Category Archives: Women

Women’s Money Toolkit

I’m a big fan of ASIC’s MoneySmart website and love their Women’s Toolkit.  Have you had a chance to check it out as yet?

The women’s money toolkit has been designed with tips and tools to help you manage your money, gain an edge on your finances and deal with life’s ups and downs.  And we know there’s plenty of them!

The kit was developed because women face unique financial challenges such as having less super than men, living longer and taking time out of paid work to care for others.

It’s designed to have you answer some simple questions and receive a tailored list of topics that may include having a baby, relationships and money, sorting out your super and many more.

Create a personalised to-do list of the actions you need to focus on right now to make the most of your money and enhance your well being.

Remember, you can always:

Do yourself and favour and check it out here: ASIC Women’s Toolkit

Women & Superannuation

I’ve met plenty of people skeptical about our superannuation system over my years as a planner and I get it.  Believe me, I have to devote hours ever year to keeping up with the annual federal budget, managing legislative changes and getting my head around constantly changing tax and super laws.  It can be a drag!

It’s also true that we retire with about half the retirement savings of most men, and some women retire with no super at all!  But the reality is this, women live longer than men, making it even more essential that they accumulate enough superannuation to last them through retirement.

Having said that, women also face unique challenges when it comes to putting away retirement savings. Chances are, you’re still on lower pay than your male counterparts, you’ll take more time out of the workforce to raise the kids or care for your parents, and for those running a single-parent household, it can make it even more challenging to build a reasonable amount of super savings.

However, there are some simple strategies make it possible for women to overcome some of these hurdles, or make them less of an issue anyway…

Try and remember, that superannuation is actually your friend.  It is a very tax-effective way to save retirement. Your super fund pays a low rate of tax on contributions and investment earnings while growing your nest egg.  From age 60, you can withdraw your super tax-free.

Without any superannuation savings, many women are forced to rely solely on the age pension in their senior years.  Remember, the pension is designed as a safety net and won’t provide at all for a comfortable old age.  I’m not sure I could go back to a lifestyle that’s funded on around $23,000 per annum and you probably don’t want to either!

Firstly, don’t let your super funds get ‘lost.’  Try and ensure your funds are consolidated – this can help save on fees, but make sure you’re not losing valuable insurance coverage when doing so.  When possible, try to put extra away into super.  The ATO and website MyGov are making it easier than ever now to stay on top of your funds.

Affording an extra $20 – $50 per week now may not take food off the table but the additional money, plus years of compound interest will add up, and after all, your investing in your future self.  Sounds like a win to me!

Understand your fund and make sure your employer is putting your full entitlements in regularly on your behalf.  At the time of writing, this was 9.5% of your gross wage. Mostly now, we have super choice meaning that we’re able to choose the fund we want, and then check where your money is invested within the fund.  Is it in line with your investment profile?

To grow your fund, you’re often able to make pre-tax contributions (Salary Sacrifice) or even post-tax contributions where no tax is charged.  Depending on your circumstances, your partner may also be able to make contributions on your behalf and receive a tax offset for their efforts.

However you go about it, remember that you’re investing in your future and that superannuation is your money.  It certainly pays to be savvy with your super!  Sitting down with your financial adviser may reveal new and innovative ways you can make the most of your retirement savings!

Women & Retirement

Seeing there’s actually no fixed aged when you can retire, it’s really completely up to you.  What it does come down to usually is, can you fund it?

Most start thinking in their’s 50’s about how it’s all going to work, as entitlement to the Age Pension is somewhere between 65 and 67, depending on when you were born.

Often a gradual transition is the way to go, slowly cutting back on days at work, going part time before finally exiting the work force for good.  Other conditions to consider when approaching retirement and leaving the work force for good are the loss of social interaction provided by work and the mental stimulation that’s provided.

Do you have hobbies that can take the place of your usual schedule or will boredom quickly creep in?  Exiting slowly can help you keep a hand in, whilst transitioning slowly, giving you a taste for what lies beyond work.

Some may choose to continue working part-time towards their 70’s as life expectancy moves forward.  Others have always wanted to volunteer for a local school or charity and now enjoy giving back to their local community.

If you still have a partner, discussing expectations and plans for life after work is essential to ensuring you’re on the same page.  Suddenly being together 24/7 isn’t everyone’s ideal start to their retirement years.

For others, it’s time to buy that caravan or Harley (or both!) and join the multitudes of Grey Nomads touring the country!

For others it’s not so easy.  Forced retirement may be brought on by having to assist in caring for aging parents or unwell children or grandchildren.  This can seriously impact your ability to put away additional funds to help in your retirement years.

And still, financial considerations remain top of mind.  How much you’ll need in retirement is completely dependent on the lifestyle you’ll be living…  And what you have saved to boost your pension will often dictate that lifestyle.

