Feelings & Finances – the domino effect

Women, emotions and the impact of that on the relationship with money.

The Law of Attraction is the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on. It is believed that this law uses the power of the mind to translate whatever is in our thoughts and materialize that into reality. In basic terms, all thoughts turn into things eventually. If you focus on negative doom and gloom you will remain under that cloud. If you focus on positive thoughts and have goals that you aim to achieve, you will find a way to achieve them with massive action. The Law of Attraction dictates that whatever can be imagined and held in the mind’s eye is achievable if you take action on a plan to get to where you want to be.

So how does any of this relate to money? Simply put, money is not about finances but all about emotions. And our emotions are largely driven by how we think. Women are generally known to be  the more emotional gender and therefore, led by it. A study done by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR) showed a direct correlation between a woman’s personality characteristics and her financial habits. Assertiveness, openness to change and an optimistic outlook are the qualities that tend to lead to smart money choices.

But somehow, as a financial advisor I have often found the topic of financial management to be a stumbling block among women. Well, to a large extent it’s ignorance about long-term money management techniques that still prevails among them. A big part of this can also be attributed to negative emotions like fear, shame and anger which lead to knowledge gaps and anxiety. Looking at these closely, here are some of my observations.

  1. Loss of confidence – if women are not earning members or the breadwinner of their families, there’s a high probability of feeling low on confidence when it comes to making decisions about investments. There’s a self-imposed restriction of feeling that they don’t have enough of a say in larger and more important financial decisions that concern the future.
  2. Fear & anxiety – these are the big bad wolves of money emotions, and they come in different guises, often both together. Being afraid of making mistakes while trying to invest and hence, letting someone else (read the husband in most cases) handle it, is a sign of succumbing to these emotions. In such situations, when faced with money problems women tend to feel powerless and anxious of dealing with the problem.
  3. Shame & confusion – Financial illiteracy being the root cause of such emotions, women are often embarrassed to even admit if they don’t know something or feel confused about whatever little they know in parts. Owing to this, women relinquish all money matters to their husbands as if it’s part of the division of labor.  

These emotions can often deter women to overcome their confidence gap (the measure of women’s confidence in their ability to attain their financial goals or simply to have sound financial knowledge). Added to that is the lack of any form of financial education in schools. As a result of this, it’s commonly observed that women still throw their hands up when it comes to making long-term financial decisions about savings and investments.

The truth about money is determined by how we approach it, how we think about it and how we handle it. Going back to the Law of Attraction, if people constantly think negatively about money, they are bound to be plagued by money problems their whole life. But people who feel like money is something that’s within their control, they are more likely to become successful and create more wealth for themselves. Those are the people who instead of complaining about their lack of money, educate themselves about money. Financial intelligence is the basis for growing wealth.

As rightly put by Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” This would be the very basis to conquering the mental block arising out of all the negative emotions for anyone, but more so for women. A change in our financial situation starts with a change in how we think about money and that can easily be achieved if we arm ourselves with financial literacy. Understanding the basics of savings & investments (that go much beyond just FDs or LIC savings), by getting familiar with financial products and industry jargon, by talking to financial advisors to widen that knowledge base and learning how to use online money management tools are all the steps that can help women to have a view on long-term financial planning and also contribute towards making sound decisions about their future.

This financial education also eventually empowers women and teaches them not to necessarily rely on the male figure in the family for financial security. The empowerment also lends itself to having conversations around larger financial goals, establishing an emergency fund, techniques of handling the repayment of loans and so many of such important decisions. Using that knowledge to improve the current financial situation and not letting emotions come in the way is also a critical thing to note.

Emotions often work to sabotage the rationale. It’s obvious that having a lot of money can make one feel good about themself. But that feeling is fleeting. That high can lead to unnecessary and excessive spending. Instead of seeking that feeling through spending money, it’s far more important to realize that spending less on what’s not needed is the secret to creating wealth. And that realization can only come when you know at least the basics to wealth creation. Most importantly, this knowledge can remove fears, of losing money, of failure, or whatever is holding you back from making a financial plan and investing.

Emotions among many other things shape our personalities. In a critical aspect like financial planning, it’s important that women are in check with their emotions and get down to the simple basics of understanding the do’s and dont’s of it. Knowledge always helps to overcome the most negative feelings. So never shy away from stepping out of your comfort zone and learning more about what you don’t know enough of. It’s a simple logic. You’re accountable for your own financial future. Take ownership.

Women and Money: A Long Distance Relationship

Financial Planning for Women

A large part of our belief system is based on how we are conditioned since childhood. I come from a time when most grand – mothers around me were quintessential homemakers. They were entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the home, family and kids, while the men in the family were solely and fully responsible for making “money” decisions.

Our mothers (mostly) grew up and thereafter lived in an environment where “finances” continued to be a male dominated subject. The only money related involvement that most home maker mothers have had is with respect to the monthly petty cash they handle. While it seems like a rather tiny part of family finances, most mothers have again demonstrated a great amount of adeptness at that. If you have not given this a thought, it is time you go back and ask your mother how she planned her monthly “kharcha” and “bachat”. In most cases, she will also map out her savings to the various deployment needs that she had well planned for in advance.

