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Women: take more notice of your financial future

For the first time since the ANZ Survey of Adult Financial Literacy in Australia was launched a decade ago, this year's report included a specific section on women.

The message was clear: women need to sit up and take notice of their financial future. From a policy perspective, targeted financial education for females is still needed despite research showing Australian women are beginning to take greater control of their finances.

"We can't as women afford to leave financial decisions to blokes."
Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Speaking at the launch of the report, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said with the gender wage gap sitting at around 17 per cent and the average working mother 95 per cent less likely than their male counterpart to retire comfortably, women needed to take notice.

“We can't as women afford to leave financial decisions to blokes," she said. “It simply has to stop. There are clear opportunities to better teach women about financial leadership and investment basics."

The challenge is how to target and engage the right groups. What does the research tell us?

Overall, the report found many similarities between men and women on money management but there were some important differences.

Women across all ages found dealing with money more stressful than men. On the positive side, women were less impulsive in their behaviours, meaning they were more likely to think through the implications of their decisions. High levels of 'impulsivity' in money management are associated with behaviours such as not checking account statements or keeping an eye on expenses.

While women were better than men at keeping track of their finances, women aged between 28 to 59 felt less in control of their finances than men.

We know in early adulthood and indeed through to age 28, there is little difference between men and women when it comes to broad financial understanding and financial aspiration or wanting to succeed financially. Nor is there much difference when people reach their 60s. But it is in the years in between when divergence appears.

Women aged between 28 and 59 had lower levels of financial aspiration. They also scored lower than men on financial knowledge and literacy generally from 28 onwards. From 28 years of age onwards, women were less likely to have identified an appropriate retirement income figure for themselves, had lower levels of household income, superannuation, savings and investments and were more likely to have dependent children living at home.

Regaining a sense of financial control at 60 is too late for planning and providing for retirement. The survey has recommended financial materials and education targeting women take account of attitudinal differences as well as structural factors and life stages.

The recently launched Women's Money Toolkit on ASIC's MoneySmart website is a great example of the kinds of resources we need. The toolkit provides financial information tailored to individual circumstances and includes two new calculators - a career break super calculator and a parental leave planner.

So while our take away from the latest report is there has been some improvement for women, there is more to be done to help women take control and save for retirement.

The challenge is to better understand – and address – those stresses that impact women in the middle years. The research is not precise in this regard but we can be confident the difference has to do with changing and different roles – women tend to be more occupied with raising families and managing households in these years.

SOME GENERAL FINDINGS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN

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  • Use of mobile phones and tablets has almost quadrupled from 14 per cent in 2011 to 53 per cent in 2014.
  • Awareness among superannuants that a high return is likely to be associated with higher risk remained strong but the numbers of people who could spot an investment that was 'too good to be true' fell to 50 per cent.
  • 68 per cent of super fund members said they receive statements and read them. One in five people who receive statements do not read them.
  • Uncertainty amongst super fund members about what constitutes good fund performance has increased with 22 per cent unable to answer. A similar number were unable to name any factors they would consider in choosing a super fund.

Jane Nash is Group Head of Corporate Sustainability and Financial Inclusion at ANZ.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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