Money lessons from an author’s journey
As we edge towards Durga Puja it is but fitting that we talk to Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, who through her writing, has become the voice of India’s teeming single women. She is a champion for women’s sexual rights and through her living example, a revelation that women can be whoever they want to be.
Not only is she
- The celebrated author of possibly modern India’s first female erotica novel ‘Sita’s Curse’;
- Author of the only seminal research-based work on India’s 75 million single women ‘Status Single’
- Currently working on her seventh novel
And in addition to all that, also fostering a girl child as her younger sister. So how does this multi-talented, powerful, single woman handle her money?
Not being financially prepared
“Very badly,” she confesses. Like so many of us, for Sreemoyee or Piu as she is lovingly called, money was the last priority in her life as a journalist and public relations professional. “I spent everything I earned. I love shopping and my salary as a journalist and PR professional went into my wardrobe. When I was at the Times of India so many people advised me to buy a house – the office helped employees get home loans – but somehow, I never got down to it. Now, I wish I had invested my money wisely,” she says.
Piu changed careers when she quit her job to follow her passion for writing a book. “For me, writing was not a career choice – it was an urge that came from within. It drove me. I realised that I could do nothing else. My first book, ‘Faraway Music’, was clamouring to be written. I just had to leave my well-paying PR job and write it. It was an extremely cathartic process,” she says.
Following an unchequered paying path
Piu quit her job to follow her passion without any source of income. “I wish I had paid attention to setting my finances in order before taking up writing as a full-time vocation.
“If you are going to be self-employed, you should save, invest right and create a corpus”.
“I am lucky that I live with my parents and don’t have to worry about rent and food,” she says while talking about the importance of being financially secure.
“The way publishing works in India, writers do not earn a lot. The money does not come in regularly. I get the payment in three chunks. There is an advance and then two more instalments. I earn much less now than I did as a journalist,” she says, adding that today, her biggest worry is whether she will be able to make her insurance premium payment for this year on time.
“I try to supplement my earnings from my books with part-time jobs like writing columns for various publications. But recently one publication for which I wrote a regular column shut down so again I am anxious to find a new source of income. The struggle never ends. But then, there is no art without struggle,” she says.
Difficult money lessons learnt
“Women, including me need to learn to take their finances seriously. When I was researching ‘Status Single’, I interviewed 3,000 urban Indian women who are single – not just those that never married, but divorced women, widowed women, women with alternate sexual orientation – I realised how important financial independence can be. I came across women who had been cheated of their inheritances just because they were single.”
We need to equip our girls with financial skills. My foster sister, Geru, is getting empowered every time she sees my mother paying for the groceries or me swiping plastic when we go shopping. Economic independence is the key to women’s emancipation. Investing money should become second nature to women and we need to take charge of their money if we want to live the life they want,” she advices.
Income does not equal financial freedom
Another interesting observation that came to Piu is that so many women who are earning a lot are still not financially free.
“When a woman works, she should have equal say in the buying decisions, if not total financial freedom to do as she pleases with her earnings. Equality is not just going dutch on a date. It is when a woman can buy that double door big fridge without consulting her husband because she needs it and she likes it.
In my family, my mother is the banker and it is so inspiring to see her taking charge of her money, one that I want to imbibe and put into action more seriously” says Piu. So ladies, don’t take your financial freedom for granted. Invest your earnings wisely to ensure that you can live the life you want. After all, YOU CAN!
Wondering how to start taking charge of your finances? Download Basis, the women-focused personal finance platform. You can also join our community, Life on My Terms – a safe space for women to discuss all things money.