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Easy Being Green

Mar/02/2024 / by Lindsey Galloway

South Asian women often face an uphill battle when it comes to claiming their financial independence. But it’s never too late (or too early) to start building lasting wealth. Here’s our ultimate guide to long-term money management. 

As March arrives, so does Equal Pay Day (March 6), the date that symbolizes how far into the new year women must work to earn what men did in the previous year alone. For South Asian women, who face additional cultural barriers around financial independence and additional workplace discrimination, achieving equal pay and building lasting financial security, can prove to be even more of an uphill battle. 

“Securing your financial future as a South Asian woman can be challenging because of cultural beliefs that may hinder wealth-building,” explains Dr. Priya Nalkur, psychologist, DEI facilitator and author of the upcoming Stumbling Towards Inclusion: Finding Grace in Imperfect Leadership. “To overcome these challenges, you must adopt a determined focus on financial independence.”

By empowering themselves with practical solutions and culturally specific advice, South Asian women can start to protect the wealth they’ve worked hard for. To help, we put together the ultimate guide to managing your money, setting realistic goals securing your financial future. 

5 New Money Rules

Financial independence means more than just having the money to spend on what we want. Rather, having our own wealth often offers us greater flexibility, more freedom, and the opportunity to protect ourselves and our families. But we all have to start somewhere. Here are five ways to start re-thinking your relationship to money and start building for the future. 

Ditch Unhelpful Norms

Cultural beliefs around money can often be challenging for South Asian women, and can significantly harm a woman’s wealth-building potential for the long-run. “Cultural norms may suggest dependence on husbands for financial stability; view women who pursue wealth as overly ambitious or greedy; or tell you that women should not make more money than their male partners,” says Dr. Nalkur. “Rejecting these notions is paramount to reclaiming your power. Seek support from friends, family, and partners who encourage your success without feeling threatened by your ambition.”

Seek Out Like-minded Communities

So much financial advice and community has been built around the model built for men; but many influencers are changing that. Communities like Simran Kaur’s podcast “Girls That Invest” have rewritten old rules and demystified investing for a new generation. “Your financial literacy isn’t something you’re born with,” explains Kaur. “It’s a muscle, and it can grow over time.”

Indulge In Your Independence

The first step is asking yourself what it really means to you to have financial independence.  Will you manage a separate portfolio from your spouse’s (if applicable)? Is joint investing with a friend or sibling an option?” asks Dr. Nalkur. “Opening separate bank accounts, including ones for your children (if any), can further reinforce financial autonomy.”

Enlist Expertise

Don’t be afraid to seek out the expertise of a financial advisor; just ensure they are certified fiduciaries obligated to provide unbiased, evidence-based financial guidance. Finding the right financial advisor you trust can provide tailored guidance to help you achieve your financial goals throughout your life, and adjust their advice as your needs change. 

Diversify Your Income

While a traditional 40-hour a week job can be great, women should always be exploring diverse income streams. That might include real estate, or creator economies like course creation or affiliate marketing. Having multiple sources of income can provide more security and allow you to leave jobs that are unfulfilling.

Your Age-By Age Guide to Managing Your Money

Financial advice naturally will vary throughout your life stage. Whether it’s time to spend on your children’s college education or save for your own retirement, your goals and priorities should shift.  

“Managing money and building your financial wealth comes down to a financially sound mindset, good preparation, and good habits,” says Dr. Nalkur. “And those start early.” We asked her the themes that each age group should focus on, and how to achieve those goals now. 

Age 5-10: Financial Literacy Starts with Curiosity

Learn how to count and collect money. Explore money: look at coins and bills from around the world. Understand what currency is. Understand what you can and cannot buy with one US dollar or one UK pound or one Indian rupee, for example. This builds interest and curiosity.

