Like many other women here in Singapore my journey here began purely on a – and I HATE this term, so please forgive me – ‘trailing spouse’ basis. I had no work to come to and therefore no finances of my own as such. Yes, I know, really it’s ‘our’ money – but you know what I mean right?
As a result I am ashamed to say I seem to have got swallowed up in to the land of ‘leave the finances to him indoors’ despite the fact I know I’m much more organised than he is and therefore probably could do as good of a – if not better – job of organising them.
That was until recently when I was talking to a friend and lamenting the fact that I no longer had my ‘own’ bank account. She questioned why I’d given up something that I’d told her I clung to throughout my working and married life before moving here. The answer? Because I was told (or heard, or read or maybe even dreamt) that unless you have a Employment Pass here you can’t open a bank account. She laughed at me. Yes, my friend laughed in my face. Apparently that’s a ridiculous thing to think. I was a tad embarrassed. So I decided it was time I got myself back in to financial control.
I started asking questions about ISA’s and mortgages and ways to invest. My husband – who’s always open about our finances – answered where he could. Funny thing was some of the stuff we were both not sure of. So I had to go further.
I joined a talk at Woolf Works held by a lady called Amanda Edwards who runs a company called Tidy My Money. At the talk, myself and a dozen or so other women listened to a fabulously confident lady called Andrea Kennedy explain why financial stability must come before financial wealth and that financial security between the two.
Andrea is a financial advisor – a job many of us have learnt to mistrust. She dispels this fear swiftly. In fact, she prefers the term financial planner, something I now understand is quite different. Interestingly though she also has a masters in financial psychology. Ooh and I love an ‘ology (booby prize for first person to name that ad!) Therefore, she speaks a lot about the psychology of how we deal with finances, and why we often are our own worst enemies.
I’m sure many of you have heard the horror stories of women who have sadly split up from partners whilst living away from their home country and been stranded. No money, no home, no way of supporting themselves or their family. When marriages break down like this it’s often with hurt and pain all round, so sitting down calmly to discuss who gets what is unlikely to happen.
It’s for this reason – and many more -that both Amanda and Andrea strongly encourage all women to deal with their finances now and in the open. Discuss with your partner what would happen if something awful happened. Be that death, divorce or disability (or the Terrible D’s as Amanda calls them). Make your finances as transparent as possible. Know where everything is and keep on top of things.
Being comfortable talking about money is also key. I always squirm and avoid the subject at all costs – after all, it’s just not the done thing is it? But, I can see that it should be amongst family and loved ones. Andrea also gave us food for thought about teaching our children about money, explaining that her children were given money to invest from a young age. Wow! Teaching them from an early age is the best way – why are we all so surprised? Why are so few of us doing it?
For me, it also means getting my head around the jargon and terms used. For someone who is good with words I switch off totally when those words are even vaguely related to numbers. I still struggle with gross and net! So, I’m gaining back a little bit of independence in terms of having my own bank account again (well, I will do when I have actually ventured to the bank which is a whole other issue. Paperwork and bureaucracy anyone?)
I will do it though. Nothing to do with planning a trip to Nashville, honest!