South Africa’s changing socio-economic makeup and high levels of indebtedness have resulted in a rapid increase in the number of woman breadwinners, but financial exclusion remains a challenge for many women. 

Statistics show that women are taking the leadership role in household finances for a number of reasons, including that women, on average, live five to 10 years longer than men. 

According to Statistics South Africa, 41.3% of households are headed by women.

According to the Banking Association of South Africa, 6.9 million women were in employment in the second quarter of 2015. These women have discovered how liberating it can be to be financially independent and involved in planning and managing their family’s budget. 

However, women are often guilty of placing the needs of their families before their own and not thinking of the financial consequences of unbudgeted expenses, which will have a big impact on their finances later in life.  

While households are increasingly headed by women, with families looking at them to provide, challenges remain for women to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Mellony Ramalho, the executive for insurance at African Bank, says women tend to put their own financial needs on the back-burner, because they are so busy earning a living and taking care of their families.

“In our experience, while women are very comfortable with day-to-day spending and budgeting, they tend to leave longer-term financial issues, such as retirement and investments, to their partners. 

“What we want to encourage is that women move beyond household budgeting and start thinking more broadly about their financial futures,” Ramalho says. 

According to Visa’s 2013 International Barometer of Women’s Financial Literacy, South African women were ranked among the least financially literate in the world, coming in at 23rd out of the 27 countries sampled. 

The survey also found that South African mothers did not frequently engage their children in money conversations. South Africa women were ranked 26th in this regard. 

The latest data revealed by First National Bank (FNB) eWallet Solutions shows that in the six months to June 2017 the percentage of eWallet sends by male users on the FNB app stabilised at 62%, while sends by women increased to 38%.

Sandi Madikiza, the chief executive of FNB eWallet Solutions, says while the gap between the genders is still large, FNB is seeing a steady rise in the number of women who are using eWallet to send and receive money.

“The gap in eWallet sends between female and male could be influenced by a number of social and economic dynamics. However, closing it is very important for financial inclusion. 

“We expect the increasing adoption of smart technology to play an important role in closing some of these gaps, which to some degree serve as an indicator of where we are in terms of financial inclusion,” Madikiza says.

WHAT WOMAN CAN DO AT HOME

Women can contribute to their household’s financial well-being without overburdening themselves in the following ways, according to African Bank:

1. Talk. Discuss spending and saving with your spouse or a trusted adviser regularly. Everyone has bad financial habits, and it’s good to get these out into the open so that you can find ways to remedy things.

2. Plan. Be part of formulating a family financial plan in which you set out your goals and aspirations. What kind of events do you need to plan for? When do you want to retire? What assets do you have? Shared visions become shared responsibilities and help to ease the tensions that discussions about finances can cause.

3. Learn. Study your bank statements and get to grips with what you’re looking at. There is plenty of advice and guidance online, but you can always turn to an adviser at your local bank for assistance. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be to make good, sound financial decisions.

4. Take responsibility. Women have often been raised with the mindset that they’ll be the secondary earners while their husbands will take control of the long-term financial matters.

5. Manage your bank account. Periodically assess the type of bank account you have and whether it meets your needs.

kabelo.khumalo@inl.co.za