Historically, women have played second fiddle to their male counterparts in the areas of earning, investing and saving. However, the tables are turning and these days many women are not just managing the lion’s share of their household’s finances, but are also the sole breadwinners in their families and even increasingly out-earning men.

In fact, the last South African census statistics (2011) revealed that 14% of the population’s households are headed by women and 5% of households have female breadwinners, where a married woman is the head of the household. With this in mind, taking control of your financial future as a woman is no longer a choice but an absolute necessity.

To help you make the best decisions for your financial well-being as well as that of your home and your family, Ecsponent has put together a list of important financial factors women need to consider on their path to financial freedom.

Eight financial goals to pave the way for a financially-free lifestyle

1. Retirement planning for women – you have less time than men

The average life expectancy of men is estimated at 60,6 years and 64,3 years for women, automatically putting them in a worse position than men to prepare for retirement.

Additionally, in South Africa, the average male employee is allowed to work until the age of 65 before he retires. The average woman is required to retire at the age of 60.

Do:

  • Start saving for retirement TODAY if you haven’t done so already.
  • Consider options to continue your employment beyond your official retirement date – either through formal employment, or by starting a venture that can support your earnings beyond retirement.

2. Educate yourself on the savings and investing environment

You don’t need a financial degree to become rich because there are many financial resources available in the market that you can access freely. You do however need to learn as much as you can to have the best chance at financial success.

Do:

  • Read financial articles in newspapers, magazines and publications. A quick online search can help you find savings and investment options that best meet your personal financial needs.
  • Speak to a qualified financial advisor to plot a course that will streamline your saving and investment journey.

3. Start investing your money as soon as you start earning it

Get a head start by saving and investing from the moment that you start earning an income. By starting earlier, you will have the benefit of time and compounding interest on your side.

Do:

  • Save at least 10% of your monthly income from the very first salary you receive.

4. A home is not an investment

Most people believe that buying a house is a solid long-term investment. However, your home’s primary purpose is not to make you rich but to provide you and your family with shelter. so, while buying a house is a major financial decision, it is best to view it as an expense.

Do:

  • Invest in assets where you can control the timing of buying, holding and selling the asset to maximise your investment returns. Think about shares, bonds or unit trusts for example.
  • Invest according to your needs and goals, hold the investment until the value increases and then sell for maximum investment returns.

5. Beware the debt trap

When you spend more than you are earn, you’re setting yourself up for financial failure.

Do:

  • Clear off as much of your debt as possible, as quickly as possible and draw up a manageable budget.
  • Resist the temptation to buy the shoes, bag, or little black dress on credit – these will cost a lot more when you add the bank’s interest and service fees.
  • Instead, save for the things you really want to buy. It might take you a few months longer to get there, but it is the smart choice that will save you money and keep the debt collectors away.

6. Factor daily transport expenses into your financial planning

Transport costs affect everyone – and we have to consider everything from public transport costs, to car payments, insurance, petrol and maintenance services.

Do:

  • Aim to keep your total transport costs below 10% of your gross income.

7. Diversify your investments to cover your losses

The aim of investing is to earn the greatest returns at the lowest possible risk. You can reduce the risk by following the old adage of not putting all your eggs into one basket.

Do:

  • Protect your investment by diversifying your exposure and investing in types of instruments, industries and market sectors. This means that when your investment returns in one sector of the market are low, you’ll earn better investment returns to offset your losses in other areas.

8. We’re the sandwich generation – Plan to have children AND to care for your ageing parents

A serious financial strain many women face is caring for our children and for our parents in their old-age. We’re essentially caught in a generational financial sandwich.

Having children might be the furthest thing from your mind now, but when you start your investment journey, factor in the possibility of having children at a later stage. When you consider that it costs the average parent around R50,000 a year to pay for their children’s food, education, entertainment and medical bills, the importance of saving becomes clear.

Remember, children can come into your life unexpectedly too. One of the ways this could happen is if your siblings die unexpectedly and leave their children in your care.

Do:

  • Discuss life insurance options and the importance of having a will with your siblings who have children.
  • Plan for your parents’ future before it is too late and involve your siblings in the discussion too.

As a woman, you are powerful, influential and you have everything it takes to be financially successful. So, take your finances seriously so that you can set the example for others to follow in your footsteps.