Recently I attended the absolutely amazing Women of the World Festival which is held every March at the Southbank Centre in London. As always with these type of events choosing one panel to attend out of the 7 or 8 in each time slot is so hard because they all look so good. Do you choose the ones that appeal to you the most, or the ones that you find less interesting but will plug your knowledge gaps? Either way you have to accept that you can’t get to them all!
Yet the ones I did attend were fascinating. Hearing so many knowledgeable, talented women share their experiences and call out the misogyny in the world felt so liberating. Hearing what women are doing to combat it was inspiring and empowering. In some of the larger talks there were more people than seats and when I looked around the room I saw everyone paying rapt attention. I felt like part of a congregation listening to a sermon.
Turning 30 and realising that I have no money to save at the end of each month led me to attend a lot of finance related talks this year. I learnt a lot about myself and women & finances as a result. I wanted to share some of that knowledge here in case it helps empower someone reading in the way that attending these workshops helped empower me.
<<Note: a lot of the stats below come from research done by The Fawcett Society and the Chartered Insurance Institute whose members headed up some of the panels. Check out the reports listed at the end of this post for more information.>>
Firstly, I learnt that several factors contribute to women being less financially literate than men:
- Girls are not encouraged to study maths at school.
- Girls and young women are steered away from finance related professions.
- Traditionally, society has dictated that in a partnership women deal with home and child care whilst men deal with the dough. Society has fostered a culture which encourages women to feel like they should let men deal with the money.
- This feeling is exacerbated by the confidence society places in men about their ability to deal with finances; men overestimate and women underestimate their knowledge and capabilities.
- In the media women are usually the assistants, the secretaries, the moms, the care-givers but rarely do you see a film about female business owners, investors, insurers, bankers, or CEOs etc. etc.
- Finance products such as pensions, investments, and buying stock, are designed, written, and advertised in ways that cater to men rather than women – and so therefore exclude women.
- Women are more time poor – so have less opportunity to learn about finances
- When women seek the counsel of a financial advisor, they are given biased advice because of their gender! Of the women who have an advisor, 73% feel misunderstood by them showing that their needs are not being met as much as men’s.
And I’m sure there are many more reasons that we can add here too. Feel free to comment below with any that you think of.
This financial illiteracy is then combined with economic disadvantage.
Women are more likely to be living in poverty. More likely to be unemployed. Are paid less for the work they do, even when doing the same job as men. They are more likely to work part time – and part time workers are paid less per hour. 86% of lone parent families are headed by women. They are less likely to put themselves first, if they have spare money it will go on the home or the kids. Women are disproportionately affected by domestic and financial abuse.
There are many more facts I could list but I’ll stop there for now…
Together the two factors lead to some shocking results:
- There is a 32% gap in insurance wealth between genders.
- Men are twice as likely to hold stocks and shares.
- After a divorce women experience a 10% dip in income whilst the man’s income increases.
- 71% of divorcing couples don’t discuss their pension, leading women to miss out on £5bn every year.
- At the age 65-69 men’s average peak pension wealth is five times that of women’s.
- Because women are more likely to live longer and will experience more years of ill health in later life – they will have to pay more for their care in old age. This is made harder because they will have less assets as state provision declines and they are less likely to own their own home. And remember their pensions worth less!
This all really shocked me and in the panels I felt like bursting into tears, because if this is the state of affairs for women in general – then for bisexual women (who are already more likely to be affected by abuse, poverty, and disability) the situation will be worse.
So what can we do to help ourselves?
Non-UK based readers – please Google the equivalent sites for your country.
Buy books on financial advice, or visit your local library. If they don’t have a book you want you can request them to order it in.
I understand that debt is complex and not everyone will be able to break out of it- but if lack of knowledge is hindering you, start by reading this sections of Money Saving Expert or Citizen’s Advice Bureau and take it from there.
If finances allow, seek advice from a financial advisor and a pension advisor. The women on the panels advised to ask questions and get explanations if there is anything that crops up that you don’t understand. It’s not your fault for not knowing or not understanding – it’s their job to explain it properly to you!
Bisexuals often lack support from their families. Especially if you have suffered abuse in the past or been cut off after coming out. This means that we lack a safety net many others have if something goes wrong. If we can no longer work – who will take care of us? How will we pay the rent and the bills? We might be able to cover a short term shock but what about if illness or disability knocks us out of action for a long time? For this reason it might be worth looking at critical illness cover.
If you know of any future shocks lurking on the horizon you can prepare for them. This wasn’t something I had thought about before. So with me for example I have huge dental problems. I have an open bite which means 8 of my back teeth are doing all the work. In my teens and early 20s they all got fillings. Ten years on these are all turning into crowns. It’s costing me hundreds of pounds each time that I don’t have – and the next tooth could fall apart at any time. Last time it happened I had to take out a loan to cover the cost! I’ve only just paid it off. I didn’t know until I attended these panels that I could either get a special dental insurance or ‘self insure’ – by setting up an account and paying a sum into it each month. £30 per month means £360 each year – which would cover the cost of one crown per year from now on and/or the root canal work and implants I will likely need in the future.
For other people it may be car troubles, house repairs, uniforms when kids start a new school…anything.
In fact, even if there are no shocks you know of coming up, build up your emergency fund anyway if you don’t already have one. You never know when you might need it.
If you don’t have much just do whatever you can. If you’ve got £5 per month to save, then save it.
And if it all feels too much – just read a page of a website per day.
Finally the women leading the panels also said don’t feel guilty and don’t beat yourself up. What’s done is done. Don’t feel bad about anything in the past such as the way you used to spend, decisions you made, or not knowing stuff. What matters is where we take our lives from here.
So thank you to all involved in the Women of the World Festival. I’ll be seeing you in 2019!
Information in the article from:
- The Fawcett Society – Closing the Gender Gap: Female Engagement in Financial Products
- Chartered Insurance Institute – Securing the Financial Future of the Next Generation aka Moments that Matter
- Stats I reel off on bisexuality here