There are many reasons why people may struggle financially in their later years and The Salvation Army says state and federal governments need to prioritise easing the financial struggle for older women in Australia.
A review of Salvation Army client data shows more than 60 per cent of people who access the Salvos’ Moneycare financial counselling service are women and that over-65s are the most rapidly growing group needing the charity’s assistance.
The Moneycare financial counselling service offers assistance to people having difficulty paying debts or fines, those experiencing harassment from debt creditors or debt collectors, Australians facing legal action over debts, people facing car or house repossession, those facing eviction and people struggling to live on low income.
“Older women have become the unexpected face of poverty in Australia,” Salvation Army Officer Major Paul Moulds said in a statement. “Their life as a primary carer, in the majority of cases, sets back their superannuation and employment options later in life.”
Women are expected to outlive their husbands by an average of four years but typically earn less throughout their careers. Other major life events such as divorce or death sees many women having to start fresh later in life.
The Salvation Army data also shows many older women are fleeing family violence but may suffer in silence rather than seek assistance. The charity organisation now says governments need to work together to overcome the growing issue of poverty in Australia.
“An increase of welfare payments by a minimum of $75 per week to ensure that those reliant on government assistance can live with dignity, addressing the causes of cost of living pressures, and the development of a nationally coordinated homelessness and housing affordability strategy would make an enormous difference,” Major Moulds said.
The data also shows that there’s been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people accessing financial counselling through the Salvos over the past five years and three in five of these people are women. There’s also been a 50 per cent increase in the number of women aged between 55 and 64 dealing with employment issues such as sudden job loss, job discrimination and under employment.
It’s not the first time financial hardship of women has been reported. The Australian Financial Attitudes and Behaviour Tracker shows 46 per cent of women surveyed find dealing with money stressful and overwhelming, compared with 26 per cent of men who feel the same way.
Meanwhile, 37 per cent of the 18,625 homeless people over 55 are women and are most likely to stay in rooming houses, couch surf or stay in overcrowded dwellings. Single older women are also at increased risk of having less saving and more financial stress in retirement, according to the Council to Homeless Persons.
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