Given the global crisis brought about by Covid-19, we at AllBright believe now more than ever that women need to have financial resilience. Whether you’re a business owner, investor, or just have your personal finances in mind, it will be vital damage control against the long-term economic impacts of coronavirus.
Gina Miller is a businesswoman, cofounder of the award-winning investment management company SCM Direct, campaigner and author of the extraordinary memoir Rise, and she certainly knows a thing or two about weathering a financial storm. As a public figure, she rose to prominence when she successfully sued the government over unlawfully triggering Article 50.
I asked Gina about Covid-19’s economic implications, the value of investments and savings during times like this, and working towards financial ‘wellness’.
“We need to acknowledge the emotions we’re feeling and the fact that we’re going to go through a bit of a rollercoaster both professionally and personally,” Gina begins. She quotes from an International Monetary Fund report that says, “170 countries around the world will see an economic downturn that will have an impact on individual citizens’ pockets.” Given the unprecedented impact Covid-19 continues to have on the world’s economy, forming a sustainable long-term financial plan is the best course of action.
So how do we do this? Gina says we should use this time to thoughtfully reflect on our own finances, especially in terms of investments, savings and pension plans. She says only 13% of women have a stocks and shares Individual Savings Account (ISA), leaving us on average with substantially less than men. One way to close this gap is to come up with appropriate investment strategies that take into account long-term goals.
Gina sees this deficiency in female investors as the result of a lack of financial confidence among women, which is exacerbated by the investment industry’s inability to meaningfully accommodate women. “It takes more time to talk to female clients – you need to reassure, you need to use different language to make them feel more comfortable.” To do so would be in the interest of the industry as on average women tend to be “longer term investors”, outperforming men in the long run when it comes to investment returns.
For women who are interested in investing but are yet to try it, Gina encourages them to "start learning the language [of investment]” and source books on investing for beginners. Given that we’re in such a volatile period, investors should use this time to become more informed, “Speak to your investment managers or advisors and ask the questions you’ve put off asking.” She calmly adds, “You can’t control the future, but what you can do is balance cost, risk and return.” Secondly, know what you’re invested in. “This is a good time to think about an ethical screening of your portfolio, particularly if you like the idea of getting a decent return but also doing good. You can only know that if you know exactly what you’re holding.”
For the non-investors among us, Gina’s advice is to start small simply by initiating an honest dialogue about money at home. Ask your partner: "Do I have an ISA? Do our children have an ISA?" Beyond this, figure out whether you are taking full advantage of the financial resources available to you. These are important details to consider as current data shows how money problems are one of the main causes of marriage breakdowns. “Financial stress is enormous in relationships and families so it's very much part of your wellbeing.” By actively seeking more financial transparency from the people handling our accounts, including our partners, we are able to reclaim control over our financial outcomes.
“When going through economic crises, you tend to think of the essential: what are the things you really need to spend money on?” asks Gina. These instances become an opportunity to “reassess what’s important and what’s not” as well as our own consumerist behaviour.
Gina places heavy importance on financial security in times like these. We all need to become more honest about our outgoings, our incomes and savings. “Look at money from the point of view of stress alleviation rather than spending power… That understanding will give you a greater sense of empowerment and control.” Strip it back and ask, “How much do I need to survive? How much can I put away for my short-term outgoings?”
In terms of thinking far into the future, we shouldn’t run ahead of ourselves. “Don’t live tomorrow’s stresses now, because if you start worrying about events too far into the future it becomes impossible to deal with that emotional deluge. Think about here and now and the next few months,” says Gina.
A woman with incredible mental strength (just think about the abuse she put up with during the Brexit campaign), Gina reassures me that things get better with time. Her advice? “Think about the things that you haven’t been able to think about – yourself, your children, books, music, the things that you’ve put off. It’s a great time to do things for yourself. Don’t fill the days just because you think you need to.”
In spite of the financial uncertainty of the future, Gina reminds us all that we are capable of building financial resilience. After speaking with her, I am left thinking of the famous words of Maya Angelou, whose poetry Gina has found particular resonate during this time, "You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise."
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