Everyday Superstar 2

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The finance industry is a notoriously male-dominated field and it takes a lot of hard work and determination for a woman to succeed. It is common for women to be intimidated and ignorant about finances. However, female entrepreneurs’ and finance experts like Aparna Ramachandra have made great strides in this field and helped educate women about finances.

Vibhushita would like to introduce Aparna Ramachandra, the Founder Director of Rectify Credit, and India’s first Credit Repair Company.  She is an Equity research analyst focusing on the US stock market, specializing in consumer durables, industrials and the technical sector. Aparna is a columnist and her articles have often appeared in the Mint and Femina magazines in India. Aparna is also an avid cyclist, marathoner and loves to travel. She will talk to us today about finances, her experiences in the industry and why understanding our finances is so important.

1) Aparna could you tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a certified financial planner and am currently based in Mumbai. I am the founder and Director of Rectify Credit. I have been in this business for the last 10 years. I am a South Indian and can fluently speak and translate nine languages.

2) What motivated you to become a financial planner?

One day as I was browsing the Internet I happened to come across the CFP program and I felt I wanted to pursue further studies in this field. But what really motivated me to become a certified financial planner were my life experiences. After going through a personal crisis, I realized there was a systematic way out of problems. Creating, building and preserving wealth is a fascinating journey. I wanted to work with people to build a healthy working relationship with their money. So, I completed the CFP program and began to make holistic financial plans for individuals. My intention was not just to sell financial products and gain commission, I really wanted to help people. I have been really interested in retirement and tax planning. I have found that these are two very touchy topics that people want to avoid. People always want to believe that no bad can happen to them and that they are immortal!! That’s how I decided to become a CFP in India.

3) Have you faced any bias in this field?

No. Women are inherently perceived as trustworthy and tend to take fewer risks. But I find that women clients need lot of pep talk and cajoling to believe in themselves. The conditioning that women are not good with numbers is sadly a deeply rooted feeling. Men are taught to “be the know-alls”, and resist asking for help.They rarely accept that they don’t know something or they have goofed up the investments!!

4) Do you feel that women need to learn more about their financial situation?

Yes. I would like to put it this way, all of us, men and women need to know their real financial situation. I am a firm believer and I repeat it at every platform, “Finance can never be outsourced”. You have to be involved and aware of what is going on.

5) What are you doing about increasing awareness?

I work with individuals and corporates in creating awareness about finance. I conduct financial literacy programs and do financial counseling.

6) Why should people hire a financial planner?

I don’t think everyone needs a financial planner. If someone is diligent and already knows why they are doing what they are doing and is clear on money matters, then he or she doesn’t need a financial planner. Moreover, someone who wants to risk it all and blow up all their wealth also does not need a financial planner. So, the two extremes on that scale do not need a financial advisor. Having said that a planner sees the situation objectively, analyses and offers professional advice.

7) Are you involved in any community programs for women’s empowerment? Could you give us an example.

I have been associated with NGO’s that work with women self help groups in Mumbai. I would like to share a success story. I had a lady client who was a young, single, pediatrician. Her father and brothers would take care of her investments. In one of my workshops she sought my advice. We figured out that there were lots of impractical and incorrect investments done on her behalf. It took her 6 months to stand up for herself and tell her family that she will manage her own finances. Today I am glad to share that she decides her investments and is an aware spender.

8) Any other thoughts?

I would like to see more financially literate and aware customers. People with fancy degrees and fat pay check come with risky investments gone awry or credit card defaults I feel sorry for them. These days when there is an information overload I don’t see why people choose to be ignorant. To me laziness and ignorance are a fatal combination.

Thank You!

