If you are an Australian woman, you can expect to live 5 years longer than your male companions. However, don't celebrate just yet because, statistically speaking, you can't afford those extra years or even to retire at all.
Despite women living longer than ever, they are being crippled by financial inequality.
'In order to change these statistics, women need to take back control of their finance," says Penny Collicoat, Founder of Women with Edge, a boutique financial planning firm for women.
Collicoat believes too many women are not taught about money management early in life, that financial decisions are seen as intimidating tasks reserved for men and that there is a false belief that financial planning is only for the exorbitantly wealthy or exceedingly poor.
Women with Edge is challenging these common misconceptions by helping women to act now and avoid becoming another unfavourable financial statistic.
'As women, we are guilty of putting ourselves behind everyone and everything else, but it doesn't have to be that way. Education is the beginning of liberation and the first step towards financial empowerment is often as simple as seeking help from a financial planner," says Collicoat.
The nation's 17.4 per cent gender pay gap has big implications for superannuation savings. The average female is expected to retire with about $112,600 in super savings compared to $198,000 for a male.
Consequently, 90 per cent of women do not have enough superannuation to retire comfortably and 65 per cent will rely on the government pension as their main source of income during retirement.
Over a working lifetime a 25-year old male is expected to earn 1.5 times more than a woman of the same age.
Women are often the primary caregivers of children and elderly or disabled family members. As a result, over 40 per cent of women in Australia work park time. This work-family juggling act can mean women's super-balances -flat-line' between the ages of 38-42 and 43-47.
These alarming statistics are often accepted by females as part of womanhood.
The gender pay gap and a reduced capacity to work, combined with a women's tendency to prioritise family expenses over personal financial security, can culminate in a lower than desirable bank and superannuation balance.
According to Collicoat many women are constantly putting their financial future at the bottom of a never ending To-Do list. Issues such as debt or limited superannuation savings are neglected, as the more immediate day-to-day costs of school uniforms or groceries are urgent now.
However, from a finance perspective, there is little correlation between what seems urgent on a day-to-day basis and your financial circumstances in 10, 20 or even 40 year's time.
Collicoat and her team work with their clients to understand their life as a whole and any financial issues they may have, such as an upcoming wedding or baby, school fees or buying a property. This insight is used to assist women to reclaim control of their finances.
'My passion lies in the financial education of women and ensuring that my clients truly understand not only what they have, but also what they can create," says Collicoat.
The advice and services provided by Women with Edge have placed countless Australian women in a more stable financial position, equipping them to live the life they deserve in the years ahead.
'After all, with knowledge comes power to create change," she says.
For more information about Women with Edge: http://www.womenwithedge.com.au
Penny Collicoat is Director of Women with Edge – a Financial Planning Business focusing on securing women's financial futures
Question: What is Women with Edge?
Penny Collicoat: Women with Edge is a financial planning business that has been shaped by what I believe has been missing in the industry. We are practical financial advice working with women, to encourage them to take control over their finances, in a relaxed, non-threatening environment and process.
Question: Why was it important for Women with Edge to be established?
Penny Collicoat: After talking with my friends and clients, I realised that so many women don't seek financial advice as they thought they didn't have enough money, didn't know they had choices within their super fund, had no idea personal insurance existed, didn't know how to structure their bank accounts effectively. They didn't know where to start or who to see. They didn't want to see some man in a suit on the other side of a boardroom table. They wanted to be able to ask what they deemed to be a simple question and not feel intimidated to do so! I couldn't believe what I thought was just plain fundamentals on finance education wasn't out there or accessible. I have never worked in fashion so I had no idea what a 'PO" is. I now know it's a Purchase Order, but it's the same for financial information. If you're not exposed to it, you won't know about it. The more exposure and knowledge we have, the more we can help ourselves.
Question: Why do you believe it's now more important than ever for a women to think about their financial future?
Penny Collicoat: The same as anyone should think about their financial future- so they can enjoy their future and retire not living in poverty. More and more, women are earning higher salaries than their partners, yet somehow miss the part where they take control of their expenses, retirements needs etc and put every other person and task ahead of future planning. By showing an interest and doing some basics in structure and set up, it can make a huge difference to your overall wealth and standard of living, not just now but in retirement.
Question: What piece of financial information would you give a newly employed 20 year old?
Penny Collicoat: Don't just take your employers default super fund. Do some research, get some advice and make sure your super is invested appropriately for you and in sound investments.
Question: What advice do you have for a woman in her 30's?
Penny Collicoat: Spend some time putting a budget together. Include going out expenses, clothes, hair and wine but DO NOT forget to also save a little. A budget doesn't have to mean that you lose your social life and fun times but it can definitely make you aware of where you are spending your money unnecessarily and stop it. A dollar saved today is worth more than a dollar saved tomorrow.
Question: And how does your advice change as a women ages?
Penny Collicoat: Advice doesn't just change with age, it changes with circumstances. You might have a 30 year old with 2 children and a 40 year old with none. Advice should be personal and circumstance driven. Age is simply one factor that should be taken in to consideration. Salary, future plans, marital status, savings, living arrangements, dependants, tolerance for risk are all things, and more, that impact how we interact with our clients. The most important thing is actually what the goals of the client are though- we work with our clients to ensure that they get out of the process what they came for. If we can't help them for whatever reason, then we will try and find someone who can.
Question: What are your top planning tips for the birth of a child?
Penny Collicoat: My number one tip for babies would have to be save and save early! Babies have become more and more expensive. There is a huge choice on products, not just for the baby but for the doctors we see, the hospital we use, the process for mothers and fathers, etc. You want to be able to make those choices yourself so preparation will enable you to do this.
My other tips are speak to Human Services about what financial benefits you may be entitled to as many are now means tested so very individual.
Lastly, shop around. With so many products and suppliers out there, it's a buyer's market. That's why by saving early (Tip #1), you can hit the sales when they are on. Make sure you also look online and see if the store near you will price match (most of them do these days)
Question: In regards to shares or property is it important that a woman has her own investments aside from her husband?
Penny Collicoat: Investments are a personal thing. Some couples like to keep their spending and banks account separately, others like to do everything jointly. My advice is to get some advice as a couple. If you are living together then you need to both take an interest in your financial matters. Take an interest and know what you have, how to access balances, and monitor performance etc. Whoever holds the assets, may hold the title, but both of you should know your overall 'balance sheet" and keep up to date with it. Don't be lazy, if you don't understand what you or your partner has, then ask or do some reading. The internet is a very powerful resource and leaves you with no excuses.
Question: What do we need to be aware of, in regards to superannuation?
Penny Collicoat: My biggest realisation when talking to other women (and men for that matter) was many thought that their employer organised their super and they didn't get to decide where or how it was invested. Get some advice, do some reading and find out some very basic information. Where is your super, how many do you have, what insurances am I paying for in them, how is it invested, what fees am I paying? Do a comparison and see what else is out there. If you feel it's too much then see a financial planner to help you. Super is a long term investment and can add up to hundreds of thousands over your working life and as we can't access it until retirement, gives us even more reason to ensure its invested properly with performance key.
Interview by Brooke Hunter