You might want to sit down with your planner long before retirement is on the horizon and discuss strategies that may suit your circumstances.  If your debt is low, it may be time to give your superannuation funds a boost by implementing salary sacrifice strategies.  For those closer to retirement, it might be worth considering a Transition to Retirement strategy.  Those on a lower income may be able to take advantage of the Government’s Co-Contribution strategy.

Getting the right advice for your situation is likely the best investment you can make in your future.  So how does retirement look for you?

What does Financial Abuse Really Look Like?

Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially. …Financial abuse applies to both elder abuse and domestic violence.

– Economic abuse – Wikipedia

 

I’ve spoken out about financial abuse in the past, but it’s hard to imagine for a lot of people.  We know it’s out there, but what does it look like?  How does it affect people?  What’s the fallout?

I spoke to one survivor who is brave enough to speak out, and I want to share her story.

I met Tanya when I wanted to know more about media and publicity and enrolled in one of her courses to learn how to write a Media Release correctly and we stayed in touch via social media after the event.

I recently interviewed Tanya on learning she’d be a victim of financial abuse and she was kind enough to reveal her story to me.

Tanya had been an investigative journalist back in the day and has also gone on to run businesses.  When she met and fell in love with the man who would become her husband, she was quite well off.  She had a successful business, property and cash in the bank.

At the end of the relationship, there was nothing left in her own name.  All had been transferred into a company and trust of which he was the director and signatory of.  She remained just a shareholder, so all decisions could be made without consultation.

The belittling had by then been going on for years.  She was told she was bad with money, and obviously, she thought, it was true.  Everything she had was no more.  All her decisions were wrong.  He was right.  The emotional abuse was there too, alive and well.

Friends and family hardly recognized the frail shell that eventually did leave the relationship, the one she’d been told that she’d never be brave enough to do.  The relationship by then was twelve years old and Tanya had wanted out for the last six.

Her health was broken.  She had a stroke and a series of seizures brought on by the stress and she was financially at ground zero and emotionally bankrupt.  But she had a good reason to soldier on, her daughter.

Now, I’ve never been in a situation anything remotely like Tanya’s and we often hear now about ‘victim blaming’ statements.  Onlookers may make comments like ‘she should have gotten out earlier.’ ‘Why would you stay with a guy like that?’ ‘What was keeping her there?’ ‘Why did it take so long?’  And I guess unless we’re there ourselves, we’ll never really, truly know.

So, to ask the question everybody seems to want the answer to… why did you stay? 

“It was the frog in the pot scenario. If you throw a frog into boiling water it jumps out, but if you put it in warm water and slowly turn up the heat it will be boiled alive before it even knows it.

“I was isolated by the time I realised I needed to get out, cut off from my family and my friends, I felt there was no out. But then one day, I realised I couldn’t risk being a bad role model for my daughter any longer. I wanted her to know that she could get out, should the cycle repeat, and that she could have an amazing life in doing so.

“One day my husband gave me an ultimatum…. stop ‘playing around with the media’ and get a job in a supermarket. When my daughter heard this, she burst into tears and said ‘that’s not you mummy’.

“In that moment I realized I’d failed her and we had to go.”

And how did you finally manage to get out?   

“I started putting $20 per week onto a grocery card so that we’d have funds to last us for food once we’d gone.  I managed to have three months saved when we left and had squirrelled things away with a close friend.  The timing had to be right too.  It’s not an easy thing.  If I had advice for anyone looking to move on from an emotionally and financially abusive relationship is that if possible, put aside whatever you can to tide you over for when you’re out.  That may not work for everyone, but it sure made a huge difference to me.”

It took a lot of time and the rebuilding is ongoing, of Tanya’s health and finances.  She’s used all of her experience in media and small business to build a success business today and her personal and business growth continues.

I’d like to thank her for being brave enough to speak out and let others see the real face behind financial abuse and it’s very frightening reality.  And also, to know that there’s hope.  No matter how broken, we can rebuild.

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that these are Tanya’s recollections and story and as such cannot be verified for accuracy.

Mother’s Day

Most of us wouldn’t doubt for a second the love and advice of our mothers.

From when we were very small, they’ve watched over us, with those eyes in the back of their head, and given us the wisdom of their guidance (which we may now have passed on to our own children… or view as incredibly bizarre!)

And whatever you do to celebrate Mother’s Day, we hope it’s a good one for you.  For those who’ve lost their mums or a having their first Mother’s Day without mum around, it’s going to be a tough one.  Try and remember all the wonderful times you had, the love and smiles and great moments you shared.

I came across one very special gift that i think mums of young ones everywhere would approve of:

  • Celebrate your kid’s mother this year by giving her a time machine – that is, a return to a life before diapers, sleepless nights, and the pressure to always be thinking of everything at once.

Sounds like a winning idea to me!

And whether you get breakfast in bed, a pasta necklace or something amazing, I don’t know too many mums who won’t value the greatest gift of all, your time.

Are you an Amazing Unleashed Woman?

