Learn to manage without a stash of cash at home


toonvectors-12669-140Senior citizens can be forgiven if they have not latched onto the digital revolution, as it’s difficult for them to master every new technology that comes in the market. But as we’re now discovering, even those in the 35-65 age group have a mental block when it comes to new technology. When they are told to move to PayTM, digital payments and online banking, they are immediately on the defensive.

I asked a friend why she keeps large amounts of cash at home for medical emergencies when she can use her debit card at private hospitals. She said defiantly, “Nobody can force me to use a debit card”.

It turned out she never even withdraws money from ATMs! I tried to convince her about the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you don’t have to worry about burglary, theft, or just leaving a packet of money lying around in a fit of absentmindness. Even for this she had a retort: “It’s my choice how I do my banking”.

Another said in a WhatsApp group that since she is single, she keeps money at home. I failed to see the logic of this insecurity. Of course, everyone needs to have emergency funds but not more than a couple of thousand rupees.

With the ‘note bandi, all her peace of mind — and others of her kind — was destroyed for two weeks till the currency could be deposited in the bank. Will she move to the next level of modern life under duress?
I hope so.

Some people are pointing to the fact that women in villages “always” keep cash hidden away somewhere. While this may be true, some of them can surely be goaded or persuaded to change their habits. This kind of counselling cannot be done by the government or by bank officials, it is the duty of citizens. Time to revive the slogan ‘Each one teach one’ but this time in the case of financial literacy.

Standing out from all the tales of woe about the hardships of demonetisation, is this story. My colleague related how his son Hamood Siddiqui, a student of Class 10, saved the family from eating dry rotis when it ran out of 100-rupee notes. He went down to the vegetable market and tried to persuade vendors who had smart phones to accept payments via PayTM. He managed to convince a young vendor in his twenties to download the app and accept payment for onions and tomatoes. The vendor is now set up in the modern economy. Then off he went to buy chicken. Here again the same problem. So he had a brainwave. He told the butcher he would recharge the latter’s phone for the amount due via PayTM. The ‘barter’ deal was struck and the deed was done. The family no doubt had a good meal and discussed digital money at the dining table.

I asked the boy whether he had a mobile of his own. He didn’t. Then I asked him whether his father is using PayTM with the same ease. “I hope so,” said the future of our country.

If our generation doesn’t want to be the ‘past’ of the country, we need to take the help of youngsters, not just exploit their stamina for queueing up at ATMs but also to use their brains and ease with technology to show the way ahead. Cash isn’t trash, but it’s highly avoidable.