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Anxiety over future spurs Japanese women to invest

The Japan News/ANN | Chikara Shima | Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017

Participants talk frankly about money matters at a Fujoshi Kai meeting in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. “Hearing their ideas helps me think that I could do more,” said Rumi Watanabe, upper left.

Photo: The Japan News/Asia News Network

An increasing number of women are making serious efforts to save and invest money in preparation for the future, spurred by a general anxiety about such issues as the economy, employment and pensions.

Marriage and childbirth tend to affect women's careers in particular, and they appear to strongly desire a sense of security from money.

On a mid-January evening, 10 women in their 20s to 30s energetically talked about money at an office building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

"I'm thinking of changing jobs because my salary is unlikely to rise," a participant said.

Another said, "You may want to increase your monthly savings a bit."

They belong to a study group called Fujoshi Kai (Wealthy women's club), aimed at each person saving ¥10 million (S$124,750) in five years.

Based on their bank balances, they create a plan that would allow them to save that much, and the plans are brought to their meetings to exchange opinions on them.

Women study attentively at a money management seminar in Yokohama.Photo: The Japan News/Asia News Network

This group is organised by Yuzo Nagata, an investment consultant and representative director at Y's Academy Co. in Tokyo.

He established the group's predecessor eight years ago, realizing that women, whose working hours are often more restricted than men, needed proper knowledge about money to prepare for their future.

Explaining why the target is set at ¥10 million, Nagata said: "[That goal] will make it easier to proceed with planning for future spending such as buying a home, broadening opportunities to study abroad or start a business. Above all, it will provide substantial peace of mind."

The group requires such payments as ¥10,000 for admission and ¥10,000 for the annual membership fee.

About 150 women with an average annual income of about ¥4 million have participated, mainly people in their 20s to 30s.

Fifteen of them have reached the ¥10 million goal so far.

Creating a detailed plan and supporting each other can help them get closer to the goal, they say.

Pharmaceutical sales representative Rumi Watanabe, 30, is also expected to reach the goal.

Starting from a balance of about ¥300,000 five years ago, she began putting aside ¥100,000 a month and directing nearly all her bonuses to her savings.

She also worked strenuously to cut costs whenever possible, even volunteering as a haircut model at a salon to save on hair styling costs.

"¥10 million was not a distant dream," Watanabe said.

Limits on work

Average wages for women are only about 70 per cent of those earned by men, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

This is primarily because many women retire due to marriage or childbirth, making their average years of employment shorter than men.

And even if they do not retire, women disproportionately share the burden of housework and child rearing, putting more limits on how they work.

Recognising this reality, women are eager to build up their assets.

According to Glive Co. in Tokyo, which runs a free money management seminar for women, the number of participants has grown to six times the level five years ago.

Amid continuing low interest rates, many women have started investing, putting more priority on increasing their assets than simply saving money.

Diversify to ease risk

Ikuko Sakai, 33, a company employee in Kawasaki, gave birth to her first son in 2016 and is on childcare leave.

She decided to join the seminar out of anxiety over whether she would be able to work the way she used to before having a child, even if she returned to her workplace.

Having asked the lecturer for advice on an individual basis after the seminar, Sakai decided to move some of her assets from an employees' asset formation savings scheme that she has participated in for a long time, into dollar-denominated insurance products.

Sakai felt drawn to their projected interest rate, which is higher than that for yen-denominated products, while being aware of the accompanying currency risk.

"I want to secure money for my child's education and lead a fulfilling life even in my old age," she said enthusiastically.

Shizuka Suzuki, a lecturer at Glive seminars, said: "Many people think investing is risky, but those risks can be eased if you diversify your investments or invest multiple times rather than all at once. I hope people will start thinking immediately about how to prepare for their future."

Use receipts to avoid waste

For those who just want to start saving money consistently, and not necessarily take the ¥10 million challenge, reviewing the way you spend is the best way to start, according to financial planner Keiko Yatsui.

"It's important to look back on your spending behaviour and be aware of whether you're wasting money," Yatsui said.

Receipts for shopping or dining out are useful, as you can mark them with a check or an X in accordance with why you made the purchase.

Mark impulse buys or things you did not really need with an X.

In contrast, things you bought that may seem like a waste to others but that you are satisfied with for your own peace of mind, or as an investment in the future, can be marked with a check.

"Looking back over receipts will establish a habit of thinking about what's essential and what's a waste, leading to a reduction of wasteful purchases," Yatsui said.

It's also recommended to set a monthly budget and put any excess into savings.

Referring to the marks on receipts, Yatsui advised: "You might as well set a budget slightly higher than the total spending with checks. That would be less burdensome and more sustainable."

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