Data shows that most women outlive their husbands, which means that they are often left behind alone to fend for themselves in their old age. However, India still largely remains a society where money matters in every household remain a male domain. Women finance India isn’t a conversation. It is men who are primary earners, it is men who are responsible for saving money and for investing it properly as well. We just assume that men ensure a secure future for their wives, so that they are well of financially, even when they are not by their sides.
The reason behind this mindset is the perception that girls are generally weaker in maths than men?
Author Madhuri Banerjee pins this lack of care for finances among many women on conditioning. She says, “I truly think that it is a social problem because we bring up our girls to think that once you get married leave everything to your husband. So I know a lot of educated and intelligent women who don’t know anything about their bank accounts, savings or investments, and they are not even bothered to know about it. Even when their husbands want to sit them down and explain all these things, they don’t want to, saying that since they don’t understand anything, why even bother to know anything about it. The reason behind this mindset is the perception that girls are generally weaker in maths than men.”
Untimely demise or separation from a partner, can push women into the deep end of financial struggles, unprepared. We do not take a dysfunctional marriage or a sudden death into account, when we leave money matters in men’s hands. And this puts many women in a very difficult position.
We just assume that men ensure a secure future for their wives, so that they are well of financially, even when they are not by their sides.
Shama Sheikh, now 80, lost her husband prematurely, and was left struggling to care for her then nine-year-old daughter all on her own. She shared how difficult it was to get back on her feet, “I never handled any finances when my husband was around. He managed everything from paying all the bills, shopping etc. I was a housewife doing household work, when he suddenly passed away. It was a shock…what to handle and how to handle. At that time, I didn’t have a job and it was a very difficult time for us. But even when I got the job it was very difficult to manage my earnings. There were times when there was little or no money at all. We couldn’t afford any luxury; no holidays, no parties, we were completely home bound. But I gradually learned how to spend the money properly and where.”
Author Madhuri Banerjee on the other hand ensured that she was always in charge of her own money, despite being married. This came in handy when things didn’t work out with her partner and they went their separate ways. She says, “When I got married I made sure that I kept my locker, savings and salary accounts completely separate, so that I could save for what I needed to for my future. It wasn’t because I was ever planning to get divorced, nobody plans for that when you get married, because when it comes to marriage and finances, the common concept among people is that everything is “ours”.
Such circumstances can often leave women struggling to manage their finances, at young or old age, because they may simply have no idea about how to manage their money, or they have no clue what and how their partners have invested in their name. This is one of the many reasons why women must learn to manage their own money, no matter how intimidating it may sound. It is never too late to start, and it is never too difficult to learn the basics of money managing.
Circumstances can often leave women struggling to manage their finances, at young or old age, because they may simply have no idea about how to manage their money
Women need to understand that it is their future which is at stake. Fear of failure or losing money will come across as a valid reason to not do it, but it may come with a heavy cost. Life is unpredictable, but if you plan right you can overcome the setback of losing a partner. Banerjee says, “Understanding your finances should be treated as a life skill or knowledge by all women, like cooking or swimming. After my divorce, I took charge of everything on my own and it was absolutely liberating, as I was paying for stuff on my own. It gives me great satisfaction that I can pay for all my child’s needs and all this is possible today because I chose to be a financially independence and secure woman.”
Women Finance India: Fear of failure or losing money will come across as a valid reason to not do it, but it may come with a heavy cost. Life is unpredictable
Mrs Sheikh’s advice to women who feel afraid to even be in vicinity of the money is, “Take some financial burden on yourself, to start with. If he is the one bringing in the salary, then you must be the one who plans all the expenditures, savings etc.”