On March 8, International Women’s Day will be celebrated all over the world. The day has come to represent an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, as it calls for greater equality between the genders.
African women are the continents “greatest untapped resource” and their contribution is key to its achieving its full potential. When you empower a woman with information and education, you empower families and generations and can change the world. Women bring something critical to the economy, civil society and politics.
For many years, Nigerian women have made huge strides in business, in the corporate world and in government, and continue to strengthen their earning power and influence. Power and position come with responsibility, yet sadly many women still feel ill equipped to make bold financial decisions. If women ignore their personal finances, it is likely that they will be forced to face these issues at a time of crisis such as illness, divorce or death of their spouse. Whilst the general principles of personal financial planning apply to both genders, women face unique challenges that should be addressed specially. Here are a few issues to consider.
Set clear financial goals
If you have set clear short, medium, and long term goals, you will be able to design a financial plan to help you achieve them. If you are young and single, without dependents or any significant responsibility, this is one of the best times in your life to start to save and build financial security. By saving and investing regularly from now, you will be in a better position to meet your financial needs such as owning your own home, and securing a comfortable retirement.
Seek professional advice
A financial professional that you can relate to, and whom you can trust is important. They have access to a plethora of information and can look objectively at your unique situation and proffer the most appropriate solutions for you taking into account your age, financial situation and risk tolerance. You should also seek to improve your knowledge and develop a basic understanding of the various investment vehicles available in order to build a diversified portfolio including cash and money market accounts, mutual funds, stocks and real estate.
Invest in yourself
Whether you have chosen to be a stay-at-home mum, in full time employment, or running your own business, it is essential that you continue to develop yourself. Constantly seek additional training and knowledge; there is so much that you can achieve with commitment and discipline. There are outstanding online courses if you would like to work from home. Do not get left behind by the fast paced tech world or you will soon find yourself almost illiterate. Develop and nurture your talents and skills, those things that you are passionate about and excel at with little effort; they may well be what will keep you earning for pleasure in your later tears.
Be involved in the family finances
Married women, particularly in a patriarchal society like ours, and where the extended family often plays a significant role, should as far as possible be aware of their spouse’s financial situation. Even if your spouse or partner takes care of most of the family financial matters, it is important for you to be involved.
Many women have faced significant challenges following a divorce or the death of their spouse. Often they have no idea where all the family funds have been invested and discover significant debt and the potential loss of the family home. Do you know where important document and financial records are? From time to time discuss with your spouse, the financial plans that concern you and your children, levels of acceptable risk, and plans for dealing with debt and assets.
Financial implications of divorce
Sadly not all marriages succeed and some result in divorce leading to heartache, disappointment or sometimes relief. Divorce can have a devastating impact on the financial lives of all involved parties as it involves dividing assets as well as debt, insurance, child support and alimony, and so on. Particularly if you are remarrying, or getting married late in life and have already build assets, you might both consider pre-nuptial agreements to protect children from a previous marriage; this does not in any way cast doubts on the potential success of your impending marriage. Where finances are involved in complex situations, practical and objective solutions are advised.
Are you single?
Your single status, particularly if you are a single parent, means that you are solely responsible for meeting all financial obligations and challenges alone, and for making critical decisions concerning your future and retirement plans. With proper planning while you are single, you may be well established financially by the time you get married. Should you remain single, you can be confident in your ability to achieve the lifestyle and financial security that you expect and indeed deserve.
Insurance is necessary
Do you have children, aged parents or other dependents? Particularly if you are the primary breadwinner in the household, a life insurance policy is an important tool to protect your family should anything happen to you. An affordable premium can protect your loved ones from devastating loss should you become ill, or die. A family medical insurance policy will help to offset expensive medical treatment should you or your family members become ill. Remember to protect your physical assets such as your car and home.
Do you have an estate plan?
Many women make the mistake of not having a will or other estate-planning tool in place. Unfortunately, the ones you care most about could be left tied up for years in probate courts as they try to sort out a deceased person’s estate. A will makes it absolutely clear what should be done with your assets in the event of your passing. Trusts are particularly useful where there are substantial assets or complex family situations. Other very effective estate planning tools exist such as joint accounts, company structures, and life insurance.
Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, the message is the same; respect your finances. Your financial future will be largely affected by the decisions that you make today. If you give this aspect of your life the attention it deserves, then one day, when you can no longer work, your money will work for you.