By Anupama Bhargava, CFP
“There is no one who would guarantee you the security, financial Independence and the Lifestyle you want except yourself”…Haisah Aisya Joohary
As an Indian Army officer’s wife, I had unlimited access to rich experiences that shaped me into the woman that I am today. Though a small price to pay for the great life we had, I certainly had limited choices when it came to pursuing my career. My career aspiration began as a ‘Teacher’ that spanned a total of 15 years as we moved from one exotic place to another. These were also the most priceless years of my life spent bringing up my two boys. Life was good!
During these years, I came across many women especially from the armed forces who had little or practically no access to honest financial advice leaving them hardly any options to invest and grow their money. At best they would invest in the provident fund and at worst get straddled with investments that neither they understood nor were suitable to them. Constant transfers meant no stability and no stability meant no long-lasting access to good advice. Like the proverbial ‘tiger lurking in the shadows’, there was always the fear of losing your loved one in any of the many operations that were part and parcel of the ‘Defence life.’ I came across women who got widowed at a young age and were totally clueless about their finances, leaving themselves prey to unscrupulous advice on money management.
After more than two decades as an Army wife, I was strongly inclined to follow my passion. I decided to take the plunge when I took my MBA exams while my elder son appeared for his 12th. A CFP certification soon followed and now I was armed to live my dreams of making a difference to Defence Personnel and their families’ lives.
Women are traditionally better at money management as they take lower risks, have more patience, deliberate over the smallest purchases (we love to compare prices and pick the best bargains) and most importantly they are focused towards the family financial goals. The financial security of their children is an important target for most mothers. Yet only 1 out of every 8 women actually make financial decisions for themselves.
How many of us actually have conversations on investments over coffee? Are we part of WhatsApp groups that talk about the best stocks to buy? Have we ever sat down with our mother’s or daughters discussing the smartest investment options?
Well, if the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘NO’ and if you generally answer these questions with a standard reply that, “My husband, son or father take care of it”, then it’s time that we took up this challenge of educating ourselves on financial matters. Life doesn’t remain the same and the only thing constant is change. Any contingency like a separation, divorce or death can throw us off balance and put our carefully laid out life into a spin. Statistically women live longer than men which means that they need to take care of their retirement living and medical expenses for a much longer time.
Education brings awareness and awareness results in confidence and confidence gives courage to face the change!
An interesting story that is very close to my heart is of a young widow who had lost her husband to an air crash. She had one child who was still at school. She had led a sheltered life while her husband attended to all the family finances. Post his demise, all sorts of half baked advice flew from all quarters as she struggled to come to terms with her grief. A mutual friend introduced me to her. Fraught with grief and insecurity, she was worried about her and her son’s future but didn’t know what to do. We helped her locate her husband’s investments, some of which were without nominations. Luckily, she had got a substantial corpus as terminal benefits and was entitled to a family pension that could meet her immediate needs. The challenge was to ensure the safety of this capital to meet her and her child’s lifetime needs. The last 15 years have seen this young brave woman face many tribulations, but the silver lining is that today she is financially stable and her son is set to become an engineer. It gives me a lot of satisfaction that I could contribute in making her life financially secure.
Life throws many challenges and surprises. It is up to us how we manage and face them. I took a career change when most women think about retirement. The young widow felt that her life finished when she lost her husband but is today leading a dignified self-sustained life.
Each woman is special and needs to be celebrated!
Cheers to the ‘Empowered woman of today’
(The author is a Financial strategist and Money coach. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).