Diwali 2020 was about a grim realisation that things do not always remain the same. Diwali 2021 is about hope, that a turnaround for the better can happen, but be experienced in a different light.
There’s a popular saying that one does not step into the same river twice. Similarly, we are not the same people after having gone through a pandemic. There is joy about getting back to a normal life – just that it is a new normal, or the next normal, and this normal is likely to keep changing. The only thing certain in life is uncertainty.
WHAT IS THE NEW NORMAL?
1. VALUE FOR MONEY
I’ve started receiving a large number of wedding invitations, but those are specified as low-key events. No more splurging on mega-events. Couples are choosing to spend less on social esteem spending, and more on long-term assets like homes and gold.
Are couples talking money? It’s high time they did. Some of the marriages taking place would be remarriages, where partners will come in with baggage – debt, children and financial responsibilities.
Marriages beyond the age of 30 mean that both partners have some assets and a financial plan in place. The two plans need to meet, or be independent without casting a shadow on the other.
Having money conversations will save heartbreak and a divorce later. Or do we opt to call increased incidence of divorce the new normal?
2. HOUSEHOLD DEBT IS INCREASING
A strong indicator is an upsurge in recruitment of debt recovery agents. And teams are being recruited for term loans like personal, vehicle and home loans rather than notorious credit cards.
People have defaulted on EMIs in the last one year, and cannot cope up with the increased interest burden.
Easy availability of debt online exacerbates the problem. Money appears so accessible, without going to banks umpteen times with hard copies of documents in a folder.
Buy Now Pay Later schemes are a ploy to get the youth addicted to a life of debt., aka Americans. Indians were once targeted by the locals in the USA, for they spent less, saved more and bought real estate in their adopted country. Young Indians are now accepting debt as the new normal.
3. GROWTH IN HOME LOANS
This has been spurred by a number of factors other than attractive interest rates.
Residential priorities are changing in the flexible work, freelancing and work-from-home scenario. The Great Resignation makes homes more important than a place to spend the night in, but decreases the emphasis on location.
A fall in real estate prices and availability of attractive interest rates drives people to invest in a long-term asset. This trend may turn out to be a good one, if debt is incurred sensibly and only where really needed.
4. INVESTMENT TRENDS
The hitherto dormant age group of 18-24 has entered the stock market through investing apps.
Other than mutual funds and direct equity, cryptocurrency has caught the fancy of young people despite the risk of it being declared illegal by the government in a few months.
A senior financial planner points at the disclaimer in a popular cryptocurrency exchange ad – “It is an unregulated asset and not legal tender in India.” A large number of people on the platform make aggressive comments that crypto is here to stay, and no force including the government can stop a wave whose time has come.
I come across another comment from a seasoned financial planner, in another space.
“Anyone who has in-depth knowledge of cryptocurrency will find it hard to digest the speculative activity that’s going on.
It’s insane levels of gambling, and mass hysteria.”
Alas … it’s a cry in the wilderness, as the youth marches ahead to book quick profits and connect with international trends.
The warning is being clearly ignored, as number of accounts and amount invested increases. A recent ET report plugs the figure at Rs. 6 lakh crores. I recall reading Rs.10,000 crores just a few months ago. Needless to say, the increase in investment in a little understood asset class is exponential.