What does a financial detox look like?

I was looking at my Instagram feed. My friend Manisha’s new post popped up. It was a photo from her off site. I thought to myself, “she looks resplendent”. Within a second, my watsapp was open and I was typing to Manisha. She was online and infact relaxing on a hammock under the evening skies. The breezy beach after a day of team building exercises was her only company at that time. We got chatting. I was happy to see her look so great, and told her so. She sent me lots of love. The next thing I asked her was how were things with her. She instantly knew what I was checking about and took the effort of replying in detail. She mentioned that she sorted her financial mess, quit the workplace nearby that made her feel a persona non-grata and joined another place at a far senior role. Travel is a bitch but she is in a deserving place finally. We said our bye-byes and fixed on the coming weekend to meet. Manisha, my friend had given me a panic call 4 months back. She had meagre savings, no major investments (an FD, a life insurance policy and a PPF), a home loan, a car loan, 2 high limit active credit cards. She lived an enviable lifestyle, drawing an earning of around Rs. 20 lacs per annum. Her husband’s salary was also a handsome figure. Between the couple they had split spends. Running expenses, children’s quality education and annual travels went to husband while Manisha helmed the responsibility of saving and investing. One day, they had had hosted family friends who asked them how they managed their portfolio. Both Manisha and her husband were flummoxed with the question, to say the least. That evening, I got the call. We met the next day. It took me half a day of discussing and questioning Manisha about her income, expenditure, assets and liabilities. Having gauged the depth of her situation, I made this recovery path of sorts and gave her to follow. Over the next fortnight, we got a lot of it implemented.

  1. Streamline Expenses
  2. Get rid of debts
  3. Define goals and invest for them

Let me touch upon it in some more detail so it could be of some use.

  1. Get your lifestyle on a budget

First up, I understood from Manisha what were her usual expenses like, how indispensable were they. In her case, there was a lot of impulse spending. Her credit card was swiped at the drop of a hat. There was not an iota of planning with money. Her credit cards had high outstanding amounts. We assessed her inflow and outflow and created a monthly budget to follow. Manisha was put on credit card detox with immediate effect. She also cleared the outstanding from the balance in her salary account. Here’s a tip. When you want to stay off credit cards, you can start spending in cash. This is what we did with Manisha. Using cards doesn’t give an immediate sense of losing money and therefore it’s much easier psychologically, to spend.

2. Say no to ‘em expensive loans Living in debt is the most hazardous way of living. The first step to financial semblance is getting rid of expensive loans. And like Manisha, when you have multiple loan accounts, you have to start with the most expensive loan – Credit Card. Next was the car loan. We did a little math here. She was half way through her loan. Fetching an 8 percent annually on FD was a sub-optimal choice. She was paying over 10 percent rate of interest on car loan. It took some convincing but Manisha had little options remaining. She discontinued her FD and closed her car loan account. Next was a joint home loan by her and husband. It was a rather large amount to pay up, plus the couple was getting tax breaks on interest amount as they both were in highest tax bracket. So, the home loan continued. But they decided to use their performance bonuses for the year to foreclose a part of the loan by foregoing their international holiday.

3. Don’t save. Invest. Merely checking your spends will never provide for future. It requires planning and consistency in investing, not just plain saving. We met a professional financial planner, who did a deep dive to arrive at what kind of monies they will require in future and how to achieve them. Their goals were bucketed in short and long terms. By cutting down on wasteful expenses, Manisha managed to save a considerable sum from her salary. All the money saved was pivoted towards well-chalked out goals. For short term goals, she invested money in debt funds. For long term goals, she started with equity funds. Manisha’s car EMI contribution was free now. The planner immediately started an SIP of the same amount. Manisha and her husband realized that their savings were much lesser than similar earning couples. They decided to increase their SIP amounts with every hike they would get. Having done so much of financial cleansing, they still were unable to work towards retirement planning. But it was now on their radar and in a year’s time they would get started on it. Meanwhile, I am not able to decide a place to meet Manisha. A fancy lunch never sounded vainer to me. Financial detox is very rewarding but not easy. Maybe, meeting for a walk or run would just be the best catch up.

You’ve got the Power!

