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For Seema Menon, a 37-year-old life coach in Mumbai, money lessons were learnt the hard way and early on in life. She had seen her father struggle through a business downfall and the resulting debt deluge. Then, when cancer took him away in 2002, the family was left floundering in financial distress.

Menon, who is from Chennai, was sure from the time she stepped out of college that she would be independent. She booked herself a one-way ticket to Mumbai where she found a job as a human resources (HR) professional. “For me, being financially independent was important. My father used to help me during the initial stages but once I had a job, I was on my own." When her father passed away, Menon found herself thinking and worrying more about money. “My brother and I managed finances while I had to run the house since he had to leave for the US, again as a means to help the family kitty," she says.

Tough experiences had taught Menon to be financially prepared. So, when she got married in 2006, she found herself worrying more about financial matters than her HR professional husband. “My husband comes from a background that didn’t see the kind of money struggles I did. So, I am more anxious of the two of us," she says. “He views money without the anxiety. He is very stable and safe with money matters."

Soon after her daughter was born in 2007, Menon, who had stopped working after marriage to start her own practice as a life coach, decided they needed a more structured approach to finances. “We were careful with money but not disciplined, so we didn’t have a plan of action. It was only after engaging a financial planner that we actually realised our goals and learnt how to save and invest for them," she remembers. The decision to seek professional help was her’s. Menon researched and found a financial planner, and then introduced her husband to financial planning as a gift on his birthday about four years back. “We were started off on need analysis and goal setting. I participated actively in each session to decide our goals. For instance, while we are building a fund for our daughter’s education, we don’t have any money put away for her marriage. My husband counts it as our duty as parents, but I don’t."

In their household, Menon’s husband is the main breadwinner and she is the main curator of the family’s financial well being. “We made our financial plan as a couple and even now, when our planner tells us of an investment opportunity or wants to make any changes, both of us are consulted." Having a plan and professional help gives her great comfort. “We have our goals chalked out, and our money invested properly. So, I feel less insecure."

‘I don’t invest blindly’

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Marisa D’Mello, 53, is a Mumbai-based freelance human resources professional, who is single and has been consulting a financial planner for 7-8 years. “I am an organisational consultant, and at one place, I met a financial planner who was giving a talk to employees and also meeting those who wanted personalised advice. I spoke to him and found him competent and experienced. I decided to seek his advice," says D’Mello. Over the years, the financial planner has helped her align life goals and financial goals, and also helped with investment plans.

“The most important thing for a single, working woman who is not conversant with investing smartly, is to get a planner who can understand your context and situation. My planner provides customised service, and is accessible," said D’Mello, who prefers to also educate herself on the various products available and recommended. “I don’t invest blindly. My planner simplifies shares and mutual funds for me. That really helps ," she says.

It’s also important to ask questions and share your fears with your adviser. The cost for seeking such expertise is also a consideration. “Women I speak to are curious about the cost of employing a planner. I tell them that when you pay for a second opinion from a doctor, why not a financial planner, instead of leaving things only to your fathers and brothers? The fees you pay can help your money work so that you get better returns," she says.

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