Financial literacy gap impacts older women.

This Hearts and Minds article was published in Business News.
To read the full article, click here.

There are many reasons women may find themselves at a financial disadvantage later in life, impacting their ability to meet their basic living needs. Some of those reasons may include not having enough superannuation, taking time out of the workforce for child-rearing responsibilities, the gender pay gap, or workplace age discrimination.

Other reasons include an increased risk of domestic violence, spousal financial abuse, family breakdowns, an unexpected crisis, or the increasingly unaffordable rental market.

“This cohort of older women – who are our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, neighbours, co-workers and friends – may find themselves in financial difficulties in later years and can struggle to such an extent that they are no longer able to maintain a roof over their heads,” Jen Park, Co-CEO of Uniting WA, said.

“They are couch surfing with friends or relatives or sleeping in their cars. Some women are sleeping rough on the streets, which can be a dangerous place to be for anyone, let alone an older woman.”

Providing financial support

Uniting WA has experienced rising requests for emergency relief from older women who do not have enough money for rent and food expenses alongside rising cost-of-living pressures and high inflation.

The charity collaborates with the Financial Wellbeing Collective in Western Australia to provide support for women who find themselves in financial difficulty.

The free service, funded by the government, enables people in need of financial support to seek the support of a financial counsellor or financial coach.

The service can assist people with financial difficulties such as outstanding debts, while providing education to help them better manage their money.

A Uniting WA financial counsellor recently helped an older woman who was living out of her car after the death of her partner left her with substantial debt. The woman was unable to find an affordable rental and wanted to access an early withdrawal of her superannuation to pay the debt.

Rather than withdrawing the superannuation, the financial counsellor helped the woman apply to clear the debt, which was successful, enabling her to preserve her superannuation. The financial counsellor also referred her to housing services to get her into secure housing within weeks.

“Financial counselling services are crucial to empower individuals to take control of their finances,” Ms O’Hara said. “However, long-term solutions require addressing the root causes of financial insecurity.”

“By providing targeted support, including financial counselling, affordable housing initiatives, and food assistance programs, we can empower individuals to break the cycle of poverty and build a more secure future.”