How Important is Financial Literacy to Win All Life Battles?

photo-1522661067900-ab829854a57f

It was a pleasant morning. The sound of the light drizzle added to the beauty of the vast green expanse that greeted Sannah every morning as she sipped her first cup of tea, followed by another, albeit a hurried one on most days.

But, today was different…

Today, she was retiring from the institution she had built over the years with much love, dedication and discipline.

Today, she could steal a few extra moments from life and reminiscence about the things gone by…

***

It was years ago, when the grass was greener, the water was pure, and lifestyle diseases were unheard of. Yes, it was long ago, when Sannah was 21 and she had run home excitedly to inform her parents that she was going to teach English at the Arya Niketan School from the coming Monday.

At a time when parents waited for their daughters to touch 16 and bundle them off into marriage, Sannah’s father, Rakesh, a Chartered Accountant, had planned for a good education for his daughter – not only literally but also financially.

When Sannah had turned 10, he had already started teaching her small financial concepts at home. For helping her mom lay down the table, Rakesh would give her a small amount of money. Sannah could earn her pocket money and spend it as she liked after discussing her plan with Rakesh.

For the first few months, all she bought were chocolates and sweets, but then, one day, she needed a new pair of shoes. That day, her father taught her an important lesson – of distinguishing between needs and wants. If Sannah had not spent her money on the sweets she wanted she could have bought the shoes she needed!

Once she turned 16, Rakesh asked her to accompany him to a seminar at his office by a renowned financial expert who introduced Sannah to the magic of compounding and the world of SIPs. That evening, her father explained things to her in simple terms:

“Sannah, how do you like the money plant in our garden?”

“I love it, Dad. The best part is that Mom keeps plucking leaves from it to decorate the house but the green cover reappears all too soon, as if by magic.”

“Yes, Sannah, that’s wonderful, isn’t it? But would you believe me if I tell you about a real ‘money’ plant that I was able to grow with the help of the financial mentor we met today morning?”

“You mean money growing on trees, Dad?”

“Yes, Sannah. Money does grow on trees. All you need to do is water your sapling regularly with financial discipline to see it blooming over a period of time.”

“Tell me more, Dad.”

“Today morning, you learnt about the magic of compounding and SIPs or systematic investments into mutual funds. That is exactly how you grow your plant. By putting a small amount of money, say 500 rupees, each month into a well performing plan, you can build a huge corpus of money that will self-replenish even if you take out some funds periodically to meet your financial requirements.”

“Dad, can I invest a part of my pocket money into SIPs?”

“Yes, sure….”

By the time Sannah was in college, she was already investing a part of her pocket money to build a money pool that would fund her dreams in the future. And now that she had a job, she would increase her investments to make her money work even harder!

Life couldn’t get any better for Sannah. She had a job she loved, she had great savings, and now she was married to a great guy, too.

Unfortunately, things took a downturn when she lost her parents in an accident. In a series of mishaps over the next couple of years, her husband lost his textile factory to fire and the insurance claims were rejected, because the fire had been caused due to a natural calamity. Dejected, he turned to alcohol and started taking out his anger on Sannah who accepted all his insults in the hope of a better tomorrow that never came.

It was only a few years later that she gathered the courage to fight back and filed for divorce. Fortunately, she had her job as well as her investments to get her through the course of legal proceedings.

At 30, everything Sannah held dear in life had been destroyed. However, she still had the money plant she had planted with her father. One that she had watered regularly throughout those years. Yes, she still had her self-replenishing pool of money she had amassed by investing money regularly since she was 16 years old. And now, she was ready to use it to start a new life…

Sannah quit the school she was teaching at and joined an NGO. She began teaching illiterate women, many of whom had been abused by their husbands and families. Soon, she opened her own NGO where she not only provided a safe haven for these ladies but gave them basic education as well.

As she aimed to make every woman in India financially independent and self-reliant, she regularly held financial seminars through her NGO that were often graced by the financial mentor her father had introduced her to when she was 16.

With her consistent efforts towards the upliftment of women in the society, over a period of time, Sannah received a lot of recognition and her NGO flourished. A lot of women benefitted from her guidance and joined hands with her to create a pan-India counselling and rehabilitation network for helpless women.

Sannah never married again but she adopted a little girl who had grown up into a well-educated, responsible, kind-hearted yet determined lady, ready to take on the baton from her.

***

Sannah smiled and placed the empty cup of tea on the window sill. She could see a small money plant growing in a basket on a ledge. Her smile broadened as she was instantly transported to her childhood…those happy days with her parents when her mother planted several of those creepers throughout the house to usher good luck and prosperity.

 

 

Advertisements

IS FINANCIAL FREEDOM THE KEY TO HAPPINESS?

photo-1477896715183-91fd0e24f425

 

Lakshmi loved her home. A simple two-bedroom house where she led a modest but comfortable life with her family. Her husband was a retired government official with a decent pension. Their daughter, Nina, had recently joined college and her parents hoped she would soon find a good job, marry a winsome groom, and live happily after.

 

But Nina had different plans. Tall, fair, and blessed with a perfect figure and the most charming face, Nina had big dreams for her future. Having spent her life in a middle class family, where she was taught to prioritise needs over wants, that often amounted to a book needed in class over a gorgeous dress on her birthday, Nina was all set to break the shackles of money in her life. She was stunning and she knew it. And, with her confidence and looks, modelling offers were easy to come by.

 

So, while her parents urged Nina to complete her graduation and take up a job, Nina decided to drop out of college even before completing the first year to foray into the glitzy world of Mumbai. Despite her parents’ protests, she left the nest they had so lovingly created, and reached Mumbai to try her luck, like hundreds of others who regularly come to the city for a shot at fame.

 

The initial days were a struggle. But soon Nina was able to charm people with her looks and landed some modelling assignments. Slowly but surely, her dream started to get real. She began getting invited to swanky parties in Mumbai, rubbing shoulders with popular models and actors. She also started earning a good sum of money that she splurged on designer clothes, shoes and jewellery.

 

Nina had built the life of her dreams and there was so no space for middle class ideals taught to her by her family – needs before wants, save for a rainy day…. It was all malarkey.

