Money stress curbs life choices: research

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One in three women don't have enough money saved to allow them to make significant life decisions like changing jobs or changing relationship status, according to new research.

The research by Fidelity International surveyed more than 2000 adults in Australia.

It found that many women feel trapped by their financial situation.

what women want money

When asked to define financial independence, the most common answer given by women is having a personal income, so you don't have to rely on financial support from others. But only 49% said they feel financially independent, compared with 58% of men.

According to the research, one in five adult women has trouble making ends meet and can't easily support themselves and their family. For men, the figure is half that, at one in 10.

Fidelity International managing director Alva Devoy said there are significant consequences to women being financially vulnerable.

"We are hearing that some women feel locked into toxic work cultures or personal relationships because they are constrained by their financial circumstances.  The goal for financial independence continues to remain out of reach for too many Australian women," Devoy said.

Devoy said the lack of financial independence is already evident in the fact that  women over 55 are now the fastest growing group to experience homelessness in Australia.

"Another recent Fidelity study of older Australians shows that women continue to feel less engaged with their finances, with only 10% of pre-retiree women saying that they feel in control of their finances compared to 25% of men," she said.

"Not only does this leave them at risk in the future, but it also has a significant impact on their overall wellbeing, including both mental and physical health, today."

The research found that more than half of pre-retiree women say that financial stress has, or is, impacting on their health.

"While two in three pre-retiree women want to work with a financial adviser, only one in 10 wants a professional to take care of everything for them.  Instead, a significant majority (almost three in five) want their adviser to support and guide them, but still want to be in control," Devoy added.

"As we know, people who receive financial advice tend to be more confident and positive about their financial situation, and our research has shown the same trend.  Of those women who are not yet retired, and who have a financial adviser, one in five says that they rarely or never worry about money, compared to one in seven unadvised women."

This article first appeared in Financial Standard.

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Elizabeth McArthur was a journalist at Financial Standard from March 2019 to April 2022. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from UTS and a master's in creative writing from Melbourne University.

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