Seven years of studying money – a B.Com. and then an MBA – did not teach me what I learnt in my first year as a mother. I was on a sabbatical from work to take care of myself and my daughter and those first few months taught me a few life lessons. As children growing up in middle-class Delhi, we kept hearing about how our parents would go to the Okhla market every Sunday to buy groceries, fruits and vegetables. I grew up thinking that we must be particularly hard up with money that we are always looking for discounts, end-season sales and wholesale shops. Little did I realise that these were early lessons in money management. Financial Management is, at best, a way of life:

Money makes my Ego

I realised that while I thoroughly loved my work as a teacher, a large chunk of what I loved about my job was the financial freedom that it gave me – earning my own money was important to my ego.

Unnoticed Outflows

I realised that money simply flows out from your pocket without your noticing, once you have a child, especially – and so watching expenses with a hawk’s eye and having a piggy bank are crucial.

Taking the reins

It was unfair to wonder aloud whether fixed deposits were the best decision for our family when my cousin was swearing about mutual funds that he had invested in. Part of being an adult is being financially responsible – and this meant doing my homework and understanding why we invested our money where and how we did. I can’t question what I don’t build, after all!

Part of being an adult is being financially responsible – and this meant doing my homework and understanding why we invested our money where and how we did.

A Family Value

While we all want our children to value money, there’s no better bet than walking the talk. Value-for-money is a way of life and not a façade for penny-pinching. My eight-year old learns early about financial choices that we make as a family in the supermarket. She absorbs value for money as something to be proud of, especially as she grows amid a mounting peer culture of thriftlessness. I owe it to her to make thrift seem cooler than being a partying, hedonistic squanderer.

Value-for-money is a way of life and not a façade for penny-pinching.

Shattering stereotypes

Every woman today owes it to their onlooker children – sons or daughters – to build a home where stereotypes are vehemently challenged. The financial freedom and control that I share with my partner (oxymoronic that may sound!), is the foundation that we lay for our daughter to see money as something that both her parents bring in, talk about and manage.

Good money, Good marriage

The icing on the cake is that it does wonders to the equation between the adults as well! As adults who grew up in the 90s, we all saw our parents wanting us all to be vehemently independent and demanding ‘Partnership’ in our marriages. Little did we realise how significant financial freedom plays a role in that beam balance. I would rather brainstorm over my investments with my spouse than have to do it all alone or with inputs gathered from here and there.

I would rather brainstorm over my investments with my spouse than have to do it all alone or with inputs gathered from here and there.

Saving and Investing

While we all grew up learning to put the extra coins in the piggy-bank, little did we learn about what to do with the piggy bank once it fills up and needs to be broken. While spending wisely is step one and saving money is step two, investment decision-making is the most arduous of all – step three.

The Person You Are

The amount of time that I want to invest in learning about my options and the belief that there’s no perfect avenue for investments largely decides how I invest my money. I cannot see myself watching the stock market constantly, nor am I the kind who thinks over investments every month. I need to make peace with the decisions that I have made at every six-month mark, watch out for mistakes, course-correct and then keep my focus on other things that I want to contribute more of my mental bandwidth and energy to. That is who I am and that therefore decides the kind of investor I am.

Financial management can be daunting, to begin with. It is for everyone – always – and that’s important to know in a world that’s constantly advertising newer avenues to suck your money in. It can be stressful to have to keep a watch on how your money is growing. However, it has always been rewarding for me to start small to gain more confidence in my financial decisions. Every so many months, therefore, a larger chunk of my savings are invested in avenues that give me more freedom and faith in becoming and staying as my own ideal of ‘The Independent Woman’ that we all grew up looking up to, didn’t we?

Roopika Sood is the founder of Hands on Paper in Chennai. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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