How I took charge of my life, divorce and after
My daughter is a product and industrial design graduate. This is a unique field of specialisation with excellent prospects. The journey to get her here was a tough one, but I am happy to say, we did it! And we did it all alone, narrates Anjoo Mohun in her resilient tale as a single successful mother.
I walked out of a bad relationship 5 months into my pregnancy. I got nothing out of the divorce. In fact, my ex remarried soon after. At that stage in life, I had two options – either I give up and leave all the decisions pertaining to my life to my family or I pick up the pieces and build the life I want. I chose the latter and this is my story.
At the outset, let me say that if you want to have a say in your and your baby’s life, you need to have your own money. There are so many issues that come up if someone else is paying your bills – even your own parents. The emotional support from parents and family is extremely important, but you need to be in charge of your own finances.
I was 29 years old. I had a small baby. So the first thing I did was a SWOT analysis. This assessment of my Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats helped me a lot. As a journalist, my strength was my command over the language and my writing skills. My weakness was my small baby. Opportunities I had to create because a small baby stood in the way of the irregular hours of a journalist. The biggest threat to our comfortable existence was a lack of a regular source of income. Money.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember that you NEED the work. But you also know that you need a job where you can be home for the child. So even if it is a step-down, take a job that can meet your requirements and those of your baby. I opted out of daily journalism for feature writing where the timings are better regulated. There is no work-life balance in real life. You have to take charge.
It took me three long years to create an emergency fund. I started from scratch and saved every little penny that I could. I would travel to work by bus. Sometimes I would get lifts from friends. I would skimp on the dozens of chais in the office. I would pack a tiffin rather than spend on restaurant lunches or even canteen food at work. After all this, at the end of three years, I had created a small corpus for emergencies.
In order to be able to take your own decisions, you need to have your own money. If you want to decide which school your child should go to, when you can go for a short break, or even what you should have for dinner, you need to have the money to pay for it. Your parents will say that they are there for you and they are, but even their help comes with strings.
Consolidate on strengths
I soon realised that my salary was not enough. So I did a bit of introspection and decided that I wanted more. My skills were suited for a corporate shift into the world of Public Relations and Corporate Communication. This was the time that this field was just opening up. I called on all my sources to find out what it was all about. Then I proactively sought out the Director Marketing at a hotel and asked for a job. There was an opening and I got in.
The hours were insane but the money was good. I lived with my parents and this saved me rent and I knew that my daughter was being cared for. If you have family support, cherish it. But do not become financially dependent. For two years I worked really hard. My days would run into 14 to 15 work hours. I took all the training courses that came my way to enhance my skills. I did not spend on clothes or makeup. I just got better at work and got the best ratings. By this time my salary doubled and within five years I had moved to the British Council and was earning an international salary.
Maintain financial discipline
When your salary doubles you want to splurge. And I did. If you are used to living within x amount and suddenly you get double that, you don’t know what to do. I indulged my daughter – bought her all the toys I wanted her to have and then I bought her more. Soon, however, I returned to reality. I started saving and investing.
I wanted my daughter to get the best education money could get. I never wanted her to be in a situation as I had found myself. I found a wonderful boarding school and put her there. The fee was killing. But I knew I had to do this. Especially because she also loved her new school and excelled there. To ensure that I was never stressed about her school fee, I saved for it at the beginning of the year. I ensured that I had the entire year’s fee with me before the first quarter ended. In fact, this is what you need to do for all known big-ticket expenses – save for it well in advance.
How I invested
Initially, I put my money into an insurance scheme. This is something all single parents do out of the fear that their child should not be left high and dry should something happen to them. As luck would have it, the scheme failed but I was able to get my investment out. Health insurance, however, is a necessity and life insurance while providing a sense of security also comes with income tax benefits.
I invested in property. I had enough for a down payment and the rest I took a home loan. I took the loan on a fixed rate to escape the vagaries of a floating rate of interest. When my daughter wanted to study product and industrial design, I took a loan on this property to fund her education.
National Saving Certificates were my go-to for long term savings. I put in money for seven years. When it doubled on maturity, I reinvested it. I bought the NSCs every year for several years. So when I needed big money for my daughter’s education I always had a certificate maturing.
My other favourite savings instrument is the SIP. There are several good options available. You can use a platform like Basis to help you. However, every woman needs to use her own intelligence as well and do her own research.
Avoid temptations but invest in a good professional wardrobe that spells class and earns you respect. Also, invest in yourself – attend skill-enhancing workshops and short-term courses.
Treat yourself well
While you are saving and scrimping for your flesh and blood, also show some compassion for yourself. Keep a monthly saving just for yourself. It may be for a short weekend break or for a spa day. Remember, it needs to be for something you want and not need. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.
Anjoo Mohun works in the field of higher education as a communications professional. She strongly believes the value of having a career and in women empowerment especially for financial independence. She lives in New Delhi.