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What we’ve learnt about money by working in financial services

Part 1 of our ‘What I Learned’ series – part of our Financially Fearless initiative for women. We share the money tips we’ve learnt by working in financial services that could help other women like us.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

This article is more than 6 months old

It was correct at the time of publishing. Our views and any references to tax, investment and pension rules may have changed since then.

It’s no secret that working in financial services can have its benefits – we’re more exposed to the lingo and we spend most of our time talking money.

But that doesn’t always mean we’re all pros at investing.

It’s given us a unique opportunity to learn about how we can help other women when it comes to their money.

I spoke to four colleagues at HL who shared their top tips they think all women can make the most of.

Remember this article is not personal advice. If you’re not sure if something is right for you, ask for financial advice. Unlike the security offered by cash, all investments can fall as well as rise in value so you could make a loss.

You don’t have to be a pro

You might think that everyone who works in financial services chose to work in the industry because they already had an interest in investing.

I wish it were that easy for all of us.

Although working in finance gives us an insight that many might not have, it doesn’t mean we all started out with perfect knowledge.

Sarah Coles, Personal Finance Analyst at HL, was a financial journalist for years and during her time would interview various individuals about their road to investing.

She says, “In the early days I interviewed investment clubs and made a really interesting discovery. There was a group of very clever maths students who picked shares using economic theory and charting.

There was also a group of new mums who decided to turn their antenatal group into an investment club! They didn’t know anything about investing when they set up the club. They just started small and learned as they went along.

They each chose a product they liked, by reading company reports, doing their research on investment sites and reading the news about them. Then they’d chat and if there was something someone didn’t understand, someone who did would explain it.

Both clubs did well.

But the maths students didn’t do any better than the mums.

It taught me that you didn’t have to be super-academic or understand incredibly complex investment theories. You can read clear research, talk to other informed people, and come to a conclusion.

It also taught me that you didn’t need to know everything to get started.”

Always have savings for the unexpected

Getting started can sometimes be one of the hardest things to do. It can feel overwhelming, especially when there’s a lot of financial jargon around.

I spoke to HL’s Events Manager, Sophie Thomas who said that it wasn’t until joining HL mid-way through the pandemic that she really started to think about her finances.

Sophie says, “Before joining HL, my knowledge of finance started and finished at having a current account.

I had less than one month’s salary in savings and was shocked when I found out that HL thinks you should have at least 3-6 months of savings to prepare for the unexpected.

It makes sense, but I had never thought deeply about my financial situation and what would happen if my partner or I lost our jobs, if our car broke down, and we needed to buy a new one or simple things like an unexpected bill cropping up.

I was totally unprepared for the unexpected.

HL taught me that you don’t have to be a total pro to prioritise your money.

In February, after firstly building my emergency cash pot, I took my first big financial step and opened a Stocks and Shares ISA.

I’m still a complete novice and understand that investments can go up and down. So, what I’ve done is, set up a direct debit of £50 each month. I only wanted to commit money that I felt I could live without and am willing to use this to learn to invest.

While I am not a pro, yet. I’m glad I have started the process because I know my future self will thank me.

I’m putting in the hard work now so I can reap the rewards in later life.”

Remember, this is a case study and everyone’s circumstances are different. Just because a certain action is right for one person doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Plan for your future self

It’s easy to focus on the now without looking to the future. Nobody has a crystal ball after all.

But the financial decisions you do make can positively impact the future you.

Women can face a unique set of hurdles compared to lots of men.

From career gaps, to pensions gaps – knowing how to navigate them to make the most out of our future wealth is important.

I spoke with Laura Burridge, one of HL’s Financial Planning Writers, about the most important ways women can plan ahead and shelter their money for their future.

Laura says, “If you can, consider contributing the maximum into your workplace pension as your employer will often match it or even exceed it often up to certain limits.

If you’re self-employed or you’ve taken a career gap, you can also set up a personal pension and pay into that every month.

You don’t need to make one-off lump sums, you could even put away £25 a month into HL’s Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP).”

Remember, you can’t usually access the money in your pension until you’re 55 (57 from 2028).

Find out more about a SIPP

“It can be helpful for women who take a career gap, or who are planning to. By making a habit of contributing as much into your pension as you can, if you do decide to take a career break, you’re effectively working on closing two gaps at once.

It can be tempting to stop contributing altogether if you take a break to have children for example. But it’s better to keep putting in as much as you can, as your employer might still match or even exceed your contributions.

You should try and engage with your pension as much as you can.

This doesn’t mean you have to log in and watch it daily, but every now and then pop in and have a look.

I’m usually pleasantly surprised.”

