Women have a lot of financial lessons to offer. From withhold indulgence to budgeting regularly and prioritizing family needs above personal ones, they have done it all since their formative years. Our approach towards money and the monetary choices we make at different stages of our lives are primarily shaped by our childhood experiences.
This observation is, without a doubt, predictable. Monetary lessons, after all, are a part of the different influences which emerge within us as we go and grow through life. A significant part of my approach towards finance was shaped by how my family dealt with it as I grew up.
The twist, in my opinion, is that, although my family was somewhat orthodox, the women were still very active participants, and to a certain extent, rather dominating. In retrospect, I consider myself very fortunate to have had these influences and to have been able to learn from them. Two women in my life deserve special recognition for sharing their experiences and inspiring me.
Financially, planning ahead, starting early, and being prepared for emergencies:
I spent a considerable amount of time at my maternal grandmother’s house because, first, we lived in the same city, and second, my grandma was the best. I have two vivid recollections of hers, both of which seem to be pertinent even now.
One, after my grandfather passed away, she continued my grandfather’s tradition of investing in a local chit fund regularly. It piqued my interest, so when I started going to college, I set up my first savings account with a grand sum of Rs. 2000 by saving my pocket money. I also used to deposit 100 or 200 every month by saving the money I used to get for lunch. I had my own passbook, which I kept up to date. I may be romanticizing this a little bit more than usual, but I believe this is when my “a penny saved is a penny earned” behavior began.
The other memory I have of her is, she had this little trunk, which only she had the keys to, where she kept all the cash that she saved for emergencies. That fund used to be her go-to anytime someone in the family needed money. I remember her giving me money to get chocolates, but secretly. Probably one of the least obvious aspects of being “fiscally sustainable,” it turns out, is having enough liquidity when needed. Funny how they spoil us and teach us valuable lessons at the same time.
Stepping out of our comfort zone through delayed gratification:
We didn’t have the easiest of childhoods and growing up as the eldest kid got me a front-row seat to my mother’s struggle to make ends meet. Just like all mothers, she always figured out a way to meet our demands, no matter how insignificant they were (dining out once in a while, for example) while sacrificing some of her own. I’m not sure how she was able to put off her needs and desires so effortlessly. I suppose it was from watching her that I learned about delayed gratification.
Another thing that intrigued me was her decision to pursue a career in her 40s. Despite her education, she had never worked before. However, when my sister and I grew up, she decided not to waste her time at home anymore and realized that she would rather help support the family financially. She started working six days a week in a gas agency. She worked there for a long time before covid hit us. Despite the low pay, she certainly enjoyed this “second innings” of her life.
Her breakout towards financial independence didn’t end there. The moment she had to leave the job, her entrepreneurial journey started. Despite the many challenges associated, she always gets excited to learn new things and start from scratch. In fact, she told me that, not taking risks is, in some ways, the greatest risk.
Each of these events has shaped my approach towards finance, and they have pushed me to pursue a career and kick start my financial planning journey. It encouraged me to stay grounded and keep my stupid desires at bay.
We still witness several women who are not as active in family financial decisions, which leads me to conclude that I’ve been fortunate in this regard. When it comes to making any decisions at home, two heads are usually better than one!
Written by: Arpita Chatterjee
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