We complain about the AC being too cold. Or the coffee machine spewing drain-water. The lifts are slow. The benefits shrink. The increments thin. We groan about Monday mornings. But take that job away and there is sudden sound of silence. The routine is gone. The reason for getting up in the morning is alarmingly not there. And the monthly ding on the phone that announces the salary credit is eerily missing. Over 16,000 jobs have vanished overnight as Jet Airways suspended operations on 17 April 2019. More than 16,000 families of the Indian mass affluent will now struggle with rent, EMIs, school fees, groceries and premium payments. The writing has been on the wall for months of impending doom, and many families were already dipping into their savings as salaries have been delayed for a few months. How to handle this crisis? Do you have a sudden job loss protocol in place?
How should we share expenses? Should we share bank accounts? This is a question from a young 20-something millennial who has come to interview me for a woman-focused website. She’s about to get married and is wondering how to deal with marriage and money. Some stories her friends have told her worry her no end. How did you do it, she wanted to know. There was no concept of his or hers, we just pooled everything and spent as little as possible, I say. But I think the lessons from our lives of 25-30 years ago will have little resonance for today’s young. They are starting off in a better place in many ways. For most of my generation there was no question of my money or your money—it was the family’s money. In many cases, it was the joint family money. But for the Indian urban mass-affluent millennial, the deal is now very different. They rightly should think about and sort out money matters before they get married.
A call from a political party scare-mongered me into checking if my name had indeed been struck off the election list. A visit to the Election Commission site for Delhi told me that all it needed was an SMS to check if my name is on the list—I message at 7738299899, write EPIC space my voter ID number. Thirty seconds later, I get a confirmation that my name is there and it gives me the booth address where I will vote.
After the sheer delight at this super smooth process, I remember that I had got my Provident Fund (PF) balance on SMS too. Also, the passport and visa processes is mostly all automated and keeps us well-informed about the progress of the process. So I began to count what else works in India. We know and are vocally critical about what does not. So what works? Well, the metro network where it exists, as it does in Delhi, is superb. Do we hear of strikes or regular breakdowns in the cities in India they operate in? We don’t. Travel to Europe and see what breakdown of such services means. France especially is constantly on strike.
As a new financial year begins, I take a walk down memory lane and remember what I did more than two decades ago and what I would do differently if I could revisit my younger self today. It was the sixth year of my career and the latest hike just made the cut to begin paying taxes. I remember the joy of the increased salary getting deflated like a balloon on hearing that taxes will actually take away most of the hike. I opened my Public Provident Fund (PPF) account that year and then 16 years later collecting the corpus. You can read about that story here.
As first income earners, our first investments are usually linked to saving taxes and making it to the Section 80C limit. Several years pass for most people before the fact sinks in that this exercise is to be done every year. Year after year. The March-end rush to look for an investment to hit your money with is actually counterproductive. It benefits those selling products with high commissions because they are waiting for people who leave it to the last few days of the tax-saving deadline, to reel in with high-cost products with limited benefits. One of the most common problems in portfolios of middle-aged Indian middle class people is the kachra of multiple life insurance policies. Each year the agents will come and sell you something new and by the time you are 40, you have 10-20 policies. These people failed to see long term, looked at each year as a single tax-saving opportunity and did not look at their long earning years as a continuum.