Queenagers, money and macarrons
The Queenager : Eleanor's Letter (December 5th 2022)
Do you get that toxic hit of boredom mixed with terror when you think about your finances?
Hope you’ve had a great weekend. Sorry I didn’t send this yesterday, it was my actual birthday and I was celebrating!
Last week I was delighted to host a Queenager roundtable at Coutts bank for some subscribers to talk about midlife money and how often the current banking system lets us down.
The afternoon had a surreal beginning as we gathered in the Swiss Shloss style forecourt of Coutts/NatWest on the Strand in London replete with fake snow, fake fires, wooden huts and heaps of furry rugs (yes I felt quite hot!). The home-made biscuits were sublime, big shout out to whoever made the macarrons…
It was so great to meet so many stalwarts of the Noon community in person. I know your emails and your comments from this newsletter and book clubs and Noon Circles, but it is so different to actually have you all in the room. I love it. It’s when the Noon community goes from digital to in-real-life and I realise anew what fantastic amazing women you all are.
The Noon team really fielded a stellar line up at Coutts. We were hosted by the redoutable Camilla Stowell who is head of Client Coverage for them. She is a great Queenager herself, we met when I wrote about our Noon research for the Financial Times and was talking about companies who were actively trying to retain their senior women (not that many but NatWest is a bit of a beacon on this as it has a female CEO Alison Rose, as well as women in CMO, CFO and CTO positions).
We kicked off by introducing ourselves – going around the impressive circular table. Amongst the Nooners were a former scion of Coutts who is now a financial coach. Her name is Sasha Speed and she talks to women about the intersection between emotion and money and how they can get in the way/influence how we manage it (I’m going to ask her to do a workshop). That resonated with me because I find a toxic combination of boredom and terror overwhelms me when I have to fill in my tax return or think about my pension. I know this is childish and unworthy of an intelligent professional woman, but I can’t help it. And I don’t think I am alone…
Many of the women shared how when they’ve seen a financial advisor they have been ignored or talked over; I went to see one with my husband who directed the entire conversation at him until he gently said: my wife is the main breadwinner! It reminded me a bit of a terrible dinner party I attended: I sat down next to an old dinosaur who ran a huge company who opened our conversation by saying: “What does your husband do?” I wanted to punch him. I said: “Well you can ask him if you want, he’s over there – but by the way I am the Editorial Director of the Sunday Times, Editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, a columnist… maybe you might be interested in what I do!” It wasn’t an auspicious start! But it’s even worse when that kind of misogyny and old-fashioned thinking comes from an advisor you are about to trust with your money!
The Coutts team could not be more different: Camila Stowell introduced a truly diverse female team who were fascinating about encouraging women to become angel investors and to get a grip on their long term financial planning (this really matters as we live longer and given the terrifying pension gap for women). It is frustrating that it is taking so long to turn this round, Rebecca Hill, one of our Noon team and the authorof From Work Life to New Life, reminded the room of a landmark study called the Power of the Purse which proved the importance of talking to women about finance. Our Noon research shows that Queenagers are controlling over 90 per cent of all household spending decisions, and that 60% of us are lucky enough to have paid off our mortgages (not me!). We also know that there have never been women like our generation hitting midlife before: in the 2019 census women over 40 started outearning women under 40 for the first time ever. We are a pioneering cohort hitting our fifties with our own finances, but much of the financial system has not woken up to that.
We are also starting our own businesses at a faster rate, and more successfully, than any other demographic, but are receiving less than 2 per cent of Venture Capital Funding. The second part of the discussion at Coutts focussed on female founders and entrepreneurs and how we can get better access to funding – not necessarily VC, not everyone has a hockey shaped growth curve in front of them, or wants to take on that level of risk. But the kind of money that can help us start, grow and sustain small and medium sized businesses which are the backbone of the UK PLC. Several of us round the table were entrepreneurs and nearly all of us had bootstrapped our own companies rather than going for external investment, partly because we wanted to keep control, but also because the way to go about raising funds seemed mysteriously murky. There was much discussion about how many male entrepreneurs are much more gung ho about this, egging each other on to bigger valuations and knowing much better how the fund-raising system works.
Tellingly, the only female founder I know who has raised big VC capital did so because she used to work for a massive Consultancy, where she was on the fast track to partner, and her boss’s boss, vouched for her to the head of a huge VC fund “as one of the chaps” and she received multi-million pound backing. She is very funny about many of the meetings she went to with young men who had no idea what menopause even was (her company is a tech solution to much of this) and kept asking her when she was going to have children… what was I saying about dinosaurs??
Anyway, I was so proud of the expertise displayed by the Noon women, we are continuing chats and hope to have some workshops and programmes arranged on financial health, both personal, and for Queenager entrepreneurs next year. By the way: we’ve just launched a new Queenager Directory on Noon – a list of brands that we love, or who are doing fantastic things for women in midlife. Do tell us about other ones you have come across that deserve a mention (email me firstname.lastname@example.org). And keep a look out for our By Queenagers For Queenager entrepreneurs. The first one we are highlighting is Jenny Retourne, Founder of Willowberry skin care, who unlike practically all beauty companies actively targets Queenagers. Not with an anti-ageing message (we are grateful to have aged, I know so many women who haven’t made it this far…) but telling us how our skin can feel good and look its best at this age. My skin is very dry and sensitive so I am always looking for things that will make it feel better; I don’t want to look younger, I just want it not to be red, dry and flaky. I love Jenny’s products: and she is giving a special pre Christmas 10% discount to you lovely Noon ladies. [Use code NOON10 at checkout at www.willowberry.co.uk Valid on everything except the Product Bundles, which are already discounted. Offer valid until midnight, Friday 9th December.] I did an Insta Live with Jenny which is on the @uponnoon Instagram page if you want to see our chat. And this is her blurb: Willowberry is nutritious natural skincare for grown-ups, for your best skin. Its multi award-winning products protect skin’s natural barrier function, to nourish and revive grown-up skin without telling you to be ‘anti-ageing’, to help you feel good in your skin with age.
Ps we are doing another in person Noon Circle in Soho, at 7pm on December 20th. There will be wine and Christmas snacks and the incredible Julia Bueno, therapist, author of Everyone’s a Critic and Noon Advisory Board member will be hosting with me as we talk about giving ourselves a Christmas present of some true self compassion. Asking ourselves how we really are and listening to and acting on the answer. I know this is becoming my new mantra but I think this kind of ‘soft living’ of being kind to ourselves is so important, particularly at this point in life. Do come and join us. It’s for Paid Subscribers only.
I’ll send an email out to all of you with where and when this week. And you can also join online.
By Eleanor Mills