Advice from retired couples on how they dealt with money issues


Ask septuagenarian Virinder Mahajan the key to his successful financial life and he points to his wife of 53 years, Madhu (see pic). “She has always been prudent with finances,” says the retired Air Force officer. So much so, that the couple can’t recall fighting over moneyever. “We probably didn’t save as much as is recommended these days but we were always mindful of our spending,” says Madhu.

In Jaipur, 90-year-old Sheila Singh and her 91-year-old husband Nem have different spending and saving habits. “I enjoy buying clothes and jewellery whereas Nem thinks it’s a waste of money. But I was never a spendthrift,” says Sheila, a homemaker. Even though they had occasional disagreements over money, they never let things go out of hand. “I realised over the years that her spending didn’t really affect our savings. It was my habit of trying to save everything possible that was the real problem,” laughs Nem, a retired teacher.

Two retired couples in different cities and both have not let money cause disharmony in their relationships. This is probably because they belong to a generation that lived by the cardinal rules of saving enough and spending within their means.

Work as a team
Communication is key to ensuring money does not become a thorn in a marriage. Take the case of Rohini and Narayan Chitgupi (see pic), both in their sixties. This Mumbai-based couple always made financial decisions together, even when they were working, she as a banker and he as an engineer. “We divided household expenses and discussed big purchases before buying. It was always a joint effort,” says Rohini. Regular discussions also ensured complete transparency, critical for building trust between couples.

Experts say couples should be open to each other’s opinion for holistic decisionmaking. “When partners work as a team they can get the best out of their risk appetites. One spouse taking all the investment decisions will be undervaluing the untapped wisdom of the other,” says Vipin Khandelwal, Founder, Unovest, a financial advisory firm.

Also read: How to resolve money issues with partner

Mahajan understands this too well. His wife nudged him to book their current house back in 1986 even though he was unsure. “Today, our house falls in a prime location of Delhi. I’m glad I listened to Madhu,” he says.

Stressing on the importance of working as a team, Mahajan adds that couples should be respectful of each other’s contribution in the household finances. “One should not assume control just because they are the high earning spouse. Compete outside, at your workplace, not in your house with your partner,” he says.


In pic: Virinder Mahajan, retired defence personnel and wife Madhu Mahajan, homemaker, New Delhi
How they deal with money:

  • Respect each other’s contribution to the household
  • Do not question each other’s spending habits
  • Work as a team for the overall financial plan

Resolve conflict
Nem and Sheila dealt with their contrasting spending habits by analysing their future goals. “We didn’t see eye-to-eye on everyday spends but agreed on how much we needed for our goals. From this common ground, we made adjustments in our spending and saving,” says Nem.

Though the Chitgupis didn’t have conflicts over spending, they too believed in saving for goals first and then spending. “When I had a surplus, we would park it in fixed deposits every 3-4 months. I also ensured that the then PPF annual limit of Rs 70,000 was exhausted during the year. Spending came later,” says Roshni.


In pic: Rohini Chitgupi, retired banker and husband Narayan Chitgupi, retired engineer, Mumbai
How they deal with money:

  • Make financial decisions together
  • She handles savings and routine household expenses, he takes care of big ticket expenses
  • They do not keep secrets

On helping relatives
Extending financial help to parents and even other relatives was more common earlier. However, it wasn’t a common reason for conflicts. “We were always respectful of each other helping our respective parents. I’ve also inculcated the same values in my son,” says Nem. His advice stems from the concern that needy parents should be able to fall back on their children in need. The Mahajans too concur with this opinion.

Experts say if regular help is to be provided, it should be included in the overall budget. “Extent of help should depend on the financial situation of the dependent relative. In any case, it should not exceed 10% of your income,” says Nisreen Mamaji, Founder, MoneyWorks Financial Advisors.