by Paul Clitheroe
TODAY is International Women's Day - a good time for women to embrace opportunities to achieve financial independence.
After more than 30 years in the money business I've seen women make great strides with their personal finances. The gender pay gap is narrowing, lenders no longer shun single women when they apply for a home loan, and little by little, women are gaining a larger slice of the superannuation pie.
But there is still plenty to be done, and a key step is for women to take control of their own financial wellbeing.
The same rules of sensible money management apply to both men and women. Budget to take control of your cash, spend less than you earn, save the difference and invest in quality assets.
It's a simple formula, and it works. But what many women may not realise is that they often have the ideal qualities to be successful investors.
Research shows women often enjoy higher gains than men on investments like shares. That's not necessarily because they intuitively pick the top performing stocks. Rather, women tend to hold onto their shares over time, enjoying decent long term gains and minimising brokerage costs.
Women are also less inclined to be overconfident about investing. They typically research the market thoroughly - and this same sure-but-steady approach can be seen among the vast numbers of women who successfully run their own business.
On the downside, women often face unique hurdles. In particular, women account for 70% of all part-time employees, and that can mean earning a lower income, as well as lower employer paid super contributions. Women are also more likely to take time out of the workforce to raise kids or care for ageing relatives.
As I mentioned earlier, women's slice of the nation's super savings is growing. In 1994, women held just 23 per cent of Australia's retirement savings. Today that figure is 61 per cent. Nonetheless, significant numbers of women still retire with next to nothing.
The solution is for women to make their own financial wellbeing a priority. In my experience, women are often much better at looking after their physical health than men, and now it's time to think about gaining the edge on your money to better handle life's ups and downs.
Australian women can take advantage of a free helping hand. The online Women's Money Toolkit developed by money watchdog ASIC can be used to generate a personalised to-do list of steps that will boost your financial health. It's packed with useful information and it can offer great ideas to get your money in better shape. Check out the Women's Money Toolkit at ASIC's consumer website MoneySmart.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.