About a year ago, a client requested me to conduct a private, ‘educational’ session on the basics of finance for a group of women. I agreed, primarily because I didn’t have anything better to do.
The experience was one that would last a lifetime – as it turned out, I was addressing women whose names and signatures commanded conglomerates, and carried a great heft of money, power and influence. Some of their handbags were worth more than my annual income. But all of them, it seemed, shared a common phobia for numbers. Financial statements and all associated terminology overwhelmed them to the point of fear.
It didn’t help that whenever they sat in a business meeting or conference, they were often pushed over by the male members in the board room. Financial jargon was constantly in use during these meetings, making it harder for them to get a grip on what was happening.
As a Chartered Accountant, I had always taken my knowledge of finance and taxes for granted - after all, it was my job to know these things. But that afternoon made me realize two very important things. The first was how women are always left behind when it comes to matters of money.
While plenty of women do have and operate their own bank accounts, they are rarely included in conversations about financial planning. Most of us are relegated to managing only household and related expenses. Insurance, mutual funds, long-term savings aren’t discussions that we have. Additionally, a great percentage of women are reliant on their spouses or parents for money (it’s been established that India ranks very poorly in terms of women’s participation in the workforce). All of this snowballs into not only widespread financial illiteracy among women, but also ensures that it is difficult for women to become truly financially independent.
The second thing I realized was how empowering it was to know how money works, and how important it is for women to have that knowledge. We save differently, spend differently, and have different financial goals. Working women often go through breaks in their careers, and when they do, they find themselves running out of money a lot quicker than expected – all because they didn’t know how to plan their finances.
If women, even at seats of power and privilege, can find themselves intimidated by financial jargon, it becomes imperative that financial literacy is made as accessible as possible. I intend to use this space to speak about the basics of saving, spending, investing and taxes from a woman’s perspective, and hopefully in a tone that won’t make you switch to cat videos on YouTube.
I will also be taking questions from you regularly, and try to answer them through my weekly column.
I promise you’ll be surprised by how feminine finance really is.
Welcome to Rupee Rani, and here is my first column.