Can we really have it all?
A great full-time job, a happy marriage, enough time with the kids, quality time for yourself – is it possible for them all to co-exist? As the debate rages on, some women are opting to pick and choose what works for them. Instead of trying to become expert jugglers, should we focus on having our own version of ‘all’?
Is the idea of ‘having it all’ just another fairytale? If we go by the data, or even a casual conversation with female friends and colleagues, a seamless personal and professional life is the grown-up version of pumpkins that transform into horse-drawn carriages. Come to think of it, even Cinderella was left wishing she’d had more time.
In her article, academic Anne-Marie Slaughter claims that under the present circumstances, it’s impossible for women to cope with the demands of a high-ranking role while tending to a family. Could this be a result of work culture that rewards overwork? After all, more often than not, companies value and reward those who are willing to work beyond regular hours.
If women are feeling overwhelmed by the odds, it’s because the rules haven’t changed since the Industrial Age trundled in. The timings and expectations evolved around the belief that there’s one breadwinner (the husband) and one caregiver (the wife) in the family. So when we women started joining the workforce, we didn’t swap responsibilities; we doubled them.
Every family has different challenges for running the household, raising the kids and keeping everyone happy while at it. It’s a complicated system, that has not always worked in favour of women. Which is why several women are trying to find a formula that works for them, rather than following the set template.
At Basis, we believe that living on your terms begins with financial freedom. As Hena Mehta, Founder and CEO of Basis, says, “The conventional approach to saving and investment is inadequate to accommodate the dynamic changes happening in the life of Indian women today. To live whatever you consider is a more fulfilling life, it’s best to plan your finances differently as well.”
Intrigued? Here are a few examples that illustrate Hena’s point:
Not having kids/having kids later
While DINK (Double income, no kids) couples may save more than couples who are raising children, they spend more on travelling and eating out. Whatever your choice may be, start consulting a financial planner early on to make the most of your surplus income, and pay particular attention to life and medical insurance. It’s also a good idea to start a retirement fund and shore something up for any healthcare or assisted living needs that might crop up later in life.
Deciding not to have kids frees up your income for other interests, but it’s wise to also save for the future.
Renting instead of owning
Owning a home is a rite of passage in India; while it brings a sense of security, many are left wondering if it’s worth being saddled with a home loan for. Women are increasingly considering renting homes rather than trying to pay a heavy EMI for decades. Apart from the savings, it also gives them the flexibility to move wherever their work might take them. There are logical reasons to own and to rent, but if you choose the latter, be sure to put the resulting savings in another long-term investment.
When you call the shots, make sure you draw up a monthly budget and follow it. Try the 50/30/10/5/5 rule – spend 50% of the essentials like rent, groceries and so on, 30% on investments, 10% for emergencies, 5% for lifestyle expenses (hello, shopping!), and the remaining 5% on charity. Steer clear of debts and ensure you have adequate financial security. That means long-term investments that will set you up nicely for retirement and short or fixed-term funds that can help you fulfil life goals.
Working part-time or being self-employed
Many women are opting out of the 9-to-9 culture of the corporate world for several reasons. New moms (43% of them) often leave because of a lack of adequate childcare options, while others like travel blogger Shivya Nath find their true calling outside the confines of a cubicle. With increasing and more fulfilling choices, women are approaching work differently. However, the absence of a monthly salary shouldn’t hamper investments. Save as often as you can, make sure you have a medical insurance policy, and plan your taxes.
When deciding to make a career out of your passion, ensure that you have savings that cover at least 6 months’ expenses.
Raising kids on your own
Apart from planning for their kids’ futures, single moms should also invest in their own. Investing in a child’s education is an obvious one, but retirement planning and healthcare should also be priorities. Try to maintain a balance between long-term investments with compounding interest and short-term funds that you can easily convert to cash if the need arises.
No doubt, a majority of women find fulfilment in trying to achieve and maintain the perfect personal-professional balance and don’t mind if the result is less than ideal. After all, isn’t life about the journey? However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; instead, there are choices. And sometimes, happiness lies not just in the things we choose to do, but also in the things we choose not to.