Money Matters: new migrant family

You work for your money, but does your money work for you? As the financial year comes to a close, we ask the question, how well do you know your money?


Chinmay Sohoni (BA), Neha Malude (Journalist) and Vivaan


How long before you found gainful employment?
Luckily, I (Chinmay) landed a job before I arrived here. We’d decided early on that both of us coming here without jobs (that too with a year-old kid) was simply out of the question.

Was it a challenge to avoid converting dollar into INR for every purchase?
Yes, a big one. We were constantly converting AUD into rupees and at first it was shocking that a kilo of potatoes costs $3 whereas in India, it is Rs.20-30! You have to make a very conscious effort to tune that out.

How do you plan your cash flow (income and expenses)?  Do you use a budget planner?
We don’t use a budget planner. Our budgeting is pretty ad-hoc. For instance, if we bought a fridge last month, then there’d be no major buys for the next two months at least.

Do you make financial decisions together as a couple? If not, who does?  Did you both decide this is the best option for you?
I tend to make most of the decisions, but I do consult with Neha.

Do you have separate bank accounts or joint?
Yes, we’ve always had separate bank accounts, actually. Not deliberately, but it’s just been the case always. But it has worked well for us, because whatever I earn is used for household expenditures and Neha’s earnings go towards savings.

How do you resolve conflict when it comes to money?
The best thing to do in most cases is to find a middle path. In other cases, the main question is, ‘do we really need this now?’

If you could cut back on one frivolous expense, what would that be?
Our most frivolous expense is probably eating out, so I suppose we would cut back on that.

What is your plan B in case you can’t work?  Do you have an emergency fund, or insurance policies to help out?
At one point, we were in a financial slump. We didn’t have an emergency fund per se, but some savings back home (fixed deposits). Luckily, we didn’t need to dip into those. But yes, it has definitely made us create one, should such a situation ever arise again.

Is your lifestyle different here in Australia than in India? Are you financially better off or worse?
Definitely different! I won’t say we are worse off – but we were definitely better off in India. Mainly because we’ve kind of had to start from scratch here. Our lifestyle was possibly more lavish back home, here we’re a little more cautious about money. Household help is affordable in India, here, it’s unthinkable!

Are your financial decisions based on what your family taught you, what your friends tell you, or your own research?
My own research with a little advice from parents.

Do you financially support family in India?
No, both our parents are retired government officials so they’re self-sufficient.

Do you set money aside for your son’s education?  Are you aware there are tax effective ways to provide for their education?
No, we haven’t really gotten there yet!

How will you teach your son about working with money?
Vivaan is only two at the moment. But we do plan to give him pocket money – in return for household chores like grocery shopping or doing the laundry. It’s how I was raised too.

Have you thought about wills?
Unfortunately, no. We have maybe had one discussion about having a will made but it hasn’t materialised into anything concrete.

From 2 July onwards there is a new Childcare Subsidy that is means tested. Do you understand this fully and how it may impact you?
I do know that there’s a new childcare subsidy program but no, sadly we haven’t taken a proper look into it.

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