Tuesday, July 30, 2013

not quite a feminist still

Can a woman describe herself as a feminist if she has no knowledge of and control over her financial affairs? 

It began as what I thought was a charming quirk. My salary was a paltry sum before the Pay Commissions began displaying some generosity to government servants. I would spend all of it on buying gifts for my family, especially my brothers. I had a vague idea that there were some deductions called GPF and CGEIS and the salary slips were thin sheets of paper that somehow managed to lose themselves. Beyond those pieces of information, I had not much idea about the salary components, allowances etc.

Matters did not much improve when I got married because I was so focused on setting up home and then bringing up my children that the nitty gritty of how much I earned didn't much engage my attention. It was good enough that I budgeted revenue and expenditure ----and let me say, I did a better job than GOI, as do most home makers. My husband didn't earn much either so when we first decided to invest in a plot of land , where we'd build our post retirement dream house, the weeks of drawing up of lists of essential and non essential expenditures became a learning experience in itself.

Then the Pay Commissions happened, and my husband's promotions began to take place super quick ( because performance matters in the private sector, thank God, even if its frowned upon in GOI!) so the family income increased dramatically. I became more and more complacent, because as a family, we do not party or believe in conspicuous consumption so our expenditure is pretty much limited to (a) healthy food (b) vacations (c) fine dining on occasion. 

That complacence has brought me to a state of affairs where I do not know what my gross salary is,what its components are, which pay grade I am entitled to, what other allowances the government bestows upon its employees, etc etc. Since salary slips and salary credits are now online, I do not even have to take the trouble of filing the salary slips!! My income tax return is filed by my husband, I have scarcely any savings in my salary account, and in the belief that "Sir sir rijak sambāhe ṯẖākur kāhe man bẖa▫o kari▫ā. For each and every person, our Lord and Master provides sustenance. Why are you so afraid, O mind?" I scarcely ever worry about the future. 

What property I own ( either co ownership with my husband or otherwise) I do not know the present value of nor have access to the papers. What jewelry I own is in a locker and there is no co signatory! There is a life insurance policy somewhere ( my father in law has been paying the premium amounts) but I don't quite know what it is. Several years ago, an ICICI bank executive had persuaded me to invest in several SIPs. I did. All of the investments are now redeemable below par !! 

All major investment decisions and major purchases ( cars, for example) are made by my husband, with participation from my younger son vis a vis the latter. 

To summarise, I am a strong believer in women's rights and assert them ever so often except in my own financial matters. 

My resolve for August, therefore, is to do a 360 degree appraisal, sit with a financial consultant  and set my house in order. Or am I over reacting? Is it OK to trust your financial affairs in God and man { beloved husband :) } ??


  1. Aah, a post after my heart! I don't have a husband and basically manage all my bills myself. But still--I haven't bother about investments and since tax deducted at source, I haven't filed returns (dont know how to in India, was good at it in USA). I dont put enough thought into finances or tomorrow or anything. I shrug off. And worse, I still can't make resolve to charge of financial affairs fully.

  2. I wish I could say so for myself,Priya, my husband just knows what to do if we have some money saved, and conveniently leaves the logistics to me and then does the legwork. As for tax, it's kaala akshar for him and we have to maintain our ledgers as professionals, he conveniently ignores it with a lawyers standard-the max they can do is levy a fine or file a case i'll handle.i'm left with the task of completing the paperwork on time.I do so wish to enjoy that anti feminist freedom and trust him with the finances. the bank sells him a policy and i have to go after them threatening to sue for fraud as inevitably there are errors in the document and return it but go through this almost on a regular basis so enjoy this relief as a blessing and cheers for selective empowerment as per our convenience

  3. An essential aspect of empowerment. Most women in our system are clueless when their spouses die (or divorce them, for example) as to what the financial situation is, what they are entitled to, or what to do with the money available. This is worsened when there is a situation of plenty (or enough to get by comfortably).

    In my situation, we have dealt with bankruptcy twice, and are dealing with it for the third time. The first time, my wife did not participate, the second time, she remembered what I had gone through, and participated to the extent of understanding the process. This time, she actively involved herself in the planning and the strategy. For me, this was extremely useful, since now her actions and decisions are from the perspective of a stakeholder and not a bystander, dependent, or even victim. :)

    Great post.