Financial stress can have a profound impact on mental health, especially among women balancing work and family needs. Kim Parlee speaks with Jennifer Ho, Market Manager, TD Wealth, and Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a clinical psychologist, about ways that women can take control of their well-being.
- Right, well, women face three categories of stressors, really. The first is financial. So we know because of the gender gap in wealth, in pay, that makes a difference over a career in terms of how much wealth you can accumulate. And that can be stressful throughout. The second one is systemic or societal stressors. So things like sexism, ageism, racism, abuse history-- so women are more likely to experience abuse in childhood and violence throughout their lives, and so that impacts mental health a lot-- and trauma.
And I think also other systemic forces like social media, which tend to impact women, especially young women a lot more. Finally, there's the brain health inequities. So we know that brain health being a combination of the sense of well-being and cognitive health. And so we know that women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men.
They're also diagnosed with dementia twice as often as men. And so we know that people who have an untreated history of depression any time in life are twice as likely to develop dementia as people who don't share that untreated history. So it's especially important for women to take care of their mental health, to save their brain health and their cognitive health down the road.
- Is it getting better or worse for women right now, from your perspective?
- Yeah, I mean, I think that it's starting to get better. I mean, during the pandemic it was much more stressful for women because they were in multiple roles. They were often-- the stereotypical person who has children who are unlaunched and is taking care of older parents or older relatives, is a 49-year-old woman who is still in the workforce and has unlaunched children. So it's a lot to take on.
And we know that the base rates for depression, anxiety are higher for women anyway. So it's important to be aware of that, and to know that you're not alone if you're experiencing stress. That's natural. I think on the financial front, we're starting to open up a little bit more, and not see talking about finances as sort of the final taboo. So I know that in my two decades as a researcher and a clinical psychologist, we often gather demographic information. And the only question I've ever asked as a clinical psychologist or as a scientist that people have declined an answer for is, what's their pay or what's their wealth level.
- Which is amazing, and not at all surprising when you say that. But completely amazing that's the case. Jennifer, you work with a team of advisors and financial planners and bankers. And I know you've lots of-- that team has many, many clients that are women. You've got a story, I think, that really speaks to some of the taboo, I'd say, around money and how that kind of played out.
- For sure. One thing we touch on is a lot of stress does not necessarily come from money directly but come from life events. The story I will share with you today is a client of ours, she was a single mother. She recently lost her father, and she was in our office with her 10-year-old daughter and her 70-year-old mother.
Her father used to be the person who always take care of everyone's finance and money. And now, this lady has to step up, take control of everybody's finance, while being the rock for her daughter and for her mother. And she still have to find time to manage and process her own grief. I don't know how she managed that level of stress. I cannot imagine.
- So what happened? How did how did she manage the situation?
- So one thing she did tell me multiple times was, I wish I talked to my dad more often on money, about money. I wish we have that conversation as a family. So she came to us and looking for professional support. We have her sit down with private bankers as well as professional planners. We review her banking to streamline it, as well as come up with an estate plan for herself.
Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with cancer. And as challenging and difficult as it was, she came to me and say, I'm glad we have a plan. Now, I know my mother and my daughter will be taken care of financially. And I'm just going to focus on my treatment. I'm happy to say now, a year later, she is in remission, and she's healthy.
- That's fantastic. That's a hard story. But I mean, it's so true about having-- she has a plan in place. So she knows that part of her life is managed, and she can focus on what she needs to focus on. How important-- I mean, we know it's important to talk openly about money, and how hard is that. How do you break through that?
- Yeah, I think it's important to start with small steps and just find someone you trust. So it could be your partner, it could be a friend, it could be an advisor, and just start to talk about how you feel about money. And that's really important, the psychological aspect. And so money doesn't happen in a vacuum. So it's really important to talk about our problems, as we know, name our difficulties to ourselves, and that's how all sort of healing and improvement takes place, is starting to be open and starting to talk. It's hard to solve a problem when we can't name it to ourselves.
- How should women think about talking to their planners or advisors about it so that they're getting what they want?
- Absolutely. I think the first thing is to get to understand your own situation. So take a good inventory of what you have in terms of debt, cash flow, savings. We call it a financial selfie. We take selfie all the time now, it's a financial selfie. That being said, as you go through that exercise, you might have discover some question for yourself.
Whether am I paying down my debts? Or do I have enough emergency funds for those unexpected life events? From there, you can do some research, and you can engage a professional. The professional will help you work through the gaps and work through your needs and come up with a plan, customized just for you.
From there, they will work with you for the years to come to implement that plan together. So it is really important that you interview your professional. Find someone you like them that you will work with them for the years to come. At TD Wealth for Women Program, what we do is we train our advisors to specifically learn about women and their special needs, as well as the challenge that we face in terms of finance and life.
I was at a seminar recently, very similar to what you said about being social, there were 20 women in the room. Someone brought their mother, brought their daughter. And we were supposed to have a seminar about financial educations. Next thing you know, it turns into this fabulous conversation where we all sharing our own story and offer each other supports and advice.
And those events are amazing. And we all walk away feeling more confident about our personal finance, and a little less stressful, less stressed out. So I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of those events locally.
- Well, it's great information. And I think people will be looking. Jennifer, thanks so much. Dr. Khatri, thank you very much.
- You're very welcome.