Financial Independence has a lot of definitions. For me, it means having the financial tools, knowledge, and resources to be able to make decisions about your life and to not be constrained by money.
This blog post will speak about why women need to be Financially Independent. It will explore the barriers to that independence and the advantages that independence provides.
Being Financially Independent is characterised by having financial literacy, multiple sources of income, being debt-free and having emergency savings.
Why is Financial Independence Important?
Time and Choice are some of the most precious commodities that someone who is financially independent can have. For example, If you have a 3-6 month emergency fund and you lose your job, it means you have time to look for a new one, whilst knowing you can afford to live. That money can also allow you to quit a job you hate or start a business doing what you love.
If you are in an abusive relationship and you need to leave as soon as possible, savings can allow you to find somewhere to stay until you get back on your feet. Each woman will have their own reasons for why they want to be financially independent. But it’s vital to realise what luxuries Time and Choice can be.
There are a myriad of factors that limit women from having financial autonomy. Some of those factors are:
1. Women are more likely to be in Debt.
60% of Stepchange Debt Charity’s new clients are women. It doesn’t necessarily mean more women than men in the UK need help with their debts but it could be that women are more open than men in admitting they need help.
2. The Gender Pay Gap.
The Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) showed that female full-time workers earn 13% less than male colleagues in the same or equivalent roles. As a result, they have less money to save and to invest. A consequence of this is less financial flexibility in comparison to men.
3. Single Parenthood.
It’s estimated that around 90% of single parents are women. The majority of single parents don’t receive child maintenance payments. Nearly half of children in single parent families live in relative poverty.
That’s around twice the risk of relative poverty faced by children in two parent families. Furthermore, the lack of jobs that offer flexible working can mean single parents get stuck in part-time work. This work is often too low-paid to balance and family life.
When a woman has to support her household with one income, it again limits her ability to build a financial safety net. This too makes her vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances.
4. Financial Abuse
Abusers are likely to make their partners stop work so they are dependent on them. They can force their partners to hand over wages to them, put the household bills in their partners’ and take out loans in their partners’ names, either by force, or without their knowledge.
I’ve experienced this first hand and it’s awful. I didn’t leave that relationship when I should have because I didn’t have any money of my own and I was so financially dependant on him. However, having a job and access to personal money made the process of leaving easier.
How Can You Ensure You are Financially Independent?
You must become financially literate. This means knowing the language of money and understanding basic concepts such as debt, equities, assets, investments, securities, insurance etc. Understanding those notions will safeguard you from making unwise financial decisions. I created a free Financial Literacy Guide that you can receive when you sign up to my mailing list.
If you are in a relationship, you need to make sure you have a bank account and money that your partner doesn’t have access to. It doesn’t have to be a secret account but it needs to be somewhere where you can safely store and access your money.
If you are in debt, you need to take steps to reducing and eventually eliminating the debt. Being debt-free will allow you build net worth through saving and purchasing assets.
You need to have more than one source of income. I learnt this one the hard way. When I became unemployed a couple of years ago, I thought my ex boyfriend would help me to pay my bills but he didn’t. I missed a lot of payments. By the time I started working, it had snowballed to the point where I found myself in £18,000 worth of debt. Having another source of income would have given me some breathing room. So please make sure you do this.
Lastly, I cannot stress this enough, but you need to save, save, save, save some more and keep on saving! The fact of the matter is that life happens and having liquid cash can be the difference between safety and ruin. Even if it’s as small as £10 a month, you need to make sure you are always saving.
In conclusion, women face multiple challenges that can make them financially vulnerable. Creating a safety net will ensure that if the worst does happen, then you have the luxuries of time and choice to be able to make decisions. There are small, simple steps that you can take in order to make yourself financially independent. What does Financial Independence as a woman mean to you? What steps do you take to protect yourself?