It was 8th of March 2021, a pleasant Monday morning.
After finishing my chores and outlining my schedule for the day, I checked my WhatsApp. It was flooded with lots of Women's day messages - there was one that stood out. A social experiment video "The divide" - I saw it twice to let it sink in. It made me wonder...what if? While the ad is relevant and is to a big extent the social reality of our times, for me it was not totally relatable. This was what I mentioned in a couple of groups “this experiment is very pertinent to our reality but if I were a part of this, I would most likely be in the front as I’m a product management professional taking care of my family and our finances. There are only two questions, where I answered in the negative”.
After I posted this, a few friends reached out asking how I manage my investments and that of my family. There was one question, which triggered a thought. She said that while it's good I manage my own finances, how am I empowering others? She triggered this - the thought of writing and sharing my experience in the hope it helps someone out there.
At the onset, let me state that I'm no personal finance expert, I just know how to save and how to invest (I can speak only from my experience of advising five people: My dad, mother, sister, husband and myself).
My first investment happened in 2007, I wanted to start investing within the first year of starting work. I listened to a friends' advice and lost some money, that's when I decided to do my own research before investing. I did take a couple of wrong calls...but learned from them. The fear of losing money sometimes comes in the way of starting one’s personal finance journey. Well, this is how I look at it - the initial money lost in a few wrong calls is the fees I paid for learning the basics of how the market works, and now that I know, I have not made any blunders since then (fingers crossed).
The risk in investing should nudge you to do your research, to diversify but don't let it stop you from taking the first, second and subsequent steps. Since then I have been doing my own investments and after marriage, I have been doing the same for my husband. In 2016, during my childcare break, a friend asked me for some mutual fund-related advice - I gave him a few options and told him to choose based on his needs and goals. My dad heard this conversation and told me to manage his and my mother’s investments as well.
Last year, around March 2020 I started investing in the stock market. Here, I have to say that even after one year I do not know all the nitty gritties of the stock market. It's probably going to take a lifetime, and it has to be aligned with one's risk appetite. This needs more research than mutual funds, and after a year I have observed that it's a mix of sentiment and economics and the sentiment is subjective to change. To me, it’s like doing a product-market fit! One can’t say for sure how much demand will be there for the product prior to its launch.
A couple of years ago, one afternoon, I was reading “The Economics Times” in my office lobby. One guy (didn't know him before) strolled past me, then came back again and asked “Samajh mein aata hai kya?” (Do you understand this?). I said, ”Haanji, thoda bahut” (Yes, a little bit).
So to reiterate, it's not that you have to know the inside-out of personal finance, you can start with the basics. Identify your “needs” versus your “wants” and start from there, then add the element of a time frame to it. Do your research and look up what you don’t understand. And try thinking from a “value” perspective; as in the questions you would ask your advisor or yourself when making your choices should be on the lines of “what value will this investment create for me”.
So, on the next Women's day, when there is another social experiment; I sincerely hope there are more women ahead in the line. We are good at handling life and all that it throws at us, personal finance is just another volley. Wait, watch, then take a go at it.
Picture credit: Hanna Barczyk