Michelle Bowes, a finance and business writing journalist who also runs a social business that provides financial education for teenage girls has just released her first book, ‘Money Queens: Rule your Money.
We spoke to her to find out what financial tips she has for women, what motivated her to write the book and what advice she would give women to manage their money better.
She says; “The inspiration came to me in March last year and I’ve got two teenage daughters. They have both recently gotten their first jobs and were beginning to earn money so I was being asked many questions about what they should do.”
She realised that she had to write a book from a gender perspective because of the differences between men and women.
Ms Bowes adds that it was around the same time that Brittany Higgins and Australian of the Year, Grace Tame were exposing things and she was worried that her daughters would have to face the same issues around safety and more so money.
She was concerned that they would have to make sacrifices because of the conflicting priorities of money and caregiving.
Rather than dwelling on her frustrations, Ms Bowes looked for a way that she could take action and do something to improve the situation and that’s where the idea for the book stemmed from.
She thought that because she’d written about finances and money for several years she could do something that could help her own daughters and other teenage girls take control of their finances.
“At a base level, the book is a guide for teenage girls around money.
“It’s not just about how to budget, how to save money, how to look after your future self with superannuation, things like how tax works, although it is about all those things, it’s also about things like the gender pay gap, the gender retirement gap and financial abuse and shining a light on those.”
She believes that it’s important to know about these things from their first job so they can take action and make decisions that will improve their financial position in the long run.
When writing the book, Ms Bowes reflected on what she’s learned about money over the years and says that she’s made a lot of mistakes and hasn’t always been good with money.
“When I was a teenager I had a job and I spent everything I earned. I had multiple super accounts. I had credit card debt, you name it.
“So I guess what I’ve learned and the key message is that when it comes to money knowledge is power, understanding how financial systems work is a really important life skill for everybody but particularly for all women.”
She says that you need to take it upon yourself to educate yourself about these things.
She has tips specifically for women.
Knowledge is power
When it comes to money, knowledge is power.
“The reality is that the more you learn about money the stronger your position will be and it actually doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s what you do with it that counts.
“So not only will being knowledgeable about money reduce the risk that you are a victim of financial abuse it will also, I think, give you choices and whilst I’m not saying that money is a key to happiness I do think that choices and fulfilling your dreams can be”
She says it’s important to pay attention to your money and it can help you to do both of those things.
Never give up control
She emphasises that women should never give up control of their finances. She says that if you’re in a relationship it can be a relief if your partner says they’ll help look after all the money.
She adds: “Even if you do let your partner take control of some of the day-to-day money management you should never lose sight of the big picture of your financial situation. You need to stay curious. You need to ask questions. You should never find anything that you haven’t read or don’t understand because in the worst cases losing control of your finances to someone else can be a red flag for financial abuse.”
She warns that even if it’s not financial abuse relationships can end so you should always be cautious and have a separate bank account with emergency money.
Consider the trade-off between finances and caregiving
She acknowledges that the reality is that most caregiving responsibilities fall to women with more women than men taking time out of the workforce to care for children or family members.
“All of these things ultimately contribute to the gender pay gap because when they earn less, spend more time out of the workforce and they miss out on career advancement and promotion opportunities.”
She says you need to have your eyes open before you start a family and consider the trade-off and possible impact on your finances. Doing so will give you the ability to develop a strategy on how to manage that.
Be careful but not too careful
Ms Bowes says: “Women are known for taking a more conservative approach with their money than men and generally that’s a good thing but it can be a problem when it comes to investing so whether that’s the way your super is invested or any other investment.”
She suggests that women take more risks when they’re younger and don’t have financial commitments like children or a mortgage. Doing so will give them the chance to capitalise on higher returns and it could be as simple as opting for growth or high growth in your super at that time rather than a balanced or more conservative option.
She says that if you take a conservative approach your whole life it is more likely to make you susceptible to the gender pay gap.
Think about the future you
She says that you should think about tomorrow today and that looking after your finances now will help in the future.
She knows that it’s not your priority in your 20s and 30s but if you do think about the future now you’ll be really thankful in your 60s and 70s.
“Lots of people laugh about retirement and they have great plans and they talk about travelling or lunching or doing lots of socialising but they haven’t thought about whether they’re going to have the money or if they’re going to have enough money to do all those things.”
She draws attention to compound interest and says that if they focus on their super in their 20s and 30s and making additional contributions if they can that’s when their money is going to work hardest for them.