Remember the story about three little pigs and the big bad wolf? Two little pigs built their houses quickly, one from sticks and one from straw, so that they could sing and dance and play all day while the third little pig worked hard, built a solid house of bricks that wound up providing sanctuary for his lazy buddies when the hungry wolf came huffing and puffing, fanging for some pork.
It’s a story about hard work paying off in the end and it’s a good analogy for getting your financial foundations right so that you can stand on your own feet, no matter what life throws at you. I encourage all women, regardless of age or what’s happening in life, to ensure five financial foundations in in place. These revolve around a spending and investment plan, insurance, estate planning, superannuation and an emergency fund. While they sound like common sense, it is rare to meet a woman who, without advisement, can honestly tick every box as being in place to the degree necessary for her age, life stage and goals.
I advocate these five financial foundations because they are the key to delivering what women really want from finances: security. We women are wired for security. It provides stability and peace of mind; it enables us to have control of our lives, now and in the future. Being financially unstable tends to make us panic: once we feel destabilised, everything else seems bigger and more overwhelming than it possibly really is.
So, let’s look briefly at the five foundations for optimum financial health.
Every woman needs an emergency fund, a sum of backup money that is yours and only yours. While it can be your means of escaping a relationship that’s gone sour without being penniless, it may enable you to join your best gal pals on a spur-of-the-moment Scoopon bargain getaway to Bali—or pay bills if you suddenly lose your job. If you haven’t got one, start one now and watch it grow.
Spending and Investment Plan
I don’t use the word ‘budget’ because it’s too restrictive and feeling restricted and deprived does not help you sustain a positive healthy mindset. The reality is we spend money to pay for groceries, rent/mortgage, petrol etc. Instead of imposing hard and strict rules, denying yourself living, you need a way to balance your income against your expenses in a way that still leaves money left over to look at investing for your long-term future. Understand good debt, bad, debt and smart debt: not all debt is equal!
While superannuation is one of the most tax-effective ways to build your investments for the future, it’s unlikely you have enough to bank on to see you through retirement. In 2013-2014, there was a gender retirement age superannuation gap of 52.8%—and given longevity trends, women statistically must make ours last longer.
There are three forms of insurance that I believe every woman needs to consider and control: private health insurance; general insurance (e.g. home, contents, car, jewellery, luxury items, business); and personal insurance (life, total and permanent disability, income protection and trauma). While insurance needs do change with age and life events, it’s fair to say women are mostly under-insured. Value yourself.
Did you know that while 97% of Australians recognise the need for a Will, little more than half actually have one? Don’t be one of them. There’s also more to estate planning than just having a Will. Have you organised a power of attorney or enduring power of attorney? Do you have an advanced health directive? What about a ‘letter of wishes’ to give you some voice from beyond the grave about how you want your children raised or testamentary trusts to protect assets in your ‘bloodline’? Estate planning law specialists can advise how to see your wishes—your control—honoured beyond the grave.
When you have all five financial foundations in place, you’re well placed for a strong future, no matter what life deals you.