How I Ensured My Financial Health Single-handedly, And How You Can Too!

Even if traditionally women do not do it alone, managing money and ensuring financial health is not such a difficult thing, as this writer found out. 

Even if traditionally women do not do it alone, managing money and ensuring financial health is not such a difficult thing, as this writer found out. 

It was about a decade ago at the age of 32 when I was working with ICICI Bank in Mumbai that I decided that I am most probably going to stay single. But I realized that if I have to stay single and grow old alone, I have to ensure 2 things:

  • I should not be sick. Who will take care of me if I am sick & alone?
  • I should be a rich old lady because if I have money, someone will eventually look after me just for the sake of my money.

Sounds funny, but that set me out on 2 of the biggest journeys of my life:

  • I weighed 130 kgs & I finally decided to do something about it. I decided to undergo surgery to get rid of my extra fat. I still am on the heavier side of built but I am healthier – I eat very cautiously, go for regular walks, am pretty active & have been able to handle health issues.
  • My gross salary was barely great at that time & I had no home of my own. I realized that in this salary, I will never be able to buy a house for myself. The urge to make money made me take the plunge to join the IT industry & travel the world.

Though I have worked in the US off & on and earned a salary in dollars that hasn’t meant that I am filthy rich. But yes, I did buy a house and hopefully will repay my home loan by this year.

But the way I look at it now, both the goals were interrelated. They were both about my health – physical & financial.

As a single woman, the biggest satisfaction I feel is about being in control of my life & it comes because of financial independence. Financial independence does not come merely by making your livelihood but also by being able to manage your money without help from anyone or if you need help, you know where to go and what to believe.

I had been wanting to write my first article for Women’s Web for a long time but could not figure out what to start with. Then one day one of my female friends asked me if I could help her manage her finances by advising on how to invest.

It was then that I decided, let me start with something relating to managing your Finances. But then, I wondered, all newspapers & TV channels like CNBC are full of articles on financial management. How was I going to be any different?

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I don’t know – but maybe because I am not trying to sell anything to anyone, belong to the great middle class which always has big dreams & small means, and also because I am a woman who has done this for herself, I want to tell others of my ilk that they can do it too.

So, ultimately I am writing this – not to be different but to share how I manage my money as a woman and to emphasize the fact that you don’t need to be an expert to manage your finances.

But a few points before we jump to the basics of financial management:

We women often tend to think that we are not good with numbers

And therefore, not good with managing money leaving financial management to male members in family. But this is not true. Most of the CEOs of banks in India from Arundhati Bhattacharya, heading SBI to Chanda Kochar or Shikha Verma & Naina Lal Kidwai are women. So, we are really good at it.

In a relationship the control is often with the person who controls the finances

But at the same time, it can also be a contentious issue, therefore good financial management can also mean better relationship.

What is it that makes women better at financial management then men

Men tend to take more risk, maybe the macho spirit in them makes them rash. But what I have learned over time in managing my money is this – While it is important to earn money & maximize returns, it is equally or perhaps more important not to lose money you have already made. Women being a little cautious & risk averse are able to follow this tenant. I credit the relative stability of our banking system during the recession triggered by sub-prime lending in US to Indian banking being controlled by women..

Women are often accused by men of being shopaholics

I will not deny this. I definitely feel women do tend to go overboard with shopping. Financial management is not just about investing, it is also about saving & more importantly meeting you financial obligations.

When you get into a habit of managing your finances & at the end of your month, your balance sheet seems to be going in negative – you do become more cautious about how you spend. I often advise my shopaholic friends to buy a Home & take a Home Loan – when there will be an EMI going every month, you will start seeing part payment of your Home Loan in every shopping spree of yours.

But even before we start talking of how to invest money, we have to understand how to force ourselves to save money – because we middle class people have often less means but big dreams. Therefore, it is a good idea to either start a recurring deposit or have a separate account where you transfer money at the beginning of month. When we have less money in account, we will start spending less too.

Financial Management requires a strategy

but it is nothing to be afraid of – all it means is the following:

Know your reality – your limitations, capacity & earning years

Know your obligations & Liabilities. This can range from

  • your own marriage expense,
  • funding your higher education,
  • buying a house for yourself or parents,
  • saving money for your parents’ sickness.
  • If you are married, then your children’s education, marriage & of course your old age – money for sickness & retirement for we no longer live in era of government jobs & pensions, buying a house.
  • You may even have to take care of your siblings & their family.

