Pravin, one of my close friends got his financial plan prepared without the involvement of Jaya, his wife who is a Law graduate by qualification and had opted out of career to take care of their son and other responsibilities as a homemaker. He was of the opinion that since they always discuss on what was really wanted in life, he indirectly is communicating it all. We met up at his office a couple of times and once at his home too, however she was not part of the planning process at all. The plan was made and implemented. A year passed and all was well, until we met for the review.
This time I could convince Pravin and we roped in Jaya. Though he was still of the same opinion. To begin with, the plan was explained to her in detail with respect to the aspects that it catered, like all the contingencies, the education & marriage of their son; Rahul, a vacation home, medical corpus for his parents & in laws, retirement etc. At the end of it she nodded her head in agreement.
During the process I happened to ask about her aspirations and how she felt regarding the way the family goals were structured and catered to and she couldn’t control her tears. Over the last several years she was totally engaged in catering to what the husband or son wanted and what was important for them. It was all limited to their schedules, their commitments and it all ended there. In a way she had lost her identity though it was her choice that she wanted it to revolve around her near and dear ones. However it was for the first time in these many years that she was asked her view and opinion.
And the plan changed upside down. Though the goals were almost the same, she had her own ideas about them – like:
- The way she would like their son’s marriage to be conducted, what she would like to give her daughter in law, their customs and traditions.
- Further she as a child was brought up in the interiors, very close to nature, which she always longed for since marriage. But since Pravin was always more dedicated to his business and they hardly had any vacations & her longing remained unaddressed.
- She had her own ideas about retirement too. To be with their only son wherever he would settle, i.e. settle in the same city as he would, may or may not be in the same house, depending on the situation.
- Since the son had now grown up, she intended to work part time for a NGO, which cared for the abused/exploited women in society and in the process utilise her capabilities as a lawyer.
- Lastly she also threw some insights into the inclination and interests of their son and the direction in which his eduction shall progress.
She brought in a lot of clarity to the process, which led to a healthy discussion on the various goals in detail and then they arrived at a common platform for their future which was in alignment with their goals. This helped me to work in the right direction of course at the cost of:
- Almost a new plan was in the making, since it was better than amending.
- Reworking the investment strategy to meet the redefined goals.
- Fresh implementation.
We Indians are brought up in the way Pravin behaved, since for generations the head of the family took all the decisions, offcourse keeping in mind the well being of the family, which worked very well in the joint family system. The system effectively distributed all the responsibilities and the support was very much built in. However with the change in the way we live today, the nuclear family system has become the new norm and here the dynamics are totally different with the values & support of the joint family system fast vanishing.
To conclude, a good lesson taught by this experience “ALWAYS INVOLVE all the STAKEHOLDERS concerned” to get the right picture of their aspirations and deliver a plan which shall cater to the aligned goals. A lesson for you is “Always involve your Spouse in Financial Matters”.
This is a Guest Post by Chetan Bhatia – he is a certified Financial Planner & member of The Financial Planners’ Guild, India. FPGI is an association of Practicing Financial Planners to promote professional excellence and ensure high quality practice standards.