 

Three year later, she got an offer to anchor a popular TV show. Soon, Nina was a superstar in her own right. People loved her on the tele but she wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to be a movie star ruling the hearts of every Indian. A couple of years later, she managed to get a lead role in a film but it didn’t go too well with the audience. Resolute, she bade farewell to her life on the small screen and devoted herself to Bollywood. Sadly, luck did not smile on her this time. At the young age of 25, Nina had failed. Her beauty was fading as was her fame. Her fortunes had dwindled a long time back. Broke and broken, she did not know whom to turn to when her mother requested her to return home.

 

Reluctantly, Nina returned to her hometown, Bareilly. People recognised her, and often asked for autographs that pained Nina even further. She had let everyone, including herself, down. At 25, she felt she was a burden on her parents. But that was not true…

 

Ever since Nina had started working, she regularly transferred some money to her mother each month on one or the other pretext. It was Nina’s way of ridding herself of the guilt of leaving her parents all alone. However, Lakshmi never spent this money.

 

Years ago, Lakshmi had met a wise financial advisor who had opened her eyes to the world of smart investments. Lakshmi did not work but she had learned how to make her money work for herself. She had learned that by investing small amounts of money, as low as Rs. 500, regularly into mutual funds through a systematic investment plan (SIP), it was possible to build a self-replenishing pool of money over time, thanks to the power of compounding and the cyclic nature of the market.

 

For the past seven years, Lakshmi had been investing every single penny sent by Nina into mutual funds through various SIPs recommended by her financial advisor. Today, she had built a large portfolio of money that Nina could use to start a new life.

 

As she shared this truth with Nina, her eyes welled with tears. Nina hugged her mom and placed her head in her lap. Lovingly, Lakshmi stroked her daughter’s head and told her:

 

“Sweetheart, do you know that the richest people in the world rose from abject poverty by being financially disciplined and making smart investments?”

 

“I am sorry, Mom.”

 

“Don’t be sorry, Nina, but learn from your mistakes. It is good to enjoy your wealth but it is equally important to save for the future!”

 

“I understand, Mom.”

 

“Now  get up and smile. It is time for a new start. Do you remember how much you loved cooking? Why don’t you start a cookery program on the small screen? I am sure you have enough contacts to kickstart the project and we have ample money to fund it. What do you think?”

 

“I would love that, Mom. But I need a promise.”

 

“What?”

 

“That you would co-host the show with me.”

 

***

 

At 8 pm, Sheena ran to switch on the tele. The family, like several other families across India, quickly gathered to watch their favourite show – Nina Cooks!

 

In two years, Nina and Lakshmi had become the much-loved co-hosts of the very popular cookery show that most Indians adored.

 

Meanwhile, Lakshmi arranged a meeting between her financial advisor and Nina. Impressed by the magic of compounding that makes small amounts swell into large sums of money over time, Nina started saving regularly.

 

She aims to be a crorepati before she turns 40 and is well on her way of achieving that dream.

 

Let the Ball Keep Rolling

football

The sky is overcast with the promise of impending rain. A large crowd is cheering, chanting and going berserk!

Brad neatly collects a long pass from the midfield and runs, dribbling the ball past three defenders, and GOAL!

His fifth in the season.

Brad runs to the stands and somersaults, just before his teammates jump on to him, screaming wildly and celebrating the decisive goal just minutes before the full-time.

Ryan is ecstatic too! He hops and skips like a ten-year-old, jubilant to see his son score.

At the same instance, the sky breaks open and a heavy downpour drenches the players and the spectators.

Later in the day, Ryan and Brad walk into their home, soaked and muddied.

“Mom, we did it again!” Brad proudly held up the trophy and showed it to her mother, Daisy, who ran to her son and hugged him.

“Let me put it with the others,” she said, taking the trophy. She cleaned it with a duster and placed it in a showcase filled with shining trophies and awards won by Brad in various football tournaments.

At 17, Brad was a soccer wonder in his district. A key forward player, he started playing for various local clubs when he was only 12 years old. The major credit for developing and honing Brad’s game went to his father, who had played a lot of football in his younger days.

“Keep working hard, sonny, and you will have your name listed in the national team,” said Ryan, ruffling his son’s hair lovingly.

“I will, Dad,” Brad flashed a bright smile.

Soon, the father-son duo got into a detailed discussion over the day’s game and areas where Brad could improve. Listening to the duo, Daisy couldn’t help but feel excited and worried at the same time.

She knew that both Ryan and Brad worked hard on Brad’s game. Putting so much energy and time in the game, Brad could hardly concentrate on his studies. Ryan, however, was unfazed by this.

“What good would it do if he ends up behind a desk, doing a routine job with all the fancy education he would get at the cost of his game?” he would argue with Daisy, “This boy is a gem of a player and will become a global football star soon, you would see.”

Daisy didn’t have a shadow of doubt in her son’s ability as a sportsperson par excellence; however, she had seen enough sporting dreams crushed, including her husband’s.

She just wanted that if the worst happened and Brad’s career didn’t take off, he must have something to fall back upon. Without good education, that wasn’t possible. Or so she thought.

Working as a manager in a starred hotel, one of Daisy’s responsibilities was to arrange for conferences and seminars conducted in the hotel. One such seminar on Financial Independence caught her attention one day.

The seminar was being conducted by a noted financial expert who had been working towards spreading financial literacy among the youth. She had heard about him, but couldn’t recall what exactly the expert did or what financial literacy meant.

Resolute to solve the mystery, Daisy stole herself to the conference room – and was soon absorbed in the presentations delivered by the expert. She decided to stay for the whole duration of the conference.

The expert spoke about attaining financial independence, about making your money work for you instead of you working for it, and, the best of all, growing your own money plant!

He displayed charts and tables that showed that people who invested in the stock market through mutual funds, earned a high double-digit growth rate over a period of ten years.

“No other asset class has given better results in the long term than the stock market. We fear the highs and lows of the Sensex, but the volatility in the market is the actual propeller of monetary growth,” he revealed. “If invested for a long time in the stock market through SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans) in mutual funds, your money would work day and night to make more money for you.”

