Free the Geezer! Busting macho money myths with The Manor

First, X Factor winner Louisa Johnson. Then, model and activist Munroe Bergdorf.

Now…Iona Bain!

I was honoured to be the latest guest on The Manor’s hit podcast, Free the Geezer.

The Manor are a South London rap three-piece signed to Universal Music, with a cool 21k Insta following and a pretty devoted fan-base.

And I was asked by the lads if I would appear on their podcast to talk about money – specifically gambling, debt, payday loans and savings.

I jumped at the chance. I’ve never pigeonholed Young Money as being only for certain groups – it’s for everyone. And that means I don’t identify primarily as a female financial commentator, restricting myself purely to discussions about women’s money issues. True feminism is not having to constantly bring the discussion back to your gender. It’s about being a visible, competent and inspiring champion of financial confidence – for men AND women.

But I also have long recognised that money problems can affect young men as much as young women. They’re different problems, I grant you, but they are no less tricky to tackle, as the boys observed throughout the show. And we should all be able to discuss those problems collectively, not just within our own gender, class or racial silos.

I feel this is our only chance in creating a common connection and understanding that will help us knock down barriers to security and contentment.

With that in mind, I am incredibly keen to play my part in  The Manor’s ongoing campaign to get guys to open up and talk about the stuff that really matters. And money is right up there!

It got me thinking about a lot of popular beliefs held by AND about men when it comes to money. For instance, men have long been characterised as greater risk-takers than women. So research shows that guys are more likely to invest in the stock market (and thus make more money in the long-term) compared to gals. On the flip-side, men are also seven-and-a-half times more likely than women to become problem gamblers.

There is also a stubborn idea about men being ‘providers’. And this can cause MASSIVE tensions and pressures in modern relationships.

It starts from the first swipe: all-too-often, I hear about a man requesting money back from his Tinder date after their romance fizzled out – him clearly resentful that he bought her dinner without getting something in return, her clearly outraged that dates could be treated in such a transactional way. Both are right…and wrong. Because while there is no sense (or arguably dignity) in working women today trying to score a free night out just because of romantic conventions, it does seem churlish and unromantic to ask for “date reparations” retrospectively. What a minefield!

I would argue that a lot of the confusion and anxiety that we experience about gender identity can ultimately be traced back to money – or rather, our suffocating ideas about it. With that in mind, here are some of the most common macho money myths that I come across.

They all need to be put to bed, once for all. I’ll help you identify what’s going on and maybe give you the tools to start thinking differently. All I expect in return is for you to take me out for a drink. I’ll have a Diane Abbot*. (I’m kidding.)

I got into debt – it’s all my fault

Debt is not explained properly to young people. We don’t have really clear, obvious health warnings for debt like we do for cigarettes, alcohol and even ultra-risky investments. We have to burrow into the small print and take on a highly organised, cautious and disciplined mindset to make it work for us. None of this comes naturally to idealistic young people still learning about the world. And above all, we are far more likely to take on debt against our better judgement because we are cajoled into it or we’re in dire straits.

For all these reasons, let’s stop beating ourselves up if we happen to be in debt in our twenties. It would be more unusual if you weren’t borrowing in one way or another: it’s how our economy functions, it’s the bedrock of financial services and we’re persuaded to do it all the time (even for things that are potentially good for us, like a roof over our head!)

Asking for help is a sign of weakness

If your debt is getting out of control, there is no point feeling bad about it. What’s done is done, and the most important thing is to move forward. But you can only get on top of your liabilities if you take a step back, take the blame out of it and be open to seeking help. There are a range of amazing debt charities out there, such as StepChange and Debt Advice Foundation, that work with both debtors and lenders to construct realistic debt repayment plans. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows you are facing up to your problems and doing what’s necessary to protect you and those who rely on you!

