If I were to suggest one skill essential for women to know so that they lead an empowered life, it would be financial planning.
Learning investment may prove to be much more useful to them than any other skill any day. While a successful married life depends on many factors, this skill will help them sail through the dark storms of life successfully with or without a spouse. This is not to undermine the importance of cooking and other life skills. They are equally important, if not more; but can be learnt when needed. A mistake in investment decision could have a major impact on life.
Budget queen to the breadwinner
The twenties decade saw a big change in the lifestyles of families and women in particular. As education and job opportunities increased, more woman pushed towards being income earners rather than just homemakers. More women joined the workforce and went on to hold prominent corporate positions. Others strived to be self-employed. In short, it has been an enterprising decade for Indian women. the lthoughlthough contribution to the GDP has increased quickly, big financial decisions at home are still made by men mostly. Women handle daily household budgeting effortlessly but when it comes to money management matters most women still depend on men. What stops them from getting more involved in the finances. It may be the mindset that women cook and men make money. Or maybe they are discouraged by others who wish to uphold the perceived gender hierarchy. Or a little of both.
The truth is that even though many studies (see next section) conclude that women make better investors it is not the norm for women to take financial decisions independently.
Recently, on Facebook, we discussed the reasons why some women continue to stay in abusive relationships. We agreed that although it is easier to make a fresh start if women are in a financially sound situation, being educated or earning is not enough to have the courage to walk out on an abusive partner.
Having an income is not enough if we don’t know how to use it to secure our future well.
Financial awareness of Indian women
Recently, an ETMoney study indicated women investors are more money savvy than their male counterparts. See link . Another study by ClearTaxStudy came to a similar conclusion. Click to read. Economictimes say women make better investors. Click here to read.
These reports are very inspiring. However, these reports take into account their subscriber base and don't represent the Indian population. According to the Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey 2015, 80% of Indian women are financially ignorant than 73% of Indian men. These figures are in line with the Indian education system which does not teach the Principles of Investment except for those who take up business accounting or Financial planning courses.
The opening up of financial markets on a global basis, especially through liberalization in many previously closed markets, has created numerous opportunities for investing money in stock markets within and outside India. Consequently, some Indian women moved into the investing sphere. But, more Indian women are not even familiar with the basic concepts of investing.
And this financial illiteracy blocks the way to their financial independence and consequently is an obstacle to social justice and gender parity.
Financial literacy empowers
The primary reason for women’s dependence on men - whether spouse, brother or son - is financial illiteracy or lack of awareness about financial products. For a woman to be self-dependent she must learn to make savvy investments herself.
While a successful married life depends on many factors, this skill serves to sail through the storms of life successfully. Even if a woman doesn’t have a regular income, with financial planning she can grow her savings manifold.
Ten ways in which women can use their financial literacy:
Make a living in the investment arena: Knowledge of financial products enables self-employment and work from home. She can become a consultant for financial products and earn a commission or can become a professional trader of financial markets, which is a lucrative business.
Planning family goals: Whether it is planning a world tour or sending your children abroad to study, every goal has to be reached with the power of investing and a lot of planning that goes into it.
When she outlives her spouse: Women often outlive their spouses. Even if she has retirement savings, she needs to make money-related decisions from time to time. Usually, in such cases, the children take over and we have seen that doesn’t end so well for the woman always.
World wide gender pay gap: The gender pay gap is very real. And that coupled with the fact that women often have a short work life as many give up the career to take care of the family, leaves the women with much fewer savings than men. By planning their finances right they can grow this amount significantly.
High divorce rates: More divorces are taking place than before, and there is a need for women, more than ever, to be financially independent.
Inculcate saving habits in children: Women are the primary teachers of their children. A knowledgeable mother raises financially aware kids. It is an important skill that is still missing from the school curriculum. Early learning enables them a strong financial foundation for life. Children having good money skills makes the right choices particularly when they travel to distant cities for study.
Help and support family finances: Financially savvy women who are not employed can help with financial planning by exploring good investment opportunities. So if her spouse is busy, good opportunities are not missed.
Contingency planning: Many times things don’t go as planned and unexpected situations block our happiness. Such emergencies can crop up anytime and if we have a contingency plan in place, we manage with less difficulty.
To help mothers, aunts and other elderly relatives: She can assist other elderly, relatives.
Good money habits: And good financial planning always pay well.
Women have mastered the art of household budgeting for ages. It's time to step beyond budgeting to seal the gender gap.
For change to happen we should talk about it first.