The secret to becoming a powerful woman

Why are some women hesitant to take control of their own money? Learn about the secret to becoming a powerful woman.

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I became a writer because of a woman named Barbara Cooney. She was a children's book author and illustrator who read her book Miss Rumphius to my first-grade classroom. Afterwards, as she was autographing my copy, Mrs. Cooney unknowingly sparked something within me. Because when I left school that day, I knew with whole-hearted certainty what I was going to grow up to be.

It wasn't until I graduated college, when I was looking for my first job, that my self-doubt set in around my aspirations of becoming a writer. How would I make enough money? What if I ran out of things to write about? Or, worst of all, what if people didn't like what I wrote? I wonder what had happened to my confident younger self. Why did she suddenly think she wasn't good enough? What was holding her back?

This past October, when Fortune's "Most Powerful Women" issue hit newsstands, I realized I wasn't alone in this feeling of uncertainty. While the issue featured a roundup of the business world's most important women, it also included an article called "The Confidence Gap," co-authored by Fidelity's Kathy Murphy and Abby Johnson. The duo, who topped the Women's "Most Powerful" list, unearthed some compelling truths on the topic of confidence—specifically as it relates to women and money.

Among the findings, the article reports that women are on track to earn $18 trillion in America this year—50% more than they earned five years ago. And even more impressively, that women are destined to control two-thirds of our country's wealth by 2030.

Here's the rub. While women are earning more money than ever before, only a small percentage of them are actually taking control of it. More than half of women think their husbands do a better job overseeing the family finances. And more than 80% of women consider themselves novice investors compared to 50% of men.

Abby and Kathy argue that the reason women are hesitant to take control of their finances has nothing to do with incompetence—but a lack of confidence. That to close the confidence gap, we need to empower through education. Provide better access to guidance. Encourage women to seize the powerful financial opportunities in front of them.

People are only just starting to talk about it. But women are running more businesses, earning more degrees, and controlling more wealth than ever before. They're leaders and innovators. Mentors and authors. They're role models for young girls.

This is the secret that the most powerful women know: We are holding ourselves back. Instead of questioning our competence and abilities, maybe it's time to channel our younger, more confident selves, and ask a completely different question altogether: What are we waiting for?

Take the next step

Read the "Confidence Gap" to hear the perspectives of two of Fidelity's most powerful women firsthand.

Learn more

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Source: The 2013 Fidelity Investments Couples Retirement Study analyzed retirement and financial expectations, and preparedness among 808 couples (1,616 individuals). Respondents were required to be at least 25 years old, married or in a long-term committed relationship and living with their respective partner, and have a minimum household income of $75,000 or at least $100,000 in investable assets. The 2013 study expanded on studies of prior years by including 109 Gen X couples and 109 Gen Y couples, in addition to retired and pre-retired couples ages 47 and older. Gen X couples were between the ages of 35 to 46 while Gen Y couples were slightly younger, between the ages of 25 to 34. The 2013 study also included 110 couples who were not married, but who reported being in a long-term committed relationship. Fidelity Investments was not identified as the sponsor. GfK's Public Affairs & Corporate Communications division executed the study, which fielded in May 2013.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
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