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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Ong

A woman’s financial journey through life

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

Women have specific needs in their lives and on this international women’s day, we want to shine a light on the financial milestones of a woman. We #choosetochallenge the status quo - one where women have significantly less financial literacy than men. Instead, we hope to empower women with financial awareness so that they can make better decisions according to their needs and wants.

What life looks like at: 21-29

This is where #adulting starts! The life stage where women step into their first job after receiving an education - along with your very first pay slip. Repayment of an education loan kicks in here too and will be longer for those who studied abroad – about 3.7 million students are enrolled in a foreign university1. This stage of life is perhaps also where two exciting rites of life take place: marriage and purchasing a home. Take note, it comes with certain costs: an average wedding in Asia starts at $30,0002 and an average property in Hong Kong and Singapore costs HK$1,234,220 and S$874,3723 respectively due to the high population densities of these countries. Insurance should also be purchased here to prepare for life’s contingencies to take advantage of the lower costs at a young age. Women do generally pay slightly higher insurance premiums than men due to higher life expectancies.

With new income comes new responsibilities and this is why it is important for women to understand how to budget, manage personal finances and plan for them. Doing so will enable more informed economic decisions over the course of life. Do note that Income inequality between men and women typically already begins here: a study found that women generally enter the workforce on lower pay than men, even if they are more highly educated4. This is why it is important for women to have a good grasp of their worth in the marketplace; it is this information and awareness that can help to reduce the gender pay gap over time. The good news is that a slightly lower salary doesn’t have to mean lower overall income – begin your investment journey here too to capitalize on the benefits of compounding over the long-term.

What life looks like at: 30-39

The hallmark of this life stage is probably the birth of the first child. Most women here enjoy the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, some even taking time off after maternity leave to care for their newborn baby. Bringing up a child can be expensive too: new furniture and household items are needed, along with a boatload of diapers, milk and baby food. Not to worry - your spouse's income will help offset the bills too, and the gender pay gap in this life stage shrinks here standing at about 6%5.

A mother only wants the best for her children and its never too early to start thinking about the future. For example, their university fees - especially for foreign institutions, or building up a trust for them. This adds on to current financial obligations which means it’s a good time to exercise prudence so you can always meet the needs of your dependents. Some practical tips here might be to review the existing insurance plans of the couple to include the child and consider income protection for the household’s breadwinner: be it for mummy or daddy. A good practice would also be to write a will and appoint of a guardian in case of life’s contingencies. Rest easy knowing that your little one will be well taken care of no matter what.

What life looks like at: 40-49

While women spend their 30s giving birth to and raising up their children, the 40s are where most women rejoin the workforce once again and continue building their careers. Working mothers have it especially tough juggling the workplace with family commitments – props to you ladies! As life moves steadily along the expenses for children change too, transitioning from diapers to tuition and school fees, even enrichment classes and recreation. Therefore, do be mindful of ensuring the household income keeps pace with expenses. This life stage is also where some decide to upgrade their homes to accommodate the growing family too from the income saved in the previous two decades. Perhaps to a sleek condominium or cozy landed property with a front yard? Nonetheless, do consider your financial position carefully before making that big decision!

An assessment of your retirement should also be conducted here: 48% of Singaporeans and 53% of Hong Kongers believe they won’t have enough money saved for a comfortable retirement6. This is important especially in light of longer life expectancies due to improved nutrition and healthcare. The gender pay gap increases in this life stage as many women still work part-time due to childcare or earn less after taking a career break5. An unfortunate statistic here is that divorce most typically happens at this life stage too, which might mean a split in property and possible loss of household income. On the off chance that this happens, do ensure you seek out good financial advice so you're well taken care of.

What life looks like at: 50-59

Hooray - the happy arrival of grandchildren happens at this life stage! Did you know that the average age of a first-time grandparent7 is 50? Grandchildren and eldercare can often come at the same time too: a third of women in their late 50s are already caring for an elderly parent or relative8. With retirement looming around the corner, make sure you're on track of your own plans. Keeping it real: ageing brings with it some health issues too that you might want to prepare for. Menopause sets for women which can be very uncomfortable for some, so much so that 10% of women decide to stop working9. Certain health conditions occur here too: most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older10.

This is the life stage where women may have to manage many competing priorities. Do prepare ahead for retirement needs and set aside a budget for dependents’ needs too. With age comes wisdom but also its cares, so do ensure that those rainy days are well taken care of.

What life looks like at: 60+

Congratulations, this is probably where you stop working and retire! Ideally, you would want to be self-sufficient, have paid up all loans and have an adequate retirement income stream. Enjoy the peace and serenity of pursuing your hobbies and spending time with your loved ones, taking a holiday or two now and then. The income gap build-up over a lifetime now means there is a difference of around 11% between the retirement savings of women and men11. Women also live longer than men - in Asia, the average life expectancy is about 76 years for males and 80 years for females12. This means that women should be mindful of stretching their retirement dollar too.

This is where you can start withdrawing the investment returns you've built up over the years for daily living and the occasional treat. Do take care of yourself and enjoy your golden years with a peace of mind, knowing that you’ve prepared for yourself and loved ones financially. You've earned it!

The value of an investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

Advice relating to a will and/or matters of guardianship involves a service that is separate and distinct from those offered by St. James's Place.


1The Pie News OCED Report, 2019

2 AsiaOne, 2020

3 CNBC, 2019

4 HESA 2018/19 2

5 Ministry of Manpower Singapore, 2020

6 Retirement and Wealth Planning Survey 2021, commissioned by St. James’s Place Wealth Management and undertaken by Sandpiper Communications (1,019 respondents in Hong Kong and 1,045 respondents in Singapore).

7 Milestones: journeying into adulthood, ONS, February 2019

8 Jane Portas and Insuring Women’s Futures, Chartered Insurance Institute, 2019

9 Menopause at Work survey of 1,132 UK women, Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre, 2019

10 Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, 2020

11 Association of Women for Action and Research, 2019

12 Statistica, year 2020

All photos except the title graphic are from

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