Don't know what to do with your money, short of "paying bills" and "not starving"? Terrified and confused by investments, structured savings, 401(k)s and anything else that sounds complicated and technical? You're not alone. There's a massive gender gap in financial education around the world: women aren't being taught about money management beyond the very basics — if that — and it's harming our wealth, success, safety and wellbeing. Experts from the IMF to the UN are united on the fact that a population of women who aren't financially literate is a Seriously Bad Thing. Control of your money is power, and the need to empower ladies worldwide financially has never been greater.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to help. Fixing the gender gap in financial literacy needs to begin with you — by educating yourself, you're able to make good decisions, avoid scams, and pile up those savings. But it's not just a personal thing. Starting young with financial literacy is important: girls need to know about money, and be expected to handle their piggy banks themselves rather than waiting for a dude to tell them what to do.
Don't have a little girl yourself? No problem: given how massive the gap is, we all need to pitch in. Here are 12 things you can do to be on the right side of women's history.
1. Volunteer With The Girl Scouts (Or Just Buy Some Cookies)
Those cookies are at the center of financial literacy for girls in America. Think I'm kidding? Check out the Girl Scouts' manifesto for what cookie selling is meant to teach: financial empowerment, marketing, business planning, research and development, even philanthropy. They're not aiming small over there. Volunteering your time as a Girl Scout leader sounds like something out of The Babysitter's Club, but you're helping foster some serious financial nous in girls. And at the very least, buy some cookies!
2. Track Your Finances On Your Phone
It's 2015, so you officially no longer have an excuse for not keeping track of your money: you can do it on your phone without even getting out of bed. There are so many apps out there you're spoiled for choice, but the best-reviewed include Mint, which monitors everything you do or might consider doing with money; LearnVest, which sets up a personal plan for your pennies; and Personal Capital, which tracks your worth across all your financial platforms.
3. Donate A Micro-Loan On Kiva
Helping other people gain financial empowerment doesn't have to start when you're a multimillionaire. Kiva is a micro-loan site that lets you give miniature amounts of funding to entrepreneurs all around the world. And by miniature, I mean like $20. Women in particular are helped out by micro-loans, and initiatives that help women educate their own communities are particularly popular to fund — but you can also help girls get through economics degrees at college or start their own businesses.
4. Ask For A Raise
Women don't ask for raises. It's so pervasive a problem that the ex-head of the PhD program at Carnegie Mellon wrote a book about it. If you want to be financially empowered, take charge of your own future, and push for a raise when it's appropriate. (Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO who said women shouldn't bother to ask for raises, is wrong on about eight hundred levels.)
There are many guides out there to asking for a raise properly, but here's an essential checklist: wait for the right time, don't complain or get personal, give rational reasons for why you deserve the pay bump, and be prepared to name your amount.
5. Sort Out Your 401(k)
It is never too early to sort out your retirement. Get that? Never. Too. Early. So if you don't have a 401(k), get onto it — and get yourself a handy app or program to keep track of it. A simple one like the 401(k) Calculator can save you a lot of headaches.
6. Become A Financial Mentor
If you've already got a good financial head on your shoulders and want to share the good stuff, consider becoming a mentor for an organization like SheWill, which operates across the Southern states pairing girls with good financial role models, or WomenVenture, which supports woman-owned businesses. If you're looking for local financial mentoring opportunities, check out volunteering sites like VolunteerMatch for stuff near you.
7. Support Girls Inc's Economic Literacy Program
Inspirational educational network Girls Inc (which is supported by both Oprah and Michelle Obama, so it clearly knows what it's doing) takes financial literacy seriously. Their Economic Literacy Program is at the top of their program list, and sets up money-managing activities for girls from ages 6 to 18, educating them on everything from the stock market to taxes. You can help out in a number of ways: by supporting legislation like the Financial Literacy For Students Act, becoming a mentor, or donating.
8. Invest In A Financial Advisor App
Think investing in that psychic-spa business in rural Ohio sounds like a great money-making scheme? Get yourself a financial advisor, pronto — and you don't even need to afford a real person. FutureAdvisor analyses all your accounts and calculates where you might invest sensibly (it's not free, though), while Betterment is an automated investment system that's incredibly simple to use.
9. Donate To Boys & Girls Clubs Of America's Money Matters Program
The Boys & Girls Clubs Of America organization is vast, doing after school programs all over America, but it's got a special program for kids of both genders that sounds pretty amazing. Money Matters, which teaches girls everything from managing a budget to paying for college or starting a business. Donate to keep it going, or contact your local clubs to see if they run it.
10. Help Organize An Event With FLOW
FLOW, or The Female Literacy Organization For Women And Girls, hosts a bunch of seminars, events, and conferences based on teaching women of all ages how to get money-smart. They're open to donations, but you can also sponsor or partner with an event with them in your area — and invite all your friends.
11. Keep A Savings Account For Emergencies
Nest eggs aren't just for retirement. A separate fund for emergencies is valuable for women to be able to escape relationships, homes or jobs: Sharon Kedar, who wrote On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide To Personal Finance , calls it a "walk-away fund". It might leave you less vulnerable to financial abuse in a relationship, and gives you your freedom in a tough situation. That's pretty cool.
12. Play A D2D Game
This sounds completely ridiculous — but if The Economist features a video game as an awesome way to get financially literate, you know it's worth your time. Even if it involves pretending to be a vampire club owner ("Bite Club") or fending off debt in the form of plagues of rabbits ("Farm Blitz:). All are from the games wing of finance company D2D, but the best one is the Kardashian-style "Celebrity Calamity," where you're a wild celeb's manager trying to keep her out of financial trouble.
Images: AMC; Giphy, Girl Scouts, D2D, FLOW, Boys & Girls Clubs Of America, Girls Inc, Betterment, WomenVenture, Kiva, Personal Capital