‘An equal world is an enabled world – #EachforEqual
As the world celebrates women today, I add my voice to the campaign for everyone to be treated equally irrespective of gender. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual emphasizing that ‘An equal world is an enabled world’. This theme chosen by the organisers of the IWD celebration is one that is very apt for the times we are in.
#EachforEqual means so many things and women are encouraged to contribute to the theme in different ways to ensure that women are treated equally as men in the workplace, homefront and everywhere they find themselves. To me, we move towards ‘an equal world’ when women take intentional steps to achieve financial independence while also growing their wealth.
In this article, I will share some actions required by women towards achieving financial freedom and excellence. It is important that women cultivate these habits to help them become financially independent. This is because a financially independent woman is bolder, more confident and more courageous. With this she can confidently express herself at work and in the home.
When we say financial independence, the focus is not on how much money the woman currently has, rather the focus is on her ability to make good decisions concerning money available to her which will ultimately help grow her wealth. As women get increasingly empowered in the workplace, they are getting to control more money and should be well positioned to manage, preserve and grow their wealth.
The basic formula to attain financial independence is universal and should be followed by everyone, men and women alike. The aim of this article is to ride on the theme for this year’s IWD and call the attention of women to take deliberate actions to ensure their financial independence.
- WORK WITH A BUDGET
If you want to be successful at effectively managing your finances, you need to work with a ‘budget’. A budget is an estimate of income and expenditure for a specified budget period (e.g. for a month, quarter or year). Everyone needs a budget; if you are struggling financially, it is a tool that can help you become more organized and ultimately become financially fit. If you are wealthy, it is a necessary tool to ensure you retain and grow your wealth.
Budgeting ensures you plan for all expected funds thus making the most of your financial resources. When you budget, all your expected funds will already have an assignment and not remain idle. There is a popular saying that ‘the devil finds work for the idle person’. That devil is also eager to find work for your idle funds.
Preparing your budget also helps you understand your money pattern and thus have better control over your financial circumstances. People who work with budgets find it easier to exercise financial discipline as their decisions are guided by their budgets. Their budget helps them avoid impulsive decisions and prevents them from getting into unplanned debts.
Without a budget, you cannot measure performance. With your budget, you can track your spending/saving habit, check compliance and identify areas where you have deviated from your plan.
When you don’t have a budget, you won’t maximize opportunities to save and will likely struggle to deal with surprise expenses. Budgeting also helps relationships thrive better as couples have less friction when family budgets are prepared and applied. Creating a Budget is the best gift all hard working people can give themselves. However, ensure you WRITE out the budget. Don’t budget in your head!
2. SAVE AND ENSURE YOU HAVE FUNDS FOR EMERGENCIES
No matter what you earn, put something away as savings. Start now, no matter how small the amount is. One trick is to pay yourself first by automatically deducting the savings from your pay into a savings account. Everyone is encouraged to save because no one can predict the future. Putting money away as savings is essential if you want to become financially secure. Your savings will provide a safety net in case of emergencies. Your savings also become available for investments and come in handy when you want to take advantage of investment opportunities. Once you have a financial plan and work with a budget, you will find it easier to save. People who struggle to save are in the category of those who spend without a plan or budget.
3. IMPROVE YOUR FINANCIAL LITERACY
If you are to position yourself for good financial decisions, then it is important to educate yourself on activities in the financial market. We all cannot be gurus and experts, but we can have basic knowledge that will steer us in the right direction. Subscribe to valuable newsletters and set time aside to periodically review these. Watch Government decisions and have your ears close to the financial market. It is very simple to achieve once you take the decision to enlarge your knowledge of financial issues.
4. HAVE THE ‘MONEY TALK’ WITH YOUR SPOUSE
Communication is key when a woman is in a relationship. It is very important to ‘actually TALK’ and discuss your money matters. This discussion will dispel assumptions on both sides and help you be on the same page with your spouse. Expect that there will be some disagreements when discussing the money plan and during the actual budgeting process. However, any disagreement will pale out in comparison to the future benefits of the plan and budget you build up. Ask your partner direct questions on his sources of income and volunteer yours too. Your financial freedom is incomplete if you have financial discipline while your partner is reckless. Your financial success is assured where you both have the same financial priorities and goals regarding spending and saving.
