Trust me, I never thought I would write about personal finance one day.
Two years back, I didn’t have much idea about personal finance and why I need to know about it.
But in the last two years, a lot of things have changed, I have learned a bit about personal finance and realized its significance.
I have realized how broken our education system is which teaches you how to earn money but doesn’t teach you what to do with that money.
Traditionally, it is believed that we earn money to spend on our daily necessities and to pay our bills.
But is it enough?
We are taught so many subjects in school and colleges, a lot of things are not even have any utility at this age.
But ironically, the subject which all of us has to deal throughout our life was never taught.
The subject of money was never taught anywhere.
And I am no talking about economics.
Economics is not the subject of personal finance. It’s about the wealth of nations and the world.
Without understanding productivity, you can’t make more out of your time.
Similarly, without having knowledge of personal finance, you can’t build wealth and gain financial freedom.
I was ignorant about it because neither my parents nor my teachers had much knowledge about personal finance.
I am sure this is a common scenario in most families.
It’s like a ripple effect.
Nobody told my parents, so they don’t know much. If I remain ignorant, my next generation will also remain ignorant unless he/she tries to learn by himself.
No wonder why Jim Rohn said-
“Formal education can make you a living,
Self-education can make you a fortune”
So what I want to share with you?
I will not list dos and don’ts.
I will share a few things that I have learned and I believe everyone should know.
Below are five pillars of personal finance that everyone should be familiar with and understand to have more financial freedom in life.
1. Term Insurance
I know you were not expecting this at first.
If you are a student, maybe this is not a huge thing for you right now.
But if you are a married person with a family to look after, this is really important for you.
Honestly, I never understood the concept of insurance until I was 24.
And there are hundreds of insurance in the market, what to buy or what not?
On top of that, there are scams in the name of insurance.
But why should you care about insurance?
Because you have a family that depends on you and your income to run smoothly.
If anything happens to you, what would happen to their financial security.
If you care about your family’s financial protection, there is only one insurance to look after.
That’s term insurance. The cheapest and perhaps the best one.
Any insurance that has names like, double growth, insurance plus investment, guaranteed maturity, lifelong income, etc. is not there for your benefit but for their own benefit.
And trust me banks would never tell you to buy term insurance as it will not benefit them much.
If there is an agent who is trying hard to sell you an insurance plan (any bank) then he is doing it for his interest, not yours.
An insurance agent earns almost 20–30% commission for each insurance plan they sell.
No wonder why they try so hard.
“Insurance is not an investment and you should never purchase an insurance which gives you return on your money”
If anything, you will lose money if you buy an insurance plan other than term due to inflation (the decline of purchasing power of a given currency over time).
The annual premium you have to pay for term insurance is as low as Rs. 15–20000 per year.
If you are planning to buy a life insurance plan, buy only term insurance.
2. Health Insurance
I am sure you have understood the value of health, especially in this pandemic period.
With the rise of medical expenses every year, there is no elucidation required why you must need a health insurance plan.
The sooner you buy, the better it will be.
Just a suggestion, try not to ask the insurance company or any insurance provider about which health insurance to buy as they would think about their own benefits, not yours.
Ask any of your friend or relative who has sufficient knowledge or research on your own.
3. Emergency Liquid Fund
This might sound so surreal but extremely valuable at this age.
Life is uncertain. However secure a job or secure life you think you have, this pandemic has taught us nothing is certain in life.
You can’t predict your future.
So the best way is to prepare as much as possible for your future.
Financially, you can do that by having an emergency fund.
What is the use of this emergency fund?
An emergency fund is for emergency times, for uncertain times.
Like say, you need money immediately for some reason, you want to quit your job for some reason, you want to start a business, etc.
Having an emergency fund will support you in such times. You can still live comfortably even without your monthly paycheck.
Your emergency fund has to be liquid, which means you can withdraw money whenever you want. There should not be any time lag in withdrawing your money.
You can store your emergency fund in a short term debt mutual fund or just in your bank savings account (although I don’t prefer it).
4. Diversified Portfolio
Finally, the most interesting stuff perhaps.
How to grow the hard-earned money?
I promise I will not talk about the stock market and mutual funds a lot.
There is a learning curve about investment and most people have no interest or not ready to go through the learning curve.
