The menopause and money

Authored on
04 Oct 2023



Having recently gone through the menopause, I found the findings from our Financial Wobbly Bits research on this phase in a woman’s life totally relatable. The physical, mental and psychological symptoms (a daunting 34 possibilities) are now – thankfully – more widely talked about, so we can better understand what’s happening to our bodies and seek help. But those symptoms can in turn have a significant adverse impact on our career and finances – something that’s much less discussed or understood.

The numbers are stark. A fifth of women in our survey said that going through the menopause had impacted their confidence at work while another 12% said their performance had suffered. Almost one in ten suffered financial consequences, with one in 20 stopping work altogether while one in 25 reduced their hours. Others have used their holiday, sick days or taken unpaid leave to get through this difficult time. It seems that the media and celebrity focus on the menopause over the past few years hasn’t quite caught up with employers yet, with many women feeling they just have to cope by themselves.

The onset of my own menopause unhelpfully coincided with both the covid pandemic and a career switch, from a secure salaried full-time position to board roles. My hope was to secure a number of these interesting roles, which together would enable me to continue to provide for my family as the sole breadwinner. Of the three big changes, only the career switch was planned, although of course I’d made that plan in ‘normal’ times. As lockdown took its full hold over our lives, I suddenly felt very vulnerable. That steady income had vanished, my confidence was ebbing (fitful sleep didn’t help) and interviewing online felt intimidating.  What’s more, our household numbered 13 in the first lockdown, and although my husband valiantly did all the shopping and cooking, the laundry and housework fell to me. As so many did, I just put in longer and longer hours, while feeling very wobbly indeed thanks to my hormones and the uncertainty about what lay ahead.

Although the timing of my ‘change’ was almost comically bad, I know I’m one of the lucky ones, making it through to the other side in one piece, financially and in body, mind and spirit (though in all honesty the wobbles are not quite over yet!). But the experience was disconcerting and showed me how nerve-wracking the menopause can be – and how damaging for our family finances. Of course, the Wobbly Bits survey shows that there are many financial danger points in women’s lives long before the menopause, with 60% of us never asking for a pay rise (and even then, only a third of us being successful) and just 30% of mothers returning to work full time after their second child. But if we’ve made it through all those danger zones to still be working when we go through the menopause, it’s a real blow that so many of us will suffer financially yet again.

It’s World Menopause Day on the 18th October: an opportunity to move beyond the celebrity tell-all stories to focus on the financial implications – and specifically, to ask employers to provide more support to perimenopausal and menopausal women. Not out of charity but because we offer so much experience – and we won’t always feel out of sorts. If managers understand that women in their team may – temporarily – be struggling, they will be able to work together to find a way through that leaves women’s careers and finances intact.

A colleague of mine at the Diversity Project (a collaboration across 110 firms with a single mission: to improve diversity and inclusion in the very traditional investment and savings industry) went through such trauma as she entered the menopause that she became suicidal. Back from the brink, her totally supportive (male) manager wanted to understand how he could have helped more. How could he have spotted the signs and acted before things reached that terrible point? The firm now offers counselling to women and training for managers, and is joining efforts to make menopause support included as standard by private health insurers. Meanwhile, my colleague has since secured a big promotion and is doing amazing work improving understanding about the menopause across our industry. It’s an inspiring story.

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.