Being born in a modest political family and getting married at a very early age kept me far away from financial independence for the better part of my life. Often, I wondered why women were not naturally included in the financial decisions at home, thus impeding development of interest and knowledge in that area. Over the years as I developed my personal and professional self, I began to realise that the purpose of my life was not limited to the trite “can women have it all”. It meant much more and included working towards a career that is fulfilling – one that restores the sense of self. This motivated me to take control and embark on a journey towards financial independence. To me, this meant having the courage to lay my own path, and not having to choose one set in stone.
Seizing educational opportunities is imperative
Education is the first step towards gaining financial independence. It can help a woman fuel her innate drive and conviction. I can attest to this, as it has helped me carve out my professional as well as financial roadmap. As a woman, I also believe it is key to understand the nuances of investing and diversification. It is a gradual journey, albeit full of learning, but one that requires focussed effort, considering I viewed investment as a mundane chore, that I had to check off a list for a very long time. But I view this inhibition as just one of the many obstacles that I have overcome with the journey still continuing. Also, with COVID-19 endangering millions of lives around the globe, being financially prepared and sufficient as a woman, has never been more important.
Being resilient and never giving up
I have been through my fair share of ups and downs with regard to my health in the past. I am a cancer survivor and have had heart issues and have had blood transfusions every few years due to sickle cell disease. I have been fortunate enough to receive unwavering support from my beautiful son, my family, and my loved ones which has kept me going. My resilience combined with their emotional stamina was my arsenal to bounce back to life. Being resilient mentally and financially, can help in leading a dignified life, at the same time allow us as women – single or married – to mindfully immerse ourselves in the elation of seeing our family happy, in addition to still chasing our dreams. I for one, would not have been able to traverse these tough times without family support. It is also imperative that we live with an immense amount of gratitude as being gracious as women allows us to help fellow colleagues at work, relish good experiences, improve our health, be resilient, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
But not everyone today is blessed to stumble upon and build a bridge to financial freedom. There are very few who get acquainted with financial management at the genesis of their careers and this in turn sometimes adversely affects their financial independence in the not-so-distant and unpredictable future. And that in itself is a case for why it is more important than ever now for women to take complete control of their fiscal plans and prioritise it.
Financial Independence is liberating and empowering
Being financially independent can liberate and empower us in a big way. It is what bridges the gap between pseudo independence and complete independence. When a woman becomes dependent on herself for her financial security, she is not only more confident with the decisions she makes but also models as encouragement for other women to follow. Complete independence means freedom of choice. It allows us women to prioritise the allocation of finances based on our needs and what is important, thereby ensuring that we put aside money that we should look at investing and amplifying.
Sense of purpose
But the larger picture still circles back to our sense of purpose in life – our value system, beliefs, and virtues. Even though we have seen women break the glass ceiling across sectors, a lot still needs to be done to change mindsets, as it requires us as a woman to either stand alone or leave the pack to create a space at the corporate table. And in such cases, our financial independence takes a new avatar, in that it gives us a choice to break away from the pack and prioritise our freedom and more importantly find our own way. It is not easy making that choice, but before we make it, we need to be absolutely sure of ourselves.
This has also empowered me to tackle and work around biases in the corporate world and society in general. All said and done, this is a work in progress, but I am confident that today as a woman, I am in a better position to deal with the challenges I am confronted with.
To all the young women out there, I can say this with complete confidence - when you conquer your fears and understand the importance of financial independence, you will be able to find your voice and lead an impactful life. Take the road less travelled, and enjoy the journey, for it is as vibrant as it is challenging, and will fill you with the faith that you are undoubtedly made for something bigger.
Even as this Women’s Day heralds its theme of ‘#BreakTheBias,’ the writing on the wall is clear. The pandemic has meant many steps back for the financial independence of women. And the onus of ensuring that women find their voice again is on every institution and community capable of helping.