By Lorna Tan, Finance Correspondent
I wonder which is worse. Finding out that your hubby has been unfaithful and he wants to leave you, or that he has died without leaving adequate funds for you and your children to live on.
While there is really nothing much you can do except to get on with your life should any of the two events happen, there is definitely something you can do now about your financial matters to make the best of a potentially unpleasant situation.null
Studies have shown that when it comes to money matters, we, women, are a vulnerable lot. But we can do much more to protect our interests and those of our family, and ensure that we are not caught off-guard when something untoward happens.
Before I offer some suggestions, here are five facts you should know.
- Like it or not, women live longer than men. Men, on average, die five years earlier than women. Visit any old folks' home and you will find more women there than men. According to statistics from the 2008 World Population Data Sheet, the life expectancy for Singapore males is 78 and for females, it is 83.
- Women retire at a younger age or have shorter careers. This is because they take time out to become the family caregiver. As a result, many spend their productive years as housewives taking care of their families. It was reported that a woman's average working period with the same firm is 20.6 years, almost a decade shorter than the average man's span of 29.5 years. Women are more likely to have worked part-time too.
- On average, women earn less than their male counterparts.
It follows that women are able to make only basic or minimal contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and some have none. On average, men have 1.69 times more money in their CPF balances than women.
- More people are getting divorced. After a divorce, the average man's standard of living goes up 23per cent, while that of the average woman goes down 10per cent.
- Women suffer from more debilitating diseases in old age. Studies show that women have 12 disability-filled years in their old age as compared to nine disability-filled years for men with their shorter life span.
The picture that these facts paint is not pretty.
Women live longer but retire earlier with less money. Because of men's shorter life span and because women tend to marry men older than themselves, the odds of women becoming widowed are very real.
As such, we women usually have no spouse to care for us in our long, frail old age. We are also in danger of having little savings by then. This is because by the time we get to that stage, most of the family's savings may have been spent on medical care for our husbands in their last years.
Coupled with another finding that women typically do not take the initiative to do financial planning and are likely to leave key decisions to their spouses, and you have the unpalatable truth: that our risk of financial insecurity is great.
But we can do something about it.