Queenagers, money and emotion

The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (February 7th 2023)

If money knocked on your door, what would it look like for you?

Dear Queenagers

Hope you’ve had a good week – I’ve been enjoying the sensation of sun feeling warm on my face and not standing shivering in the wind when I get out of the pond. The birds seem noisier too, like they are revving up for spring. My family reckon I’m jumping the gun – saying February is the coldest month (if not the cruellest, that’s April). But then I got a text from my sister saying: Happy Imbolc. No, me neither, but apparently it means ‘in the belly’, happens on February 1st and is a Celtic fire festival celebrating the first stirrings of spring deep in the earth.  Imbolc falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. So perhaps my springlike feelings weren’t so off-beam after all! And I love that it is getting lighter in the afternoons, too.

I’m certainly glad to see the back of January – it ended for me (and everyone else I’m sure) with the mixture of terror and boredom which accompanies the filing of the tax return. I’m not the only Queenager who dreads tax time; I know this because I kicked off last week speaking at the WealthiHer Network’s event called ‘Own your prosperity and navigate vulnerable moments well”. I talked about women in midlife and how we can feel ambivalent around managing our money and that the financial services industry which talks in acronyms and can make us feel stupid doesn’t help .

This was reinforced over a dinner with a couple of really old mates, one of whom is an investment manager, who was bemoaning what to do with her pensions – she’s moved around jobs and has several different chunks all in different places. We were teasing her, saying if she can’t get it together to be on the case about her money, what hope is there for the rest of us? But it raises an interesting paradox: it is possible to be successful and solvent and simultaneously feel hopeless/out of our depth about our own money and planning for the future. And if money is tight then getting these kinds of decisions right is even more crucial.

At the Queenager round-table that some of you came to at Coutts last year that disconnect/reluctance about money, even from those who have worked in the industry, was very clear. Sasha Speed who used to work at the bank and is now an independent financial advisor was fascinating about the emotional aspect of our relationship to money (not something I had ever thought about before). She asked me: “What would money look like if it knocked on your front door?” What came into my mind was a kind of jovial harlequin, all bells and colourful suit ringing the bell for celebration. My first instinct when I get paid, is to buy myself a treat. I’m sure that comes from my dad. His favourite maxim is: “Nothing exceeds like excess” – he’s the kind of man who has double cream on his ice cream, money burns a hole in his pocket. There’s definitely something of that in me.

Diane who is the Editorial Director at Noon had a different reaction. She is number dyslexic and despite being super intelligent has a pathological fear and loathing of spread sheets because the numbers jump around and she is always sure she has got her sums wrong. On top of that, she said her mother always exhorted her to work and earn her own money (mine did too) so money for her is about independence and striving.

Another member of the Noon team says money at her door would look “like security, a warm jumper, a big pair of arms. I’ve always been the main wage earner so money arriving at the door would make me feel a bit more coddled, make me think I didn’t have to go on earning.” She’s much more on it than the rest of us: “I check my pension on Transact every day. I’ve paid into it ever since I was 22 – I plan for the future but you never know if you’ll actually live that long, so it is also really important to live in the moment.” I love that!  It’s probably not surprising that she is our Commercial Director.

So how does money show up for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments on the bottom of here. And why do we all have such different attitudes to cash? What shapes that? Sasha Speed has written this excellent article for Noon in which she cites a study which says our money attitudes ARE totally influenced by what we learnt from our parents. Which is tricky for Queenagers because we are such a transitional generation, raised by mothers with fifties notions about our value being in finding and being kept by a man; while being fed a constant mantra about ‘having it all’ and having our own financial jobs and independence (and doing everything else).

There is a bit of shame in the generation above us about having to be responsible for their cash themselves, an expectation that a partner would do it for them, look after them, that in having to get to grips with it they have somehow failed. I wonder how much of that we’ve inherited as Queenagers? I think we need to knock that notion on the head. Particularly given that 40 % of us are on our own and more than half of women 45-60 are the main breadwinners; we’ve got to throw off that kind of conditioning and however daunting it might feel, or inertia we might have about it, grasp the nettle.

After all, what we do NOW with our hard-earned cash will dramatically impact the next half of our lives. My brilliant friend Avivah Wittenberg Cox (here on Substack as Elderberries) writes a lot about how a good Third Quarter (50-75) is crucial for setting us up for the Fourth (75-100). She talks about it in terms of being strategic at this point about our careers (maybe retraining, or switching to future proof ourselves) but also in terms of health (use it or lose it, now is the time for weight-bearing exercise and eating protein and being fit, try walking more) but also in terms of our finances.

It might feel boring/frightening, but we need to work out what we’ve got, what that looks like if we live a long time, and interrogate things such as our attitudes to risk when it comes to investing. Or what we can do to make our hard-earned cash work hard for us. Those of us who have done well should also be thinking about being angel investors and putting our cash to work for female entrepreneurs. Queenagers and the rest (we need more women to do this – to back other women; never forget only 2% of Venture Capital money is going to female founders, that also needs to change).

Back in the real world, I’m well aware that some at the moment are really struggling, that the cost-of-living crisis is biting hard. Last week the government was mooting a retirement age for everyone under the age of 54 of 68. That made me laugh. Everyone I know is reckoning on working way past that. Particularly since women have half the average pension savings as men by the time they are fifty – (£56k compared to 112k for men according to Baroness Ros Altmann).

So there is no time like the present to do something about it. Whatever your emotional inheritance around money, we all need to do the best with what we have – for ourselves, for the planet, for the people we love. That means getting a grip. Putting on our big girl pants and shouldering up to the stuff that seems daunting, and complicated and a bit alien. The stuff we’d much rather not. Oh yes, I can sympathise with that.

Anyway all of this is a long way of saying, Sasha Speed is running a free online webinar for Noon on Tuesday 7th February on money and emotion and how to get your finances in order – so if this touches you, please come and join us (book here).

Lots of love


Ps if you are interested in Black History Month and the work I am doing running The Inclusion Edit, here is an exclusive link to our newsletter inside of which is a link to sign up to the live event I am chairing and speaking at this Wednesday online at 10am.

Pps if you fancy something delicious to drink for Valentine’s Day we’re running another special offer with Perfect Cellar – details are here

By Eleanor Mills


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