GUGU SIDAKI: Women, do something for yourself for a change
Study upon study shows the odds are stacked against women
Women are known to think more of and do more for others than themselves, in the process sacrificing their careers, money and general wellbeing.
In this women's month, think about this: There is a very high likelihood that you, as a woman, will have to parent alone, will not save enough money to cater for your needs and will ultimately die poor and alone.
Study upon study shows the odds are stacked against women.
According to an article published four years ago by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, women "reinvest" up to 90% of their earnings in their households - that's money spent on food, health care, school and income-generating activities to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
In a research paper titled "Women and Retirement Security", Nevenka Vrdoljak and Anna Rappaport make these important findings for women to note: You live longer, accumulate less money over the years, are more likely to be a single parent, are likely to spend your final years alone, and are 80% more likely to be impoverished from age 65 and above.
Many women would be in a markedly different position if they prioritised themselves and their finances selfishly, even just a little.
This women's month, I'd like to challenge all women to do something for yourself without giving a single thought to anyone or anything else. Consider doing this as a step towards improving your financial circumstances, now and in the future.
Consider putting together a one-page contract between you and your future self. We'll call it My Promise to (insert your name). It will function as a mini financial plan to get you from the place you are currently financially to where you'd like to be in the future. This won't solve all of your financial woes overnight but, if you haven't started yet, it will get you started. Your contract could include the following:
• Your financial habits
Think of how you behave with money. Are you careful or reckless? Do you get anxious or excited when you spend? Do you feel guilty when you buy something for yourself? Where do you think this behaviour comes from?
Being conscious of your financial habits is an important step to developing new, healthy habits. Write down your habits and what you'd like to change about them. Write in your contract, for example, "I overspend because I lack discipline. I promise to spend less on impulse and to give more thought to where my money goes."
• Your dreams
What are your aspirations for the short term (the next two years), medium term (three to five years) and long term (longer than five years)? Be specific and realistic. Try to work out how much these dreams will cost you. An example - "I want an annual trip to the coast, to build up my emergency fund so that I'm never cash-strapped, and to start my manufacturing business in 2028."
• Your budget
Do you really know where your money goes every month? Every cent of it? Are you sure? Go through the last three months' bank transactions and make sure that those transactions reflect your priorities. If not, note the ones that don't and add them up. This is what you'll be using to increase your savings.
• New beginnings
Open a savings account. If that's too much work, get a jar or an envelope. There is no excuse. Channel all the "new" money you've found in your budget towards this account (or jar). An example to include in your contract - "I promise to prioritise this account as it will make a difference to how I live my life in the future."
Date, sign and revisit your contract at least quarterly to check your progress. Once the habit of putting excess money away has become set, you can start to think about investments that will grow your savings towards your dreams.
Notice how you have not tried to increase your income (as that is determined by a few external factors) but rather changed your thinking and behaviour with money, which is entirely in your hands.
It is possible. And the sooner you start the journey, the better your outcome will be in the future.
Happy women's month!
• Sidaki, a certified financial planner, is a director and wealth manager at Wealth Creed
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