I’m so excited!  I’ve just found out that I’ve been approved for a grant from the Million Dollar Round Table in the United States for UDS$1,000 to support my work with The Hunger Project.  Woohoo!

After my visits to Uganda and Malawi, I’ve become even more passionate about the empowerment of women in global communities and the drive to end hunger.  It frustrates me that so many of us have so much, while so many struggle with so little.

Did you Know?  A donation of even $50 can help give 3 women a micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business to create further income for their families.  We drop that no problem on a meal out or a few drinks with friends.

And here’s an example of what a couple of weeks groceries,  just $500 is able to achieve:

  • Train 400 mothers on feeding their children locally available nutritious food, so their children grow up healthy; or
  • Give 30 women a start-up micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business, to create income for her family; or
  • Empower 15 women to become local volunteer leaders and train their fellow villagers on issues such as education and sanitation.

But, if you’d rather spend your hard-earned dosh on a table at a fabulous restaurant spoiling your loved one on Valentine’s Day, I completely get that too.  So why not bid on A Table to End Hunger and empower others to put food on theirs.   Get in quick!

I’ve been so amazed by the incredible people who’ve supported my journey to date and those who’ve jumped on board and joined the movement.

I’d love to welcome you to become Unleashed with me again for the coming year!

And it’s still not too late to donate – if you’d like to help others to help themselves, please donate here: Unleashed Amanda’s Fundraising Page

Get your finances baby-ready

A pre-baby financial checklist can make all the difference to new mums, writes Sally Patten.

For the majority of women, having a baby is one of life’s magical moments. It is also a moment that brings new responsibilities, including those of the financial variety.

Ideally, planning for a baby in financial terms should start a year, or even two years, before birth to ensure there is enough money tucked away to cover maternity leave and that other arrangements, such as life insurance, are in place.

Being prepared will help mothers to revel in their newborns as they should.  “If you are stressed about money, the experience is not as enjoyable as it should be,” says Kellie Payne of RI Advice Group Caloundra.

In the early planning stages, it is important to investigate how much money you can expect to receive through work entitlements and the government’s parental-leave pay scheme. Taking into account your expected income, the amount of time you plan to take off, your current expenses and any additional expenses that come with having a baby will enable you to figure out what the shortfall might be and how much you need to save ahead of time.

“Be prepared for additional medical and pharmacy costs for both you and the baby,” warns Payne.

Adele Martin of Firefly Wealth recommends opening a separate bank account for parental expenses, or better still, put the money into a separate mortgage offset account.

Check your insurance levels

In the case of health insurance, not all contracts cover pregnancy and baby-related services and if you do need to raise your level of cover, a 12-month waiting period will typically apply.

If you want to be covered by private health insurance for pregnancy “you’ll need to be on a health cover that includes pregnancy at least three months before you start trying to fall pregnant”, warns health insurer nib health funds.

Having a child is also an ideal time to look at your life insurance, which may pay a sum of money in the event of death, and income-protection policies, which may pay a regular sum of money in the event of serious illness or injury. Both can be critical when there is a baby or child who will need providing for if something happens to you.

Finding the right life insurance and income-protection policies is no mean feat and advice is recommended.

Strategies for Life Queensland financial adviser Tanaya Bendall says in terms of income-protection policies, would-be mothers should consider whether the policy will pay an agreed amount without having to show proof of income.

Martin notes that many insurance companies won’t insure pregnant women after the last trimester because they are viewed as higher risk.

A convenient way to increase insurance levels may be through superannuation, because this won’t have any impact on your cash-flow levels.

Finally, Martin believes women should not ignore superannuation during this time. She suggests investigating whether they are eligible for various super contribution allowances, such as the government co-contribution and spouse contributions while they’re not working or working part-time.

How a baby changed Emily’s financial outlook

A lot changed for Emily Shields when she had her first child, not least her financial outlook.  The embryologist knew she did not want to go back to work full-time.

“I wanted to be able to spend that time with Evie. But it also makes you think about being able to provide for her,” says the 37-year-old.  “We were lucky when we were kids that we never had to want for anything, and I want to be able to provide that for Evie.”

Shields was in a fortunate position: her partner Sam could support them. He had just started his own financial-planning company when Evie was born, and Shields was able to take a year’s maternity leave from her position at one of Melbourne’s leading IVF clinics.

She extended this leave by becoming a home-based sales rep for a health and beauty company for six months.  Now back at work two-and-a-half days a week, Shields is pleased to have resumed her career, knowing Evie is well looked after.

“All I knew was that I didn’t want her going into childcare,” says Shields. “It’s been easy knowing she’s going to family and Sam’s aunt can work around us with times and dates.”

The immediate financial plan is to continue working part-time while keeping a long-held investment property “ticking over” until they are ready to buy a house.

“We’re quite happy with a public primary school but I’d like Evie to go to a private school for high school if we have the money.”

Case study: Natasha Hughes

This article is part of a series published in the Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age called Her Money, that aims to help women take control of their financial futures. This series has been created in partnership with ANZ.