Fighting financial illiteracy with light of financial awareness this Navratri

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The much-awaited festival of Navratri has officially commenced and the festive spirit this year, thankfully will not be tainted with fears of sickness as was the case in the last two years. Celebrations have already commenced, the atmosphere seems charged with excitement and people are leaving no stone unturned to make this festive season one of the most memorable ones.

Navratri is observed in honour of Goddess Durga. It is one of the most revered festivals in the Hindu calendar and celebrates the defeat of Mahishasura by Goddess Durga signifying the victory of good over evil. And, as per Hindu mythology, Dussehra is celebrated after Navratri because it is believed that Lord Ram worshipped Goddess Durga before he commenced his journey to overthrow Lanka kind Ravana and the festival marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.

Festival celebrations not just give us a much-needed break from the humdrum of daily lives but they are also valuable opportunities to glean insights into our rich heritage and value systems. Every festival has an underlying message that can be applied in our daily lives. This year’s Navratri comes after a prolonged spell of uncertainty, fear, and distress and is akin to a new beginning. And any new chapter warrants introspection on our relationship with money and how we can wipe the slate clean and improve on areas that need work. In the post-pandemic world, there has been a revolution of sorts with a collective realization of the importance of financial literacy and on this occasion let us all make a pledge to step away from the shadows of financial negligence and strive towards financial enlightenment.

Financial literacy is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a combination of financial awareness, knowledge, skills, attitude, and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial well-being (OECD, 2012).

In India, thanks to the efforts made by the government in the last few years, financial literacy has shown a significant uptick. However, there remains a lot of room for improvement – an article published by the Asian Development Bank stated that only 27% of Indian adults – and 24% of women – meet the minimum level of financial literacy as defined by the Reserve Bank of India. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global FinLit Survey 2014 spanning a whooping 140 economies stated, “In the major emerging economies—the so-called BRICS (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa)—on average, 28 percent of adults are financially literate. Disparities exist among these countries, too, with rates ranging from 24 percent in India to 42 percent in South Africa.”

Financial literacy is the cornerstone of a secure future and is necessary for all age groups – from kindergarteners to senior citizens – to bring about a positive change in the standard of living and for reducing income inequality. Lack of knowledge about financial concepts such as savings, asset classes, interest rates, loans, investments, and long-term financial planning is a massive hurdle for the populace in terms of economic opportunities and mobility. Financial illiteracy can have far-reaching consequences – from a person’s ability to obtain loans and credit cards, to managing debts to sailing through emergencies in life. Here are a few benefits you can start reaping once you start walking on the path of financial literacy:

  1. With better acumen of financial products and managing money, you will be more in control of your future. No amount of crystal ball gazing can prepare us for the exigencies in life but with sound financial backing, you can bounce back from such situations easily. This is only possible by understanding the deeper nuances of personal finances.
  2. Financial education can empower you to climb the higher rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Sufficient monetary resources can be a great motivator for aspiring entrepreneurs – sound financial health after all can give you the much-needed nudge to quit your job and foray into the world of being a business owner. Besides, it also acts as a launchpad of sorts for the younger generations who would be able to explore unconventional opportunities and develop new-age skill sets.
  3. Being financially savvy can save you from a lot of unpleasant situations in life – knowledge about your rights and the benefits that you are entitled to will ensure you are not subjected to exploitative practices. Besides, you will also be able to steer clear of fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes and unscrupulous players in the financial services space.
  4. Managing debts efficiently and avoiding debt rabbit holes is a crucial aspect of effective financial management both on an individual and on an organizational level. Financial literacy imparts you with the acumen to use your monetary resources in an optimum fashion and avert situations that can lead to over-indebtedness
  5. Increased financial literacy levels can push more investors to participate in the domestic financial markets. Arming people with the requisite knowledge can help in their transformation from savers to investors and increased participation of investors can have a plethora of positive trickle-down effects such as the dependence on foreign investors will decrease and citizens will be able to benefit from India’s corporate growth story.

Anant Ladha, founder of Invest Aaj for Kal opines that the learning embedded in the festival of Navratri and Dusshera can drastically change the course of our financial paths towards the better. He says, “During the Lanka war, Lord Ram along with his army fought with bravery against various hardships to attain victory. From a finance and investment perspective, the festival holds a vital lesson: that of getting rid of all the demons that pose as an obstacle to our financial freedom. Excessive use of credit card debts, taking personal loans, not having a budget of expenses, timing the market, redeeming mutual funds without deliberation during crises, or not planning for our goals are some of the major hurdles in our wealth creation journey.”

Elaborating further on the takeaways from the festival, Ladha says, “The Lanka war of 14 days marked the defeat of evil and marked a new beginning. We should take a cue from this and understand that it’s never too late to tread on a path of financial freedom. You can start by chalking out a financial plan that suits you the best and you should strive to stay committed to it.”

Action points

  • If you feel too overwhelmed by financial jargon, seek help from an expert who can guide you and make the learning process simpler.
  • The internet can be a great place to start learning financial concepts. There is a plethora of resources that are free and that explain financial terminologies in an easy-to-understand manner.
  • You can create a group with your friends and relatives to make the process more interesting and fun. This way you can stay motivated and the learning can happen in a more streamlined manner.

This article is part of the HT Friday Finance series published in association with Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund.

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