Mention financial adviser and you think of a straight talker in a suit who'll give you rules to follow to wrangle your overspending and whip your budgeting skills into shape.
But financial advisor and director of She Prosperity Kimberly Sumner, who prefers the title Women's Prosperity Mentor, is not at all like this – and neither is her advice.
Sumner has the background you might expect of a financial adviser - she started her career working in corporate finance, as one of two women on a male-dominated trading floor. She worked with the Chief Economist at Bankers Trust as an investment analyst, before moving to manage investments at a major funds management corporation.
But she is not a suit wearer or even a straight talker. Sumner is sweet and chatty; she serves you tea and has aromatherapy candles burning. She will share with you that she meditates every morning to call in abundance and good fortune, and she carries a $50 note in her back pocket – not to spend or to save, but because she believes it will help to attract more good fortune into her life.
“Money attracts money.”
Her advice sits outside the stereotype too.
She believes that simply giving women practical money management advice doesn’t work because we need to understand our emotional relationship to money first. And for women this is often a complex relationship.
“There was a very large study done recently that mapped the brain activity of over 1000 male and female brains. Our brains on the whole are more similar than different – with our left hemisphere governing logic and reasoning, and our right side responsible for emotion and how we relate to others. However there were marked differences between men and women in that the pathways in women’s brains go back and forwarth between the left and right sides a lot. In men's brains the paths cross between left and right far less frequently."
“What that means then is for 90 per cent of women we’re constantly referencing - relating things back to other experiences we've had. So with money and our relationship to it that’s why I think that practical tips alone don’t help."
Sumner explains referencing: “If you grew up watching your parents argue about money, then you reference money as being problematic. If you’ve watched your father stress about money, every night reworking sums over and over, you take on that belief that there is never enough no matter how you carve it up.
“I grew up with two parents who had very different approaches to money. Under my dad’s influence there was very tight budgeting in the household; I even had to budget for my own birthday parties from seven years old. My mother had inherited wealth and whenever things were going well she organised these big trips to New York.
"So the day-to-day was very frugal and the holidays were these complete blowouts. Even when I was much older it took me a long time to change that pattern that I needed to reward myself with extremely extravagant holidays because that’s what my mum had done."
Sumner has noticed a few common themes among women - one, that we believe having money separates us from "our tribe".
“There is an inherent sort of tension between having money and being a good person and being accepted by the group. Having money is not perceived as a maternal value, which I completely disagree with because there is nothing more maternal then putting food on the table.”
She says women are less likely than men to feel they’re worthy of receiving money. Women are four times less likely than a man to ask for a pay increase, for example – and if they do, it will be for 30 per cent less money than a man would.
And while women are great at negotiating for their children and loved ones, Sumner claims they’re not so for themselves.
“Again that plays into that being part of the tribe idea,” Sumner says.
“We don’t like to win over someone else because a win-lose outcome pulls the tribe apart. We like to win together, so, if we’re thinking about money that mindset can really work against women.”
So first things first, understand your emotional connection to money because that will influence the decisions you make around spending and saving, Sumner says.
“When I’m helping women in the corporate world about being paid their worth, I talk to them about parking their emotion at the door,” Sumner says. “But then if you don’t pick your emotion up on the way out it’s not sustainable for you as a woman is it?”
When it comes to the way women spend money, again it’s important to acknowledge that we’re complex creatures, Sumner says.
It’s a massive generalisation but when you think about how women like to spend money, cash splashed on shoes, clothes, handbags and cushions comes to mind.
Sumner admits that her own shoe collection is so vast she doesn't know what to do with all her pairs.
“Women need nice things around them - I don’t think women can flourish without those fineries around them. But the finery doesn’t need to be expensive, and a finery might be comfort [instead] – a beautiful pair of slippers for when I come home. It’s those small things. Cushions, candles, playing music, taking a bath.
“Money is energy and if you’re not flourishing then money won’t come to you; you do need to take care of yourself.”
Just be sensible and create that feeling of abundance on less, Sumner says. Now, for some practical tips:
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