Women need to step up for themselves and be less afraid to take ownership of their financial futures.
Asian women need to start learning how to invest more and to stop thinking of debt as a bad thing.
This was one of the weighty topics raised during the “What’s Next for Women and Finance” event recently co-hosted by SingSaver and The New Savvy at private members club 1880.
“This is very personal to me because I’ve never admitted this before,” said Leanne Robers, co-founder of women’s working group She Loves Tech. “I only started investing when I was 33.”
Good debt vs bad debt
Robers said she came from a family that didn’t teach her the importance of investing. For example, she only understood the difference between good and bad debt when she met her future husband while they were both studying for their Master’s.
They had starkly different ways of funding their studies; Robers chose to save and pay for her tuition fees in cash, whereas her now-husband decided to take out a student loan, despite having the necessary cash to do so.
“The Asian in me just couldn’t understand why he would choose to go into debt, because from where I came from, debt was always a bad thing.”
He explained to her that he had the confidence to make his money work for him and earn a lot more. By investing the cash instead, he would earn more than enough to cover the 2% to 3% student loan interest rate.
“And that blew my mind!” she exclaimed. Now to pay it forward, she advises women to learn how to invest the same way she did – by starting with small amounts. Once they get more familiar with investing and gained confidence through practice, they would find it less daunting to invest more significant amounts.
Leanne Robers of She Loves Tech shares the importance of knowing what's good and bad debt.
Building a healthy relationship with finance
Robers was part of a panel discussion that also included Natalia Goh, Head of Credit Cards and Unsecured Loans at Standard Chartered Bank; Sandra Ernst, Chief Operating Officer of CardUp and Sin Ting So, Head of Experience at wealth investment start-up, Endowus.
Lisa Cagney, director at global consulting firm Deloitte, noted how men and women had very different investment behaviours.
“Men invest earlier and have a higher risk appetite, whereas women invest with specific goals in mind, whether it’s to provide for their family, to care for ageing parents,” said Cagney who delivered the event’s keynote speech.
“Isn’t it crazy how we’re always asked to be good at everything – math, science, language – but nobody teaches us how to have a healthy relationship with money?"
- Anna Haotanto, founder and CEO of The New Savvy, a financial advice site for women
“More importantly, a lot of financial services firms do not engage women in a way that we can relate to, in a way that we can understand.”
(From L-R) Panelists Leanne Robers, So Sin Ting, Sandra Ernst, Natalia Goh
Finding confidence to take ownership
Meanwhile for Ernst, coming from a background of private equity and real estate banking meant she knew exactly what it’s like to work in a man’s world.
Early on in her career, Ernst had a male mentor who actively stopped her from performing “household” tasks during company meetings. Once, when she would offer to bring everyone at a meeting coffee, he would stop her and say that was not her responsibility, and she shouldn’t feel obliged to do so.
“I’ve worked in private banking before, and I remember walking into meetings where the client would think that I was there to pour tea for them, or that I was the secretary,” echoed So.
Goh, in addition to her senior role at Standard Chartered Bank, is also President of HOME, a Singapore-based charity that provides welfare, empowerment, and support for migrant workers who find themselves victims of human rights violations.
Her main advice to women? Have the right conversations with the right people in order to get what you want.
Specifically, when it comes to asking for a raise or a promotion, women should be clear about why they are deserving, and come prepared with facts and numbers rather than just opinions. Taking ownership of what you want, whether in life or at work, is key to achieving your goals.
The night, which drew over 100 attendees, ended off with a cake cutting ceremony to celebrate SingSaver’s fourth birthday.
Celebratory cake for SingSaver's fourth birthday
The event raised $4,000 and all proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation to raise awareness for breast cancer, promote early detection and provide support for those affected by the disease.