"Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver." (Ayn Rand)
In Women’s Month, it’s right to reflect on how far we have come regarding women’s rights. The equality of the sexes is pretty universally agreed.
However, we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there are still many areas where men and women face quite different realities.
Last year, financial services group Aegon conducted a financial wellbeing study that highlighted some interesting statistics. The numbers come from the UK, but they tell a story that is universal.
The study found, for instance, that women are much more likely to take responsibility for budgeting for groceries in a household than men. This is something that 51% of women said that they do, as opposed to just 17% of men.
When it comes to who is responsible for paying for children’s clothing, the numbers are even more extreme. This is something that 73% of women handle, but just 8% of men.
When it comes to long-term savings, however, the numbers look very different. In this area, 61% of men take responsibility, and only 36% of women.
Given these figures, it shouldn’t be surprising that the study also found that 42% of women say that they are struggling with their financial wellbeing, compared with only 31% of men. While just 12% of women are able to combine healthy finances and a positive money mindset, this is true for 21% of men.
“Our research finds that in most mixed gender households, women are more likely to have lead responsibility for short-term budgeting and management of the household finances,” said Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon. “These important tasks make up much of the outgoings for the average household, but this short-term focus may be depriving many women of the chance to think long-term about their finances.”
This raises two important points.
Firstly, taking care of much of the short-term spending to keep a household running means that many women don’t feel that they are able to save. This puts them at risk.
Secondly, having long-term financial goals and a financial plan is an important part of a healthy relationship with money. If you don’t have that security, it will be difficult to feel that you have a handle on your finances.
To address these issues, women should consider these three steps:
In many relationships, money matters are linked to “traditional” gender roles. Women take responsibility for domestic affairs and child-rearing, while men are seen as “providers”. This is the case even when women earn as much as or more than their male partners.
The best way to address this is to have a joint budget and a combined financial plan. When all responsibilities are shared – over both the short and long term – women will feel more secure.
In reality, even when couples do plan together, it is still necessary to appreciate that women are often at a financial disadvantage. Unfortunately, women do still earn less than men on average, and they are also likely to have their earning potential curtailed by taking time off to have children or look after ailing family members.
It is important to build this into a financial plan. But, since women are likely to earn less over their lifetimes, it’s also important for them to save a higher proportion of what they get.
This can be hard. It will come up against the pressure many women feel to spend more on short-term family needs. For their financial wellbeing, it is however important that they prioritise saving to secure their futures.
Often, women find it harder to talk about money than men do. This can have a positive side. Men are prone to over-estimating how much they know.
However, feeling ashamed or unprepared to talk about money can leave many women feeling a bit helpless. If they feel overwhelmed by the subject, they can believe that they will never be able to get on top of their finances, and so don’t do anything about developing a better relationship with their money.
This is why finding a financial adviser they can relate to and who understands the different kinds of conversations that they want to have can be a critical help. Women don’t want the same kind of advice that men do. And finding a professional who can offer that support can make a huge different to their financial wellbeing.
To discuss the particular financial challenges that women face, speak to a professional.
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