Let’s face it, of all the things that women talk about amongst themselves, money and money management is not one of them. Somehow, it is always considered unseemly. Perhaps that’s the way we’ve been brought up, most of us. Don’t talk about money, don’t discuss money, don’t bother yourself about money, leave that to the men to deal with. Money management somehow gets put on the back burner with all the things that women grapple with on a daily basis. We might just discuss our sex lives, our periods, our shopping bargains, toxic bosses, nannies from hell, and more, but when it comes to money, we maintain a discrete silence. We’re all too happy to leave the money decisions to the men in our lives, like it would somehow sully us as mercenary if we did in fact confront investing and saving decisions head-on and speak about them with our closest friends and confidantes.
What this does is not surprising, it just disempowers us from getting the information we need to take charge of our money. My cook, a sprightly 34-year-old who works in multiple homes, is perhaps more money savvy than I am. She has fixed deposits and insurance and knows just how much of what she earns every month she will squirrel away into savings. She has absolutely no qualms discussing with me what she will put into the bank, what into what she calls BC, which is an informal savings group which contributes a certain amount every month, and pays out a lump sum to each member anytime during the year and has already bought a ‘kholi’ (a one room kitchen tenement) for herself in distant Naigaon. I realise there is a lot I can learn from her, beginning with the way she has completely taken charge of her own money as well as the way she is comfortable about discussing her investment decisions and her income. Her confidence allows her to take charge of her money and her investment decisions in a way that most of us can only aspire to.
We’re all too happy to leave the money decisions to the men in our lives, like it would somehow sully us as mercenary if we did in fact confront investing and saving decisions head-on and speak about them with our closest friends and confidantes.
This reluctance to talk money is something I grapple with and recognise for the space it sets me in. And I know I am not alone. A cursory conversation amongst friends reveal that while we may discuss everything under the sun, strangely enough, money, income, investment are often the most glaring topics left out. Why should we talk money? As women we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t talk money. Talking about money can help demystify money and how we can handle it. We can get information about how our friends handle their money and investments which often can be an eye opener for us. Strangely enough, we shy away from discussing how much money we make. But being upfront about our salary or income is a great thing because it helps us learn what we should be making and if we are getting paid commensurate with what we bring to the table. If we don’t know what others are making in similar profiles, we will never know how much to ask for.
Discussing money and investments with friends can also help you get pointers into how you can manage your own manage and what investments you can do or what can be tax write-offs. Sharing information is often empowering to other women who might get their financial information off the internet or from their CA. Women tend to be the savers in the family more often than not, but very often women don’t really know how to make their money work for them. Chatting with friends and family about money helps women build good money habits, and recognise the bad ones to hopefully discard them. While financial investment terms and jargon might be daunting initially chatting about it with friends makes it easier to question and ask clarifications for what you don’t understand rather than a financial advisor. Sharing financial highs and lows is a reality check, that these phases happen to everyone is a great equaliser. Sharing finance decisions also helps women plan long term.
Talking about money can help demystify money and how we can handle it. We can get information about how our friends handle their money and investments which often can be an eye opener for us.
Becoming smart about money isn’t a great daunting task as it seems, all it needs is the openness to discuss money, to ask for advice and help, to know that if they can handle the household budget and day to day financial planning, they can very well do the long term financial planning. Very often couples don’t talk about money at all, with the scary result that when death or divorce happens, a widow or a woman who is divorced often finds herself in substantially reduced circumstances. Very often a woman’s swiftest descent into poverty is upon the demise of her spouse or when she is divorced. All the years put into childcare and homemaking don’t translate into savings enough to maintain a lifestyle that they had become accustomed to. Women who have quit the workforce or taken a break for childcare often have reduced earnings and savings, and feel reluctant to discuss their own individual money and prefer to look at it as a couple's saving. But every woman needs to plan and save for a nest egg all their own, the presence of this nest egg is empowering and allows a woman the freedom to decide to walk out of a bad relationship, an abusive marriage or to just live on her own terms without being dictated to.
I know I have a lot of blocks in my own head when it comes to discussing money. A lot of it from childhood conditioning when discussing money and income and savings was considered impolite and not something women do. I need to get over this. I’m glad that Citibank is promoting and supporting these conversations that women should have, across age groups, across income criteria, across professions, across the country. These are conversations that we need to start making mandatory in our homes, amongst ourselves, friends and family because only talking realistically and honestly about money and savings will help us empower ourselves financially.
Image Credit : Hindustan Times
Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author's own.