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The Urban Millennial: Privileged, Employed But Still Always Broke

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By Vishesh Jain:

“Bhai, what’s my share?” I asked my friend.

“Rs 2500.” he replied. We were partying for a friend’s birthday at a café near Hauz Khas Village in Delhi.

Grudgingly, I took out my debit card to pay the bill. It was the middle of the month and I was already low on cash, which meant that I would have to ask my parents for money again to survive till the end of the month. I felt a bit ashamed; this wouldn’t have been a problem if I were ‘forever twenty-one,’ but I am not. I am twenty-five.

Can you imagine how embarrassing it is when you work as a middle-level executive for a start-up, have taken a decision to live independently against your parents’ wishes, and still have to ask them for money time and again? What makes it even worse is that my parents and family members are generally good with managing money (Baniya blood. Sigh).

As I wallowed in self-pity, I looked around and saw that my friends had the same expression (the one that says, “I swear this is my last outing for the month!”). As each of us paid our share and headed home, it struck me, that most of my friends had the same financial struggles that I did. It’s almost as if we were a new generation of ‘poor’ – ‘the privileged poor’ – young working professionals with minimal savings and investments, living from paycheck to paycheck, with parents acting as a Federal Bank ready to bail us out should we go bankrupt or need excess funds to buy fancy things we couldn’t otherwise afford.

My friends and I weren’t the only ones as well – reading through some personal anecdotes and financial reports online, I learnt that most millennials around the world had the same financial struggles. We all made the same pattern of mistakes – We would delegate most of our financial responsibilities to our parents and would not feel the need to save money on our own. Second, we had more avenues to spend money on than what the past generations had: the latest gadgets, outside food and drinks, and recreational activities such as movies, events, and travel. Third, most of us were victims of marketing messages such as YOLO and Travel Now, Save Later, and had a subtle fear of missing out on buying things or social activities that we saw our peers indulge in on social media.

For me, the result was that I had overused my credit card limit, had meagre savings to support me during times of financial need, and didn’t have an investment portfolio for myself. This essentially meant that I was not only spending more money than I should have every month but also was losing money to inflation every year. The magnitude of the situation finally hit me when my car loan application got rejected because my ‘credit score’ was too low (I had missed some payments on my credit card). What’s worse – now I wasn’t eligible for any loan in the near future whether it be an educational loan for my MBA or a home loan for a future house I wanted to build.

Luckily for me, when I switched to IndiaLends, a Financial Technology company, I learnt so much about financial planning and debt management that I no longer faced these issues. But that’s also when I realised I wasn’t the only ‘privileged poor’ out there. So many of my customers struggled daily with managing their money and remained in debt – consultants who earned over five lakh rupees a month – yet were drowned in credit card debt, first-time borrowers unable to get personal loans because their savings were not enough to pay back the EMIs, etc. These people didn’t belong to the traditional image of people struggling with money – uneducated, unemployed, or low-income demographics. They were the kind of people you and I interact with every day – our family members, our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues.

What’s common to all of us who are the privileged poor is that we take for granted our financial health without realising that it influences every sphere of our lives – be it our professional life, our personal life or our dreams and ambitions. Everything from our standard of living to the life choices we make depends on how financially secure and stable we are. And that’s why it’s so important for all of us to kick-start building our financial acumen and health from an early age.

So where should you begin? To help you, here are three simple lessons you can start following from today for a healthy financial life:

1. Budget All Your Recreational Expenses:

You either spend your income on necessities or luxuries and while you can’t eliminate or reduce involuntary expenses such as rent, phone bills, commuting bills, etc. you can certainly reduce expenses on recreational activities. The easiest way to do so is to create a budget for recreational expenses in a month and to spend within that budget amount. What’s more, start tracking all the small purchases you make on a daily basis – the random coffee, the Uber ride back home, the sudden drinking plan, the short weekend gateway; all these small expenses can aggregate into large amounts.

2. Create An Investment Portfolio:

Start investing simply by allocating some portion of your salary in a recurring fixed deposit that offers a higher rate of interest than a simple savings bank account. Once, you have learnt to commit some expenses to a recurring FD periodically, you can move on to other financial products such as mutual funds and corporate bonds that are low risk and give better returns than FD.

3. Build A Credit Profile:

If you plan to buy a car, home or want an education loan in the future, build a solid credit history first. You can do this by taking a small personal loan from online lending platforms or by applying for a credit card at your partner bank. When you make timely payments on your loan EMIs or credit card purchases, you build a positive credit history and banks become more likely to lend to you at lower interest rates in future.

Essentially, the greatest lesson I learnt was that all money issues boil down to one thing – Priorities. If you get your priorities right, the money will get right as well.

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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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