Know your basic needs – the bare minimum without which you cannot manage. If you are a single person without a job, supported by your parents, perhaps 10 to 20k may seem like an amount with which you can eke out a living. But if you are single, have no family support and no home – you may need to provision for more. If you are married, have kids, parents to support, no house of your own – you may be in a bigger mess if you don’t manage your finances well.

Know your wants and bucket them into Must have, Good to have, can wait. You want to have a huge mansion, but your need is for only 2 BHK apartment and your reality a 1 BHK apartment, you should know where to bucket your want.

Know your risk appetite – However, remember that your risk appetite has to match the goals for which you are saving. Your needs and obligations you will not take any risk with. Your want is where you may have to get a bit more courageous.

Basic principles of financial management you should know

In this article I will touch upon a few basic principles of Financial Management rather than list out all possible financial instruments for which we can get information from multiple sources. These principles are:

  1. Start Small: There is no need for a big bang strategy with money. It is a good idea to start investing in any new instrument in a small measure. This has many benefits – you learn about the product and how to invest in it while limiting your loss.
  2. Diversify: It is very important to diversify your investment portfolio so that you minimize your risk and ensure you gain from all instruments. There is very less likelihood of all asset classes going in loss at same time. We have often seen Gold & stock markets have an inverse relation, so while one goes down you may reap benefit from the other. Diversification is important not just between various asset classes like real estate, gold, insurance, PPF, equity but also within a particular asset class. So don’t have all insurance policy or Mutual Funds from one Asset Management company or insurance company & diversify your equity portfolio.
  3. Have a strategy: Most people approach investments in a tips driven environment. That’s not a good approach to money. You must have a strategy based on your circumstances and keep on revisiting it from time to time. For example, since I cannot monitor Stock markets on a day to day basis, I always go by investing for the long term, which means 2 things –i) I invest based on fundamentals of a scrip & ii) I try to buy near bottoms & sell at highs.
  4. Avoid greed & mob mentality: One thing which I have noted as a behavior towards money is that people get lured by high returns – like people who invested in plantation companies which vanished over night or mid segment stocks. But what is important is to remember that keeping your principal intact is even more important than earning returns on your money. It is important to invest in high quality & secure financial instruments. Therefore go for blue chips, invest upto the permissible limit in government instruments, prefer to buy an apartment which you can see will be delivered in a year rather than where Bhumi pujan has still to be done.
  5. Do your research & home work: We will not be able to learn about all financial instruments but try to learn & research enough about the asset class you are investing in – the pros & cons, risks & benefits. A lot of information is available on public forums. You may want to invest in Equity, read about basic principles of investing, the scrip you are planning to pick or if investing in Mutual Funds – which Mutual Fund to pick, what type of investment strategy that fund has. If you want to pick insurance look at all players & what type of insurance meets your need. Some people follow advice of their Investment advisors or Wealth Managers. Nothing wrong in it except that does not take away the point that the money at risk is yours & not their’s, so do your due diligence.
  6. Keep it simple: This is one principle which works well in all situations – life, work, communication & money. There are lot of derivatives & complex sounding instruments in the market today but I would advise us the common people to stay away from those. Invest in only what you can understand clearly.
  7. Discipline: Have a discipline of putting away a portion of your salary every month for savings. Have a discipline of sticking to your strategy & goals and principles of investing, and not give in to greed or panic.
  8. Invest in quality rather than quantity: It is better to invest in 100 stocks of a good company rather than 1000 of a bad one. It is better to invest in AAA rated corporate FD for lower interest rate than high returns of an unregulated organization.

I would have loved to cover more on financial instruments, however, I would restrict myself to just starting the journey to financial empowerment in this article. But I am pretty sure once you start on the journey to managing your financial health remembering the principles listed above, you will find your way.

Image source: shutterstock



About the Author

Prerna Nanda

My career in IT gave me the perk of travelling the world and opening my mind to endless perspectives, giving me an opportunity to grow as a human being. I like sharing those experiences with read more...

12 Posts | 45,957 Views

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