Monday, March 28, 2011

The Financial Benefits of Getting Hitched

No, this is not a desperate attempt to get people hitched, although it is the raison d’ĂȘtre of Marrygold (getting peopled hitched, that is), but it’s my practical side of the brain talking.

My previous post discussed tips to bring financial success in your marriage (Financial Success in Your Marriage). In this post I want to talk about something downright sensible: Marriage makes good financial sense. I am talking about practical financial benefits and not the deeper ones of love, emotional stability, etc.

From a monetary standpoint, women get married (or should I say used to, in case I offend some bra-burners) for financial support. Like a gentleman so rightly pointed out to his son-in-law during a wedding rehearsal, “And now I take my daughter’s hand from my pocket and put it into yours!” He couldn’t be more right. Money continues to feature high in women’s wish-list of their ideal man, but extending the same premise, why should a man marry? Unless it’s billionaire’s daughter, that is. I guess because it makes more practical sense, financially.

And more so in these times. Look around you and you’ll see more and more --- couples who both bring home the bacon and keep the fire going. It’s no more a man’s prerogative, at least in booming urban areas. Marriages have considerable financial benefits for both men and women. And here’s why:

  • Firstly, there is more flowing into your collective coffers.
  • Your rent is halved, there’s suddenly more you can spend on utilities, grocery and fancy dinners.
  • On the practical side, you could go in for superior insurance or choose to make higher investments.
  • You might find it easier to get your dream home or car because banks are more likely to give you a loan now that you are more financially stable.
  • You have a level-head who curbs your sudden shopping urges.
  • You can begin to attach real wings to your dreams of traveling or finally have the means to invest in your expensive hobbies.
  • In times of recession, you don’t need to fear as much the financial repercussions of losing a job. Your partner’s there to support you until you find another one.

Most important of all, a stable home, both financially and emotionally is the basis for most of our success in our personal and professional lives. And a stable home starts with financial stability. Don’t you think so? Share your thoughts!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Financial Success in your Marriage

While the recent budget didn’t have anything to talk home about, and didn’t bring much cheer to the aam admi, the budget you create with your spouse can definitely bring a smile. Well, maybe not now, but definitely in the long run. In a previous post, (Budget In a Marriage) I talked about how important it is to include a budget in your marriage. If you’ve not got anything done as yet, here’s hoping this will spur you on. I cannot stress enough on how important it is to make a budget. A budget helps you balance what comes in vs. what goes out. So, you know exactly where you money actually goes instead of wondering where it all went!

A couple of months or maybe a year or two after your marriage, you might find yourself getting along quite fine. And this might make you wonder why you need a budget at all. But what about the house you’ve always wanted to live in? The luxury car you’ve wanted to drive to work in. The fancy holiday that you’ve always dreamt of? Or overseas education for your children?

Hard work apart, to achieve these dreams, you need some solid plans. Similar to any goal you want to achieve, a budget requires planning and discipline. Admit, it’s not that fun or even that easy. But important it is. If you think it’s too daunting to do it by yourselves, get help from financial advisors. And here are some tips.

Make a budget, take inventory

Grab a pen, or open an excel sheet and jot down your income vs. your expenses. It might take a few months to get your average outgo. Start by making a note of all the expenses you incur in the month. Also, make an inventory of all your current loans – housing, car, bike, education, etc., your investments, credit card bills and insurance policies, an estimated value of your assets as well as your monthly income and expenses. Once you have a tally of your assets and your liabilities, you can calculate your net worth. There are some online applications that can help you do this, or turn to your financial advisor to help you. The aim is to check your net worth over the years. And, with sound planning, you’ll see it increase!

Create an emergency fund

While planning for our financial success, it’s extremely important not to overlook an emergency situation – an accident, some debt that you suddenly have to clear or maybe periods of unemployment. We always feel that life will go on just the way it is, but one never actually knows. Though many of us have several insurance policies, it’s always a good idea to have a ready cash fund to dip into, in case of an emergency and without resorting to borrowing from friends or mounting a debt. How much is enough will vary depending on your expenses or the nature of the emergency, but a general thumb-rule is to have approximately 4-6 months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. And make sure that you use these funds for a real emergency and not feel tempted to dip into it for other expenses.

Prepare for college expenses & retirement

Once the kids come along, you’ll have to start preparing for their education expenses. The recent ad of Bunty’s father getting a heart-attack on hearing his son’s school fees shoot from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10 lakhs is no exaggeration! Talk to other parents, financial advisors and do some online research on several financial plans for your child’s education, and start putting away money for it.

You’re not going to be working all your life, nor would you want to live off your children
a la ‘sar uthake jiyo’ ads. Talk to your spouse about your sunset years and start saving for it. I’ve known colleagues who have started saving for their retirement from their first pay packet! Now, that’s what I call being farsighted!

The above are only some pointers towards financial success in your marriage. The most important thing is to get started. And do share some personal budget stories and tips with us!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Awakening

Editor’s Note: The author of this is unknown. But it is a great read. Enjoy.

A time comes in your life when you finally get it …

When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice in your head cries out- ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying! You are tired of struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

You realize that it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon.

You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming and you are not Cinderella and that in the real world there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are … and that’s OK. (They are entitled to their own views and opinions.) And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself and in the process a sense of confidence is born of self-approval.

You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn’t do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that it’s not always about you. So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself and in the process a sense of safety & security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and in the process a sense of peace & contentment is born of forgiveness. You realize that much of the way you view yourself and the world around you, is a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into your psyche.

And you begin to sift through all the crap you’ve been fed about how you should behave, how you should look, and how much you should weigh, and what you should wear, and where you should shop, and what you should drive, how and where you should live, and what you should do for a living, who you should sleep with, who you should marry, and what you should expect of a marriage, the importance of having and raising children or what you owe your parents.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. And you begin reassessing and redefining who you are, what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with and in the process you learn to go with your instincts.

You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive.

And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing.

You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake. Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love. How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn not to project your needs or your feelings onto a relationship.

You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man (or woman) on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes.

You learn that just as people grow and change so it is with love … and you learn that you don’t have the right to demand love on your terms … just to make you happy.

You learn that alone does not mean lonely … and you look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a perfect 10, you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head and agonizing over how you ”stack up”.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that feelings or entitlement are perfectly OK … and that it is your right to want things and to ask for the things that you want … and that sometimes it is necessary to make demands.

You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won’t settle for less. And, you allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes you to glorify you with his/her touch … and in the process you internalize the meaning of self-respect. You learn that your body really is your temple. And, you begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and taking more time to exercise.

You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear. So you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels the soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn, that for the most part, in life you get what you believe you deserve … and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it’s OK to risk asking for help. You learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time, FEAR ITSELF.

You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your terms. And you learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometime bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn’t punishing you or failing to answer your prayers.

It’s just life happening.

And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state – the ego.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about; a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.

And you hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind. And you make it a point to keep smiling, keep trusting, and stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart and with God by your side you take a stand, you take a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.