x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

How I mastered juggling life's expenses in 2012

Being a financially savvy woman in today's economy is a juggling act in itself.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

A girlfriend asked me recently for tips on how to manage two mortgages while juggling the daily expenses of being a stay-at-home mum who also works part time.

Just the thought of that sounds like "financial yoga". The reality is, it's so much more.

Being a financially savvy woman in today's economy is a juggling act in itself. For many mothers, money can be a stretch on the practical and the emotional. Moral dilemmas affect our spending habits, as we ask ourselves "Do I buy that gift for my child? Do they really need it?" Then there are the practical issues - paying the bills on time, the day-to-day routine of working, cooking, cleaning and then doing it all over again the next day.

Exhausted? You had better believe it. And yet, despite all of this, many women still shy away from the reality of dealing with money and becoming financially fit.

This got me thinking. We need to stay financially fit for life. But how do we keep the juggling act going without being overstretched?

The solution is to get back to basics. This year was a year of change for me - newly married and working mother to a 15-month-old child. I needed to make some decisions about my time and money.

So how did I do that? Well, as in yoga, I started with some deep breathing. I took stock of the emotional part of my finances - my values. The way that we perceive our lives, and what we hope to achieve, directly affects every part of our lives, from our relationships to our bank balance. What is really important? For me the answer is time - to spend with my family and by myself, for work and for play.

Without proper time management, I fall into a guilt-ridden trap. I usually recognise the signs - when I'm feeling stressed for time, I crave comfort. Unfortunately, this comfort is great for my frayed nerves, but bad for my bank balance. Inevitably, my spontaneous shopping trips lead to regret. And so the cycle continues.

So you can see the importance of understanding our emotions in our financial lives. When we do so and practice financial yoga, we can move onto the practical. By practical, I mean the movement of money, such as income and expenses.

I have found that the best way to do this is to schedule a monthly meeting with my partner (and children, if you so choose) to discuss income and expenses.

This is the ideal time to identify shared goals and priorities. What important events or milestones are coming up in each of our lives? How much money will be needed to pay for each of them? Whatever the investment, all of us will be on the same page as to where we're headed.

One key issue to raise when discussing your finances with your loved ones, is the idea of paying yourself first. What does this mean? Agree as a team that you will set aside an amount every month towards your savings.

If you lack the incentive to save, Google "compound interest". Albert Einstein said: "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn't, pays it."

Having a budget has empowered me to manage my spending smartly. I now buy what I can afford.

But getting a grip on practical affairs is not enough. What if something should happen to us? Will we be able to ensure that we are protected financially?

So many people these days are in denial about self-protection. Few people plan for it to happen, but the reality is that all women are susceptible to death and divorce.

How can we avoid the financial fallout that so many women experience when their fate changes or their marriages fall apart?

As expatriate women living in the UAE, each of us should make an extra effort to ensure that we have our own life vests in place.

Many women don't know where to start and just hope for the best. With some financial awareness in place however, traumatic changes can be a lot less painful.

Here is a financial checklist that helped me to get my money matters in shape in 2012.

 

Financially fit checklist

Pay attention There is a new term that is being talked about - "financial infidelity", the act of hiding money matters from your partner.

Be active Don't leave all the decisions to the partner who earns the most money. Play an active role.

Income and expenses ledgers Complete the ledger and keep a record of your assets and liabilities.

Joint names If you are in a relationship, make sure that all savings plans, wills and insurance policies are in joint names.

Single bank accounts Especially in the UAE, have your own bank account. If you are running the household, agree on regular contributions to a joint account.

Offshore bank accounts Have them so you can access your money no matter where you are.

Protect your family An untimely illness, accident or death can devastate finances. If you depend on someone else's income, make sure you carry adequate insurance.

If you are a single gal, It's even more important to be covered against accidents, disability or illness, since even a brief period without income could deplete your savings.

Check your employment contract Since 2008, insurance policies and health benefits with many companies have changed. Understand what coverage you have and if it is not adequate, seek advice.

Settle it in your home country The United Kingdom, for example, has wide jurisdiction. As long as you are, broadly speaking, domiciled or resident in the UK, you can get divorced in UK courts that generally allow an equal division of assets. By divorcing through UAE courts, claims to seek spousal maintenance would not be as straightforward and bank accounts that are not solely in your name could prove difficult to access.

A will is essential Make sure you have a legal will in place and have it translated into Arabic. Should the worst happen, a will ensures that things are a lot easier in this country for your beneficiaries.

Retirement Time is your biggest ally when it comes to retirement savings. Act now.

 

pf@thenational.ae

Felicity Glover is on leave and will return on January 12