Financial Planning
Choice outweighs balance for women

As this year's International Women's Day campaigns for a gender-balanced world, one underlying factor that is overlooked is empowering women to make choices to live a financially secure and fulfilling life.

This is according to Australian Unity Trustees general manager Emma Sakellaris, who says that achieving balance can be "extremely difficult" for women.

Years spent away from the workforce to raise children or care for other family members have contributed to lower superannuation balances, lower incidence of home ownership and overall personal wealth for retirement, she said.  "This essentially equates to less choice for older women."

In many ways, it's therefore no surprise that older women are "sadly the fastest growing demographic" among the homeless population in Australia.

According to Homelessness Australia statistics, there were more than 116,400 people experiencing homelessness in 2016 - about 42% were female.

Sakellaris said the choices women make to put in place plans, protections and solutions for the future are critical to the empowerment and dignity of women as they age and become more vulnerable.

What's more unfortunate is if women are incapacitated and unable to make decisions, others will make the choices for them.

Sakellaris said this affects where they live and the funds available for their living expenses.

She recommends women appoint a trusted person to manage financial affairs in the event they are no longer able to do so. "This provides women with choice and fundamentally the ability to achieve balance."

It's also critical for families to start conversations about enduring powers of attorney - but more importantly to document and be explicit about who will make the decisions; who is appointed executor; and what type of burial will take place, Sakellaris said.

Read more: International Women's DayEmma SakellarisHomelessness AustraliaAustralian Unity Trustees
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