It is almost embedded in our culture to believe that young-adults of age below 21-22 should be kept uninformed of the financial challenges of a family. They are unaware about the debt accumulated by their parents for their own education and expenses. Until they reach the age of 23 or 24 and start handling personal expenses by themselves, they do not understand the value of money.
It is not surprising to see a lot of young-adults demanding bikes and cars without earning a penny for themselves. Such keep-children-away-from-financial-matters culture installs a behaviour to the children to spend frivolously – extensive shopping, thoughtless consumption of unnecessary snacks and cookies, and what not; it is only the parents who bear the pain of having their money spent unwisely. Even worst, debt may get heavier if such behaviour remains unchanged for years. We definitely see this happening in Manipur. Even when the children grow up and reach the age of 23-24, they are incapable of managing their money wisely and effectively. The reason is that the lesson to spend responsibly cannot be taught in a day, or two, or in a month. It is a lifelong lesson. The earlier we start, the better off we are. But clearly, this is not happening.
We need to change this culture. Parents need to teach personal finance lessons to their children and they need to keep their children informed about the financial status of the family. If they continue to keep their children uninformed about such issues, they are only teaching their children to be ignorant.
However, at most times, culture is hard to change. Culture is something that we have practised for years over and over again. Let’s say parents continue to teach their children to be ignorant. What can the teenagers do to teach themselves a lesson that will serve them for the rest of their life?
I will answer this question with an example. In the U.S.A., the first lesson a child learns is to be independent; most importantly to be financially independent. This does not mean the American parents do not care about their children as much as Meitei parents do; in fact the parents-children relationship is more open in the U.S.A than what wehavein Manipur. The difference is that American parents are little more critical when it comes to giving money to their children. What is the point of just giving money when there is no lesson taught?
I have a friend who is 19 years old. She is the State Chair/Representative of an International NGO. Since her childhood, her parents have been consistently teaching the meaning of money, the nature of wise spending, and the hard work involved in earning a penny. Now, at the age of 19, she pays her own college fees, buys her own car, phone, and clothes by her own hard-earned money, and plans to own a house sooner than later. How does she do that? For her, every minute counts, and hence every break from school. During school breaks, she works for restaurants, retails, library, or companies to get some quick bucks and save up. During the school time, she does similar kind of jobs but mostly on weekends, and sometimes even during weekdays for an hour or two daily. Besides her job through which she earns for herself, she is still able to keep her academic performance uptight.
What is her secret? I know her pretty well, and she is neither a gifted genius nor a cyborg. Anyone will be able to do exactly what she is doing if one has the skill of time management. A lot of young-adults in Manipur spends hours with friends drinking, doing drugs, riding bikes, and the list of unproductive involvements goes on. Then they complain for not having enough time to study and also do household works. Friends are important, but spending 6-7 hours every weekend just doing unproductive thingswill not take anyone anywhere. By the end of the day, we, as an individual, decide who we are and who we become.
Let’s do the math and see what happens when we divert those unproductive hours into something productive – earning some money. During the weekdays, school hours are long and tiring, so it’s hard to do extra work. But on weekends, I am pretty sure we can at least commit five hours on Saturdays and Sundays on a job – maybe at the Classic hotel, or mobile retails, or at an ngari shop in the market. Let’s say you earn Rs.10 per hour, you would earn Rs.100 on one weekend, Rs.400 in one month, and Rs.4800 in a year!
It’s not just the money that you can earn which is valuable, once you start spending the money that you earned for yourself, you will start to understand the game of wise spending or at least try to understand – you will learn how to actresponsibly while dealing with money. Why do we have to wait until we finish our college degree and get a job to learn how to earn, spend, and save? Don’t we all want to retire with enough money to pay for medicals, food, and other expenses? If yes, then start earning and saving as early as possible. It is true that money isn’t everything, but it is also true that it isn’t nothing. Love does not buy food, car, clothes, and house. I work part-time on the campus at my college (Wabash College, Indiana, USA) and I earn Rs.45,000 every month. This helps me support my expenses and fees (though I am not completely financially independent), and my existence seems little more meaningful that it was before, trust me.
Young-adults in Manipur need to realize that bikes aren’t assets but liabilities. How much of your parents’ money are wasted in maintaining your bike and buyingfuel? If you are really that lazy and not willing to work on a part-time job, then stop eating up your parents’ money. Besides that, Manipur isn’t a place where we don’t have sufficient public transports to rely on. We do have.
We should not be a victim of a culture-caused illiteracy. Age should no longer determine how much we know. If we can learn it now, why wait for another 10 years? If we can earn now and save up, why wait for a college degree? It’s never too early to learn a lifetime lesson, but it can be too late.