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Women's Day Special: Get your finances in good shape!

By Rajiv Raj
Last updated on: March 08, 2015 09:00 IST
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You are already a superwoman! Now add another feather to your cap by driving your own financial planning.

Photograph: etrenard/Creative Commons

While having lunch last week, our lunch group got into an intense discussion on finances, loan rates and managing finances every month. A lady from my team went on to tell us how she uses her salary to pay off the loans and her husband's salary is used, to manage other expenses. It was wonderful to see how women are working shoulder to shoulder with men and are equal contributors when it comes to taking up responsibilities.

But when I asked her about the home loan rates, she replied, “No idea. My husband handles our finances. That bit is his job.”

Well, the lady in question here was savvy and intelligent and somebody who was doing really well at work. She had a mind of her own and a good job. I wonder what made her not think about her finances, at all. It is not rocket science and nor are the ideas too tough to grasp for somebody of her calibre.

On speaking to other women around, it dawned on me that a vast majority of educated women passed on their financial decisions to either their husbands or father. They were either not confident enough to handle their money or were uninterested in finding out about where to put their hard earned money.

Leaving the planning bit on somebody else seemed like an easier option. But while women may be less likely to enjoy investing, studies show that they may inherently be better investors.

For instance, women tread cautiously and avoid risky behaviour. Also, they are more likely to ask for assistance, when in doubt. A quality which most men lack. So when all is in their favour, then why not take the driver's seat to steer the wheel of their finances. These points will help to get started.

#1: Understanding your income

Whether you are a salaried or self-employed, take time off, to understand your income: The break-up, various headers, amounts allotted under each header and its overall impact on the income.

In case you are salaried, check with your employer on the various headers and negotiate accordingly when asking for a raise. Understand the taxes paid and how much money is left to work with.

Paying off loans can be prioritised and remaining money can be used to calculate a weekly disposable income.

#2: Seek professional help

Speak to a few people in your circle to get recommendations about financial planners. Financial planners not only help you manage your finances but also assist with the paperwork and other official formalities required to make investments. Considering that women are hard pressed for time while managing work and home, this is a recommended option to get things done.

#3: Knowledge is power

Many a times, there is a thought barrier which keeps women from getting fully involved in financial planning. Getting acquainted with financial terms and staying updated with latest happenings will help get away with that block.

Things get interesting when you understand and know more about something and finance is no exception. Subscribe to magazines, websites and newsletters and spend at least 20 minutes a day going through the content.

#4: Set financial goals

And that means personal financial goals. While as a family there are specific goals, and both the partners work towards achieving it, it is important to have one's own goals. Whether it is wanting to save up to have a certain amount in your account or buying land in your native, there must be a plan. Resources can then be allocated accordingly towards achieving these goals.

Needless to say the sense of accomplishment on achieving these goals will be priceless.

#5: Take initiative

More often than not, it is seen that when it comes to making investment decisions, women rarely take initiative. Women need to sit at the table and have an opinion when their finances are being planned. Since women are less prone to risky behaviour, they tend to take informed calls while making a decision which is a very good quality to have for effective financial planning.

Rather than looking at the financial planning process as a burden, it can be looked at as an opportunity to maximise wealth.

#6: Planning for the future

A woman plays many roles at the same time. She is a wife, daughter, mother, etc and each role carries with it, its own share of responsibilities. Whether it is planning for a sabbatical after a baby is born, education of your 17 year old daughter, child's wedding, healthcare for ageing parents or retirement planning, resources need to be allocated for all of these. These expenses are not only crucial but also large and require meticulous planning.

The aim of financial planning is to ensure your own security along with that of your loved ones. You are already a superwoman, now add another feather to your cap by driving your own financial planning. You always knew you were good at it, didn't you? Happy Women's Day!

The author is a credit expert with 10 years of experience in personal finance and consumer banking industry and another 7 years in credit bureau sector. Rajiv was instrumental in setting up India's first credit bureau, Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL). He has also worked with Citibank, Canara Bank, HDFC Bank, IDBI Bank and Experian in various capacities.

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Rajiv Raj