Enabling Financial Freedom for Women – Priyanka Bhatia

Jyoti Shekar

One of the major limitations for women to be truly independent has been their financial status. Financial independence is the first step of towards empowerment. Without money in our pockets, we cannot be confident about taking a stand for ourselves. That’s how important financial empowerment is, for our own confidence and happiness.

After all, every human being has the right to live with respect and dignity.

Women, somehow, are rarely trained in their growing years on how to manage and invest their finances. Well ladies, it is certainly not a man’s domain. And one doesn’t need to be a working woman to be financially independent either. All you need is some strategic planning in managing what you have.

Recognising the need to make women aware of how to take charge of their finances, Women On Wealth (WOW) started about a decade back with online financial training and coaching programs so that women can learn how to manage their money and grow it effectively.

They have an impressive track record of helping over 4000 women become debt-free, come out of living paycheck to paycheck, save at least 25% more than they ever saved, build an investment portfolio without depending on their broker and husband, and learn to pick quality stocks from the stock market. Some have also managed to build a corpus and buy their own land in their hometown, start a business and take their husband on an international holiday. Some women are now recognized as finance ministers of their house, and they are getting involved in major financial decision making.

We speak with Priyanka Bhatia, co-founder & lead consultant at WOW to know more about their program and how they can help women achieve financial freedom. 

Jyoti: Hi Priyanka! Thank you for speaking with us. WOW is a great initiative and a lot of women are benefiting through your work. Can you tell us what motivated you to start WOW?

Priyanka: It seems that I was born to create wealth. By my eighteenth birthday, I had saved almost Rupees One Lakh from my modest pocket money, which shocked my friends. I did this without sacrificing the joys of teenage fun – movies, parlors, parties, etc. It helped that my father, a successful businessman, trained me in money matters from an early age. I topped in business studies and accounting in college and later graduated from Harvard’s 10,000 Women Entrepreneur Program.

I worked as a journalist with the Press Trust of India (PTI) and the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS). I earned a decent salary. Like many young women, I spent my money on big brand clothes, jewelry, and entertainment. But, I also had big goals like:

  • Buying my own property
  • Earning from my investments
  • Starting my own business

While I was earning, two things were happening –

One, my actions were just not consistent with my goals. I mean, I was spending money on stuff that I did not need. It would have been better spent on my goals.

The second thing was that my father, like many others, had his own plans for the money I was earning. A very successful and well-meaning man, he took it for granted, like many parents, that I would get married to a good man who would take care of all my needs and that I would never have to work.

So, with that in mind, he put my surplus money in a PPF account and a few fixed deposits and that was it. While these are sound investments, they were completely inconsistent with my goals of buying my own property, earning from investments, and starting my own business – my dream of financial independence!

Now, I was lost, upset, and frustrated, and did not know where to begin! I wanted to save – and save more, pay off my debts, build my wealth, but I did not know how – I did not have the mindset or the methodology for it! 

I asked my colleagues and friends and they gave me some ad-hoc tips which I followed, in the hope that this would put me on track. On my own, I tried my hand in equities and lost a lot of money. Similarly, I tried my hand in a few other investments and lost a ton of money.

I was confused!

On top of that, I felt frustrated that my bank relationship managers took me for granted, and were indifferent to my requirements – because I was a woman. I realized that I did not have the sense to judge and take effective decisions in managing money intelligently on my own.

I even struggled with property brokers. They did not want to serve me just because I was a woman. On top of that, each encounter with them left me mistrustful and insecure.

While my male colleagues had bought their first properties, I was struggling to even understand where to begin.

Some of the challenges that I faced were utterly devastating. I lost all my investments in the stock market crash of 2008. Later, I had to exit two of the enterprises that I had set up, and then stopped to think of new ways for a more rewarding future. I consulted business specialists, wealth managers, successful people, share market gurus and practiced the steps that they had taken. My first victory was buying a Rs. 17 Lakh property – with just Rs. 300 in my wallet.