Why then is “money” still a male dominated domain? I have been interacting with people, both men and women through various online platforms. The level of participation that I witness from the female community is shamefully low as far as India is concerned.

Do women refrain from taking an active role in personal finance? Or have they been unintentionally not involved enough by the male community? My view is, partly both.

This fact has remained this way for decades now. Yet the existence of this fact is far more dangerous now than ever before. A couple of situations that I iterate below are reasons why women need to prioritize their involvement in decisions around personal finance:

  1. The absolute number of women in the Indian workforce has been increasing. Handling the monthly petty cash is not the only money they need to manage.
  2. Working women tend to work for lesser number of years as compared to their male counterparts. This is on account of maternity and family priorities. This means that their quantum of savings could to be lower than their male counterparts. However, that does not reduce the money they will need to fund their own retirement.
  3. Women usually have a life expectancy greater than that of men. So they need to plan for longer number of retirement years.
  4. A lot more women are becoming socially independent. This results in a difference in priorities and preferences even between married couples. Financial planning of the family therefore needs the wife to be as involved as the husband.
  5. When young, we generally do not foresee unfortunate situations in life. A women who is suddenly divorced or widowed could end up in an extremely struggling situation, if she has no involvement in family finances

And these are just some of the many reasons. Times are indeed changing and we do have a few female clients who play a very active role in financial decision making (Read more here). However, they are still a very few. It is time that men and women assume equal responsibility to play a more inclusive role in defining the individual and collective goals, manage cash flows and draft out an implementable financial plan.

CAGR For Her is an initiative aimed at bringing more women into main stream decision making around personal finance. It is about mentoring, coaching and guiding women to play a more inclusive role in financial planning for the family. My aim is to simplify complexities and talk personal finance in a language that is relevant for today’s women.

In case you wish to have a chat, contact me on the below coordinates:
Email: shruti.agrawal@cagrfunds.com
Phone: +91 98670 954324

Aditi’s Money Story: I Was Always Conditioned To Save First

Aditi's money story

Aditi is one of my earliest female clients. And the reason I chose to write about her money story today, is because she inspires me.

A couple of months back, a common friend gave me her contact and we decided to meet at her place. She was newly married and I had almost barged into one of her lazy, cozy weekend. She greeted me well and waited till Karan, her husband, joined us. The agenda was to discuss their finances.

After having a brief discussion about their respective backgrounds, she quickly told me how she had been investing in equity mutual funds since she first started working. And how Karan had been risk averse, so to say. Now that they were married, she wanted to make sure that they have the right asset allocation and hence adequate equity exposure. She wanted an early financial independence for the couple. Meanwhile, I could sense Karan’s limited participation – may be because he was uneasy about equity, I thought.

A couple of weeks back, when I decided to venture into the domain of helping women understand and manage their own finances better, I reached out to Aditi to get her views on the subject. Remembering her as someone who took the lead in discussing family finances, she was one of the very few names that came to my mind.

A transcript of our recent conversation is given below:

Me: How do you feel about the fact that you take decisions around your finances / family finances?

Aditi: Ever since I was a child, my father used to encourage me and my sister to save whatever little earning we used to have. So we have always been conditioned to think of savings as an important aspect. The fact that I started investing since my first job has really helped me continue the practice. And today when I think about it, I realize it is a great feeling to be self – dependent. The ability to take care of my own needs gives me a lot of confidence.

Me: What made you go against the conventional practice of letting the man of the family decide?

Aditi: When we were young, a mass prevailing notion was that women are first the father’s responsibility and then the husband’s. I often questioned myself, why is that? In fact, when I was a kid, I heard someone asking my mom to have a third child, otherwise who would take care of them when they grow older (we are two sisters). It kind of impacted me deeply. I have always wanted my parents to think of me as an asset and not as a liability. I knew for sure that I wanted to change the norm that daughters cannot take care of them when they grow older.

Also, Karan and I both have our respective strengths. Knowing that managing finances is my strength, Karan has proactively taken a step back and is happy to let me handle the key financial decisions. So, for me it was not about going against the conventional practice.

Me: That is a very interesting thing to note Aditi. Because in a lot of families (including the ones where the wife is a home-maker), I notice that the men consider it to be their fundamental duty to take all financial decisions. If only, every couple could mutually agree on the mechanics that works best for them, the family finances could be managed jointly and more amicably.

Aditi: Absolutely. I think I have been lucky in this respect. But a lot of women are not.

Me: And now I understand why Karan wasn’t an active participant when we first met. So tell me, what comes to your mind when you think about “Financial Independence”?

Aditi: Financial Independence is extremely important to me. It is my confidence to live my life my way. I want to go to work because I love my job and not because I have to pay the bills. I want to stay married because I am in love and want to grow old with him and not because I have to as I cannot support myself financially. I want to achieve financial independence to have the freedom to do things I love to do, to live life the way I want to. And when I say “I”, I mean “us”.

