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18th March 2024

what would you tell younger self about money

In support of International Women’s Day 2024, we ask three female financial experts at Ascot Lloyd what advice they would give to enable young women to achieve a better financial future.

It's an age-old question: in all the wisdom of your more mature standing in the world today, what advice would you give your younger self to live a happier, healthier and more prosperous life?

Common answers tend to include experiencing the world. Don't work too hard. Spend more time doing what you love. Live life to the full. Money is not everything and you can’t take it with you.

While well-intentioned and each carrying their own merits, what tends to be lacking in these reflections are doses of reality and practicality. Money certainly isn’t everything, but it does need to be managed strategically if you want to implement the other pieces of advice successfully.

And while it’s right that you can’t take money with you when you die, what you can do is leave it to your children, grandchildren and other loved ones to help them on the housing ladder, support the raising of their families and generally assist in achieving their own life ambitions.

Closing the gap

With International Woman's Day earlier this month, we at Ascot Lloyd particularly want to advocate for financial independence among women amidst an enduring gender gap in financial literacy and retirement savings. Greater understanding of the importance of financial planning is crucial to solving both.

A study by Allianz last year exposed a persistent financial literacy gender gap, with women only correctly answering 3.7 financial literacy questions out of nine versus 4.5 among the male respondents. When Shepherds Friendly quizzed 2,000 people in the UK on their knowledge of ISAs, investing and general personal finance, meanwhile, it also found men to be more financially literate, with 31% getting at least half of questions correct versus only 24% of women.

The large disparity in retirement savings between men and women is even more concerning. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that women over state pension age have average gross private pension income up to 60% lower than men of the same age, while only 59% of working age women under 60 were saving into a pension in 2019 compared with 66% of men.

Further research by NOW: Pensions and the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) found women in the UK are retiring with an average of £69,000 in pension savings, compared to £205,000 for men. To close this gap women would need to work and save for an extra 19 years, the report stated.

In light of these challenges, we speak with three of our female financial experts at Ascot Lloyd to see what advice they’d give their younger selves and other women about financial planning.

Jo BentleyJoanne Bentley - Independent Financial Adviser, Ascot Lloyd

"The biggest piece of advice I’d tell my younger self and really anyone who wants to have a comfortable retirement is you have to start saving as early as you possibly can. You just can’t leave it to later in life and expect to be able to make up the difference. Unless you come into a significant amount of money, which generally people don't, it will almost certainly be too late.

"We are sleepwalking into a retirement crisis, and it comes down to a real lack of awareness and education about financial planning. Even when people are making an effort to save, many are doing it in the wrong places, for instance saving for a rainy day in their current accounts. When you're looking at 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, the difference in return is huge in comparison to what you're likely to get from a cash return, which typically won't even keep pace with inflation.

"To be honest I think the awareness gap is getting even worse. A lot of people don't become more aware of the importance of saving for retirement until their late 30s or later. Auto-enrolement has helped bring it onto people's radars sooner, but only contributing the minimum amount of 4% of your income still might not be enough to have a comfortable retirement. If you can save just 5,6 or 7% of your income when you're 20, and your employer is also contributing it's going to make such a big difference to your quality of life when you retire. Indeed, industry experts including the Association of British Insurers have called for contributions to rise to 12% to bring savers closer to a comfortable retirement.

"I'd also recommend looking at consolidating your pensions. People move around jobs a lot today finding the right career, employer and role. That's perfectly normal but it's really important that you don't just leave these tiny little pension pots behind. At some point try to consolidate them and gain an understanding of where your money is invested and how it's performing. By leaving it in a poorly performing fund, it can have a huge negative impact on your retirement."

 

"I would tell myself to practice what I preach, and I don’t even mean my younger self! Frankly, I don't – often it’s like a chef who doesn’t cook at home after a long shift in the kitchen. In terms of what I’d tell my younger self, it would be to get on the property ladder sooner rather than later.

"When you're young you just want to enjoy yourself. You've got little responsibilities, and you just want to go out and live your dreams. I would say to my younger self to enjoy yourself but at the same time keep an eye on ensuring you have a little bit of security as a backup and saving for a comfortable life when you’re older. It’s very much possible to live your best life today while making some smart financial plans so that you’ll also be able to enjoy yourself much later in life.

"The earlier you start investing, the more time your investments have to grow and ride through peaks and troughs, which tend to be more frequent in an ever-changing world. Lots of people will say they don't have the extra money to save. The truth is they probably do but they need to learn more about budgeting. An astute financial plan will give you something to work towards.

"Knowing what I know now, I’d tell my younger self to seize the opportunities when you can, rather than worrying about financial advice being a male dominated industry. I still also see men taking the lead in discussions about financial planning. Will that change? A lot of women now out-earn their male partners and couples increasingly balance childcare more evenly, so times are changing albeit slowly. When both people in a relationship contribute to financial discussions I think that can only be positive. I hope more women look to be heard when it comes to money."

Asha Patel - Paraplanning Manager, Ascot Lloyd.

Helen RichardsonHelen Richardson - Independent Financial Adviser, Ascot Lloyd

"If I could tell my younger self one thing it would be to keep credit card borrowing to an absolutely minimum. You do not need store cards. Live within your means, otherwise you'll be playing catch up for a long time. I think the younger generation today have it even worse because they’re bombarded by marketing on social media. They expect to be wearing the nicest clothes, going on amazing holidays, eating out and living in House Beautiful from day one. If you're borrowing a lot to have that aspirational lifestyle, it all just adds pressure later on in life.

"Too often as financial advisers we meet people who say it's just dawned on them just how much they're going to need in order to enjoy their retirement. I would emphasise the simple things you don't necessarily think about in your 20s. If you get a pay rise, immediately budget it into your monthly savings or increasing your pension contributions. You're not going to notice the difference if you just take it straight off your top line. Pensions are brilliant in terms of tax relief on the way in. Although it feels like forever away, you’ll be so grateful when you near retirement.

"If I'm being honest, in the majority of the discussions I have with clients it is still the man taking the lead. I do try to challenge people by asking if you’ve thought about a scenario whereby you are two separate people rather than one? What if you go your separate ways? What if your partner dies? I think it's really important to try to get women to think as an individual when it comes to money because a greater understanding of personal finance goes a really long way.”

If you'd like to speak with one of the trusted Independent Financial Advisers...' to 'It's not too late to build the right plan to meet your retirement goals. Speak to your adviser who will be able to help you, or alternatively request a call back.

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