Why is it so important for women to open up about their finances?

By Zoe Bailey, Chartered Financial Planner and Director at Tilney

pension gap, piggy bank, financial, saving moneyAs a nation, the UK is notoriously tight-lipped around topics that we find to be uncomfortable or that we label as ‘taboo’.

Our health and relationships regularly tend to top the list of subjects that Brits shy away from discussing, even with our close friends and loved ones. That said, despite efforts to encourage the nation to take an active interest in their finances, money is still an uncomfortable topic for people to discuss openly.

However, given the scale of financial and job concerns Covid-19 has caused for women (in particular), it’s imperative they start opening up about the state of their finances to ensure long-term security. According to WealthiHER’s 2020 report, 62% of women now feel less financially secure. In part, this can be pinned to the fact that women are nearly twice more likely to have lost their jobs or quit compared to men since the initial Coronavirus outbreak. Whether it’s a case of needing to manage prolonged periods of home schooling, caring for a sick or elderly relative or the fact there are more women working in the customer service or administration industry than men – it’s concerning to see that women still shy away from confronting financial issues head on.

The relationship we have with our finances often goes hand in hand with our sense of security and mental wellbeing and struggling alone with money matters can intensify those feelings of anxiety. In fact, a recent report from the ONS found that anxiety levels of UK adults had rocketed in 2020 during the periods when restrictions were tightened. Given the impact that it’s had on people’s job security, with many being put on furlough, taken a pay cut, or losing their job, it’s a clear sign of the times that 65% of women have become more careful by drastically limiting their spending in order to get by and retain some sort of control at home.

For the ‘sandwich generation’ of women, typically aged between 40 and 50 years old, who have both children to care for and elderly parents to support, the financial burdens caused by the pandemic will be further squeezed. They’re likely to be juggling duties in all directions, feeling stuck in the middle of responsibilities affecting younger and older family members, and potentially lacking in financial and emotional support.

In fact, Tilney’s research found that two fifths (38%) of UK women do not feel comfortable confiding in their partner, spouse, or family friend if they feel anxious about money. This is despite them potentially needing additional support, as nearly two thirds of women don’t think they are financially savvy.

There’s an even greater reluctance to confide in our employers and colleagues if we’re worrying about money. This is particularly pronounced among women, with the same research finding that close to three quarters (73%) of women admitted to not feeling comfortable sharing any money concerns in the workplace, compared to 65% of men.

So then, why is it particularly important for women to talk to others about their financial concerns?

A key reason is to try and close the gender pension gap once and for all. WealthiHer’s 2020 Report found that the average amount in a 60-year-old woman’s pension pot is only 33% of that of a man’s pension at the same age. This is often because women start saving into a pension later in life compared to men, as they prioritise additional household expenses put on them, maybe their children’s education costs and care of more short-term financial priorities without asking to share the burden each time. With pensions being the biggest source of income for many people in their retirement, it’s critical that women are making it a priority to educate themselves now, research what policies they may have already and put in place a plan to build their later life savings early so they ensure they have enough savings to live comfortably themselves in retirement.

Sharing money worries can be a great step toward bringing about change. Speaking to someone, be it a friend, loved one or a professional, can be the first step toward relieving some of the pressure in our own lives, as those initial conversations can also allow us to better understand our financial situation, map out our goals and recognise the steps we need to take to redress any financial imbalances.

International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2021 celebrated the achievements of women across the globe, while raising awareness to the numerous missions to further promote gender equality. This year’s theme encourages people to challenge gender bias and inequality.

As mentioned above, Covid-19 has exacerbated inequalities in UK society, with working mothers disproportionately set back by the pandemic. A recent survey by the Trades Union Congress found that nearly one in five had to reduce working hours, one in 14 took unpaid leave to look after children, and seven in 10 eligible mothers had furlough requests refused by their employer. The TUC have warned that, as a result, many women have been put in an impossible situation and forced to leave their jobs altogether in order to manage childcare.

While greater change may be needed to redress these imbalances, the theme of IWM may inspire lots of us to make other changes in our homes and livelihoods. ‘Choosing to challenge’ could mean taking control of our personal finances and taking real action to plan now for the future no matter how small or addressing intergenerational financial responsibilities. It could also mean taking the time to better inform ourselves of our financial health, taking a more active approach towards managing our money and putting one or a few financial savings goals into real action today.

Money concerns can be tricky or uncomfortable to talk about, but perhaps as an antidote to last year’s financial disruption; this is the year we aim to face them head on.

For more advice on how to become financially savvy, and to change finance from still being perceived as a man’s world, listen to Money, She Talked – a financial podcast by women, for women.

About the author

Zoe BaileyZoe Bailey is a Chartered Financial Planner and Director at Tilney. Zoe holds an Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, an Investment Advice Diploma, and an MA in Economics, and her areas of expertise include pension and retirement planning and advising divorcing couples with their settlements.

Zoe is passionate about helping people understand and achieve their financial needs and objectives, regardless of what stage of life they are in or their financial and personal circumstances.


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