Daisy had never thought it was possible to earn money without having to work for it.

Will my money earn more money for me? Still slightly confused, Daisy was eager to know how the teachings of the expert could make a positive impact on her life. On Brad’s life…

After the conference, she found an opportunity to speak to the financial expert and sought an appointment.

“I want to know how you can help my teenage son and me,” she said. Soon, a meeting was fixed. She also convinced Brad to join her on the appointed day.

At the expert’s office, Daisy shared her story; her fears and expectations about Brad’s financial prospects in the future.

The financial expert patiently listened to Daisy, making notes in his diary now and then. Once she finished telling her story, the expert said to her that in spite of their current limited means, Daisy and Ryan could ensure a financially independent future for Brad.

Giving a notepad and a pen to Daisy, he asked her to write down her household income and expenditure.

After studying the crude income/expenses statement drawn by Daisy, the expert pointed out areas where she and her husband could save money. Daisy was incredulous to find several trivial expenses that didn’t contribute anything towards her family’s well being.

Next, he inspired Daisy to always categorise her expenses as Needs or Wants. He also urged Brad to do the same.

“Remember, before you spend, you must invest,” he explained to Brad.

The financial expert shared that by investing as low as Rs 500 each month, the family could grow a massive corpus over the next ten or fifteen years. He asserted his claim by pulling out several portfolios on his smartphone, which have grown at a compounded rate of over 15%.

Surprised to know the power of compounding in mutual funds, Daisy quickly made a decision.

“Sir, I would want to start a monthly SIP of Rs 2,500 for Brad, and a Rs 5,000 SIP for our retirement,” she said happily.

Daisy knew that it would not be easy to set aside Rs 7,500 each month, but she was resolved to invest before spending – and deep inside she knew that she could manage to invest the committed sum.

Over dinner, Daisy told Ryan about the meeting and her resolve to invest. Initially, Ryan was a bit sceptical, but soon he too saw the wisdom in building wealth for the future.

The family is happy and confident about a bright future awaiting Brad. Whether the sporting field or a small business, the ball would always keep rolling for the young soccer star!

Dr Celso Fernandes is an author, speaker and financial mentor. His initiative towards spreading financial awareness among the people of Goa is bringing a positive change in the society. He can be reached at +91-9422058741 (email: navemarg@gmail.com).

Financial Sustainability for a Better, Greener Tomorrow!

photo-1512099053734-e6767b535838

“Grim … very grim,” Edwin sighed sorrowfully as he folded the morning paper and looked at his son.

“What’s the matter, Dada?” asked Keith with concern as he nibbled on his toast, all dressed up for school.

“The usual … more damage to the environment in the name of development. The food is adulterated, and the air is getting polluted,” said Edwin, looking at his twelve-year-old son, “It seems no one cares about preserving the environment.”

“I care,” mumbled Keith as he got up from the dining table and bade goodbye to his father and hollered a ‘Love you Mom” to his mother who was busy getting ready for work.

Edwin, an engineer by profession, had serious concern for the environment. He actively participated in efforts to restore the environment. From seed bombing to beach cleaning drives to advocating the benefits of organic farming, Edwin did as many green deeds as possible. And he always took young Keith along with him.

The pro-planet environment that he grew in had a profound impact on Keith’s young mind.

That evening, when the family reunited over the dinner table, Keith announced, “Dada … Mom, I have decided that I will devote my life to the protection of the environment.”

“Really!” beamed Edwin, “I fully support your decision,” he said lovingly to his son.

At night, after Keith went to bed, Edwin and his wife, Rita, sat down to discuss Keith’s future.

Rita had ambitious dreams for her son. She wanted him to get a good education, maybe a masters degree in a good foreign university, and secure a high-flying job.

She voiced her doubts, “Edwin, I know you are on cloud nine to hear your son’s future plans. But if he wants to devote his life fighting to protect the environment, how would he earn a decent living? How would he fend for himself and his family?”

“But Rita, isn’t it great that our son has such noble thoughts? Don’t you think that every young boy and girl must commit to saving the planet with his or her full might? How else can we expect to have a future with healthy food and clean water and fresh air to breathe?”

“I completely understand, Edwin. We will all face serious consequences if we do not struggle to save our environment. However, driving green efforts during your spare time, after working hours, makes sense, but how could you encourage him to take this up as full-time occupation? You know that you do not get paid for your green deeds!” exclaimed Rita.

“Haha-ha,” Edwin burst out in mysterious laughter, much to Rita’s annoyance.

“What are you laughing for? Being financially secure is not a laughing matter.”

“I know … I know,” said Edwin as he recovered from his bout of laughter, “You think I am a fool? Of course, I don’t want to see my son roaming in frayed, torn clothes, driving great environmental initiatives while living on a pittance,” he said, smiling meaningfully, “I don’t believe that crusaders of the environment should go about penniless.”

“Edwin, I don’t understand all this random talk. Tell me what you have in mind,” Rita warned her husband irritably.

“Okay dear, calm down. I will tell you everything,” Edwin said playfully.

“About a couple of years ago, I met a financial expert during one of our office seminars. What he said blew me away,” revealed Edwin.

“No riddles, tell me everything, please,” Rita was clearly not able to contain her curiosity.

“Ok … Ok. I will come straight to the story now,” said a smiling Edwin.

“The financial expert took a session on financial literacy and introduced us to the concept of small, regular investments in mutual funds.”

Edwin went on to describe all that he learnt during the session, which, in gist, was that small investments made regularly in mutual funds for a long period of time, say over ten years, can grow into a large sum of money. With the element of compounding at play, investments as low as Rs 500, invested every month through Systematic Investment Plans or SIPs, for a long duration, can result in a huge corpus that keeps growing on its own.

Edwin further revealed to his wife that from the past year and a half, he has been continuously investing Rs 1,500 per month in mutual funds through SIPs for Keith, under the guidance of the financial expert he had met during the seminar.

“I wanted to give you and Keith a surprise on his 18th birthday. However, it was important to tell you now to quash all your fears about our son’s future financial security.”

