Many studies over the years have established financial literacy as a determinant of socioeconomic conditions. Multi-generational financial literacy and planning have propelled many toward the upper echelons of the world. In contrast, the lack thereof continues to constrain several others in vicious cycles of debts, inevitable dependencies, and monetary uncertainties. As often as not, in the absence of financial literacy, women get the short end of the stick because of certain entrenched gender inequalities and other distinct factors. That explains the UAE’s growing efforts to advance women’s financial literacy. Over the recent months, many apex bodies have orchestrated financial literacy campaigns aimed at empowering women. The Dubai Government-owned National Bonds(1) has been at the forefront of such initiatives, recently partnering with the Arab Women Authority for a program to empower women with financial skills and tools. Such top-down efforts are timely and consequential in light of increasing complexities in financial markets, volatile economic cycles, and the indomitable need for gender equality across all walks of life. Evidence indicates that closing the financial-literacy gaps between men and women could have macroeconomic implications for a nation. The impact corresponds to the timeless quote, “if you empower a woman, you empower a nation.” The following are the five probable positive outcomes. Savings for a rainy day In recent years, especially following the pandemic and subsequent inflationary cycles, people are increasingly provisioning for all possible contingencies. Increased online self-learning platforms and educational videos related to finance can be linked to that spike in interest and intent. Women have expanded their financial horizons, venturing beyond household accounts. Their primary objective is to build a corpus fund — a considerable amount of money kept aside for unforeseen emergencies — whose necessity continues to mount due to concerns of a recession. While the scope for growth is limited in emergency funds, the liquidity they offer can be useful. The ability of people to fend for themselves during large-scale, unprecedented situations is a hallmark of a competitive economy. Decoupling from dependencies A study found that, on average, women in the UAE retire with just 69% of the wealth of their male counterparts. Such abject wage disparities can be addressed only through structural changes in the corporate culture. Until then, women must continue to explore ways to secure their long-term financial interests without factoring in spousal or familial support. Decoupling from dependencies is important because women tend to live longer than men, requiring them to hone their financial skills for times ahead. However, savings alone will not suffice. With higher financial literacy, women can effectively plan their retirement by achieving risk-adjusted returns through strategic allocations of specific capital into savings, fixed-income products, equities, and insurance. Inculcating financial discipline A few cross-sectional surveys seeking to demystify parental roles in money habits have found that children mostly take after their mothers’ approaches to finance. Such findings place a significant onus on women to enhance their financial literacy. When financial discipline is inculcated early on, the strong foundations will define children’s monetary decision-making and related success. Besides money, women’s financial literacy sets good precedents for children to uphold the virtues of gender equality and the importance of patience and pragmatism in investments. No amount of money can parallel a legacy of financial discipline that mothers can bestow on their progeny. Dodging curveballs While there is no denying that women’s societal challenges have witnessed considerable legal recourse in recent years, it’s a long road before one can afford to be complacent. As often as not, women cannot break free from abusive marriages or families due to financial dependencies. In hindsight, about 59% of widows and divorcees wished they had been more involved in long-term financial decisions(3). At times, even seemingly natural circumstances such as childrearing can take their toll on a woman’s finances through career setbacks, etc. Financial literacy will ensure different employment pathways and promise a way out when marital circumstances become untenable. Market Participation Wealth creation stagnates when money is restricted to low-risk products such as savings accounts, fixed deposits, bullion, and provident funds. Statistics suggest that women tend to favour such asset classes due to a deep-seated aversion to risk — a by-product of less financial literacy. Some studies also suggest that women often edge out their male peers when participating in equity markets. The reasoning is that women are innately more pragmatic and grounded, which creates successful investors when coupled with high financial literacy. So, UAE policymakers hope to unlock an untapped segment in the financial market by supporting women’s financial education. It’s a righteous pursuit primed for long-term rewards.

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