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A Young Entrepreneur Explains Why “Your Financial Independence Is An Illusion”

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By Amit Sharma:

Are you financially independent? Did you just nod your head yes? Why? Because you have a job, you earn money and have saved some in your bank account to help you deal with the expenses before your next month’s salary gets debited?

Well, your financial independence is an illusion. Why, you ask? Do you have enough fund for buying a house or a car? Have you saved enough for the times of emergency? Have you started saving for your children’s education and your retirement? Do you realise that these dreams will never turn into reality if you don’t plan for them?

Let’s just assume it struck you just now that you haven’t planned for anything and you really need to because nothing is getting cheaper by the day. Let’s take a look at the approximate estimation, to get an idea. A car costs around Rs six lakhs while a house in the city easily costs about a crore. You need to keep a good amount of money ready, say Rs four lakhs, in the emergency fund. You will probably need Rs 20 lakhs for your wedding and Rs 30 lakhs for your child’s education. And for your retired years, you may want to keep Rs one to three crores separately.

How on earth are you going to save that much money? Invest in equity? Or perhaps debentures, they are safer. How about balanced mutual funds? Oh! And how will you cover your health insurance?

According to a survey by the Economic Times, only 3% people are able to achieve their financial goals for only 8% people actually consult financial advisors, rest depend on the internet, magazine or their own experiences. While it is easy to blame people for being ignorant and not planning their finances or consulting an expert, it’s actually not that simple.

India does have a number of financial advisors and agents who get commissions from financial product providers and are usually self-proclaimed experts. And this hurts the customer financially. The agent will sell the product, earn the commission and move on but the customer has to live with it. They are the ones paying an insane amount of premiums for no value.

The concept of an independent financial advisor exists in metros but only for the rich. The middle class does not have access to them. In the west, an independent financial advisor is considered to be a doctor for all financial issues. Tech savvy Indians have access to all the kinds of calculators such as free EMI calculator on various websites but nothing to guide them through.

I belong to a middle-class family. I am an engineer by background but I wasn’t happy just ‘making the computer chips’. I was soon one of the youngest students at INSEAD, world’s leading business school on finance and investment management. During my 15 years of experience in investment management in London, the financial capital of the world, one thing became clear to me – the skills that I had developed by managing my own money were life-skills.

This is where I found myself as an advisor to my friends and family. On every other occasion, they used to approach me for financial advice. And well, I could not help them without knowing their entire financial circumstances and aspirations. This is how Money Minded– Your Financial Advisor, came into being.

The idea is simple. All I want is to help middle-class people with affordable and customised financial advice so that they never get duped by any agent or feel stressed due to financial problems. We are a team of 15 motivated individuals working towards financial literacy. We believe that if something can’t be explained simply, it is not worth investing in. Financial services industry has a knack for making a simple product complex. We like our customers to understand things the way they should – simply.

Unlike other start-ups, we are not in a hurry to achieve huge numbers. We don’t have the typical venture capital investors that want too much too quickly. Our friends and family are funding Money Minded. We understand that this is a patient game of financially educating India. We celebrate our success whenever we make someone understand that he or she has a real problem, and it can be fixed! For us, what matters is the trust of our customers. We have been engaging with people for five to six months now. We have struggled to make people believe that we can help them. There is a trust deficit in the society. People have been duped by so-called experts so many times that it’s difficult for them to trust again. But then the results cannot be seen in a short span of time. One needs to invest for at least three to five years to see the results. We always knew it was going to be a difficult road but we are not giving up because we are here to stay for long.

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Image source: Mint/ Contributor/ Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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