I never imagined that I would be counting my pennies and worrying about money constantly. It makes me feel sick to the stomach thinking about those sleepless nights when I was wondering about how I was going to make repayments on a loan that wasn’t mine.
Several years ago I met a charming man who swept me off my feet. I loved that he had big dreams and we were set to have a fabulous life together. But what I didn’t know was that he had lots of debt. Actually I found this out way too late – when I was seven months pregnant with his child.
I had ignored that niggling voice in the back of my mind that frequently added up all the expensive nights out. It started with buying a ‘surprise’ luxury car, then losing his licence, then losing his job and then pawning items at the local Cash Converters. I felt ashamed, trapped and helpless.
The situation escalated when I was on maternity leave. I now had a baby to look after. How was I going to provide for my son? The stress increased as we struggled to make loan repayments on our house. I didn’t have a choice. I needed to return to work earlier than planned.
Going back to work was the right thing to do. It felt amazing and gave me back instant financial control. At the same time, it broke my heart. My work days were long and I missed my six month old son. But having financial independence made me feel strong.
Six years later, I have well and truly moved on from that destructive relationship. My son and I now have the kind of life I have always dreamt of. We live frugally, travel lots and always save for a rainy day. For me managing my own money is about independence and freedom.
My personal experiences with financial abuse have led me to my career at Good Shepherd Microfinance where our purpose is to support women’s financial wellbeing. Unfortunately, new research reveals that the number of women using payday loans has been increasing, and women are also more likely to use payday loans from a younger age than men.
These loans may offer a quick fix to unexpected expenses such as back-to-school costs or car repairs, yet for many people, they’re often left feeling trapped in a vicious cycle of debt.
I know first hand that these products are predatory, hard to manage and stressful. That’s why I’ve spent a large part of my career working on safe and affordable financial programs. This week, we’ve launched our first online cash loan – it’s called Speckle and offers a better alternative for people seeking small amounts of cash quickly. As a not-for-profit, the Speckle loan, offered by Good Shepherd Microfinance and backed by NAB, is half the cost of similar cash loans in the market.
Here are my top five top tips to help women become more prepared for financial shocks, so you can avoid turning to a payday loans or compromising on things that matter.
Talk to your partner. Before committing to a serious relationship, have a discussion about money and understand each other’s financial commitments.
Take responsibility for money. “A man is not a financial plan”. Get involved in managing your money and share the responsibility making for financial decisions.
Understand your credit. Buy now, pay later services are increasing in popularity. The key is to make sure that you are only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Educate your kids. Shopping online and credit cards mean that money is often invisible to kids. Help your kids to learn about budgets and savings by being a role model.
Ask for help. If you’re experiencing financial difficulty, don’t be embarrassed to ask for a little help. A financial counsellor can provide free advice. You can call through the Financial Counselling Australia on 1800 007 007.
And finally, listen to that niggling voice in the back of your mind. It’s probably right!