International Women’s Day – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. More importantly, it’s a day aimed at accelerating women’s equality.
I thought that IWD was a new thing. A year, maybe two, ago I was cycling on the promenade with a friend, when we were suddenly faced with a mass of marching people. As we got closer, we realised it was an IWD march. Not really knowing what it was exactly, I did some research and was surprised to find that it actually started way back in 1911!
The theme for 2020 is ‘Each for Equal’ – a collective effort to create a gender equal world. Equality is progressing, but slowly and we mustn’t forget that gender equality is only part of the problem.
Celebrating women who have smashed glass ceilings creates role models and hope for those following. Promoting equal opportunities is key to girls believing that they can achieve their dreams. As a female rugby player, it pains me to see the difference between the men’s and women’s game at an international level, but things are improving. Women’s games are now being televised, even if only via online streaming or on the Red Button. It is, however, encouraging that more females are studying for degrees in the STEM subjects, however, they still represent only 26% of those studying.
Closer to home, even though the Financial Services work force in general has a fairly equal split, only 26% of applications for roles that fall under the UK’s Senior Management regime were from women, nor should we forget that there are still only 6 female Chief Execs in Britain’s top 100 firms, less than the number of male CEO’s who are called John.
With women still tending to work in lower paid professions/sectors/industries, and adding the gender pay into the mix (ONS 2019 shows 8.9% lower paid) and time out of the work place for motherhood, caregiving etc. it shouldn’t be a surprise that women are reaching retirement with smaller retirement funds than male counterparts. A recent Personal Finance Society (PFS) study found that at 65-69 the average woman’s peak pension wealth is 1/5th of men’s!
So, in most cases women have less resources to pull from in retirement. This is far from ideal and increases the importance of getting your plan right. A recent survey of 2000 UK adults found that 71% of men consider themselves to be the primary decision maker when it comes to savings and investments. The same study found that half as many women hold investments than men, and of those who do hold investments, the vast majority are widows.
In the UK, 500 women become widows every day. There is an increasing number of older divorcees too – often referred to as ‘Silver Splitters’. This results in a growing number of women finding themselves alone, with little financial knowledge/confidence, faced with managing accounts, investments, pensions, income, expenses, taxes etc.
Financial planning is more than investment advice. Typically, it forms part of it, but true financial planning solves the important mysteries including all the unknows faced by women who suddenly find themselves in the financial driving seat without a clear view.
The most important part is education. Establish what you have, what it can do and whether there’s something better suited out there for you. This is a valuable exercise. Highlight key features, what they mean to you, and what opportunities they create.
Through education comes understanding comes confidence. Take the recent volatility in markets due to the Corona Virus. Lack of confidence/fear will undoubtedly result in some investors selling up rather than sitting tight. For those who understand the fundamentals of investment markets, that markets go down as well as up, that down turns create opportunity, that over the long-term equities/shares provided the growth element of a portfolio, they are the ones who will emerge on the other side.
Confidence reduces worry and stress. If you’re expecting something, you don’t necessarily worry about it. It’s factored in, there’s no stress. You can go back to ‘sweating the small stuff’ if you like.
Planning identifies priorities and answers the big questions. Fear of the unknown spooks even the hardiest characters. Those who find themselves starting a journey of financial independence at a later stage in life feel this fear the most and it is this support that a good financial planner offers that helps to make good decisions and avoid costly mistakes – including the potential loss/cost of procrastinating, or worse, doing nothing.
Playing a part
So, while I hope that it doesn’t take, as predicted, until 2050 for the pay gap to be resolved I do hope that by then things will be more equal. It won’t change overnight, but momentum will gather and we will get there. In the mean time we will continue to back the campaign, support Each for Equal and empower women with the knowledge and confidence to achieve at least financial equality.