Iona was one of the guests on the monthly Late Night Womans Hour – which promises to be “frank, funny and intimate” – as it turned its attention to Women and Money.
The show began with Iona’s story of how having her piggy bank stolen (seven years ago this weekend) triggered her interest in managing money.
On attitudes to money, Iona said she grew up in a thrifty household which also taught her that “money could make things happen, but not necessarily that more money was the key to make life successful”. Financial attitudes begin to form as early as five years old, which had massive implications for financial education. “Are we teaching money at the age when it could be making a big difference?”
For young people, admitting to being bad with money seemed to be acceptable, and it could be a female issue. “I come across a lot of women my age who say I am terrible with money it all goes on shoes.” It probably showed that 20-somethings had not been comfortable with their emerging status as engaged consumers, and this was reflected in their unease at talking about money.
“But millennial women have come of age, they are in the workforce, it is now the norm to be financially independent earning and managing our own money, and we are starting to shed that cringe we used to have – that is a very positive development.”
Iona said she used to be irritated at how women in the media would talk about money, a lot of the time confirming the stereotype that women are spenders.
Guest Marisa said she had worked hard, been to university, but felt she would never get onto the housing ladder, and it led her to question how people could afford to spend 20K on a wedding, or even to have a baby. Money she claimed was “an empty currency”.
Presenter Lauren Laverne said this would appear to present a challenge to the financial industry, if it was unable to persuade young people to buy its products.
Iona said: “It’s in a huge crisis, but there has been quite a big change – this was a totally neglected demographic, the financial industry wasn’t interested in it. Now it is on the political and economic agenda they are paying lip service to it , but also recognising they are stuffed if we are not engaging with them. But there is a long way to go before they can develop the kinds of products that are actually going to work for our generation.”
On the tensions between saving and spending, Iona said the YOLO (you only live once) mentality reflected the idea that it was pointless to invest too much hope in the future. We would have less generous pensions than the older generation, and this was not because we were spending all of our money on avocado brunches, and we could give up all our avocado brunches and never get on the housing ladder in the same time-frame as our parents did.
“It’s important to recognise that our parents didn’t have the same choices. When my mum and dad started to save for a house they didn’t go out, didn’t go on holiday, they put all their money into paying off a mortgage. This is now, we can be much more active consumers, with far more choices and opportunities, presented with infinitely more complex decisions to make about our priorities.”
Lauren asked whether men or women wielded the financial power in households.
“It depends on each family and the dynamics within relationships. I come across younger women who come to a relationship with their own assets and savings and who might be quite good with money – their new challenge is how to navigate that relationship successfully but maintain their own financial independence as well.”
Iona said we had moved from talking about the ‘pay gap’ to talking about equal pay for equal work, which was what the law required. She said self-employed freelances were sidestepping this and playing by new rules.
“We are entering an individualistic age for better or worse – we used to talk about employers offering benefits as being ‘paternalistic’, well we are now starting to see those benefits becoming a lot less generous. People can be lulled into a false sense of security by being auto-enrolled into a pension and thinking ‘that’s it, sorted for my retirement’ but actually it will be nowhere near enough and you will have to make your own provision.”
Luckily there is now a huge amount of information out there, Iona said, from information websites to apps. Advice was no longer offputting and jargonised, it was down to earth and accessible.
“My advice is to try out different apps, there may be a savings, budgeting or investment app that clicks with you and works for you.”
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST AT http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05w5rvh.