‘Women should take charge of their finances’

Nisreen Mamaji of MoneyWorks Financial Advisors shares how women can make smart investment choices.
By Morningstar |  18-03-19 | 

You started your journey 20 years back. It was very male-dominated field at that time. What kind of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

The industry selected me rather than me selecting the industry. My background was in advertising. I joined advertising after my master's in management studies. Subsequently, I joined the American International Group in Dubai, followed by ICICI Prudential Life Insurance in 2000. I took my mutual fund distribution license in 2000.

It was a male-dominated industry back then. When I used to approach men for investing, there was a bit of reluctance as to whether I would understand numbers. They only understand you after a few meetings.

Every industry has glass ceilings that women need to conquer. I took it in my stride. There were a lot of rejections. Again, because I'm from the insurance background, I took it in my stride and carried on without letting it affect me too much. Besides, awareness about mutual funds was low. We had to educate people. Today, we have the "Mutual Fund Sahi Hai" campaign, so things are much simpler.

Watch the video interview here.

What investing mistakes women tend to make and what would be your advice to them?

Women don't take charge of their financial decisions. It's something that we outsource. Typically, you have been used to your father/husband/brother taking decisions for you. Finance is not rocket science. They should take help of a financial adviser. The first step is always the most difficult. It's so much easier to let somebody else make a mistake and then blame them for it. Even I've done it. It's just that my dad used to be very active in the share market and he used to talk to me about his investments and seek my advice. From the very beginning, I got accustomed to thinking with him and then later on for him. I would thank my parents for giving me that opportunity to understand numbers and make mistakes. You don't learn unless you make mistakes.

Some studies suggest that women investors tend to have lower return expectations than men. They are more patient and invest for the long-term. What behavioral traits have you observed among your women clients?

Typically, women are more risk-averse. They don't like volatility. They invest for the long-term and are patient. So, that's a good thing because it's like cooking. You've set something up on the stove and waiting for it to cook. It takes time to cook biryani. Similarly, you don't expect a rose to come out immediately after watering a plant.

Women tend to cut their returns by taking zero risk or very low risk. Thus, they should be taking a slightly higher risk so that they can take advantage of equity products. Also, there's a fear. But if you are empowered, educated and have taken the time and effort to understand how it works, the word ‘guarantee’ will not mean anything to you.

Another study found that women tend to outlive men. How is the awareness about retirement planning among women?

If you are going to outlive your husband, you have to take care about your healthcare, household expenses, estate and succession planning for your family and for your children and so on. You can either be widowed, divorced or single. In this scenario, you will have to manage your money on your own. Thus, it is always better to start early.

Unfortunately, the awareness about retirement among women is low. Even if you are a homemaker you should save some money independently of your family investment or what your husband is doing. If you are working, you have your own income. Invest it in right products.

Plan your retirement early and go for products which are little less risky by understanding how they work. You can’t avoid volatility. If you have understood volatility it will be much easier to stay focused on goals.

How are you spreading financial awareness among women?

I have this unique concept called ‘Nimbu Paani’ with Nisreen.

I encourage three to four women to get together where we drink nimbu paani and share our concerns. It's not a talk about money. It's more about talking about your concerns, goals and ambitions. It's so much easier for women to talk about these things with other women rather than with men.

It is up to me to cull out what is important in that conversation to understand the finance issues. So, if any of you want to register for a Nimbu Paani with Nisreen event, please email me at support@moneyworks.co.in.

Besides the face-to-face personal interactions, I'm active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I spread awareness through infographics. I take every opportunity to talk about different investment options like debt and equity funds.

Have you seen more women entering the financial services space now and what would be your advice to people who wish to take up financial advisory as a career?

Women are best fit for this career as they are better listeners, caregivers and have empathy. In financial advisory, you have to listen to people’s concerns, whether it is related to marriage, education or holiday. It is all related to money.

There are only one lakh registered distributors in India. So, there is a huge scope for women. They don’t need to worry about numbers. You should be able to do basic mathematics, which is already taught in school.

Additionally, you have to empower yourself with more qualifications. For instance, I completed my Certified Financial Planning in 2011. I'm also studying for another exam. We have to make efforts to up our game and continue to learn. Every day is different. You need to understand markets, impact of policy rates on debt funds, etc. to be able to advise clients.

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