Me: What has been your experience with me and CAGRfunds on a whole?

Aditi: I got to know about you and CAGRfunds through a common friend and I am always inspired by people who choose passion over 9-5 jobs. So when my friend told me that some of his friends had started this financial planning company, I was quite kicked about meeting you. Despite the fact that I had already met a few other investment firms before I met you.

The first meeting that we had at my place was something that made me very comfortable with you. It was casual yet relevant. There was a certain structure to the discussion we had, and logic to whatever you said. We resonated in lot of ways and it was that warmth to which I got sold which was missing in the other older firms.

What I like best about working with you is that you are extremely reachable. I know that I can talk to you if I want to. And more importantly, I trust you with the guidance that you give to me. Your intent when you talk to clients is not to sell. It is to educate them. You bring so much credibility on the table that the sale eventually just happens!

Me: Wow Aditi. Thanks for so many kind words. As you know, I am venturing into this domain where I want to help women step into main stream financial planning. What do you think about this initiative?

Aditi: I think it is a brilliant initiative. I don’t see a lot of women who are as lucky as I have been. And one of the major reason is that they are not comfortable about disclosing their level of unawareness. I mean, a lot of women would rather not speak than be judged as stupid for not knowing what equity means. So the good thing about this initiative is that as a woman, you will understand them better, not be judgmental, and help them see things from a different perspective.

Me: Thanks Aditi. That’s the intent. And I really hope that I am able to make a tangible difference to a lot of women.

Aditi: Of course you will. It has been great working with you so far and I am sure others will feel the same. All the best!

CAGR-For-Her: It is an initiative to help women to get better control over their finances. It is about making women aware of the importance of being fully involved in financial decision making. It is an attempt to drive one more woman towards her financial independence.

For embarking on your journey of financial independence, write to me directly on shruti.agrawal@cagrfunds.com

Everything about Top Up Health Insurance Plans

Top Up Health Plans

What are Top Up Plans?

Also known as Deductible Plans, Top Up Health Plans provide a cover over and above a certain base cover. This base cover in most cases come from existing policies. Some Top Up Plans allow deductible options even without an existing insurance policy.

In cases where there is an existing insurance policy, reimbursement against any claim that arises will first be made out of the existing policy. The liability of the Top Up Plan arises only after the set threshold of the existing plan has been exhausted.

In cases where there is no existing policy and the Top Up Plan permits such a situation, expenses up to the threshold level has to be borne by the insured out of his or her own pocket. The liability of the Top – Up Plan arises only after the set threshold has been exhausted.

Example 1:

Ajay has a health insurance cover from his employer of 8 lacs. He purchases a top up plan for 10 lacs with a deductible of 3 lacs. An unfortunate event of hospitalization generates a claim of 9 lacs. Ajay can use either of the following options:

Option 1: Raise a claim of 8 lacs against the employer health plan and balance 1 lac against the top up plan

Option 2: Raise a claim of 3 lacs against the employer health plan and balance 6 lacs against the top up plan

So basically, the top up plan gets activated only when the deductible threshold is crossed.

Example 2:

Vijay does not have any existing health plan except a top up cover of 10 lacs with a deductible of 1 lac. He gets hospitalized and has to raise a claim of 3 lacs. In this case, Ajay will have to pay the initial 1 lacs from his own pocket and the Top – Up Plan will consider only balance amount of 2 lacs for claim settlement.

Why are Top Up plans useful?

These plans are useful for two simple reasons:

  1. A high coverage is available at a significantly low premium
  2. In an event of a medical emergency where the amount of expenses tend to spiral beyond the usual ranges, these plans come to rescue

Who should buy Top Up Plans?

  1. Salaried people who have a basic corporate cover – Smaller hospitalization claims can be covered by the corporate cover and in case of larger expenses, Top Up Plans can be utilized. This also means that post retirement, claims up to the deductible amount will have to be either self – funded or funded through a Base Insurance Plan. However, since deductibles are pre-decided, the same can be set aside as an emergency fund.
  2. Salaried people who plan to change jobs or start on their own – Top Up Plans are an excellent option in this case. The cover and the low cost premium continues irrespective of whether you are salaried or get into entrepreneurship.
  3. People who have sufficient resources for covering up small ticket emergencies – These people can leverage the low premium Top Up Plans to cover themselves for any eventualities
  4. People who have a Base Insurance Plan with a basic cover amount of 5-10 lacs – In cases of severe medical emergencies such as complicated surgeries, the amount of expense usually shoots beyond the normal cover that we usually have. Especially if the treatment is being carried out in one of the plush city hospitals! A Top Up Plan is the umbrella for such unannounced rainy days.

Which are the best Top Up Plans?

Most Insurance Companies now offer top Up Plans. However, one has to select the plan which has the most suitable features and has a low premium. Email us on contact@cagrfunds.com to ask us for the best Top Up Plans.

Why should people with Corporate Insurance cover still have a separate health plan?