We've come a long way from the days of "how can a loving husband deprive his wife of a pressure cooker?" ads. Today, countless women have broken the glass ceiling to become effective nation-builders from being just efficient homemakers.
They've achieved professional success after breaking the shackles of gender disparity. But a woman's life continues to remain contradiction-ridden in a patriarchal society like ours. The anchoring pressures to get married and have kids continue to jeopardise their career prospects. Worse, their contributions to the family's financial wellbeing are still considered secondary to that of a man's.
Take these two data points, for example. One - the Moneymood 2019 findings revealed women are borrowing 20% bigger home loans than their male counterparts. Two - another recent survey of 4,500 respondents concluded only 59% women purchased life insurance policies compared to 68% men.
There's a major contradiction here. Women are no longer immune to the aspirational wave that defines our times and hence are taking the lead in investing for their family's welfare. At the same time, it seems they're not paying enough attention to secure their financial future. What can be the possible reasons behind this contradictory trend?
NON-WORKING WOMEN DON'T BUY LIFE INSURANCE
Term insurance coverage is linked to one's income. In the absence of a regular income, non-working women who don't have financial dependents are not inclined to purchase term insurance-or any kind of life insurance. However, working women can close this gap by ensuring their lives are adequately covered so that their families do not bear the brunt of the financial losses brought about by their early demise.
THEY'RE JUST TOO OVERWHELMED
Multitaskers extraordinaire, most women cannot afford to shun their family commitments while chasing their professional dreams like their male counterparts. But this constant struggle to juggle between a demanding home and a challenging workplace keeps her so occupied she really doesn't have the time, intent or energy to focus on insurance requirements. She feels it's enough if at least some of the fundamental boxes are ticked, like the misconception that her husband's or father's life insurance coverage will be sufficient to bail her out.
THEY'RE FOCUSSED ON INVESTING FOR FAMILY
Women are more likely to invest in property and saving for their children than buying insurance plans for themselves, in addition to taking a lead in building their family's emergency fund. The traditional mindset that ultimately the buck stops with them when it comes to taking responsibility for the household doesn't help either. Selflessness, at times, can be counter-productive too. A family's financial wellbeing will surely get hit if a major amount goes towards tackling a woman's health complication, especially when that could've been easily avoided if the woman had a health insurance plan with adequate coverage.
THEY'RE OVER-RELIANT ON WORK INSURANCE
Many working women do not see the pitfall of over-relying on an employer-provided medical insurance plan. What happens if the company policy has inadequate coverage? What happens when she loses her job? Or when her new employer refuses health insurance? Women must realise that their company-linked health insurance policy is unlikely to meet their medical requirements in full. The situation might be more complicated for non-working women as they depend entirely on the breadwinner's health insurance coverage. To bridge this gap, women must ensure they have personal health coverage procured through retail channels.
THEY FIND HEALTH INSURANCE EXPENSIVE
A 2018 survey conducted by a major job portal found that women in India earn 20% less than men. It's quite revealing if you pitch this trend against the rising cases of lifestyle-centric diseases in the country. So, it won't be wrong to say that many women might not find merit in paying for a health insurance plan (which may be an expensive affair depending on their age and health condition) especially when they feel they have other, pressing concerns like saving up for their family's daily expenses.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Women can buy individual health insurance plans with comprehensive cover (critical illness, accidental coverage). They should not don't depend on others to secure their financial future. Their financial future lies at the heart of their family's wellbeing. Financial literacy is low in the country, possibly lower for women. They must cover the information gap and make wiser financial decisions. Even if women are non-working, they must insist on being covered, especially when it comes to health insurance.