Women have made their mark everywhere and it is time they start managing their finances independently. According to an analysis by Experian, women make more on-time payments and they are less debt-laden than men.
The study says women have 3.7 percent less average debt than men and have an average credit score of 675 compared to men's score of 670. But women need to be cautious while planning their finances to ensure they do not overinvest or avail too much credit, thus falling into a debt trap.
Women are good planners. Therefore, with the right information, along with financial independence, they can be financially secure. Here are five essential steps to good financial health.
Understand the financial situation and then set goals to improve it. Determine what you want to do with your money and how that will affect your financial future. Lifestyle and life situations often influence one's financial decisions.
"Key events like marriage, buying a home, a fall in income, health issues, divorce and so on can impact a woman's credit profile and it is important to be aware of these crossroads to ensure optimum financial management," said Mohan Jayaraman, managing director of Experian Credit Bureau, India. Youngsters today pursue higher studies, opt for professional courses and meet those expenses through education loans. "For women, more often than not, this becomes their first step towards availing credit and hence, it becomes imperative to manage it carefully" Jayaraman noted.
With a budget in place, you know where your money is going and it will help you decide how you want to spend your money. A budget is your guide to good financial health. Even without a budget you can eventually reach your goals, but it will be a lot faster and more effective if you have a guide.
A lot of budgeting apps are out there to help you. So if you make a reasonable budget and follow it, you will never have to worry about not having enough money at the end of the month. Have order and clarity while dealing with your current investments; stay informed and know the basics before taking any decision and putting your money in the financial market.
Make sure that you have an adequate emergency fund before starting to save for other goals. Keeping enough money at home, in liquid funds or in short-term debt funds will ensure that your investments won't dip during emergencies. Building an emergency fund will also keep you secure from unforeseen hardships. The money also prevents you from getting into deep credit card debts.
Getting an appropriate insurance cover will prevent one from financial or other disasters. Even a generally healthy person can have an accident, may fall ill or become bankrupt. Go for an individual policy in addition to an employee-sponsored health insurance. A basic term plan with additional protection of critical illness and accident riders should be the top priority for any working woman.
"Women are known to put their families first. While planning their finances, they should first secure their health insurance needs in order to take care of themselves at all times," said Reshma Goregaonkar, senior manager, SBI General Insurance.
As for investments, put money in a liquid fund after paying off your large monthly expenses, which will earn you better returns than lying idle in the bank. You can withdraw money from liquid funds whenever you want as they even provide debit cards, which can be operated through ATM's.
"Every woman should invest for long-term and midterm financial goals. Women can choose both options to get assured returns and inflation-beating returns. They can open public provident fund (PPF) accounts and can invest in equity-linked saving schemes (ELSS) for tax saving," said Shikha Bhatnagar, executive vice-president, private banking, Bajaj Capital.
For long-term financial goals, investing in mutual funds through systematic investment plans (SIPs) is a good option as it will usher in a disciplined approach. Putting your money to work through investing ensures higher returns than savings can do. Also, create and implement a plan for retirement goals. "Start a long-term SIP in diversified equity funds to generate inflation-beating returns and create a retirement corpus. As you near your retirement age, the assets should be switched to less volatile instruments like debt mutual funds," added Bhatnagar.
Get a credit report from an authorised credit bureau and understand your financial standing. A credit report is a compilation of your entire financial activities and is examined by potential lenders when one applies for a loan or a credit card. "Delay in clearing credit card outstanding dues and EMI payments for personal or home loans can have an adverse impact in one's credit score. This should be avoided at all cost for a top notch credit score, which in turn will provide better access to financing options and even lower rates of interest, in times to come" says, V Viswanand, Senior Director & Chief Operations Officer, Max Life Insurance.
Recently the Reserve Bank of India has come up with a new rule to provide access to a free full credit report, including credit score, once a year for all individuals. "Accessing a credit report at regular intervals is crucial for a woman to understand how an institution would view her record," Jayaraman of Experian Credit Bureau noted.
Financial planners play a major role in proper financial planning. A financial advisor uses his/her professional's training, knowledge, expertise and resources to work for the client. With financial planners, one gets to understand short- and long-term goals, and can calculate those in financial terms.
"Through a financial advisor, one can get access to important investment news when it is most valuable. Financial advisors understand the needs of the investor and helps formulating long-term investment goals and objectives. The financial advisor also helps to develop realistic expectations by discussing the risks and rewards of each investment" adds, Viswanand of Max Life Insurance. You can plan your investments accordingly, which will help you reach your financial goals without any hassle.
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