I always believe that the first step of empowerment is financial empowerment. Unless you are financially sound and secure, it is very difficult to take a stand for yourself, or have that ‘don’t care’ attitude.
Recently, I met up a few women friends for coffee. The talk turned around to empowerment. Let me tell you, all of us are well established professional women with very liberal ideologies. However, during the discussion, a couple of things glaringly came out.
Women somehow feel obligated to their husbands for being ‘supportive’ in their careers. Let me clarify, by supportive, they usually mean that their husbands do not stop them from working. Of course, there are truly supportive husbands around. But I think it is misplaced thankfulness to say that the husband is supportive just because he does not mind his wife working or getting promoted.
Secondly, very few women actually take charge of their own finances. They are not aware where the money goes from their salary accounts. The common perception is, ‘I am working, I am a professional. Hence I am empowered.’ But that is not true. Unless you have the means to earn AND spend for yourself, you are not financially strong. So if your salary account is flourishing for one day out of the month and after that, you hand it over to someone else, it is not really an ideal situation.
I guess the real test would be this – if tomorrow morning, you wake up and realise there is absolutely no one standing next to you or behind you, will you be able to take care of yourself?
I know it is a very grim question, emotionally scarring even. But one thing I know is that if you have the means to survive, you survive. If you constantly rely on another human being, you are at the mercy of their survival or approval. In case of former, though difficult to accept, life does deal a bad hand sometimes. For the latter, do remember that there is one peculiarity in human beings, at least most of us. We are ready to help others, even our loved ones, only till the point we understand what they are doing. The minute they do something that does not fit in with our belief system, we are capable of withdrawing our support. Even parents tend to do that. And that’s a great reason why you should ask yourself the question above to test whether you are financially independent.
And the answer should be yes. And while saying yes, it is not necessary to have a fat bank balance, but the potential to earn also gets points. After all, financial empowerment is not only for working women, it is important for every woman.
Here is a three point sutra for managing your finances:
- If you are not the sole breadwinner of the household, then make sure at least 20 per cent of your salary is invested somewhere, and that too completely in your own name.
- Keep track of your money. Know where your entire salary is going – expenses, investments or in someone else’s pocket!
- Keep at least one major bank account in your control. Do not share the net banking passwords or the debit card from that account with even your partner. Transfer whatever you need for the month to another account from your main one, maybe even a joint account. But keep the main one to yourself.
In a family setup, it is always nice to divide responsibilities, someone cooks, someone cleans, someone takes care of the finances. But all of these are important life skills. You can let someone take the lead, but don’t forget to know how to do it.
In fact, I have seen a lot of cases where the elders in the family, after retirement, think they don’t really have that many expenses or things to do and write their properties and assets in their children’s names while still alive. As a lawyer, I think that’s the biggest mistake anyone can make. Yes, even at that age (rather, especially at that age), you need to be super empowered and have control of your own finances. Inheritance should ALWAYS happen after death, never before. In fact, after both spouses’ death only.
To the elderly, I would like to say – love your children but not blindly. Keep control of your money yourself.
To the working women, I would like to say – your parents worked hard to give you a good education and a career, only to ensure that you are financially independent and are never left in the lurch. So plan your finances wisely and hold on to that nest egg for a rainy season.
To the non working women, I would like to say – it is equally important for you to be financially empowered, which means, in simple terms, to take the lead and participate in financial decisions.
After all, money matters!
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*