Business As Usual

Meet the InLife Sheroes: Women fighting and winning money gender gap

Aneth Ng-Lim - The Philippine Star
Meet the InLife Sheroes: Women fighting and winning money gender gap
Amina Aranaz-Alunan

At least one million Filipinas in the next 12 months will benefit from a ground breaking partnership between International Finance Corp. (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and Insular Life (InLife), the first and largest Filipino life insurance company.

MANILA, Philippines — The two institutions came together in 2017 to expand women’s access to insurance in the country. They collaborated on data collection and holding workshops on gender sensitivity. Their findings revealed a large number of Filipinas lack knowledge of proper saving, investing and risk protection.

In celebration of International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month, they recently launched InLife Sheroes, a gender inclusion campaign that will provide Filipinas risk mitigation solutions throughout their lifetime and educate them on financial management, health and well-being.

Through InLife Sheroes, IFC and InLife hope to bridge the knowledge gap through financial literacy programs and address women’s limited access to business and social networks. They tapped three influencers including Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Sherill Quintana, and Rose Fres Fausto to help get this critical message across. These women have made an impact in the lives of others through their craftsmanship, advocacies and persistence.

We reached out to these InLife Sheroes to get their candid thoughts on their personal money successes and challenges, and their advice for the hardworking Filipina today.  Joining Alunan, Quintana and Fausto are Noemi Azura and Marieme Esther Dassanou, officials of InLife and IFC who are leading the campaign for their institutions.

Amina Aranaz-Alunan Owner of fashion brand Aranaz and co-founder of SOFA Design Institute

One money-related challenge I faced and made me feel like a Shero:   All my life Math has always been my downfall and weakest point. However, being an entrepreneur forced me to face my fear of numbers. I learned to embrace this challenge and I now enjoy studying the finance aspect of running a business. Excel sheets have become one of my favorite business management tools. I am far from being a finance nor business expert, but I feel like a Shero because I have managed to appreciate the money aspect of running a business.   

The money advice I would give to single women: Treat yourself while your daily expenses are still not so big.  But find ways also to make your money grow for you such as starting a business. Being single means there are less risks for you. 

For married women, take heed: Start by creating a monthly budget that will be covered by your joint income. With a growing family comes a growing list of expenses. 

There is no such thing as having too much insurance:  I own life insurance, as well as various business insurance products. Insurance is another tool to help entrepreneurs like me secure our hard-earned capital.

Sherill Quintana Founder and President of Oryspa Spa Solutions and 1st Filipina to win the Asia Pacific Women Entrepreneur Award

One money-related challenge I faced and made me feel like a Shero: When we were about to launch Oryspa, we lost the source of our capital.  Instead of getting loans, I talked to our consultants and suppliers to give us leeway for payment, extending payment terms, and banking on our good reputation with them over the years.  Some of the funds we used to launch Oryspa even came from proceeds of our insurance investments. That was a resilient S-hero moment!

The money advice I would give to single women: Start protecting your future and invest to grow your wealth at the earliest possible time. Set a budget from your income that goes to saving for your future. Make it a habit to invest in insurance coverage; the earlier you buy, the cheaper the premiums and the higher the revenues.

For married women, take heed: We have to set the goal with our spouse and nail it. It’s much more fun sharing the vision with your loved one. Ideally, you should have saved enough before having your children, but if that’s not the case, do not get disheartened. I started my business when I had my eldest, and built this company based on a mom’s dream to earn her keep, contribute to the economy and take care of her children.

There is no such thing as having too much insurance:  Ask your financial advisor to help you compute how much you need to live comfortably. We have ever-changing needs in every stage of our lives, so it’s important to protect your income as your needs change. Every year on my birthday, my gift to myself is upgrading my investment and insurance portfolio, by topping up or adding a new policy.

What would I do if I had superpowers as an InLife Shero: It is both an honor and a responsibility to reach out to more women entrepreneurs. It’s about time that we really support each other, having an ecosystem of women helping women. InLife Sheroes is an empowering platform for me to be able to pay forward through femtorship.

