How the Girl Guides are tackling financial inequality

Girl Guides learning financial literacy through the Guide Your Money program.
Girl Guides learning financial literacy through the Guide Your Money program. 

Australian women face particular challenges when it comes to their financial security. Women are more likely to live longer than men, on average earn less than males and are more likely to take time out of paid work in caring roles.

So it's not surprising, but nevertheless disheartening that the gender pay gap in Australia is currently sitting at 16 per cent, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Girl Guides is tackling this issue head on with a new program for young girls and women.

The Guide Your Money aims to encourage girls and women to build life skills in financial literacy and to develop an understanding of how financial literacy contributes to an independent and secure financial future. The course was developed with assistance from Financial Literacy Australia.

"Women's economic empowerment starts with girls," national program manager Helen Reid says.

Young Australian women are being given little or no education around financial literacy and yet they're signing mobile phone contracts, trying to save for a car and making career decisions, Reid says.

"Women get to the workforce and a superannuation form is put on their desk to fill out, and that's often the last time they think about how much they'll have saved when they reach retirement age.

"We want to build their confidence and skills in financial matters and ultimately help girls be financially self-sufficient so they can take charge of their lives."

The Guide Your Money Foundations program offers fun learning and skills building in financial literacy for girls aged seven to 12. It covers topics such as budgeting, saving, investing and goal setting and is available as a hard copy resource for Guide leaders.

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An online program called Guide Your Money Independence is aimed at women aged 18-30. It facilitates shared and individual learning in nine topics. These include comparison shopping, saving, investing, car and home loans and planning for their financial future. The program is available at guideyourmoney.org.au.

According to an ANZ survey of adult financial literacy in Australia, females aged 18-24 scored well below the population average when it comes to financially planning ahead.

Girl Guides has plans to develop a third financial literacy program for 13-17 year olds in the near future.

Girl Guides has more than 18,000 youth members in Australia. About 14,000 of those are aged between seven and 12. The organisation is fielding requests to make the program available to Girl Guides in other countries.

Women need to be smart and strategic in their financial planning to overcome the gender super gap. Starting early is the way to go, says Dr Martin Fahy, chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).

More than four out of five women currently end up with insufficient superannuation savings to fund the lifestyle they want in retirement, and there's a significant discrepancy in the balances at retirement between men and women, ASFA figures show.

And one in three Australian women are retiring with no superannuation at all.

"ASFA applauds any initiative that provides young women with information and practical skills to enhance their financial literacy and help them overcome financial inequality," Fahy says.