A special makeover for a single mum of 2 battling breast cancer highlighting the importance of a good financial plan.
On Monday, I had the honour of doing a special master bedroom renovation in just 6 hours (yep, you read that right) for Cath, mummy to 8 year old Georgia and 12-year old Lily. No-one will doubt that being a single mum is a tough gig at the best of times (I can vouch for that) but to make matters worse, Cath’s also battling breast cancer. So when I got the call from Channel 9’s Today Extra Show asking if I could do the makeover, I didn’t have to think too long about it.
Without going into all the details, prior to cancer, Cath held a reasonably high pressure job. When cancer hit, her forced downtime had her contemplating life and the choices she was making, moving forward. 18 months on, she’s changed jobs and is now a part time florist. She loves going to work (in between treatments) and doing something she’s truly passionate about, florals. So it should come as no surprise that my driving force in her bedroom makeover was a floral theme with pink and green, her favourite colours. Today, Cath glows with thankfulness. From what I observed in my short day with her, she seems happy with life. Her forced choices have been for the better.
Now let’s face it, situations like Cath’s are not what you’d wish on anyone. Life can throw you a curveball when you least expect it or have planned for. So as I drove my truck away from her home on Monday afternoon (with Cath and her 2 sweet daughters waving me off), I sat at the wheel thinking how incredibly important it is for all of us to plan for the “unexpected”. Ask yourself – if you were suddenly diagnosed with a life threatening disease that forced you to stop work for months or years on end, would you be “financially screwed”? Sorry for the language but I like to speak the truth …. Sometimes honesty is more powerful than sugar coating things.
The fact is whether you get sick or not, old age will stop you in your tracks at some point in your life. As you get older, things we all take for granted, like your eyesight and ability to even just move, slowly get stripped away from you. These things you “can’t” control.
People often say to me “Cherie, why do you work so hard, you’ve already got a lot, take it easier” and while this is true, I’ve been wise enough to know from an early age, to work hard while I still have the physical and mental ability to do so. As I approach the ripe old age of 50 myself, now I’m tending to slow down a bit more and get a better work / life balance. If I was unlucky enough to get really sick, I’d be ok financially. Only because I mapped things out early, set a plan in place and worked incredibly hard to get myself on track.
I hate to mix cancer with financial planning but unfortunately we need to address it for situations like Cath’s. It’s fair to say that most of us strive for financial independence. For many, financial independence means being in the work force for a substantial amount of time, then being able to retire with the aid of super, the pension or other assets such as property or shares which provide a passive income. With this in mind, you’d think it would be important for all of us to have some sort of plan on how to get there. However 63% of us don’t have a financial plan and 25% have never sought advice on the matter. More worrying, on average, women retire with half the super balance of men.
- Women Super Balance on Retirement: $230,907
- Men Super Balance on Retirement: $454,221
There are many factors at play when we read these sort of statistics therefore there are no simplistic answers. Currently women rather than men, are more likely to take time out of the workforce to have children and look after elderly parents. Many women might decide to work part time after they have children. These factors along with the gender pay gap can help us ascertain why women are retiring with half the super than men.
More alarmingly, women over 55 years are now the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia. It’s fair to say that generations before were more likely to take time out of employment for some or all of the above reasons. Plus there may have been divorce and illnesses in the equation like Cath’s. If we’re not able to build our asset base, contribute to super or remain in the workforce then we’re all vulnerable to financial hardship.
Thankfully, things are changing. More women are re-entering the workforce after children. Some companies are trying to address the balance of the gender inequalities with pay and promotion. Unfortunately divorce and illness is sometimes a factor we can’t avoid. Times are changing in this digital age, where more of us have access to information like never before. So are we getting more financially aware? Data taken from Moneysmart states the following:
- 77% of women under 35 don’t know the exact value of their super;
- 55% of women under 35 find dealing with money stressful and overwhelming;
- 85% of women under 35 don’t understand fundamental investment concepts.
There is certainly an argument that the lack of financial literacy in schools can contribute to a lack of understanding of investment concepts. We’ve all been guilty at some point of burying our heads in the sand about certain topics – especially ones we find stressful or overwhelming. But this topic is too imperative to just push to the side and deal with “later”. We invest time and effort into planning our next holiday or researching which TV we should buy but the most important plan you should be making, is your financial one.
If mapping out a financial plan is new territory for you, start by asking yourself the following 5 questions:
1. At what age would you like to retire?
The date you choose to retire will help you formulate a retirement plan. Without setting a target, you may end up never retiring at all.
2. What would happen if you were no longer physically able to work?
Plan for the unexpected, in this day and age, anything is a possibility.
3. How are you going to retire?
This might be one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself. Identifying what you need to do can be life changing in itself. The scary truth is most people can’t answer these basic questions or at least answer with any certainty. The traditional plans for retirement don’t work anymore.
4. How much will you need for retirement?
By way of example, a 65 year old female with a pension pot of $230,000 can expect to generate on average, around $11,500 per annum, maybe a touch more. The State pension will add to your household income, but can you be sure the pension will still be around when you retire? For me, the pension is not a plan.
5. What are you going to do about it?
You could refuse to think about it and hope it all turns out for the best – or you could take action and start taking steps to make sure you can retire.
Financial independence, whether you’re female or male, is the outcome that everyone wants and must strive for. That’s why so many people do the lottery. However winning the lottery is not a financial plan. Taking a look at your financial future and making a plan, “starting today” might be the single most important thing you ever do to address life’s curveballs that come your way. It’s the reason why I’m so passionate about educating as many people as I can about the power of property.
A good financial plan should encompass strategies from ALL asset classes including property. It can change your life (as it has done mine) and help you deal with the “unexpected”.
Feel free to give my office a call on (02) 9555 5010 if you wish to talk to one of my property strategists.