Stay in control of your finances

Having oversight of your finances, including your pension and investments, is important when it comes to planning for your future financial goals.

But not everyone uses this strategy.

I spoke with Alana Fairfax, Pensions and Retirement Writer, who told me about the most important lesson she learned when it came to her money – always be in control.

Alana says, “I learnt to get involved with my own finances rather than leaving them to someone else.

According to a recent survey*, over half of people in a couple said that one of them tends to take charge of the day-to-day spending as well as the more long-term financial planning, and it was a common theme when I worked on HL’s helpdesk.

Leaving finances to a partner is OK if they take more of an active interest. But I spoke to lots of women who couldn’t even say how much they had in an account, let alone where it was invested.

If you’re going to leave your finances to a partner, you should at least have an idea of what’s going on.

Otherwise your partner could invest in things that might not be right for you individually.

Plus, you’ll be in a difficult position if you ever split.”

*HL survey of 2000 respondents conducted April 2021.

Want to share your own financial tips?

Be a part of shaping the future of money for women and share your own money story.

We want to raise up more women’s voices to help us empower others.

From your best tips you’ve learnt along your financial journey, to the mistakes you’ve made and bounced back from, we’d love to hear from you.

Plus, if you send us your money story before 31 July, you’ll be entered into our prize draw for a chance to win £500. See full terms below.

Financially Fearless

Join the Financially Fearless community and find out more about how we’re empowering women and how you can join the conversation. You can sign up to receive helpful tips, articles, webinars, prize draws and more.


What did you think of this article?

Your money, your voice prize draw terms

1. Subject to these terms and conditions, if you submit a story to us by 31 July 2021 about your financial goals, your financial mistakes, or general personal finance stories, you will be entered into a prize draw with a chance to win £500 (the “Draw”). The Draw is free to enter by completing the form at www.hl.co.uk/free-guides/case-study-draw or emailing your story to mystory@hl.co.uk.

2. Entries must be submitted by 31 July 2021 using the My Story form or by sending an email with your story to mystory@hl.co.uk.

3. By submitting your story you are confirming that we may, but are not required to, make any or all of your entry, title, surname and county available on our website, marketing materials and any other media, whether now known or invented in the future, and in connection with any publicity of the Draw. You agree to grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, irrevocable licence, for the full period of any intellectual property rights in the Draw entry and any accompanying materials, to use, display, publish, transmit, copy, store, re-format and sub-licence the Draw entry and any accompanying materials for such purposes.

4. To be eligible to win a prize, you must:

  • submit a story about your financial goals, your financial mistakes, or general personal finance stories, using over 100 words;
  • be resident in the UK and be 18 or older;
  • not be an employee of any Hargreaves Lansdown group company or a member of any such employee’s immediate family or household;
  • be able to provide verification that your story is based on real life events if requested;
  • comply with these terms and conditions.

5. Upon submitting your story, you will be automatically entered into the Draw. If you do not wish to be entered, please contact us on 0117 900 9000. Only one entry will be permitted per person.

6. The winner will be chosen on 3 August 2021 by random draw and will be awarded £500 to their HL loyalty bonus account. If the winner does not have an account with us, the £500 prize will be transferred via BACs to a bank account to be confirmed by the winner.

7. The winner will be notified (using details provided at entry) either by telephone or, if we can’t reach the winner by telephone, by email by 9 August 2021.

8. We will send the winner the prize money by 16 August 2021.

9. Please note we are required to make available information that indicates that a valid award took place. To comply with this obligation, we will send the surname and county of prize winners to anyone requesting this information. If you object to any or all of your surname and county being published or made available, please notify us by calling 0117 900 9000. Please note, we must still provide your details to the Advertising Standards Authority on request.

10. Our decision regarding any aspect of the Draw is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into about it.

11. Participants are deemed to have accepted and agreed to be bound by these terms and conditions upon entry. We reserve the right to refuse entry, or refuse to award the prize to anyone in breach of these terms and conditions.

13. We reserve the right to hold void, cancel, suspend, or amend the Draw where it becomes necessary to do so.

14. We will process your name and address for the purpose of the Draw. Personal data supplied during the course of the Draw will be processed as set out in our privacy policy (www.hl.co.uk/privacy-policy).

15. The Draw will be governed by English law and entrants submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts.

16. References in these terms and conditions to “Hargreaves Lansdown”, “our”, “us” or “we” are to Hargreaves Lansdown Advisory Services Limited (company number 03509545), authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA Register number 189627), whose registered office is at 1 College Square South, Anchor Road, Bristol, BS1 5HL. References to the “Hargreaves Lansdown Group” are to Hargreaves Lansdown plc (company number 02122142) and its subsidiaries from time to time.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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