‘Oh my God, you are like a bulldog! Can’t win with you’. I took out my mirrored Guerlain lipstick case to top up my deep-red rouge, flashed a smile and got up to leave. The comment came at the end of a meeting at a top-tier investment bank I was working at the time, and frankly, I took it as a compliment. It was not the first time I had been called similar adjectives. ‘Bulldog? So what’, I thought, ‘being a no-nonsense fighter can be perfectly compatible with feeling smart and feminine’. For me, red lipstick aside, true beauty has nothing to do with a wrinkle-free face and everything to do with attitude. True beauty is the strength of character my maternal grandmother showed while raising four children just after the civil war in Spain. True beauty is the inner elegance and grace with which my paternal grandmother would wear a pair of high heels to pick me up at school in Iran. They both were fighters and remained their family’s breadwinners throughout their lives. True beauty comes in the most unexpected forms, but is often found in strong, independent women who want to carve their own path in life.
The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher, one of my favourite books which was recommended to me by my high school teacher, has a quote in it that has always resonated with me: “Life gives us exactly what we ask from it. If your request is vague, whatever you get will be just as muddled. If you ask for the minimum, you’ll get the minimum. Life wants to know exactly what you expect from it. If you don’t ask for anything, you won’t get anything.”
For this article, I wanted to share with you my five ‘golden rules’ for being financially independent.
Ask for what you want
To me, the first thing to do is to ask for exactly what you want. It all starts from being really, really honest with oneself and asking the simple, yet often uneasy questions; ‘How important is money to me? How much money do I want to earn? By when do I want to earn a specific amount of money?’ In my case, I knew very early on that money was very important to me because it would give me freedom. Freedom to make my own decisions in life and to support all the causes that I care about.
Crave it passionately
If you don’t truly, ardently think you can attain something, you very rarely do. You have to start by believing that you can and then crave it passionately, almost obsessively. Something that’s always worked for me is to ensure I had no choice but to succeed, that I put my back to the wall. The reason is simple. Every time that I cut off all my exits and put my back to the wall, I had to mobilize all my inner powers. I wanted something to happen with every fibre of my being. And it worked.
Be ok with being called ambitious (or bulldog, for that matter…)
Don’t ever apologise for being ambitious. It is ok to be ambitious – and to be called ambitious. It is also ok to talk about money, about making money and about investing money in the same way as men do. In fact, those are all necessary conditions for becoming financially successful. As women, we should not pursue the path to financial independence alone but should network to create supportive communities in which we feel free to share information, experience and advice. These communities, either online or in person, will provide safe spaces to encourage us to discuss money, from unpicking jargon to making recommendations for the best wealth advisors.
Start investing and start small
Women are less likely to invest their cash and more likely to save it. This investment gap is a big barrier to achieving our financial freedom. So, as women, we need to spread the message and understand that you don’t need to be rich to be an investor. Women can start with the smallest amounts, e.g. £1 per day, and build up their confidence.
Make it a rule to always negotiate
I was recently visiting Spain and offered my contactless card to pay for a taxi fare. The driver, who was quite nice and with whom I had been chatting all along, asked if I minded paying with cash. I said – flashing my red-lipstick smile – ‘sure but give me a discount then’. It worked and I got a discount. The point is… you can always get a better deal if you ask for it. Whether it’s negotiating your salary, your promotion or your parking ticket while you were grabbing that latte, don’t be shy, ask for it. What is the worst that can happen? You get a no? So what? At least you asked.
But above all, embrace the difference and celebrate success. A woman’s more risk-averse nature should be embraced. As women, our investment priorities are different, not inferior. Strategies can be used to mitigate risk and if we understand that our individuality is an asset, it will help encourage us to invest. It is important for us to see and celebrate other successful women. Their positive stories will encourage us to pursue our financial independence non-apologetically and also to take action and see what we can achieve by investing.
What do I do at Blend Network? I work at the intersection of finance, technology and social responsibility, connecting experienced property developers who are building affordable homes – many of whom are women – with people who want to invest. At the heart of everything I do is supporting those who find themselves disconnected from traditional funding channels, women in particular. Our investors come from all walks of life, some are high net worth investors who invests tens of thousands of Pounds, some are private investors who invest £1,000. Yet, they all share a passion for making a difference by co-investing in projects that help developers to build more affordable homes. It also doesn’t hurt that, while investors’ capital is at risk, they are offered between 8-12% return on their investments. I strongly believe that it’s all about doing well while doing good. So do our investors.