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Hurdles women face in the quest for financial security

Caring role: when the family needs a caregiver, it is more likely to be a woman who takes the role, reducing her income as a result (Photograph by Manuel Alvarez/Pixabay)

This is the first in a series of excerpts from a financial primer written by the author for modern women and their future financial security, to be published in late winter 2022.

The last few weeks of momentous changes in both federal and state courts in the United States will affect women globally in impactful ways, irrespective of their personal opinions.

These declarations into law may also generate significant introspection about where we as women are now, where we will be, and what our financial future security will look like.

Regardless of such controversial news, the statistics relative to women’s financial lives, derived from generations-long incontrovertible data, not influenced by personal bias of any sort but actual life reality, has little changed the hurdles to achieving that security.

A few of many statistics:

• Pay scale: averaging full and part time wages earned by women in 2021, white women averaged 73 cents, black women 64 cents and Latina/Native American just 57 cents on the dollar – compared to men. The pandemic exacerbated these results (US National Women’s Law Centre).

• Pensions: women are at greater risk of poverty in retirement due to lower paid jobs, intermittent caregiver demands, less money contributed, leaving marginally less to live on. An EU OECD March 2020 study noted a wide pension gap between men and women – the gender gap was 25 per cent less pension accumulated, while in US there was a significantly higher disadvantage at 34 per cent less, stated Margaret Franklin, president and chief executive officer of the CFA Institute.

• Divorce devastation

• Gender discrimination – less money, fewer opportunities, less advancement

• Elder care

• Legal rights

• Childcare

• Healthcare access

• Widowhood

• Survival after separation

• Relationship differentials in managing money

• Homogenisation pressure

• Single head of household constraints

• Female longevity (and the most impactful of all).

Readers (and listeners to the podcast), statistics and numeric facts are impersonal, harder to read about or identify with. Personal stories, however, can provide insight into real life.

Today, we highlight three financial narratives; these women’s stories are culminations of observed financial behaviour patterns during my 35 years of professional international financial planning in the United States and Bermuda, along with reported case studies from peer finance groups.

Note that any personal information is always kept confidential, fully anonymous, and unidentifiable to any specific person, gender, situation, or country.

Unexpected caregiver

A family member requires long-term healthcare. There is little to no community-provided support available. She decides to quit her job to take care of the parent who took care of her, an admirable response. It is a long illness that depletes her savings. Regretfully, her parent lost the battle but though grieving, she feels at peace with her choice.

Reality sets in as she, now 55 years old, re-enters the workforce needing new skills, and new references. She finally settles for a position significantly less beneficial than her prior career.

According to Caregiving.com, in 2022 the majority of family caregivers are still women. Their lost wages – due to caregiving – make women caregivers two and a half times more likely to experience poverty later in life. More on this.

Style versus security

She is making good money after a superb education. Life is great. Every week, a party out, a complete new look, new accessories (the designer bag and shoe collection are growing like crazy), takeout lunch/dinner workdays, regular spa treatments, club memberships. Now shopping for a jazzed car with her significant other who has the same lifestyle. Credit card bill high, but not to worry, she always pays it down each month.

Rumours circulated. Company downsizing. Possible disaster approaching after a review of her negative financial net worth, but there is still a little time!

This is not a disproving comment on a lifestyle. Everyone has an individual right to choose how to manage their finances.

But, one critical component was missing – planning for contingencies!

End result. Ruthless saving is launched: immediate debt reduction takes place, selling all superfluous items: bags, shoes, expensive car, cheaper rental unit, cancelling club, spa, etc lunch / dinner from home.

Now redundant for a year, but a new position is in sight. A tough lesson, but positive financial controls are now in place, savings increased, and once rehired, beginning investments into appreciating assets will commence.

Divorce after sharing a business

They developed the business idea together, partners in married life and in business, putting every effort into the launch, then, scaling up with persistent hard work.

Days and weeks blurred together with work and childcare all consuming.

Business cash flows were always tight. So, in interest of saving where possible, she did not take a salary. Years went by, the business was successful, it then incorporated with her partner as sole shareholder. Somehow, the no-salary arrangement continued, something that would be dearly regretted.

In their early sixties, as they commenced planning for winding down, his retirement plan was not hers. When they divorced, she had no claim to his pension, no pension of her own and little savings in her own name. Further, aggressive legal motions denied her a percentage share of the business assets.

End result: early sixties, few current marketable skills, no pension, insufficient savings to eke out a bleak retirement future that could possibly last another 30 years.

Love is no protection against absence of legal contracts. It is more important than ever for women to have a good understanding of finance and money management, law and contracts, economics, healthcare, and personal branding.

Financial literacy learning can help immensely.

Community and government can increase subsidisation of educational support.

Life happens. In the end, every individual – this applies particularly to women – has to be responsible and supported to achieve her own financial security.

Stay tuned for monthly features on this topic, along with future webinars, interviews, and financial literacy education.

Readers, if you would like to share a personal financial challenge situation with Moneywise – understand that all information is completely confidential – while narratives are always disguised to protect identity. Please write to me at martha@pondstraddler.com

Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermudian, author of the Bermy Island Brilliance Blog – Illuminating All Things Financial Bermuda and The Dawn of New Beginnings: Bermuda’s First Financial Literacy Primer. Contact martha@pondstraddler.com

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Published July 02, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated July 03, 2022 at 1:11 pm)

Hurdles women face in the quest for financial security

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