The first step would be to educate yourself about the different financial instruments
Lately, I find people taking to social media not only to air their views and update the world on what they are up to, but also to vent out their life’s frustrations. Though often in appropriate groups, but mostly with members not known to them. One such group is that of mothers, amongst which are many stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs).
In this group there are many women who quit their jobs to raise children and there are also those who are traditional homemakers. Going deeper into their issues, a large extent of the familial issues are basically money related.
One such post was from a 32-year-old lady Meera, who had quit her job a couple of years ago to raise her child. Meera was a single child of rich parents and was used to all the luxuries that life could offer, and would spend all her salary on buying clothes and partying. This changed drastically when she became an SAHM. She had negligible savings and had to ask money for every small need from her husband (who obliged) but her self-esteem took a hit.
This is very common among SAHMs. They do not have equal access to money and feel upset with the fact that they are financially dependent on someone and have to ask them for money to be spent on the smallest needs.
This is felt more by women who have given up jobs to take care of their families. Many feel that the work that they do—like taking care of the house, managing kids, taking them for classes—is not looked upon as work by their spouses. So how do SAHMs work towards having financial dignity?
Get involved: With all the multi-tasking women need to do, there is very little time left to think about managing savings. Sometimes women take the easy path of leaving this job to their husbands. But what would they do if something were to happen to the husband? Even if the husbands do not think that their wives are capable of the managing money, SAHMs should believe in themselves as most women do manage the monthly household budgets. They now need to get involved in long-term financial planning too.
The first step would be to educate yourself about the different financial instruments. Many newspapers and magazines have articles on various aspects of personal finance, which are simple and easy to understand. There are various websites which provide information as well. There are also courses on money management. Of course, it is going to be a bit confusing at first, but reading up regularly will help. As they say, it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Once you have some knowledge, have a discussion with your husband about family’s finances. Many a times, financial decisions are taken in a hurry and without adequate research. Most people also follow the herd mentality and go in for flavour of the season kind of investments or take advise from friends.
Tell your spouse that you will do the research on the financial products that you may be considering and both partners can have a discussion before taking the investment decision.
Make plans: First of all, do an expense check. What are your essential and non-essential expenses? With online shopping, are we buying more clothes, toys or accessories than what we need? Decide a limit for the monthly amount you will spend for each category like clothes, shopping and eating out. Many expense planners and checklists are available online and can be found after doing a simple Web search.
Plan for contingencies by keeping 6 months of expenses as emergency fund. This gives you peace of mind to tackle the contingencies. SAHMs should have life and health covers too. Have all financial instruments in joint names for easier operation.
Equal access to money and ‘me’ fund: Each partner must have equal access to money. All of us have personal needs, on which we cannot compromise.
Make an estimate of the monthly expenses that you need to spend on yourself, such as visiting a salon or shopping. Discuss and decide among yourselves the amount each of you needs for discretionary expenses; for which you would not like any questions to be asked on how it was spent.
SAHMs face a vacuum when children leave for higher studies. It will be helpful to create a ‘me’ fund from the discretionary expenditure pool, or from your earnings, which can be used to do something new—such travel or social work—anything that you want to do after the kids grow up.
Follow your passion: Look for part-time opportunities, which allow you to follow your passions because it’s good for your mental and financial health. Today there are more avenues to explore than ever. It is never too early, or late, to start ideating and working towards realising your passion.
Finally SAHMs are the best role models for their children and being financially independent will help them not only in being cool moms but give them time to pursue their aspirations.
Mrin Agarwal, financial educator; founder director, Finsafe India Pvt. Ltd; and co-founder, Womantra
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