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Financial independence isn't just about being able to earn money; it's also about your ability to save and invest wisely, says the Great Gruhini.
Financial independence isn’t just about being able to earn money; it’s also about your ability to save and invest wisely, says the Great Gruhini.
With a broad smile and a mission to give my techie gruhinis a talk on income and savings, I marched into a large IT company’s conference room. Of the 70 participants, only 20 turned out to be women. What an easy task it would be to tell the breadwinners and sole financial decision makers about how to save and invest their money, I thought to myself.
I asked my audience to suggest saving options for one Ms Sandy (a fictional character) who needs to buy a house and save for retirement. I hoped that the real life Sandys in the room would be the first ones to suggest funds, stocks or bonds for my fictional character. Unfortunately not, the answers came from those in big number.
To get my minority audience to interact, I made my session more interactive. Before talking about the importance of insurance, I asked “What do you think an insurance policy is meant to do?” Some gruhinis gave me a vague smile, and some had no clue to my questions. In the end, when I asked everyone to take a self-introspecting quiz, I saw a few curious faces again.
This being my first such interaction, as it got over – I wanted to pat my back, like my 5-year-old does after having colored within the black lines. But it was too early to bask in the glory of self praise. As my audience started dispersing from the room, those curious faces waited for an empty conference room. Then, each one of them secretly asked me questions like:
“Where should I park my savings if I want to plan for my son’s school admission, after 3 years?”
“What is the difference between equity and a debt fund?”
“Can I claim income tax deduction for my daughter’s school fees?”
“Is my husband’s decision to take a personal loan to repay a housing loan, a good decision?”
As I returned home, I wondered why these educated and independent women never asked questions in front of a full audience when their colleagues were bombarding me with similar questions. May be they found it too personal a thing to talk in front of their colleagues.
But, I believe there is a second, and a more deep-rooted reason that comes from how we are brought up.
We always saw our fathers and grand fathers earn and manage money. Our grandmothers and moms managed the house and spent budget. Having grown up in this environment, it gets ingrained in our minds that men are always better at managing finances, so even when we start earning on our own, we tend to automatically rely on our fathers or brothers. And when we get married, it’s the spouse who takes charge.
This trend may be changing as a lot more women, especially in metro cities, are becoming more aware and truly independent in terms of money. They invest regularly, are well insured and don’t usually fall prey to financial products that don’t suit them. But they are far and few in number.
So, once we step out into the real world, we take it for granted that we aren’t ever going to be as good as them. From this low self confidence, comes the fear of being snubbed at or laughed at in a public forum, or especially among our peers in our society or in office. So, we don’t ask questions, and we don’t end up knowing about the best ways to manage savings or income. As a result we continue to depend on men in our life for our financial decisions.
But for how long can we afford to be like this?
Now, you have a Great Gruhini who believes ‘you can’ overcome this low self confidence about money; so, go out and ask questions that you think are stupid, but they aren’t. Because a STUPID question is a question about your:
S for Savings: How much should I save from my monthly income?
T for Taxes: What are the tax deductions I can avail?
mUtual Funds: I am afraid that I may lose my savings if I invest in funds.
Property: Do I get a deduction in income tax if I spend on renovating my house?
Investment: Which is the best investment product if I want to grow my savings?
Debt (loans): Can I take a personal loan to fund my start-up enterprise?
Got any other stupid question on your mind? Feel free to give me a shout at [email protected].
Image of a word cloud via Shutterstock
Rachna Monga Koppikar aka The Great Gruhini is a finance writer who’s worked with India’s leading publications for well over a decade. Having swam and mastered the treacherous waters of corporate and personal read more...
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