“Kumudha … your lunch is packed, hurry up or you would be late for college,” Nalini called out to her teenage daughter from the kitchen as she did a thousand things in one go.
“Just a minute, Maa,” came a sweet voice floating from behind the bathroom door. Nalini sighed as she knew that the promised one minute would be several minutes before the bathroom door will be opened and a singing, posing, jubilant Kumudha would totter around the little house.
This was a typical weekday morning at Nalini’s house, and she treasured each such morning. A strong, confident woman in her mid-forties, Nalini had seen enough pain in her life that she tried to collect the tiniest moments of happiness, wherever she could find them.
As she bade goodbye to Kumudha, after dropping her at the bus stop, and rode her scooty to the office – an export firm where she worked at the front office – Nalini thought about her past, and her arduous journey thus far.
Mehul and Nalini’s marriage was arranged, but they soon found their soulmates in each other. Mehul came from a wealthy business family and had several businesses running successfully. Their friends and family members used to say that Mehul had the ‘Midas touch,’ “whatever he touches, turns to gold.”
The first three years of marriage were a bliss. The couple shopped in London and sailed the Pacific, partied in Vegas and strolled in Milan. At times, Nalini would worry about their colossal travelling and partying expenses and would confront Mehul.
“Your husband is a rich guy. You just enjoy all the attention he gives to you,” the ever romantic Mehul would brush off any protest concerning the couple’s mounting leisure expenditures.
In the fourth year, Kumudha was born, and that brought even more joy to Nalini and Mehul’s household. Mehul gave a star-studded party with the city’s who’s who on the guest list.
It was all like a dream for Nalini until one day everything came falling apart. A week after Kumudha turned one, Mehul lost his life in a freak road accident. His sudden demise enveloped Nalini like a permanent mist of gloom; and had it not been for Kumudha, she would never have come out of the shock of losing her love.
For a few months, Nalini received support and love from friends and family, but eventually, everyone got busy with their lives. Nalini, too, had to get on with her life. To take stock of Mehul’s businesses, she called up Mr Kamath, who looked after all accounting and financial aspects of Mehul’s businesses.
“The situation is quite dire, Madam,” Mr Kamath mumbled in a grievous tone.
Nalini was shocked to learn that most of the businesses run by Mehul were debt-ridden. While almost all his businesses churned out profits, he deemed fit to splurge his earnings on his leisurely life and ploughed in investors’ money to keep his businesses going.
“While Mehul was alive, investors didn’t mind putting in money in his ventures as they all believed in him. The situation is now changed,” explained Mr Kamath to a crestfallen Nalini.
The long and short of it was that all the businesses owned by Mehul were acquired by investors and most of his personal assets, including his house, jewellery, cars, etc., were claimed by the bank and other creditors.
In less than a year from Mehul’s death, Nalini found herself without a roof over her head and no assurance of the next day’s meal. Her ageing parents had just enough to support themselves, and she found it unacceptable to be a burden on them; and though, her friends and family helped, Nalini knew that she would have to take charge of her situation if she wanted to give her daughter a decent, dignified life.
Thus, started the struggle for a livelihood.
Years passed, and Nalini worked hard to provide for her lovely daughter. She tried to give everything to her darling Kumudha that her meagre salary could afford. Nalini now banked on a good education to give her daughter a golden future. Yet, the rising cost of higher education and her ill affordability gnawed on her day and night.
“Maa … Maa,” Kumudha came home running and shouting one day. Nalini was alarmed to see her so excited about something.
“Oh my god, Kumudha, calm down, why are you bringing the roof down,” an incredulous Nalini lovingly scolded her daughter.
“Mom, you won’t believe this … I have seen how to grow money on trees … and we will plant ours … with a small seed …regular watering…” Kumudha babbled between gasps of breath.
“Money … tree … seed … watering, have you gone mad,” said Nalini giggling.
“No, Mom … true … it’s easy … needs and wants,” Kumudha started a fresh deluge of broken words in her excitement.
Nalini gave her a glass of water and told her to catch her breath before saying what actually happened.
After ten minutes, Kumudha finally calmed down, and after taking another minute to collect her thoughts, she said, “Our college hosted a noted financial mentor for a talk, and I attended it. This mentor said that anyone could grow rich with patience and discipline.”
Still at sea, Nalini urged Kumudha to spill more beans.
“He told us the first thing that we need to follow to become rich is separating needs from wants,” explained Kumudha, “I have understood now. I don’t want a new dress, we will now buy only those things that we need,” she added in haste, much to the amusement of Nalini.
“Hmm … that’s food for thought. What else did he …” Nalini couldn’t finish her sentence.
“Oh god, Mom; don’t interrupt else I will forget,” Kumudha lovingly warned her dear mother.
“Second, we must invest before spending,” she added, “Do you know what investing means, Mom? It means that you put aside some money in any investment.”
Nalini took all this silently, holding a finger to her lips, amused by her daughter’s enthusiasm.
“And lastly, if we start investing as low as 500 rupees in mutual funds through … wait, what was that … Yes! SIP or Systematic Investment Plans, we can accumulate lakhs of rupees over a period of time, say ten to twelve years,” concluded Kumudha with a happy, forlorn expression in her eyes.
Nalini, influenced by Kumudha’s enthusiasm, offered to meet the financial mentor to know more. This part was easy as Kumudha had already got his contact details and a meeting was fixed at the earliest opportunity.
Meeting the financial mentor, Nalini felt like talking to a well-wisher after years. She poured out all her life’s struggles and the worrisome financial situation she expected to be in in a few years when she would need money to fund Kumudha’s professional education.
The mentor patiently listened to Nalini’s story and assured that with patience and dedication, the mother and daughter could actually look forward to a smiling future.
Taking out a pen and paper, he explained how Nalini must apportion her salary towards expenses and investments. Stressing on the need for life insurance as well as Mediclaim, the mentor made provisions in Nalini’s salary to meet the annual premium expenses. He also suggested some areas of expenditure that could be minimised.
Nalini was incredulous as she found it difficult to manage her monthly expenses out of her small pay, and here, the mentor made provisions for her to not only take care of the family’s immediate financial needs but also made goal-oriented plans to meet future expenses.
After the visit to the advisor, both the women sat musing about their future possibilities.
Nalini had already resolved to start a long-term SIP for Kumudha that would take care of her higher studies. She also thought of investing a little sum regularly in building a substantial corpus for her own use after retirement. Nalini smiled proudly as a beautiful and powerful thought emerged in her head:
I will not seek my daughter’s fortune in her would-be husband’s coffers,
Nor would I want her to trade her dreams for higher pay offers.
For years, I would invest every penny I can spare,
Building her wealth, telling her that I care.
To her, I would teach the tenets of conservation and financial discipline,
Because financial independence is the true way to empower a woman.
Dr. Celso Fernandes and Nave Marg Financial Consultants are on a mission to spread financial literacy, primarily among the people of Goa. Through a series of free illuminating workshops and seminars, the author of four much-loved books, Dr. Celso Fernandes help families fight their financial woes and set on the path of wealth creation. To know about upcoming events and seminars, call at 9422058741 or write at firstname.lastname@example.org.