She-covery, are women more at risk as a year of uncertainty continues to evolve?

From quarantinis and covidiots to the corona-coaster, there have been some new words in the media lately that have become acceptable in our everyday communication. As we create new portmanteaus (blend words together to create new ones), it’s not much of a surprise to see that the creators of Spenditude have also spied some female led portmanteaus.

The impact of COVID-19 seems to have disproportionately impacted women with a larger percentage of women facing job losses, leading to words like she-cession and mum-cession. The natural follow on is the need for a she-covery where policy is focused on getting women back into the workforce. Surveys suggest that men are doing more around the house, but not as much as women – so the jugglehood is real! Of course, we also need to mention the entertaining memes about accidentally ordering 10kg of apples or attempting to balance home schooling, work and doomscrolling!

No matter your gender, please keep reading – for yourself, your Mum, sister, partner, aunt…
The pandemic has made us re-think many things in our life – and our attitude to money is one of them. With finances in mind, perhaps it has made you think more clearly about an emergency fund, or placed greater emphasis on getting rid of some debt. Maybe those things that you had been saving for have become less important and you have shifted focus. Perhaps you want to increase your knowledge or just get some things in order. Conversely, maybe the increased pressure and juggle of the last months have taken you further away from connecting to your finances than ever before.

As a year of uncertainty continues to evolve, what additional risks do women face that need to be considered?

Transfer of Debt
Too much ‘quarantine and chill’ might have placed a strain on your relationship. You can’t spell divorce without COVID and zumping (zoom-dumping) is a thing. So if our risk of separation has increased, so perhaps has our risk of acquiring debt as relationship breakdowns increase.

Also sometimes known as ‘sexually transmitted debt’, Australian family law will generally treat debt within a marriage or de facto relationship as being joint (as the economics of the partnership are considered joint). Whether there is coercion from one partner to another or a person is ignorant to the debt held by their partner, women are more at risk. In cases where this debt transfer has already taken place, it is important to seek professional legal advice – there are many considerations and each situation will be different.

If you are in a relationship, is there anything you can do to avoid acquiring STD? A ‘binding financial agreement’ (also known as a pre-nup) could be one way to protect yourself, but the best way for most people is to really open up those money conversations, and where possible start early in the relationship. How much debt does each person bring? What’s your credit score looking like and what are those bigger goals and commitments that you need to agree upon? There is no right or wrong way to manage your finances as a couple, but with money being one of the top three reasons for separation, working on those details early can make a big difference.

These conversations are primarily about reducing the pressure that money can bring to relationships. They are not about judgment or blame. Perhaps start by sharing the money lessons you have learned in your life, from parents, life events and friends. Be honest about your savings habits, the way you manage money and how you use credit. Talk about goals and find mutual ground. A good aim for the conversation is to try and create a joint Spenditude that both parties agree on.

If debt is a problem for your or in your relationship, contact the National Debt Helpline (ndh.org.au). For relationship support, try interrelate.org.au.

Women of the Future
The notion of superannuation presents many challenges for individuals. We essentially care less about our future selves than we ought to and putting money aside for your future self can feel a bit like giving it to a stranger.

Women were already at a disadvantage due to part time work and career gaps before the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, reduced income and job loss has placed a new burden on retirement savings for many people. So other than lobbying for reform and changes to government policy how do you address the situation with your own Spenditude in mind?

Importantly, please remember to first consider your current circumstances – make sure you are meeting your needs like shelter, food and bills first. In times of uncertainty these are the first priority, then don’t forget to prioritise future you. Here are our top tips:

  • Eyes up  – although super can seem like something that is a long way off, paying attention now can mean big wins in the long term, so please check in on it and don’t bury your head in the sand. It’s your money. Government legislation is encouraging people with multiple funds to consolidate in an attempt to reduce money lost to fees and excess insurance. You can search for lost super through the Australia Tax Office or your MyGov account.
  • Albert is your friend -if super was around when Albert Einstein was alive he would have thought it was the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas, the bomb. Albert told us that compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world, which means that those contributions you make earlier in your career can have a big and long lasting impact.
  • Stay the course – Investment markets have taken a tumble due to the global uncertainty, but history tells us that markets are very likely to recover over time. So don’t panic, stay the course and remember that super is a long term investment.
  • Government help – there are many ways to boost your super and making sure you are getting all your entitlements is one of them. If you earn less than about $53,000 a year and make a contribution, the government will chip in too. If you have a spouse, they can give you a bit through a spouse contribution or contribution splitting. Remember, tax on money you put into super is as low as 15% so you can make some savings. Of course, there are limits and rules, so check out moneysmart.gov.au for more details.

How relevant is your Spenditude when it comes to your super?

Superannuation is something that Defenders value more than others. A Spender is probably not looking that far into the future and a Slender is left confused, torn between what they think they should do and what they could do with the extra cash now.

Chocaholic, Workaholic or Shero
The term ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ gets used a lot, particularly in the corporate world. It is important to remember that this term is not about gender, but so much more. There is so much diversity amongst women – kids, work, carers, singles, couples, age, background, experiences and our community are all important. No matter who you are and your life circumstances, coping through a time of uncertainty and building your money habits to thrive is the best way to start. Where to first? 

Sleep
There are direct links between decision making and poor sleep. When we are sleep deprived we focus on the positive aspects of a purchase, putting us at risk of poor decision making. So no matter who you are, consider your sleep hygiene. Blue light before bed, or in the middle of the night doesn’t help. Switch off the screens, or if that is difficult in your circumstances, try some blue light blocking glasses. Sleep in a bed and not on the couch. Try to limit caffeine and exercise later in the day. Bring some focus to your sleep. It’s the first step to getting the most out of your day.

Structure
Women control around 70% of consumer purchasing decisions and have been called ‘the next emerging market’. With this in mind, along with the impact of the global environment, adding some structure to your finances will help you build awareness.

Automation is your friend – set up automatic payments to yourself for spending, savings, bills. Tracking through your internet banking or another app builds awareness of the ins and outs. Tracking is not always about a restrictive budget, but having a clearer picture. If you have lost income, it is more important than ever. Try to set aside funds ‘out of reach’ and transfer only what you need each week – like a temporary pay office. It could also keep you afloat in rough waters.

Seek knowledge

We all have people around us who are ‘good with money’ (we call them Defenders). Ask them what they are doing. Join a Facebook group that talks about money. Start your own What’sApp group for with friends and other women like you to share tips around money. Read. Follow. Seek advice.

There is a growing number of women’s networks, run by women, for women. Find the ones that meet your needs and objectives. Don’t forget to consider your Spenditude and the impact that has on the decisions you make.

Women have always faced different challenges to men – with career paths altered by nature of childbirth and caring responsibilities alongside a whole lot of history. COVID has brought new challenges and issues – and some new words too. What’s your COVID-tude?

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Feature blog written by
Springday partner and financial wellbeing experts Spenditude

To find out more about your Spenditude or your ‘attitude to money’ visit their website – https://www.spenditude.com

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