money lessons from a literal super woman
After spending a decade doing humanitarian work for the UN, Christina Hobbs returned to Australia to co-found Verve Super, a pioneering superannuation fund. The super woman herself has some bang-on advice for managing money… and smashing the patriarchy.
EYES ON THE PRIZE Start the process of whipping your finances into shape by first defining what you’re working towards. Whether it’s a holiday in a year’s time, a house in a decade or a pet ferret by Christmas, you need to figure out the costs involved, decide on a deadline, then work backwards to budget for it.
SET AND FORGET Create separate bank accounts so when your pay lands, you can set it to automatically funnel specific amounts into each of your little pots. There might be a rent and bills pot; an everyday, boring groceries pot; a special hobby pot. Automating this process can help remove some of the scary deliberation (aka panic and anxiety) around budgeting.
DO SOME RESEARCH We each bring our own uniquely weird tangle of hang-ups and blind spots to our relationship with money. Understanding your mindset and what motivates you – and being open to new information – is vital. Consult an independent financial adviser, find yourself a money-focused mentor and hit up free resources online. There are plenty on the Verve Super website, and the government’s Moneysmart site is also great.
WATCH OUT FOR WAGE THEFT We know girls in Australia get less pocket money than boys – the gender pay gap starts young. Often – even early in their careers – women are assured gender pay parity, only to discover their male counterparts have negotiated or been given higher starting salaries. That is not OK. Make sure it’s not happening to you. It’s also illegal for an employer to underpay you, and in most cases, to not pay you super. If in doubt about your wage, contact the Young Workers Centre or check out the Fair Work website. If there’s a union associated with your profession, check it out. It can be hard to assert yourself at work, so having the union’s backing (plus the support of your fellow members) can be vital. There’s always power in numbers.
AFTERPAY IS NOT YOUR FRIEND Neither are credit cards, car loans or anything else we’d bung under the ‘bad debt’ umbrella. Most people aren’t prepared for the miserable trap that is paying off interest. Instead, use your savings to make a purchase you can feel really good about. Then go cut up those cards. Seriously. Chop chop.
GET STREAMLINED Keep an eye on monthly costs, like subscriptions – streaming services you’ve forgotten about or cloud storage that may as well be an actual cloud for all you use it. Every six months, check out how your mobile and internet plans compare with the market and snap up a better rate, if you can.
INVEST IN YOUR FUTURE Women currently retire with 35 per cent less superannuation than men, and almost a quarter retire with none at all*. There are systemic reasons for that, like the gender pay gap, and the fact that exxy childcare options and inflexible workplace policies force many women to quit their jobs to do unpaid care work. For now, know this: it’s called ‘super’ for a reason. That $1000 you lob into your super account this year could be $10,000 by the time you’re ready to call it a day on your working life. If you’re self-employed, you need to factor in your own super payments to ensure something is being put away for retirement. There can also be tax advantages to contributing to super, because it can be taxed at a lower rate than the rest of your salary. Check out the Australian Taxation Office website for more info.
CHOOSE WISELY Australian women have more than a trillion dollars invested in superannuation right now**. That money has the potential to do a huge amount of good in the world. Verve Super, for instance, only makes positive investments that are beneficial for women, the community and the planet, so your super contributes to things like providing affordable microfinance to women in low-income countries. Meanwhile, Verve won’t invest in companies involved in weapons technology, gambling, tobacco or fossil fuels.
RISE UP Women are at a financial disadvantage on so many fronts – and women living with disability, First Nations women, women of colour and trans women are among those doing it toughest of all. We’ll only level the playing field by fighting the workplace policies and laws that lie at the root of this problem. Free childcare, decent paid parental leave, fairer housing legislation and a living wage can be achieved in the same way we’ve won equality on other fronts – collectively. Get active and join forces with others, whether that’s in a community group, a workplace team, a union or any other organisation committed to change. Because an even playing field is the only way we’ll achieve true financial power and freedom.
This money-focused chat was brought to you by Verve Super, Australia’s first super fund by women, for women. To find out more or sign up for their online financial coaching and events head to vervesuper.com.au
*ABS, Gender Indicators, 2020.
**Based on ASFA data.