Rita was glad to hear that, but she still had some doubts, “Edwin, but how can we build a large fund for Keith by putting aside just Rs 1,500 per month? And what is the guarantee that Keith would not splurge all the money very early in his life?”

“Very good questions,” Edwin patted his wife’s back in genuine praise. Rita blushed.

“I plan to increase the SIPs by Rs 500 every six months now. With a consistent increase in investments and the power of compounding, these seemingly small investments would transform into a huge portfolio by the time Keith turns 25 years.

“Even if we stop investing each month after he turns 25, the portfolio would still keep growing in value. Like magic!” beamed Edwin.

“And what if he chooses to buy a fancy car or a house or a world trip, burning all that we build for him? We see such cases every now and then,” reasoned Rita.

“That’s where the financial expert’s advice comes into play,” Edwin said smilingly.

“He advised me to develop a sense of financial responsibility in Keith. Teach him the difference between needs and wants. Teach him to be resourceful and not wasteful.

“And you know what, I have already begun teaching this to your genius son,” Edwin concluded with a wink.

Light-hearted after the discussion, Rita drifted into a peaceful slumber, knowing well that whatever her son chooses to do, he will always be financially secured.

IS FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE THE KEY TO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT?

photo-1515191107209-c28698631303

“Kumudha … your lunch is packed, hurry up or you would be late for college,” Nalini called out to her teenage daughter from the kitchen as she did a thousand things in one go.

“Just a minute, Maa,” came a sweet voice floating from behind the bathroom door. Nalini sighed as she knew that the promised one minute would be several minutes before the bathroom door will be opened and a singing, posing, jubilant Kumudha would totter around the little house.

This was a typical weekday morning at Nalini’s house, and she treasured each such morning. A strong, confident woman in her mid-forties, Nalini had seen enough pain in her life that she tried to collect the tiniest moments of happiness, wherever she could find them.

As she bade goodbye to Kumudha, after dropping her at the bus stop, and rode her scooty to the office – an export firm where she worked at the front office – Nalini thought about her past, and her arduous journey thus far.

Mehul and Nalini’s marriage was arranged, but they soon found their soulmates in each other. Mehul came from a wealthy business family and had several businesses running successfully. Their friends and family members used to say that Mehul had the ‘Midas touch,’ “whatever he touches, turns to gold.”

The first three years of marriage were a bliss. The couple shopped in London and sailed the Pacific, partied in Vegas and strolled in Milan. At times, Nalini would worry about their colossal travelling and partying expenses and would confront Mehul.

“Your husband is a rich guy. You just enjoy all the attention he gives to you,” the ever romantic Mehul would brush off any protest concerning the couple’s mounting leisure expenditures.

In the fourth year, Kumudha was born, and that brought even more joy to Nalini and Mehul’s household. Mehul gave a star-studded party with the city’s who’s who on the guest list.

It was all like a dream for Nalini until one day everything came falling apart. A week after Kumudha turned one, Mehul lost his life in a freak road accident. His sudden demise enveloped Nalini like a permanent mist of gloom; and had it not been for Kumudha, she would never have come out of the shock of losing her love.

For a few months, Nalini received support and love from friends and family, but eventually, everyone got busy with their lives. Nalini, too, had to get on with her life. To take stock of Mehul’s businesses, she called up Mr Kamath, who looked after all accounting and financial aspects of Mehul’s businesses.

“The situation is quite dire, Madam,” Mr Kamath mumbled in a grievous tone.

Nalini was shocked to learn that most of the businesses run by Mehul were debt-ridden. While almost all his businesses churned out profits, he deemed fit to splurge his earnings on his leisurely life and ploughed in investors’ money to keep his businesses going.

“While Mehul was alive, investors didn’t mind putting in money in his ventures as they all believed in him. The situation is now changed,” explained Mr Kamath to a crestfallen Nalini.

The long and short of it was that all the businesses owned by Mehul were acquired by investors and most of his personal assets, including his house, jewellery, cars, etc., were claimed by the bank and other creditors.

In less than a year from Mehul’s death, Nalini found herself without a roof over her head and no assurance of the next day’s meal. Her ageing parents had just enough to support themselves, and she found it unacceptable to be a burden on them; and though, her friends and family helped, Nalini knew that she would have to take charge of her situation if she wanted to give her daughter a decent, dignified life.

Thus, started the struggle for a livelihood.

Years passed, and Nalini worked hard to provide for her lovely daughter. She tried to give everything to her darling Kumudha that her meagre salary could afford. Nalini now banked on a good education to give her daughter a golden future. Yet, the rising cost of higher education and her ill affordability gnawed on her day and night.

——————————————————————————————————————–

“Maa … Maa,” Kumudha came home running and shouting one day. Nalini was alarmed to see her so excited about something.

“Oh my god, Kumudha, calm down, why are you bringing the roof down,” an incredulous Nalini lovingly scolded her daughter.

“Mom, you won’t believe this … I have seen how to grow money on trees … and we will plant ours … with a small seed …regular watering…” Kumudha babbled between gasps of breath.

“Money … tree … seed … watering, have you gone mad,” said Nalini giggling.

“No, Mom … true … it’s easy … needs and wants,” Kumudha started a fresh deluge of broken words in her excitement.

Nalini gave her a glass of water and told her to catch her breath before saying what actually happened.

After ten minutes, Kumudha finally calmed down, and after taking another minute to collect her thoughts, she said, “Our college hosted a noted financial mentor for a talk, and I attended it. This mentor said that anyone could grow rich with patience and discipline.”

Still at sea, Nalini urged Kumudha to spill more beans.

“He told us the first thing that we need to follow to become rich is separating needs from wants,” explained Kumudha, “I have understood now. I don’t want a new dress, we will now buy only those things that we need,” she added in haste, much to the amusement of Nalini.

“Hmm … that’s food for thought. What else did he …” Nalini couldn’t finish her sentence.

“Oh god, Mom; don’t interrupt else I will forget,” Kumudha lovingly warned her dear mother.

“Second, we must invest before spending,” she added, “Do you know what investing means, Mom? It means that you put aside some money in any investment.”

