances logically.
Despite it being in their best interest, people don't save money. People spend too much out of excitement or too little out of guilt. This is especially true for people with a limited budget. Studies show that people with constrained personal finances invest their emotions heavily with money.
So with that in mind, here are the key concepts you have to understand in order to have a healthy relationship with money:
Understand your finances
Having a healthy relationship with anything entails having a deep understanding about it. A good grip on the limits and potentials of your personal finances can help manage your expectations and rationalize how you see money. A provocative think piece published on the New York Times highlights how people feel happier with cash on hand rather than investing that cash, even if the latter makes much more long-term sense.
In many contexts, talking about finances is still taboo. At work, people don't talk about remuneration. In gatherings, discussions around debt rarely come up. And even at home, any dialog on managing money almost always end up emotionally charged. To attain financial literacy, you have to pierce this veil and have a grounded approach on managing debt, expenses, and savings.
Understand the game
Contrary to what you might think, consumers aren't that savvy. Marketers around the world have always tapped into the fact that emotions are the greatest drivers of consumption. People buy things when it has an emotional presence or relevance.
Knowing the pain points of being a consumer and how marketing utilizes your emotions to target your wallet are the best ways to get ahead. Tricks like making the medium sized drink almost as expensive as the large one to point you in that direction is an old one that remains effective to this day.
An online survey commissioned by the housing charity Shelter found that families who rent suffer from anxiety. Especially in highly coveted markets, you need to be aware of certain unsaid rules that can make survival difficult for the uninitiated. For instance, in one of Yoreevo's guides to NYC real estate, the site reveals how co-op square footage in the city is almost always overstated. This makes it very hard to compare units based on stated size alone.
These are just some of the reasons why the vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and guilt in spending is also fueled by consumerism. But you can do something about it. Having a healthy relationship with spending means discerning your needs and wants and making sound financial decisions from that discernment.
Furthermore, unhealthy notions of your financial capacity or situation may even lead to a decreased capacity to make money. Some CEOs in this interview think they won't get funding if VCs uncover that they have mood disorders or are stressed psychologically.
The most relevant emotions related to money are guilt, shame, fear, and envy. Being more conscious of when and how these feelings come up when you spend, save or invest will help you to be more mindful with money.
Mint recommends you forgive yourself when you miss a credit card bill or overspend. Beating yourself up over financial mistakes can end with you sinking even deeper into the cycle of guilt and shame.
This should go without saying: never make major financial decisions when you're emotional or in a vulnerable state. But it's easier said than done. Creating powerful habits or rituals like taking a jog or eating a meal first before deciding can aid in disengaging from emotional decision making.
A deep understanding of yourself is key in having a level-headed approach to managing or even growing your finances. Personal finance is really one of those fields where emotion fails and logic thrives.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."
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