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.

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