ADVICE: Assessing your own financial stability

Women and young people are among those with the lowest financial literacy in society, and during the pandemic it’s these same groups of people who are experiencing the most stress and are most likely to have lost their jobs.

In this interview, financial advisor, Jessica Brady, explains the importance of removing the stigmas around discussing finances and financial problems among women, and what women need to be doing throughout the pandemic to maintain financial stability.

  • In your experience, what are the contributing factors to how discussions about money have become somewhat taboo among women? 

You know, I’d actually challenge the wording of that question and say that women (ladies?) talking money has always been taboo – it’s most definitely not a recent phenomena! Society has been telling us directly and indirectly for decades just how frivolous and bad at finance we really are and to great effect! A huge number of women crave the kind of financial freedom that gives them security, the ability to do good and help others. But how long has it been since they stopped being told that a good, rich husband was the only avenue for achieving those things? Two generations? One? Has it even stopped? There are so many factors both implicit and explicit that have limited the conversations being had by women. Only now are we starting to see them unravel!

  • How is this perception of money-related discussions impacting women’s financial stability? 

What happens when you condition generations of young women to believe that the security and freedom they so desire is only available through one avenue – marriage? You end up with a nightmare scenario where women in their 50’s become the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia and vast numbers of social housing projects are filled with older women who were left destitute after the deaths of their husbands. Even as we depart from the ‘women belong in the kitchen’ status quo – its effects are still real and very tangible. The wage gap, disproportionate burden of unpaid care, low levels of C-suite roles and even expectations around domestic duties are all a part of the hangover. Money is just one of the many conversations that are long and sorely overdue. We need to re-negotiate everything from domestic workloads to the feasibility of a superannuation system that actively disadvantages stay at home parents – of which women make up the vast majority.

  • During the pandemic what are the biggest financial watch outs for women?

Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they make up an outsized portion of the part time/casual workforce. It’s almost as if there is an unreasonably large burden of unpaid care and domestic duties preventing many of them from accessing full time employment opportunities! For those who have lost their jobs we recommend a deep dive into the Australian government’s COVID-19 financial support programs. Likewise for those who work for themselves – the government has introduced a whole range of programs to support businesses during this difficult time. For those of us who are still employed we recommend revising your spending and budget. There’s never been a better time to bolster your savings and emergency fund! For a deep dive into the available options and taking care of your finances, check out our Ladies Talk Money COVID-19 special here.

  • What should they be doing or considering now to mitigate long term financial risk?

It sounds silly but actually understanding your financial situation is so important in times like these. It’s imperative that we consider the impact of our long, medium and short term financial goals and fully understand the implications of our actions. Rash decisions can have huge, long lasting financial impacts; it’s important to consider all of the pros and cons before making any big changes! Finally, all of the ladies out there need to think about protecting themselves with the right insurance policies! It only takes one serious event to realise how vulnerable we really are. We insure all of our nice things – cars, homes, holidays etc – but so often fail to adequately insure ourselves. Insurance may sound dull at first – but what’s more exciting than going to sleep at night and knowing you’re completely covered in the event of some unexpected crisis!


About the expert

Jessica Brady | Co-founder, Financial Advisor – Fox & Hare | www.foxandharewealth.com | Co-founder – Ladies Talk Money | https://www.ladiestalkmoney.com.au/

Before launching Fox & Hare, Jess spent 11 years working for major players including Macquarie Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Zurich. Realising there was so much confusion, frustration and heartache associated with money, Jess wanted to build a place where people could be excited about the idea of creating and achieving financial goals. Now, two and a half years later, Fox & Hare is shaking up the finance industry, promoting education and expert coaching to help next-gen professionals feel empowered about their money. Alongside Fox & Hare, Jess is also a co-founder of the recently launched initiative, Ladies Talk Money – a free, online platform of videos, articles and resources dedicated to supporting women to talk about all things money.


Image description: Headshot of Jessica Brady sitting cross legged on a leather couch wearing a black top and black jeans with glasses on smiling.

Advertisement

ADVICE: How women can protect their finances during the pandemic

Australia’s gender equality gap is expected to worsen during and following the coronavirus pandemic, leaving women with greater financial risks than their male counterparts. In this interview, Natasha Janssens, who came to Australia as a refugee at 18 years old and now runs Women With Cents, shares what the risks are for women and what they can do today to protect their long-term finances.

