AUTHOR Q&A: Mrs Moneypenny, Financial Advice for Independent Women

Too many women defer to men on matters of money. Here's Mrs Moneypenny's advice on negotiating a pay rise, cutting grocery bills and taking control of your finances.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2014

Mrs Moneypenny's Financial Advice for Independent Women
Penguin Portfolio, £16.99

What inspired you to write 'Mrs Moneypenny's Financial Advice for Independent Women'?

Writing books for me is only 1% inspiration; the other 99% is perspiration/delegation (for instance, I gave up cooking for my family while I wrote it and delegated that to them). The truth is that Penguin was keen to see a sequel to 'Careers Advice for Ambitious Women'. Personally, I think that the sequel was written by Sheryl Sandberg and is called 'Lean In', but they wanted something by me, and the chapter in 'Careers Advice' I got the most questions about was chapter seven, on financial literacy. Plus I had just spent three years making 52 episodes of 'Superscrimpers' for Channel 4 and saw that money was something many women were really quite alarmed by, and had an embarrassing ignorance of. So it seemed a natural subject.

Why do women tend to take a back seat when it comes to money?

For a number of historical and cultural reasons. Women have tended to defer to men on matters of money, even if they take the lead on other decisions. And it is no surprise – for hundreds of years a woman who married handed her finances to her husband and could not even own property in her own name. (In the UK, the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870, 1882 and 1893 gradually established the right of married women to own assets independently.) I am all for delegation – busy working women need others to do things for them, including finance – but far too many women delegate information as well. Regardless of who arranges the mortgage and the pension, you should know the details.

Why bother? Why do women need to take control of their financial future?

Women need more financial knowledge than men. We live longer and need to provide for ourselves for longer while, statistically, we earn less money than men over an average lifetime. It is often the inevitable result of taking time out to have children but, of course, women who do not have children may have career breaks forced on them too. Elderly parents, a partner who is posted abroad, or illness can all mean that there may be times when a full-time focus on your career is not possible or desirable.

But perhaps the main reason why I believe the time is right for a call to women to take charge of their own finances is because I think there is a more fundamental reason that explains why they are holding back from doing so, and that is a lack of confidence. Women suffer more from this than men, and in the area of finance – so set about by jargon and idiosyncrasies – it’s all too easy to become intimidated.

Give three quick tips on reducing your grocery bill.

Draw up a menu plan for the week ahead, devise a shopping list for that menu plan, do an audit of your larder (many people buy things they already have), then buy anything else you need online, where you won’t be tempted by things in the aisles. If you do all those things you will prevent food waste and be able to run a grocery budget others will envy. As with all things financial, time invested yields financial savings.

What’s the best way to negotiate a pay rise?

We would all like to be paid more money for what we do – and we can’t always have that – but if you are being underpaid and need to speak out about it, then prepare carefully for the conversation. What are you paid now? How much do you think it should be? Why? Go out and do some research. Find people who are doing jobs like yours in similar firms (LinkedIn makes this a lot easier than it used to be, even for more obscure jobs) and contact them to ask for some guidance. Get in touch with a recruiter who specialises in whatever you do and ask them for guidance, too. Gather the evidence and then present it to your employer. Ask for a meeting to discuss it in a non-threatening way. Then just explain what you want to earn, and why you think you should be paid that particular amount. It will open the debate.if you still don’t get a pay rise, maybe it is time to consider your position.

What’s the best financial decision you’ve ever made?

To marry my husband. I am blessed with a hugely supportive husband who allows me to pursue my business interests. After that, buying a central London flat in SW1 in 1999.

And what’s the worst?

Buying a (different) central London fat in SW1 in 2000 and not understanding what restrictions the freeholder could place on me as leaseholder. I lost a lot of money on that flat, and it was my own fault, I didn’t do enough research in advance – always the reason for bad financial decisions.

Why, in your view, do women make great entrepreneurs?

Women have a more balanced approach to risk than men. They also, in my experience, multi-task more efficiently, which all entrepreneurs need to do. And they bring energy and focus to entrepreneurship – energy is the single common trait of all successful entrepreneurs of either sex.  I consider many young female entrepreneurs an inspiration to me (unlike writing books, working in my business is 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration, because as Winton Churchill said, if you find a job you love, you will never work again). This year two of my sons have worked for two differ young female tech entrepreneurs – Cost centre #2 did an short internship for Kathryn Parsons at Decoded, and Cost centre #3 supplemented his student loan working for Brynne Herbert at MoveGuides, both women who are more than 20 years younger than me. They are exactly the kind of role models I want my boys to have.


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