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Financial advice for migrant domestic workers: Make financial resolutions

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The new year is finally here and we could not be more thrilled! Let’s face it, 2020 was tough on us all. Many of you will have missed celebrating the holidays with loved ones at home. And you might have had more financial pressures – maybe you needed to take out a loan or maybe you had to start sending home a bigger remittance to support your family.

But the new year brings with it renewed hope for better times to come – it’s a good opportunity to tackle your finances with a clean slate. This month, we look at how to set up good financial intentions and habits for the year, so that you’re prepared to meet any challenges that come your way. Let’s dive in!

Make some financial resolutions
You want to start the year right and manage your finances better in 2021. How or where do you begin? It’s great that you want to improve your finances in 2021, and setting those intentions is exactly where to begin. Just as you set New Year’s resolutions, let’s think of some ‘financial resolutions’ that you can commit to. These don’t have to be very complicated – in fact if they’re too scary you might not want to achieve them! So set some resolutions which are simple, and some which are a little more ambitious; write them down and hang them somewhere you will see them daily. Financial resolutions will be different for each person, but here are some which we think are important. 

#1 “I will stop avoiding my finances.” Start off the new year by doing a ‘financial cleanse.’ Reflect back on what you did last year: What did you spend on? What did you overspend on? What did you need to borrow money for? How is your financial health at this very moment? Get a clear idea of your total savings, your investments and your debts too. If you’ve been avoiding thinking about your finances ask yourself: Is it harder to face my finances now, or to deal with them in the future when it could be too late? If you feel overwhelmed, consider investing your time in financial education so you can learn how to budget, allocate your money and save. It’s not difficult, and it will benefit you for years to come.

#2 “I will get out of debt this year.” Do you find yourself always in a cycle of debt? Well, it’s time to change that. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but with planning, focus and determination, you can make it happen! Prioritise your debts to see which need to be paid first: Which has the closest due date? Which has the highest interest rate? Plan in advance, so that you can reserve your loan payments from your monthly salary. Learn how to allocate your salary each month and plan your overall expenses, so that you’re not stuck always needing a loan.

#3 “I will say no when I need to.” Due to the pandemic, you might be sending home a higher remittance amount to your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree to all financial requests from them. Distinguish between their ‘needs’ (e.g. groceries, medical expenses and school fees) and ‘wants’ (e.g. new clothes, gadgets and homeware). Start to say a kind but firm ‘no’ to the ‘wants.’ And, if you’re already sending a higher remittance home, make sure you review it on a monthly or weekly basis and reduce it when your family is in a better position.

#4 “I will put my savings in ‘automatic mode.’” Figure out a fixed amount which you can set aside for your monthly savings. At the start of each month, allocate that money immediately. How nice would it be to know that every month, you will definitely save HK$1,000?

Plan for a rainy day
You had a lot of unexpected expenses in 2020, and you want to be more prepared for financial uncertainties in 2021, especially health-related expenses. What can you do?

If you’ve struggled in 2020, then 2021 is the year to focus on recovery and on building financial resilience. To start with, we cannot stress enough the importance of an emergency fund. Every month, set aside a fixed amount that you can use for a rainy day, and don’t tap into this fund unless you really, really need to (e.g. for a medical emergency).

Look into medical insurance for yourself and your family. Before agreeing to any insurance plan though, make sure you do your research. Shop around, and consider options provided by government bodies and private companies, based on your families’ needs and budget. Most importantly, do not sign anything you do not understand.

Lastly, remember to put your own mask on first, this year, by which we mean prioritise the needs of yourself and your immediate family before others. You might have to say ‘no’ to financial requests from extended family or friends. It sounds tough, but it’s a necessary step towards financial recovery.

From the Enrich team, we wish happiness, health and hope for you and your loved ones in 2021.

Enrich HK is an award-winning Hong Kong charity providing financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers. For a free, confidential one-to-one financial counselling session and to learn about the courses on offer, visit www.enrichhk.org. If you have a question you would like to have answered on this page, email [email protected].

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