How women can fight back against Covid's female financial crisis

FEELING increasingly worried thanks to the massive financial pressures of Covid? You’re not the only one – 73% of young women have reported feeling greater stress or anxiety because of money issues caused by the pandemic.

And the gender gap has never been more glaringly obvious, with women accounting for more than 78% of those who’ve lost their jobs since the crisis.

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Meanwhile, the amount of unpaid work we are doing around the home (60% more than men pre-lockdown, FYI) increased even more.

Add in falling interest rates on our savings, job insecurity and rising divorce rates, and it’s no wonder 53% of women have been affected financially by the crisis.*

But we’re here to help, with expert money advice and practical tips.

How to… live on less

WOMEN with children have once again paid the price, with The Institute for Fiscal Studies finding mums are 14% more likely to have been furloughed than dads.

Pregnant Then Screwed offers free advice for mothers seeking flexible working support, while Entitledto.co.uk uses a benefits calculator to break down financial aid that may be available to you.

Finance blogger Rebekah May, AKA The Little Spender, recommends dedicating 15 minutes a week to monitoring your money.

As well as keeping a spreadsheet of all incomings and outgoings, check you’ve got the best energy, broadband and mobile phone deals.

“Budget planner apps, such as Emma, are easy to use and can help you find cheaper bills, cashback options and spot unnecessary subscriptions, potentially saving you hundreds of pounds,” says Rebekah.

According to Uswitch.com, you could pocket up to £566 a year just by changing your energy provider.

How to… bounce back after redundancy

“ASK your ex-employer about any job-hunting help on offer,” says Victoria McClean, founder and CEO of career consultancy firm City CV. If you’re 18-30, free personalised job application support can be found through Young Women’s Trust.

Victoria adds that LinkedIn is the most important social media tool available to those seeking jobs, so make sure your profile is 100% complete and packed with searchable keywords relevant to your industry.

“Use the #opentowork section and share this with your network. That way everyone who sees your profile knows you’re in the market for a job,” says Victoria.

Nick Derham, specialist IT recruiter and director of Adria Solutions, advises turning to a recruiter working in your area of expertise as well as speaking to ex-colleagues.

“Many sectors are actively hiring. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out to old colleagues or contacts and let them know that you’re looking for a job.”

How to… cope with debt

“IF you need immediate financial assistance, contact Citizens Advice,” says financial planner and mortgage advisor Claire Lang.

Alternatively, The Money Charity offers a Budget Builder free online app, helping you plan to pay off debts and manage daily expenses.

“But if making even minimum payments on debts means you’re struggling to put food on the table, we recommend seeking free debt advice from either the charity StepChange or The National Debt Helpline,” adds Claire.

StepChange’s free advice includes finding manageable repayment plans and support when writing to creditors.

How to… manage mortgage and rental rates

THE government’s mortgage payment holiday scheme has now ended, but banks have been told to offer customers a range of options depending on their circumstances.

“This will vary between providers,” Claire says, and could include letting you postpone payments or extend the mortgage term to reduce payments.

“The last thing your mortgage company wants to do is repossess your home. But you need to let them know you need help.”

For worries about meeting rent payments, Shelter offers guidance and can explain your rights. Since the end of August, private landlords must give six months’ notice for you to vacate a property.

In a difficult situation, lettings agent Hotspur Residential advises paying whatever you can. “Keeping yourself under two months in arrears is more manageable to catch up with,” the letting agent says. “Where possible try to set up a payment plan with your landlord to chip away at arrears.”

How to… keep your mental health in check

MENTAL health charity Mind has a dedicated section of its website covering money. Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind explains that when you’re struggling with your mental health, managing finances becomes even harder and it can turn into a vicious cycle of despair.

“Working out your habits and thought patterns around money could help you start to think about things,”

Vicki says. “For example, when you spend or save money and why. You could try keeping a diary of your spending, and your mood to help you work out any triggers or patterns.”

The Money Advice Service breaks down financial jargon, simplifying the process. Additionally, Moneyandmentalhealth.org is a charity focused on providing practical help.

But most of all, Vicki recommends reaching out and never suffering in silence.

“If you’ve noticed changes to your feelings, thoughts or behaviour that last longer than two weeks, keep returning or interfere with your daily life, speak about this to your GP or someone you trust.”

