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If death and future caregiving has been on your mind more than usual after the Covid pandemic, know that you’re not alone. According to a McKinsey report, 1 in 4 women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers during the pandemic. The major group of women that have experienced the most challenges are working mothers, women in senior management positions, and Black women. This disparity came across as particularly stark with parents of kids under 10: the rate at which women in this group were considering leaving was 10 percentage points higher than for men. Whilst women in heterosexual dual-career couples who have children also reported larger increases in their time spent on household responsibilities since the pandemic began.

A look at the gender pay gap post pandemic also showed it has widened which translates to our shrinking pensions. This is very bad news as women also live for longer, spend more of their lives caring for others and all of this negatively affects our finances. For women who are good at only saving, the rising cost of living means she is also a victim of inflationary pressure.

Let us look at more reasons why women should improve their relationship with money.

1. What financial independence feels like
For all the negativity that surrounds women’s finances, the best positive feeling I can describe is the feeling that financial independence gives you. I would define this as moving from feeling overwhelmed by money to feeling more in control; making your own decisions, setting financial priorities; and developing effective habits like budgeting to help you achieve your goals. Younger women who take charge of their money mostly want to learn about investing, negotiating a pay rise, becoming a freelancer and starting a business and they want to learn from each other’s experiences. Not needing to depend on another person for money is truly an exhilarating feeling!

2. More women are investing
This was a growing trend during the pandemic when online account openings for bank accounts and investment accounts were made more accesible. Getting started is the easy part but as markets turn choppy, thinking about your investment strategy and understanding how tax breaks can boost your investments can help newer investors feel more confident to continue investing for the longer term. As any credit cardholders – ignorance in finance is clearly not bliss. Start by taking some small steps to invest in financial knowledge, by setting aside as little as 10 to 15 minutes each week or month to read and learn about money.

3. What does your partner earn and where is the money?
Every woman should know the answer to this question, but a surprising number do not. Do you know where your partner keeps his money and how can you access it if anything happens to him? How many loans do you need to keep servicing if he can no longer earn a salary for the household?

This is a heavy topic and I would suggest one should start by having this conversation within your peer group (as practice) before tackling your partner. Initiating a conversation around money for eg: sharing insights into what each other knows about pension, life insurance, will and investment. It is daunting if you were to cover your checklist all at once. So, try tackling one topic at a time to make it more enjoyable and a lot less intimidating!

4. Financial impact of having a baby
Much of the damage to women’s earnings potential occurs after they become a parent, but financial planning can help lessen the impact. This is a conversation one should have with the partner even before family planning. For couples who are challenged in their fertility, planning needs to start with fertility management and even adoption. Secondly, there are medical fees involved in the pre and post pregnancy. On top of that, having a child with special needs will require more medical and therapy fees set aside. With the arrival of a child, there is a decision to make pertaining childcare which i have seen many of my high achieving female friends making the decision to quit work and focus on raising the family. Make the decision that suits your family best.

RELATED: HOW MUCH DOES IT TAKE TO RAISE A CHILD IN MALAYSIA?

With the entitlement of parental leave and flexible work from home arrangements, employers are making positive changes to assist more females to stay in the workforce. Importantly, more employers are recognising that men want to play a greater role in the early years. Therefore, have a discussion on how you and your partner can achieve a greater balance in your household and respective careers.

5. How to maximize your earnings potential
A “side hustle” can provide a valuable extra income, and potentially an avenue to develop your next career but are you being paid fairly in your main hustle? To close the gender pay gap, it requires us to be proactive and ask for a pay rise – something women are rarely seen doing. We should keep in mind that if negotiations do not go our way, the other option is to move jobs to capture a higher income. We have to be confident in the quality of our work and not get short-changed.

As women are much more likely to work part-time after having children, switching to a four-day week is common, yet plenty of women are squeezing in five days’ worth of work in return for a 20% pay cut. This shows how women sacrifice flexibility for pay and career progression. However, the new “default” of hybrid working is evident in post-pandemic job ads, making conversations about flexibility much easier to start with a potential employer. The future discussion will be about flexible careers instead of flexible working arrangements!

As women live for longer, we’re going to come in and out of the workplace, and people in their 50s and 60s are going to need to reskill. So moving jobs might not just be about pay and it could be about accessing other opportunities.

Even if you decide to take some years out to focus on your family, never forget to develop skills that are useful in the job market, have a side hustle, keep connected or develop a network that can help you find a job in future.

More women should be comfortable talking about money issues — whether that’s asking for help, sharing experiences or campaigning for change.

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