Woman's Day: In Celebration of the Stronger Sex

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There are very few things life that I am absolutely sure of: (1) nature is subject to a set of physical laws -elegant or otherwise, (2) all Gods are one and the same and (3) each species has a stronger sex and in the case of homo sapiens, it is the female (like most other species).

I am grateful that none in my family extrapolated isolated incidents and branded the entire female race as incapable of certain tasks (driving for instance!).  Therefore, I grew up treating individuals as individuals. Their sex, nativity, pigmentation, caste and creed were not aspects that I focussed upon. This is sheer dumb luck and I believe is responsible for the health of my marriage and the relationship with my students.

Yes, women are the stronger sex. They made only one mistake. They thought that men would do their bit for sustenance, they would do theirs, and it would be a relationship between equals. What ensued was anything but that!

If the wife allows the husband to handle family finances, it is because of trust and not because she can’t handle it herself (at least I hope so. Some women have a very poor view about themselves, thanks to cultural indoctrination)

Women perceive risk a lot better than men.  I have had the pleasure of working with some ‘tough as steel’ women researchers. I worked in a lab where we needed to operate liquefaction plants for a living. My boss expected the women to be competent grease monkeys. So we all got our hands and dresses dirty in equal measure. We  were trained to handle pressure situations (literally!).  Women can handle it a lot better than men. Hence my conviction that they are the stronger sex.

So I am fairly confident that women will not take long to understand that long-term goal planning with short-term financial fortifications (insurances +emergecy fund) is the generic framework of personal finance.  That loss of purchasing power due to inflation is the primary risk that one should worry about.

The grim question is, if she realizes that her husband has got it all wrong in terms of finances, can she convince him to rethink his strategy? I believe so, but at what cost is a question that is deeply personal and cannot be made into Women’s day issue.

In a marriage, if the couple understands and agree upon the generic framework, it does not matter who manages the finances (as long as someone does!).

Personally I think it is better if only one spouse (man or women) is in charge of household finances. The other spouse plays an equal role in important decisions, has a general idea of what is going on, but does not get involved in the choice of instruments (provided there is agreement on the category).

I think it is unhealthy if the couples discuss which fund/stock to buy: HDFC Balanced or Prudence? Tata Cofee or Kaveri Seeds?! This is because the information circles of the couple tend to be different and each person will have an opinion in the matter. Arguments and disagreement can cripple the financial health of a family.

So one spouse handles the investments and the couple review the portfolio together from time to time. The point of this post, it to remind the men that if our wives trust us to run the finances of the household it is a privilege. They trust us to deliver. I firmly believe a women with a good grasp of the basics is a better administrator than the men.

The point of this post, it to remind the men that if our wives trust us to run the finances of the household it is a privilege. They trust us to deliver. I firmly believe a women with a good grasp of the basics is a better administrator than the men. If they choose to handle this responsibility themselves, let us thank our stars and try to be helpful.

Here is an extraordinary song, bread and roses, from the movie ‘pride’. It became popular after the 1912 strike by women textile workers.

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

My situation. Let me end this post with an anecdote.  My wife hates personal finance. She  is far smarter than me, but she just hates personal finance. She trusts me entirely with the finances, especially the investments. As a sole earner, my job is to provide for now and the future.  I am lucky that we are financially compatible and think 10 times before making a big ticket purchase.

We recently got a DSLR for which she wanted an expensive zoom lens (6 figures). I told her that we cannot afford it now. She then asked me how much we can spare. When I gave a figure, she said ‘invest in an equity fund and try your luck after a few months’.  I said, I could,  but it would take a couple of years even if we are lucky, not few months.

So she left it at that.  I felt bad and decided to scrounge around without touching any of our investments. Then I realized that we could indeed buy the lens straight away and offered to buy it for her. She felt elated at first and then the next day said, ‘we have just got an expensive DSLR. Let me learn photography a bit more with what we have and then buy the lens’.

By the time she said this, I had arranged for the money to get credited in my SB account. So I asked her, ‘I have the money ready, what do we do?’.

She said (and I quote), ‘put it in a liquid fund, until I am ready’!!  I gaped in amazement.

The stronger sex in more ways than one. QED.

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of freefincal.com.  He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras since Aug 2006. Pattu” as he is popularly known, has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management.  He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Pattu publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates  and associations(see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, TamilNadu Investors Association etc. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
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  1. First thing in the morning I did today is reading this article. You made writing seems so easy. I agree with you on all points. Thank you for everything.

  2. Excellent! A true tribute on a special day! Most men (I hope) have the ability to understand the truth behind what Pattu has written here, but few (if any) have the gumption to accept the reality!

  3. Absolutely wonderful post sir. I’ve been following you here as well as on the fb group but haven’t commented much. This post made me comment. This must be your best post to date even if it did not involve much numbers or excel sheets 🙂

  4. Don’t have any PF suggestions but have you considered renting lenses? That would cost you a fraction of the original cost … Again depends on how frequently you plan to use it

  5. It’s always a surprise to me, and common occurrence otherwise, that people who think saying “men is stronger than women” is sexist think vice-versa is not. Of course my personal view, but that’s not really sign of equality in mind in whichever sense one desires.

  6. “My wife hates personal finance. She is far smarter than me, but she just hates personal finance. She trusts me entirely with the finances, especially the investments. As a sole earner, my job is to provide for now and the future. I am lucky that we are financially compatible and think 10 times before making a big ticket purchase”
    Can’t agree more than on this. And this is exactly reflect our family too. Great post and I have to share this with my wife. Thank you

  7. Lol, “all Gods are one and the same”. I didn’t know anyone could be sure of that – absolutely at that! Wouldn’t you have at least be one of the “Gods” to know that!?

    On a serious note – totally agree with your premise. Every few days I seem to marvel at my wife’s strength and fortitude.

  8. Brilliant post sir.. by the way, you could listen to Strength of a woman – by Shaggy, loved these lines from that song

    “So amazing how this world was made,
    I wonder if God is a woman.
    The gift of life astounds me to this day,
    I give it up for the woman.
    She’s the constant wind that fills my sails,
    Oh, that woman.
    With a smile and a style,
    She’ll protect you like a child,
    that’s a woman.

    She’ll put a smile upon your face,
    and take you to that higher place,
    So don’t you underestimate,
    the strength of a woman.”

    Trying to get my wife interested in Personal finance.. may be this will help a lot 🙂

  9. Well captured. In many households even today women hold emergency funds saved out of the money they get for running their homes. They may not be strong on MFs etc but know money mgmt from family perspective. Many households particularly in the lower strata survive because of their skills.

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