5. UNDERSTAND INVESTMENTS. DIVERSIFY YOUR INVESTMENTS.
You must invest right if your goal of having financial independence will be achieved. Ask the right questions when offered an investment option. Make sure you understand all aspects of every investment opportunity. When unsure, engage a financial advisor. If you need help with taking the right decisions with managing your investment portfolio, be ready to spend some money for expert advice. Even though such payment may initially deplete your finances, in the long run, you will be better off.
Diversification is very key in creating and growing your wealth. This means spreading your money around and investing in different types of investments. By doing this, you reduce your risks and exposures. This is a good way to help protect your money, as it is unlikely that all your investments will perform badly at the same time. There are different classes of investments to choose from but four main areas to consider include shares, property, bonds and cash.
Is your portfolio properly diversified? Are there assets that can be pooled to earn better yield? Financial excellence requires that you do not put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your investments wisely to enable you spread your risks and take advantage of various sources of income. Be conscious of the fact that you can have variety of options even within an investment option. Eg Stocks, what mix of shares should you invest in as a player in the capital market? If investing in Property, be sure to consider different locations and different building projects.
6. LOOK AHEAD AND PLAN FOR RETIREMENT
Retirement will happen for everyone at some point. Whether you are an employee, or you run your own business, your physical form will restrict you from working so hard in your later years. It doesn’t matter how much you love your work or business! In order to have a comfortable and financially secure retirement, you need to build the financial base that will fund this. It is essential to take financial decisions consciously aware that retirement will eventually happen. Some people have lived a lifetime of work with nothing to show for it, irrespective of what they earned. This is often because of poor financial literacy and bad money decisions taken.
When you retire, savings from your active years should fund your living expenses. It is therefore important that from the date you start working, you set some funds aside for your retirement years. Your financial decisions and choices during the years when you earn high income should tend towards saving maximally. This is so that your savings become investments which can generate income to finance your lifestyle when you have retired or left a high-paying job. Every woman out there should ask the right questions and be aware of the retirement schemes offered by their employers. Women who run their own businesses are encouraged to investigate available retirement savings scheme and carefully select an option that will help them achieve their retirement goals.
7. INSURANCE IS KEY
Insurance provides financial protection to the insured against unexpected losses from events such as accidents, fire or sudden death. One money mistake every woman should avoid is being careless with Insurance. You must shop around for the best ‘insurance offers’ and timely insure your asset for the right value. You should thereafter monitor your insurance premiums to ensure renewals are promptly effected. It is not enough to take out an insurance, you must ensure premiums are promptly paid to avoid periods of exposure. This is because you lose money when you don’t pay your premiums on time. As a Woman, you are also encouraged to protect your family from financial hardship if the unexpected happens. This is important where there are people (immediate or extended family members) who depend on you financially. You may want to consider a life insurance or education policy for your children. When you take out a life insurance, it means the people who matter most in your life will be protected in the case of any eventuality. In the same vein, an education policy will guaranty the education of the insured
8. MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, STAY HEALTHY
Health is the greatest wealth any woman can give herself. Women must ensure they have a good work-life balance and deliberately take time out to rest. Create time to keep fit and undertake regular medical examinations in order to be knowledgeable about your health status. You lose more when you must take time off work to nurse ill health.
Illnesses are expensive especially if you run your own business. It is better to limit Business shut-down period or absences by proactively working to stay healthy. 3 key pieces of advice to meet this target- eat healthy, be physically active and attend to signs of illnesses early. Many have almost lost their lives by procrastinating to seek medical attention. Your capability to make money or grow on the job depends on your being healthy and alive!!!
If you have been placed on regular medications to manage an on-going ailment (eg diabetes, high blood pressure), ensure you always have enough medication and do not stop these without a doctor’s approval. Doing this may just result in being penny-wise, pound-foolish. Women must also be proactive with Family planning. Gone are the days when your wealth was measured by the number of children you had. These days, even the wealthy are very careful about the number of children they have. Reasonable spacing is important for the financial and physical wellbeing of the parents, especially the mother.
The actions listed above are critical for the woman who desires financial independence. As you feel more financially secure, you become more confident. With this freedom and confidence you can improve other areas of your life, such as the quality of your relationships, and your ability to achieve your full potential in life.
The International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme of #EachforEqual also says ‘an equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day’. The financial independence of women is a key requirement for us all to be #EachforEqual. A financially empowered woman is better positioned to challenge stereotypes and fight bias. We must all take necessary action now.
***Bimbo Komolafe FCA, FCIB writes from Lagos and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.
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