Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Preparing for the Unpredictable and Inevitable: Checklist of must have Documents!

They say nothing is certain but death and taxes. but that does not mean that one cannot be prepared.
In today’s fast paced and unpredictable world, there is no saying what happens when to whom. Especially after I had a child I realized it is important to always be prepared for the worst. In addition, it is important to be prepared with all sorts of documentation that may come in handy in various circumstances. Here is a list of documents that may be useful to maintain for everyone in India!

  • Banking account details: These days all of us have at least one bank account. Be it a joint account or an add on credit card, prepare a document with details of all bank accounts, debit/credit cards, fixed deposits and other investments, loans; nominee/ balance/EMI details, branches and contact persons. Also maintain a file of latest 6 statements at least for each account. This is good to maintain for applying for loans, visas, new jobs, investments or paying taxes.
  • Insurance details: It is advised to insure everything possible, including debit/credit cards, or gadgets to be prepared for any loss or damage. Prepare a document with details of each insurance policy (life/medical/general/auto/property etc.), along with nomination, premium and other information. Keep the main policy/registration documents safely, also retain all receipts of payments made. This is useful for calculating tax liabilities and claiming partial or final settlements in case of accident/illness/death etc.
  • Birth, Marriage, Divorce and Death Certificates: It is mandatory by the Indian Government for all Indian nationals to register births, marriages and deaths. Birth certificates serve as age proof during admissions, travel, marriage, etc. Death certificates are important for cash and asset transfers, closure of accounts etc. on demise. Marriage certificates come in handy for passport and visa documentation, divorce decrees are mandatory when filing for remarriage.
  • Electronic and Social Media accounts: Whether it be the username and password for financial instruments, utilities payments, e-commerce websites, social media platforms or any other clubs which require you to register for access, maintain a document with user Ids and passwords, although it is best to have passwords memorized. Also remember to periodically change and update passwords to reduce risk of hacking. While you may maintain online accounts and payments system, do not forget to retain properly all physical bills, receipts, agreements, deeds, policies and other documents carefully.
  • Retirement funds, Assets and Income tax details: If you get gratuity, provident fund, pension etc. from your employer, it is always good to have information on your account numbers, contact details for various offices and knowledge on partial or full withdrawal procedure in case you need for any emergency.  Same goes for taxation – always file taxes yearly irrespective of income, and maintain hard and soft copies of returns. They come in handy in many instances, like visa application for travel abroad, buying property etc. Lastly, have a document which precisely lists down details of all your assets, be it property or cash or financial instruments or bullion or jewelry, and keep updating the same. Having all this information ready can be useful when buying/selling/gifting/transferring assets.
  • Medical heath details and records of self and family: our lifestyle these days guarantees everyone suffering from some or the other disease or allergy. Whether it be a new born, a child, an adult or an old person, it is imperative to maintain medical history and records of all family members, and ensure everyone memorizes most important details about each other, like allergies, blood groups, chronic diseases, surgical history. It is advised to store soft copies as well in case physical copies are lost or compromised.
  • Will and Power of Attorney: Probably the most depressing of all documents, one should have a living will maintained and updated regularly. One never knows when tragedy strikes and you are left seriously ill, paralyzed or dead, unable to take care of your affairs. Many will formats are available online; one can easily fill it up, register it and store it for use further. It is also suggested even if you do not have a business or property you still get a PoA made so that you can give charge to one person to handle all financial, legal, personal affairs in your absence due to any emergency.
  • Educational and Professional Degrees and Certificates: It is important to retain the physical copies of all the degrees an certificates you amass throughout your academic and professional career, as they are required for further admissions, job applications etc. they also serve as proof of your skills, especially when you apply to work or settle abroad. The Class 10 certificate also serves as age proof.
  • Personal documents: Last but not the least, in fact the most important set of documents one must maintain is Personal documents issued to citizens by various government agencies for various purposes, which usually serve as ID, address and age proofs. Examples are: Passport, Driving License, Voter ID card, Aadhaar Card, PAN card, Ration card. In addition, depending on your employment, you may have additional cards certifying your membership in professional societies or institutions. For students and Govt/Private employees, they must also carry their identification cards.

