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Business News/ Money / Calculators/  Balancing the money equation

Balancing the money equation

Apart from taking a lead in financial affairs of the family, many women are also successful financial planners


The fall in equity markets globally—including in India—in 2008 had caused heartburns to millions of investors worldwide. Meanwhile, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services, a wealth management firm, had started to nudge its portfolio management services clients to start their financial plans to plan their future better—something that had got battered thanks to the market crash.

Sitting in a tiny first-floor office in Great Eastern Building on Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg near Regal Cinema in Mumbai, Kavitha Menon, a senior official at the firm back then, led the firm’s push towards financial planning. A couple, her clients, had a particularly large gap between their income and the financial goals they wanted to reach. Menon had suggested that either they tone down their goals down or the wife (who was a housewife then) start working. The couple didn’t want to compromise on their goals, so the wife decided to take up a job. “It takes a lot of guts to start a career if the woman has been a housewife all along," recollects Menon, who is now an independent financial adviser.

The myth that women and money don’t gel, still persists. But if you speak to women financial planners, they will say that the myth is diminishing as years pass by. However, let us look at the picture from a woman planner’s perspective. Is it getting better for them too?

For instance, how do these women financial planners make their clients take them seriously? At least initially. Apart from avoiding jargons and keeping the communication simple, Roopa Venkatakrishnan, a Mumbai-based mutual funds distributor, says that she makes it a point to understand what the investors need. “Suitability is important. There is no such thing as a good or bad mutual fund scheme, unless it’s a toxic structure itself," she says. Venkatakrishnan says she helps clients understand the difference between ‘making money’ and ‘wealth creation’.

Priya Sunder, director, PeakAlpha Investment Services Pvt. Ltd, a Bengaluru-based financial advisory that she and her husband Shyam started in 2005 after losing a chunk of their wealth because they were mis-sold toxic insurance products by their bank, says that she has come across only one incident where a gentleman client insisted on speaking to a male financial adviser at her firm. “But I never took offence as I find it much more that women insist on women financial planners," she says. Why? “For women, it’s not just a financial plan. We become their marriage counselors, someone who they can talk to about their daily lives. We become privy to so many parts of their lives," adds Sunder.

Having a professional face counts, says Khyati Mashru, founder and chief financial coach, Plantrich Consultancy LLP. When Mashru started in 2007, she was just 21. Apart from her apprehensions about how a planner her age would be perceived by clients, her family too was apprehensive. But Mashru dived in and started from a small desk in her uncle’s office. She started holding sessions on the importance of money management for women employees of various companies. Slowly, she said, even the men started listening to her. Today, Mashru proudly leads a team of 12 people, from her own office.

But sometimes, it pays to leave office and get into people’s homes. Venkatakrishnan—who works out of her car and is out the whole day—prefers to meet her clients in their homes, especially in their initial meetings. “That’s where the couples feel comfortable. The environment has to be right for them to open up. Why do you go to a temple when you can pray at home? Because a temple gives you that atmosphere, those vibes…" she says. Finance is nothing but understanding your investor, she adds. That’s her way to also bring the women investors out of their shells.

Mashru insists that both husband and wife get involved with financial planning. Easier said than done, sometimes. “Lot of businessmen resist involving their wives. They say ‘we earn, they (wives) take care of the household, we give them money so they can spend; that’s all," she says. “We also counsel the wives to have a financial plan, to be able to take care of themselves in their husband’s absence, not just in their presence."

In fact, Sunder adds that even working and educated women hesitate to take control of their finances. After recently holding a seminar for mid-level women managers, when she started to check if they would like to enrol for her firm’s financial planning services, many women said ‘can you talk to my dad or husband as they manage our money?’ “I said to them I don’t mind speaking to them, but you have to be on that call. Because it is ‘you’ who I have interacted with," says Sunder who prefers to bring couples to her office.

There’s a bigger reason to get the women of the house involved in financial planning. “Women understand inflation better than men. They buy groceries and any hike in prices hits them first. She knows how much money is needed to run the house. That’s why it’s very important to get women involved in financial planning," says Venkatakrishnan.

And Menon saw this taking shape in the couple whom she helped all those years ago to understand the need for having a double income to fulfil their financial goals. The wife, who had taken a leap of faith and jumped into the corporate world to enhance the family’s income, later started her own business in chemical trading. There was no turning back and the business now enjoys a good turnover, says Menon. This year, her husband is all set to leave his job and join the wife’s business.

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Published: 07 Mar 2017, 05:26 PM IST
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