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Should You Pay Off Debt Or Save?

Career

A question I get often is “Should I focus on saving or paying off my debts?” Well, in short, both!


The unfortunate fact about debt is the longer you put it off, the more it costs you. So, while saving is absolutely important, you’ll never “finish” saving. Saving is a lifelong commitment (though your savings goals and contributions will vary over time), so waiting for a time where you’ve “saved enough” to start paying debt will never really happen and you’ll only find yourself with more debt to pay than you initially had. So where does that leave you?

When it comes to saving, it can often feel like it’s never enough.

I generally recommend focusing on paying high interest debts first, although some people prefer starting off paying some smaller debts in full to wipe them off the table and give them the mental confidence they need to tackle the rest of their debt.

When making a debt repayment plan, gather together all documents relating to your various debts and take into consideration the amounts owed, the interest rates, and any other important factors to consider, such as whether your student loans are eligible for loan forgiveness. As mentioned, it is generally a good idea to focus on paying down high interest debt first, as this will save you money in the long run. Assess your monthly budget and look for areas where you can cut back so you can reallocate this money towards paying more than the minimum on the debt you are focused on. Paying off debt can be a long, slow process, so patience is key. Just stay focused on the fact that paying more than the minimum will help to get it off your plate sooner and save you money in accrued interest.

When it comes to saving, it can often feel like it’s never enough. After all, most of us are saving for many different things: retirement, an emergency fund, a down payment on a house. And if you have many forms of debt (as many people do), such as student loans, a financed car, and credit card debt, there’s a good chance these payments eat up a large chunk of your budget, leaving little left to save. The important thing to remember is saving just a little bit is still better than nothing, especially if put into a high-interest savings account. So start small if you have to and as you eliminate certain debts, you can continuously up your savings contributions. Treat your savings as a mandatory expense, not an optional one, by including a predetermined amount in your budget and transferring the money at the beginning of the month, before you have a chance to miss it or be tempted to spend elsewhere. Waiting until the end of the month to “see what’s leftover” will more often than not leave you with next to nothing to put away.

Another important thing to consider when making a plan to tackle debt and save is to make use of cash windfalls such as your tax refund or a gift. Rather than treating this money as extra spending money, put it towards debt or savings instead – this will be a bigger gift to yourself than a vacation or new wardrobe.

Saving and debt will always be a part of life and it will feel like both are screaming for more attention from you.

By factoring in savings and a plan to tackle your debt into your budget, you can ensure you stay focused on your goals and be able to watch your debts dwindle and your savings grow.

7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

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.