Recent protests on social and political issues in India have featured many young Indians from well-to-do families. In some ways, it is heartening to see these kids stand up for their beliefs and voice their opinion against the establishment freely. However, Monika Halan, an authority on personal finance and the author of the bestselling book ‘Let’s talk money’, highlights an aspect of these kids’ lives that in other ways conflict with their woke behaviour. Monika connects this social awareness on part of these kids to personal finance through the conduit of the financial independence achieved and passed on by their parents. She points to a generation of parents who themselves worked hard made the most from India’s liberalisation, in the process created wealth but then ended up protecting their kids from the same struggles, packing them off to foreign universities to the extent that now many of these kids are still dependent on their parents’ wealth.
“Nikhila Chawla (name changed) is 25. She is a post graduate who carries very stringent views on gender equality and patriarchy. She is vocally politically far left. But is unable to find a job that earns anything, let alone sustain her lifestyle that befits the daughter of a rich Mumbai doctor. Chawla totally fails to see the contradiction of her woke views, her expensive habits and her reality. Two generations ago her situation would not have been an issue, since an arranged marriage would have solved the income problem. But this age cohort grew up with the new ideas of liberation and are sensitive to issues of gender and patriarchy but see absolutely no conflict on being dependent on the father’s income and wealth. Of being a ‘comrade’ while sipping sparkling water at the latest happening hub in town that she does not pay for.
It is a thin sliver of population. They account for just 8% of the 286 million households (1.3 billion people). But even 8% adds upto more than a 100 million affluent. This is a cohort that is both very visible and audible since the really rich prefer to stay quiet and the aspirants are busy working. A BCG Report puts this cohort to have grown at an average annual rate of 9% over the decade ending 2018. Of course, in a country of 1.3 billion, it would be wrong to typecast an entire generation with a broad brush. This story is just about one sliver of the population not the entire cohort. The opposite stories of the same generation of parents pushing for performance are equally strong.
….It would be wrong to blame the kids since they grew up with the promises of a good life forever murmured over the years by parents who just wanted the kids to be happy and stress free. Being happy also meant not working very hard to crack the very tough higher education entry exams in India, because papa would pay for an under-graduation degree in the best of the party capitals of the world. Indian parents, according to RBI data have forked out almost $5 billion in higher education fees in 2019-20 and another $2.4 billion for ‘maintenance of close relatives’. India spent 27% of its foreign exchange spent by individuals in a year on sending kids abroad to study and another 18% to maintain them.
Fire in the belly was what got the newly rich Indian rich and when they see their off-spring listless and entitled they worry about their future. Parental wealth will get them through but in an aspiring country like India with contenders for the pie rising out of the soil faster than before, the life skills needed to stay afloat might be missing. The grim realization that money is the goal but not the destination is just now dawning on the parents of the now not-so-young raja betas and rani bitiyas.”
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