Are you lacking confidence about financial planning, saving for retirement – and money in general? If you’re a woman, you have plenty of company:
- Nearly four-in-10 (38%) Canadian women admit they know “very little” about finance and investments.1
- 66% of people whose financial situation is “quite bad” or “very bad,” are women.2
And this was before the pandemic. And the subsequent “shecession” where more women than men left the workforce to care for their loved ones.
Stereotypes, systemic inequalities, and lower income jobs mean women earn and save less than men. And they’re less likely to invest to build their wealth too.
While this seems discouraging, there is some good news. Women are in a good position to gain more financial independence and confidence. How? Because compared to men, women are generally:
- more disciplined with saving,
- more open to becoming financially literate, and therefore
- better equipped to make good financial planning choices.
Read on to see how embracing financial feminism and gaining confidence with money can help empower you to plan better and save more.
What is financial feminism?
Financial feminism is advocating for financial inclusion and equality between men and women. Not just for income, but for building wealth too. It’s about engaging, educating, and encouraging more women to take control of their finances.
Why is financial planning especially important for women?
Financial planning (and saving in general) is important for everyone. But it’s especially vital for women for two important reasons:
- Women can generally expect to live longer in retirement than men. So, women need to save more money.
- Fact: A 65-year-old Canadian woman can expect to live another 21.7 years, on average. For men, it’s 18.7 years.3
- Women generally make less money than men. So, women have less income to save for those non-working, retirement years.
- Fact: Women workers in Canada earned an average of 89 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2021.4
How can women improve their finances?
Here are 7 ways women can embrace financial feminism, overcome their saving challenges and feel empowered to become financially independent:
1. Improve your financial literacy
Financial literacy is all about:
- knowing how to manage your personal finances,
- keeping track of your expenses, and
- investing wisely.
So, it makes sense. The more you know about financial products, concepts and practices, the better decisions you can make about your money.
To improve, start educating yourself about personal finances– even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. Doing so will make you feel more confident and help you manage your money better.
Ready to learn?
Get to know 14 must-know terms to boost your financial literacy
2. Start saving right away
The sooner you start saving, the more opportunity your investments will have for long-term growth. This helps increase your chances of building substantial savings. In fact, the people who have the most success with their finances start saving early and save often.
3. Make a plan
Unfortunately, most Canadians don’t have a financial plan. But those who do report higher well-being (compared to those who don’t).
Don’t have a plan? That’s ok! An advisor can help. They’ll work with you to:
- set your retirement savings goals,
- create a plan to meet your goals, and
- choose investments that jibe with how comfortable you are with risk.
4. Find an advisor who gets you
It's important to find an advisor who's a good fit. After all, you need to work with an advisor you trust.
To help find the right fit, start by making a checklist of what you need from a planning and personality perspective. Then, when you’re meeting with advisors pay attention to things like:
- Does the advisor listen to you?
- Does the advisor understand your hopes and projects for the future?
- Are they giving equal weight to your thoughts, questions and concerns? (If you’re meeting the advisor with your spouse).
And if you already have an advisor, you don't have to 'put up' with someone whom you feel uncomfortable with. An advisor is there to 'advise.' The plan you build for your present and future needs to be a collective project.
5. Open an automatic savings plan
Set up an automatic savings plan or payroll deduction plan to contribute to an:
That way, instead of contributing only at the annual RRSP deadline, you’ll be investing your money sooner. And this gives it more time to grow. Plus, the money in your RRSP is tax-sheltered while it’s growing. That means you don’t have to pay tax on it until you take it out. And when you take it out when you retire, your taxable income is normally lower than while you’re working.
6. Contribute the maximum to your RRSP
Look for your RRSP contribution limit on your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency. Any unused room gets carried forward each year. Have you contributed as much as you were entitled to in years past? If you haven’t, you can make it up now.
You may even want to consider an RRSP loan to help you maximize your contributions. But only borrow as much as you know you’ll be able to pay back within a short time. You can use our RRSP loan calculator to see if this may work for you. Then, talk to an advisor about your options.
How do your RRSP contributions affect your retirement savings?
Use our RRSP calculator to find out.
7. Save for maternity leave – and beyond!
If you’re planning to have a child (or more children), it’s a good idea to financially plan for a leave from work. Having children is a significant emotional – and financial decision – while you’re on mat leave and for many years after that.
When it comes to the first year, and taking parental leave, your finances may experience a setback. While we’re fortunate to live in Canada with maternity leave benefits, Employment Insurance (EI) only covers so much. And very few employers will make up the difference between what EI pays and your regular salary. With EI payments limited to 55% or 33%* of your salary, you may face a significant shortfall. Which means you’ll need to supplement EI benefits with savings.
If you’re thinking of having a child on your own, you'll need to map out the financial implications of living on a reduced salary for a year or more. An advisor can help you make sure you’re factoring the extra costs associated to having a child.
If you’re starting a family with your spouse, have an honest conversation about how this will affect your family finances. Deciding to start a family shouldn't necessarily affect one parent's finances more than the other.
An advisor could suggest some tactics to help offset the loss in salary. For example:
- Your spouse could contribute to your RRSP while you have less income to do so yourself. Or you could set up a spousal RRSP, where the higher income-earning spouse contributes to an RRSP for the lower income earning spouse. This can help you reduce your taxes and build for the future.
- You could save money in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) to dip into if you take time off work for parental leave – or other reasons. With money put away you’ll have less of a need to raid your retirement savings. (Which comes with hidden costs).
In addition to the initial 12-18 months of parental leave, you’ll need to consider the cost of raising a child. Some estimate that a child costs an average of $13,000 a year (for the first 18 years). That’s for things like childcare, clothing, personal care, food, etc. And that doesn’t even include their post-secondary education. To help with that cost, you’ll want to set up a registered education savings plan (RESP). Doing this as early as possible (after a baby is born) can help you benefit from one of the most generous government programs available.
*(Depending on how much leave you decide to take and up to a specified amount).
Financial advice for women
Regardless of your gender, the right advice at the right time can help you:
- make better decisions,
- make the most of your money,
- financially protect yourself and your loved ones,
- reduce money-related stress and anxiety, and,
- reach your financial goals.
A Sun Life advisor can help. Find an advisor.
This article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation, or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.
1FP Canada, Financial Independence survey, 2018.
2Government of Canada, Financial well-being survey results, 2021.
3 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 053-0003.
4 Canadian Women’s Foundation, The Facts about the Gender Pay Gap in Canada, 2022.