For so many women, the needs of other people usually come first — children, partner, parents, friends and even workmates. Often, for a woman to think about her own needs, she has to face a health challenge, financial stress or a relationship breakdown.
Too dramatic, perhaps? I don’t think so. The world that women live in is slowly changing, but most women have been raised to think of others before themselves. If a woman thinks of her own needs, she may even be considered selfish, by others or even by herself.
Thinking of others is an admirable quality, but it’s possible to look after your own needs and still do great things for others. Sometimes, it can take an entire lifetime before a woman discovers that the best way to look after other people is to look after herself as well.
I can almost hear you say: ‘Hey, I thought superannuation was about wealth accumulation, not about self-help theories. For those who may be holding the view that wealth accumulation is just about money, I ask the following question: until now, what’s stopped many women from thinking about saving for retirement?
Naming the top 14 monkeys holding back super plans
From my conversations with thousands of women over the years, I have compiled a list of the top 14 monkeys that seem to sit on the shoulders of many women, and stop them from taking super control. (A ‘monkey’ is a problem (real or imagined) that stops people from taking action. The common expression is usually that a person has a monkey on their back)
- Superannuation is boring.
- I don’t know enough about investing and super.
- I only have $25,000 in super. What’s the point?
- I can’t afford to buy a house: retirement is the least of my worries.
- Paying off my house is more important than putting money into super.
- I’m not working, so how can I possibly think about saving for retirement?
- I’m too busy with my kids to think about super and investing.
- We have a mortgage and we are paying school fees — we have no spare cash to put into super.
- I’m divorced and raising children — I don’t think I’ll ever be able to retire.
- I’m in my fifties, and now it’s too late.
- My husband/partner is my retirement plan.
- My husband/partner looks after all of our finances.
- I have super but I don’t know where it is.
- I’m self-employed and superannuation is not a priority.
The 14 monkeys listed above are featured in one chapter of my book Super Freedom: A woman’s guide to superannuation (Wrightbooks). In Chapter 2 of this book, I explain how to easily remove each monkey from your back. For example, my response to Monkey 12 is set out below.
Monkey 12: My husband/partner looks after all of our finances
The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.
Gloria Steinem, feminist and political activist
Since the traditional 1950s, the world has changed a lot, but if you’re female and over the age of 50 you were probably part of what I call the princess generation — your mother, or father, instilled in you that the deal was to get married (to a handsome prince) and then your husband would look after you, and look after the finances.
It wasn’t that long ago that a woman couldn’t get a bank loan without a man, or start a business without a man, or be taken seriously unless a man was supporting her point of view. For example, I have a friend in her late-forties who was denied a bank loan in her twenties because she might get pregnant.
If you have children and you have stopped work for a while, you may have passed financial control over to your spouse because he is earning the income (see monkey 11). In many relationships, the usual practice is to divide up the responsibilities of the household for convenience, or to suit each partner’s strengths. Many women are the money managers in households in terms of budgeting and household bills, but from my many chats with women, many more men than women look after the family investments (if any), although this traditional split of roles has been slowly changing in recent times.
If you’re not involved in your family’s finances or investments, I suggest you ask your partner the following questions:
- What are the names of our super funds?
- How much money do we have in each of our superannuation accounts?
- How much super does my employer and your employer contribute each year?
- How much credit card debt do we have?
- Do we have any outstanding household bills?
- How much do we owe on our home loan, and other loans?
- How is our retirement plan going?
If your partner (regardless of gender) cannot answer all of these questions, then I suggest you take a greater interest in your finances and your future financial security. This website and the book Super Freedom will help you answer questions 1, 2, 3 and 7 from the list of seven questions above.
Source: This article is an edited extract from Chapter 2 of Trish Power’s book Super Freedom: A woman’s guide to superannuation. For more information about the book click here. The case studies in the book use the Age Pension rates at the time of publication. Click here for the latest Age Pension rates.