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Of 3 women and investment
Uma Shashikant, Outlook Money
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January 22, 2007

In the last week, I met three women who set me thinking about informed investing. Maya is a well-educated housewife, who is into Internet trading. Radhika is a high-ranking civil servant, quite clueless about investments. Shalini is a real estate broker-arranger in the US on her annual holiday to India. My conversations with them set me thinking about how market gyrations alter mindsets, and bring a beautiful convergence towards being better informed.

Maya did not pursue a career for 10 long years. When her kids grew up, she took to Internet trading on her brother's advice. She religiously goes to brokers' office every day, and trades the Nifty futures. She tells me that she did not have a stop loss, and, therefore, lost all her money in May this year.

Over the three hours that we chatted, she liked to know how she could learn the ropes of trading and become a respectable trader. She was keen on a career, but it had to do with day trading.  She has been checking out materials on the net, and likes to hone her techniques and eventually trade for others as well.  If not for the loss, she told me she would never have tried to find out more about trading.

Shalini was speaking to me about life in the US and how she was able to make 700 per cent returns from leveraged deals in real estate. She told me about being initiated into this by her husband, and how simple it was to borrow funds, buy property and then sell it off at a profit when prices increased.

But she was now concerned about the US housing markets showing signs of downturn, possible recession for the US in 2007, and risks in leveraged deals. She has no training in macro economics, but was keen to hear my views and ask questions.

She was unable to clearly see the risks to what she was doing, but was determined to get there. In less than a week, she is chatting with me and several others on the US markets and has emerged my source for data and debate on housing in the US

Radhika is an intelligent woman executing tough projects on her job. She had the balance, poise and calm that evoked respect in a few minutes of conversation. When we began to speak about investing, she bashfully admitted that she does not do anything about it. She is enamoured by all the finance talk around her, but unable to participate.

She liked to change her financial illiteracy, but did not know where to begin. Slowly she opened up to the common sense underlying investing choices and has begun to read the financial press. She does not want to decide 'like a moron' but understand what she is doing. She likes to get there soon.

The common thread was that they wielded power over the money they made, but now liked to formalise what they were doing.  Maya sought method over blind trading. Shalini liked to crack the risks before it hit her.

Radhika liked her intelligence to work for her investments as well. The yearning to formalise their understanding represents an important milestone in the way they deal with money. I am sure there are several like them. We oversimplify the issue when we think investors are either ignorant, or greedy or both.

Those who ask for courses, books, materials and stuff are missing the merits of learning on the go. To learn by asking, listening and actively seeking out information when their stakes are high is the key. Just as we have done with health, kids, food, housekeeping and fashion, without doing a diploma for each of these skills.

The learning for these women and several like them, will begin to happen because they have begun to seek it. That to me is the most significant social benefit from bull markets to people like Radhika, bear markets to people like Maya, and market cycles to people like Shalini. And, I am loving it.

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