Almost every year, a survey is conducted by some of the many financial companies that determine the percentage of working women who make their financial decisions independently or with the help of professionals. While the percentage is on the rise with every passing year, there is still a long way to go.
A latest survey by TATA AIA Life Insurance reveals that 59% working women do not make their own financial decisions. It further shows that given a choice, 44% women are willing to make their own financial decisions.
In the context of International Women’s Day, I am reminded of this Chinese proverb: “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” As more women join the workforce, it is important that they create their own equation with money rather than leave it to their father, brother, or partner.
Each of us has a distinct and ever-changing relationship with money, which evolves over time. Our experiences, circumstances, needs, and attitude towards money often influences and shapes this relationship. Money is the stepping stone to true independence and liberation, laying the foundation for achieving gender equality. It is essential to establish a solid financial footing if we hope to empower women as equals.
People often overlook the fact that the skillset required to earn money differs significantly from that needed to manage it wisely. Money is a blessing that holds immense power, and to harness or nurture this dynamic force, one must adopt the right attitude and behaviour. Building wealth requires a mindset characterized by persistence, equanimity, diligence, and the ability to tune out distractions. Furthermore, wealth is about fulfilling one’s needs, aspirations, and desires, not about comparing oneself to others.
I firmly believe in the quote by Billy Graham, which states that, “If a person gets their attitude towards money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in life”.
Getting financially savvy doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some useful tips for women who are ready to make the leap towards a secure financial future.
The time to start your investment journey is now, no matter how small the amount. Delaying even by a day, week, month, quarter, or year (or in their plural forms) incurs a penalty on your wealth. The first check you should write from your first salary should be towards your future self. When in doubt, remember the saying “A stitch in time saves nine”.
Investing is not rocket science. Rather, it is a reflection of common sense and the laws of karma – “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Furthermore, it is essential to remember that most Indian women are naturally adept at managing money and resources prudently. In my experience of over 25 years, I have encountered countless women who are better at managing their monthly expenses than they are at cooking a meal. Our mothers and grandmothers have been running households on a shoestring budget for generations. Often, anxiety about money does not stem from the amount of money, but rather from not knowing where one stands.
The saying “Penny wise, pound foolish” can ring true when it comes to DIY (do it yourself) financial planning. Instead, invest in your goals by seeking the guidance of experienced professionals. It may come as a surprise that the maximum earnings an individual makes in a lifetime are from their profession. Therefore, it’s essential to focus on what you do best, especially in the early years of your career when your salary, professional income, business income, or consultancy fees are higher than investment income. Avoid being a round peg in a square hole by utilizing the expertise of professionals, thereby freeing energy to excel in your area of expertise.
You do you
The saying “Different strokes for different folks” applies to financial planning as well. Each person’s financial decisions must be customized based on their unique situation, cashflows (both inflow and outflow), needs, goals, priorities, risk appetite, and age. Additionally, the current state of assets and liabilities must be factored in to create a relevant and appropriate financial plan. Avoid cut-and-paste solutions and generalizations, which can lead to erroneous outcomes.
Keep it simple
In a world that seems to grow ever more complicated, simplicity has become the ultimate sophistication. Simple actions are easier to understand and follow through on, and can instil a greater sense of conviction. One such action is investing in mutual funds (MFS), which are professionally managed and offer transparency in terms of costs, performance, and portfolio. MFS also provide exposure to a range of asset classes, such as equities, debt, real estate, and commodities. Online transactions make investing in MFS more accessible, and the funds are usually highly liquid.
FOLLOWING ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU BUILD A ROBUST FINANCIAL PLAN
Build an emergency corpus
Ensure that you have enough savings to cover seven to eight months’ worth of expenses in case of unexpected emergencies.
Health insurance should provide adequate coverage and the policy should be chosen based on your probable requirements and pre-existing conditions.
Buy life insurance to support your dependents in case of your untimely demise, especially if you have children or elderly family members who rely on you financially.
Make a will
Make sure to have a will in place, as it’s unlikely you’ll receive any kind of notice about your departure from this world.
Make budgeting your best friend
Your monthly expenses should be guided by your financial goals. To plan your financial goals effectively, the first step is to list them down. This will help you gain clarity on what you want to achieve and when. Once you have listed your goals, it is important to prioritize them based on their urgency and importance.
You should then evaluate your existing assets and liabilities and determine how they can be used to achieve your goals. This will help you understand if you need to save more or invest in certain assets to achieve your goals. Finally, you should plan for your future goals by estimating the amount you would need and the time horizon for each goal. This will help you stay on track and achieve your financial goals in a systematic and efficient manner.
And finally, remember that a financial plan is just a piece of paper until it is executed to transform your financial life. It is essential to take action and follow through on the plan to achieve the desired goals. So, make sure to put your plan into action and keep moving forward towards your financial objectives.
The writer is founder partner at Srujan Financial Services LLP, a Mutual Fund Distributor and author of “Why Greed is Great”.