A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for January 8th, 2013

Understanding the dynamics

Posted by Pepper on January 8, 2013

At one time, ‘So what do you do?’ was a question that would end up depressing me. Understandably, it is the focal point of almost every new meeting. At a time when I was not working professionally, I really didn’t know how to answer that. At that time, I was foolish enough to want to work, just so I could provide an acceptable answer to the world. Ofcourse, to the world, ‘cooking, traveling, reading, exploring’ were not worthy enough, since they didn’t fetch you money. They didn’t leave me with an ‘identity’. I wonder who decides the worth of your time. What defines your identity? Surely, it can’t just be your association with the corporate world.

I thought having a job would bring me some solace. When asked this question, I would no longer have to fumble for a response. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have faced this question several times since I began working full time. The discomfort I feel on hearing those words has not lessened.

‘So what do you do?’, I was asked at a friend’s birthday party. Despite having an answer that conforms to the norms, that old feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty returned. I lowered my gaze, paused for a moment, and stirred my drink. I could have told her what she was expecting to hear. ‘I work as HR in an IT company’. Instead, I chose to deviate from the expected reply. I said, ‘I read, I write. I dream. I am working towards some of those dreams. I do a whole lot of things actually’. She laughed. ‘No, I meant to ask you where you worked’.

I smiled. ‘By work, you mean to ask me about my job? Why do you take for granted I have and want one?’ She seemed confused. “Just, you know. Everybody our age is working. We’re not the stay at home sorts. Every woman wants to be financially independent’. I let go.

Financial independence. I know that is the new buzz word. Apparently, it is below our dignity to live off our partner’s money. We are asked to make ourselves capable of fulfilling our needs. Because money equals power. And unequal distribution of money leads to power struggles between couples. My friend says she feels too vulnerable by the thought of taking money from her husband. She wants complete autonomy when it comes to finances. She wants to decide how much she will spend and on what. She doesn’t want to be answerable to anybody.

I feel a little confused. Did I have complete autonomy when I wasn’t working? No. Did Mint have complete autonomy despite being the one who brought in the money? No. Of course, I do not talk about small purchases.  But when it came to anything big, we did consult each other before arriving at a joint decision. He wanted to buy an iPhone a while ago, and I said no to him. I told him I didn’t think we could afford it. He should consider waiting. He agreed. The thought of me not having a say just because I did not have an income did not even occur to either of us. The money was ours. I had equal right to make a call.

I have my own income now. But do I make all decisions alone? Hell, no! When it comes to money matters, I can’t do without Mint’s input and approval. I think that has more to do with you being a couple. Your lives are connected. Each decision of yours impacts the others. It is only fair that we act in unison.

I am also confused by the term ‘Financial Independence’. How do most couples work? Mint and I have all our funds in a joint bank account, that both of us have access to. I even transfer my salary to that account. It is easier and more convenient to be dealing with one single account. But a lot of people disapprove of this. They believe separating funds is important. Neither of us feel the need to do it. And like I said, that comes with more hassles. We are lazy.

I think being divisive and accounting for every action is not easy. Mainly because there are so many things that cannot be accounted for in monitory terms. How do they come into the picture then? So really, what does independence mean? Aren’t couples dependent on each other for so many things?

Two people in a marriage or a relationship may not have equal earning capacities. Like I say, your own income may afford you a basic lifestyle, but your partner will be able to provide you with the luxuries. If you do count on him for the luxuries, do you still consider yourself to be financially independent? Do you maintain separate accounts? Do you split the monthly bills? Or do you combine your income and then pay bills together? If your partner asks you to go on a holiday that you think is unaffordable by your means, would you still go ahead with it? Would you not buy a home together, because of the disparity in your incomes? Go and and tell me how you function. I promise to not judge. I only aim to understand the dynamics.

My journalist friend, earns a pittance. Let’s say her income amounts to x. Her husband is an investment banker who is doing exceptionally well. He earns about 7 times more than her, totaling his income to 7x. (Yes, we verified) Put together, they lead a very rich lifestyle. A lot of times, her outfits costs more than what she earns in a month. Yet, she feels very proud of her ‘financial independence’. Would you think she is really financially independent just because she has an income?

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