The Stella Women Series Featuring Jess and Chandel. The Powerhouse Duo Behind Ladies Talk Money

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Traditionally, society has told women that money; the business of earning it, investing it, being in charge of it, and mastering it, is the domain of men. From investing to super, negotiating fair remuneration packages to simply talking about money, the world hasn’t acknowledged that women play an important part in financial conversations.

As a result, harmful gender stereotypes continue to flourish, wreaking havoc on women’s financial confidence and perpetuating a sexist status quo. And, with 8 in 10 women reporting they feel uncomfortable talking about money, Jess and Chandel from Ladies Talk Money thought it was well and truly time to ask: who benefits? Who benefits from our collective silence and discomfort? Who benefits from women having less knowledge, money and power? It certainly isn’t women…and frankly, Jess and Chandel have decided it’s time for women to get back in the driver’s seat and take control of their financial futures.

As two finance BFF’s and feminists on a mission, Jess, co-founder of Fox & Hare and Chandel, Director of Strategy + Marketing at Pure Finance, are both fiercely passionate about naming (and dismantling!) the taboo, stigma and stereotypes that still exist for women when it comes to money. As young women working in finance themselves, they thought it was high time that the industry did more to better reflect the realities of women’s financial lives today, and became better at engaging in meaningful, catalysing conversations about money and its deep ties to gender inequality

“In our society money = power and, right now, women all around the world don’t have enough of either.”

– Ladies Talk Money

Ladies! Welcome! Tell us how your love of all things finance began?

Chandel: Thank you for having us! Well, to be honest, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with finance. On the one hand, I think finance has this immense capacity to be a force for good, and simultaneously, I think the industry as a whole need to get a lot more comfortable with getting uncomfortable. We need to be more open to having these radical conversations and following them up with radical actions, because quite frankly, we need some radically different outcomes, especially for women.

Thankfully, I grew up in a household where talking about money was NOT taboo, and money conversations were frequent and encouraged (often forced on you!).

My mother, in particular, was (and still is) very money-savvy, and while she hasn’t ever earned a whole lot in terms of income, she was always very disciplined with money, and had great instincts. She was also very open and vocal about the importance of financial autonomy with my sister and me, and I really do think that it had a huge impact on my own relationship with money and my money habits growing up. This is one of the reasons we created Ladies Talk Money – so that others could experience the positive impact of having access to an open, unapologetic space for money conversations.

Jess: If you had told me I would be in finance when I was in school, I would have laughed at you. I was going to be a lawyer, I was sure of it. Plus, I grew up in a household where we knew there wasn’t a lot of money (so, surely, I wasn’t the person to actually teach people about money!).

When I landed my first job in CBA pre-GFC I thought it would just be to help me fund uni costs, but the more I learnt about finances the more I wanted to keep working in the industry. I was always a good saver (sometimes too good, I am currently reminding myself that I genuinely NEED new gumboots as my old ones aren’t waterproof and therefore redundant! Money stories are *real* people).

What I noticed in my early twenties was most of my friends were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have any sort of game plan to move forward. I had saved a heap of cash and was starting to learn about and invest in shares. When I moved to Macquarie Bank my clients were financial advisers and it became very apparent that the majority of the people giving and receiving financial advice were older wealthy white men. So, with an ex-Macquarie colleague, I started Fox & Hare in 2017 to give younger people access to strategic, unbiased, and stigma-free advice.

Where did the idea for Ladies Talk Money come from? And how do you reach your community?

Chandel: One of the biggest drivers behind the platform was the fact that while conversations focusing on women and money have certainly been gaining a lot more momentum in recent years (WE LOVE TO SEE IT!), we really felt like there was this side of the conversation missing around structural and gender inequity and the role these inequities are playing in our everyday lives. So, we decided that we wanted to create a space for these conversations that we felt weren’t being had, but needed to be. That, and also, the Fidelity Investments study that found 8 in 10 women say they feel uncomfortable talking about money, even with those they are closest to. Wild huh?

Jess: I think it’s really important that, as young women who work in finance, we put ourselves out there as a visual and vocal reminder that actually, we do exist in this male-dominated industry, and that finance is not just by middle-aged, wealthy, white men for middle-aged, wealthy, white men. As women, we are just as experienced, just as capable, just as knowledgeable and our contributions are just as important. Being able to grow this strong visual representation was also one of the drivers behind Ladies Talk Money, and our decision to create a video series of ‘couch conversations’. We really wanted it to be as accessible and approachable as possible, and for the community to feel like they are sitting right there on the couch with us.

Chandel: Basically, if you’ve got a group of people who are being systematically and structurally disadvantaged by a financial system that wasn’t designed by them or for them, coupled with the fact that they also feel uncomfortable engaging in conversations (which is part of the system not being designed for them too), then it’s going to be really hard to shift the dial in the way that we need to. That’s why Ladies Talk Money exists.

In terms of reaching our community, we are most active on Instagram, however, our website is where all the incredible conversations, guides, articles, opinions and interviews live free for anyone to see and download. We also send out an email to our mailing list or ‘Leading Ladies’ every time we launch a new topic, and then we send a topic ‘wrap up’ at the end, which recaps everything we talked about for that topic e.g. superannuation or women’s unpaid care work.

What are the challenges that you think that women specifically face when it comes to financial freedom?

Chandel: Unfortunately lots, but I think one of the biggest challenges that women face is still gendered stereotypes and biases (conscious and unconscious). Basically, if there is some kind of financial ‘gap’ being experienced by women (be it the pay gap, the super gap, the investment gap – whatever) you can pretty much guarantee that there is going to be some kind of gender bias that is contributing to its existence. And things become even direr if you consider the compounding effect that this can have over a woman’s lifetime.

