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Bad with money

04 March 2019

There’s a statistic doing the rounds that states women have 80,000 thoughts a day and men 40,000. Psychologists say up to 70 percent of our thoughts are negative. No matter how many thoughts we may or may not be having if 7 out of 10 of them are negative it’s no wonder women think they’re hopeless at everything, and that includes their finances.

Here are some other facts. Large scale data collected in Australia and from overseas indicates there is no difference in ability between boys and girls when it comes to maths. However, when it comes to confidence in maths most girls do not believe they have the ability. (ACER, Dr Sue Thomson.)

Could the long term implications of this lack of confidence in our mathematical abilities as girls be part of why we lack financial confidence as women? The topic would make an interesting research study.

If we assume one lack of confidence feeds into another, then the really important action to take now is to confront girls and women with the real picture - a picture that paints girls as having the same ability as boys in maths and that showcases examples of all the women making it in our communities, because that can turn perceptions around.

Finance at home

Household decision makers manage the household budget. They pay bills, engage in the day to day finances of spending and saving. Household decision makers are invariably women. Men and women judge them as competent but when women rate their abilities and confidence around financial matters, especially when it comes to investment, superannuation, life insurances, mortgages, it’s low.


Well, many women are disengaged from their finances either because they don’t believe they can understand them or that it’s not really their place to understand them, and that’s a Catch 22. If you don’t engage, you increase misunderstanding and lose confidence, feeding a fear of financial matters, causing further disengagement, and so the cycle continues.

What can we do to improve our confidence around money?

One strategy is positive self-talk: the “fake it ‘til you make it” mindset. The other is to engage and take responsibility for financial matters, and that means drawing down on resilience because there will be wins and losses in the process.

The big issue for many women is where do they find the time?

Research from KANTAR Australia (mid-2018) revealed that 38 percent of the women sampled were ‘too worried about everyday finances to spend much time thinking about the future’ (versus 28 percent of the men). For anyone to build confidence in a subject they need to engage and learn and understand and that takes time. Surprisingly, many of us will find time if we are engaged.

There are so many ways to engage on financial matters. The variety is important because, as individuals, we’ll have ways of engaging that suit us better than others.

Here are some ideas:

If you like podcasts there’s the ABC's Pineapple Project with Claire Hooper. The Pineapple Project exposes listeners to the psychology of money; how to buy a house; love and money; what my career could or should look like among other money-related topics.

There are webinars run by groups such as Verve, a superannuation fund for women run by women, or Ruby and Davidson Institute, and you can always book into see a financial planner or your bank manager to get a more formal introduction.

Or, you could try blogs, such as Scott Pape’s Barefoot Investor, or Mel Browne’s Unf**k Your Finances books.

Mel (who has done work with Westpac and with Ruby Connection) approaches financial issues as a ‘detox’.

The detox begins with buying nothing new or non-essential for 30 days. In that time you think about what you feel about money and your specific financial situation and come to an understanding around what you value. You also put together a plan. For example, if I want to save $10,000 in two years then I have to save about $97 a week from my pay.

If saving and having a plan are not an issue for you, then you may want to set new challenges for yourself, such as developing new income streams: investment properties, stocks and shares, ETFs, Super, etc.

Divorce and separation experts can tell you the horror stories associated with not knowing about the family finances. Couple those anecdotes with research, such as KANTAR’s, which has shown many women find finance and banking a scary subject and most don’t feel confident about their understanding of financial matters, and you have the ingredients for a bad dish.

Ruby’s findings, especially around the question of retirement planning, paint a similar picture. In one 2015 report, we found

84% of Australian Women surveyed did not feel adequately prepared for retirement

23.3% of respondents were not prepared at all for retirement

Two in five (39.1%) women over 18 didn’t seek advice from anybody about their finances for their retirement

And while a number of respondents did talk with family about finances in general, at some stage taking control of financial matters is going to require something a little less subjective and a lot more objective.

Coping with student debt

According to Federal Government statistics on student debt:

The number of people with outstanding HELP debts reached 2.7 million in 2016–17, up from 2.5 million in 2015–16.

The number of debts above $50,000 also continued to grow in 2016–17, reaching 159,475, up from 125,650 in 2015–16. Among people with debts above $50,000, 14,046 have debts above $100,001, up from 10,996 in 2015–16.

The average amount of outstanding debt is much lower at $20,303, up from $19,396 in 2015–16.

Students finish studying not only with a HELP debt, but with a stack of other debts they need to pay back.

Student debt has not been analysed by gender in Australia.

However, if the US is anything to go by, on average, women carry more student loan debt, and take longer to pay it off, than men. If we want to reduce the gender wealth gap, we have to acknowledge the extra burden of student loans for women.

Here are some solid tips to consider if you're financially struggling as a student.

Firstly, consider working full-time and studying part-time for a year, to build up funds.

First year of work - Get into the habit of automatically transferring a percentage of your wage to a savings account you can't access.

Singles - Without a partner to split the cost of home-ownership, consider buying an investment property or buying a property and taking a boarder.

Saving tips

For anyone wanting to get a handle on their spending - and change their habits - spending tracking apps rather than budgets can often be helpful.

Zip, which is listed on the ASX, is one of Australia’s leading providers of digital finance. It has more than 650,000 customers and is growing rapidly. Zip owns Pocketbook, a personal financial management tool which provides customers with real-time categorisation of spend, credit tracking and financial insights.

And for those among us wanting to get a home or maybe those wanting to refinance, consider avenues like Uno Home Loans. Uno combines in one website the functions of an interest rate comparison website, traditional broker and bank application processes. It has developed a digital process for applications while also providing a customer service team – who are paid annual salaries rather than commissions.


Financial technology describes companies that provide online, automated financial advice to investors. Robo advisers provide automated financial advice or investment management online. They provide digital financial advice based on mathematical rules or algorithms, and can build a portfolio of investments for you that’s tailored to your needs and risk profile. In line with that profile it will rebalance and manage your investments over time.

Fintech investments are relatively low cost but you do have to provide information about yourself, including your finances, so the robo adviser can work out what your level of risk is and where to invest your money. Investment is normally made into Electronically Traded Funds (ETFs) and there are management fees.

The ASX runs free online courses in share investingcorporate and government bonds, ETFs, etc. These can help demystify the process and provide you with basic information and knowledge if you are considering these investment options.

Ruby through Westpac’s Davidson Institute runs a number of financial confidence webinars throughout the year, which can be accessed at any time. Topics cover: Planning your financial future, buying your first home, investing, managing your super, and starting a business.

According to a recent Bankrate report, more than 37% of US adults and more than 50% of millennials have a side hustle (AKA second jobs). (Sep 13, 2018)

Podcasts like The Side Hustle Show zero in on various side hustles and their nitty-gritty details. The show is consistently voted in the top ones to listen to. 

The gender pay gap exists - and in the absence of society and our political masters closing that gap - there is something to be said for developing ways to correct it ourselves. By engaging with your money, developing new ways of making money or making your money work for you, you can increase your wealth but always get advice from a professional, an accountant, lawyer, finance professional, for example.

For more on the topic, why not go along to this year's All About Women Festival on March 10, Sydney Opera House.