Help your helpers: Do what you can for those who can’t save or invest

Help your helpers: Do what you can for those who can’t save or invest

May 20, 2019, 06.56 PM IST

 Personal finance for the poor is a harsh story. One illness is enough to derail everything. There is no job security and no insurance to cover hospital charges. Nor are the systems honest enough to ensure the treatment is effective and affordable. In the time it takes to return to work, the damage is irreversible. These not so privileged families are all around us, working as maids in our homes, driving our cars, manning our lifts, securing gates and doing jobs for those who can pay for these services. We mostly don’t care about the fragility of their finances.

However, there are employers who pay school fees for the children of their maids and drivers; many pass on household goods, durables and clothes to their staff; and so on. This is the age of local empowerment and community-level initiatives. How do we embrace the entire community of people who work around us into a more secure personal financial structure? What if we begin conversations about community-level responsibilities with preventing household finances from being derailed by sudden events? Consider a few ideas to begin with.

First, recognise that poorer people around us may not have the access to education, work experience and training that can help them to excel at what they do. Investing the time to teach, train, mentor and support them to hone the skill they have and pick up new skills, will help immensely.

Second, using our access to help them open a bank account, get enrolled in inexpensive health and life insurance schemes, begin subscriptions to government-sponsored saving schemes, understand plans and options specifically available to the underprivileged, might open many doors to them.

Third, ensuring that a portion of the earnings is saved and not accessed to spend; handing out personal loans and imposing the discipline of regular repayment; creating systems of reward for performance that translate into savings and investments; or offering to take on lump sum payments in exchange for specified tasks and jobs, will all help towards stabilising their finances.

Fourth, creating a common pool funded by donations from like-minded people will offer meaningful support during emergencies, or fund expenses that cannot fit into the routine income. A scholarship fund to help meritorious children access higher education or a hospitalisation fund that would take care of medical emergencies will go a long way.

If we can use our networks to make such initiatives big, the impact will be better. However, starting at home with people who work with us is good enough to begin with. Reasonable work hours, adequate pay, investment of time and money for their wellbeing, and dignity in the way we treat them are habits the wealthy must acquire.

Even as we make our financial goals and fund them with systematic investments, or worry about the adequacy of wealth for our retirement, we must take the time to consider whether we have done enough for people who can’t save or invest, and those who have no retirement fund to fall back on. We can assign a small amount of time, effort and money for that cause, if we wished. The price and privilege for accidents of birth need not be so steep." target="_blank" title="">" style="color:#0645AD ; ">">


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