Women are stepping up in the world, taking on leading roles in every sphere of life, but as you climb your career ladder it is crucial to remain firmly in control of your own financial freedom and future.

Gone are the days of letting a man control your hard-earned money. Having said that, you also don’t want your money to rule you.

Try out these practical tips from Wonga Finance SA to help you master your money:

Know your financial status

According to the World Health Organisation, women live an average of eight years longer than men.

Statistically, you are likely to outlive your partner or spouse so make sure your financial security isn’t dependent on them.

Even if you are not the primary income earner, it is important that you have a good understanding of the household finances. Be fully aware of how much household debt you are jointly responsible for, how much you have in savings and what is being done to ensure you have a stable financial future.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, sit down with your partner and have a candid discussion about the household budget, debt, retirement plans and what insurance you have in place to protect yourselves from risk.

Set realistic goals

Gaining independence goes hand in hand with being in control. According to a recent Global Wage Report, women still earn an average of 20% less than men, so women have to make their money go further. As a result it’s important to be wise about your spending decisions. Try these steps:

  1. Set realistic and achievable financial goals such as saving money, paying off debts or contributing to a retirement annuity.
  2. Keep track of your monthly spending so that you know exactly where your money is going and can identify opportunities to save.
  3. Create a budget. Plan for essential costs such as transport, housing or groceries and allocate a spend limit to non-essential items like clothing or entertainment. Stick to your budget and have enough left over at the end of each month to contribute to your financial goals.

Create a safety net

It’s always prudent to expect the unexpected. Financial freedom means being able to cope with life’s setbacks without compromising your financial well-being. Insuring yourself against risk is extremely important and, as the majority of caregivers are female, this protection should extend to those who are reliant on your care.

If you are a parent, and particularly if you are a single mother, have your last will and testament drafted and have a sound life insurance plan in place so that your family will be taken care of should anything happen to you. If you can afford to, invest in health insurance for yourself and your dependents so that, in the event of injury or illness, you can afford the necessary care.

Plan for your baby bump

If you work, look into your company’s maternity leave policy. In South Africa, employers aren’t legally required to pay women during their maternity leave, however, women can claim unemployment tax for a period of time. Make sure that you can afford this, without the burden of financial pressure during your pregnancy.

Research shows that it costs an average of R90 000 a year to raise a child. Before you take the plunge, decide how much you can afford to allocate to your child’s monthly living expenses as well as how much you need to save for long term costs such as a tertiary education.