It is often quoted that children’s mind are like ‘wet cement’, whatever falls on them makes an impression. One such impression was made on me by my school teacher. One day in school, while our chemistry teacher was reprimanding for not studying well for a test, she told us about the importance of being an independent woman. She said to achieve this independence, we had to be sincere in academics. This is true especially for women who hail from humble backgrounds – a good education for most is one of the only ways of securing their idea of success. She pressed on the point that she drove her own car and no one could question her about the money she spent on fuel! She was financially independent and therefore free from the clutches of external accountability that comes with an “allowance”.
Over the years, the value of money has only increased. This is not to say that money is the only driving force, but it is definitely one of the most important weapons to secure freedom.
This week’s piece therefore is my take on the value of being financially independent. An economically sound women can lead a happy life when she can live on her own without the support of any external aids which are mainly friends and families. Independence can mean different things to different women, but the basic would mostly be the right to live life on their terms and conditions. Unfortunately, the comparative analysis of gender role distributions with respect to money have always been more in the favor of men.
Let us see how.
I will take care of the money, you don’t have to worry!
This is the most heard line by a 90’s kid where the parental duties were pre-defined. The father of the family was always (more often than not) the bread winner and his roles were directed towards ensuring financial security for his loved ones. The mother on the other hand acted as a balancing wheel of the vehicle and was in-charge of the household. This deep rooted perception prevented most housewives from contributing to the financial needs of the family. The lack of exposure in money matters led to women being more reliant on men for their money based needs. It also put men under the undue pressure of necessarily having to be the provider – irrespective of their choices or interest. But that is a discussion for another blog.
Back to women!
This brings me to the anecdote of an ex colleague, who I remember as a fiercely independent minded and inspiring woman. Her parents gave her the best education and after completing her professional education, she started working at an IT company and was doing well for herself. Some years later, she got married and because the husband had a transferable job, she decided to call it quits. Ten years in the marriage, when she had settled in her comfort zone with an earning husband and a doting five year old daughter, life had other plans. Her husband expired untimely and she was caught off-guard. I remember her telling me that even though her husband had planned well for the future and had all insurances in place, she had no clue how to avail them. It took her a while to gather herself and sail through some of the toughest years of her life. Eventually she got on her feet and today with her daughter who has completed her graduation, she is leading a good life. She also advised me how important it was to be financially informed.
It is unfortunate that women take the money seriously, only after they are confronted with tragedies!
Maybe this is how the world was twenty years back? Have things changed? A little maybe, but not much. Till date women, even the ones that are in jobs and taking home hefty packages are dependent on their husbands for financial planning.
The women who stand out as more financially independent are either the ones that were raised in business families (where they learnt the tricks of trade early on by being around their Dads), or my young unmarried friends who are leading self-sufficient lives without a care for the society that continues to deem them incomplete without marriage. Another set is that of single moms, who for the lack of any other option, have got their finances figured out perfectly to lead a normal life without a life partner by their side.
To those of us who do not fall in any of the above categories, there is a reason why we should pull our socks. It is the same reason that makes men who as young boys learn to drive through causal lessons from their friends and fathers. These men then take on the compulsive role of ferrying everyone around and are assumed more responsible. Too bad we don’t get any credits when we do the same with cooking. But I digress. The reason is that this “skill-set” is important and we do not have an option to not know this. Women also need to work with the same psychology. In liberal times like today’s women are in no way less than men, professionally and emotionally – perhaps more sound. It is therefore imperative for us to learn to make ourselves more active in finance management and move on from mere grocery shopping and monthly budget management.
To my fellow mommies who have happily embraced motherhood, it becomes even more important to plan our finances after the addition of a new member. Involve yourself with your partners to know where and how the cash flows. Learn how to invest your savings for your baby as well for healthcare. Leaving your kid(s) home for work might be a personal choice, but do not stop exploring ways to make money. Most mothers discover their entrepreneurial streak when they stay away from work for an unexpected period. Be daring and ambitious in your endeavors. Mothers who contribute to the family finances are seen as strong willed individuals by both the kids and the husband, as they work for improving the quality of life.
I zeroed down on some basics to begin with:
1. Make sure you have a say in the home budget. Beyond kitchen
2. Partake in family decisions about big purchases and loans
3. Plan your personal annual budget
4. Learn to file your own IT return
5. Insurance policies – Get all papers in one place. Know what you own.
6. Make financial goals.
All information on the above is just one click away- Google it! Don’t squirm. Just click.
The inspiration to earn can vary from one woman to another but one of the motivations is mostly – to be financially secure. This security becomes even better when it comes with the knowledge and ability to manage of your finances.