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How teens and young women are falling through the financial literacy gap

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Former high school teacher and charity founder, Jessica Brown, has seen many young girls on the cusp of adulthood struggle to gain financial independence due to financial illiteracy and financial abuse. She told Insight what’s needed to help these young women and how to help protect yourself against financial abuse.

In her early 20s, *Amanda had long-term employment, lived in a rental property and had a healthy amount of savings.

Then *Amanda met a man and fell in love. Over time, this man became financially abusive. He gained access to her bank accounts, changed passwords and stole money.

When *Amanda realised what was happening and worked up the courage to confront him, he became physically abusive. In a final blow the man withdrew a large sum of money from her account and left the country.

This experience left *Amanda in a dark place. She tried to work as much as possible to pay off the debt but she couldn’t get on top of it. Her mental health sprialled and she was left unable to work and suicidal.

*Amanda isn’t alone in her financial struggles. By the age of 17, *Jasmine had lived with 14 different foster families. Just before her 18th birthday she left the system, couch surfed and then ended up living rough on the streets.

She had no money and suffered from complex mental health issues and drug addiction. There was no one in her life she could turn to for help. Eventually she overdosed, but thankfully lived to tell the tale.

*Amanda and *Jasmine are examples of many young women in Australia who are struggling financially and dealing with trauma. I’ve heard stories like theirs countless times.

Previously I worked as a high school teacher and after that in women’s charities. I’d have girls and young women constantly pop into my office asking for financial help, whether it be about obtaining a tax file number or setting up a bank account. I quickly came to realise there was a gap in the market for young girls as they transitioned into adulthood.

Research from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey has shown that women whose highest level of education was Year 12 or less have a financial literacy rate of 38.3 per cent while the rate for tertiary qualified women is 65.2 per cent.

So I decided to start a foundation to help young girls from the ages of 15-25 transition from out of home care into independent living, as well as young women who simply need a helping hand to gain independence. These women need a network of safe, stable, positive, female role models in their lives.

Looking to the future

*Amanda and *Jasmine have gone on to do extraordinarily well. They received the help they needed and were able to get back on their feet. But change is needed if we’re going to help the next generation of women before they get to breaking point.

As a former teacher my experience has been that financial literacy is really only taught in subjects like commerce, business studies or economics. I believe that all students should be taught this in school, and it should be implemented into the school curriculum from an early age.

We need to make financial independence a priority for women, given that statistics show older, single women aged 55+ are becoming one of the fastest growing financially vulnerable groups in Australia.

Through the teaching of financial literacy to all students, we can also help prevent financial abuse by teaching vulnerable young women the skills and confidence to take control of their finances and see the early warning signs of abusers.

Many young women who find themselves in the situation of financial abuse are led to believe that they are not good with money, like in the case of *Amanda, and that they are not confident managing it and therefore shouldn’t. By teaching financial literacy as soon as possible in a young woman’s life it can positively mould her relationship with money and more importantly, her belief in her ability to manage it.

Tips to protect yourself from financial abuse

Over the years in my line of work I’ve learnt there are some key things women can do to help protect themselves from financial abuse. These are:

  • Stay in touch with people you trust, and don’t be afraid to talk about any concerns you have.
  • Learn to recognise and avoid financial scams.
  • Regularly check bank and credit card statements for unauthorised transactions.
  • Open your own mail.
  • Store documents, account logins and passwords in a safe and secure place.
  • If you lend money to someone, put it in writing and make a plan with them for repayment.
  • Never sign documents you don't understand.
  • Where possible, get independent and confidential legal or financial advice.
  • Ask someone you trust to check that the person who manages your money is doing it in your best interests.

*Not their real name.

*Jessica Brown started The Warrior Woman Foundation to help young women gain financial independence. Their goal is for every Australian woman to achieve independence through financial wellbeing, and to increase the financial literacy rates of young women in Australia so that they have the confidence to take charge of earning and managing their own money, plan for future economic security, and protect themselves from financial abuse.

If you, or someone you know, needs assistance you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732


 

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It brings me bountiful joy to introduce you to The Warrior Woman Foundation. We are

proud to announce that we are a fully-fledged registered Australian charity with a mission to advance young vulnerable young women nationwide.

2020 has been a reality slap for the world at large and amongst the devastating effects of COVID-19, it has also weirdly been a year for opportunity and change. It has also been a time where we as humans have demonstrated incredible resilience and strength, proving how far a little kindness can go when we all support one another. I truly hope that the world will be a better place after being forced to reset and re-evaluate what is important, what is not and how we can do things differently and more efficiently. 

I'm eternally grateful for the gift of time to reset my own priorities in 2020, and spend lock down creating and building this foundation for a 2021 kick off. The Warrior Woman Foundation is my most exciting project to date, and I am thrilled with anticipation about what is yet to come. Most of all I am excited about working with one of Australia's most vulnerable groups; young women leaving the out of home care system.

Time has also enabled me to thoughtfully gather a 'tribe' of incredibly talented and experienced "warriors" who share my values and are equally passionate about making a difference in the world. I am over the moon to have landed such a dynamic team dedicated to deliver best practice training and program delivery. Since inception in March, we have been incredibly productive creating a strategic plan for the next five years. To know we will hit the ground running with all cylinders blasting is very exciting.

We do hope that you join the tribe, help us spread the word and share the exciting journey ahead with us.

Kind regards,

Jessica Brown (Chief Warrior Woman)


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The Warrior Woman Foundation is an Australian charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission at www.acnc.gov.au.
It is a Public Company Limited by Guarantee and Public Benevolent Institution.
The foundation is endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient and a Tax Concession Charity by the Australian Taxation Office.
All donations $2.00 and over are tax deductible.
The Warrior Woman Foundation holds an authority to fundraise under section 13A of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 with the Department of Fair Trading CFN/25631.
The Warrior Woman Foundation is accountable to its donors and subject to a constitution. It is governed by a volunteer board of community leaders representing a cross section of society.
ACN 639603071 - ABN 39639603071
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