Stories and Some Learnings: On Earnings and Savings

A video demonstrating how women do not generally take their own financial decision did the rounds on social media on International Women’s Day. There were a few comments about how the concept of the video was borrowed. There were certain other thoughts where few seem to agree on how financial independence of women is destroying the family. While the matter of the video concept is unnecessary for the point of discussion here, I reflected upon a few points on financial independence which are valid for both men and women.

The extreme course, we know, is never advised irrespective of what a video or an article tries to convey. So, in general, whether it is too much of independence and hence breaking away from family systems or too much dependence on others for financial matters, the middle path may serve the best.

Balance is the key.

Pic Source: Google

Early Struggles: Importance of Financial Stability & Independence

In our family of two siblings, one girl and one boy, the lesson that we both learned early is the importance of financial stability. My grandparents lived their early life trying to meet the basic necessities. Without getting into details on how and why they were in a financial crunch, what I have heard and seen is that it took them years to settle into a normal life where each day was not spent worrying about the needs of the next day. My father were 10 siblings, 6 of them being girls. The youngest of the girls, that is my youngest aunt, died in her early childhood probably due to ill health and malnutrition. I haven’t heard much about her except for a few references from my grandfather.

My grandfather suffered from health issues and was practically left jobless. My grandmother and later my father, being the eldest child had to fend for the family needs. My grandmother rented a part of the house while the family managed to live in a small area. She, and the aunts made paper bags and sold those to earn. My father had to take up a job early in life so he could bring some much-needed money. This is a real-life situation where the woman took up the responsibility due to the circumstances and not because she had to prove anything to the world.

Another story that my father has told many times is that since he started earning, my grandmother would feed him first while the other brothers and sisters watched. Not that there was nothing left for them, but he remembers watching their hungry eyes while he ate and usually would happily settle for a morsel less.

So, my grandparents, and specially my grandmother ensured that all her children were educated, got a decent job so they could look after themselves and their families. What my grandmother also did was to specifically advise our aunts to have financial independence so that they could face unforeseen situations like what she had. All my aunts had a job in those days when a female earning in the family was not quite the norm. My mother too was a working woman much before her marriage. Somehow growing up in the family where each one earned to live his life, while supported by the family, the lesson of earning for oneself was easily learnt.

Childhood blessed by grandparent’s presence

Since my mother was a working woman, we would be in care of our grandparents. While we ate our lunch as children, just like any normal children, we too had our tantrums and many a time we would leave the food unfinished. Grandpa would pick the remaining rice from our plates and have it, in fact he would not leave a single grain on the plate. Nothing went to the dustbin. This was a life lesson on not wasting food.

Grandpa would also not let us light the electric bulbs before darkness and would often recite a poem which kind of meant that if we lit a candle during the day, we wouldn’t find it when we needed it during darkness. Though the family had become financially stable by then, grandpa would always say that resources were not to be wasted even if one had the means to pay for the same.

Our growing up years saw us watching how our parents accounted for their expenditure and how they would save. One of the traditional saving practices that is prevalent in most households and ours is to have a saving box at our Puja space. So, some coins, some notes found their way to the Puja room on specific days. This was never touched however everyone knew where to look to just in case.

** The different investment options are not really in the scope of this write-up.

Enjoying life’s little pleasures

Since my mother earned, she spent as well within defined limits and knowing where the boundary was. She did not hesitate to pick that shawl for herself or that skirt for me if it caught her fancy. We grew up hearing about how the coat should be cut according to the cloth and we practiced that. We knew that we could reach out to our mother for giving us that extra colorful pencil or buying an embroidery kit I wanted to experiment on. She spent where she needed to, and saved where she needed to. Infact in the last years of her life, she would give from her savings for her medicines and stuff. Pampering self and the family is absolutely fine once in a while.

Knowing where each coin is spent

The other day my brother had 30 rupees in his trouser pocket, in notes of Rs. 10 and one Rs. 20. He dumped his trouser in the washing machine and the notes got washed along with the clothes. After the clothes were hung, I found the wet, torn half of the twenty rupees note and kept in on the table to dry. Father’s eye fell on that and he was furious as to how we could be so careless. He said that there are many people who can only afford a twenty-rupee lunch in the whole day. He narrated to us another incident while he was traveling once and offered the food from his plate to someone begging. That person had run away with the plate. Such was the need of that person that he didn’t hesitate in grabbing anything that he could get his hands on.

My father usually can account for each note that he spends, each change that he receives and his calculations are just perfect.

So, earning isn’t enough. Respecting every bit of that earning is important just as respecting every bite of the food is.

Others’ jobs are important too

Just as we earn and expect to be paid for our efforts, so do the people who work for us. My father makes it a point to pay the maid on the third of every month no matter what. I will accept that I falter here and delay in the cases out of sheer laziness and indiscipline, but not him.

Not all are fortunate

Coming back to another story which my father has narrated many times over is when he once turned away a beggar and later repented. He prayed hard to find that lady and in a small town like it was not too hard to spot her. He called her to our house and fed her. Again, here the tradition of finding God in every being is clearly demonstrated though the need to be careful in today’s time need not be overlooked.

Another event from a few days back made us look back at our learnings. On a cold winter morning, as we were getting ready for the chores of the day, an old man his wife was heard begging on the street by our house. My brother saw that and immediately asked our maid to prepare rotis for the old couple. They sat on the steps and had the food leaving us to think where the society has come to where old people must go and beg. Maybe they didn’t have any children, maybe their children didn’t look after them but sure it was a sad sight.

So those of us, who can, should give back, even if a little to the society and to the people who have nothing.

This is kind of a belated post on Women’s day but should drive some lessons home for both men and women. Work hard, earn, spend, don’t waste, save and give.