With a copy of Roald Dahl, I sit pondering when will the time come to introduce my toddler son to it? In no time, my thoughts meandered…

I attended an amazing interactive session last week for moms. It was about how to become moneywise. In an open chat, moms asked their money doubts – what are different investment avenues, what is more rewarding between bonds and stocks, how not to fall prey to mis-selling, what is more rewarding between bonds & stocks, how much do they need to secure children’s future so on and so forth. The questions kept darting at our lovely speaker Srishti as she gave balanced responses to them.

For me, what stood out was Srishti’s opening talk about how momeys should not be afraid to invest themselves. As a case in point, she narrated how her friend acted on her advice and decided to make some prudent investments. She at first egged on her husband to do it. The busy husband agreed, although could not prioritize investing over a hundred other things. Finally, one afternoon the friend ventured and made her maiden investment online. I heard this and gushed with cheer in my head, almost imagining a victory speech by the friend.

Bet it wouldn’t have been easy for her. Humongous clouds of doubt, questions about the choice of investment, fear of losing the money, inexperience, chances of husband’s disagreement to worries about submitting personal documents – the friend would have battled multiple aspersions. What she did was commendable and a learning for all of us – All of us have the power to accomplish if we have the will (of investing :))

 

Yes we really do!

My second point is ‘Be the Change’. Since we carry so much power, we should use it to be the change. Often future planning and money matters take a backseat with so much going on per day basis. We, as a family put aside money without assessing requirements or following any system.

Momeys can take a step and influence the entire family. We manage the budgets of our homes without even flinching. So, if we consciously try to make financial planning and investing a routine, we will definitely meet with success. Our resolve to invest will be a huge help to husbands who have to bear the burden of saving / investing adequately for present & future and extended future – retirement.

A bright way to look at it is that with a thrust on investing we will also lay a very strong foundation for our children – they will not just benefit from our investments but also develop a keen eye for pay-offs.

Tch tch! Back to The best of Roald Dahl 🙂

Coming soon: The year of the women

The Malaysian government in its 2018 budget has declared the year as the women empowerment year. Below is an overview of the steps it has announced.

  1. Women must occupy 30% on the Boards of Directors of the government linked companies.
  2. Private sector employers to increase their mandatory maternity leave from 60 to 90 days.
  3. Government has proposed a 12 month income tax exemption for women who re-enter the workforce after a break of at least 2 years.
  4. All new office buildings are mandated to have accessible child care at work.
  5. Malaysian government has allocated RM 20 million (apprx. Rs. 32.3 cr. In INR) for women to attend training and entrepreneurship programs.

(source: femalemag.com.my)

When I was reading an article on this, I couldn’t help but feel impressed. The above measures are by no means small. They are clearly chalked out to show visible changes and within a short time frame of 2-3 years. My mind immediately started juxtaposing the situation to India.

The idea is not to get into any sort of feminist or women’s lib spiel. But truth be told, for women to continue in work force and remain gainfully employed after motherhood, aren’t there more detractors in our country?

Well to be fair, I decided to not go by my prejudices and look up a bit. The government in its 5 year plans right from the first one, has earmarked initiatives for women’s economic and social welfare. For example, During the 7th plan period, the Indian Parliament adopted a ‘National Policy on Education 1986’ which included a chapter on Education for women’s equality.

A national perspective plan for women was brought out by Ministry of HRD between 1988 to 2000. There have been schemes like Swashakti, Swayamsidha from time to time in various policy decisions, which would have definitely contributed to women’s cause.

To add, here are some top stats on the website of Ministry of Labour and Employment.

  • As per Census 2011, the total number of female workers in India is 149.8 million and female workers in rural and urban areas are 121.8 and 28.0 million respectively.
  • As per the last Employment Review by Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGE&T), on 31st March, 2011, about 59.54 lakh women workers were employed in the organised sector (Public and Private Sector).

Coming across such measures by government was, I can say, quite heartening. Still a question haunts me, what are the big benefactors for women in workforce in our country?

I tried hard to remember. Sure, I could think of one -The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill in 2016 was said to benefit 1.8 million women. The Bill took India to the third position in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks, respectively – a move of a similar calibre to that announced by Malaysian government.

Yes, we definitely need more of those. And then will dawn on us THE YEAR OF THE WOMEN.