Introduction Picture this situation. You are a Deputy Manager in a leading heavy Chemical factory in a place called Mettur, near a big city called Salem in Tamil Nadu. You had contacted a head hunter for a much better job. The chance to take a decision has now come. You have been selected through an intensive interview process. Though you had an ICWA background, your eight-year experience with this company and another sugar company, based out of Coimbatore City, has largely been confined to accountancy and a little about improving cash flows.
The new job is in Corporate Finance. The company belongs to a prestigious group. However, the posting is in New Delhi and neither your wife nor your nine-year-old daughter knows Hindi. The person who interviewed you has already contacted you, offering all help. Hindi is never an issue, you are told. Your friend who lives in New Delhi does not agree. He says you should come alone, putting your child and your wife under the care of your in-laws who have roots in Salem. There are other relatives too. Each of them tells the same thing. But since you have never lived without your daughter, you are very apprehensive. Your mind is full of " either-or" doubts and thoughts. You are restless, wondering what to do.
The aforesaid story happened to a near relative of mine. It is a true life story. Now comes the solution. The man took a bold decision. He bargained with the new Management for a two day off every month to be with his family. He would fly down to Chennai and reach Salem by the early morning train. Saturday and Sunday were anyway holidays. The days he spent with his family made him concentrate on the job. Three years went off in a flash. The intelligent daughter went on to learn Hindi privately. In the meanwhile, the Management promoted him as a General Manager and offered to put the child in a very good school. They kept their world. The child picked up Hindi very fast and topped the class. She went on to do her bachelor ' s degree in economics and a PG degree from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics. And further on to the London School of Economics for her doctorate.
A superb "either-or" situation handled with remarkable ease. We will discuss such situations in some detail, with specific reference to a) Either or situations in family life b) Either or situations in careers c) Either or situations in managing to personal finance and d) Either or situations in later life as Senior Citizens.
Either or Situations in family life Literally every Indian, more so, middle class Indian would be obsessed with some kind of security for him and his family members, meaning wife and children. Chief among that is owning a house.
Now comes the classic "either this or that" choice to make. This simply means, "should I pump a huge amount of my savings and salary into owning a house in this metro city?" "Or, can I go somewhere else?"
This issue is now sought to be intelligently addressed by many professionals. A friend of mine from AP, now working in Hyderabad, had this huge issue before him. His wife's native place is some twenty kilometers away from the new capital of AP, which is now called Amaravathi. This guy was also interested in Hyderabad. However, when he saw the current prices, (Jan 2019), he thought he could try something near his wife's native place. Am still not able to pronounce the name of this village. This fellow chose a small village, just three kilometers from his wife's house. A nice house with good gardens, five years old. It was sold by someone who wanted to migrate to Bangalore for good. This guy seized the opportunity, brought it for just Rs.32 lakhs. When he showed me the photograph of the house, it looked so nice, with a good garden. He was intelligent. He is now doing some remodeling but it should be ready within a month or so. Every month he and his wife would stay there and intend to maintain it as a sort of resort. His ten-year-old daughter is also happy, as there is a fairly big garden, the kind of which is now becoming very rare in Hyderabad.
He is not alone. Villages near the Mahindra World City, Chennai, villages some 45 kilometers from Coimbatore city, villages near a lovely town called Nagercoil are all hot properties in Tamil Nadu. An increasingly large number of professionals in IT keep on searching for independent houses here. After all, Bangalore and Coimbatore are so well connected too. This is a classic case of an "either-or" situation being handled intelligently. There are many other too. Decisions regarding the care of parents, or whether to really trust the servant maid and so on are plenty.
The need for moderation and a very cool mind are now so important. With a little bit of tact, one can do it. One also has to ask for different experiences from close friends.
Either or situations in careers The aforesaid true mid-career " Either or " situation is just one. The most important question is about the employment of the mother after the child arrives. The wisest thing to do is to postpone the child for a while and when the mother is very much recognized in the organization, the statutory maternity leave can help. Apart from this, very intelligent women also work from home, even in customer-facing jobs, by delegating and empowering the work to talented subordinates who can get the work done. This is a superb strategy, as, at the end of the day, the Management is least bothered how the work gets done, as long as it gets it done.
The branch manager of a leading private sector insurance company narrates this very intelligent strategy after she became pregnant. Her hand holding of subordinates, including the art of smooth talking to customers, happened with ruthless perfection during the first five months of pregnancy. The next three months were spent only on guiding them. When she availed the leave, she was given full support by the Management, as the rupees anna and paisa was coming. Very smart strategy.
