When my daughters were just toddlers, I made a commitment to raise them to be economically independent and empowered to make their own financial decisions. I wanted them to become financially secure, self-reliant women; this is a skill that is taught.
"As parents, we can educate our children to be financially independent so that they learn how to protect themselves from the vulnerability of economic insecurity."
Here are 7 impactful ways to raise financially empowered young women:
1. Open a saving account for your child
What better way for kids to understand money than to have and manage their own? I gave my girls an allowance starting at age five and committed to paying it weekly through college as long as they invested half of it into their personal savings accounts.
Parents can make a household rule that savings—money from allowance and other income including gifts—stay untouched until it affords its owner a valuable opportunity. Your kids will one day be amazed at the doors that their saving will open for them.
2. Advocate the importance of education
Every day at the Women’s Business Development Council, I witness the empowerment that education offers. Simply put, knowledge is power, and it will give your daughters the opportunity to make choices and follow dreams.
Put education at the top of your parenting priorities by setting expectations and celebrating educational success. Set up a college savings account as soon as possible, research scholarships and take advantage of low-cost after-school enrichment and tutoring programs that allow your daughters to explore interests and get extra help to build confidence.
3. Increase perspective-taking in children
Show your girls the world that is waiting at their door. When my children were young, we didn’t let our meager budget get in the way of creating excitement around travel. We’d pack our bags and drive to Grandma’s house, which was on the way to an international airport.
We’d detour through the airport, giddy with anticipation of all the places planes would one day take us. Find ways to bring the world to you, too. Our family hosted young women from around the globe in our home as exchange students and au pairs. Their cultures and perspectives broadened my daughters’ views of the world and made them excited to leave their mark on it.
4. Challenge gender stereotypes
Traditionally, girls are encouraged to take on roles to care for others, an emphasis placed on their nurturing capabilities rather than on their earning potential. Help girls become more comfortable with pursuing their ambitions and unabashed about their desire to make money.
Teach them to be in control and effect change. Help them understand that they can care for others with their own wealth, using it to invest in their families, communities, and in causes they support.
5. Teach your daughters to be strong
While the completion of chores wasn’t linked to my kids’ allowance, household tasks played an important role in teaching them independence and responsibility. Each child was responsible for making her bed, keeping her bedroom clean, setting the dinner table, and putting her laundry away at the end of the night.
Keeping the cracks in our long driveway free from weeds—a task I felt encouraged a strong work ethic and was definitely not appreciated by them – was also on the list! At summer camp they were required to clean toilets, wash clothes or do dishes. While they often grumbled about the work, they later thanked me for giving them the skills necessary to live on their own.
6. Don't underestimate the importance of mentoring
Opportunities are often left untapped when there isn’t a supportive mentor to share them, make an introduction or show you the ropes. Business success is often attributed to the support and mentorship of others who are willing to give their time and pass along skills.
When our family was young, my daughters experienced the satisfaction of helping others, for instance seeing our au pair explore her veterinary career ambition through an internship we helped her land at our local vet.
Today, my girls are early in their careers—one a lawyer and the other a social worker—and see mentorship as critical to their success. Knowing its power, they are also quick to offer support to others.
7. It takes a village to raise a child
This last strategy is for you. Raising children is hard work and it’s not meant to be done alone. Create a reliable support system of committed individuals and organizations to help you achieve the goals you have for your children.
My village was a lovingly cobbled together mix of savvy female friends who shared with me their professional acumen (to help me start a business to support my family and others), offered parenting advice, and gave me access to their nannies and babysitters to care for my kids while I worked. My girls benefited from their support and perspectives as much as I did.
Economic self-sufficiency is one of the most important and perpetuating lessons you can teach your daughters. With education and know-how, broader perspectives and the support of others, your children will be able to better explore their dreams, get to know their world, and help to forge change that will empower and inspire others to do the same.
My daughters’ financial savvy and their childhood savings accounts eventually grew to offer opportunities they could have otherwise not afforded—study abroad, extensive international travel, and a year of income while holding out for a dream job in a new city.
They are empowered by the confidence they have in themselves to make good choices because their personal savings served as a source of independence.