How Not To Depend On Charity When You’re 80

Posted: October 7, 2014
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For women, ageing often goes hand in hand with financial dependence and vulnerability. Checking nomination on financial assets and understanding your insurance status should be every woman’s first step to financial security. 

Until I met some gruhinis for lunch, I believed that an educated woman would always fight for her rights. Post lunch, I sent that belief for a long walk.

When mommies catch up sans kids, nothing on earth, not even our Prime Minister’s speech at Madison Square Garden can distract them. A discussion about kids’ school routines and recipes eventually veered towards a discussion about homes and property, as we were meeting for a housewarming lunch.

So one mommy said to the host, “Preeti, you are lucky that your husband bought the house in your name.” The host had an elated smile on her face. The others were hiding mixed emotions behind an ear to ear smile.

The emotions came out through heavy words. “A few days ago, I got to know that there is an insurance policy in my eldest son’s name,” said one mommy. Another one said, “Forget the house. I can’t even think of asking my husband to change the nomination in the insurance policy and the bank accounts from his mom’s name to my name”.

“But how can you be so ignorant and careless?” was my prompt question to this group of well educated stay at home mommies.

“It’s not carelessness, it’s about maintaining peace at home, sweetheart,” she said. “I don’t want to rock a steady boat. If I talk about changing the nomination, they will feel bad and think that I don’t trust them,” she added. And there it went away, my belief about women and their financial rights.

Women may launch Mars missions or just raise healthy kids, but they still have to ask for a basic right such as protection in the husband’s financial assets.

To help them understand the need to be aware of family finances and how it works, I presented the real life worst case scenario of Tara Balgopal. In her hey days as a veteran classical dancer, she was friends with Indira Gandhi and wove charkha with the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Now in her eighties, she lives off charity in Delhi. That’s despite having Rs.2 crores of income arrears, jewellery in the bank locker, and an employee state insurance scheme. As this article points out, she never operated the bank account after her husband’s death, so it was inactive for a long time and her previous employer refuses to pay her income arrears.

The gruhinis had a word of sympathy for Tara Balgopal. I guess they also had the next home errand on their mind too. Before they could rush back home, I helped them remember five questions for the day they realize that they ought to be in charge of their family finances.

Five questions to ask yourself about your finances

  1. How much insurance (life insurance as well as health insurance) do we have as a family?

  2. How much home loan insurance do we have? Let’s say our outstanding home loan is Rs 50 lakh. Is this insurance amount sufficient to cover the home loan of Rs.50 lakh? (The total insurance cover should include all outstanding liabilities of your family)

  3. Who is the nominee in my and my (spouse’s) bank accounts, insurance policies, and investments such as fixed deposits, mutual funds, property, share trading accounts?

  4. Where are the original insurance contracts kept?

5.  Do we have a record of how much is invested where and how much do we owe to banks on account of loans?

Pic credit: keoni (Used under a CC license)

Rachna Monga Koppikar aka The Great Gruhini is a finance writer who’s worked with

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