For all the documents you have, it is important to maintain all possible physical copies and scan them to keep soft copies as well as backup. It is advised to not store passwords, but memorize them. All physical documents should be kept together in one location, but a copy must be kept in a separate location as well. All important information must be shared with at least one close family member like spouse/parents/siblings/children who can manage your affairs if required. Utmost care must be taken to keep all documents and information safe and secure. It may seem like an impossible task to do all this at the outset, but in the end the effort will be worth it, as you will be prepared to face whatever challenge life throws at you, with minimum disruption or problems!

Monday, September 07, 2015

7 Topics to Discuss with your Partner before Getting Married

Recently when a dear friend decided to get married the arranged way, I made a list of things that she could talk to her future husband, to ensure least friction and surprises later on. Inspired by the same, here is my latest Listicle!

Marriage is one of the longest and most important relationships that a person enters into in their life. Needless to say it is not something to be taken lightly. Immense thought and planning goes into making this decision and taking it forward. Given the increasing rate of divorce these days even in India, being clear on some important aspects of married life can lead to longer marital bliss. Some of the most important topics of discussion are:


It is a well-known fact that in the Indian scenario, it is not two individuals but two families that get married. Given how many people prefer to marry outside their communities, differences in culture lead to friction. To ensure a smooth wedding, some things that need to be sorted include:  

when and where will the wedding be, how many and what all events will be hosted, how many people to be invited from both sides, who will bear the cost for the wedding and if split then how much per side, how will the travel/boarding/lodging of outstation guests be managed, will there be any gifts to be exchanged between families, what wedding rituals will be followed, what responsibilities do each family’s members have, what kind of wedding gifts do the couple want (registry if desired), what preparations need to be done pre wedding, what rituals need to be followed post wedding, how will cross cultural relatives be managed, when and where will the honeymoon be, what are the sources of fund to finance everything.

Location and home:

Post wedding, where the couple will live, and with whom, is a pertinent question to answer. Many factors like family, career etc. need to be taken into consideration before choosing where to live. Some things that can be talked about in this matter are:

Will the couple live with in-laws (and if not then nearby?), which city is feasible and acceptable for both to live in, what kind of locality within the city is desirable (near office or good schools for example), how long does the couple intend to stay in that city (in case they are there for short term work or study purpose), stay in India or abroad, what kind of house (independent or flat?), buy or rent (if buy who pays, is it shared?), how will the house be set up (agreeing on furniture and furnishing type and price etc.), will bathrooms be shared or separate, would the couple have own rooms (den) apart from the couple bedroom, where will the tv be kept (inside bedroom or outside), what is the protocol for friends/family visiting etc., what are each person’s levels of cleanliness and hygiene, will help be hired, what are the household chores responsibility for both.


Once a couple is married and settled in their home, the next important question which arises is kids! These days, the norms for having children are changing. Gone are the days when within a year women popped out babies and had large families. Now many couples prefer delaying having kids till they feel settled, secured and ready, with some swearing off kids altogether. It is also one of the most important things a couple must agree on for a happy married life. Some points to discuss are:

Do both want kids and if so then how many and by when, if more than one then how far apart, what are your parenting attitudes; what kind of bringing up, schooling, lifestyle, privileges to give the child (middle class vs spoilt, pampered vs independent, strict vs lenient, public school vs private school etc.), how to name them (religious priest/family decision or parents decide) , how much will in-laws from both sides have a say in their bringing up (limits of interference and advice), how will responsibilities and work related to kids especially babies be shared, what language they will speak, what culture and religion they will follow, who will teach them, will nannies be hired, will they be sent to boarding school/hostel, will they sleep with parents or separately, will any parent work from home or quit working when a new baby arrives.

