Lacey Filipich is a financial educator and her work focuses on helping women find financial independence.
This independence can look different depending on the phase of life.
Lacey says there are many things women can do to put themselves in their strongest financial position from their 20s through their 60s and beyond.
In your 20s: “Don’t put up with crap”
A former chemical engineer, Lacey knows first-hand the challenges young women face when entering the workforce.
She says speaking up, making your rights known, and recognizing skills can empower you.
“But it still happens. I met a 15-year-old last year who was making two dollars less than her male counterpart of the same age for an identical role.”
Her advice is not to get relegated to work that is not ripe for promotion or advancement
“I was once asked to fill in as an executive assistant to the general manager of our office,” says Lacey.
“Five of my fellow male engineers could have done it, but they picked me.”
Tip: Ask for the results of the gender pay audit, which can be helpful in gaining clarity about the situation in your workplace.
Organizations with 100 or more employees in Australia are required by law to report annually to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on gender equality indicators, including equal pay for men and women.
Having this information will make it easier to have a conversation with your boss.
“[Then] They talk about dates and facts instead of making it a personal and emotional plea.
“It’s not about paying me less, it’s ‘is there a gap here?’ and what can we do about it? So it’s a little less confrontational.”
Lacey also suggests that young women:
- Find high paying work. The highest-paying jobs are still found in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries.
- Stay in touch with market prices and keep increasing your prices. Especially in an inflationary environment. If you’re a freelancer/gig worker and don’t increase your prices in 2022, you’re effectively taking a pay cut thanks to inflation.
- Find out what a healthy relationship looks like financially. Joint accounts are optional. Don’t let anyone rob you of your financial independence. Learn to recognize the warning signs of financial and economic abuse.
30s: Think long term
Your 30s are often a time to start planning families, and many women may be wondering who will be staying home with the kids.
According to Lacey, this is a big question that could affect the next 30 to 40 years of a woman’s life.
“You’re often tempted to say, ‘The other person earns more, I earn a little less, so I stay at home because it’s cheaper. Because the childcare costs are so high.’”
But Lacey says many women take up to five years out of the workforce – choosing to return to work when the kids are in school.
This can affect the career you return to and your pension.
Instead of “typifying” one parent as a “breadwinner” and one as a “housekeeper,” Lacey suggests sharing the earning power. This helps to minimize the impact on women’s careers and earning capacity in the long term.
The childcare costs should not come from the wages of the lower-paid parent either.
“They are combined costs. They result from the total household income,” says Lacey.
“Even if you’re effectively losing money, if both parents work to some degree, it could be worth it.” [in the long term].”
Tip: To keep your career goals in mind, create a plan to maintain them and work with your partner and “share the load.”
40s: Meat in a sandwich
It may feel a bit far, but your 40s are the time to prepare for when you’re not working or retiring.
“You might have teenagers, you might have elderly parents, or someone you care about, but you need to prioritize saving and investing,” says Lacey.
“In general, in your 40s you want to focus on what you’re doing with your savings and your investments. So when you get to a point where you can’t work anymore, you have some money to keep you going [in your] go home and stay fed, dressed and safe,” she says.
Tip: Lacey says while investing in retirement savings is tax efficient and has benefits when you’re nearing retirement, investing outside of superretirement could mean more taxes but give you access to that money sooner.
Whatever you do, you must remember to “fill your cup first”.
“If it’s a choice between paying off your HECS or paying off your mortgage, you say ‘pay off your mortgage’ every time because you just can’t pour from an empty cup.”
50s: Risky times
For many women, these are times of upheaval. The kids are gone and maybe there was an empty nest divorce.
“Even if you feel insecure about money, if you’re not sure, don’t agree to financial arrangements like asset sharing or splitting a retirement savings account,” she says.
“Until you get advice, you need to understand your rights.
“I often hear, ‘It’s his money, his super, he earned it, I was just at home,’ but I like to say, ‘Yeah, but he was only able to earn the super because you were at home and you’ve taken care of the family and you’re entitled to it.”
Many women in previous generations thought it was normal to let their partners make all financial decisions, but when the husband left or died, they were left with nothing — or debt.
Lacey says, “Please don’t shirk your responsibilities, if nothing else, just be aware of what’s happening.”
60s: Final decisions
In the 50’s, 60’s and beyond, regardless of their family circumstances, women need to ensure they have a legal will to ensure their savings go to the right people.
The will must be duly signed, authenticated and notarized.
“Get a lawyer to help you with this,” says Lacey.
“There are online resources, something is better than nothing.
“Getting legal advice gives you the best chance of having a will that will be honored and not contested because state laws are different.”
This article contains general information only. You should consider seeking independent professional advice regarding your particular circumstances.
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