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Women take the financial reins when necessity becomes the ‘mother’ of invention 

There has never been a better time than now to empower, inspire and encourage women to take charge.
Image: Shutterstock

”If you want to change the world, help the women.” said Mandela. As we celebrate National women’s month, it is clear that women are facing extra financial challenges brought on by Covid but are showing their resilience and innovation in finding ways to recover.

Economic inequality, unfair discrimination, lack of support, and limited opportunities to grow into leadership roles, unfortunately, remains a concern for women. The onset of Covid19 has only heightened those challenges where have seen that it has been women that have been hardest hit by job losses and retrenchments. The Old Mutual’s Claims Statistics Report confirms that 58% of 2020 retrenchment cover claims were paid out to women.

Coupled with the fact that many of these women are sole breadwinners in their families, there has never been a better time than now to empower, inspire and encourage women to take charge.

The 2021 Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor (OMSIM) research survey published on 4 August (that delves into the behaviours and attitudes of South Africa’s working metropolitan households), shows that as many as 63% of the women surveyed said they are feeling highly stressed (vs 53% of men). Only26% of women feel confident about the SA economy, while 40% of men have a more positive outlook.

A telling sign of the pressure women are under is the fact that a far higher proportion of women than men (59% vs 51%) have had to dip into their savings to make ends meet.

“These findings are very concerning,” says Lynette Nicholson, head of research at Old Mutual, “especially as 44% of the moms surveyed regard themselves as single parents, with about half of these revealing that they are the sole breadwinner and receive no financial assistance at all.”

Positive indicators 

But Nicholson is quick to point out that there are also positive indicators. “Although the ongoing plight of women is real and huge, what is encouraging is that we are seeing women taking determined steps to take charge of their finances as responsibly, creatively, and smartly as they can.”

Empower a woman you empower a nation 

More than 60% of women (vs 50% of men) surveyed belong to stokvels (informal savings clubs) with 53% belonging to more than one stokvel. Women are also stretching family budgets by taking advantage of points or rewards offered by loyalty programmes: 75% of women (only 66% of men) actively use these benefits to acquire groceries or consumer items and supplement incomes.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to generate uncertainty and anxiety, women are exploring other avenues to generate extra income for their families. Old Mutual is using the term “Poly-Jobbers” to refer to people who are making ends meet by creating multiple income streams. Poly-Jobbers’ gigs take many forms, from a home-based business completely unrelated to their main job to other side hustles, second jobs, or extra freelancing and contract work. About 44% of women surveyed by OMSIM are Poly-Jobbers.

It is important to note that women entrepreneurs play an increasingly vital role – socially, professionally and economically – in driving the South Africa economy. Research shows that women having many traits that enable them to become successful entrepreneurs such as Women are reported to be better calculated risk-takers, women are less prone to over-confidence, women are more likely to take the long-term view.  Some women start their own business to spend more quality time with family and friends, whereas an increasing number of women are becoming entrepreneurs because they want to be their own boss.

Asked what women can do to strengthen their financial future, Julian Mangaba Learning Leader, Retail Mass Market – Field Force Management, Old Mutual suggests:

  • Start saving: Even a deposit of just R50 a month into your personal savings account can trigger a savings habit. Use any financial windfall you get, such as a tax refund, to build your savings, particularly your emergency savings fund
  • Reduce debt: It’s expensive to service debts, so the fewer debts you have, the more financially resilient you will be. Use credit responsibly and sensibly
  • Diversify your income: Become a Poly-Jobber: if you are employed, set up a small part-time side job or two so that you have more than one source of income
  • Consider starting your own business: If you are unemployed, use it as an opportunity to start your own small business. Women generally make excellent entrepreneurs
  • Protect your income-earning capability: Avoid having no income when you lose your regular income due to illness or an injury. Consider taking out income protection and disability cover
  • Invest more and start sooner: Grow your money by investing it wisely. Speak to a financial adviser and research your options and the world of investing
  • Keep learning. Use every opportunity to upskill yourself. You can never have too many skills or too much knowledge!
  • Know your own worth: On average, women work fewer years, earn less, and live longer than men. The 2020 Stats SA Inequality Trends Report showed that women earn, on average, 30% less than men in the same jobs. Keep this in mind when negotiating your next salary increase. Don’t underestimate your own value .

There is no greater time than now to empower, encourage and support women as they continue to take the reins of their financial futures and take charge.

Lynette Nicholson, head of research at Old Mutual.

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