International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th around the world. It seeks to celebrate women’s achievements, as well as act as a catalyst for change when it comes to gender equality.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was “Press for Progress.” This is “a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”
When it comes to personal finances, for a variety of reasons, women have generally not been as successful with their male, counterparts in terms of earnings and even in our general attitude to money.
Whatever your age, or stage and whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed, here are some issues to consider regarding your money.
Why are you investing?
Do you have a clear objective behind your investing? Once you determine what you are investing for, then it becomes easier to determine the type of vehicle your money should be placed in. Prioritize your short, medium and long-term goals, assigning their values and target dates. Goals may include, reducing debt, purchasing a car, investing in property, building an educational trust fund, or funding your retirement. Different investment instruments are appropriate for various goals.
Where is all your money going?
Create a budget and try to stick to it. Budgeting often smacks of being boring and tedious, yet this remains one of the surest ways to keep your finances in check. Sometimes it feels like it is just disappearing down a black hole or has been stolen! A budget will help you to monitor your expenses so you have a clearer idea of where you can cut back and begin to save.
Manage your debt
Debt can destroy all that you’ve been trying to build over the years. Don’t ignore your debt or wish it away or it just mounts. Compound interest works as hard on your savings,as it does on your debt! When you are in overwhelming debt, no matter how hard you work or try to earn, it feels as though you are standing still. Stay in control of your debt particularly the most urgent or most expensive.
“Avoid debt that is incurred purely for consumption; don’t borrow to buy clothes, jewelry, or holidays”.
Debt needn’t be negative; indeed credit can be a most effective tool that helps one create value through well-planned long-term investments such as to fund real estate, finance education or for a business.
Review your insurance
You’ve worked so hard to build assets so don’t forget to protect them. Reduce the risk of loss using appropriate insurance to protect your assets, your health and your life. Without adequate insurance, an accident, a medical emergency or other disaster could seriously undermine your financial security. Is your family covered? Don’t neglect this most important part of your financial plan.
Build an emergency fund
Depending on your age or stage it is advisable to maintain only a minimum amount in fixed deposits that come with relatively low yields. Of course when you are getting on in age and are no longer earning, you will need income-yielding investments. It is important to have an emergency fund, a financial cushion that you can fall back on in difficult times. Six to twelve months’ worth of living expenses set aside in a safe, accessible interest bearing account is usually recommended. Beyond that and money for your daily expenses, explore other high yielding investments.
Risk is a fundamental part of investing. Consider investing in stocks through mutual funds or directly in individual stocks. You do need investments that give you a higher return that traditional money market instruments which hardly keep apace with inflation. Bear in mind that stock market investments have outperformed other asset classes over the long term but they do come with greater risk. The key is to build a diversified portfolio. Spreading your investments across asset classes will mitigate some of the risk. Where one asset class is not performing optimally, you earn from others.
How do you feel about risk?
Women tend to be more conservative and tentative about their finances. Risk is a fundamental part of investing. If you are totally risk averse, there is very little prospect of achieving those audacious goals as you may not achieve significant returns. Try to get more comfortable with risk; not reckless, excessive risk but with knowledge and experience you build confidence and can take carefully considered, calculated risk that is likely to give you better returns.
Do you pay your taxes?
Don’t neglect your income taxes obligations. “The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) is a time-limited opportunity expiring at the end of March 2018 for taxpayers to regularize their tax status relating to previous tax periods and pay any taxes due. In exchange for fully and honestly declaring previously undisclosed assets and income, tax payers will benefit from forgiveness of overdue interest and penalties, and the assurance they do not face criminal prosecution for tax offences or tax investigations.
Retirement is sooner than you think
Make your retirement plan a priority; just imagine that you might well spend a third of your life in retirement. Your retirement years should be a time for new and exciting opportunities that keep you productive, mentally stimulated and fulfilled. Those who start planning early have a much better chance of retiring in comfort. Ideally, you want to be able to do all the things you longed to do but never had the time for. This might include focusing on your philanthropic interests, travelling around the world etc. Don’t assume you can rely on your children to keep you in comfort during your retirement years. It would be nice if your children are willing and able to support you because they wish to, and not because you are penniless.
Consider your mortality
Whilst estate planning can be an emotive subject in Nigeria, by considering your own mortality and getting your affairs in order, you have peace of mind and protect your loved ones should anything happen to you. Joint accounts, wills, trusts and company structures are some of the available tools to structure your assets.
Take responsibility for your personal finances. In the largely patriarchal society that we live in, it is traditional for many women to rely on the male members of their families for financial security. Don’t delegate total responsibility to your spouse, father and brother. You should be involved in decision making regarding your finances particularly your own hard earned money. Whilst delegating responsibility might be important for the dynamics of your relationship, having little or no involvement can put you at risk and render you ill equipped to handle unfortunate life events such as sudden job loss, divorce, serious illness or death of a spouse. Many women have no idea where financial records are, or find that they are completely broke or deeply indebt.
Build your knowledge
Most women are so busy caring for others; spouse, children, spouse that they tend to neglect their own personal finances. Give focus to this. You do need to be financially secure in your own right…just in case. Every woman should have her own money.
There is no excuse for being totally ignorant about your finances with the plethora of information around you. At a minimum you should have some basic knowledge of the principles and the options available so that you can take advantage of them.
Seek professional advice
Whilst is important to seek professional advice,you owe it to yourself to build your knowledge. Many financial professionals work on targets and are paid to book as many transactions as possible. Be sure that you are investing for the right reasons and not because your advisor is trying to book a deal. You don’t want to be stuck with an investment you don’t really need. Yes, do seek guidance from an experienced, qualified professional, but remember that ultimately, you are responsible for your finances.
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.
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