Financial Help For Australian Women

04/09/2015 6:09 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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It’s hoped a series of financially-empowering workshops aimed at Australian women will drastically reduce the worrying statistics surrounding women and money.

Australian women are two and a half times more likely to live in poverty in their old age – simply because they’ve been neglecting their financial stability.

With this fact in mind, the Financial Planning Association (FPA) has joined forces with 10thousandgirl, setting up a series of workshops to help strengthen the financial outlook for women across Australia. There’s a particular focus on women in regional areas where there’s a lack of financial support.

10thousandgirl is a not-for-profit social enterprise, named for its goal to educate tens of thousands of Australian women.

Founder Zoe Lamont said many money issues for women stem from the fact that they're just not talking about money openly.

“Men are talking about money with each other all the time, and what they're investing in this month. But women just don't talk about finances, sometimes for fear of putting a foot wrong,” Lamont said.

Many women are putting money in the bank but don't know what to do with it, or they’re investing and want more inspiration and ongoing support. Some are in major financial turmoil, or just don't know where to start.

FPA CEO Mark Rantall said women face particular issues that lead to financial hardship, such as lower wages, less time in the workforce (if they take time out for a family) and living longer than men.

“Women also so often neglect their own financial well-being because they invest heavily in their families and communities, and as a result they earn less than men and worry more about money,” Rantall said.

10thousandgirl and the FPA are holding educational programs throughout the year, aimed at improving the financial literacy and economic health of women, particularly in regional areas.

The project includes a series of webinars and workshops covering money management, including the differences between debt and credit, the importance of life insurance, maximising superannuation and investing in shares and property.

“Understanding financial concepts and the principles of investing is a really important first step, but the reality is that the project gives women the tools they need to create a life plan and achieve the financial future they want by taking charge of their finances now,” Rantall said.

The FPA/10thousandgirl partnership means women attending the workshops can connect with financial planners in their local areas.

As Alison, who declined to give her surname, approached her 30th birthday, she realised her financial know-how was sorely lacking. One of her obstacles was not knowing how to talk about money.

“I’d done lots of reading on money websites and found there were plenty of articles on getting out of debt and buying property, but not much for those all-important stages in between. I didn’t know where to start,” says 'Alison.'

“During the program I wanted to be really open and honest about where I was financially and for me this was the biggest challenge. Just talking about money felt strange. But now I feel comfortable asking for advice and knowing the types of questions I need to be asking.”

'Amy' also learned from the 10thousandgirl program. At 35, she had no savings, a bit of credit card debt and felt a little financially out of control.

“My biggest lessons were to try to work out a way that you can earn more, either by working towards a promotion at work, a second job, commissions and bonus’. Also try to live within your means; paying off credit card debt for things you bought ages ago is no fun,” Amy said.

“Being organised is such an important part of being financially fit. Now I do my tax return on time, keep my receipts in order, do my healthcare claims and work expenses as I go along, so that it doesn’t all pile up and become a bigger job than I can handle.”

The FPA’s commitment to the project consists of subsidising 20 FPA members to participate in the regional workshops, where they will share their financial skills and expertise with the women.

All participants complete a personal financial review, and FPA advisers will discuss key investing principles. The women are also designated a 10thousandgirl ‘trusted adviser’.

“Our objective is to create the opportunity for women, no matter where they live, to learn the skills and build the confidence to become better at managing the money they have,” says Lamont.

“We want to strengthen the financial outlook for women across Australia, and living in a regional area shouldn’t be a barrier.”

Lamont said the younger you start in getting financially literate, the better.

“Gen Y can be very financially literate these days, and as a nation, I believe we're building more financially independent women, now in their 30s and 40s, who are confident at handling their own money,” she said.

“But really, we should be teaching people about budgeting at school age. Often, unhealthy relationships with money can stem from childhood, and they can be as simple as some of the messages about money children hear from their parents.”

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