‘My Money worries after redundancy were overwhelming’

RECRUITMENT manager Laura Watt, 30, lives in Surrey with her boyfriend and their 17-month-old son Kallum.

“I was devastated when the car-hire company I worked for made me redundant the week before lockdown.

I immediately took Kallum out of nursery to save the £375 weekly fees. It was so frustrating as I’d only returned to work in November 2019 after taking five months’ maternity leave.

I knew that if I used my redundancy money I could manage without a job for six months, so we took a mortgage holiday and I began applying for jobs online.

Some positions had over 400 applications in just 24 hours. I was repeatedly rejected and worried that I would never find another position.

Then my boyfriend was furloughed in June, meaning we were living on 80% of his salary, and I started to feel overwhelmed and anxious. But I got through it by speaking to my boyfriend and being honest about how I felt.

Thankfully, a pharmaceutical company I’d had an interview with in April for a job that was then put on hold, got back in touch in September and offered me a six-month contract.

I started at the beginning of last month and my boyfriend is returning to work shortly, so Kallum is back at nursery.

The impact the pandemic has had on working mums can not be underestimated. I was worried I’d lose my career completely. Now, with a six-months contract, I can start to focus on our future.”

‘I struggled with debt while furloughed’

ADMIN assistant Stacey Dagg, 29, lives in Sunderland with her fiancé and their 14-month-old daughter Sophia.

“When I was 19, I got into £7,000 of debt. I had just started my career as an admin assistant, and socialising with colleagues, as well as splurging on new clothes meant I was spending more than I earned.

In desperation I took out pay-day loans with huge interest rates to tide me over. Eventually, I was really struggling to pay off the loans and a money helpline recommended debt charity StepChange.

It has helped me to manage repayments ever since. When I fell pregnant in 2018, my repayments were £130 a month on a monthly income of £1,315.

Our daughter Sophia arrived in August 2019 and StepChange negotiated a plan where I would pay £1 a month to nine lenders during my maternity leave from my job in an automotive company.

But the moment I returned to work in May – after negotiating part-time hours around Sophia’s childcare – I was put on furlough. I was terrified that I would end up losing my job altogether.

Plus, on the new debt repayment plan, it would take roughly 60 years to write off my debt. But I couldn’t afford to increase the payments.

To keep an eye on money, my fiancé, who’s a teacher, and I created a monthly spreadsheet. Our small wedding has been postponed twice due to the pandemic.

It’s been such a stressful time and we still don’t know when we will be able to get married, as some of our guests are high risk.

In September, I finally went back to work two days a week. On my £600 a month salary I’m able to pay £90 a month to my creditors, meaning I should be debt-free in eight years’ time.”

‘My mobile eyelash business went bust’

SMALL business owner Alice Regan, 28, lives in Bedfordshire with her partner Danny, 36, and their two-year-old son Zach.

“I set up my mobile eyelash business last September. By the beginning of March it was doing well, and Danny, a sales director, and I were so excited to discover I was pregnant.

Then lockdown hit, and because the business was new, I didn’t qualify for a grant. We lost my income of up to £1,000 a month overnight, which had covered childcare and car payments.

To save money, I cancelled Zach’s nursery. But after a few weeks, clients became restless and refused to stay on a waiting list.

It was clear I had to close my business and I lost the £750 I’d spent on training courses, as well as £200 of stock.

At first, Danny and I were managing as we weren’t going out and I stopped buying clothes, but by June I knew I needed to start making money.

I used my £2.5k savings to set up a new business, an online baby and toddler shop called Moon And Bear. It launched in August and took off much quicker than anticipated.

My goal was to make the cash back I’d spent on stock by Christmas and we did that in month one. Zach’s now in nursery again and we’re ready for our new baby.

It’s been full-on, but thanks to the new business, I can breathe a bit easier about money. And because this business is online, I feel confident it will survive any future lockdowns.”

Credit – Illustration: Vari Telleria/Meiklejohn Source: *Young Women’s Trust Visit Partnership.sjp.co.uk/partner/langwealthmanagement, Thelittlespender.co.uk, Themoneywhisperer.co.uk, Stepchange.org, Moonandbear.co.uk

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