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First things first – a thank you. Thank you for the heartfelt, thoughtful birthday wishes. I couldn’t respond to each one individually, as there were hundreds, but I’ve been reading them over the past two weeks and have been so filled up by them. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for the love.

Okay, on to today’s post.

I’m fascinated by this recent New York Times article about women and money. And of course nothing about money is ever just about money – the research findings discussed there included.

There were a number of interesting little tidbits: Some evidence that the “women spend more than men” stereotype is false — a recent Gallup study found men spend more. Then there’s the news that Americans, male and female, struggle with basic financial calculations more than many of our international neighbors…

But the part I really want to tell you about was around women’s self-concepts. When women and men were given a short quiz that tested their financial literacy, men scored higher.

That doesn’t shock me. After all, many women feel like they are bad at financial stuff or can’t understand it – so they stop paying attention to it, reading about it, studying it. Like so many stereotypes, the one about women not being good at math can be a self-fulfilling one.

But here’s where things got interesting. When asked to assess their own financial literacy, men overestimated how knowledgeable they were (relative to their actual test performance), and women underestimated their level of competency. Oh, sigh.

Even more interesting? When the “I don’t know” option was removed from the multiple choice questions, women started getting more and more questions right, narrowing the gender gap in performance.

I’m writing all of this to remind you that one, you probably have more of a foothold of competence in the financial arena than you think you do. Time to stop playing bewildered and build from where you are, honey.

This post is also a little nudge to look for those places in your life and work when you are saying “I don’t know” when you have a hunch.

You see, I think women say “I don’t know” on these tests is because, in the moment, it feels true, and in some sense, it is true. We’re not sure. We don’t “know” for certain. And yet sitting it out – whether it’s taking a stab at answering a question on a test or one from your client or boss isn’t always the best path either. When “I don’t know” really means “I’m not 100% sure” or “I’m just having trouble trusting my best guess, my leaning, my real thoughts, my intuition” or “I’m nervous about getting it wrong,” maybe it’s a good idea to answer anyway.

Maybe you don’t know. But maybe, like the many women who took this test and checked the “I don’t know” box, if you had to choose an answer, you’d choose the right one.

Got it, my dear?

Before I sign off, one more thing: I’m holding LIVE one-day writing workshops this summer in San Francisco and New York! So excited. In person, small group, summer writing days. If you think you might want to attend one, sign up here to get details and updates.

Love to you,

Tara

Image: Certainty, by Georgiana Paraschiv