ABU DHABI // Sandi Saksena did not intend to become a financial expert.
It was 1996, she was happy as a housewife until her husband Amar became ill and she was forced to find a job.
She had no formal training in the financial world, but was determined and, after many rejections, landed a job at an insurance company.
Now Ms Saksena, 63, an Indian mother of two, is a successful finance and insurance counsellor.
As she has been through challenges herself, she believes she is better qualified than most to advise people on how to be prudent.
“Who can be better than I to speak about the importance of financial planning?” she said.
“Experience is your best teacher and I can talk about this based on facts and figures.”
Unfortunately, she said, many women in this country do not take financial planning seriously enough.
“We have more than 100 nationalities in the UAE and all of us have come here for a better life,” she said.
“However, the glitz and glamour overshadow the priorities of many and they eventually end up with unending loans and debts.”
She believed many women are living in a financial dream world.
“The single women look for their knights who will sweep them off to financial bliss and so they spend most of their salaries on clothes, shoes, beauty salons and hanging out at popular places,” she said.
Meanwhile, many married woman are living off their husband’s pay cheques, without knowing the real cost of a lavish lifestyle.
“When I meet husbands for financial planning, their wives are never involved and are ill-informed,” said Ms Saksena.
“In many cases, they are not even part of the important legal paperwork such as wills, beneficiaries or life insurance polices.”
She believed everyone in this country should have an emergency fund of about six months salary set aside in case of emergency.
“For many women, attending social gatherings or getting to work on time, preparing meals, collecting the children from school are more important than financial planning.
“Women need to step outside their ‘I’m OK it will never happen to me’ comfort zone and face some unpleasant realities along with some even more unpleasant possibilities,” she said.
She even believed financial management was even more important to women than men.
“Women live longer than men by an average of seven years,” she said.
“And 50 per cent of all women older than 65 are widows and frequently suffer a sharp drop in their standard of living.”
There is also the possibility that a woman will get divorced, leaving her without a means of support for herself and family.
Ms Saksena believed that the media should play its part in encouraging financial sensibleness.
“Women’s magazines in the UAE are inane and frivolous,” she said. “They only talk about latest diets looking pretty and relationships gone sour or how to hook and book yourself a spouse.
“Bollywood and Hollywood gossip and glossy ads of anorexic young women wearing outrageously expensive clothes and accessories take up the most of the space in the content, rather than educating them about financial planning and other important aspects of life.”