 

 

Swiss Army knife~ an ode to the multitalented woman

We were taught to be dependable, responsible, the top of our classes at school, the most organized and efficient babysitters in town, the very miniature models of our hardworking farmer/nurse mother, a pair of junior Swiss Army knives, born to multitask
— Elizabeth Gilbert

Do you work? Are you just a housewife? It must be hard for the kid’s right! These are just some of the questions all of us women have been asked at least once in our life and most often by another woman. Choosing to stay at home or go to work is a personal choice. It is imperative to understand that each person is free to choose what works best for them. As women we need to support and respect each other instead of being critical and judgmental.

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While some women are adept at balancing demanding careers with obligations at home other women choose to exclusively care for their families. Both work equally hard to keep their family members happy and satisfied and expect very little in return.

As home managers women have a full-time job with deadlines emerging constantly. A warm, delicious and healthy meal, clean, crisp sheets on a bed, and a smooth functioning household are just a few routine responsibilities almost all women are involved in.  A working woman handles both fronts, the home and the outside world. She brings balance to the family by becoming an equal partner in meeting the financial needs of the family. Through hard work and dedication she can also realize her own dreams and ambitions.

Whether the woman of the house goes out to earn a livelihood, or stays at home to manage everything we need to respect this conscious decision. Life cannot be tailored to please the world and nobody but ourselves can decide what makes us happy. The more we acknowledge the tremendous importance of the choice a woman makes, the more we are able to empower her and feel proud of her accomplishments. Effort whether in or out of the house should never be considered insignificant or inconsequential.

Somebody's Hero ~ Jamie O'Neal Song

"Somebody's Hero" is a song written by Jamie O’Neal, Shaye Smith and Ed Hill, and recorded by Australian country music artist O'Neal. This song is a tribute to women and the various roles we play in life.

She's never pulled anyone from a burning building

She's never rocked Central Park to a half a million fans, screaming out her name

She's never hit a shot to win the game

She's never left her footprints on the moon

She's never made a solo hot air balloon ride, around the world,

No, she's just your everyday average girl (but)

She's somebody's hero

A hero to her baby with a skinned up knee

A little kiss is all she needs

The keeper of the cheerios

The voice that brings Snow White to life

Bedtime stories every night

And that smile lets her know

She's somebody's hero

She didn't get a check every week like a nine-to fiver

But she's been a waiter, and a cook and a taxi driver

For twenty years, there at home, until the day her girl was grown

Giving all her love to her was her life's ambition

But now her baby's movin' on, and she'll soon be missin' her

But not today, those are tears of joy runnin' down her face

She's somebody's hero

A hero to her daughter in her wedding dress

She gave her wings to leave the nest

It hurts to let her baby go down the aisle she walks right by

Looks back into her mother's eyes

And that smile lets her know

She's somebody's hero

Thirty years have flown right past

Her daughters' starin' at all the photographs

Of her mother, and she wishes she could be like that

Oh, but she already is

She's somebody's hero

A hero to her mother in a rockin' chair

She runs a brush through her silver hair

The envy of the nursing home

She drops by every afternoon

Feeds her mama with a spoon

And that smile lets her know

Her mother's smile lets her know

She's somebody's hero

Everyday Superstar!

Vibhushita would like to introduce Vasudha Ramanarasiah, as our first "Everyday Superstar". Through this new series, each month we would love to share the story of a woman who has made a difference to the world around us.

To be a volunteer, it takes...

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  • Generosity; a willingness to give your time to others
  • Understanding; because their lives might be very different from your own
  • Empathy; an ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what they feel
  • Compassion; to truly care about making someone else's life better
  • Patience; because the process doesn't always go as smoothly as it might
  • Dedication; to stick with the project and see it through

Vasudha, you have shown these qualities and so much more.

