Jess Irvine’s five steps to financial empowerment

By Jess Irvine

1 May 2024

CommBank personal finance expert Jess Irvine shares the steps you can take now to get in control of your finances. 

While it’s important we all talk about money, perhaps even more vital for women is empowerment.

Author Virginia Woolf once wrote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Nearly a hundred years later, the need for women to be financially empowered and independent remains as pressing as ever.

Financial freedom extends beyond mere financial comfort; it embodies the ability to lead life according to one’s aspirations, pursuing dreams and finding peace of mind through financial security.

Here are five things you can do to control your finances, starting today.

1. Have your own bank account

It may not be a room of your own but I do believe every woman should maintain access to a bank account over which they are able to make financial decisions without seeking the authority of another person.

If you have an account with joint access, make sure you’re confident in your ability to access funds and that you’re an active joint participant in the spending and income-earning decisions of your household.

Nobody should feel they’re unable to access their money or that anyone is controlling their financial decisions.

2. Protect and invest in your income-earning capacity

You are your own best asset when it comes to generating money. Taking on the responsibility of creating and caring for your family is one of the most important jobs there is. However, partners who take on child rearing or other caring duties often take time out of the paid workforce to do so. In the event of a relationship breakdown, this can leave that person quite vulnerable because prolonged time out of the workforce generally erodes future earning capacity. Be mindful of this and continue to invest in your own skills and development.

You never know when you might need them. 

Jess Irvine Jess Irvine

3. Know your worth

No, I don’t mean your inherent worth as a beautiful individual human being – though you should be aware of that, too. I mean having a complete picture of your net worth, which is the value of everything you own (your assets) minus everything you owe (your debts).

Write out a list today and check on it periodically. Pay special attention to any joint assets or debts you have with another person. You should be an active partner in any decisions to acquire or dispose of assets, or take on new debts.

It’s never alright for someone to coerce you into signing documents you don’t understand or to force you to take out new debts you are uncomfortable with. Conversely, if you do lend money to someone, put it in writing and make a plan in advance for them to repay you.

4. Regularly check accounts and statements

It can be all too tempting to ignore our financial transactions but it’s important you do check in with all your accounts, including credit cards, transaction accounts, buy-now-pay-later arrangements, savings accounts, loans and your superannuation. Immediately open and review any statements addressed to you and check for outgoings or repayments you don’t remember signing up to. Keep your documents, account logins and passwords in a safe and secure place. Brew a cup of tea and make it a habit to check in with your money.

5. Learn to invest in your own right

Many people wait until they’re in a relationship to start buying assets, such as a family home. But it’s well worth taking some time early on in life to learn about investing and begin to build your wealth. The earlier you start investing, the longer you have for compound interest and returns to work their magic. As you do enter any new relationships, remember to take stock of your net worth so you can protect your wealth going forward and ensure you can continue on your journey of building a brighter future for yourself.

Jess Irvine (@moneywithjess) is a finance expert, author of Money with Jess and a respected journalist with nearly two decades of financial reporting experience. Her personal passion is helping people with their money. Jess’ new book, The Money Diary (Wiley), is out now.

If you are worried about your finances because of domestic or family violence or coercive control you can contact the Next Chapter Team for support (no matter who you bank with) on 1800 222 387 Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm (Sydney/Melbourne time), excluding public holidays. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit In an emergency or if you’re not feeling safe, always call 000. 

Things you should know

An earlier version of this article was published in Brighter magazine

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.