Health Assured, the providers of our Employee Assistance Programme, look at the factors which could make women more susceptible to financial issues.
Finances can be tricky to manage. Depending on your personal circumstances, there are a range of factors that can affect your financial wellbeing. How many people you need to provide for, your current job role/salary, debt commitments and monthly outgoings are just a few.
Financial wellbeing is a continuum and, as we move through life, the role money plays can be ever-changing. Balancing bills, rent/mortgage payments, budgeting and saving is complicated at the best of times. Add in loans, credit cards and split-payment plans (the option to split a cost over a number of months or years), and it can be easy to slip into a place of financial concern.
For women in particular, there are several factors which can increase the chances of experiencing debt problems. Figures from leading debt charity Step Change show that more women than men contact them to help with their debts with over 60% of their new clients being female.¹ In this article we outline some of the reasons why women can fall into debt and the ways to help overcome these financial struggles in 2023 and beyond.
Are women more prone to money troubles?
There are several factors which could make women more susceptible to debt problems:
Life as a single parent
Whilst mothers and fathers deal with the difficulties of life as a single parent, Office for National Statistics show that women account for 86% of single parent households.² Financial stress can occur from the moment parents decide to separate. It can take time to sort out new financial arrangements, apply for child benefits and organise potential new living arrangements. Plus it can be emotionally difficult, which can make addressing these financial concerns even more challenging.
Because of the extra commitments life as a single parent brings, it can also be difficult for people to thrive at work and take on the extra demands/challenges of higher-paid roles. Juggling the added responsibilities and the cost of childcare, are the main reasons many single parents have to opt for part-time jobs, which could add to financial pressures.1
Gender pay gap
Generally, women are more likely to be lower paid than men and, although the gender pay gap is largely declining each year, in 2021 there was still a 7.9% gap in earnings between full-time male and female workers.³
Breaks in employment
Being out of work, for whatever reason, can increase the chances of falling into debt. Figures from Step Change show that 19% of people seeking financial support are part-time workers and 32% are unemployed.1 After taking time off for maternity leave, many women find they need to reduce their hours, opt for flexible working, or put work on hold altogether to raise their family. Not only do these employment gaps put pressure on women at that time, but they can also make it more difficult for women to secure a role when they do return to the workplace.
Sadly, in some cases, women’s debt issues stem from economic abuse. Figures from the charity Refuge show that 60% of economic abuse survivors are female.⁴ But what does economic abuse look like? Here are some examples of behaviours in a partner that could be a concern:
- Spending money that has been allocated to bills on other things instead
- Taking out debts in your name
- Preventing you from working
- Insisting on financial control
- Making you ask for permission for all purchases
- Making significant financial decisions without you
If you’ve experienced any of the above, you could be a victim of economic abuse. Remember that help is available. The charity Refuge offers excellent support and advice on what to do, should you find yourself in this situation.
Tips for financial wellbeing in 2023
Despite the challenges, there are steps you can take to help improve your financial wellbeing and regain control. Financial worries can be a major stress in life, so improving this key area could help you improve your overall mental health too. Here are some tips to help you improve your financial wellbeing in 2023 and beyond:
Reach out for support
The journey to financial wellbeing may not be easy, but it is worth it. Remember, don’t be afraid to reach out to others around you if your finances are causing you stress. Reach out to Citizens Advice if you need any support with managing your money or debts, as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start to resolve the issues.
First things first, if you haven’t already, take the time to sit down and work out your income and outgoings for each month. Take off bills, Direct Debits and other monthly contracts/commitments. Then, work out on average how much you spend on food, social life, leisure and personal items. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a better mental map of your finances. You’ll also be able to work out if you can save any money each month.
Consider where you can cut costs
Reviewing your outgoings can help you cut costs. It’s easy to allow Direct Debits and contracts with providers to automatically renew, without considering alternative options, but these renewals can often cost you extra. Taking the time to consider alternative services and brands, could help you save overall. Here are a few options to consider:
TV and broadband: Switching providers could help you save as many organisations offer deals for new customers. Also, consider which TV subscriptions you really need. If you have Amazon Prime, Netflix, NOW TV and other subscriptions, see if you can cut back to use just one.
Food shopping: We are all accustomed to certain brands and often find it challenging to switch to anything outside the usual. The perception is that if something costs more, it must be better. However, own-brand products are often of similar or equal quality as branded items.
Banking: Many banks offer exclusive deals when you switch your current account to them, such as cash, gift vouchers or a better interest rate. Most banks are part of the Current Account Switch Guarantee, which means that your payments and balance will be transferred from your old account fuss-free.
Utility bills: Energy costs in the UK are rising rapidly, leaving many households struggling to afford their bills. The Money Saving Expert website offers a step by step guide, highlighting the support available to those who are struggling, either via their supplier or the government. You can also be proactive, making sure you submit your meter readings each month or have a smart meter installed – this will help to keep your bills accurate.
Financial resilience and control
Building financial resilience allows you to feel confident and in control of your finances. A crisis can really affect our ability to make ends meet. However, being financially prepared for unforeseen events such as an unexpected bill, household/car repair, job loss or relationship breakdown, can help to mitigate stress. If you do have any spare cash at the end of the month, even a small amount, putting it in a savings account can help you prepare for sudden expenses.
Stress, anxiety and becoming overwhelmed with life, can trigger overspending and splurging cash on unnecessary or pricey expenditures. It’s common for these feelings to trigger irrational or out-of-character behaviours. So if you know this is a habit you tend to fall into, it can be extremely helpful to learn how to notice and deal with these emotions when they occur.
Next time you find yourself rushing into an impulsive purchase or browsing shopping sites online, ask yourself: what emotion am I feeling right now? This question can help you to identify the driving emotion behind your spending behaviour. And once you notice this, you can start to work on these emotions, which can help to reduce spending. In this article, Mind.org look at the link between money management and mental health and provide practical tips to improving both areas.
¹ Step Change, https://www.stepchange.org/women-and-debt.aspx
² Office for National Statistics,2019: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2019#london-had-the-highest-proportion-of-lone-parent-families-in-the-uk-in-2019
³ Office for National Statistics, 2021: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/genderpaygapintheuk/2021
⁴ Refuge, 2020: https://www.refuge.org.uk/