I have known Vasudha as a good friend and over the last few years have seen her grow into a tenacious and committed social worker. She is the mother of two and has been a passionate advocate for volunteerism.  She cares deeply about education and has spent many hours mentoring students in her local middle school. She has been honored by the Moreland school district and the Junior League of Women - San Jose, for the exemplary service she has put in. Finally, she is not only a determined and patient person, but we will learn how through volunteering, she has found a new purpose in her life.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
    My name is Vasudha and I am a full time volunteer and mom to two wonderful teenagers. I have a computer application degree and have worked both in India and in the US. I quit my job 17 years ago when my son was born. My daughter was born 3 years later and I became a full time mom who did not stay home but decided to volunteer at every chance I got.
  2. When did you start volunteering?
    I started volunteering when my son entered kindergarten and I really did not know it was an option until his teacher mentioned it. I started in a small way in the classroom and as years went by I got involved more deeply in school level activities and went on to become a board member in the Moreland Education Foundation.
  3. What is the time commitment required?
    The wonderful thing about volunteering is you can determine how much or how little you would like to do. Initially when my daughter was young I could not do much but I tried many ways like trading day care with my friend and used that time to volunteer. As she got older and went to preschool I had more time and could devote more time to volunteering and I sometimes used the weekend as my husband would be home. When the kids got a bit older they used to accompany me when I volunteered and I am happy to say that both of them love to volunteer for any opportunity they get.
  4. What have you gained from pursuing volunteering?
    • A deep sense of contentment that I am able to help and make a difference.
    • To make time to use my skills and education to fund raise, expose children other than my own to new skills or just be a caring adult who can help kids become advocates for themselves.
    • To learn and grow as a person by pursuing projects that I might not otherwise have done and learn new skills.
    • I have had the luxury of having enjoyed my children’s childhood and adolescence, supported them and also done meaningful work in my community.
    • Been a role model to my children and showed them by actions that giving back to the community you live in is very important.
    • I am a better parent and spouse because of having a purpose in my life other than just kids, husband and familial duties.
    • On a lighter note made so many wonderful friends from very diverse backgrounds and cultures. These are relationships I will treasure all my life.
  5. What would you advise someone who is new to volunteering? 
Take some time to think what it is that excites you the most or an area where you feel the time you invest with no tangible results will not frustrate you.The second one is more important because volunteering is work which will not give you tangible benefits like money, bonus or instant gratification but with time, patience and perseverance it will fill you with gratitude and contentment. 

I can give some examples of how I did it which will explain what I mean –
I volunteered in activities which involved technology because that is where I was trained. 
  • I was not a very voracious reader in my younger days but I made sure my kids inculcated the love of reading and when I got a chance to do that at school to other kids I snagged the opportunity and put on many Scholastic Book Fairs which gave access to books to many school children.During one such events I realized that there are schools in my very neighborhood that have fewer resources than the ones my children had, so I stepped up and joined the Education Foundation to make a difference at a wider level.
  • I am very passionate about food and I believe that anything we can do to get good fresh food to people is worth my time. Of late I volunteer a lot in the Second Harvest food bank. 
  • I wanted to give the same opportunities of support and mentoring that my children have to other students who for some reason or the other do not get it at home. I mentored students who were in their 7th and 8th grades for 2 years.

The biggest advantage of volunteering where your passion or expertise lies is that you will never face ‘burn out’ and will bring the same level of enthusiasm and zeal every day. The most important thing when you volunteer is commitment and a deep sense of responsibility because someone at the other end is depending on your help and support.

Clean Closets: Mission Possible

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan
— Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote urges us to action to end procrastination. Closet shelves are notorious for getting overloaded and many of us are dealing with a burgeoning problem of clutter in our closet. I recently read somewhere that most women wear only 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. It would then be logical to de-clutter and get rid of some of the excess stuff, right? However, despite all our good intentions, we procrastinate and put off the de-cluttering. Just ‘wishing’ things around us were more organized does not help. It wastes our time and pulls us away from organizing and getting things done.  As the saying goes, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Don’t we all remember Monica Geller from the hit sitcom “ Friends”.  A "neat freak", Monica is obsessed about cleaning (she considers the dry cleaner as her Disneyland). In one episode it was revealed that she categorizes her towels into 11 sections, with examples being "Everyday use," "Fancy," "Guest," and "Fancy Guest." While most of us don’t really have to get so obsessive, it would certainly be helpful to begin with a well-organized closet.

