Financial adviser and author Helen Baker is using the proceeds of her new book ‘On Your Own Two Feet: Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence’ to help stop childhood prostitution.
Financial adviser Helen Baker is using her powers of financial management to help women in all sorts of different situations; the profits of her new book, which is aimed at helping women manage their money, will go entirely to families in need.
“The purpose of the book is actually to try and get girls out of child prostitution,” says Helen. “So it’s virtually a First World and Third World book combined together. Obviously the luxury that we have is because we have so much money we can make such a big difference to someone in the Third World, because it doesn’t take as much to make a big difference.
“There was an article recently about how one woman had sold her child’s virginity off – I think she was only like nine years old – for three hundred dollars to repay a debt. We could gather that money pretty quickly from sale of the books and pay off the debts so that these kids aren’t being sold into these environments.”
Helen says while she knows the financial education will help many buyers of the book, her real goal is to make a difference to those less fortunate.
“That’s where my heart is – trying to use the book where that education helps people in the first world, but the money from it can go and help people in the third world,” she says. “A little bit can make a big difference.”
Read on for our chat with Helen about the book and why it’s important to keep an eye on your finances…
Why is financial independence an important thing for women to consider?
Generally women earn less than men, they take time off to go and have children which means they’re not earning income, and when they go back to work they generally get part-time jobs as opposed to full-time jobs; and you’ll find it hard to find a part-time CEO or a part-time big shot manager, so they end up having to compromise a little bit on their career to have time with their children.
So women earn less money, then obviously there’s less going into their superannuation, so less in their nest egg as well. And the biggest issue is that women still live longer than men – that’s starting to push out to 87 and 90 years now – so we need a lot of money for a really long time.
There’s all these pressures at the start where we lose income and men don’t, then we have to provide for a lot longer as well.
When should women start thinking about their financial independence?
The earlier the better. You can always help people – there’s an article in the book about someone who came to see me at 63. I could still make a difference to her situation but if she had come earlier…obviously the winner with anything financial is time, the more time you’ve got, the less risk you need to take, or the less compromise you need to take because time is on your side.
You can do little things for a long period of time rather than having to do crazy things all at once. So the earlier the better, but I can fix things from where you are.
Why are the issues different for men and women?
I think women are actually really good at managing money a lot of the time, they just need direction in terms of how they can do that well. To get themselves even better off than they might’ve been trying to do it themselves, the should get some really good quality financial advice from someone.
I think it goes back to that bit about us being multitaskers, women are really good generally on the detail. Men sort of have to do one thing at a time, whereas women can seem to juggle a whole lot of balls in the air, so if you give them some direction and some ways in which they can do it they can generally follow through on that.
Obviously there’s some that probably still need some help, but I think women are pretty good at managing all the detail.
How will the book help women be more economically empowered?
Knowledge is power – one of the two things I talk about in the book and with all my clients is having control and having certainty. That way if something does come along then it shouldn’t derail you completely, you should have some things in place.
So I talk about the five foundations, which is an emergency fund (a lot of people don’t even have an emergency fund, their credit card is their emergency fund which is really not a good idea); a spending and investment plan; having the right insurances in place to protect your income and yourself if anything unhealthy happens; superannuation is a good grounding; and then having estate-planning in place for yourself so that everyone around you knows what to do in the event that something happens.
If we get those in place we can build things on top that won’t come crashing down like they might if we don’t put those foundations in place.
What are the biggest pitfalls that women face in a financial sense?
The biggest pitfall is “You don’t know what you don’t know”. People don’t go and seek advice. Interestingly, on the back of On Your Own Two Feet there’s a quote: “I thought financial advice was for the rich before I met Helen.” Financial advice is about getting you to become wealthy and preserving that wealth, as opposed to “Oh, I get wealthy somehow myself and then I come and get advice.”
By then you’ve probably made a whole lot of mistakes along the way, so I’d really like to try and prevent people from making mistakes because then we don’t waste money.
How is On Your Own Two Feet different from other financial advice books?
I think because it’s covering all the ages and a lot of real issues. A lot of books that are out there just talk very blandly about what is insurance, what are shares and so on – this has really got a lot of case studies that people can relate to.
And it’s quite easy reading. I wanted to do it in a way where we’re just having a chat, because finance can be quite dull! So putting in some things that are real and that people can relate to, and just short quick chapters so people can read a chapter on the bus on the way to work and have more knowledge than what they had before they started the bus trip.