Family obligations

Man is a social animal. And Family is the closest and most important social unit a person identifies with. Familial bonds are especially strong in the Indian scenario where many people still live in joint families or spend time with parents / extended family on a daily or regular basis. With two families coming together, there are a lot of expectations to be managed. Being clear on Family related protocol can help with friction between the couple and with in-laws. Some things that can be considered for making decisions in this regard are:

Developing understanding of what each family is like culturally, socially, characteristically and what they expect from their daughter/son-in-law; what changes need to be made when in laws are around, is there a need to learn another language, is there is a need to dress a certain way in front of in-laws, when staying with in-laws how is each spouse expected to behave and work in the house,  how much interference from in-laws is ok/not ok, what are the boundaries and non-negotiables etc., how will you manage cross cultural differences at home and with in-laws, and interaction between both families; will the wife change her name after marriage, how much time to be spent with each family on a regular basis, what kind of relationship both will share with in-laws and in-laws will share with each other, will the couple stay with in-laws, how will vacations be planned with in-laws.


Another deal breaker for many couples is the issue of money. With more and more women being educated and working and contributing to the family income, how to manage the money may become a bone of contention. To avoid that it is prudent for a couple to talk about the following things:

who will pay for the house rent/emi and if shared then what is the split, who will take care of expenses of dependents (kids, parents, siblings etc.), home expenses, going out expenses, vacation expenses etc. and what will be the spilt (what % spent on each); will there be a joint account or separate accounts managed individually, how will you save and invest and in what names, will u openly declare how much you are earning or keep it secret,  what assets you want to buy going forward like house/car/white goods/furniture etc., what kind of spending habits both have  (spendthrift or miserly) and what kind of lifestyle both desire (frugal or luxurious), how much u would spend on each other in gifts etc., will the couple spend one salary and save the other or spend and save from both, who will pay in cases of medical or other emergency.

Career decisions

Today, as far as career is concerned, things are quite different from the past. Women are equally educated, talented and ambitious and wish to pursue successful careers which are not threatened by marriage or kids. The husband’s career is no longer the only factor which dictates household responsibilities or choice of city to live in – today many couples adjust their lifestyle as per the wife’s career and ambitions too. Since a person’s career may define many things, like when to marry, whether to have kids, where to stay etc., it is important to be on the same page by discussing:  

Are both ok with their academic background or want to study more, what kind of long term career both want and where, what to do if one person gets transferred or takes a new job in a new location; what if one wants to take a break from work, what if one wants to change industry/become an entrepreneur (risk of losing income for a while), what if one wants to take risk in stock market or property for income instead of having a job, what if one wants to move abroad, or return to india if staying abroad.

Self and family information

Absolutely the most important discussion that a couple must have- to divulge every aspect of themselves to their spouse honestly to ensure the other person doesn’t feel cheated as they spend time with their spouse and discover things about them. Of course some qualities about a person emerge in particular situations but there is a need to honestly discuss many things beforehand to ensure trust and commitment going forward:

Honest revelation of own family, their habits, characteristics and your relationship with each member; issues you have faced/are facing like health, finances etc., any personal secrets that u need to share, open declaration of habits (food, smoking, drinking etc.) and good/bad characteristics of self, what are deal breakers for each person, what is bucket list of each person (things to do before marriage or kids), past relationships, relatives’ profile and attitude, medical history, financial/job history, current situation of assets and debts of self and family; what kind of expectations for each other in terms of division of responsibilities, sharing emotionally, interacting intellectually; what boundaries related to loyalty and space, how will the couple deal with fights, will the couple make collaborative or individual decisions, what are each person’s attitudes towards sex and physical intimacy and expectations, in private and public, etc., how and where will you spend vacation time and how often, etc., how often will the couple spend time with friends (together and separately), what are the couple’s shared interests and hobbies, what are each person’s religious, cultural and spiritual beliefs and how a spouse needs to respect or adjust to them.

Once a couple has discussed the above aspects and understood where they both come from, it is much easier to adjust and cooperate with each other and live together happily and peacefully. Good luck to all couples reading this article, hope you enjoyed it and found it useful! J