Small is Significant

16 Sep,2021

 

This is the sixth in our 10-part fortnightly series where Shaziya Khan focuses on the allyship of brands for financial savviness of women and girls. Link to the first three parts: https://www.mxmindia.com/category/columns/shaziya-khan/

 

By Shaziya Khan

 

Shaziya KhanA key attitude shift in modern times is that women and girls should be financially savvy.

 

This shift presents an opportunity for allyship to almost all brands, both in the financial categories and beyond.

 

Our understanding of current personal finance behaviour reveals a pervasive lack of comfort with personal finances, several related emotional and social barriers.

 

Interestingly, there are a few experiences which are also significant in the opposite direction – enabling a growing sense of comfort, eventually savviness, in personal financial matters. These were candidly, generously shared as real-life anecdotes, early lessons, personal stories by women. These ranged from their own lives, their own families, their friends’ families, relatives and others they knew well. All upclose experiences, where the impact and benefits were well-known, appreciated over time. These small experiences stood out on their mental radar, as vital steps of informal, yet conscious allyship.

 

WELL-BEING STARTS WITH SMALL STEPS

Micro steps are all the rage in formation of constructive habits,  positive change. Especially in areas of health and well-being. In the domain of personal financial savviness, a kind well-being and health, too, small steps and experiences go a long way.

 

It is practically evident that small steps and their related first-hand experiences are useful at three vital, inter-related levels.  They facilitate

• familiarity with personal finance

• ritualisation of taking financial action

• informal training in a disciplined financial approach.

 

Small steps, consciously encouraged, early on, are likely to ripple positively in the long term. What is of particular significance, is that these steps are not difficult to implement and can be encouraged, adopted or adapted in ‘as is’ conditions.

 

PURCHASING: Being responsible for small errands of purchase, for oneself or for the household, helps women and girls, with early and simple familiarity with personal finance.  Being given shopping errands to run, enables familiarity with handling money, in a responsible way, an understanding of the right amount of change to bring back, a grasp of the value of things, a knowledge of balancing the target versus the actual expense.

 

In many homes, partly due to protective reasons, or simply due to established patterns, girls are not so much involved in making the purchases. Though they give the recommendations on what to buy, they may not be the ones doing the actual purchasing (online or physically). The fact is, girls being engaged in making purchases can potentially and simply land several positives – summarised as a familiarity with handling financial aspects, from an early age.

 

RECORD-KEEPING: Record-keeping of expenditure, savings, gifts is another beneficial small step. Early, child-like record keeping of one’s small finances can be utterly simple – envelopes, handwritten lists, orderly clipping of bills, a small note book mentioning gift amounts or even just a close watch on piggy bank treasures. Parents are quick to notice how some young children are meticulous in being up-to-date on these matters. They remark how being careful, having detailed record keeping helps build a mindset of accuracy, awareness and order when dealing with personal financial matters, later in life.

 

FESTIVE INVESTING & SAVING: Festive investing and saving is a useful and fun small step too. Charming yet impactful stories recalled by women (who are relatively savvier than average), relate to early investing and saving encouraged by parents. During the festive new year, there was a choice of investing that was specifically encouraged for the young child – a small amount but nevertheless one that was chosen by the child. Other empowering accounts, relate to children being encouraged to save “their” money (via gifts) in a methodical manner. Building a nest to buy a prized toy, game, dress or shoe.

 

These small steps of investing or savings were often ritualized, around special occasions (festivals or occasions like new year, birthday, start of holidays, start of new school year and so forth). The reason for this ritualization, was it helped to imbue a goal orientation, a sense of ‘independence’, of decisiveness, of choice making between attractive options. Also,  learning the value of being patient, encouraging anticipation as opposed to instant gratification.

 

BUDGETING FOR GIFTS: Budgeting for gifts, wishes, requests is another helpful small step in building the financial savviness muscle. Innocent yet powerful stories were related on how children are encouraged to stick to a ‘budget’ for their ‘wish list’. As a result of this ‘constraint’, they learnt, early on, to think smarter, in the ‘wish list’ area. For instance, do their homework on the options they seek, find the best one within their budget, look at timing, discounts, offers that are available, consider swapping where possible.

 

This necessarily brings in a disciplined approach even towards much looked forward to choices. In this way, providing a certain amount of financial indulgence yet also imparting an early experience of financial savviness.

 

DOCUMENTATION: Handling financial documentation personally is something many women or girls avoid or defer as much as possible. They would rather that documentation be handled by spouses, parents and siblings (due to their perceived or actual lack of knowledge, fear of errors, etc.) Yet, caring empowering allies in real life, encourage women and girls to personally and directly engage with financial documentation. Both, for personal and professional matters.

 

These include writing cheques, opening a bank account (at the branch or online), figuring out GST related details (small business owners), start handling paperwork for the filing of their tax returns (working women), making insurance applications and so forth. Financially savvy women, remark that familiarity with personally handling financial documentation brings on clarity and empowerment. One learns at each step. These learnings increase financial savviness.

 

SMALL STEPS OF ALLYSHIP FOR BIG STRIDES OF FINANCIAL SAVVINESS.

Small steps, and their related first-hand experiences, encouraged early on, are lauded by savvy women as one of the key reasons for their savviness. These small yet significant life experiences seemed to even break through the most entrenched personal financial category barriers. Factors like discomfort, social conditioning, stereotypical roles and rules, “limited expectations” that often ‘hold back’ women and girls, in the financial domain, can loom less.  Small steps are especially significant because they are generally about everyday actions, possible in ‘as is’ conditions. Yet, they lead to bigger strides. Sowing small steps of financial familiarity can reap big strides of financial savviness.

 

Shaziya Khan is National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson. She has won the Jay Chiat Grand Prix  for Strategy and Three WPP Atticus Global Awards for ‘Original Thinking in Marketing Communication’. Her views here are personal. 

 

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