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How women can improve their financial future

Research shows women make great investors and entrepreneurs. They just need the opportunity. 

Former executive assistant Jenny* was shocked to realise that at 55, she had less than $100,000 insuperannuation, next to nothing in the bank and didn’t own her own home.


She’d earned a high salary in her 20s and early 30s, then took time out to raise three children while her husband continued in his corporate role.


When he later left his job to set up as a consultant, Jenny wasn’t worried. She was still busy with the children, the family was financially comfortable and her husband had plenty of work coming in.


Everything changed when he lost two major retainer clients. They refinanced the mortgage while her husband looked for new work but the strain on the relationship was too much. When the marriage broke down, the house was sold as part of the divorce settlement. There was little left after the mortgage was paid out.


“It seemed as if I just woke up one day with nothing,” Jenny says.


Realising her financial position was precarious, Jenny decided to do what she could to improve it.


“Getting work was the first step and at least I don’t have any debts,” she says. “Then I found a financial adviser, someone a friend had recommended, and that’s been helpful".


As a result, she’s learned more about her super and how to make it work better for her and started a modest savings plan with a view to investing.

A total of 44% of women rely on their partners’ income as the main source of funds in retirement.

How to change the story


Two in five older single retired women live in poverty and experience economic insecurity in retirement, according to the not-for-profit organisation Women in Super. ¹ Women retire with 47% less super than men but live an average five years longer.


A total of 44% of women rely on their partners’ income as the main source of funds in retirement.


Why? Women spend more time out of the workforce caring for children and earn 14% less than men when they work full time. Just over 40% of women work part time.


Making a difference to your financial position can be achieved at any age but the younger you start, the bigger the potential gains.


For example, making voluntary contributions into your super early in your working life will make a big difference at retirement thanks to the magic of compounding interest, says Women in Super.


Choose your super wisely and have just one fund to potentially save on fees.


Finally, says Women in Super, get advice, ask questions and make sure that you understand.

Just start


Investing and planning for the future can take a back seat when you’re trying to handle a busy career and family life but just make a start, says Lisa Duggan of Epona Financial Guidance.


In Duggan’s experience, women are sometimes reluctant to seriously consider an investment portfolio because they’re afraid to ask for help because they feel like they don’t have enough money.


“They’re also concerned about the risks,” says Duggan.


“But a good starting point is just to work out where you’re at right now. List all your assets, super, debts and your income. Then start to build your knowledge and find an adviser to walk with you.


“In my experience, once women start understanding and investing and getting advice, they tend to make fantastic investors, because they’re quite disciplined,” she says.


Surveys confirm that female investors and traders do better than men. A 2018 Warwick Business School study ² found women outperformed men at investing, achieving a return 1.8% higher.


The study, which tracked investors’ performance for three years, found that men were more likely to pick more speculative stocks while female investors had a longer-term perspective.


Meanwhile, the University of NSW analysed 17 years of trading data in 27 major Finnish stocks and found that women achieved better results. The study, The Gender Face-Off: Do Females Come Outon Top in Terms of Trading Performance?, ³ found women had “superior trading intuition” and were better at recognising patterns in the data.


Co-author Professor Peter Swan says women do better because they’re not panicked into following trends or into selling when prices are falling.


“In fact, they’re much more likely to be selling when prices are rising and buying when prices are falling,” says Swan.

Once women start understanding and investing and getting advice, they tend to make fantastic investors, because they’re quite disciplined

Homegrown wealth


If investing isn’t possible because of lack of funds or lack of income, making your own job might bean option.


While most small businesses fail within the first three years, there’s often a good reason. For example, a lack of start-up capital, product failure, or a lack of market research.


Doing your homework, getting good advice and ensuring you have the funds you need to operate are all essentials.


The Australian not-for-profit Global Sisters helps women who are facing barriers to mainstream employment by providing support to help them establish sustainable businesses.


Founder Mandy Richards says there’s a “huge proportion” of women who are not financially independent “which means they don’t have control over their own lives”.


Global Sisters 4 provides long-term mentoring and support for as long as it takes (“We've been supporting some women for over three years now”), helping to deal with business-related challenges as they come up, says Richards.


The business idea can be small and home-based or one with the possibility of something bigger. “We're supporting women that have businesses ranging from dog walking right through to robotics and coding schools for girls. It’s a broad spectrum of products and services, everything you can imagine,” says Richards.


The one consistent characteristic is resilience, says Richards. “There’s interesting research that shows successful entrepreneurs are resilient and it’s a trait that really helps the women we help move forward,” she says.

Build your knowledge


These resources provide information to help move you to the next level of investing or entrepreneurship:




*Real name not used


  1. Women in Super
  2. Warwick Business School
  3. “The Gender Face-Off: Do Females Come Out on Top in Terms of Trading Performance?”