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Great changes have swept India’s financial market in the past two decades. While earlier women constituted just a miniscule percentage of the buyers of financial products, today with growing financial literacy among women and their increasing, independent earning power, a section of the more-educated, urban Indian women have become active participants in the affairs of the capital markets.
Traditionally also, women in our society have had a high propensity to save, significantly more than their men folk. With newer avenues of investment now easily available, and the facility of demat accounts and internet access that enables even housewives to trade from the comfort of their home, during their free time, the temptation to earn from their idle savings through carefully-considered investments in a variety of market-linked instruments, is significantly on the rise. Post liberalisation, women investors have also become more aware and knowledgeable about the glut of choices available to them in the capital markets, and have begun to emerge as an astute investing class in their own right.
However it’s surprising that although women are considered more astute at saving than men, they still end up saving less than their men, and invest even lesser than their men. Only a quarter of all Indian women have an account with a financial institution be it a bank, credit union, post-office, co-operative or a micro-finance outfit, as compared to nearly half of the men in the country!
Every third women, since the age of 15, has faced domestic violence in various forms in the country, the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) released recently by the Union health ministry has reported. Of this, nearly 27 per cent of women have experienced physical violence since the age 15 in India. This experience of abuse is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Domestic violence cases stand at 29 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, for rural and urban areas.
Because of the stigma attached to domestic violence, especially in the middle and upper socioeconomic strata—most such cases, don’t even get reported. The only way to counter this social malaise is to educate and make women more financial independent. Therefore no matter, what stage or place an individual lives in, building savings is always a great idea—for one’s education, for investments, for holidays, and most particularly, for the rainy days.
Once one understands the rationale behind saving a portion of his/her income each month, the next, logical question that arises is where to park the saved money? While two decades ago, the options available were fairly limited—either a bank or something called a Public Provident Fund (PPF), these days an investor’s choices have multiplied, to say the least. .
Although bank deposits have historically been a popular place with Indians due to their low risk, capital guarantee and relative liquidity, banking institutes cannot beat inflation risk and are generally not tax-friendly. Therefore, the money parked in savings accounts can get eroded at over time, and can’t double-up as investments.
Even in case of banks, the biggest difference between rural and urban Indians lies in their access to banks and financial advice. In high inflation environments like India, inflation erodes real savings, which further underscores the need to invest well.
With greater connectivity and migration between rural and urban populations, and opening up of the Indian markets, an average Indian’s aspirations in rural areas have also undergone a sea change. To counter inflation effectively, match one’s increasing aspirations, and meet one’s financial goals, it’s become important to increase the level of savings in every household.
Financial savings, if invested properly and prudently can reap rich rewards over a period of time, and cushion any financial crisis, along the way. A cause for serious worry is that influenced by the West, the Indian youth has also started growing up in a ‘culture of debt’ facilitated by expensive lifestyles and easy credit. In such a scenario three trends pose a serious threat to their ability to manage their money matters:
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