As I stood in a crowded ballroom trying to figure out where to go next at this networking event, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Susan, my childhood friend, whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in five years. As we exchanged pleasantries, I noticed that Susan wasn’t her usual bubbly self. I couldn’t help but enquire whether all was well. Susan pulled me aside and began her story.
Twelve months earlier, Susan’s husband Maurice had been involved in a car accident while driving from Narok to Nairobi. He became paralysed and could no longer perform his duties at work. Susan was overwhelmed with responsibilities that her husband easily took care of. Responsibilities she had never been exposed to and she was required to make decisions that she was not equipped to.
Maurice was an alpha male, a star performer in his organisation, and a guru where finances and investments were concerned. He was so good at it, that Susan had left all the budgeting, investing and saving up to him. She was a nurse, and finances were not her area of strength. Maurice was going through depression and was not in a mental state to discuss their finances.
Susan did not know where to begin; how budgeting was done, what investments or assets they had and whether they had any debt. Maurice had always been on top of things and gave her pocket money at the end of the month to take care of the household needs.
Susan’s situation is not unique; the sad reality is that many women all over the world leave the responsibility of managing family finances to their husbands, fathers or brothers. They feel reassured that since their husbands are honest, dependable, loyal and good at what they do, they don’t need to bother themselves getting involved in the intricacies of financial planning for their family.
While this arrangement works out well for the most part and is smooth in its execution, should something happen to the men, their families end up in a bind. The women in their lives don’t how to budget, where to invest or even how to evaluate opportunities. They don’t know what debt they owe and it takes them years to even find out what assets their husbands have. Some even come to the realisation that the life they led was a façade and they are drowning in debt. Here are some suggestions that may help you change the situation for good.
- Show interest and learn about money. I encourage every woman to participate and be involved in all decisions that concern their home. Younger women who have financially savvy fathers need to take interest in what their fathers are investing in where possible, ask questions, seek advise prior to making decisions and take responsibility for managing their own finances.
We were created to be helpers. We cannot help where we don’t know. Take an interest; learn about money and how it works. If you have not grown your knowledge in this area, you will not be in a position to make a wise decision. Become familiar with the different types of assets and financial products available. Learn how to evaluate investment opportunities, and you will be of great value to yourself, and your family.
- Grow your networks. Take time to grow your networks. Through networking you will hear about trends and opportunities as they develop. Your wealth is in your networks. Take time to grow your networks and speak to others about what they are doing and you will be amazed how much you will learn.
- Follow up on your investments. Lastly, follow up to find out what is happening with your investments. Do not leave the decision of your portfolio of assets to a financial advisor or consultant. You must take personal responsibility to ensure that your portfolio does well. Enquire from experts and make them your best friend, then think for yourself, follow up and countercheck. Seek to understand what your money is invested in, what potential opportunities exist, the risks involved and the likely returns from those opportunities. The truth is that the outcome of your investments, whether good or bad, will only impact you, not your investment advisor, or banker. You are the best financial manager you could ever have.
About the Author
Rina Hicks is an investment banker and in her experience, she has realised that many professionals struggle with managing their finances. In her view, the school curriculum teaches many things but ignores one of the most fundamental – financial literacy. Rina is on a mission to equip Africans with the basic tools and knowledge that will help them make sound financial decisions. She lives in Nairobi with her husband and two children.