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#GetMoneywise - Let disability not keep you from taking charge of your finances

Starting today is our weekly series #GetMoneywise, where we talk about financial matters from a disability perspective. Financial planning is important for everyone, disabled or not. But people with disabilities need to plan better keeping their specific needs in mind. More importantly, they need to plan for themselves and not depend entirely on their families.

Amar Jain, a Mumbai-based investment lawyer, was about 15 years old when his parents started talking to him about financial matters and the responsibilities that go into running a household. This rarely happens in most Indian households where children are kept out of money matters. And when it's a child with a disability, it almost never happens.

"I remember I was in Class 9 or 10 when my parents started discussing financial matters with me, says Amar, who is visually impaired. "That's a good time to do it actually because that's about the time you start building your mature self. Most parents don't do this, perhaps it's an ego factor. But it is really important especially when you have a disability because if you are aware of what goes into running a family, the responsibilities, etc., you plan for it, regardless of how much money you have.

What these early lessons instilled in Amar was independent thinking in financial matters. He was in his second year of college when he opened his bank account. Soon after he started listening to Budget speeches and took an interest in stock markets.

Common mistakes

This, says Rahul Kelapure is not the case with most disabled people in India, who tend to rely on others when it comes to financial matters. Kelapure, a manager in the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) regularly conducts workshops on investment education for people with disabilities.

Firstly, persons with disabilities do not plan their finances at all in most cases. If they invest, it is done in an ad-hoc way and the entire element of planning is absent. It is mostly done to meet some criteria for income tax exemption. Also, they leave everything to family members and do not have much say in planning their finances. It is possible that they may not have track of the investments they made which leads to not being able to take a proper decision when the money is required. - Rahul Kelapure, Manager, Enforcement Department, Securities & Exchange Board of India

Even those who are financially savvy, often make choices that are unsuited to their needs, says Jitendra Solanki, a financial planner and author of the book Financial Planning for Special Needs Children Families. "Considering asset class like equities is needed to accumulate wealth in the long term. People with disabilities, with their unique requirements, tend to rely more on fixed income instruments.

The other mistake, says Solanki, is over use of insurance policies: "Since most insurance companies focus on the emotional aspect of any individual person with disability, they end up planning most of the investments through insurance policies. The communication of guaranteed returns is what attracts them towards fulfilling their unique requirements. But this is an incorrect choice.

The dependence on families in often due to the inaccessibility of banking systems, as Dr Riitesh Sinha, a government employee in Karnal who has cerebral palsy points out. "My family handles my financial details with my involvement. I believe financial planning is very important especially when you are disabled as there is no social security system. But we face a lot of barriers due to lack of accessibility, which makes it hard to even enter the banks or for that matter the apathy of bank staff.

Solanki agrees that inaccessibility can be a deterrent but the advent of technology is changing this. "The coming of the digital age has improved the situation a lot and people with disabilities can take advantage of this. They don't have to necessarily walk into a bank or go to an ATM for financial transactions, he says.

Jain, in fact, believes, the lack of accessibility ought to push the disabled community into making their needs loud and clear.

"Yes, I agree the system is to blame partly but we need to change that and the way to do so is to show banks and companies that we are also into investing which is not clear now. Be aware that your disability cannot be the reason for anyone to not provide you with a service. When you go to the bank you should read and see there are policies mandated that people with disabilities get the same services. Ask for accessible copies and if you don't get it, ask someone to read the documents out to you so you know what you are signing.

So, get involved in planning your money. Disability should be a factor in making your financial decisions but remember you get to choose and decide. The information is out there, all you have to do is ask for it.


#GetMoneywise - Don't play too safe with your money, look at ways to invest smartly

#GetMoneywise - Financial planning mistakes parents with disabled children typically make

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