In India and around the world, a woman’s role and responsibilities were highly influenced and shaped by the relationships she shared. Early on a lot of decisions were made for her, by her parents, especially by fathers and after the wedding that either adds more from the in-laws or remains limited to the husband.
Now don’t think of this as some patriarchal problem (although in most cases it would’ve been), since some women may prefer depending upon a doting male or female authority figure in their lives. While this is not an immediate problem or issue, in the long run the ability of being independent keeps getting affected, and ultimately a larger issue when those people aren’t around us anymore.
The last 20 years has seen a paradigm shift where women are looking to emerge in fields, both personal and professional. Especially in the male dominated strongholds such as politics, business, science, finance, etc. However, the road to curbing dependency is a long one and a lot of work is required to close in on that gap. Take finance for instance, although around 80 percent of women own bank accounts, more than half of them are known to use it in limited capacity or in none at all. This holds true for most women in India today, be it among the urban population or rural, be it by choice or having no say!
What is the financial reality of women?
To delve deeper into the problem and understand why this continues to occur, we at LXME put forth a survey by speaking to the women who trust us with helping them grow their wealth. When asked about making financial decisions, 66 percent of women said that they do not make their own financial decisions and approximately 28 percent depend on their fathers to make financial decisions in their lives. Surprisingly, although not shockingly enough only 5 percent of the respondents depended on their mothers to make financial decisions. Here, we identify two main concerns,
Women are not making their own financial decision and are highly dependent on someone else
Women might be perceived as dependable for financial decisions
Taking a wedding into account to understand what happens after a woman is married, the number of women not making financial decisions increases from 66 percent to 69 percent. Here we observed that fathers have been replaced by either husbands or joint decision making by the couple. And the level dependency further progresses when a woman has children. A 90x increase is observed in this situation where the husband making financial decisions increased from 17% (women without children) increased to 33% (women with children).
The key takeaway from this exercise suggests that financial dependency increases as a woman progresses ahead in life from being a daughter, to being a wife and finally being a mother. And a loop is formed where they don't depend on their mothers for financial dependency, they depend upon others for their financial decisions and finally going back to not being relied upon to make financial decisions. An unending loop!
Where does the problem lie?
To understand this better, we performed a short exercise of surveying children along with women and about their perception with regards to this topic. Breaking it down simply to them by asking about their knowledge of money, source of knowledge and their observation of financial decision making, we found that over 86 percent of women educate their children about financial decision making by teaching them about money, inculcating money management habit while encouraging them to save more.
The other side of the coin doesn’t paint a different picture. Even though mothers are the primary source of knowledge, only 7 percent of respondents claimed that their mothers took financial decisions in the house and 66 percent strongly claimed that their mothers don’t make the financial decisions. And finally of all these women who have acquired knowledge about financial dependency, only 24 percent actually end-up making financial decisions independently.
The problem seems to lie in a situation where although a woman might have the knowledge, is seen imparting that knowledge, they may yet not be involved in any financial decision making, for whatsoever reasons. We’re living in the 21st century where women are consistently making strides to progress further. Financial dependency is just another nail in the coffin for the struggles of women in our country. A step towards financial freedom must also be one of our top priorities and should remain one of our focused goals until achieved. Simply begin asking yourself ‘why not just decide for yourself’ and take charge of your own finances, to be independent enough to take your own decisions in spending and investing your money to grow