Entrepreneur, journalist and now, writer, Shruti Kohli talks about her new book ‘The Petticoat Journal’

How should a single woman in her early Twenties handle her first five figure salary? Should this change once she is married? What about when she plans to start a family? How much pocket money should she give her kids? How do you impart to them the value of money? These are some of the questions Shruti Kohli answers in the The Petticoat Journal: Money and the Indian Woman.

When Shruti was approached to write a book on women and finance, she did not limit herself to savings and investments in the financial markets. “It’s more about women’s attitude towards money. I have dealt with this through various roles women embody; that of daughter, girlfriend, wife, entrepreneur, mother, daughter-in-law, mother –in-law etc. Each role presents a different set of challenges.”

From her experience as a reporter with various national publications including Outlook Money, India Today and her own webzine Petticoat Journal which initially focused solely on women’s finances, Shruti has found that financial independence, as perceived by many today, is a farce. Although statistics show that the number of women investors has gone up greatly, Shruti found that many women she met personally didn’t know anything about investing except that investments had been made in their name. This suggests financial security but not independence. “I met many women who had unpleasant experiences when it came to money and it got me thinking. So much has been said about investment and savings so I decided the book would be more about the attitude of women to these things rather than financial management itself,” explains the author.

Different strokes for different folks

To illustrate her point, Shruti gives us an example of a 23 year old woman who is in her first job: “She has all the money to spend on herself and have a ball of a time and why not but once she gets married, a few challenges arise. Now a part of her salary goes into household expenses, later if she has children, she has to manage their upbringing as well.” The key it seems is to make sure your money management evolves with the different roles you fill. “For instance, the situation will be totally different for a woman who has a child with special needs. She has the task of ensuring a financially secure future for the child. There is a chapter dedicated to this,” Shruti says. “In some cases, you have a mother-in-law who wants to continue to remain the one who handles family finances. How do you deal with that? In other households, the daughter-in-law doesn’t want to give any part of the earnings to the mother-in-law.”

While this may sound like a situation straight out of a television soap, these are real situations faced by women in India and as Shruti says, lead to instances where relationships falter. “The aim is to balance your financial future and also safeguard your relationships,” she points out.

“Women are brought up to fit the ‘dependant’ mould and sadly, some women continue to live in that mould even after they start earning,” says Shruti. “A woman’s salary is considered as pocket money.” Sometimes by the woman herself; “A psychologist I spoke to told me that one of his patients, a woman who was very well-placed in a corporate house, was having issues with being asked to contribute to the household expenses rather than use it all for her own maintenance. Similarly men are brought up with the ‘provider burden’ but we must understand that if a woman wants to buy diamonds, a man may want to buy a yatch. Men have expensive toys too.”

Shruti herself has a wealth of experience in money management. Starting out as a journalist in early 2000, Shruti launched her own media company Spink Turtle Media Pvt Ltd by 2009. She is also the editor of an online magazine, The Petticoat Journal which focuses solely on women’s issues.