One of my favorite-est bloggers published her entry for the Indusladies International Women's Day blogging contest recently. And I was duly inspired to post an entry of my own. I've chosen to blog about the topic "Financial Freedom" and the below would be my entry.
I am going to title this entry "A promise fulfilled"
"If there is anything that I regret in my life, it's the fact that I did not have a job when I needed it the most", said Ratna rather woefully.
Both her daughters, aged 15 and 13 were listening with rapt attention to their mother who had somehow chosen them to be her sounding board that day.
Ratna's husband, whom she'd married years ago, much to her parents' opposition was indeed a loving person. A doting father to his children, he was a man who worked hard and always strived to provide the best for his family. Three bright children and an affectionate wife, his family was a picture of perfection.
But steadily, the perfection had begun to wane.
Holding a good position in a reputed software firm, he did earn a respectable paycheck at the end of every month. But then, when it came to matters of the money, he was as gullible as one could get.
There is never a dearth of con artists who are waiting to make a quick buck by luring such naive people into their grand schemes. This man, sadly, was one such victim who fell prey to not one, but several of such schemes and would invariably end up losing a big chunk of his hard earned money every now and then. One wrong decision led to another, manifesting into a vicious cycle.
When you are the lone breadwinner of a family of five that included three grown children, it's never easy. You may have a stable source of income in the form of your job, but then there are societal pressures that dictate your actions so strongly sometimes that you end up making decisions on an impulse. It doesn't help things either when you are a naive person by nature. Add a bunch of swindlers out there with fake "multiply your money manifold quickly" schemes to the mix and you readily have a recipe for a surefire fiasco.
And when one venture backfires, you want to make up for the loss in a hurry and that makes you quickly jump into another "quick fix" one. I guess this is what happened with him too, before he found himself with his 'next to nothing' savings and a dejected wife.The money that Ratna was earnestly saving up in the hopes of buying a home some day was fast depleting in front of her eyes. As his wife, Ratna couldn't help but feel betrayed. Her advice to stay away from these swindlers had only fallen on deaf ears, as he continued to burn his fingers relentlessly. Naturally, that angered her and it began to take its toll on their relationship. They would sometimes have bitter quarrels and of course, there would never be a winner.
But as a mother, she had far bigger concerns. She had two young daughters whose education had yet to be completed. And of course, the biggest worry that haunts every parent of daughters - their marriage.
Now, Ratna was a post graduate in Sociology who had always been among the foremost of her peers. Getting oneself a job with those kind of credentials was never difficult. But, post marriage, the idea of being a home maker appealed more to her. And then, they had three children who needed her attention more than ever. Being a stay at home mother was a decision Ratna made mostly out of choice, but a part of it was also compulsion.
"I would never have to live in the fear of our savings getting squandered if I had a job today. All I wanted was to live in a home of our own some day and have enough to secure your future, but I hate it that I am so powerless right now to make that happen", Ratna continued, choking up.
But she was quick to regain composure. After all, she wasn't just looking for a shoulder to cry on, it was a much bigger agenda. To impart the biggest life lesson she had ever cared about, to her daughters.
"I do not know if I would live long enough to see how you girls will finally turn out , but remember your mother always wants you to be financially independent at any point in your lives", she said looking in their eyes.
"You will never be at the mercy of a man for every single necessity of your life, the best ever man though you might marry."
"You will never ever end up being the helpless, distraught woman that your mother is right now", she said still looking straight into their eyes.
As both her daughters nodded silently, they knew they had promised their mother and themselves that one day, no matter what, they would do her proud.
One of them was me.
Amma did not live long enough to see me or my younger sister get past college and land pretty decent jobs soon after.
I still remember the day I was paid my first salary. A mere 20,000 rupees in all , but that still made me feel invincible in a foolish way. All I wanted to do was run to Amma with that money and exclaim "Look Amma, that's my money!" . And revel in the pride that would show in her eyes. When we both would know that the first step towards fulfilling the promise of financial freedom I made her that day, had been taken.
Through the years, financial freedom to me has meant much more than having enough dough to splurge on clothes and shoes. Or buying fancy presents for loved ones. Sure these things are absolute bliss too. But the essence of having "my own" money is to know that I am in control and free to take decisions fearlessly and on my own terms.
So, when I bought my first apartment at the age of 23, there was a feeling of exhilaration and achievement of fulfilling my mother's dream of owning a home, but most importantly it was about a sense of empowerment. That which came from being financially independent or as the cliche goes, "standing on my own two feet".
Staying on the topic of financial freedom, we women are somehow still not very adept at managing our finances well several times. We tend to leave the most important decisions to our husbands and don't really take charge of our money for seemingly valid reasons but what are really excuses. Lack of time, lack of aptitude in understanding financial matters, preoccupied with family/kids are probably the most commonly quoted ones.
But ladies, here's one scary piece of statistic which says 7 out of 10 women live in poverty at some point in their lives. If that doesn't sound like a wake up call to you, what does?
Yes it's true, my eyes glaze over and English suddenly starts sounding like Greek when I am reading the red herring prospectus of a company of which I intend to buy some stocks. But as Suze Orman, the most recognized face in the arena of personal finance points out, the key is to educate ourselves in small, easy to manage steps. In other words, if you are like me, do yourself a favor , just walk into a book store and pick up that copy of "Personal finance for dummies" . Yeah yeah, Nobody's watching.
In the end, you'd be amazed how just managing your money wisely will do wonders to your self esteem.
So this women's day, let's all celebrate the freedom that keeps the worry of the what-ifs of life at bay. The freedom that gives us the courage to stretch our limits, express our power and fulfill our potential. The freedom of the financial kind.
I know it's pretty late in the game, but I will go ahead and tag Deeps, Lavs and Sweta. Girls, I know you all have it in you to rock this contest. The rest of you , please feel free to blog away if this interests you too.
Go for it and kick some butt (even if it's mine) :)