I have a long list of topics to cover in this blog – how I pick a stock, what lifestyle changes I made to become financial savvy, what are my main productivity hacks etc. But over the last few blog posts and with this one I am aiming to establish my financial philosophy – what shaped me as a person and what shaped my idea of money and what mantras I live by. So please bear with me and my philosophical rant for this one more post. We will soon move on to more practical stuff.
I have a colleague of mine in my current organization that I deeply admire. I was doing my monthly field visit when I met her over a cup of coffee last week. We got talking about our work, I asked her if she is emotionally happy with her role and work and soon we got talking about our past experiences. Her story was inspiring. Born in a conservative Muslim family, she was one of the 2 daughters. A bright student in her school days, when she was in 9th grade her father was diagnosed with kidney failure. With two daughters still in school and she being the eldest, she was married off at the age of 15 to her distant cousin 10 years her senior. An innocent kid of 15 years she left school, got married and moved to a different city with a new life she was not equipped to handle. Her husband ran a few business and failed at each one of them. In next 5-6 years she gave birth to 2 children – a daughter (now aged 8) and a son (now aged 3). Fed up of failed marriage when she was pregnant with her son, she moved back to Mumbai to her parents. With no college education or any sort of skills and a new-born, she started doing odd jobs – a sales girl, a bar tender, a party hostess etc. In next few years, she learnt sales, saved money and rented a home and got a legal divorce from her husband. Her daughter is still with her husband in a different city and she lives with her son here in Mumbai. She doesn’t have skills or tools or education to know how to save for her children and manage her money. So I shared my philosophies and some tips and tricks with her. This is what I shared:
- Never disclose your income or savings to anyone: One’s income is a private affair and I always discourage people and especially women to discuss it with anyone. Let family and friends speculate as much as they want – once you disclose your income or saving it invites unnecessary expectations. As a women, it is even more important to have financial safety net and therefore I am also against merging finances with partners.
- Never borrow or lend money to family members: Long distant cousins asking you to invest in their business? Say no. Uncles and aunts emotionally manipulating you to help them or their kids? Ask them what you can do besides financial aid. Siblings going through financial rough patch? Help them with groceries or whatever they need. But never lend money. There will always be a story in each family where a sibling/cousin/uncle/auntie cheated their own family members. Seriously it’s a scam no one ever talks about. We tend to trust our family blindly more than anything else and therefore its easier to be conned by the same people. Never indulge family members with money. But agree to help them in other ways – help them find a job if they lost one. Or buy a month of groceries if they are facing a financial crunch. Pay for their child’s education for a month. Or support them in paying medical bills if its a health issue. But never ever open up or agree to lend money. Similarly never borrow money – once we borrow from our family, we open ourselves to the judgement and interference in our lives by our family. It leads to bad emotions at some point. Safe to borrow money from banks even if you have to pay more. Family and money should never merge.
- Never take financial or investment advice from family members or friends: An aunt/uncle starting to work as an insurance agent? Say you already have an insurance. A friend who seem to have had a recent financial jackpot suggesting you some tips? Listen and then ignore. The thing with investments and savings is that each one has a unique story. If you take advice from your family member and then fail, there will be bad blood. If you succeed, the member who helped you end up feeling that you owe them. Better to stick with professionals and your own research.
- Always aim to save. And save more: Every penny counts. Even in the tightest of the situations, we can squeeze to save money. Saving is a cornerstone habit of a good life. A life that is self-sufficient and respectful. Who wouldn’t want such a life?
- Learn the art and science of personal finance: Not all of us have interest or aptitude to learn about finances and honestly its a boring topic. Yet not knowing or learning about it has direct dire consequences on your quality of life. Think of it as eating a bitter medicine for a good health – we don’t savour it but we still eat it. One need not be an expert but one should definitely know the basics such as budgeting, investing, taxes etc.
- Always up your ante: Learn new skills, study your field, build network. Basically build an autonomous brand of yourself. You may have a job, a career today. It may not be case tomorrow. You still need to live right? So why not build a brand of yourself. Have a hobby, a side hustle, a network of good people who aim for a good life. Have credibility in the market – meaning have a reputation of being a man/woman of your word. Be on time. Be polite. Learn something new. Seek a mentor. Be a mentor yourself. Always keep upping your game – at work or at life. Nobody pays you for nothing. So be a person who always has something to offer more than what is expected of you.
That is all.