  • The pandemic has led some to believe we’re gearing up for a mum-cession. Do you agree with this?

The statistics so far certainly do indicate that women are at greater risk of job loss, in large part due to being over-represented in part-time and casual roles that are at higher risk of being retrenched. Our own surveys in the Women with Cents community do indicate that in two-parent households it is generally the mum who is juggling work and homeschooling responsibilities while in many cases dad carries on work as usual. Not to say that this is men’s fault by any means but it definitely points to systemic and cultural issues that need to be addressed.

  • What are the financial pitfalls women commonly come across that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic? 

In general terms, women tend to on average earn less than men, which results in women having a reduced capacity to save as well as having less super for retirement (currently women retire with about 32% less super than men). Women are more represented in casual and part-time employment, and take career breaks in order to start a family and care for sick and elderly relatives. This compromises their financial independence and ability to earn their own income, as well as placing them at greater risk of financial abuse by their spouse.

All of these factors are currently being exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, 14% of women who have so far accessed their super due to COVID have emptied their super accounts. When you consider that women are currently retiring with 32% less super than men – emptying their super accounts, reducing work hours or job loss are only going to contribute to widening that gap, unless we take corrective measures to do something about it.

  • How can women facing these challenges overcome them? 

By becoming aware of the challenges and risks and taking proactive steps. For example, exhausting all other avenues of financial support prior to accessing the second tranche of super withdrawals. Networking and building their negotiation skills in order to bridge the pay gap and make sure they are being paid what they are worth. Becoming aware of the signs of financial abuse and reaching out for help and support. Making a conscious effort to push back on outdated social norms and working with their spouse to make sure that they are sharing the parental and mental load more evenly so that women and mothers aren’t the only ones reducing their hours and taking a step back from their careers in order to manage caring responsibilities during COVID. 

  • What do women need to be doing financially during this time to prepare for 2021 and beyond?

Doing everything possible to build up their emergency savings buffer in preparation for the recession that is to come – this could mean taking on extra work while it is still available, shopping around for a better deal on their bills, selling the second family car and any other items that they can go without, but taking action swiftly and aggressively in the short term.

Long term – Networking and diversifying their skill set in order to preserve their ability to maintain employment – there are many courses on offer at the moment at a heavy discount or for free.

If staying at home, taking advantage of super contribution splitting with their spouse so that they are sharing the full pay package evenly not just splitting the take-home pay. Preserving the insurances they have including those held in super so that they are well protected in the event of a perfect financial storm. Taking proactive measures to grow their money and wealth long term rather than taking the passive approach – it may have worked during times of economic growth, but the same can’t be said for navigating a recession.


About the expert

Natasha is the author of Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money and an award-winning finance broker and money coach. Her passion for education and helping others led her to start Women with Cents – an online community dedicated to empowering Australian women through education. Natasha is on a mission to ensure that all Australian women have access to professional financial advice, regardless of their age, income or circumstances.


Image description: Natasha is sitting on a black, leather lounge chair with her legs crossed. Her feet are on the lounge, with her black high heels on the floor. She wears a pink blazer, white top and blue jeans.

VIEW: From the ground up, we need to start encouraging difference – Laura Conti

Laura Conti, experienced CFO and Founder of #GoKindly, believes businesses today aren’t welcoming ‘difference’ in the workplace. This is backed by recent research highlighting one in four employees feel the need to “minimise their heritage or personal identity to fit into a job.”

When embraced and encouraged, ‘difference’ can lead to innovation and creativity, Laura believes, and without this effort the result is lack of market competitiveness.  

In this interview, Laura outlines what ‘difference’ means to her, how her personal experiences have shaped her views today, and how businesses can start to bring more ‘difference’ into their workplaces.

  • What is the value of ‘difference’ in the workplace today?

I believe that difference is an under-rated and very important asset in a business. We need to learn in Australia to harness difference. The echo chamber inside executive and leadership teams is real.

  • How have your personal and professional experiences impacted how you analyse ‘difference’ in the workplace?

As a young person from a background of ‘difference’ I learnt to shut up, and not talk about my life experiences because the mainstream, privileged people I worked with didn’t value someone with different life experiences, they couldn’t relate to experiences so different to their own.  And I’d say that’s common in business – particularly conservative professional and corporate services, such as law and finance.

