In Safe Hands: Women and Wealth

-Nikesh Ghimire

Ti me is Money, and money is Power – they say! But if money was power, why did this male dominated society accept goddess Laxmi as the goddess of wealth? I’m sure it crossed your mind at times. And in case you are still wondering, yes, it was so – since men did not have a choice. Women were always better at managing resources. The Neanderthal hunter men would bring home their day’s prize and the gatherer women would make sure the hunt was best utilized for better welfare of the family. Our tradition comes from the mother-in-law handing over the locker keys to the daughter in law–a symbolic act of saying the new ‘woman’-in-house is now in-charge of the resources to manage.

To take a mild scientific approach to the issue, if you refer to researches from Dr. John Gray or Allan/Barbara Pease, you will realize that men are more equipped to see deep into ONE single object (remember how Arjun focused on the eye of the parrot in the story of Mahabharat?) while women are more ‘wide-angled’ and able to see a lot many factors of life. Wealth has a lot many aspects to it than just cash. It is how wisely you use your limited resources to add value to you and your family’s life in the long run. If men decide on saving, they’ll eat cheap, buy less of everything, save and save and save some more without focusing on anything else. But if it’s the women on the other side, she’ll make a better judgment of where to spend, where to save and which expenses to avoid altogether.
Lets again see this from a microfinance perspective, and why Dr. Mohammad Yunus decided to lend small amounts of money just to women and not the men in the households. It’s been almost four decades of the advent of modern microfinance but non-collateralized loans still pre-dominantly are skewed towards women customers only. It explains how society bestows full trust on women when it comes to financial discipline.

Now let’s look at things on the softer side, and how banking has been evolving in our part of the world. Ever heard of MEN’s savings account promoted by banks? But I’m sure every other bank in the country has a special product dedicated to women’s savings. Celebrating womanhood can never be segregated away from the celebration of efficient resource management by human society, or from the ability to save for the future, or plan for it.

I am amazed at how my saving habits have drastically improved after my marriage, though a lot of financial obligations have shot up as well. For all of you men out there, just go ask your wife what she thinks of your spending patterns, and you would be amazed of how well she can frame it and how much she is aware of where/when/how you spend money or save it. Though she might not interfere, she will still be observant and logical of the strengths and weakness of your financial discipline.

I have heard too many jokes about women going on a shopping spree and “Sardar Jis” being stupid. But, in real life, Sardar Jis are usually smarter and women are actually more careful about spending money. I’m glad I let my wife handle my accounts early in our marriage. For those of you who haven’t, it’s never too late.

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