Lately I have started questioning why I was so disinterested first and then incapable of handling my finances.
In my search for the answer, first, I tried understanding my own exposures and dealings with money.
I realised that the first real money talk I did was 4 years ago, when I was 28 years old. This was when I negotiated my salary for the first time. (Believe it or not, I negotiated and took a salary cut! Haha, one of those things you look back and laugh at).
Second, I started looking around.
My job gave me exposure to a community of well-informed investors that speak on everything from hardcore financials and tech stuff to politics, business, deals, offers, bollywood etc. It is like an intelligent WhatsApp group where everything is discussed and only legit information is circulated. Hence intelligent.
Soon I realised that there was not even a single woman in this community. I completed a year in March and still there is none! I am talking about 500+ people. It was a shocker for me.
I also see a lot of people investing money but only a handful of women are actively involved in their accounts. Rest of them are all men – either it is their own account or they have opened it in their wife’s name but operate it themselves. To put a number to it, less than 10 accounts are actively operated by women.
My previous job, exactly the same story. Lots and lots of investors, mostly male.
Is it a gender thing?
I always thought that not understanding or handling finance was my limitation and not a gender thing (is there a better word?)
In my family I have women working in financial domain. So the gender thing never occurred to me. But now it was clear, my exposure was little.
I understand judgement in such scenarios may not be a good approach. May be it is their joint decision and she is involved. But then, why are all the queries always from men? Why all transactions in the account are done by men? Why all paperwork is done or coordinated by men?
Let’s meet the participants
In my limited experience, I have found women fit in three spectrums :
- The hands-on : This category of women is actively involved in their financial decisions. Mostly, they earn their money, save and invest it themselves. I am finally in this spectrum.
- The clueless : This category of women have no idea how their husbands are handling the money. They may or may not be earning themselves. They get their monthly expense and have husband to take care of emergencies.
- The defenders : This category is interesting. They refuse to handle their money. Yes. They believe(or not?) that their husbands can handle it better than them. They usually stay updated on where the money is but believe that finance is not their thing.
Just a disclaimer, I have seen men fitting these three categories as well. But yes, if someone was to do a study, I strongly believe that the % of men and women in each category will be highly contrasting.
What about men?
If, in our defence, we say that money was never discussed in school or at home, men have been victims too. The education system thankfully never showed partiality to what was taught to girls and boys. It screwed us all equally. And royally.
But we know where the differences start. At home.
When a boy child refuse to study, he is asked grown up stuff like ‘what will he do with his life, how will he earn his living and support his family?’ When a girl does the same, she is simply told “we will marry you off early”.
Not only that, it happens unknowingly all the time, in front of guests – “it’s okay with her you know, she will get married and her husband will take care. But what about him, I am too worried about him”.
(By the way, while parents are all worked up, neither of the children care a damn about what will they do in the very next minute.)
But, children listen. And they learn.
In this together
If women have suffered, so have men. If I have made mistakes, so has my husband. If I felt the pressure, so has he. Through all this I have realized that both can be bad – forcing men to carry all the burden of finances and keeping the women away from it all.
I have realized how I ended up in this soup. By assuming that I will be taken care of and by forcing him to do what probably is not his thing.
I am not a “perfect wife” but I am a very responsible partner. He shines as a loving husband but his struggle with money is real. So what? Judge & grudge huh? Nope.
We decided to deal with it. He and I together. It is difficult. For him to hand me over the reins, for me to manage finances and for us to discuss every financial decision together, keep a check on each other and to tell each other that a particular expense is a waste of money. But we both are making an effort.
Money has no gender
The very concept of man being a breadwinner and women a nurturer and homemaker is turned upside down on it’s head. Problem is that even though gender roles are changing, the mindset is not. I still have this secret wish that M will one day handle finances and I will be able to treat him like an ATM machine. Money on demand, anytime!
Not a secret anymore, but honestly not a wish worth keeping too.
Our generation, the 80s born and late 70s as well, are really stuck in this. The generations before us have settled in the earlier way of life. The generations after us have not been brought up with that mindset. The thing with us is, we have to really work towards changing our mindset.
And there lay the reason. The mindset. That a) we are not required to handle money and b) we will never understand it completely.
Add to that the absolute lack of effort. And it is not only me but also a lot of women.
And so what is needed is to not carry your gender everywhere along. Not to make it an excuse or a shield.
There is a whole lot of debate happening in lot of other areas where women want the world to see them without the gender lens.
But for this one, we will have to do ourselves a favor.