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.

The Corporate Mom

Hello Moms! This is our part 2 in the Millennial Mom series. I am sure you recall our first one was The Media Mom.

To get started, I remember a discussion that dates back in time when I was a salaried employee. I was discussing my tax plan or rather the lack of it with another female colleague. I thought I was in pits as far as my investments were concerned, but to my utter surprise, my friend said that she has never made a single investment on her own. “There is something done by her husband on CA’s advice”, were her words. At that point, we were joined by another team mate and a senior, and the all women’s team shared their investments. A 5 year FD and real estate respectively were spoken of as their investments. But when asked, why these instruments, for what time horizon, what would be their future money requirements be like, these questions drew a blank. 

Now, Moms let me profile these women. Working millennial moms, married to high pressure jobs, over worked most of the times, all very well paid. Academically, management degree holders, fitness lovers, keen readers, well turned out, well travelled, conscious eaters and aware parents. Wouldn’t you expect them to be on top of their finances? But here’s the truth, they may have been HNIs along with their spouses but they were clueless about wealth creation.
Just like my colleagues, there are many millennial moms who have high disposable incomes but lack of awareness, interest and time add up to their financial ignorance. 
So there! We are sharing investments that the uninitiated can consider. These are overall recommendations which can aid in wealth generation and tax planning. However we do encourage our Corporate Mom to take help of a professional financial planner.

Emergency Fund: This is a critical element that we all must pay heed to. All the planning may go for a toss if we don’t keep an accessible emergency fund. Keeping all the money invested with a long term view may not be the best idea since exigencies can come down as a hard reality.

You should consider your 3 to 6 months expenses in emergency fund. If you are savvy about growing your money, then you can park the emergency funds in short term debt funds.

ELSS Funds: Equity Linked savings schemes are an ideal tax saving tool which can give better returns than traditional tax saving schemes. These are essentially tax saving mutual funds that come with a 3 year lock-in.

PPF: For those who are risk averse can invest in PPF for its tax efficiency but declining interest rates are definitely playing dampener on the returns. Plus a 15 year lock-in is a long enough horizon to get above-moderate returns from market linked products.

Mutual Funds: The equity markets have been climbing charts for the last few years. MFs have also been doing well therefore. Since MFs are professionally managed by a team of experts, they can be the best vehicle for working people. You don’t have to monitor market movements everyday basis. 

New investors with a long term horizon should start with large cap funds or balanced funds. 

The most preferred way for the salaried is Systematic Investment Plan better known as SIP. We will speak about it in detail in a following post.

Term Insurance: An important part of financial literacy is life cover. However due to misspelling and ignorance, it is not emphasized enough. Term Insurance is the protection that all income generators should take to cover for their lives in case of any uncertainties. It is a must for the Corporate Mom who makes a crucial contribution to household income.

In addition to above, working moms can also invest a small portion in Gold ETFs or if keen, then dabble in Equities with a long term view.

In the end, all we can say is investments don’t take as much time as we think. Moms and all women should consciously take steps towards investing. Remember Earning for Spending is not the deal, Earning for Growing is.

Checklist: How not to go broke this Diwali

It’s that time of the year when we all say Mera waala Pink.. We are feverishly preparing. Starting with Ganesh Chaturthi, followed by Durga puja, Diwali and right till Bhai Dooj, its packed with festivals. 

To give you a dekko of what all has played on our minds, here’s a cheat sheet of to-dos:

● New upholstery and wall painting

● Cleaning and home decor

● Sweets and savouries – home made and purchased

● Clothes 

● Gifting

● Pooja essentials and crackers

● Hosting a card party and attending a few 😄

This fervour is not going to leave anyone untouched. To achieve all this, major spends will happen. 

I recollect last festive season came as a big learning for a friend. Saying she went overboard in prep, would be an understatement. Some hasty swipes and she was up against massive credit card bills. Soon the festivals were upon us and she was having a delusional celebration owing to money worries.

To prevent from getting carried away, here’s is a checklist everyone should run past.

1. Have you checked inflow (salaries, bonuses received) vs. outflow (fixed expenses, bonuses paid to support staff or house help)? 

2. Have you made a festival shopping budget?

3. Have you made a list of people you need to gift?

4. Are there things you can up-cycle from some other time – especially clothes / gifts / crackers

5. Have you considered saving / investing a part of your diwali bonus?

6. Can you recycle the ethnic attire in the upcoming wedding season?

7. Are you ditching physical gold purchase for ETFs or a child plan?

8. If bringing home a new car, have you paid maximum possible down payment to keep EMIs reasonable?

9. Have you regularised your festival leaves with your boss to avoid loss of pay?

10. Can you manage yourself rather than calling for professional services like home cleaning, decorations and catering?

A motley of measures can save you the post celebration crunch. Have a happy Diwali Momeys! 😊