HOWEVER! While this all sounds very doom and gloom, it doesn’t have to be!

We are strong believers in the fact that each of us has power and agency, and while it will ultimately take more than individual action to bring about the deep and structural changes we need to level the playing field, we think there is great power in becoming more comfortable and more confident having unapologetic conversations about money. Plus, the more women we bring along for the ride, the more powerful we become. So, if you do one thing after reading this interview, make it a commitment to having more money convos with the ladies in your life!

Jess: I think apart from all of the above (which I 100% agree with, the compounding effect of all of this is frightening so please please don’t shy away from this – future you needs you to be uncomfortable and lean in anyway), I often find many women feel a deep sense of shame and guilt about not knowing or understanding enough about money. They believe they ‘aren’t good with money and will then willingly abdicate from making financial decisions (irrespective of their income or education level).

But here is the thing: we know from research that whilst women’s confidence levels around money are lower, on average, our competency levels are about THE SAME as men. So, I think we have so much work to do to make women feel safe around leaning into these conversations, and knowing you aren’t stupid or crazy. You don’t wake up one day and understand a new language, it’s a learning journey – it’s exactly the same with money… and lady, you got this, and we got you!

There is much more of a focus on men when it comes to financial security, how do you believe we as women can rectify this imbalance?

Chandel: So, this all harks back to the (v. outdated) idea that men are the traditional ‘breadwinners’ in society and are financially responsible for their entire family. But in reality, we know that this absolutely isn’t the case and, in fact, this is a stereotype that is harmful to both women and men. I mean, what about single mothers? What about women in same-sex relationships? Or even the women who do have a male partner, but actually have no intention of relinquishing the control of their own finances because, hell, they just don’t want to? (ahem, me). The truth is, we all have a role to play in ensuring that we aren’t perpetuating the ‘male provider’ stereotype, especially within our own homes. Women cannot (and should not) do this work alone, and men need to be just as committed to dismantling gender norms as women are.

I also think the finance industry itself has a huge role to play here, and we need to get a lot better at understanding the financial realities for women, and ensuring that we aren’t contributing to, and perpetuating the stereotypes that place men in the position of sole financial controller. This conversation becomes even more important when you view it from the lens of domestic and financial abuse.

Jess: It starts at home and it starts young. Research shows confidence is generally shaped by age 5. Money habits are formed by age 7 and the gender and pay equity gap exists in households by age 10. We are never going to fix this issue if we don’t start role modelling better practices at home with our kids. What are you teaching your kids about money (either overtly or covertly)? How has your own childhood shaped your money beliefs? How is that serving you today?

Another thing that really worries me is we have very very few women giving (or studying!) financial advice. This is a huge issue my industry faces, to increase the level of diversity of those giving and receiving financial advice. If it’s mainly men giving advice to men, the cycle where women don’t feel comfortable or confident going to see an older man who gives advice (I hear this all the time) will continue.

What is the single piece of advice you would give your younger self when it comes to money?

Chandel: ASK. FOR. MORE. MONEY. And also – property is not the only thing you can invest in, so explore your other options.

Jess: Just start. Don’t wait for any income milestone or New Year resolution to roll around. Even if you are starting small, just start.

Property or shares? Where should we be investing?

Chandel: Both! Though I do just want to take this moment to acknowledge that there can be a significant barrier to entry for many people when it comes to property investing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for young people to be able to buy their first property without some kind of financial help from family (and a healthy dose of privilege). Though, the aim of investing is to diversify and spread your risk by being invested in different markets. So, the more varied your investments can be, the better.

Having said that, and I’m probably biased because of my work at Pure Finance, I really like property as an investment on a personal level, and it was a financial goal of mine from an incredibly young age. I also think there can be a tendency for people to automatically feel like property might always be out of their reach, and while they would like to buy, they wouldn’t be able to make it work financially. I would encourage anyone who felt that way to reach out to a mortgage adviser that they feel comfortable with, just to get a better understanding of where they’re at and what options could be available to them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had people come to us who thought they’d never be able to afford a property purchase, and then 3 months later they’ve bought their first home, or they’ve got a plan in place to buy one in the near future. Again, it’s all about having conversations and understanding your options. Plus, in most cases, it’s completely free to chat with a mortgage broker, so you literally have nothing to lose.

Jess: The big question you need to back solve here is: what are you trying to achieve? What is the actual goal? What does that mean from a financial sense? When do you want to achieve it? How much risk are you willing to take? It’s like setting off without any kind of map, could you land at your ideal destination? … maybe. But probably not.

Once you have nailed the above, consider anything you aren’t willing to invest in (we know many women want to invest ethically), do your research, have a regular strategy – trying to time the market is a dangerous game and don’t invest all your eggs in one basket!

What is it that you love most about Stella?

Chandel: I love that Stella’s mission is so aligned to ours at Ladies Talk Money and that you are committed to changing the game for women in an industry that can be really intimidating and hostile for us. Insurance is absolutely in need of a damn good shakeup, and the team at Stella are doing just that.

Jess: It’s so refreshing to see a company with a very clear message to women that you are welcome and safe here (hell yes, we aren’t bad drivers!). The language, tone of voice and product features speak to the fact that you have asked and listened to what women are looking for when shopping around for car insurance options.

If you are looking to make some savvy financial moves then follow @ladiestalkmoney on Instagram here or if you’re keen to engage in unapologetic, stigma-smashing conversations about women and money, you can visit Jess and Chandel on the Ladies Talk Money website.

Any financial information provided during this interview is general advice in nature only. It includes general insights, tips, guidance and experience that is applicable for a wide audience and does not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend that you approach a financial adviser to discuss your personal circumstances.

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