Good housekeepers have an excellent habit of going through their wardrobe at least once a year and clearing out every closet and drawer. This reduces clutter and makes it easier to find the clothes we want. The decision to re-organize the closet is therapeutic and can make one feel empowered. Here are some of the things that will help us organize our closet.

Become a closet custodian
Become your own personal stylist and curate your wardrobe. Look closely into your closet and spot clothes that are old, that need small repairs, and that don’t fit. Cull the clothes that have run their purpose. It is very helpful if you categorize the clothes. First create a pile of old clothes (old, torn or unusable clothes) which should be disposed.  The second pile would be the clothes you love (organize these in your closet) and lastly the undecided pile (clothes that have no room, and are still good, you will need to decide whether you want to keep them or give them away). You should strongly consider donating this third pile of clothes.

Increase closet space

Sometimes there is just not enough space for all our clothes. Creating a new space by investing in a new closet will help reduce the crowding in the existing one. Closet organization is a billion dollar industry and there are a large group of professionals who are thinking obsessively about how to make organizing a closet easier. Make use of handy storage units that maximize storage and look attractive. One could think of organizing certain types of clothes in this new space making it visually appealing.

Have matching hangars

Hangers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, types, and materials. Buying hangars that are of the same color and size keeps the closet looking neat and organized

Accumulating clothes has become de-rigueur. Minimizing our wardrobe brings with it simplicity and a lightness of being. Take pride in your organized closet and let it become a conversation starter.

From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order
— Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

In-house support system

There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more . . . secure.
— Jim Butcher

In-laws (n): Members of a family traditionally given to a bride on her wedding day who provide a lifetime supply of love and support.

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We hear endless bytes on mothers and daughter, sisters and friends sharing unconditional love between each other. However there are times when we move away from our favorite cheerleaders. Marriage and setting up a new home brings with it a need to forge friendships with the female members of the new family. Sisters-in-law, aunts, and many other new familial relationships are added into our lives. It is common to resist these forced relationship with women who aren’t chosen as our friends through mutual interests or common experiences.

But I think these new women in our lives are the ones that become our greatest allies. They are our safety net. They have the ability to support us and make our life easier in the new home.We need to resist being pigeonholed into conventional reactions and set aside our qualms about building robust relationships within our family.

Television serials always portray the “bhabhi”, “the mother-in-law”, or the husband’s little sister to be fire-breathing dragons. What they don’t show us is that, the new entrant into the family might look like the dragon slayer too! Mutual fear and trepidation is common when we embark on any new relationship. However, it is very important to not get swayed by these stereotypes. Relationships with our mother-in-law or sister-in-law are very critical to the family system. A strong and loving bond between the womenfolk in the family can help create a peaceful environment where members of the family are free to express themselves.

I see a number of benefits in having in-house cheerleaders rooting for us. The men in our lives will never understand the little things that vex us. Only another woman from the same family can understand our daily struggles and frustrations. All relationships have their highs and lows, and even these new relations will take time and effort to build. Raising kids, running the household, cooking and shopping can bring us closer. A lot of give and take, maturity, empathy, and changes in behavior are perhaps mandatory behavioral adjustments required to establish cordial and filial relationships with the women in the family.

Any new beginning brings with it a myriad of emotions. If we are able to overlook the initial hiccups and allow love to dictate the relationship, it can help discount the differences and bind us together.

 

Taming the volcano inside!

If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?
— Khalil Gibran

I read somewhere “Volcanoes are built by the accumulation of their own eruptive product, namely lava, ash and dust”. I feel we women are always carrying the burden of unexpressed emotions inside us. In society, women are assumed to wear our emotions on our sleeve, however the world does not see our struggle to express our true emotions. Societal norms and pressures dictate the way we behave. Appropriate emotional expression is crucial to leading a happy and fulfilling life. We are not born this way, then why do we build this façade of normalcy around us? How do we quieten the volcano of emotions inside us? 

