ENGAGEMENT WITH WOMEN
While women and men both gain from savings programs, research shows they are more likely to appeal to women and have a profound impact on the lives of women and their families. In many cases the vast majority of participants are women, many of them sole parents.
Savings programs create opportunities for women to act on their particular values and priorities. They give women the means to improve their children’s education experience, enabling them to purchase items like computers, pay for children to attend school camp or participate in other activities, or for the first time provide children with new school uniforms.
These types of opportunities give women greater confidence in raising their families and in turn provide healthy financial habits to younger generations. My recent research into women and money revealed a strong correlation between levels of financial self-efficacy and a positive attitude towards the financial future.
If a program can increase a woman’s level of confidence and self-belief, she will be more likely to have aspirations and a financial plan for the future.
The most successful savings programs utilise the power of goals. Many participants have never set a financial goal prior to participating.
People living on low incomes often believe saving is not for them; rather, financial goals are for those with spare money. Therefore, the concept of saving does not figure in the lives of many Australians who work hard to make ends meet week by week.
For the first time, participants in successful programs are supported to set longer-term goals, work towards them and achieve them. A significant proportion of participants have been shown to continue to save for education products and services, which leads to additional social and economic benefits for their families and society.
The motivation that comes from achieving goals cannot be underestimated. Goal achievement creates a positive feedback cycle, with new opportunities emerging from goals being reached.
In reality, it is not so much the amount saved that creates the magic. It is the action of setting a goal, the changes in financial management behaviour that helps achieve that goal, and then the reward and satisfaction in reaching the goal that holds the power of transformation.
Ongoing evaluations of savings programs like Saver Plus have provided a wealth of evidence on the positive impacts on the lives of participants. These evaluations have also identified the many challenges facing households living on low incomes.
The challenges of being a sole parent or carer, struggling with mental and physical health issues within the family, and navigating complex financial problems are some of the factors that dominate the lives of participants.
We have also learned from participants’ strengths, resourcefulness and resilience, which are often stretched thinly. For many participants, these programs have come at a critical point in their lives, offering a way forward from a financially precarious position towards one of stability.
Professor Roslyn Russell is a Principal Research Fellow in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University. Over the last 12 years, Roslyn has led the evaluations of Saver Plus and MoneyMinded for ANZ and its partners, along with other financial capability research for government and community organisations.