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Beyond Buffett: Talking Finance with Women (#1 — Nidhi Maheshwari)
As part of our Women’s Day blogs, we interviewed Nidhi Maheshwari – a Chartered Accountant and a financial expert from India, working at one of the Big Four accounting firms. For over 19 years now, Nidhi has used empathy as one of the cornerstones of her career; dispensing advice with both heart and hindsight. As a new mother, she is also keenly aware of her own responsibilities and financial wellness, and is always ready to help those around her achieve the same.
Her word of advice for those looking for wealth management tips: Don’t run after the fancy product with the hidden fees; but make a portfolio that suits who you are.
Can you tell us a little about your personal money journey? Were you always financially savvy, or was there an incident which helped you understand the value of better wealth management?
I come from a close-knit family and we have seen our ups and downs. I started my career pretty early and now I have been working for over 19 years. I think the experiences I had early on in life taught me the value of good money management, and I have carried the lessons with me in every aspect of life.
Nidhi Maheshwari (Chartered Accountant, India)
We’ve seen women joke that they weren’t good with finances because they did not ‘speak Math’. In a survey done in Britain, 1 in 3 women said they wouldn’t know what to do about money if they were separated from their partners.
A lot of women second guess themselves when it comes to money matters and prefer someone else taking these decisions. Have you ever found yourself in such situations, and what was your reaction?
I have personally not been in such situations. I research my decisions pretty well; and even in my personal life, I like helping those in my immediate friend and family circle with financial advice when asked for it.
I have, however, seen many women who face these problems. Some of them in the financial industry itself – people I have worked with closely and know intimately. It is slightly ironic to see women who have been trained to provide others with financial recommendations second-guess themselves because of societal or familial pressure. I think it’s important that women today inculcate confidence within themselves and do not bow down to pressure when making money decisions.
Following up from the previous question – women today have access and opportunity for financial empowerment, but we do not always make the best use of it. They also have a bad rep for being overspenders, impulsive shoppers, and what not.
Do you think women are their own worst enemy when it comes to money matters?
I personally don’t think that’s true. I think I am pretty disciplined in my approach to finances, and the women I know and have met have also been very balanced in their financial lives. And it’s not completely true to say that it’s only women who make impulsive decisions or spend a little extra on shopping 🙂
I think women are inherently conscious of the fact that they need to save for the long-term and build a nest egg, but it may be that the lack of role models or a support system makes them take a backseat.
It is imperative that we change the discussion around women and money, rather than blaming them for not having their voices heard.
From the people you know – what has been the worst and the best financial advice you have been given?
The best advice came from my cousin who told me to build up my risk-free portfolio. This was about 6-7 years ago when the rates for fixed deposits were higher than they are now in India, and he told me to ahead and allocate assets and lock it down.
While, I don’t remember anyone giving me bad advice per se, I do hope someone had told me that starting early with one’s investments means a lot! I wizened up about that over the years, but I do wish I had known about this fact before I began my own journey.
Women are known for their ‘nurture instinct’, and the ability to create and grow. Have you ever felt this instinct kick in in your career/or money-related matters? How do you think women can use this better to create a financially stable life?
I do find that I have a strong nurture instinct, and I have seen it play out in both my personal and professional lives. I have always believed in planning well and keeping a good financial buffer in one’s life. Historically, too, women in India have always invested in jewellery, gold, and real estate and we can take that as examples of them trying to create stability in their finances.
The biggest lesson I believe is for women to learn from other women – our mothers, sisters, and friends – and use their knowledge and intuitive approach towards money management in our modern lives.
What do you think needs to change in the current financial services industry for women to feel more included, and comfortable with making choices?
We have many women in top positions today – as CEOs of global brands, as decision makers whom everyone listens and looks up to. And yet, when one talks of legendary investors it is always the same names that come up over and over – the Buffetts and Dalios of the world. As I have said before, a lot of this has to change and the narrative around women and money needs to shift.
Apart from that, I think the financial industry in general lacks a certain empathy. There’s a lot of product push, and a general over-dependence on assets like real-estate where the appreciation and increase in value is only notional. Advisors don’t understand, or are not willing to understand, how finances affect one’s life and the nuances of one’s lifestyle before making recommendations. The lack of empathy might be one of the reasons why women don’t feel comfortable voicing their opinion around a male advisor.
And just for cheese, what are the three things you would tell your younger self about wealth management. Maybe preach against piling credit card bills? 🙂
- Start early
- Realise the power of compounding
- Decide your own mix – don’t run after fancy complicated products which have hidden fees and might over-complicate your financial life
- Remember that equity is a gamble, so choose wisely!
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