Nalini took all this silently, holding a finger to her lips, amused by her daughter’s enthusiasm.

“And lastly, if we start investing as low as 500 rupees in mutual funds through … wait, what was that … Yes! SIP or Systematic Investment Plans, we can accumulate lakhs of rupees over a period of time, say ten to twelve years,” concluded Kumudha with a happy, forlorn expression in her eyes.

Nalini, influenced by Kumudha’s enthusiasm, offered to meet the financial mentor to know more. This part was easy as Kumudha had already got his contact details and a meeting was fixed at the earliest opportunity.

Meeting the financial mentor, Nalini felt like talking to a well-wisher after years. She poured out all her life’s struggles and the worrisome financial situation she expected to be in in a few years when she would need money to fund Kumudha’s professional education.

The mentor patiently listened to Nalini’s story and assured that with patience and dedication, the mother and daughter could actually look forward to a smiling future.

Taking out a pen and paper, he explained how Nalini must apportion her salary towards expenses and investments. Stressing on the need for life insurance as well as Mediclaim, the mentor made provisions in Nalini’s salary to meet the annual premium expenses. He also suggested some areas of expenditure that could be minimised.

Nalini was incredulous as she found it difficult to manage her monthly expenses out of her small pay, and here, the mentor made provisions for her to not only take care of the family’s immediate financial needs but also made goal-oriented plans to meet future expenses.

After the visit to the advisor, both the women sat musing about their future possibilities.

Nalini had already resolved to start a long-term SIP for Kumudha that would take care of her higher studies. She also thought of investing a little sum regularly in building a substantial corpus for her own use after retirement. Nalini smiled proudly as a beautiful and powerful thought emerged in her head:

I will not seek my daughter’s fortune in her would-be husband’s coffers,

Nor would I want her to trade her dreams for higher pay offers.

For years, I would invest every penny I can spare,

Building her wealth, telling her that I care.

To her, I would teach the tenets of conservation and financial discipline,

Because financial independence is the true way to empower a woman.

 

Dr. Celso Fernandes and Nave Marg Financial Consultants are on a mission to spread financial literacy, primarily among the people of Goa. Through a series of free illuminating workshops and seminars, the author of four much-loved books, Dr. Celso Fernandes help families fight their financial woes and set on the path of wealth creation. To know about upcoming events and seminars, call at 9422058741 or write at navemarg@gmail.com.

It Ain’t Gonna Rain Forever

profit-593753__340.jpg

The sun shone strongly as Jason raced to the little, dingy bar that nestled under a giant banyan tree. As soon as he reached there, his eyes began to search for a familiar face in the crowd of people who preferred sipping wine over siesta. Jason heard Kevin’s voice before he saw his face.

“What do you know man, my car itself was worth over a crore…”

Sitting in the farthest corner of the bar, nursing a half-emptied glass of cheap liquor, Kevin was telling his friends of the good old luxurious life he once lived. At 45, Kevin had already seen the best and the worst in life. A bright, young fellow with a passion for earning loads of money, Kevin ventured for his maiden voyage – aboard a luxury cruise liner – as a Trainee Engineer, some twenty years ago.

His skills, passion and determination to excel at his job won him a lot of praise, promotions and popularity in the shipping circles. The latter resulted in a slew of shipping engagements at lucrative salaries. For the next 15 years, Kevin worked diligently on one of the finest assignments and earned truckloads of money.

“Wait! Kevin’s story doesn’t match with his current state, right?” You would ask.

Well, this is the second part of the story. While Kevin earned a lot of money, he also splurged in luxuries he never needed. Every year during Christmas holidays, Kevin would come home to his family (he got married to his childhood love, Jennifer, two years after starting his job) with crates full of gifts and would shower his friends and family with expensive gifts without the want of an occasion.

Add to this, he spent heavily in transforming his humble little house into a palace-styled mansion and filled its garage with luxury cars. It was raining gold and Kevin did his best to let it flow down to the sea.

But something unexpected happened about five years ago. Kevin found himself amidst a pool of middle-aged engineer, just as qualified and skilled as him, waiting endlessly for the next assignment. The downturn in the economy had slowed down the business and jobs were scarce. Months turned into years and Kevin, quite unexpectedly, became the yesteryear star engineer persuaded by shipping companies with lures of riches.

Kevin came home to an opulent house and always stepped out in his swanky car. However, his sparse savings were fast dwindling. There were bills to pay, school fees to deposit and a social status to maintain. Without any sound financial advice, Kevin’s precious funds soon withered out. And he also took to drinking heavily.

There came a time when he had to sell his house, which was his pride, and began living in austere conditions. Unable to bear their financial and social downfall, his wife left him, and the rest of his funds were sucked up in sorting legal matters.

“Kevin, brother! See I am selected as a part of the crew for that big ship,” Jason jumped up and down excitedly as he delivered this good news.

Kevin was ecstatic to hear this news. He ran and embraced his little brother.

“You’ve done it!” exclaimed Kevin.

After telling the good news to all his fellow bar mates, Kevin suddenly turned serious.

“Let’s talk,” was the only words a confused Jason heard before Kevin sat in his ramshackle car.

After a brief drive, during which no words were spoken, Kevin stopped the car near a cliff that overlooked the vast blue ocean.

“Jason, my brother,” said Kevin after both brothers settled down on a short boulder, “you are going to start what I started twenty years ago. I just want that you must not end like me.”

Tears swarming in his eyes, Kevin added, “This job will take you places you could ever dream of and will earn you money you could never think of. Yet, it is all for a little while.”

Jason listened intently to his elder brother like he always used to. Kevin was his hero. A fallen hero, unfortunately.

“If my very adventurous life has taught me anything, it is these three mantras:

“Spend on needs and opportunities. Don’t splurge on wants and indulgences.

“Invest your money before spending.

“Plan your future, today.”

As Jason mulled over the three tips given by his brother, Kevin added, “It isn’t gonna rain forever.”

Kevin also told Jason that he met a financial consultant while sorting out his legal matters and clearing his debts, who told him how Kevin could have planted a healthy sapling of investment that would have grown into a blossoming money plant, had he managed his funds properly and invested while he was still young.

