Whether we want to admit it or not, women and men face very different challenges in their lives financially. Regardless of relationship status, knowing a little more about the key differences between a woman and a man’s financial challenges means we can embrace our unique wealth attributes as a woman and successfully strive ahead.
By Kellie Cowie
Statistics still indicate that women earn 16% less than men in Australia. Although this does not always signal direct discrimination, it is still a very real disadvantage.
Ways to overcome this include the important skill of being more assertive when negotiating a pay rise which women unfortunately still need to improve on. As a job seeker, women also have the opportunity to negotiate more aggressively backing ourselves and our skills by pushing the boundaries of our own salary limits. Ultimately that is the key here-women tend to put our own limits on our own ‘financial worth’ to an employer far more regularly than men do. There are many tools available online where you can benchmark your current salary against others in your occupation and industry, which makes for great evidence whilst making us far more confident negotiating your salary.
Let’s face it-women tend to put household finances and expenses first. This means that our own ‘rainy day’ savings generally comes second or even third in the priority list of what we do with our earnings. Instead, we should be ‘paying ourselves first’ by regularly putting away even just a little of our salary, to set ourselves up with financial stability and also to allow for unexpected expenses.
It really is a non negotiable for us all to compare our income to our expenses so we can clearly see where our money is going. Where women and men are different in this respect is what we spend our money on and what we allocate as discretionary vs. necessity. It is not necessarily about changing our spending habits, it is about awareness and planning and financial goal setting. What do you want to have financially in 5 years time and are you going to reach it, based on current income vs spending? Of course budgeting is important for both genders, however coupled with the other challenges women face financially; curbing spending and ensuring your income is wisely spent is even more pertinent.
Australian women statistically live 4 years longer than men. This means we are going to need more as a retirement ‘nest egg’ in our superannuation to allow for those extra years and ensure we don’t outlive our savings. To do this, we can do a few extra things to ensure we boost our superannuation balances.
The first thing is that if you are a low- or middle-income earner and make personal (after-tax) contributions to your super fund, the government also makes a contribution (called a co-contribution) up to a maximum amount of $500. In addition to this, you can also check how your superannuation is invested and make sure it is appropriate to your life stage. Whatever your situation, seek specialist advice to ensure your investments are appropriate to you and your stage in life.
This then leads to Estate Planning. As mentioned, wives statistically outlive their husbands so making sure both of you have your Wills, Power of Attorney and Power of Enduring Guardianship (and any other necessary Estate Planning documents) in up to date is vital. Did you know that marriage makes any existing Will invalid in Australia? It is also important to ensure your nomination of beneficiary in your superannuation funds and life insurance policies all reflect your wishes.
Time away from the workforce:
For many women, family comes first. So whether it is parenthood or caring for elderly parents, time out of the workforce can affect our earning capacity and potentially our career progression.
For those wanting to have a family, taking parental leave and funding your children’s lives is very expensive and research from 2013 shows women continue to bear the heavier burden here. All we can really do in terms of cash flow is to forecast and plan for the family-related career interruptions and when it happens, tighten the household purse strings. Alternatively we may consider going for that promotion ahead of ‘schedule’, even though you don’t quite feel ready or perhaps it means planning your return to the workforce slightly sooner, knowing it may have beneficial long-term effects on your career.
So, what does this all mean?
Women face unique challenges in terms of making money and also in making that money last longer. The good thing about all this is women have equal access to investment opportunities, assistance from finance professionals so we all have the capability to control our own financial future. They key is to either increase our financial confidence or alternatively surround yourself with professionals (like Financial Advisers, Accountants and Finance Brokers) who can assist you.
Kellie Cowie is National Partnership Manager at Adviser Ratings and Director & Lending Specialist at By Design Financial Solutions. She started her career in finance in 2008 and since then, has helped to simplify money matters and finances for many. Her aim is to demystify the management of money, insurance and lending especially for women and ensure her clients have great solutions for their loan and mortgage requirements.
The information in this article is general in nature and does not take into consideration your personal situation or circumstances. You should consider whether the information contained in this article is suitable to your needs and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a Financial Adviser or other finance professional.