Rose Fres Fausto Author, blogger, homemaker, and FinQ mom

One money-related challenge I faced and made me feel like a Shero: I gave up my investment banking career at the time we were building our house so I can give my undivided attention to raising our young sons. Looking back, it seems like a crazy audacious decision. But that’s when I started watching our expenses like a hawk. I religiously prepared our family Income Statement, Cashflow and Balance Sheet!  Unnecessary expenses were taken out, wants were delayed. Little did I know that this would be the seeds of my ‘FQMom-ness.’ I didn’t only raise our sons to have high FQ (Financial Intelligence Quotient), but through my work of sharing what I know now, I’m able to help other parents do the same, even employers to help their employees come up with FQ programs.

The money advice I would give to single women: Follow the basic laws of money:  pay yourself first and savings should be the first allocation each time you earn; get only into a business that you understand and seek advice only from competent people; and make your gold work for you by investing regularly, systematically, automatically and buying luxury only if you can afford to buy 10 pieces of it.

For married women, take heed: Understand what property law governs your marriage (is it conjugal or absolute community of property) and openly discuss money with your husband. I go for full disclosure so you’re on the same page and united in achieving your financial and even other goals. Raise your children with high FQ because doing so is arming them with ‘economic self-defense.’

There is no such thing as having too much insurance: I treat insurance as protection products. When the kids were very young, we were insured to a sum that would cover our dependents if something happens to the parents/breadwinners, until such time that they could be on their own. We also purchased education insurance because we believed that quality education was the best thing we could give them.

Noemi Azura Executive vice president and chief strategy officer with InLife

One money-related challenge I faced and made me feel like a Shero:  When I was a young professional, and juggling additional roles as mother and wife, my big challenge was budgeting or how to smartly allocate household income across expenses and savings. What helped me? One, sharing the same values with my husband when it comes to spending below our means and living a simple life. Two, I leveraged on finance trackers. I started with Lotus 123 then moved to Excel later on.  Personal finance trackers are widely available now and there are a number of mobile apps available.  Third, we agreed to invest our bonuses and any windfall income in appreciating assets.

The money advice I would give to single women: Learn about personal finance, investing and protection as early as possible.  Set aside funds for saving and/or investing monthly to develop this habit.  If you plan to get married, one of the considerations in choosing a partner is for both of you to have the same values and views about money. 

For married women, take heed: Be empowered and contribute to the household income by working or by running your own business. Agree with your partner on the personal finance values you will practice and impart with your kids. Make sure to also be in accord on the administration of the household budget or how much each one can contribute, whether equally or according to each one’s capacity. Always be mindful to observe tact and respect in resolving money issues.  Plan for your children’s education expenses, and also owning versus renting a home.  Plus, get financial solutions that will protect your kids in case unfortunate incidents happen to you and your spouse.

There is no such thing as having too much insurance:  My trustworthy financial advisor helped educate me about the value of protection.  Previously, I had educational plans and critical illness and now I have life insurance. I’d like to have life insurance linked to investment for our children who are young adults, and also a memorial plan.

Marieme Esther Dassanou Women’s Insurance lead with IFC Gender Secretariat

One money-related challenge I faced and made me feel like a Shero: Almost four years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. This I would say was the happiest moment of my life…well until I saw the bill $15,000! I was trying to figure out how I was going to organize myself to pay for this. As I read through the bill, the panic and fear on my face were quickly replaced by a gigantic smile. My insurer had covered the whole delivery cost! At the time, I might not have felt like a ‘Shero,’ but my insurance company made me feel like one.

The money advice I would give to single and married women: Try to save as much and as often as you can.  It’s hard to think long-term about saving when as a millennial you’re stressed about getting a new job, or your parents’ health, or about making a living and caring for your children, or about keeping your marriage and being the best wife you can be. However, it is important as often it’s the starting point to getting financial assistance for any of our dreams whether it’s to own a home, to start and run a business or to give our children the best university education.

Find financial advisors who can provide the best options for us (women) depending on the life stage we’re at, our income levels and goals we’ve set for ourselves.  Have a financial plan for the different goals you set for yourselves and when you want to achieve them. I find that doing it this way encourages me to be faithful and purposeful in my saving.

There is no such thing as having too much insurance:  The more covered we are, the better it is.  I have a life insurance policy and an education policy for my child as well as health insurance and a pension plan. I wish investment-linked insurance solutions were available in my home country as that would provide additional opportunities to save especially for short-term goals.

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