‘Together with the steady monthly investments and power of compounding, your mutual funds’ portfolio would have grown to crores of rupees,’ Kevin remembered the financial mentor’s words reproachfully.

“I am still trying to get back on track with whatever frugal funds I have, through SIPs in mutual funds, thanks to this mentor’s guidance,” revealed Kevin with a hint of hope in his eyes. Kevin had also started to look for local jobs and was working on his alcohol addiction, which was hard, but he was trying.

“I will put you in touch with him soon,” added Kevin.

As the sun scaled its journey towards the horizon, Jason looked at his future life in a new light.

Even before they started for home, Jason had planned to not only begin investing for himself right from his first paycheque, but also for his hero, his brother, who is trying to get back on his feet.

Dr. Celso Fernandes, the Financial Doctor of Goa, is committed to the mission of spreading financial awareness among the people of India. A well-known speaker, Dr. Celso is also the author of four much-loved books on financial discipline and achieving  financial independence. He can be reached at +91-9422058741.

LULLED BY BLATANT CONSUMERISM?

Wake up to financial discipline.

ecommerce-1706103__340

“Sameer! Check-out the one-hour online sale this website is offering,” Sia squealed with joy as she handed over the entertainment section of the newspaper to her husband.

“Wow! They are giving 70% discount on TVs with latest features, and look, there are smart watches for half the price!” exclaimed Sameer, almost jumping off his chair.

“And clothes, by golly! As if they are throwing away such beautiful dresses and make-up kits for peanuts!” added Sia.

Little Myra was getting ready for her school, and her parents’, almost juvenile, attitude towards mindless online shopping made her take frequent sorrowful sighs. All of twelve years, Myra was wise beyond her years. She was calm, composed and quite practical in her ways. A spirited young girl, Myra was good in sports and studies; but what distinguished her from the rest of girls in her class was her deep concern for the environment and her belief in living a minimalistic existence.

Of course, her orientation cannot be attributed to her parenting. Far from it, Myra has seen her parents splurging money and other resources like there is no tomorrow. The frequent house parties, the sumptuous dinners, and above all, mindless online shopping every other day.  While Myra’s father had a weakness for gadgets and expensive watches – he changed three TVs in less than two years and an astounding five phones within the same period – her mother wanted to have every dress that hit the market. As a result, Myra’s home was slowly turning into a zoo of impulsively bought and cruelly discarded electronic items, knick-knacks and clothes flowing out of closets.

“Don’t you think you must not spend so much on things that you don’t need?” Myra confronted her parents one day.

“Don’t worry dear,” said her mother. “We are well off,” added her father with a smug smile.

Myra couldn’t comprehend how her parents were well off when they squandered every penny they earned on useless items. This was in utter contradiction to her dear Grandpa’s style of living. Myra idolised her paternal grandfather who owned a sprawling bungalow in the suburbs. Every bit rich, Myra’s grandfather showed no tendency towards impulsive buying. On the contrary, he always encouraged Myra to conserve all resources and spend only on things that you need, and not want.

He also taught Myra to be smart with money and invest spare money in mutual funds for a long period.

“Like a tree,” Grandpa told Myra, “your investments would also bear more and more fruits with time.”

Grandpa also taught Myra that being minimalistic is the only way to save the environment, too! He told her that every piece of electronic gadgets and appliances are equipped with precious metals and stones mined from the belly of the earth, and when we keep dumping our well-serving gadget for a higher version, we end up wasting precious natural resources.

Next day, the atmosphere at Myra’s house was completely opposite to the previous. The discussion over morning tea today was not about any mega sale but a ‘mega credit card bill’ that sat heavily on the coffee table.

With a sombre countenance, Myra’s father mumbled, “how would we be able to pay Myra’s fee this quarter?”

“Hmm, all our salary will go into paying this credit card bill,” worried her mother.

“Why! Where did all our hefty salaries go? Myra’s fee is a small fraction of our monthly salary, yet we are finding it difficult to pay it. What went wrong?” her father muttered, sounding very depressed.

At this point, Myra spoke up. “But I thought we are well off! Why can’t we pay my fee on time?”

“It looks like we overspent a little, darling. But don’t you worry, I will take a small loan to pay it on time. You don’t bother yourself with this,” her father casually answered.

Myra was beyond herself after hearing such a nonchalant response from her father.

“It’s time they learn something about financial discipline,” she mused.

With a deep breath, Myra set down to talk to her parents and make them realise that their impulsive buying is not only causing them the present financial trouble, but it could also lead to massive financial distress. Myra’s parents seemed to be unaware about the repercussions of overspending, and she had to remind them each item that they purchased, sighting its utility, and which, now, lay unused in the storeroom. A quick total – Myra secretly collected the invoices of items purchased online (as her parents would throw it away along with the packaging) – revealed an incredibly high sum of money spent in the past two years on online shopping.

“If you had invested this money in mutual funds, you would have earned double-digit compounded interest over a long period, say ten years,” she told her parents, who gaped at her with baffled expressions. They had no clue that their daughter is so smart and practical.

“And there is no need to take a loan to pay my fee. I have a little portfolio, managed by grandpa; I will ask him to redeem some units to pay off the fee,” said Myra, “but on one condition. No mindless online shopping.”

As she picked up her school bag and water bottle to catch her school bus, Myra’s parents stood speechlessly, slowly waking up from the lull of blatant consumerism, and warming up to the idea of financial discipline.

Breaking Boundaries

Breaking Boundaries

In a nation where the rich get richer and the lesser fortunate, poorer, Nilesh had a tough time to rise from the utter poverty of his childhood days to be a part of the middle-class multitude of India.

He distinctly remembers the cruelty one is subjected to if s/he is born to poor parents. There were days when they were lucky to have two square meals in the day, and extremely fortunate if a year passed by with no one getting terribly sick.

Resolute to change his economic condition, Nilesh worked very hard right from a very young age. During the day, he would help his father in doing odd jobs or just roam about foraging for food. But as the night would converge, and the bone-weary members of his family drifted in fitful slumber, Nilesh would rush to the night school run by an NGO. He studied hard, begged and borrowed for college fee and cleared a tough banking examination to finally bid adieu to poverty.

