Women start behind the pack in the savings race. Eleisha McNeill explains why – and how to catch up.
If you’re a woman and you worry that you’re just not that good with money, you’re not alone.
Diane Maxwell, Retirement Commissioner and head of the Commission for Financial Capability, was once just like us.
“I lived it large in my 20s. I didn’t think long-term, didn’t save a cent. I was terrible with money, and I spent an extraordinary amount on ‘stuff’.
“I’d convinced myself I needed that stuff. But I’m not sure that I really did.”
Why women fall behind
Aside from spending too much on ‘stuff’, what women can save is affected by a number of things, including:
• The roles we play in our families. Many women struggle to keep up savings if they’re a single parent, a stay-at-home parent, or work part-time.
• The occupations we choose. A large number of women are in lower-paid occupations, as carers, teachers, or in administration support roles.
• The gender pay gap. Even when women and men work in the same roles, women are likely to earn less.
• Our perceptions of ourselves. Women feel less confident with money and don’t see it as important.
Money does matter
Maxwell says women often tell her money doesn’t matter, that it’s not something they chase.
“We wear it as a badge of pride that we’re not motivated by money,” she says.
But money is the thing that buys us a house, it pays for a car to get to work, it pays our bills, it gets us away on holiday, Maxwell says.
“I want women to have economic independence – savings – so they can leave the b****** boyfriend, have career choices, have time off when they need it, and so they can buy a house,” Maxwell says.
“Women need to take ownership and take more responsibility for their own financial futures, so they can have choices. But it’s sometimes an uphill battle.”
Maths and the money gap
Maxwell says one of the biggest problems she notices is a general lack of confidence around maths and money in women. From childhood, she says, males get messages about planning and finance, but females are often told they’re not good at that stuff.
This lack of confidence has a couple of big effects. One is that women are more likely to be renting than men.
“It’s partly we’re earning less, but also because we’re more anxious about sitting at the bank and having the home loan conversation,” she says.
Women also tend to pay with credit cards and store cards, rather than saving and then buying.
“The problem with those cards is the interest rates are usually over 20 per cent, so we end up getting more expensive credit,” says Maxwell.
How to boost your savings power
Women can turn the tide on their savings, says Diane Maxwell. Here’s how:
• Accept that money is important. Maxwell says we need to care about money, because if we don’t have it, everything is hard.
• Don’t be afraid of your finances. “Hell, if we can raise children – if we can juggle everything that goes with that – we can definitely plan our money,” Maxwell says. And if you can’t work it out yourself, get help.
• Spend more deliberately. Think harder about whether you need what you’ve put on that shop counter, take a packed lunch instead of buying every day, buy one less coffee a day. “It’s amazing how much making little changes can save you, and you can retarget that money into savings,” Maxwell says.
• Don’t borrow from credit cards or store cards. If you need to borrow, get a personal loan from the bank and save yourself a ton of interest.
First published 15 August, 2018.
Story by Eleisha McNeill
JUNO does not contain financial advice as defined by the Financial Advisers Act 2008. Consult a suitably qualified financial adviser before making investment decisions. This story reflects the views of the contributor only. Content comes from sources that JUNO considers accurate, but we do not guarantee that the content is accurate.