The last 50 years have seen dramatic changes in the position of women in our society. While old stereotypes may still linger in some areas, you are now much more likely to find women in places such as the boardroom, the armed forces, universities and the professions than ever before.

In the personal financial arena, there are some specific challenges that are slowly gaining the attention they deserve. Here are some of the key areas that are still badly in need of action.

The gender pay gap
The idea that men are still paid more than women for doing the same work may seem like something from a bygone era, but the hard facts are that a pay gap of 16.2 per cent still exists between men and women in relation to full-time earnings1. While this figure has fluctuated over the last 20 years, the sad truth is that now sits virtually at the same level as it was in 1995. Based on full time average weekly earnings, 16.2 per cent amounts to a dollar difference of more than $260 a week. This sort of shortfall can be a severe handicap to women who want build financial independence.

Of course these statistics are affected by factors such as periodical absences from the workforce to care for children, but there is no doubt that industries and occupations that are traditionally more female dominated continue to attract lower wages.

Longer life expectancy
The Bureau of Statistics recently announced that life expectancy has hit an all-time high, thanks to improvements in medical care and technology, health awareness and diet. As has been the case for some year, women still hold a lead over men in terms of longevity. A man who has reached age 65 can expect an average of another 19.5 years of life, while for women it is almost three years more at 22.3 years2. This underscores the need for women to take more control of their financial future to ensure that retirement funding is adequate and that income does not expire before you do.

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Female workers earn, on average, 16.2 per cent less than their male colleagues

Who brings up the kids?
While men might be more involved in their children’s lives than in days gone by, the overwhelming burden of child rearing still lies with women. This means that women are much more likely to take extended time out of the workforce and may suffer financially as a result. When they do return to the workforce the chances are that they may not be in full-time employment. Statistics show that women make up 71.6 per cent of all part-time employees, but only 36.7 per cent of all full-time employees3. This can leave them dependent on their partner’s income and retirement savings, rather than having control over their own financial destiny.

The gender super gap
The combined effect of issues such as time out of the work force, lower average pay and a skew toward part-time work has resulted in a stark gap in the superannuation balances of women compared to men. At the business end of superannuation accumulation the figures are sobering. In the 50 to 54 age bracket the average male super balance stands at $146,608, while women are down at $84,228. It’s even worse in the 55 to 59 bracket with men at $227,765 and women at $115,046. By the time we reach the 60 to 64 bracket it’s a staggering $292,510 for men compared to $138,154 for women4. This imbalance puts women in general at a severe disadvantage in terms of financial independence

Time to take the initiative
All of these inequities point to the need for women to take a more proactive role in determining their own financial future. While there will always be circumstances that make the playing field uneven and constraints on what is possible or practical from person to person, there is always the opportunity to take more direct involvement in issues such as ensuring proper insurance protection, super accumulation and investment and goal-oriented savings strategies. A financial planner can be a major ally in addressing such issues and is equipped to help you put a plan that can move you toward the ultimate goal of financial independence.

1. Workplace Gender Equality Agency: Gender pay gap statistics August 2016.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Life tables, States, Territories and Australia – 2013-2015.
3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency: Gender workplace statistics at a glance August 2016.
4. The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited: Superannuation account balances by age and gender December 2015.

What drawbacks have you experienced as a female, with your financial situation? Share your thoughts below. 

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