A sincere worker, Nilesh excelled at his job and got his due promotions, too. However, since in the government-owned bank he worked, higher promotions were based on a combination of sincerity and seniority, Nilesh could expect senior roles only towards the end of his career. This meant that after twenty-odd years in the bank, Nilesh’s salary was always only a little more than the rising household expenditures. Yet, he broke a class barrier and was leading a relatively comfortable life, and was grateful for it, too.

But a question would persistently rake his mind, “How would it feel to be rich?”

A brooding man, Nilesh constantly thought of ways to provide for a better, more comfortable life for his son, Aryan, who had just passed high-school with flying colours.

Of course, education was one way of hoping for a promising corporate career and the subsequent perks that Aryan could enjoy in future – but what if things didn’t go as expected? What if Aryan fails to get admission in a premier college? What if the economy goes into recession?

There were several fearful questions swarming in Nilesh’s mind. The most fearful being, “Would Aryan never be able to break the class boundary and live a life of abundance?”

Luckily for Nilesh, his unsettling questions were adequately answered by a leading financial expert who was called by the bank for a talk on financial awareness.

The financial expert showed Nilesh and his colleagues a brilliant way of creating wealth out of small, regular investments in mutual funds over a long period. Nilesh could not believe his eyes when the expert revealed growth charts showing tiny investments (as low as INR 500 per month) turning into portfolios worth lakhs of rupees over a decade.

As the session ended, Nilesh rushed to the expert and requested a meeting with him, which the latter gladly granted.

At the appointed hour, Nilesh, along with his wife, Sujata, met the financial expert in his office.

After listening to Nilesh’s life story, and his burning questions about ensuring a life of abundance for Aryan, the financial expert assured him that all his worries can be easily put to an end by doing simple things. He gave Nilesh and Sujata the following golden mantras:

  • Small, consistent investments make a big difference. Anyone can break his or her financial boundaries and get rich in his/her lifetime.
  • Time is money. If little sums of money are invested regularly in the market through SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans) in mutual funds for over a decade, huge wealth can be created; thanks to the power of compounding in mutual funds.
  • Invest before spending as this would put a cap on unnecessary spending.
  • Teach your kid to be financially disciplined so that they could distinguish between needs and wants.
  • Buy adequate life insurance as well as get Mediclaim to protect your precious savings and investments.

By the end of the hour, and with the help of the expert’s guidance, Nilesh started a SIP in Aryan’s name with an intent to keep increasing the SIP amount in accordance to his salary growth.

As he thanked the financial expert for his valuable time and advice, and promised to keep meeting him to discuss his financial goals and investment plans, Nilesh felt as if a big boulder is taken off his chest. He was resolute once again to break the class boundaries, ensuring that his son, Aryan, would live a financially independent life full of riches; a life that eluded Nilesh thus far.

Navemarg Financial Consultants and Dr. Celso Fernandes, Goa’s Financial Doctor and author of several successful books including ‘Who Says Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees’, are Goa’s financial literacy crusaders. Dr. Celso and his team are teaching the Goan Youth and parents to be financially aware and disciplined. Follow updates on free seminars and other news at https://www.facebook.com/NaveMarg1969/ and https://www.facebook.com/navemarg.

 

5 Financial Tips You Must Give Your Teenage Child

mentor-2062999__340

Mahesh earned quite well. A top management executive at a leading IT Indian MNC, his package was, as a few of his college friends called, ‘ridiculously high’. Well, Mahesh deserved every penny that credited in his account each month. A high-flying executive, literally, Mahesh was continually scaling the globe; from Europe to North America to Asia. He was instrumental in cracking big-ticket deals for his company and setting up new offices around the world.

A man of few words with stringent self-conduct codes, Mahesh rarely missed his exercise regimes, and inspired by several iconic leaders, lived a frugal existence. However, his only splurge was his son, Vivaan. To compensate for the lack of time he had for his son, Mahesh saw to it that his son gets whatever he wants, “after all, you get young only once,” he would say with a smile.

At 17 years, Vivaan had more worldly possessions and monthly allowance than all his friends combined. From the latest PlayStation to high-end smartphones to frequent splurges on movies and parties, Vivaan had everything that any of his collegemates could ever imagine. Yet, his demands were increasing by the day. Realising the fact that money is not a rare commodity for his dad, Vivaan lost all respect for it. He was continually surrounded by opportunists who would praise him for his looks and skills just to be treated in swanky restaurants for free.

Suhana, Vivaan’s mother, was not at all happy with his uncontrolled spending habits. She had seen one of her cousins ruining his life as a result of squandering all his inheritance in a short span of time. To add to her worry, Mahesh would always brush her protests aside saying that there is nothing terrible about showering his lovely child with nice gifts and money.

But she knew that Mahesh was spoiling Vivaan silly, and if he gets into the habit of overspending, he will live all his life in financial distress, no matter how well he earned!

On a chance meeting with an old acquaintance in the shopping mall, Suhana learnt about a well-respected financial mentor who devoted his life to spreading financial literacy among the youth of the city. As she heard about the financial mentor’s work and the resulting impact of his work on the society, she became resolute to take his help.

During long Christmas vacations, Mahesh was finally at home for more than a few days. Vivaan, too, had his college holidays. Suhana chose this time to invite the experienced financial mentor to her place over high-tea.

As it turned out, Mahesh was acquainted with the financial mentor and held him in high regards, too. Much to Suhana’s relief, the stage was set for an open, casual and amicable discussion among the three men.

Vivaan was much impressed with the financial mentor’s thought process and how, besides earning himself an ever-increasing pool of money, is now creating positive social impact. Mahesh, too, for once, was listening to someone who bluntly pointed out that he is doling out way too much money on his son than necessary.

After a discussion that started at high-tea and went on till supper, the financial mentor gave the following five tips to Vivaan, and asked him to get these framed and nailed on his bedroom wall:

  1. The flow of money is not perennial. It never has, it never would.
  2. Establish your relationship with money. The ideal one would be, ‘the means to meet ends’.
  3. Distinguish between Needs & Wants. Don’t splurge money on things you can live without.
  4. Invest before you spend. This will help you in spending only on your needs and will help curb impulsive buying.
  5. Plant your money-plant, today. Small, yet regular investments have the power to build a significant, ever-growing, portfolio over a long period, say ten years.