Her Chartered Accountant husband also chipped in with his contacts. Sales grew. When the child was three months old, her mother stepped in. One year was gone in a flash. Subsequently, this high performing branch manager received two more promotions. What helped as her cool and very methodical planning. She had the art of training subordinates and even hand holding them. If the subordinates were ordered around, they might have really resented it.
The second major "Either or" situation often pertains to the education of children. This is so, as the mother wants her career to also not get spoiled. The child is admitted to the local matriculation school. He comes out with flying colors. And then the issue is " should I switch my child to the CBSE pattern?" The answer is always a resounding yes. The CBSE schools offer far better education with some creativity thrown in. There is cramming, though. However, the scope of understanding the subjects in depth through thinking is far better and this helps the children to do well in the IIT JEE or the NEET or the State level examinations that enable higher education in engineering or medicine. A little tact and understanding on the part of parents are called for. Very intelligent parents shift to localities that are just one kilometer from the school in the plus two stages. This is a superb strategy as the student should not feel tired. The extra rent is actually an investment. The time saved on commuting is a big plus too.
Hence, with a little bit of planning, all career-related "either-or" situation can be very quickly solved. When the children grow up and can fend for themselves, the Metro train service can ease the burden of traveling for most working women. This is exactly what is now going on.
Either or situations in managing personal finance This is a big area of concern. Only a very small percentage of people know about investing wisely in shares. They would have some background or would have contacted someone who would have done the job for them. However, the other huge chunk of people, often turn to recurring deposits and fixed deposits. The wisest of them invest in housing plots, even seventy-five kilometers from the city center.
The middle classes are confronted with "either-or" situations in a big way. For example, "is it wise to invest in gold or have it in the form of cash?" is a very dangerous choice to make. When the money is black through some cash transactions, the idea is to store it in cash. Putting it in a bank will run the risk of everything known to the IT authorities. Hence, this is a very big problem. They often keep it at home and the thief comes calling. He takes away all cash. The only ethical route is to file returns and follow the rules. The various methods available to save money can be utilized fully. Once the money is declared to the IT authorities, it becomes easy to do any transaction.
Similarly, the balanced funds of certain fund houses like the HDFC Mutual Fund are superb and offer regular income of around 9.6% ( after dividend distribution tax that is deducted at source). There are other such funds too. It is hence very essential to consult someone in the field and then do the investment. The biggest advance of this investment is that it is not taxed if held for more than one year. Only the capital appreciation is taxed if it exceeds the limit of rupees one lakh. We can easily exit the fund before that amount is accumulated. Investing in housing plots in the developing suburbs, even seventy kilometers away is a good investment. For example, cash-rich investors are now focussed on a developing city called Nellore, in AP, where the development has been so rapid in the past ten years. This includes investors from Bangalore too.
Either or situations in later life as Senior Citizens There is a superb Tamil film song that goes like this "Uyartha idaththil irukkum pothu ulagam unnai mathikkum, antha nilamai konjam thaazhthu vittal nizalum kooda mithikkum". This translates into "when you are in a good position the whole world would respect you. When your situation changes, even your shadow will kick you".
An absolutely true truth of life. When the man and woman are both 60+, in today's conditions it is wise to just retire. We should never have any ambition of staying with our sons or daughters. This is not a choice at all. Their lives have become so complex. If they are professionals from the IIM or ISB, their career focus is understandable. The rat race is on. They will never have the time to spend with us. There is no "either-or" here. We need the safe confines of an old age home. If you would think that this is very costly, think again.
There are choices too. The smaller towns like Chittoor in AP or Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, have such old age homes where the cost of living is very cheap. Never ever sell your house in the city. It is all yours. You might call on your son and spend a gala time with your grandsons or grand=daughters. But you can only be a guest. You cannot live with them. This is one stark reality that we all need to understand.
The "either-or" situations are huge for senior citizens. Now, what happens if there are no resources to manage, say, a big ailment of yourself or your wife? Perhaps try alternate medicine to just minimize the pain. We can live for a few years. If one of the man or woman is gone, the old age home will still take care. This is a new reality of life we all need to understand. We have no choice at all.
Conclusion There is absolutely no meaning in talking about those good old times. The times are hard now. They will be even worse ten years from now. However, every solution can be tacked with ease, by observing others and have a huge network of friends to learn from. Right now.