Ashu Suyash has been a part of the financial world since 1988, when she joined Citibank as an assistant manager. Today, as the country head of Fidelity Investments India Ltd, she oversees the management of assets worth more than Rs7,500 crore across 12 funds. But this does not stop her from getting into the driver’s seat to steer her family’s investments in the right direction. Her keen interest ensures that everything is fine on the home front as well.
Saving and investing came naturally to her since she entered her 20s. “I am a chartered accountant by qualification,” she says. “It was probably the constant contact with money, numbers and taxes that made me savvy about managing my money.” We spoke to her and a few other financial professionals like her to find out why as a woman you should take a keen interest in your money instead of saying: “I don’t understand anything about money.”
Uncertainty: The kind of uncertainties one faced a few generations ago and today are very different. Says Dipika Kalra, associate planner, International Money Matters Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based financial planning firm, “Today be it jobs, relationships, or even how long you will live, everything is a lot more unpredictable and volatile, so it is important to cushion yourself and make yourself as secure as you can where ever you can especially financially.”
Divorce rates are higher. Besides, given that most of us today live in nuclear families, in case of an emergency, or an untimely death of your spouse, you don’t have the support that a joint family offered. So you will most probably have to deal with it on your own. Adds Archana Bringarde, a Mumbai-based financial planner, “In such a situation, you are already going to be emotionally low and stressed. If you are clueless about where to get the money from and how to go about it, it will only add to your trouble. So it helps if you are already aware.”
Confidence: As a woman, if you manage your own money it gives you tremendous confidence. Says Suyash, “Being able to save, spend, invest and feel in control of everything is a really good feeling and more than anything else it gives you a place of pride in your own mind.” So, if ever you have to go through a crisis and deal with relations who come out of nowhere demanding their share of assets, you will be able to face them a lot more assertively, if you know what your husband had in mind. Besides, the fact that you have an active say in what your family finances are will also give a big boost to your self-esteem and make you feel more worthy.
Benefits to the family: The good news is that if you are a woman, you are most likely better at budgeting and money managing. Says Kalra, “While interacting with clients, we have noticed that the women are often more realistic and reasonable when it comes to setting goals and budgeting. Often, we have had the wife step in and disqualify something the husband says even before we can intervene.”
According to MasterCard Worldwide’s Inaugural Index of Financial Literacy released last week, women across Asia-Pacific are financially savvy to some extent, especially those who are over 30 years of age, married and belong to the working group. “Saving for a rainy day comes naturally to them,” says Suyash. “Where they probably lack is the knowledge about the avenues available for them to invest and the fact that they are overcautious. Not every day is a rainy day. You have to also focus on creating wealth.”
If you are a housewife, then you probably have more time to study the subject than your spouse. Bringarde adds, “I had a client whose wife was very savvy about investing. She used to watch business news channels and read whatever she could lay her hands on and her investments were really neatly done. So while the husband concentrated on earning, she took care of the rest.” This could work wonders for you as a team.
Avail benefits for women: There are several benefits available to women in the financial markets. Instead of letting your spouse avail them on your name, get involved and make the best of them. For instance, tax exemption limit for women is slightly higher. Similarly, there are some concessions in registration and stamp duty too.
So on this International Women’s Day, let taking charge of your financial life be high on your agenda, if it already isn’t.