Over the last year, many of you may have learned anew thanks to the COVID-19 pandemicthe importance of keeping a regular check on your physical, physiological and mental health. Consulting a doctor regularly, taking preventive steps to avoid diseases, getting a diagnosis and treatment if symptoms of any disease do show up these are all crucial steps you must take to ensure you live a long and healthy life.But ask yourself this: When was the last time you assessed your financial health?Truth be told, keeping a close eye on your financial health is just as important (if not more, especially during a pandemic) as regularly assessing other aspects of your health. Our financial situation can make or break us, says Dipika Jaikishan, the co-founder and COO of an app that powers financial independence for women. So, having an awareness of where we stand financially is critical.Understanding financial healthAccording to a study titled Financial health as a measurable social determinant of health,published in the journal PLOS One in May 2020, financial health is understood as your ability to manage expenses, prepare for and recover from financial shocks, have minimal debt, and an ability to build wealth. Financial health underlies all facets of daily living, including securing food and paying for your housing.For the most part, being financially healthy is a journey, Jaikishan says, explaining that consistently managing your income, expenses, savings, investments, credit scores, and maintaining an emergency as well as a retirement fund are things you need to do to stay financially healthy throughout your life. Unfortunately, for some people, this journey of financial health begins in a crisis which suddenly jogs them into action. Such a crisis could arise due to bad health, contracting COVID-19 or other diseases, a separation, losing a job or livelihood, and even accidents. For others, this journey may begin with a new job, or the realisation that they need money to attain their financial and life goals.Whatever the reason behind starting off on this journey, you need to embark on it early if you are a woman. The reason? Research not only shows that there is a huge gender gap a gap which has increased in India, as per the recently published Global Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum between men and women, especially in terms of how much they earn, career breaks, and a higher life expectancy. Therefore, to be truly financially independent throughout their lives, women need to be financially literate and healthy. And this is the reason why evaluating your financial health regularly is even more crucial for women.Three categories of financial healthJaikishan explains that broadly speaking, we could fall under three categories of financial health:1. Financially at risk,2. Financially getting through, and3. Financially healthyLets understand what each of these categories entail, so that you can assess under which you currently fall.1. Financially at riskThe following are the key signs that you are financially at risk: You have a hard time keeping up with your bills, and a single surprise bill for a car repair or a medical emergency can spell disaster for you. You are unable to save for the future, have low credit scores, no access to any financial liquidity, and do not have a financial cushion or emergency fund to rely on. You dont have adequate health insurance or life insurance, which means a critical illness, sudden accident or hospitalisation can cause a financial jerk that leads to financial disaster. You have borrowed more than you can afford to. This could be through a credit card, personal loan or any other type of loan. Since this debt is likely to pile up, it may lead to a financial disaster if you have an emergency.2. Financially getting throughThe following are the signs that indicate that while you are financially getting through, you arent exactly at your healthiest: You may be thriving in certain areas when it comes to your money, but struggling with others. For example, you may be earning really well, but have piled up debt due to education loans, housing loans, or credit card bills. You havent charted your upcoming expenses with foresight or havent accounted for any large and unexpected expenses (meaning youre not saving up enough) that could financially destabilise you. If such an expense does come up, it could tip the scales and lead to financial ruin easily. Youre living hand to mouth, meaning that youre spending all that youre earning without being able to save or invest any money. You dont have adequate medical, life or other types of insurance. This suggests that if an emergency health situation were to arise, youd be in dire straits.3. Financially healthyIf you are indeed financially healthy, the following signs are part of your life: You have an excellent credit score. You have a handle of the amount of money borrowed and how to pay these loans on time. You have a good net worth and method of managing liabilities. Calculating your net worth means subtracting all your liabilities (loans, EMIs, etc.) from the value of your assets, and is a good method of keeping a track of your financial health. You have an adequate emergency fund and savings that not only provide you with peace of mind but also provide a cushion to fall back on. You have investments on track to help your money grow so that you have sufficient funds for your financial and life goals, including retirement.A matter of simple checks and balancesNow that you have evaluated your financial health, its time to get up to the task ahead: improvement. Having some simple checks and balances is a good way to keep financially health, Jaikishan reiterates. Its important to review your financial situation every six months, if not more often than that. Equally vital is the fact that your financial health is equal or more important than your physical health. After all, you will need to be financially healthy to be able to afford your medical bills and insurance.Jaikishan mentions the following simple steps you can take towards becoming financially healthy: Keep your borrowing limit (the amount of money you borrow via credit cards every month) fixed unless theres a crisis. The limit should be 40 per cent of your income. Use a budgeting tool or app that suits your personal needs, and those of your family too. Get adequate insurance coverage for all key areas. This includes your health, life, car/vehicle, and even your mobile phone or other electronic devices. Take some time out to set your financial goals, then take action towards them. Focus on balancing your savings and expenses. Use the cookie jar method (dividing your income into jars signifying essential expenses, savings, investments, retirement fund and even charity) to maintain your financial health.