Australian newsreader Tracey Spicer still regrets not asking for a pay rise during the first 20 years of her career.
“I’m embarrassed about it now,” she says.
“Often we [women] lack the confidence to ask for a pay rise. We’re so busy working, doing the bulk of child rearing, and housework, that many of us don’t take the time to properly check our financial health.”
Ms Spicer is among a handful of MoneySmart Week ambassadors helping promote the importance of financial literacy and making sound money decisions.
She began learning about money early on in life.
“Mum and Dad gave my sister and I pocket money for doing odd jobs around the house,” Ms Spicer says.
“We both started work when we were 15 so understood the value of work. When it comes to savings, the most important thing I learned was the old-fashioned phrase: ‘Watch the pennies and the pounds will watch themselves.'”
Knowing how to make intelligent money choices is a skill everyone should have and there are plenty of aspects worth considering.
Choose investments wisely
Rebecca Glenn, chief executive officer of Financial Literacy Australia, counts buying a house as her most sensible decision.
“It was the first home we almost couldn’t afford in our 20s,” she says.
“I would call it smart debt. Beginning to pay off that mortgage and get into the Sydney property market early was the best investment we ever made.”
Ms Spicer elected starting a communications business as hers.
“The vast majority of small businesses in Australia are owned and run by women. It’s a tremendous way of controlling and managing our futures.”
Charge your super
Zoe Lamont, founder of the 10thousandgirl campaign that aims to build women’s confidence in making money decisions, says superannuation is a huge issue.
“Generally women have career breaks with children and child rearing responsibilities,” Ms Lamont says.
“It often happens in the peak years of earning. It can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars difference to your super and what you can retire on.”
Rebecca Glenn advised people to be proactive.
“Every time you receive a pay rise put at least half of that additional amount in super,” Ms Glenn says.
“That way you won’t miss it and you’ll add thousands of dollars to your super savings without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.”
Ms Spicer says women retire on about half the super of men.
“The face of poverty in this country is a 60-year-old woman,” she says.
“It’s a national disgrace. I’m calling for structural change within superannuation to account for women’s punctuated careers. Something like a female bonus or reduced fees while a woman is on maternity leave would make a world of difference.”
Ms Lamont says unpaid debt can be the biggest obstacle.
“A lot of people have savings but still have credit cards and don’t realise how much credit cards are dead money when we’re paying interest,” Ms Lamont says.
“If you can get rid of personal debt as fast as you can then your capacity to save and start investing dramatically increases.”
Ms Glenn uses a personal approach she calls the sleep test to avoid making money blunders.
“It’s one that I’ve adopted this year and I’ve found it to be really effective. If you’re out and about shopping, anything that’s outside of your necessities or items that are on your shopping list, if you want to buy it, wait 24 hours.”
Make a plan
Ms Lamont says the time for people to start improving their financial health is now.
Areas such as life insurance might seem banal but thinking ahead can prevent problems down the track.
“It’s about doing some scenario planning. It’s better to do it when everyone’s healthy and well,” Ms Lamont says.
“People always pull out insurance policies or find they don’t have insurance after an event. If you make it an annual thing or when your life stage changes just check in with yourself.”
Ms Glenn agrees.
“Australians are probably more financially literate than they’ve ever been, but the world of finance is probably more complex than it’s ever been.”
For more information visit moneysmartweek.org.au