I was raised in a Fundamentalist Sect, in a remote part of Far Western NSW. I had a father inside the prison system, I had a mother with a serious mental illness. I was often caring for my siblings by the time I was 11 or 12. I left home young and had to support myself in a world I’d never been raised to understand – for instance I’d never had a TV or listened to radio.  I experienced homelessness and relied on a food bank as a young person. Despite growing up isolated from much of the world, I was very lucky to have  had rich cultural experiences, growing up surrounded by strong Indigenous people.

None of those experiences mean anything to mainstream employers and leaders – those experiences are not comprehendible to the average CEO or CFO.

  • Throughout your extensive experience in finance across a range of major enterprises, what have been your observations on how ‘difference’ is analysed and assessed in the workplace?

I have become increasingly passionate about demonstrating that we have a lot of ‘sameness’ in our leadership in Australia. I’m increasingly passionate about it, because I can’t see myself when I look at them. I struggle to see them as role models, when they have so little in common with my life experiences. Our leaders lack diversity of thought, education, religion and class – and that’s not even mentioning race, gender and sexuality – which gets a lot of media airtime!

When I look at the ASX Top 200 – the CEO’s and CFO’s are mostly clone’s of each other. I’ve started jotting down info about them as it comes up in the media – and noticed pretty quickly that they predominantly come from private schools, have anglo surnames, and went to group-of-8 universities. These people are not diverse – they don’t represent me or anyone I grew up with.

  • What’s your advice to other business leaders on making the most of the diverse workforces they have, while also ensuring they continue to attract diverse talent?

Sameness doesn’t breed creativity or innovation; sameness often shuts down anyone who thinks differently. In my career I’ve seen executives and leaders surround themselves with people like them – possibly without consciously realising that is what they are doing. It feels comfortable to be surrounded by people like you. But you don’t learn and grow in comfort! Business (and politics) needs to learn how to be open to difference, how to be respectful of difference, and to learn from different perspectives.

From the ground up, we need to start encouraging difference. When we hire, we need to be hiring from diverse educational backgrounds, when we do interviews we need hiring managers to have real-life skills so they can relate to people with different life experiences. When managers are rewarded and measured they need to be held to account for having not just gender diversity, but all kinds of diversity. A measure of ‘sameness’ needs to be invented and reported on – to hold our businesses to account!

We need to be looking at the people we surround ourselves with, and actively seeking out interactions with difference. For example, how many people volunteer with charities outside their own privileged postcode? How many consultants actively take on work with regional businesses, indigenous businesses. How many people support children in foster care, adults coming out of jail. There are many, many programs for individuals (and businesses) to participate in which take you outside your comfort zone – and leaders need to step up and be willing to accept they live privileged lives.

  • Why did you start #GoKindly Social Enterprise? What are the key goals for this organisation?

I started my own social enterprise, #GoKindly, because I believe there is a place for business to be involved in changing the world. I believe that profit can drive social change. I also want to hire and support ‘people of difference’, because I can see that they’re an untapped resource.

People from backgrounds of ‘difference’ have resilience and grit in spades. We often don’t have established networks, family support, or many role models – but we know how to work hard and I want that hard work to be more valued.

At #GoKindly, we create bed & bath goods and use the proceeds to support women experiencing homelessness. I’m passionate about this business being a ‘closed loop’ – which recycles old goods into new ones, which has more ‘difference’ in its ranks than ‘sameness’, which lifts up people to be more than they dreamt of.

I also work as a Freelance CFO, which allows me to use my financial skills, and be choosy about the kinds of clients I work with. I get to chose to work with good leaders – leaders who value diversity for instance. I particularly love working in transformation and change programs with clients, because they are times in a business’ lifecycle when they can be more open to difference.


About the expert

With over 15 years’ experience inside businesses both large & small, Laura is a freelance CFO, and founder of Social Enterprise #GoKindly. In her career she enjoys driving financial growth and scale in small businesses, and facilitating change and innovation inside large companies.

She values thought diversity and believes that fabulous cultures are built by teams who are more different than they are alike, and leaders who put aside ego and seek out different opinions.

Laura has a BA with a double major in Chinese Language and Women’s Studies, and a BCom. She is a CA and AAICD and has an adventurous streak – pursuing open water ocean swimming and adventure motorbike riding in her spare time. Also, she has no spare time, as she had a toddler.