Today morning a friend told me how he was running around for a family, who lost the master of the house. The hospital bills had to be paid ( in lakhs), no idea about the insurance and savings, no idea of the ATM cards and their pin. In short, an emotional wreck and is if no help to someone who wants to help, all because of a life of dependancy and male chauvinism.
I thought it is again its time to share Usha’s Sathianarayanan’ post.
Guest post by Usha Sathianarayanan
It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think that they can be happy without money.
Every one of us needs money to survive. Many people are in the dark when it comes to money management, and today, I am going to turn on the lights on some of the key aspects of financial awareness.
The woman is considered the light of the house. Without her, the man of the house will be quite lost, whether managing the kitchen or taking care of the children. Just like the husband faces a dilemma in the kitchen, the wife is at a loss when an untoward incident happens in the family such as a medical emergency or the death of the sole bread winner.
Let me start by asking the wives a few questions to measure how financially savvy you may be. Do you know how much money comes to the house? We may be experts in managing the monthly expenses, but can you manage the overall expenditure? If you have a car, do you know how much tax you pay, where to pay it, and when? If you own a house, do you know the answers to the same questions; do you understand tax strategy, etc.? Do you know how to start a bank account? Or at a minimum draw money from the bank or an ATM. Are you aware of the various insurance policies – health, car, house, etc.? And when and how are they paid to keep active. If you have a loan, how much EMI do you pay? In some cases, some wives may not even know their husbands have taken loans and when something tragic happens, the lenders will go after this poor, unaware woman. She is at the mercy of advisors or relatives who may not be that sincere, or have their best interests in mind. The reason for all this is because the woman does not have the financial literacy. When I was asked to broach this subject, I personally felt that this is a very powerful and much needed topic. The more I thought about it, the more it opened my eyes. Many women in India are put into bad situations and even thrown on the streets – all because they do not have financial literacy!
Who is to blame for such a situation – the wife or the husband? Some of us women like to conveniently shirk responsibilities by saying “My husband is there to do all the work, why bother”. We believe that our work ends with household chores. I think it is time for women to be more independent in this world as we should not expect too much help from our children. In any situation, we should not be helpless, even when our husbands are physically and mentally unhealthy.
Statistics say that a woman lives five to six years more than a man and on an average the husband is usually five to six years older than the wife. So she may outlive him by nearly ten years. We have to empower ourselves with necessary knowledge and have confidence in ourselves, some of which comes with this knowledge. Usually we are not comfortable talking about financial planning. It is time we did something to improve this for women.
There is also another side to this story. Some men do not think their wives can do such important work. Let me tell all husbands today to do one thing. Go back home, sit in a quiet place, imagine a scene -you are not there physically or mentally for your wife. Think how your wife will manage the household finances and all the confusion, stress and risks that come with it. This vivid thought will give you an idea whether your wife needs to be financially literate or not. It is the BEST gift you can give her. Let her be a part of this by giving her the reins into her hands, and just watch and see what a splendid job she can do.
I have a list of some practical suggestions as a part of a 10 Point programme:
1. Make a list of the assets you have and make her aware of them. This includes bank accounts, fixed deposits, shares, and all other investments with related maturity dates.
2. Take her to the bank and let her do the transactions with you beside her. This applies to payment of house tax, electricity, water and telephone bills and car insurance too.
3. Maintain a secure emergency fund and inform her about it, including how to access this fund. This will ensure that she does not have to knock at other people’s doors in the time of need.
4. Make sure you update your bank accounts properly, including assigning nominees.
5. If you have not done so already, make sure you create a “Will” today. You never know when this will be needed
6. If you have a loan, let her be aware of the EMI you are paying.
7. Another important thing is the health insurance. If you have one, please make sure that the premium is paid on time, perhaps automatically, even if she is responsible for overseeing this activity. If a health insurance policy lapses, no insurance company will allow you to take a fresh one after a certain age. Even if they do permit, the premium is usually higher. Giving standing instructions to the bank or paying through a credit card may help.
8. In this day and age, computer knowledge is a must. Most our transactions, such as payment of bills, taxes, bank transactions, booking of tickets, insurance payments etc. can be done through the computer or mobile device. So we should learn to familiarize ourselves with these gadgets and take advantage of the worldwide web. It is fun!
9. There are so many communication applications suitable for mobile devices and computers that we can download, such as Whatsapp, Skype and Viber. With these apps, we are able to communicate with our children and relatives free of charge, even if they are staying outside India.
10. Last but not least, if you own a house, let your wife be the co-owner, so it can be passed onto your children after her life. In other words make her the successor of the house.
The above suggestions are not comprehensive by any means, but are a start towards financial literacy. Let me conclude by saying, we women should be aware of all these facts so that we do not have to be in the dark. Knowledge is power, so, let us empower ourselves now, so both the husband and the wife can sleep in peace knowing that the lady of the house will always live a life of dignity regardless of life events. This can begin today!
I would like to add one important message, please make a will, right now, you never know when our call will come else the dependants will have to run around cursing to collect what you intented to give them.