This Women's Day, invest in yourself

Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli
Filed on March 4, 2021

It was in 2006 when two women of the same age, Neha Nangia Ojha and Seema V., started working for two different firms in the same city. Both were paid well, earning a handsome salary every month. Fifteen years on, one of the defining features of their journey has been their relationship with their money. Neha has recently moved to Dubai with her family. She is in firm control of her finances and confident on achieving her financial goals, including an early retirement. Working as a Practice Manager with McKinsey Dubai, Neha started saving and investing diligently every month since the early days of her work life and is teaching the same values to her six-year-old daughter. She also consulted a financial planner for a detailed, goal-based financial planning to guide her on where to invest and how. “I was making good money but not sure of how to utilise it properly. A financial planner helped, and now a major chunk of my investments is in equities. Some of it is also in debt through mutual funds. So far, I am happy with my decisions,” says Neha.

Seema, a German teacher at a private school, on the other hand, adopted a fairly conservative approach and stashed her savings in bank deposits. After getting married, she relied largely on her husband to make investment calls. “I don’t understand investments in stock markets, so I have stayed with the traditional way. Sandeep (her husband) invests (in markets), but I don’t know much on how those investments are faring,” says Seema. She, too, is living a comfortable life but isn’t certain about her retirement choices or big-ticket expenses related to her daughters’ education.

Many women would resonate with one of these two cases. Some are good at managing finances, and some have a vague idea but not enough conviction to take action. Whether you are a working woman or a full-time mum, a homemaker, freelancer, or a part-timer, the comfort we have with our incomes or our allowances dictates the choices we make in life.

Yet, many of us leave crucial investment decisions to someone else. Husbands, fathers, brothers, or friends are seen as primary support figures. It is not wrong to seek help from family, but the point I am trying to make here is that women, whether working or not, should empower themselves and get financially literate and make their own financial decisions.

Our formal education system provides us with skills to secure our desired career paths, but it doesn’t guarantee financial success. For that, we have to educate ourselves and invest in being a life-long learner.

Investment tips don’t help

“We get a lot of queries from women seeking investment advice and tips. Working women in their 40s are anxious to think about their retirement. We have had cases where women in their 60s have lost their husbands and find it challenging to wrap their heads around financial decisions,” says Sheetal Gurung, financial catalyst at Women on Wealth, a Facebook group advocating financial literacy among women. The group has more than 4,000 members with active participants from the UAE too.

“Seeking investment tips will keep you in a dependent state of mind. Besides, a lot of wrong decisions are made based on tips. One doesn’t need to be from a finance background to understand money management. The only crucial aspect is your willingness to take charge of your financial decisions,” says Gurung. Financial independence is as important for women as it is for men. It drives our decision-making power.

The old African proverb applies strongly to this aspect of our lives: If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. This March 8, on Women’s Day, think of ways to empower yourself or women around you. Promote financial literacy.

suneeti@khaleejtimes.com