Do you play an active role in your household’s financial management? Financial adviser Antoinette Mullins is encouraging women to find their financial confidence by learning more about their finances and taking charge – now.
There’s something magical about old Hollywood musicals – the way they dance and glide across the screen with an effortless grace current moviegoers rarely see. In the 1930s Ginger Rogers dazzled in her dances with Fred Astaire – keeping up with his fancy footwork at every turn. But, as the Hollywood saying goes, she did it backwards and in high heels.
The fact that women face certain challenges men don’t, isn’t a new concept. We’ve all come across these in our daily lives and workplaces. Have you considered though, how retirement planning is also more of a challenge for us? Today, when women of our generation have more choice than ever before, a higher level of education and qualifications than ever before, higher paid jobs than ever before (though, as I’ll show later, still with a significant pay gap) – are we really still behind in our financial management?
Recent discussions with some of my clients – busy mums who have made time to address their overall financial planning – have shown me that this certainly is the case. It’s not that they didn’t want to address their finances sooner – it had been on their mind for quite a while to address it. It’s simply that they were so overwhelmed by the size of the task (and by life) – they were too busy taking care of other people – that they delayed the task again and again. And, like that basket of laundry on the kitchen table waiting to be folded, it was ignored in the hopes that someone else would do it. Well, if your house is anything like mine – that’s not going to happen!
So, why is our retirement planning specifically such a challenge? A 65-year-old female will spend about 25% of her life in retirement – that’s almost a quarter of her life. When we retire, a woman’s superannuation balance is on average 43% less than a man’s.1 When you consider the fact that we live on average five years longer than men, then it gets quite scary – we have less money and it has to last us longer. Lovely.
So, why is there such a big super gap? Simply put, we’re paid less through our working career (about 17.5% less, in fact!2) and take breaks more often – a chicken-and-egg situation, as the breaks also lead to a slower increase in pay when we do return. Now, I wish they would, but these two things are probably not going to change anytime soon, so it’s up to us to take charge of other things we can control in order to close the gap ourselves.
We’ve already discussed that women live longer – five years on average, but one in three Australian marriages ends in divorce – so there’s a high likelihood that due to divorce or death many of us will be solely responsible for our household’s financial management at some point in our lives. It makes sense that we learn more about it and take joint decisions – without delay.
Now, I could write a whole article (and in future I will) on superannuation strategies to help women close the gap, or about investment options and super funds, but this isn’t about telling you what to do – it’s about encouraging you to do something.
I hosted a dinner last week with 15 other busy mums to talk about this very topic. We discussed three areas, where we can act as the drivers of the project in order to protect ourselves and build a life.
Wealth Protection – Know what insurance policies you have in place – this is the foundation from where you start. If you or your partner should die, or something else happens that prevents you from earning an income, how would you make ends meet? We can self-insure when we have enough assets to provide for us if the worst happens, but until then, transfer the risk onto insurance policies. These days you can put most cover through super, so cash flow shouldn’t be affected too much.
Wealth Creation – Start small. Superannuation is something we all have. Design a strong foundation, by ensuring you have the right super product for you. Build on this by creating other assets and reduce your personal debt, such as your home mortgage.
Wealth Transfer – At the dinner, this was the topic we spent the most time on. I work with clients from all walks of life, but I’m still surprised every day to hear how few people have a good estate plan in place. You can protect yourself and build all the assets in the world, but unless it goes to the right beneficiaries, at the right time, it’s pointless. Have the tough ‘what if’ discussions – make decisions on a few key roles and talk to a professional to get it done.
Empowerment isn’t so much about who has the power – it’s about choice. And choice requires knowledge. If you take anything out of this article, it’s this: go out and learn more. Ask questions and seek advice. Get involved in the ongoing management of your finances – I’m not talking about physically paying the bills. Know what assets and liabilities you have; know what cash flow you have; set financial goals and make a plan to reach them. If this isn’t an option in your relationship, seek help. If your partner is open to it, Relationships Australia offers financial counselling – if your viewpoints are fundamentally different, then the first place to start is to understand each other better.
And if you feel you have nowhere to go, please remember that financial bullying is a form of abuse, plain and simple. Threatening to withhold money to make you comply is a serious form of abuse – seek help!
In future articles, I’ll address the how more, as long as you now understand the why. I challenge you: find your financial confidence – be empowered to learn more about your own financial management.
Antoinette Mullins is a CFP Qualified Financial Adviser at Wealth Creation Advisors, with 12 years’ experience. She immigrated to Australia 15 years ago, so she knows how hard it can be to start again and to learn new things. She advises clients on holistic financial strategies including insurance, super and estate planning, and is a fee-for-service adviser. Seeking financial advice isn’t complicated: meetings can take place at your convenience (even at home!) and fees can usually be paid from super. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 9279 2001.
General Advice Warning: The information in this article is of a general nature only without taking into account your objectives, financial circumstances or needs. Before acting on any of this information, you should consider whether it is appropriate to your objectives, financial circumstances and needs, and seek appropriate professional advice.
1 Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, Developments in the level and distribution of retirement savings, Ross Clare, Director of Research, September 2011 and MLC Analysis, June 2012
2 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2013, Gender pay gap statistics