Along with International Women’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day, the month of March is also Women’s History Month. As we look back on the accomplishments of women, the impact on the history of finance might not be the first one that comes to mind but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. As we celebrate the contributions and achievements of females this month (and beyond), let’s look at the impact of Abigail Adams on female financial independence.
More relevant than ever
This female spotlight is part of Women’s History Month, which intends to honor women of all backgrounds and lifestyles. This time of year offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the roles of women who have helped create the modern world. In nearly every field, there is likely a woman to thank for the progress made.
Being the season of finances, with tax season among us and Financial Literacy Month coming up, female financials are an especially relevant topic worth discussion. In honor of the season, let’s take a trip through history and how one woman’s achievements in finance contributed to the lives of women today.
Abigail Adams (Nov. 22, 1744 – Oct. 28, 1818) has been a historic household name for decades. The reason for her notoriety is due mostly to her role as First Lady to her husband and former US President, John Adams.
However, what many people don’t know, is that Abigail has a legacy of her own. During a time when women were seldom involved in business handlings outside the home, Abigail held the majority of the responsibility when it came to the Adams’ family business.
As President Adams was predominantly focused on his political duties, Abigail managed the hiring and supervision of farmworkers, traded livestock, oversaw construction projects, and kept track of all the family finances. This put Abigail in a standing far ahead of her time, as women in this age were rarely involved in any financial decisions, let alone business finances.
Further down the road, Abigail would expand her duties as a financial advisor. She also gained experience in investing money.
Female financial independence
One of Abigail’s most notable investments was her purchase of a bond that had declined to 15 percent of its face value, which she held onto until it was worth 85 percent. That made for a significant profit of nearly fivefold. This accomplishment would set Abigail on a path to redefine what it meant to be a married woman.
As the Revolutionary War came to a close, Abigail made it her mission to defy the traditional expectations of a married woman’s right to property. Over time, Abigail consistently set aside a portion of her husband’s property and declared it her own, incrementally adding more and more and investing it intentionally.
By the end of 1815, her “pocket money” had grown to more than $5,000. That would be about $100,000 today.
Apart from her earned wealth, Abigail’s behavior also influenced a future society of responsible wealth management. Given that she was facing more risk than a man, Abigail managed the couple’s money far better than President Adams ever did. She demonstrated well the value of female financial independence.
Abigail Adams the investor: Her influence on women today
The accomplishments made by Mrs. Adams and her many feats against government-regulated policies for women are incredible. Yet, there is still room for improvement in modern-day financial literacy for women.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEC), women on average possess a lower level of financial knowledge than men. This number is even lower among younger, less-educated, and low-income women.
To end this cycle, it’s important to educate yourself on the ins and outs of your finances. Also, educate your daughters and other females in your life about the importance of financial literacy and what steps to take towards financial independence.
The most achievable way of educating young girls on this subject is to involve them in financial processes from an early age. Creating opportunities to earn real-world experience without the risk of harming their financials can contribute to more responsible and confident habits later.
Below are a few simple ways to implement this strategy in your home. Depending on the age and maturity level of your daughter, these effective lesson opportunities can be easily interchangeable through different stages of life.
3 financial lessons at home:
1. Earning an honest living
Allowances are essentially an opportunity for those who do not earn their own income to still have the chance to manage and spend money. While the amount of an allowance is variable, there are several ways to make this an effective lesson.
For example, a household chore list to complete to receive an allowance is a simple way to teach your child about earning an honest living. It also teaches how much more valuable money has when you work for it.
Also, as with a real job, you can rescind allowances when required duties are not completed. That adds an element of responsibility to your lesson.
2. Responsible money management
Something that can directly tie back to the influence of Abigail Adams is the value of responsible money management. A large part of what made Abigail so successful was her ability to recognize smart spending opportunities.
Teaching your kids how to properly manage money in all types of financial scenarios begins with involving them in these processes. Family finances can make for excellent real-time learning opportunities in this case.
For instance, explaining the processes behind managing investments, exploring loan options for consolidating debt, behaviors that impact a credit score, how to file for taxes, and so on, are all tasks adults may not think twice about doing. But a young adult has a lot to gain from learning the basics to establish confident and responsible financial habits down the road.
3. The value of saving
Proper saving habits are an essential part of financial responsibility. Encourage this lesson by working with your child on different types of savings practices.
Create a savings plan together to work up towards an item or experience they want to purchase to instill an understanding of living within your means. As they grow up, this lesson can expand into a more long-term savings plan with the introduction of compound interest advantages.
Offering saving incentives, such as a matching program, can help them to understand the value of saving towards retirement in later life. They will also gain an understanding of how that process may look in their future career.
Final words on Abigail Adams, female finance history, and independence
Finances are an intimidating yet integral part of success in life. While we as women have come so far in our achievements, there is always room for growth and improvement.
Taking a lesson from successful women in history like Abigail Adams can help guide our processes in teaching young the next generation how to be financially literate. Doing so can instill a sense of responsibility and self-confidence.
Wishing you a Women’s History Month full of learning, understanding, and paving the way to gender equality x
Top photo credit: Photo by Cliff, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr. Resized.