Money talk matters for women
The #MeToo movement has highlighted issues of sexual harassment but women face another challenge: The struggle for financial independence.
Money regulator ASIC recently released some disturbing findings. Two out of five women find money decisions stressful and overwhelming. More than eight out of ten women aged under 35 don't have a grasp of basic investment concepts, and women are still retiring with, on average, half the superannuation of men ($230,000 versus $454,000).
The irony is that research continually shows women often make better investors than men, especially when it comes to researching options and taking a conservative rather than overly optimistic approach. However, women face serious challenges that can hold back their financial growth including the gender pay gap, and the greater likelihood of taking time out of the workforce to be carers either for children or ageing relatives.
On top of this, ASIC says women often focus on the everyday needs of their families and so tend to view money as a short term rather than longer term issue.
To help women focus on their financial wellbeing, the MoneySmart website has launched a series of “Women talk money” videos. They feature Australian women sharing personal stories about money – an initiative designed to kick-start conversations around money matters and encourage women to make better financial decisions.
That’s a good thing. The more we talk about our financial experiences, both successes and failures, the more money management becomes a normal part of everyday life. MoneySmart also offers links to a range of free money tools including a budget planner and parental leave calculator.
There’s no doubt that reforms around the gender pay gap could help women enjoy a more level financial playing field. Removing the $450 per month Superannuation Guarantee threshold, which sees many part-time and casual workers – both men and women, denied employer-paid super contributions, could also have a significant impact on women’s financial health.
However, these are things we can’t control in our everyday lives. What we can take charge of is the way we approach money. Something as simple as taking an active interest in our financial wellbeing – and sharing ideas in open conversations can be the start of important change.
For the record, encouraging women to achieve financial independence is something that should start from an early age. US studies highlight the way that gender bias can kick in during childhood. Parents are often more likely to discuss money matters with boys rather than girls, or reward sons more than daughters for being good with money. Having relaxed discussions around money with our daughters can instill a sense of confidence that they can, and should, take control of their personal finances.
Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of InvestSMART, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.