Want to Improve Your Finances? Look to Your Network of Women

women discussing finances while standing and sitting near a stack of money, vector illustration

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com (Rudzhan Nagiev)

Angela Antonio just celebrated her 30th anniversary working for Bank of America and says her greatest passion is helping women succeed financially. 

She joined us recently for a conversation about what can get in the way, including being uncomfortable talking about money and the habit of putting others first. 

But there are positive signs of change–and a powerful asset we can tap into when it’s time to advocate for more pay, a promotion, or whatever you need: Your network of women friends. 

Conferences for Women: When people dedicate their lives to one profession, I often find a story in the background that led them to that particular work. Is that true in your case?

Angela Antonio: Yes, both of my parents were in banking in the Philippines, and I decided in high school that I wanted to go into banking. Growing up in my family, my parents always said, “Well, you need to listen to elders, you need to listen, you need to obey and be a good girl.” I said, “I will do all those things, but I also want to be a leader.” Bank of America has afforded me that opportunity.

I’ve found my dream role. We all know that small businesses fuel the economy. But I’m passionate about helping women business owners. I want to help educate and give women access to the resources that allow them to thrive. That helps fuel me.

CFW: For many of us, personal finance can be stressful. So, before we get into the challenges, I’d love to hear about the positive developments you’ve seen regarding women taking more control of their finances.

Antonio: I had an opportunity to join a panel in Los Angeles once, where one of the panelists shared that women are more open to talking about sex than money. After the event, some attendees said, You’re right. I will speak to my girlfriends about all these very private, intimate things, but we’ll never talk about money. Many of our male counterparts don’t have a problem talking about how much they make. 

But now, there’s more discussion about women and money–how to take care of yourself and prepare for the future–and that’s good. So, that’s a positive trend that we’re seeing. 

CFW: Let’s talk about some personal finance challenges women face.

Antonio: Our Bank of America 2023 Workplace Benefits Report shows that: 

  • 54% of women worry they won’t be able to make ends meet due to inflation (vs. 32% of men)
  • 39% of women had to look for additional employment to keep up with rising costs (vs. 17% of men)
  • 55% of women are somewhat/extremely confident they are on track to meet their retirement goals (vs. 68% of men)

Also, according to our 2023 Women and Minority Business Owner Spotlight, 79% of women business owners said they were concerned about inflation impacting their business over the next 12 months, and 84% said their business was currently affected by inflation.   

CFW: Other studies have suggested that women contribute to emergency funds and retirement accounts at a lower rate than men despite having a longer life expectancy. Why do you think that is? 

Antoni: I think it’s because women tend to focus on others’ needs first and then themselves. I don’t want to generalize, but it’s something I see with female entrepreneurs every day. When I ask about what I can do to support you, the answer is always about others or being able to provide for their family. 

However, studies show that women are getting better at taking care of themselves, such as taking a mental health day or going to the spa. This is important because, like on an airplane, when the masks come down, you’re supposed to put on your mask first and then help those you care for.

CFW: Do you think feeling time-stretched is also part of it? 

Antonio: 100%. I remember one time I went to a PTA meeting, showed up in a suit, and said, “I can’t join you ladies for coffee. I’m going to work.” They said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. You have to do that.” I just thought, no, I enjoy going to work. 

There were many moments like that when I was trying to figure out how to be a good mom, a good wife, a good support for my clients, and a good leader for my team.

What I learned, as someone once told me, is that work-life balance doesn’t necessarily exist. Sometimes, your work will pull on you more, and you will need to focus more on your work. Sometimes, your home life will pull on you more, and you must focus more on that. So it’s about work-life harmony, depending on your attention.

CFW: Women also face a gender pay gap. What do you recommend we do to address that?

Antonio: I’ll share a personal story. When I first received a promotion to the executive role, I was going to accept the offer and be happy with it. And I had a friend who said, “You need to ask for more money. You need to be confident in what you can deliver, what your abilities are, and what you will do for the organization and just ask.” She also helped me write my bullet points.

But having a support system, a tribe that says, “Come on, you can do this. Believe in yourself,” was pivotal for my career to go out there and not be afraid. The first time I asked for more money, I got a no. But the second time, I got a yes.  

Often, women don’t ask for that next promotion, raise, or more money when hired–maybe because they are afraid of that no. 

But I tell all women to have another female confidant, someone you can either vent to or, in your networks, a support system. Having a strong support network of other strong females in my life has really helped me navigate my career, and that really fuels my desire to give back to others, as well.

CFW: That’s a lovely way to put it. As we end, I wonder if you can offer some quick practical advice for managing their finances. 

Antonio: I would say three things: Get advice from a professional financial advisor.  Leverage the free digital tools to help you plan for the future. Look into a retirement program. And if your company matches 401k, take advantage of it!

Angela Antonio is the Small Business Region Executive for the Los Angeles Region. She leads a team of Small Business Banker Managers responsible for executing local strategies and tactics that drive client experience, client relationships, and operational excellence.