SEEMA columnist Sweta Vikram talks about money and women and financial literacy after watching a Netflix docu-series.
I chanced upon this show on Netflix called “The Big Day.” It is a six-part Netflix Original docuseries highlighting luxurious, vibrant, colorful, Indian weddings. I watched the series with trepidation — and some preconceived notions. I assumed it would be one of those over-the-top wedding videos and a display of exuberance. Yes, to all of the above. But this show is more than that — it reveals the emotional journey of the couples and the conversations around gender equality and women’s financial independence. All the brides (there is also an adorable same-sex couple) on the show are powerhouses and have redefined weddings. They plan every minute detail, which isn’t how things happened in India until recently. Patriarchal rituals and misogynistic traditions were cut out from the ceremonies on this show. The brides weren’t mere spectators on the biggest day of their lives. They held their own and established their space. This kind of self-care is much needed and revolutionary. And it stems from women’s awareness of their finances.
“The Big Day” is about affluent millennials who are firm in their life choices; they are unapologetic about who they are and how they want to spend the rest of their lives. But it’s quite apparent that these women get their confidence from being financially independent. One of the women on the show makes more money than her partner. Her fiancé was so proud of her accomplishments. I wonder if bathing in that knowledge empowers her—knowing she can survive and thrive on her own. That marriage isn’t a gateway to financial safety and security. She is in the relationship for the man and what they aspire to build together. Another bride asked her father to invest in her education, so she could stand on her feet, instead of splurging that money on her wedding.
I did not know many financially savvy women while growing up. I am not even getting into generational differences and stereotypes, where women were expected to be the solo caregivers and relied on their husbands for money. I am speaking about general apathy of the fairer sex towards finance. Research tells us that a large majority of women find money talk boring. Compared to shopping, traveling, or dating life… they don’t find conversations around financial well-being exciting.
“Women should take care of their finances. It is one of the most basic needs of social interaction,” says UK-based Monica Ranjan, a business manager to whom women’s economic empowerment is very important. “Not having that skill begins their social journey on a crutch that they can never get rid of. Financial uncertainty has to be overcome for any woman in order to have a stable and solid social, economic, and emotional base. Taking care of their own finances gives them that control. Control over one’s finances reduces the chances of women being economically enslaved and therefore open to further manipulation. It increases self-worth and aids in sound decision making. It secures not just their future but also the future of their dependents.”
Hey, I used to loathe discussing the real aspects of money even though I started working quite early in life. While I preferred talking about global issues, not shopping, money wasn’t a topic I touched upon easily. It would both frighten and overwhelm me. I would internalize my stress about money because I wasn’t actively involved in managing it. Like a large majority of women, I too used to find money-talks both tedious and pejorative. One day while meditating it became clear to me: my apathy was the cause of my anxiety. Changing my mindset and getting actively interested in my family’s financial health has changed my life and boosted my confidence.
“Managing your finances isn’t just about you. It’s also about being a role model for your children and loved ones,” says Ruchi Pinniger, founder and CEO of Watch Her ProsperTM. “Don’t we owe this to our future generations? It’s never too late to get started and you can do this by taking baby steps. Week by week, month by month, small steps will lead to big results. I started working with a client last spring who had tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. We jumped right into looking at what they were earning and spending, easy cuts they could make without turning their life upside down, and in the midst of a pandemic, they have been able to reduce their debt by half and save along the way!”
A number of studies have demonstrated a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Financial problems adversely impact your mental health. The stress of debt or other financial issues leaves you feeling depressed or anxious. Another study tells us that financial problems double women’s risk of having a heart attack. I got intentional with money and had to cross the mental roadblock for my own well-being.
“Financial knowledge is power, and confidence in financial decision making is empowering,” Diane Neustadt, director of operations at Forest Hills Financial Group reminds us. “Women often put family first and are more likely than men to put their career on hold to raise children or take care of ailing family members, putting an additional strain on savings power. We tend to be good savers, but with financial literacy women can learn creative ways to make those savings work as hard as we do. Financial knowledge is power, and confidence in financial decision making is empowering,” she further adds.
You don’t have to love creating a financial roadmap but learn to become with it because it matters. Money is something we all need (degrees and relationship with it might differ). You can start the conversation small, and then build it to bigger topics. I have noticed that when women aren’t the breadwinner, they can often feel as though it’s not their right to make decisions regarding money in their household. I have heard friends (who are homemakers) admit this insecurity. But you couldn’t be further from the truth. Speak up. Make sure you are heard. Take the initiative. Educate yourself in your family’s finances. In doing so, you will start to feel more in control and less overwhelmed. And, you will have the option to not decay in relationships for financial reasons, especially even when they are detrimental to your well-being.
There is no denying that financial self-care matters. Think about what happens when you neglect your physical, emotional, or mental health. Typically, stress gets elevated. Between a weakened immune system, insomnia, mood swings, poor digestion…our relationships start to get impacted negatively. It could lead to bigger mistakes too. It’s actually no different with your finances. Ignoring your finances adds to anxiety, stress, shame, guilt, remorse, and relationship troubles. Minding your money can be an act of self-care. All of us need to be actively involved in our financial lives. Having a lot of money doesn’t increase your worth as an individual but knowing how much you have available and how much you can spend without stressing out (in extreme cases, going into debt) can feel empowering and nourishing for your overall well-being.
“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” ~ Helen Gurley Brown
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