Just a few suggestions. Don’t invest all your money in the same place. Be it any fund.
If you are really serious about investment and growing money, then invest in index funds.
Again no mutual fund manager or advisor will encourage you to invest in index funds as they won’t get any benefits.
Below are my preferences to invest money.
A. Index funds: Invest in NIFTY or SENSEX direct plans, don’t worry this is not direct typical stock market investing, your money will be extremely safe. These are best for really long-term investment.
B. Mutual funds: Nowadays everywhere you see advertisements for mutual funds right. Your parents didn’t have such easy options to invest their money, but you have today.
You can invest just by the click on your smartphone, it has become so easy.
But there are so many types of mutual funds, where to invest?
Of course, there are varieties of mutual funds like equity, debt, large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap.
You will get more returns on equity investment but debt investment is safer.
The thumb rule of equity is 100 minus your age.
If you are 30 years old, you can invest 60–70 percent of your money (that you allotted for investment) in equity funds.
Invest more in large-cap and mid-cap, not in small-cap.
C. PPF or FD: This is really known to most people including our parents or grandparents.
If you discuss investment with your parents, chances are high that they will tell you to keep your money in FD (Fixed deposit) or PPF (Public Provident Fund).
Personally, I don’t like FD much as it will give you negligible returns and sometimes so low that it cannot even beat inflation.
Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to keep some of your money in PPF or FD.
What is the purpose of diversified investment?
So that you can take a bit more risk and invest in equity funds to get higher returns over time.
Even if you lose some of your money in order to get higher returns, that can be nullified by your other investment in diverse funds. You will not lose any money in that way.
Having a diversified investment portfolio will give you more power to take a little more courage to go for higher returns.
I have almost no idea at this point about investing in gold or real estate, so I can’t say anything about them. You might like to talk to someone well-educated on these.
5. Don’t spend on stuff, invest on stuff
I didn’t plan to write this but then I thought I must tell you about this.
Do you know how much money you have spent last month?
If not, then you should start making a balance sheet.
There is a saying that
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”
And it is so true.
You can only improve your financial life if you know where you are spending your money.
Start tracking your money. Use a simple notebook or even better a digital note-taking app.
To be honest, I spend a good amount of money on books, courses, subscriptions, and sometimes gadgets.
But I don’t call it spending, I see it as an investment that will give me returns in the future.
“The actual value of a thing or stuff can be known only after six months after its buying”
If after five or six months, you still think it is making a difference in your life and improving your life in some way, then it is an investment.
If you are planning to buy anything above Rs. 10000, then take your time and think for 15–20 days if you really need to buy it, how this purchase is going to improve your life anyway.
If you are planning to buy anything above Rs. 50000, take at least 1–2 months and reflect if you really need to buy.
A lot of times we buy out of impulse, this exercise would help you invest and not spend on stuff.
Money is supposed to improve your life. It can only happen when you invest your money in the right tools and services and not spend on fancy stuff that loses its value only after one or two months.
If you are a student and not earning anything or very little, you might think this article is not for you as you don’t have much money to do anything.
That’s the mistake almost all of us do in our life. We never learn about personal finance and think that let me earn some money first.
And when we started earning money, we get so busy that we don’t have time to think about it.
We plan before an event, not during or after an event.
Warren Buffet famously said-
“Any fool with a plan is better off than a genius without a plan”
So plan your financial life knowing that nobody will perhaps tell you much about personal finance, neither your parents nor your teachers.
Finally, there are people who can think ‘but I have enough money with me (or family), why should I give any damn to personal finance, I can buy whatever I want’.
The most important purpose of having money is to make your life easy by enabling better products and services and improving your life in the process.
If you have a lot of money but you are not getting better physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually then you are still a poor person.
I know perhaps you might not have understood a few terms in this article.
Each subsection of this article can itself be an entire article.
My aim in writing this article is to give you a broader idea of personal finance and make you aware.
If you have any thoughts or queries, you can let me know in the comment section.
If you are interested further (which you should be) in personal finance, I am recommending two basic books to start with below.
I want to end this article by quoting Yuval Noah Harari who said-
“The rich take great care managing their assets and investments, while the less well-heeled go into debt buying cars and televisions they don’t really need.
The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!
Have a great week. Until next time.