My personal story and challenges motivated me to create Women On Wealth, and the WOW Money Gym program, and helped me conceptualize it and build a vision for it. My mission is to alter the conditions in the society, and have women participate in wealth creation.

Jyoti: Who can apply for your training programs?

Priyanka: We work with honest and open minded women who are passionate about getting their money life in order, and are willing to make major life changes to have their money life work – permanently. These are well-researched, personally-tested, and affordable training programs. Women who have worked with us have created and reached their financial goals – even those that looked impossible to reach!

Jyoti: What do you think is the current situation of women vis-à-vis wealth management?

Priyanka: The opportunities for women in this new world are far more than they were ever before.

In the old world, most women were excellent savers or just managed the household expenses, and were low on confidence in their ability to plan their financial future. Traditionally, they would leave this vital part to their husbands, fathers, brothers or uncles in the family. In short, they would hand over their dreams. In the old world, they would say – ‘Hey, I am not enough. I need to have a man with me for this. I am managing the household expenses. My husband/my father is doing it right.

In the new world, women continue to manage their household expenses (if they are married and/or living on their own), many of them are working and making money – some of them are spending it all – and dream of achieving a new level of independence by taking charge of their money life and reaching their goals. But, they do not have the support or the conditioning to have their dream of financial independence realized.

Financial independence happens when money is working for you, and you do not have to work for money. When you have money coming from sources other than your job/business to take care of your expenses and luxuries, you are free to follow your passion/follow the path you chose. Our mission at Women On Wealth and the WOW Money Gym is to alter the situation for women, offer them support and help them build a wealth creation mindset.

Jyoti: Did you face any particular challenges while setting up WOW?

Priyanka: Of course! Just as every new enterprise, WOW came with its own set of challenges. The first challenge was to gain acceptance for the idea that women should be able to decide their own financial destiny. When we presented our business idea at an Ivy League program for women entrepreneurs – it was viewed with outright skepticism, even by the all-woman program participants.

However, we persisted with our gut feel. To our delight, our very first client was a participant from this program! Later, a member of the same elite Ivy League panel became a client.

Another challenge is to reach out to more women who are not aware of our services. We continuously interact with people on Facebook, talk about our work in our personal networks, offer free e-books, conduct email campaigns, and network in women groups to reach out to our target audience. The learning curve is steep and we are getting better at it with every passing day.

Thirdly, innovation and differentiation in this niche market poses a challenge. While there are many financial advisors, chartered accountants, bank customer relationship managers, not many have thought about how to bring women into the wealth stream of this country. To address this challenge, we spoke in depth with friends and listened closely to their issues.

Jyoti: Do you have any financial management tips for our readers?

Priyanka: For sure I do! Try to follow the below points like a mantra:

  1. Keep a tab on your incoming and outgoing money. Financially successful women fully understand that little things count. They consciously track each rupee that comes in and goes out of their lives. Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you cannot measure something, you cannot understand it. If you cannot understand it, you cannot control it. If you cannot control it, you cannot improve it.
  2. Keep a watch on your purchases and incoming money throughout the day, each day and examine your incoming and outgoing money at the end of the month to get a reality check on the items that you spend on most and least.
  3. Build a genuine friends ecosystem. Financially successful women have a growth team or a group of friends who keep them on track on their goals, provide emotional, spiritual and practical support through their journey towards their common goal of wealth creation.
  4. Choose your support group carefully such as wealth creators and other women who are as passionate as you. This will empower and forward you exponentially in your wealth journey. If you’re having difficulty finding like-minded women, drop me a line at priyankabhatia@wowmoneygym.com, and get an access to creating your wealth team.
  5. Invest in ‘You’ before anything else! This is probably one of the most overlooked qualities of a successful person. Financially successful women make time to assess the gaps between where they are now and where they want to be, and up skill!

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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