Power is an important part of our social structure. How you define power is subjective. It could mean different things to different people. But in all my readings, discussions and observations about power, one interpretation of its definition is recurring – money. Like it or not money yields a lot of power in our life. It shapes the decisions we make, the relationships we have, the people we meet, the networks we build, the things we buy, the lives we live.
Money was really never important to me. It still isn’t. I played professional sport because I love to play. I work and coach because I am truly passionate about it. I don’t base any of my relationships on how are they going to help me financially. Money has never really been the centre of my decision-making universe and always been a by-product of sorts. Money is also never a part of any of my conversations with friends, especially girlfriends. We never speak about stocks or mutual funds. We may be touch upon how much do we earn and what we deserve sometimes. Culturally, in the society I live in, talking about money directly is considered impolite, being obsessed by it openly is considered indecent. Yet in my lifetime I have seen friendships, families, people break because of lack of it.
But I started thinking about money a couple years back when my husband had a candid conversation with me on the topic.
“We need to pay the EMIs for the house, buy groceries, pay the bills, pay for the insurance, pay salary of the maids, plan travel, eat out and and and …. shop for the clothes you don’t need. And this is generally the amount we spend – XXX. So honey, it is about time we talk about money.”
When my husband finished that thought, I was perplexed. For two reasons, first I thought that my husband has probably lost all of his savings on some gamble and we are doomed. Second – I had no idea where my money was at that time. The only thing I knew is that I had a bank account from which I could draw my everyday expenses – but I didn’t know until when. Luckily, the first thought wasn’t true. The second was, and still is partly true even today.
I HAD NO IDEA WHERE MY MONEY WAS!
Does this ring a bell for any of my fellow women friends reading this?
I still struggle with it but luckily I have got better since I had that conversation with my husband. Accepting that you don’t know is the first step towards knowing right?
I consider myself a strong and independent woman, a free thinker or sorts. I started earning a regular salary at the age of 16. I started earning my own money at the age of 9, when I won my first 1000 rupees ($15) in cash when I won a tournament. So basically I have not spent a day without making money one way or the other from age 9 till today. I love the hustle and am proud of it. I made the money but had no clue where it goes, how it functions, how do I make it work for me today and in the future.
This is sort of counter-intuitive. How does a strong independent woman, remain so oblivious to understanding money? More importantly her own money.
And to make things really interesting let me inform you that my father is a banker. Yep.
My father has been working at Canara Bank since he was 19. It was his first job and his only job till he retired. He understands how the bank works. All the money I made since the age of 9 was taken care by my extremely diligent and knowledgeable father. I never had to go to the bank for anything. It was basically taken care of, for me.
Irony is that as a free woman I fight patriarchy all the time. I never tolerated it and would not let anyone I know suffer through it. Yet, when it came to managing my own finances, I let the patriarchal mindset take its course. I always let my father handle the finances at home. He decided a monthly budget and how we spent it. Now my mother, a teacher, drew a salary which in Marathi we joked would be enough to buy kothimbir and mirchi (Corriander and chilly). That basically translated into ‘ I don’t earn much so it doesn’t matter’. That salary also got routed to my father since he was planning the finances. Also it was pretty natural for her to do that since she saw her mother, all her sisters and almost all of her girlfriends do the same.
So I continued the tradition with my money. It was convenient for me. I bought whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about where to invest, how many accounts I held, do I have enough to for my older – retired self, ordering cheque books, ATM cards, filing taxes etc. Everything was given to me on a platter.
And no this was not a Britney Spears replay. I used every single penny of what I earned. My father never allowed anyone else to draw from that pool, even he didn’t touch it. #BestGuardEver.
The Hate for Mathematics and anything that involved numbers
I passionately hated Mathematics as a kid and I still do as an adult. For me to understand money, I had to understand numbers and that scared me. I let myself believe that I should not directly handle money because I didn’t exactly understand numbers. I know money is not just Math, it is more of a combination of math and art. Also, if you understand enough, it is basic common sense – which I believe I have in plenty.
So as we enter 2022, I want to take complete responsibility of my own money. I can’t tell the world I am an independent woman, when I don’t even know what is my life’s savings, the inflow, the outflow and everything in between. I need to understand the science of money, how it functions, how to invest it, where to invest it, how to make it work for me – while I sleep – yes I caught the lingo quickly. Independence stems from being in control of your own finances, a true feminist will always tell you that.
Early this year I wrote to one of my mentors asking him to help me get better at money. I told him, that I have no understanding of money and I have finally realised that it is not exactly a thing to be proud of. We had an hour long call, he couriered me a bunch of books to start my journey. The more I have read the more I have realised handling your finances is not rocket science. It is simple, and very doable. You have to start though.
I have been blessed with a fantastic father and a financially intelligent husband who I could completely trust with all my money and every decision I need to make with it. Though starting this year I want to take this trust I have on them and instil it on my own self. I work very hard to make my money, and only I should have the right to make decisions about it. I see all the feminists smiling at me from the heaven and the earth. This is the year I hope to make them proud.
Power is not just money for me. It will never be. But I would like to be able to live a good life on my own terms and understanding money will empower me to do that. So this year, 2022, I am finally going to be truly independent. I can’t wait to see what that feels like!
Happy New Year $$$