So a couple of weeks back, I joined a startup by a few of my University colleagues. I didn’t know them personally but through the classic ‘I-know-a-guy-who-knows-a-guy’, we came to know about each other. I volunteered to work for their startup as a content writer/research intern, primarily because I had no prior knowledge about the things they were asking me to write even if it was something as simple as ‘How to Save?’. Personally, I enjoyed working with them. The workload was manageable; the guys were always supportive and never forced an ‘I-know-better-than-you’ attitude upon us, despite their superior knowledge of the field.
This week’s assignment was a little different than our usual assignments. Till now we usually dealt with topics that were either current affairs or investing advices, but this time the task was to write about the intricacies of researching stocks and analyzing them for investment purposes. I found myself unable to learn such a highly technical topic in such a short time. Then I realized that for us financially illiterate Indians, being illiterate isn’t the problem (heck we could figure out the technicalities of stock investing in a week, do you have any idea what a family obsessed with maths and science could do to someone learning skills!). I realized that the real issue is that we have no interest in knowing about it. We know that the stock market is a smart way to make cash and become financially strong but years of neglect have made us emotionally sceptical of the financial know-how because we only know the hard way of things, not the smart way or the easy way.
When I was younger, I used to think of the stock market as a taboo (yeah I know I was a stupid kid) because that’s how adults used to treat it. How was I to know any better and to figure out that financial markets weren’t another kind of gambling game or narcotic addiction? To think about it, my personal distaste for financial markets started when one of the older uncles bet a huge sum on some random stock that collapsed and later his extended family had to bail him out of his financial crisis. That’s how it is in 2nd tier cities – a random stupid uncle who bets a large sum and loses it discourages any other person within a 3 km radius from investing, because of his blunder.
We got it drilled into our brains that money could be earned only either through hard work or through illicit means and trust me, in India, both are acceptable. But somehow financial market gains were never talked about. You’d have better chances of being praised if you made a huge sum in a windfall gain than through a correct assessment of financial markets.
I guess it was all too complex for the previous generation and they’ve bequeathed their ignorance and fear of stock markets to the younger ones. The concept is foreign to us. We inherently don’t know how to go about it. But isn’t that what growth is all about, entering into foreign territory and claiming parts of it as your own, in the tribal sense at least?
We have placed psychological barriers around ourselves that stop us from realizing our true financial potential. We lack the emotional maturity to confront our illiteracy head-on. While the financially literate may see all such information as an asset and something that promises gain in the future, our uneducated minds simply see it as another piece of unnecessary information that the world has thrown at us. We don’t see it as an asset. It just exists, and most probably not for us. But there is a way to change this thinking.
Frankly, everything in our lives can be put on the “List of reasons why we suck at finances” but you’ll find only one in “Why we wanna learn finance, investing and saving”. Because it is what we know is good for us, right? Even after being discouraged from a young age, being repeatedly told to be wary of schemes that make too much money, and being taught to have a low tolerance for risk and a high appetite for FDs, we still often find ourselves wondering how to manage money, invest it, save it, and whatnot.
But at the end of the day, we’ll have to realize that it’s all a game in our heads. It’s how we’re controlling our emotions, our impulses, and our actions, because financial literacy has less to do with what we know and more with how we deal with our lives. If you don’t have a firm grasp over yourself, then my friend, you’re losing this fight. And if you do, then all you gotta do is learn a few nuances and you’ll be making money, not just saving or managing it.
Well, it wouldn’t be much of a financial blog if it doesn’t explain how exactly you can work upon yourself and learn about finances and investing. So, here is how you go about it:
- For starters, take a long deep breath and start knowing yourself more. Make a list of all your money habits, your spending habits, your limited investing knowledge, and how grossly inadequate it is to manage your finances, even if you really were to achieve your dream job with a fat paycheck.
- Take out time and invest it in reading. You never know when even reading a cliché book like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, which is so over-read by the masses by now that it’s almost mainstream media, can affect your life and your thinking process. Most importantly it will keep you motivated long enough to make financial awareness a habit. And books do teach stuff, you’ll always carry a piece of a book in your soul.
- Start keeping up to date: if you are to start investing, the second best thing you can do is to start keeping up with the day-to-day activities of the world. You’ll realize that it helps you in the long run. You’re literally collecting experience and knowledge when you read newspapers or magazines. Yes, it’s the second best thing, the first still remains not investing emotionally like a stupid fool.
- We live in the digital age now, you don’t need to stand in a queue and face the shoulder-rubbing of the 1900s to gain firsthand experience of the stock market and securities. Now, you can just install a few apps which give you the live firsthand experience. You don’t even have to spend actual money while using mock stock apps, nor do you have to pay any amount to learn about stock market basic or advanced skills.
- And if all the above fail, then take a financial literacy course like normal non-self-dependent people do and learn the skills in the classroom. If you don’t gain the emotional quotient for investing, you’ll definitely gain the intelligence quotient for it.