These simple, yet powerful tips made an impact not only on Vivaan, but also his father, Mahesh, who decided that instead of buying expensive gadgets for his son every now and then, he would start investing a decent sum in mutual funds through SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans). Vivaan also promised his father and the financial mentor that he would immediately curb his extravagance, and on taking up a job, will keep contributing to the SIPs his father is planning to start.

That evening was one of the happiest for Suhana. She smiled looking at Vivaan and Mahesh’s faces when the financial mentor told them how much Vivaan’s portfolio would have grown by now had he started investing a fraction of his monthly allowance a few years ago.

The next morning brought a lot of positive changes at Suhana’s house. Vivaan and Mahesh made a trip to the financial mentor’s office and requested him to help them start SIPs in a good mutual fund for Vivaan. Suhana was doubly excited as not only Vivaan, Mahesh, too, showed sincerity towards embracing financial discipline. He proved this by having a stock of all his unnecessary club memberships, reviewing investments in traditional investments (which, to his surprise, were earning him negative returns post inflation) and fixing other financial leakages.

Since that fateful evening a few years ago, Mahesh and Vivaan have come a long way, as far as financial discipline goes. Mahesh’s ‘ridiculously high’ package seems even greater with lesser pilferage and drawings for his son. He has also found his relationship with money; he contributes generously towards a program that provides IT-enabled teaching to lesser privileged children. Vivaan, on the other hand, is now an ambassador of financial literacy and helps his financial mentor in spreading it among his friends and peers. No more reckless with money, Vivaan sold most of his fancy possessions and invested the money in his mutual fund as a top-up. No wonder, he is heading for a bright future with the rare gift of financial independence on his side.

How to Insure Your Child’s Future Against Financial Troubles?

luggage-1149289__340

The younger generation is choosing to wade the untrodden path, career-wise. Gone are the days when children set aside their passion and talent to take up mundane jobs that promised a ‘stable income’ and a ‘settled life.’

The youngsters today want to express themselves and want to be recognized for their talent, and not by their jobs or qualifications. And why not; thanks to the digital invasion, people are doing more than good by following their passion!

From human jukebox to standup comedian to travel blogger, it seems that the Gen Y has numerous career possibilities today. So, why shouldn’t one follow their dreams and put their unique talent to use?

However, as a parent of a teenage child, you find yourself constantly worrying about your child’s future financial security. You know that the formal education you have planned for your child may not help if s/he wants to follow their passion. And you don’t have the heart to force your children to prepare themselves for regular jobs, setting aside their dreams and talent.

Much like what Anirudh felt whenever he spared a thought about his darling daughter, Anya’s future financial security. At 15, she is already a talented classical singer; her mother had her trained under reputed Gurus. Anya is a favourite in her school, and she lends her voice in almost all school events. In fact, she won the local ‘Golden Voice’ contest in her city. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Anya would become a successful professional singer and her sweet, crooning voice would be heard all across the country.

Still, Anirudh was a little troubled. Though he was very proud of her daughter’s talent and believed in her, he knew that professional singing is a highly competitive field….

Through friends, Anirudh had heard true stories of artists who struggled all their lives for one chance to fame, living in a poor financial situation. Whenever he thought about Anya struggling to make a solid career in the music industry, living on a pittance, his heart would sink.

But everything was to change when Anirudh met his wealthy distant cousin in a family wedding. Paarth, a successful businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist, was highly regarded in the family. Over a couple of drinks, Annirudh told Paarth about his predicament.

After patiently hearing Anirudh’s story, Paarth gently told him that his problem could be solved in a snap. Startled, Annirudh asked him, “How,” rather incredulously.

Paarth told Anirudh that he must take steps to make Anya financially independent, starting from the next day.

A little puzzled, Annirudh asked Paarth how could that be achieved?

To this, Paarth told him, “While you must be making provisions for Anya’s higher studies, and perhaps her wedding, too; you must also start investing something with an aim to support her during the period of her career struggle.”

“But brother, with limited means and a good lifestyle, it is hard for us to invest anything more than what we are doing now,” said Anirudh dejectedly.

“What if I say that by investing only what you or Anya spend on a weekend outing, you can still build a substantial portfolio for her over the period of next ten years?” asked Paarth with a twinkle in his eyes.

“That would be magic!” exclaimed Anirudh. “But magic doesn’t happen in real life,” he added grimly.

“Dear brother, magic does happen in real world. And the name of this magic is compounding,” Paarth said with a chuckle.

Anirudh, who had been investing all his money in fixed deposits and PF, was clueless about mutual funds and the power of compounding they come with. Paarth explained his cousin about how mutual funds work and how the power of compounding can make his portfolio grow at an astonishing rate.

“Regular investments in mutual funds over a long period, say 8 – 10 years, would help you create a substantial portfolio. And the best thing is that you can start investing with as low as INR 500!”

Anirudh was pleasantly surprised to hear this, and he vowed that he would soon start a mutual fund SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) for Anya.

“But that alone would not be sufficient,” warned Paarth, “you must teach Anya to distinguish between needs and wants, to prioritize her expenditures, and above all, instill the habit of regular savings and investments in her.”

Anirudh left for home that day rich with financial wisdom. A clear objective was shaping in his mind as he imagined the picture of a self-sufficient Anya working hard to make a place for herself in her chosen field. And a smile played on his lips.

Financial literacy and financial discipline ensure that our young ones grow into financially independent adults, living a stress-free life and chase all their dreams without falling short of money. This is the vision with which Dr. Celso Fernandes, along with the team of NaveMarg Financial Consultants, reaches out to the youth of the country and mentors them as they realize their financial goals. Dr. Celso Fernandes gladly offers his time, without any fee, to young students and their parents who seek financial advice. One can also attend his various free seminars conducted across Goa and neighbouring states. Find event updates on https://www.facebook.com/navemarg.