I’ve got too much FOMO to save

We all struggle with the impulse to be the life and soul of every party in our twenties. But I think it’s particularly acute for guys. We’re now (thankfully) dispensing with the laddish paradigm that reigned supreme in the 90s, which put heavy boozing, late nights and “sowing wild oats” at the heart of male identity. But such a strong phenomenon doesn’t disappear overnight, and I still meet lots of guys who feel it’s almost their duty to party hard when they’re young. Whether it’s the ludicrously expensive stag do to Malta (you don’t even know the groom that well!) or the office night-out that always turns into a regrettable bender, there comes a point when we all have to outgrow peer pressure and starting thinking for ourselves.

If this is something you struggle with, try flipping your thinking. Instead of dwelling on what you’ll miss in the here and now, think about what you’ll gain. It could be blissful sleep, a hangover-free weekend, more time for something else you REALLY enjoy and yes – more money to spend or save for the future. These aren’t silly goals but essential for you to stay on your grind.

You can’t miss what you don’t experience, and remember that if your mates want to do things differently, that’s their business. Also, think about whether you’ve been here before – you almost certainly have, so how many nights out have been improved by staying out those extra few hours? Experience is at the heart of good decisions, not the wishful part of our brain that hopes this will be the exception.

I’ve got to “provide” to be a real man

via GIPHY

Take it from me: modern women do not want to be financially dependent on men. Nor do we like the idea of “owing” something to a guy we’re dating.

So you’re far better off assuming that your date will want to split the bill or take it in turns to buy rounds. By all means offer to pay – it shows us a willingness to be chivalrous – but please don’t be a dick and insist, even when the woman makes it very clear she’d prefer to go Dutch. There are plenty of ways that you can impress us without whipping out your…credit card.

Personally, I don’t mind if a chap wants to hold a door for me or take my bag – token gestures that are nonetheless charming (in my eyes). But not all women feel that way, so figure out the lie of the land early on and if in doubt, defer to your date. A good rule of thumb is to politely offer, rather than oppressively insist.

One tool that might help you is a bill-splitting app, e.g. SplitWise, or a mobile payment system like Paym to settle the matter quickly. Of course, if you absolutely have to take us to the poshest place in town, it’s not cool to insist we pony up our share, but otherwise, stick to a reasonable price range to allow for a split and show your consideration elsewhere…

The riskier, the better

Learning to manage risk has to be one of the hardest but most important lessons of our adult lives. Some things do require us to take *calculated* risks – our finances included. But there is a big difference between opting for shares over cash and going hard on Bitcoin. Keep your financial risks in check by having a diverse portfolio, staying invested for the long-term and resisting the urge to pull out the moment markets wobble. If you’re struggling to oversee a more sensible investment strategy, a digital wealth manager might be a better bet for you than taking on all the responsibility through a DIY platform. But if you can learn some basic investor discipline, you should be able to get most of the upside of investing while minimising the downside (though you can’t ever eliminate the possibility of losing money).

One more flutter will get all losses back

When it comes to risk, gambling is a totally different story. It’s an addictive pastime that’s aggressively marketed at young men through the sports industries, with bookies becoming a ubiquitous presence on our hollowed-out high street. Like many addictive pastimes, light gambling from time-to-time does not turn into anything problematic for the majority of people (though it’s important to understand there are more reliable and less risky ways to make money!)

A minority, however, will not be able to indulge in gambling without it becoming a serious and destructive obsession. Again, do not beat yourself up if you fall into that category – an addictive personality is a complex blend of genes and upbringing, and it’s not your fault if you have it. What does matter is understanding that ‘more of the same’ is never the answer if you have a gambling problem. Whatever it takes to walk away and gain help, do it – and give yourself massive credit for being so brave.

While charities like Young Gamblers Educational Trust and GamCare can give you the info and support you need, another potentially lifesaving tool in the fightback against gambling urges is the Starling Gambling Blocker. The challenger bank now has a function that allows you to stop any purchases being made through online betting or gambling sites. It’s not the complete answer but it could be a really useful weapon in your arsenal. As with debt, there is zero shame in seeking help – only the prospect of getting your life back on track.

*That’s a cheeky mojito, of course

Are there any macho money myths that I haven’t come across? Do any of these resonate with you? If so, leave a comment or tweet me – @ionayoungmoney. In the meantime, you can hear the full Free the Geezer podcast by following this link!

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