Each of us has our own, complex, relationship with money. We have either had too little of it or too much of it, and we live our lives with frequent reminders of how the possession of money can greatly impact our futures. We find, through the act of growing up and becoming less naïve, that poverty and wealth are often intergenerational, and that social mobility isn't as simple as it looks. Throw in class, caste, a few financial booms and busts into this mix, and what we're left with is a maelstrom of head-spinning complexity.
There is nothing simple about money.
And here we are, audacious enough to call the labour of our efforts SimpleMoney.
Oh the nerve.
These days, we're busy fighting technical bugs and testing growth channels so we don't have a lot of time to dwell on how audacious this naming exercise has been. But sometimes, we can't help getting philosophical and thinking about the motivations behind SimpleMoney.
Can we make money stress-free?
Pranshu, SimpleMoney's founder and bestower-of-name, cites his parent's financial prudence and planning as the reason why he is able to enjoy a debt-free life, as well as the freedom and liberty to be the founder of a company that provides free services to users. He (only half-jokingly) claims that being a Marvadi is useful when it comes to personal finance.
"I fortunately have never been desperate for money, thanks to my parents, but I have been very conscious of the privilege that money afforded me. I’ve certainly had moments where money has stressed me out - times when I felt like I was overpaying for things have played on my mind for longer than I’d like!
With SimpleMoney being my third company, I’ve learnt first hand the virtue of being stingy about certain things. Money is most fulfilling if it gives you access to whatever makes you happy in life - be it a family, a company, etc.
Through my own experiences, I want to make money less stressful for everyone. I know how stressed I feel about it - perhaps we can make it easier for everyone?"
Money-related stress is not uncommon at all. Agony aunties across the world have, for years, been counselling people on overcoming financial stress. Just a quick Google search will reveal thousands of click-baitey articles with titles such as "Five Ways to Meditate your Way into a Financial Goldmine and Escape Your Current Misery."
When we bring our newborn children home from the hospital, we start panicking, already thinking about financing the wee babe's life, education and marriage. "I shouldn't have bought that expensive dinner at the ITC," we might think. "With a compound interest rate of 10%, that money could have paid for her first semester of tuition."
We feel the bile of that long-gone meal rise up our throats, and we start chiding ourselves for not having been more prepared for the bank balance-depleting phase of our lives called parenthood. (Unless you're the frazzled person that asked this question on Quora).
So how do Indians save?
An RBI survey of household savings patterns in India revealed that most financial goals in Indian households are driven by 'life-events,' such as marriage and education. The poorest income groups in the survey stated that they expect to save, on average, 117% of their annual income towards a single life-event - marriage.
Indians' investments in financial markets, while growing since 1971, is still well below other countries. The average Indian household holds 77% of its total assets in real estate, far higher than other countries such as China, Thailand, USA and the UK. Non-financial assets account for 95% of the household's balance sheet.
With greater awareness and lower than ideal returns from real estate and gold investments in the recent past, participation in the financial markets is increasing, in a phenomenon that the RBI calls "spreading banking to the unbanked." These financial assets are, however, more easily accessed by people of more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds - people who have the requisite levels of awareness and current financial stability so that they can think about the future, unclouded by any present-day financial insecurity or poverty.
Can SimpleMoney help?
With SimpleMoney, we hope to use technology to help people stress less about money. Despite the recent increase in awareness about mutual fund investing in India, reliable tools for portfolio tracking are sparse. Once a first-time investor figures out how to sign up for mutual funds and chooses the right pool of funds for her/his financial goals, it's important to monitor the portfolio. This is not so that we can derive a sense of mercenary satisfaction from watching our money grow, but to make sure that we're on track to meet our goals, and so that we can rebalance our portfolio if there are changes in our lives or in the market.
With greater transparency and easier ways to keep track of your investments, financial literacy can become less daunting and overwhelming, and a secure financial future becomes more achievable targets. We believe that financial anxiety can be assuaged by beautifully presented, factual and useful data. And we hope, that for all of us, money becomes simpler, if not entirely simple.