Ladies, loosen those purse strings

Ladies, loosen those purse strings

 – The Hindu

Invest your money wisely, and watch it work for you

A question for all working women out there — what happens once your salary is credited to your bank account? Does it lie in a savings or current account, or do you take an active role in investing it?

If you fall in the former category, you are not alone. According to a recent Nielsen survey, only 23 per cent of working women have a say in investing their money. The reasons vary from risk aversion to insufficient financial knowledge, even a lack of freedom and confidence to take such decisions.

This gap in women’s financial empowerment is being addressed by financial adviser Renu Maheshwari, in partnership with the IIT Alumni Center. Together, they have been organising the WoW – Women only Workshop to empower women in personal finance.

Renu, who has more than 20 years of work experience, started holding sessions in April this year as part of CSR initiatives of her own company, Finscholarz. “I find a huge difference in conversation in women’s and men’s groups,” she said. “Men are always talking about finance; investing in stocks, bonds and so on while women do not.”

This difference is rooted in the socio-economic and legal environment in a patriarchal society. “There are many emotional barriers for a woman vis-à-vis money,” Renu said. “We work to be free and independent, but where is the freedom if we do not own our money and take a call on it?” Renu’s aims to reach out to at least 1,000 professional women over a year, a small drop in the pool among Chennai’s 70,000-strong professional female working force, but a dent nevertheless.

“When we started out, people wondered about the need for it,” Renu said. “Now, there is definite interest as word has gone around.” The workshop is held on the last Wednesday of every month. “We have reached out to industry leaders, some of whom are members of the IIT Alumni Club as well,” Renu said. “Companies such as TCS, Cognizant, and Wipro have committed to sending their female employees in the second half of a working day.”

The workshop dived headfirst into why women need to invest their money, while laying bare the truth about certain options which are usually considered ‘safe’ for investment, especially traditional avenues such as real estate and gold. The lack of knowledge about financial products and tools was apparent in the room full of qualified engineers and the odd journalists. Almost all of us drew a blank when faced with basic questions about optimum returns, and the best way of making money work.

Apart from Renu, the audience was addressed by Yamini Sood from DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund, who spoke about the importance of systematically investing money from early on in a woman’s career. She also warned women against waiting for an eventuality like a death before taking charge of finances.

“The tendency is to spend, and then save,” Yamini said. “It should be the other way round.”

The two speakers also busted some widely-held beliefs about financial behaviour. “We all think we are saving money when we keep money in a bank,” Yamini said. “Be it a fixed deposit or a savings account, it will not help us tide over inflation, whereas in the long run, invested money will.”

Renu stressed on the need to invest money for the right reasons, paving the way for women to take decisions such as taking a career break without affecting their quality of life.

“The first question people ask is, where should I invest?” Renu said. “I ask back, why do you want to invest, and what is your risk appetite?”

These thought-provoking questions stirred the audience to sign-up for free counselling on financial advice. Girija Raman, a 25-year-old engineer said, “I am definitely going to meet a financial adviser now.”