by Judy M McCutcheon
There’s a young lady I really admire, she’s secure and confident in who she is, she’s a go-getter, and she does things on her terms. And I really like that. Society imposes all these restrictions on us, and we fail to recognise that times have changed, our wants and needs are different, and the way we want them satisfied is also different.
But, despite the great strides that we have made as women, there are still some thinking and behaviours that keep getting in the way of young women forging ahead. The gender wage gap is an issue that might forever be with us. I look at the celebrations or lack thereof for International Women’s Day, and it tells some tales. I also look at how we as women are critical of each other. While this is not across the board, and you might think that you cannot endorse a woman simply because she’s a woman, it is my firm belief that you should endorse a woman based on who she is. And I am not talking here about politics or work roles; this conversation is beyond that. It’s about getting our girls to accept who they are, no matter their physical size; it’s about parents supporting their kids and the choices they make, even if it’s a choice that you disagree with.
Too often, we as parents want to live vicariously through our kids. I wish I knew how to tell you how wrong that is in another language. We have to start equipping our girls and our boys so that they can function adequately in a global space. Our boys seem to be a lost generation, just look at the matriculation from universities where over 70% are female, and you will understand what I’m talking about. This could also be due to a deficit in our education system, or it could be due to a significant break down in our family structure that our boys see themselves as forgotten and hopeless. Fathers, I want to implore you to be fathers to your daughters so that they don’t try to find a father figure outside the house. I know that sometimes we get so caught up in the stresses of life, that we forget that we are called to a higher purpose – that of being a parent. And I am not talking about pampering them, but about helping them to grow in wisdom, strength, and intelligence, (this includes emotional intelligence). We must teach our kids how to manage their finances effectively; even if they are pinching pennies to pay off student loans or have control of a larger sum without any significant debt. We must teach them financial responsibility, or they will continue to be an albatross around your neck.
Every year a significant number of young women graduate from colleges and universities, and there are no real resources to help them with managing their money as they enter the world of work. Money management is not a sexy topic, but it is essential that you get it right as you seek to gain your own independence. To help you get started I’ve put together some simple steps for you to be guided by, and as always it starts with a budget.
- Budget, budget, budget: Set one and keep it. For you to effectively manage your money, knowing what your expenses are is the first crucial step. You can start with your fixed expenses – items that you know you will spend on each month, such as car payment, utilities, rent etc., and then add your lifestyle maintenance costs.
- Keep a check: Now that you’ve got your budget in place, you must ensure that you keep it up to date; you can use a simple excel spreadsheet to create your budget. If your fixed expenses move up or down, be sure to adjust the spreadsheet.
- Get Rid of it: I have a difficult time understanding student loans, I think it starts young people off in a negative position; however, I do also understand the need for them. When you are now starting out, it becomes important that you keep your debt to a minimum while building up your savings. If there is no great need for you to move out of your parent’s house, then don’t do so immediately as you get a job. If you are a young couple, then try and keep what you owe to a minimum. Remember there’s freedom in having minimal debt.
- Cover Yourself: Ladies and gentlemen, I know that we have a phobia in the Caribbean as it relates to insurance, but my advice to you is to get covered. Get an adequate life and health insurance plan. You may never need to use your health insurance, but it’s best to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Keep in mind that the earlier you start, the cheaper it is.
- Start your saving plan: The best time to start saving is now. Start your saving and investment regime as early as possible. Know that you need to have an emergency fund as well. There is never is a better time to start your retirement fund, than when you get your first paycheque. Think about how much your older self will thank you.
- Enjoy the journey: It becomes too laborious just to budget, save, and spend very little – you must put some fun in the mix. It’s good to treat yourself every once in a while; it’s important to celebrate your success, even the very small ones.
Setting realistic financial goals is key to your success, it becomes important, therefore, that you set goals for the short, medium, and long-term and remember to celebrate your successes along the way.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net