5 ways for women to be smart with money

By Bryna Howes 11 March 2020 7 min read

Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying: “When women put their heads together, powerful things can happen.”

We don’t disagree, so we put our heads together to come up with some ways that women can be smarter with their money.

After all, women generally face more hurdles than men on the path to financial independence — including the gender wage gap and the fact that women are generally the ones who undertake unpaid work and caregiving roles.

Here’s the good news. Being smart with money doesn’t have to mean making major lifestyle changes or overhauling your entire budgeting system.

It simply means considering the particular hurdles you face and making the appropriate tweaks to your financial routine to help you get and stay ahead.

With that in mind, here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • Start a f*** off fund.
  • Take charge of your money.
  • Think long-term.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Advocate for yourself.

1. Start a f*** off fund.

Here’s a scary statistic for you: In Australia, White Ribbon reports, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them. Equally troubling is the fact that, according to this article, many Australian women feel “trapped” in abusive relationships because they simply can’t afford to leave.

This isn’t the only circumstance in which you might feel trapped in a negative situation due to her finances. How many of us have had an unruly housemate but couldn’t move out because we didn’t have the money to pay for removalists or a new bond?

Consider this: What if your boss made an unwanted advance on you, but you couldn’t risk going to HR because you were living paycheck to paycheck and needed the job?

Scenarios such as these were the inspiration for “A Story of a F*** Off Fund,” an article published by The Billfold that went viral back in 2016.

So, what is a f*** off fund and why should you have one?

Essentially, a f*** off fund is no different to an emergency fund. It’s basically a savings account that holds the amount of money you’d need to get yourself out of a sticky situation. It allows you to say “f*** off” to any situation or person that is causing an issue for you.

If the above statistics or any of these hypothetical situations feel sobering to you, starting a f*** off fund could be your smartest financial move yet.

Even if you can only add a few dollars a day, it’s best to start somewhere.

The first step is to open a separate savings account. Then, trawl through your budget to see if there’s anywhere you could cut back. Once you’ve figured out how much you can regularly save, set up an automatic transfer so that you don’t have to think about it.

Everyone has different savings goals and different amounts they can contribute. Thus, for some of us, it might take a while to build out f*** off funds. The key is to remember your ultimate goal, try not to feel disillusioned and stick with it. Who knows when you might need it?

2. Take charge of your money.

Back in the “old days,” when a couple was married, traditional gender roles dictated that generally the man would play the role of breadwinner and be in charge of the finances, while the woman would play the role of homemaker and run the household and day-to-day.

While this might have worked (and may still work) for some couples, it may have led to sticky situations.

Thankfully, times have changed.

That’s not to say that couples can’t still divvy up their responsibilities that way. Of course they can. We all — whether single or coupled — have the right to manage our money however we want or hand over the managing of our money to whomever we want.

With that said, we think it’s really important that every woman — scratch that, every person — is aware of where their money is going, aware of how their money is being used/spent, has access to their money, as well as the ability to change any of these aspects.

Being in charge of your money shouldn’t be scary, it should be empowering.

It could mean doing something as simple as going through your bills and checking out if there are better deals or scanning your credit card every month for unauthorised charges.

It could mean hiring a tax accountant at the end of the financial year to make sure you’re putting in an accurate and complete tax return.

It could mean making extra pre-tax contributions to your superannuation or setting up an emergency (f*** off) fund or starting to invest your money.

Overall, taking charge of your money is about feeling educated to make the appropriate financial decisions for your life, and in turn, empowered by the decisions you make.

3. Think long-term.

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that the life expectancy of women born in 2014-2016 was 84.6 years while the life expectancy of men born in 2014-2016 was 80.4 years. That’s a difference of 4.2 years.

Essentially, that means that it generally makes sense for a woman to assume they may have to be able to look after themselves financially, for longer. When you take into account the fact that the gender pay gap means that women also generally make less money than men, you begin to realise why it’s so important for women to have a long-term outlook when it comes to their finances.

So, what would a long-term outlook entail, exactly? A few thoughts.

Superannuation: As you know, superannuation is an income stream we gain access to when we retire. For some of us, it can be the only income stream, so it’s important to be mindful about keeping your superannuation on track. Here’s some ideas:

  • You could check whether your super account is performing well.
  • If you have multiple super accounts, you could roll them into one (but before you do so, make sure you understand what it would mean if you did this, because you might lose some benefits).
  • You could weigh up whether you’re paying exorbitant account fees.
  • You could consider whether or not you need life insurance.
  • You could look into whether it’s worthwhile to make extra pre-tax super contributions.

Income protection insurance: Have you ever heard of income protection insurance? Some people pay a small, regular amount of money towards income protection insurance. This can cover them in cases where they might find themselves unable to work due to sickness or injury.

Assets and savings: It’s also worth considering whether there are ways to build your assets and savings. In this case, we refer you to the saying: from little things, big things grow. When applied to money, this basically means that you don’t need to start with much — maybe even as little as $ — to see your savings bloom. These days, there are so many options for people who want to get into real estate or start investing their money into stocks.

The point is: you don’t have to completely disrupt your financial situation to take a long-term financial outlook. Every little thing can help ensure you’re on the right path.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to seek independent financial advice before making any major decisions in relation to your super, insurance or investment arrangements.

4. Take care of your health.

You don’t have to be a genius to know that women’s health needs differ from those of men.

Obviously, women have complex bodies and are the childbearing gender, which can take its toll.

In addition, women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases than men. According to Harvard Health, women are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression. And new reports show that women are more likely to die from heart attacks than men.

And those are just a few of the issues that can impact women more than men. Scary, huh?

But what does this have to do with being smart about money?

Well, being ill costs money — whether that’s because of health insurance premiums, surgeries, visiting the doctor, or anything in between.

While there are obviously plenty of health issues that we can’t account for, what we can do is make the best of those things that are within our control. That essentially means staying active, eating as healthy as possible, going to the doctor if a health issue arises, etc.

5. Advocate for yourself.

Here’s a quick little story for you.

A few years ago, I was freelancing for a magazine, but they were my lowest-paying client. One sunny January afternoon, I told them I was raising my rates. After a little back and forth and a little grumbling on their part, they finally agreed to my new prices.

Excellent. I had taken up for myself. The sun was out. Everything was great.

Fast forward a few weeks.

It was now time to send over my first invoice at the new price. Suddenly, I found myself stumbling. For no discernible reason, I felt embarrassed to send the invoice. I actually typed in a 10% discount. Then I caught myself. What was going on? I had found the courage to ask for the price I believed I deserved and the magazine had agreed.

It took me a minute to realise I needed to get out of my own head. Eventually, I finished typing up the invoice at the agreed-upon price and I sent it through.

Over the next few weeks, I relayed this story to several women. All of these women had similar stories of their own from over the years.

They also agreed that generally women find it harder to ask for what they want.

According to the results of this survey published by Glassdoor, this is quite common. The survey showed that women generally negotiate less than their male counterparts. If you take a look, you’ll see that 68% of women surveyed accepted the salary they were offered and did not negotiate, a 16-percentage point difference when compared to men (52%).

The moral of the story here is that if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?

Words by
Bryna Howes Right Chevron

Bryna Howes is the Head of Content at Spaceship. She's equally obsessive about cinnamon donuts and scouring the web for great reads.

5 ways for women to be smart with money