Age 10-18: Establish Good Financial Habits

Initiate a weekly allowance system, allocating funds into spending, saving, and giving. Learn how to track your spending and open a bank account with parental supervision. At this age, you might also start earning your own money through part-time jobs. At age 18, apply for a credit card and start building your credit (always pay your monthly bill on time and never exceed your limit).

Age 19-29: Invest in Growth

Invest small monthly amounts (~$100-$250/month) in long-term growth accounts. Save a portion of your monthly paycheck each month. If you’re in school, consider part-time work to earn and save. Apply for grants and stipends before resorting to loans for educational expenses. Keep track of your student loans, if any, and start paying them off in small increments as soon as you can, even if it’s just $25/month. You should know how much you have in your checking account at any time, and how much you need for rent and expenses. Start a stock portfolio and try to invest a little. Be prepared to lose it all, but to learn a lot!

Age 30-35: Strengthen Your Foundation

Build your emergency fund. Explore passive income strategies and make a plan for one or two that fit your lifestyle and needs. Hire a financial planner. Consider purchasing a property instead of renting. Open your retirement account if you haven’t already. If you have children, start a 529 or other long term educational strategy for them as soon as you can. Build your credit by taking out small loans that you know you can pay off, like a car loan or a home improvement loan. Look into other strategies for saving and investing like life insurance, disability insurance, and pension plans. Maintain at least one separate bank account.

Age 36-45: Nurture Wealth and Stability

Focus on saving for retirement and diversifying your investments. Consider purchasing another property, this time for investment purposes. Keep track of your net worth, aiming to exceed $1M by age 45. Pay all insurance premiums and credit cards on time. Do not carry balances on your credit cards. Understand your financial risk profile and consider taking small risks.

Age 46-60: Planning for Retirement and Beyond

Plan for retirement and financial independence. By this point, you have some stability if all has gone well. If you have kids, you’ll have to allocate a significant portion to their education. Continue to grow your wealth, but also spend it so that you don’t end up with a massive surplus in your late 70s and 80s.

Age 61-80: Embrace Financial Freedom

Passive income, retirement, and pensions support you while you travel, visit family, and enjoy your life.

Big Money Questions  

Examining your relationship with money is an important step in gaining financial freedom. Reflective questions can help you understand what past beliefs and experiences have shaped your financial habits and psychology, especially as you build toward your future. 

Your upbringing, culture, family, and gender all influence financial decision-making, and understanding those beliefs can help you determine what you still value, and where you want to make generational changes. Here are the questions Dr. Nalkur suggests you start with: 

What have my parents taught me about money (implicitly and explicitly)? How do I want to be like them or different from them in their financial habits? Whether you’re aware of it or not, your “financial playbook” has come from your parents and community. Think critically about what their behaviors, psychology, and habits have taught you and what, if anything, you’d like to change. Consider how much pressure you have to conform to their financial beliefs. Be strong and invest in yourself: you are your ticket to financial freedom.

What cultural beliefs or social pressures are influencing my financial decisions? Reflect on how being a South Asian woman has influenced your beliefs about money. Look at the limiting patterns and the empowering patterns and decide for yourself what beliefs you will hold as you build your plan for financial freedom.

What are my financial goals? 

Define short-term and long-term objectives, such as buying a home, saving for retirement, funding education, caring for parents or siblings, travel, etc.

What does it mean to be financially independent? 

Everyone will have a different answer to this question. Consider how much your spouse (if any) influences this, and how much you want them to influence your financial future.  

What are my spending and saving habits? 

Try to examine your habits without judgment. It’s important to get a good handle on your habits so that you can develop a good risk profile when it comes to investing.

Who, if anyone, can I rely on? 

For financial independence, you want to be able to answer “me” to this question. If you find you are mostly relying on others, think about how you can change the balance of power to take control of your finances.

What is holding me back from being financially free? 

This is a great question that will help you to see whether it is spending, cultural messages, family, societal expectations of South Asian women, or psychology that is limiting your financial freedom.

Seema

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