1 April 2021

How women can achieve Financial Freedom?

Money, worth, finances, economics: These terms are used interchangeably by people. The amount of money you earn/have is assumed to be your worth. If you are good at handling finances, people assume you are good at making money. If you can set a budget and stick to it, you are thought of as a good financial planner. It’s all very confusing and very blurry. It’s time to declutter a lot of these conceptions.

Most financial literature is geared toward women, and consequently most financial decisions in households are made by men. A 2019 DSP Winvestor* survey showed up startling results. Only 33% of women take independent financial decisions. 13% of women are forced to take financial decisions because of divorce or death of their husbands. 80% of women were introduced to investing by their husband or father. Most women (between 38%-44%) take decisions on gold/jewellery, day to day stuff and home durables.

When you take a look at the numbers above, you start to see a pattern. Most of the Women take decisions that have short-term impact. These decisions are not mostly directed towards the future. Women often say, “I can spend my money any way I choose. I am financially independent.” That might not always be true. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have financial freedom.

Difference between Economic Freedom and Financial Freedom

A lot of women assume that they have Financial Freedom because they are working professionals. Homemakers assume that they have Financial Freedom because they receive a certain amount from their husbands every month.

When you make/receive money every month, that’s called Economic Freedom. Having the freedom to decide what you want to do with that money is called Financial Freedom. Economic independence focusses on individual goals. Financial Freedom is living the way you want and ensuring that bumps on the road do not derail your goals.

For example: Taking off for a vacation at short notice is Economic Freedom. However, if you have to stay in a toxic job because you can’t afford that vacation means you don’t have Financial Freedom. For a homemaker, you might be sending your parents a certain sum of money every month from the funds received from your husband. That is Economic Freedom. However, if you receive lesser amount of money for a month or two and you are unable to give money to your parents, it means you lack Financial Freedom.

How do women get on the path to Financial Freedom?

  • Understand personal finance: Women have two options, either take up a financial planning course or set up a meeting with your financial professional at your bank who can guide you and set you on the path to Financial Freedom.
  • Learn about different financial instruments: India consumed 690 tonnes of gold in 2019, largely led by women purchasing gold. However, gold is not the only instrument that you can use to build wealth. Understand what mutual funds are: equity, debt, hybrid, gold ETFs and other different kinds of funds. Understand the benefits of NPS (National Pension Scheme), fixed deposits and other kinds of deposits.
  • Understand the difference between good debt and bad debt: Example of good debt is a home loan which gives you an asset of a lifetime as well as capital appreciation, taxation benefits, not to miss the emotional value of having a house. Example of a bad debt is when you take a credit card with a high interest rate and don’t pay off the dues every month.
  • Create an emergency account: Have six months-worth of savings that you can dip into as a safety blanket. This is especially important for homemakers. You are dependent on your husband for your lifestyle. You might like to keep extra funds handy.
  • Learn to take risks: People say women are more conservative by nature. We may tend to disagree here. When the going gets tough, women have no problems getting things done. There are multiple examples of home-makers who have stepped out to work due to death or disability of their husbands.

A relatively safe option for you to take your first steps into the world of finance is via debt hybrid funds. These funds are mutual funds that have a mix of both equity and debt instruments. The primary objective of these funds is to minimize risk and maximize profits. These funds have maximum of 75% of their financial resources that are invested into debt instruments like debentures, bonds, treasury bills etc. while the balance 25% is invested into equities that will boost the return. At any given point in time, the allocation to equity is restricted at 25%.

This is a good first financial product to buy because the debt part of the fund delivers steady returns. Your capital is intended to be preserved during volatile market conditions and receives a significant boost when the market starts to move up. Examples of few funds are:

Fund Name 6 Months* 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year Equity Allocation
Kotak Debt Hybrid Fund 12.65 9.02 9.59 6.17 24.90%
SBI Debt Hybrid Fund 10.52 5.58 7.47 4.13 23.90%
Nifty 50 30.82 -1.97 1.43 4.73

Source: MFI, All data as on 30th September, 2020

* Less than 1 year Absolute returns, Greater than or Equal to 1 year Compound Annualized returns

To give an example, Kotak Debt Hybrid Fund invests ~24% in equity & remaining in debt. Out of the 76% in debt, 67% is invested in AAA or equivalent rated issuers. This is about 88% of the entire debt portfolio.

Women who want to start off their investment journey should ideally set up a call with their Finance Professional or Relationship Manager at their bank. They need to list out their goals, and understand how do they need to invest in order to achieve those goals. They need to learn about financial instruments and the risks associated with them.

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