Social media, or Instagram, in particular has been the space to be for anyone starting to connect, share, or begin their new venture.
One new account is creating a new type of cultural conversation. When soon to be finance graduate Aashka Piprottar noticed the importance of financial literacy and the lack of financial literacy in her communities, she decided to create a path for other women like herself. The conversation about money growing up for Aashka, as with many South Asian women, was limited, and some of those perspectives went so far as to imply that women shouldn’t talk about money. When she began working towards a career in wealth management, Aashka realized how that perspective “robs desi women of agency, in more aspects of their lives than just financial.”
She found there weren’t many personal finance resources for minorities, especially as a college student, and conversations about finance were sorely lacking among her peers. We talked about what it means to seek advice about money, growing up as a South Asian woman, and what happened to avocado toast.
There are many aspects to finance that Aashka studied that she feels anyone seeking control over their wealth would not know without specifically looking for particular resources. That gap between what financial goals should be and lack of resources inspired her to create Boss Betis, a platform to have candid and judgment free conversations about how individual identity affects relationships with money. Boss Betis is “a community based approach for achieving financial freedom for brown womxn.” Furthermore, she hopes that Boss Betis can educate women to learn about financial basics and create more advanced educational tools in the future.
One of her first posts explains, “Beti means ‘daughter’ in many South Asian languages, such as Hindi and Urdu. In traditional desi culture, women are raised to be dutiful daughters, sisters, and wives — and not much more. Growing up, many of us wonder how we can balance our community-based culture with Western individualism.”
Why aren’t South Asian womxn commonly represented when it comes to the finance industry? Sometimes, the demand is unclear. As Aashka explains, many cultural factors are not taken into account. For example, many don’t have agency over their finances.
“There are a lot of personal finance articles focused on financial empowerment for womxn that say things like, ‘Make more money than your husband!’. But for South Asian womxn, there’s a stronger cultural taboo we have to face that is not acknowledged by the personal finance industry.
As a woman, the personal finance advice I got was like ‘if you don’t buy a $5 latte every day, you could be rich! Whereas my brother was learning about the difference between normal savings accounts and high yield savings accounts. Culturally, the language around personal finance is so restrictive for women but much more educational and encouraging for men.”
The lack of representation for desi womxn isn’t due to the fact that there’s no demand, but rather, it can be difficult to know who to go to for wealth management and how.
“It’s a hard but rewarding industry for a woman of color to work in. The average financial advisor is old, straight, white, and male. Traditionally, the industry has been really behind on recruiting female advisors, especially women of color and gender diverse advisors.
Bigger firms are finally working on catering to segments they’ve never focused on in the past and sometimes the marketing comes off as rather superficial. While right now it’s a little discouraging to see that as a woman of color, this industry doesn’t know exactly how to serve me yet, I am excited to see how the industry changes in the next 5-10 years.”
We discussed the popularity of millennial stereotypes such as the avocado toast phenomenon.
“Yes, I’ve noticed online people have pointed out that now that no one is buying avocado toast during this pandemic, can we all afford to purchase a home now?”
And then there’s the controversial “latte factor.” A Boss Betis post elaborates on the concept:
“The ‘latte factor’, coined by David Bach, refers to the idea that by cutting down on small, frequent purchases (like a daily latte before work) and instead investing that money, ordinary people can achieve significant wealth. However, Sallie Krawcheck, founder of Ellevest, encourages women to “buy the fucking latte.” She argues that the concept not only patronizes women, but also distracts them from the larger societal inequities they face. ‘The [concept] follows in a long tradition of personal financial advice for women packaged into simplified, bite-sized nuggets that boil down to giving up frivolous expenses, starting with the fancy coffee,’ explains [Sallie] Krawcheck.”
The post ties in themes of unlearning harmful beliefs:
“We have internalized a lot of social misconceptions about women and money. Women are bad with money. Women don’t understand investing. Women spend money irresponsibly. Therefore, it is not surprising that the primary emotion many women associate with money is shame and guilt. We feel guilt when we spend money on ourselves. We feel shame about wanting more money. We even feel shame when we earn more than the men in our lives.”
Aashka wants to highlight important factors related to women’s lack of financial power and independence, and looks to Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, for inspiration. “[Krawcheck] is such a huge role model for me and she’s such a leader in the industry. She’s taken that knowledge that she took so long to achieve and uses it for genuine allyship.”
Krawcheck frequently explains important factors related to women’s lack of financial power and independence:
“Sallie Krawcheck points out there is so much language geared toward women saying that the reason you are not rich yet is because of your own personal choices, focusing on blame and guilt. But what about the larger systematic oppression that keeps you in that position?”
The post continues, encouraging a reinterpretation of the latte factor:
“However, we deserve the ability to use our hard earned dollars on items and experiences that make us feel good — like a latte every morning! ‘Don’t get hung up on the idea of cutting back on small purchases. Focus on the bigger, societal inequities, like the wage gap, the pink tax, the student loan debt crisis and the investing gap,’ Krawcheck argues. Unlearning that guilt and shame is essential to opening up discussions about these larger obstacles in the way of financial freedom for women. In the meantime, remember that your daily coffee is more than just self care – maybe it’s a small act of rebellion against the way women are treated by the personal finance industry.”
Aashka pointed out that the latte factor relates back to some of the restrictive language that desi, or South Asian womxn hear surrounding money. We discussed that shame isn’t just an observed concept; it’s something that many of us have experienced. How do you ask for help, Aashka points out, when you think, ‘I should know this’?
It’s a common question prevalent in South Asian culture. That’s why Boss Betis is a place where one goal is “just to be more helpful.”
Boss Betis aims to erase shaming language to create a space for education and inquisitiveness. The carefully researched content focuses on the importance of understanding the impact of our monetary interactions on our financial health and the economy. Posts include topics such as how to vote with your wallet, appropriation, and the conflicts between the co-opted self care industry and South Asian culture.
Boss Betis encourages looking inward, not only at financial practices and knowledge but the larger cultural experiences and perspectives that affect decision-making:
“Is the tradition of our parents paying for our Big Fat Desi weddings antiquated and unfair? In the age of Venmo, is there some nostalgic, heartwarming charm associated with bringing out your inner uncle to fight your girlfriends to cover the bill after brunch? When many of us grew up watching our immigrant parents save as much as possible, how can we budget for fun and avoid feeling guilty? ”
Conflicting messaging from outside sources as well as ingrained perspectives from within can be difficult. Again, language and cultural traditions have a significant impact.
“The way we talk about women is just different,” Aashka says. “Some of the most progressive messaging, such as encouraging women to work, is still limited. You’re told, ‘this is what you do,’ not, ‘this is how you craft your own approach to money.’”
Aashka hopes that Boss Betis will explore “how our identity affects how we feel about money.” It’s encouraging that we both noticed some controversial issues surrounding this topic coming to light in our communities. Questions about topics such as gender roles and income disparities have started to appear.
Enter Boss Betis. They’re ready for you. And don’t forget the avocado toast.