Top 5 Financial Mistakes Women Make

Sunél Veldtman

Sunél Veldtman is the visionary behind Foundation Family Wealth. She has a 21-year history in finance and has advised and consulted to some of the wealthiest families in South Africa. Sunél is passionate about inspiring people to utilise their resources to bring balance and happiness into their lives.
Sunél holds an Honours Degree in Economics, is a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Certified Financial Planner .She is a Member of the Institute of Stockbrokers and the Financial Planning Institute.
Sunél is the author of Manage Your Money, Live Your Dream, a financial guide for women.
She has the unique ability to make complicated financial matters straightforward and applicable.

I have unfortunately witnessed this scenario many times in my career.

A strong, independent and intelligent woman turned into a quivering wreck, tears pooling in her eyes as she explains the desperate financial situation she has suddenly found herself in. She had not planned for divorce. This was not something she had factored into her life but suddenly it has become a reality and so has the accompanying financial mess. She cannot even get her head around the terms and legal implications, never mind the difficult decisions she needs to make.

Her biggest single question – How did I get to this position?

She is just an example of so many women.

Why is it that women find themselves in this position? What are the mistakes women make?

1.Women do not earn enough

Women still earn less than men, even for doing the same jobs. In a recent article, published in the New York Times with research by Cornell University, the concerning conclusion was that work done by women is simply not valued as highly. A Harvard study showed that the pay gap, even within professions, persists. For example, female physicians in the US earn only 71% of what male physicians earn.

Additionally, many women take career breaks or even give up their careers entirely to have and raise children, seriously affecting their salary bargaining-power and long-term earning potential.

The result is that women do not earn enough.

You do not need to aim for the highest paying career but you should claim what you are worth. Even if you are not earning, you should ensure that you are financially secure by understanding your financial position.

2.Women do not save

We traditionally have a poor track record of saving in South Africa, with very few people saving enough for their long-term needs. However, because women live longer we need to save more than men save. An Alexander Forbes study showed that women need to save about 17% of their gross earnings to retire well.

Since women often choose low paying careers or make financial sacrifices for care-giving, many think that their earnings are not substantial enough to save. Even well earning women often think their savings will be insignificant, particularly in families where male partners earn considerably more than they do.

Every woman should have her own savings. Not only will you gain the necessary knowledge, but also by adopting a monthly savings habit, you will be able to build up a surprisingly large nest egg. Even a saving of R500 per month over 30 years will be worth almost R1 million at retirement.

3.Women delay

For many twenty year olds, the last thing on their minds is saving for retirement.

However, just as most women start to gain traction with their careers, many choose to leave the workforce (temporarily or permanently) to focus on their family. The result is that very few women build a nest egg that can grow for long enough. In investments, the length of time that you stay invested is the most important factor.

Start saving early and continue to save throughout your life. The longer you save the more of a retirement nest egg you can build up.

4.Women do not invest

Short-term saving is actually a part of community life amongst some South African women. Think of the stokvels and burial societies, especially in rural communities. Sadly though, very little of these savings are for long-term needs.

Women need to invest more. Accumulating funds in a bank account is not enough. Women need to invest for the longer term. Consider buying shares, property, or any financial vehicle with these asset classes as the ultimate destiny. Investments require some knowledge, understanding, and engagement with an advisor or via self-study. You do not need to be an expert to be a successful investor, but you do need to have a basic understanding.

5.Women do not take enough risk

I find that women shy away from risk. There is a debate on whether this behaviour is linked to women’s brain profiles; is a learnt behaviour; or is the result of fewer available resources.

Higher risk generally leads to higher returns. This means that women miss out if they shy away from riskier investments such as shares or property.

Do not lose out because of fear. Learning more about risk and taking a long-term approach will help you to become a successful investor.

Avoid these five mistakes and you will become a financially independent and secure woman.


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