The big green elephant in the room and why you should talk about it
If there’s one thing women don’t talk enough about, it’s money. Why is it that women seldom talk about money? Or our ‘next big investment’ ? Sales, yes. Investments, I can’t recall.
Maybe it’s because we were brought up to think it’s impolite to discuss it, or because we don’t have the confidence to bring it up.
It could even be that for many we’re so focused on other people’s day-to-day welfare - parents, siblings, spouses or children – and careers, that we don’t have the time or the inclination to pay much attention to financial affairs outside our everyday income and expenses. Or maybe it’s that we just don’t know what that conversation would look like or how to even start it?
But we’re neglecting a crucial aspect of our own welfare.
Financial health should be prioritised alongside career, family, friends and fitness. All too often I hear of how women leave financial decision-making to their partners. This isn’t just a South African problem; global studies also suggest this is the case (for example, this UBS study finds that almost 60% of women worldwide rely on their spouses to make long-term financial decisions).
In the spirit of women’s month – and for every month after - I’ve put together five tips to help women take a more active approach to financial affairs.
1. Just start
It’s easy to put off thinking about the long term because, well, it’s a long way off, isn’t it? But we’re all living longer these days so the earlier you start, the longer you have to grow your money through the power of compounding. This is essentially about allowing your money to earn on top of previous earnings so that you grow your money faster than if you pocketed the earnings each time. Over time, your returns build on returns, compounding your savings or investments and the longer you give your money to work this magic, the better.
2. Don’t binge on your budget
Diets are notoriously difficult to stick to; besides which, they ruin all the fun. We all know that the more sustainable alternative is to follow a balanced eating plan with lots of the good stuff and an occasional treat here and there. It’s the same with a budget. Do your saving or investing, but indulge yourself every now and then to keep motivated – accommodate the occasional treat. There’s no point saving hard and then extravagantly splurging on luxuries as a reward so make sure your treats don't derail your financial plan.
Let me give you an example. So you’ve stopped your daily coffee treat and smartly re-directed this expense from your budget to a regular monthly contribution into a unit trust. Feeling so proud of yourself for making this sacrifice, you then reward yourself by splurging on a beautiful pair of shoes, paying for them with your credit card. Sounds familiar? Keep some space in your budget for affordable treats, spoiling yourself to keep you motivated.
3. Educate and empower yourself
There’s a common misconception that money matters are too complex a maze and unless you work in the industry you’re never going to find your way through.
This simply isn’t true.
Sure there are complexities and there are some very technical products out there but start with the basics and build up your knowledge from there. Do an online course, download a podcast or find a financial education app that can help you understand what’s available and how things work. Use Google to your advantage and do whatever research you need to do to get clued up.
Keep it simple and don’t use products you don’t properly understand. If you understand it well, you’ll find it easier to stay committed to your plan. And don’t forget, like all things in life: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Know your worth
Do you know what your will says? Do you or your partner have life insurance, income protection or retirement funds that you should know about? What about insurance – do you know the value to which your house, car or belongings are insured?
These might be things you, your partner or your employer organised years ago; refresh your memory if that’s the case. If you’ve never known the answer to any of the above, now’s a good time to start asking questions.
5. Ask for help
Finally, don’t be afraid of asking for help; you don’t have to do this alone. That plan I mentioned? You will have a fair idea of what you want to achieve, but you may not be so sure as to how to execute it. Find trusted partners to guide you. Good financial advice and the expertise of professional fund managers can help you to get started. Your future self will thank you!