The word ‘independence’ has evolved since 1947 and it has different connotations for different people. In the pre-Independence era people fought collectively and vigorously to free the country from foreign rule so that they could experience liberty to its fullest essence.
While the freedom struggle ensured a dignified and independent existence for every citizen of the country at a social, cultural and economic level, there is an internal, ongoing struggle at the grassroots level in India that has been overlooked through the decades simply because of the family system, values, emotions and practices. This challenge pertains to an individual’s struggle to recognise and understand the value of money and financial independence from an early age.
Gone are the days of ensuring three square meals a day and a roof above the head for the family as might have been relevant in the 40s and even through the 70s and 80s. By the turn of the century, India was deep into the era of industrialisation, globalisation and social media. Where fending for oneself would once be considered selfish, it would now be perceived as ‘survival of the fittest’.
Understandably, a solid education is a prerequisite to a successful life path and for that reason alone one must focus on successfully completing basic and even some level of advanced education. However, the problem with the Indian education system is that it does not equip students with ample knowledge about the value of money from a young age.
To quote a successful contemporary entrepreneur, ‘So much education, and they didn’t teach us how to file our taxes!’ They teach us mathematics and economics, but not where and how we will practically apply them in the years to come.
Having said that, in my own experience as a millennial, I believe that every individual must fight for financial independence from an early age simply because it negates the state of being dependent and handing over decision-making powers to an external party, even if that is your father, mother, brother, sister, spouse or child.
Being financially independent from an early age, as early as your 20s, gives you a head-start and empowers you to make independent decisions, to ‘think’ constructively, to go that extra mile to achieve bigger targets, to take risks that may result in big wins, and to take responsibility for your life.
But most importantly because you are never truly independent until you are financially independent.
The Indian society is programmed to believe that the bread-winner of the family will provide for all. That assumption creates an atmosphere of dependence and gives the person with the maximum purchasing power the quality of being indispensable. But that is a pattern that every free-thinking adult must avoid and be prepared for contingencies. You don’t want to a sudden jolt in your 30s or at a later stage in your life, when you are caught off-guard and unprepared for the practicalities of life and a smooth state of functioning.
Necessity is the mother of invention and unless you are subjected to circumstances where you need to start investing in assets, this realisation is hard to come by. Even basic comforts of a household, which we might have the tendency to take for granted, present themselves as the biggest challenges in the event that you are forced to assume responsibilities.
So while you dream big and romanticise life experiences, be aware of what you bring to the table, so that you are not afraid to eat alone if such a situation arises. Learn to be financially independent before it’s too late.