Spring is often the busiest time of year in most real estate markets. If you are considering moving soon, there are some financial moves you may want to consider first. Whether a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions to ensure you are in a great financial position before moving.
Is Your Credit Score in Tip-Top Shape?
Your credit report is essentially a “report card” of your financial habits, and your credit score is your grade. Your score provides a snapshot to potential lenders of how risky a borrower you are. Therefore, maintaining a good credit score is essential when it comes time to get a mortgage. The lower your score, the greater your chances of getting stuck with a higher interest rate and smaller loan amount, or worse – getting denied altogether. If your credit score could use improving, it may be worth putting off home buying for at least a few months until you can bring it up a bit. It may not be ideal, but it’ll be worth it when you lock in that low interest rate and get approved for a bigger loan amount to buy your dream house.
Have You Considered the True Costs of Home Ownership?
While renting is fairly straightforward and is a predictable monthly expense, the costs of home ownership are entirely different. There are factors that can affect your financial well-being when buying a home, and if you’re not careful, could end up costing you more money than expected.
Some things to take into account are moving costs, closing costs, property taxes, the amount of interest you pay each month on your mortgage, utilities, maintenance costs such as chimney and eves trough cleaning, HOA fees, homeowner’s insurance, and unexpected repairs. Some of these costs are predictable monthly expenses that can be built into your budget, while others may pop up when you least expect it. You need to be financially prepared for either scenario.
Especially if you are a first-time home buyer, you’ll want to ensure you create a budget beforehand, so you can know what to expect and gauge how comfortable you’ll be, since the costs will likely be drastically different than what you’re used to dealing with.
A budget is important for seasoned homeowners as well. Whether you are moving to a bigger place, to a different town, or downsizing, the budget you are used to sticking to will be affected to some degree. Make sure you go over your anticipated costs before moving and how it affects your monthly budget.
Do You Have an Emergency Fund?
Remember those unexpected repairs I just mentioned? That’s where it comes in handy to have an emergency fund. The last thing you want when dealing with an already stressful situation such as a leaking roof or broken refrigerator is to be scrambling to figure out how to pay for it. An emergency fund is there to save you in a pinch and is something all homeowners should have.
A home is one of the biggest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, or simply looking for a new place, you should ensure the process is as stress-free and cost-effective as possible. Make sure you consider the various financial aspects of moving and home buying before you take action, to ensure that your finances stay in tiptop shape.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.