Right from childhood, our family, friends and society exert a force on us to conform and behave in a certain manner. Any honest expression is suppressed and redirected to one that is more socially acceptable. As we grow older repressing undesirable emotions becomes the norm. Expressing an opinion, preference, or choice is debated several times in the mind before it is communicated. Over thinking and analyzing every reaction leads to increased stress levels in our body. To cope with the stress we develop defense mechanisms like anxiety, denial, anger and hostility. Difficulty in expressing emotions, whether it is due to the way we have been raised to behave or a coping mechanism, can unleash anxiety and dysfunction in our life.

It is difficult to build normal and healthy relationships in a choppy and turbulent emotional environment. Volunteerism and pressing ourselves to service is one way to find our emotional bearings.

Women are extremely capable and perceptive, making us a force to reckon with. We can contribute enormously to the world around us. Each of us has the potential of playing a supportive and complementary role in another person’s life. On a personal note, a few years back I lost my mother to a rare lung disease. I experienced the different stages of grief and it took me a year to come to terms with this loss. During this time, I got involved in community service that required me to interact with people and work towards a goal. Immersing myself in a cause helped me overcome my grief and find peace.

Research has proven that volunteerism can make an immeasurable difference in the lives of others and our own too. Besides providing health benefits volunteering can dispel negativity and increase our self worth. Making new friends, learning new skills and actually seeing the results of our service helps us open-up. We begin to care less about ourselves and get engaged in a cause. Serving without any ulterior motive, obligation, or expectations helps us drop the facade and quell the volcano inside.

 

 

A la Mode: To be or not be?

Fashion! Turn to the left,

Fashion! Turn to the right.

These lyrics from David Bowie’s famous song “Fashion” sums up the Cannes Film Festival. Dressed up celebrities from all over the world pirouetting left and right for photographs make headlines for the couture labels they wear. With all the press coverage and photographs, we forget that it is actually a film festival. It seems like fashion trumps the professional success of the artistes. According to a recent news release I came across, one study has shown that, dressing in nicer clothes makes a woman feel better. I started to think do we dress up to look good or is it a routine we are following? Do the clothes we wear have a profound effect on the way we feel?

 A number of people believe that fashion doesn’t matter and that it takes away the focus from the daily activities that are important—work, relationships, family. However, it is amazing to know how much of mental energy is consumed even when you are dressing up for work everyday, or meeting our friends, carefully picking clothes and wearing something that brings out the best in us. All the selfies and pictures we take are a testament to the fact that how we dress up does matter.

Dressing up on any particular day I feel is influenced by who we are meeting, the occasion, and the mood we are in. For many of us dressing in a particular style has become a comforting ritual. Changing any of this seems like a daunting task. I can vouch for that, my grandmother was an epitome of grace right until her last days. She would insist we freshen up and change for the evening. As much as I hated doing this, I felt energized and refreshed by this simple act. Dressing to feel good is worthwhile and can become the key to success. I think if wearing a different style of clothes or make up can change how a woman perceives herself, there is no harm in trying it.

 

 

Thank you Greyapple Advertising

GreyApple Advertising

GreyApple Advertising

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.

-John F. Kennedy

 

Thank you Shahab Rasheed of Grey Apple Advertising (http://greyapple.net/) for providing the designing service for Vibhushita. On hearing about our non-profit cause, Shahab got to work immediately and offered his high-quality professional services pro-bono. Regardless of his hectic schedule he showed amazing creativity and attention to detail while working on this project. He understood what the goals of the organization were and patiently created the new look for the website and logo. It was helpful to have someone who had expertise in this area to create, discuss and fine tune what we had in mind. We look forward to implementing many of his suggestions into the website.

Thank you again for your contribution.