I read the book by Monika Halan a few years back. I regard this book as one of the best books on personal finance by an Indian author. Her style is very simple and to the point. She starts every chapter with an example which helps us to relate easily with the topic she discusses.
This is the second blog post by Sanjana Choradia. Here is her previous post https://arthagyan.com/the-dilemma-of-financing-higher-education/. Over to Sanjana ….
With newfound financial independence, our first impulse is to spend the money on things we have so long dreamed of buying. The new gadget, the fancy dress, the dream car, everything that wasn’t, is now within your reach. However, as time goes by we get used to this independence and we understand that money goes out quicker than it comes in. We want to start saving. We want to start investing our money to earn returns.
But, there is never enough money to save. And if there is, you do not know how to invest it. We look for avenues that will help us save and invest. And we take one step towards it. We run a quick google search and come across various investment options and products. The answers that the google search gives us are full of jargon like diversification and market cap. And just like that we are overwhelmed. We don’t give up just yet. Now, we ask our colleagues and relatives. They tell us how they invested their money in a scheme and landed a huge loss. We are now scared and fearful. Then, they tell us about the amazing endowment plan that they invested in which is giving them ‘wonderful’ returns. We then end up making the same mistakes as them.
To be on the ‘safer side’ you say I will put my money in an FD. While there is nothing wrong with opening an FD, it might not be the only and most effective way to save and invest. There are thousands of financial products out there that are better suited for your needs. Using only an FD or other such traditional tools of investment is like sticking to 2G internet in today’s 4G era.
“Not beginning the process of investing because you don’t have a large corpus is like waiting to get fit before you join a diet and fitness routine”
The Indian urban affluent mass faces several hurdles that prevent them from investing their money wisely. There is a dire need to financially empower people and the book Let’s Talk Money does just that. Through her book, Monika Halan draws an elaborate plan for you, which will help you set up a system to organise your cash inflows and outflows. The plan is flexible so you can customize it according to your own needs. She calls it the Money Box. The box is divided into several cells. Nine to be precise: Cash Flow Cell, Emergency Cell, Medical Insurance Cell, Life Insurance Cell, Almost There Cell, In Some Time Investments, Far Away Investments, Retirement Fund, Gold and Real Estate.
The book starts out with setting up a system that will make financial fitness easy and routine. Your journey of investing does not begin with investing itself. This is a part of the first cell which is the Cash Flow Cell. The logic behind this cell is to provide a separate function to money according to our goal so that there is more clarity. This system enables discipline and routine.
After the system is set up, the next step according to the author is to build a financial airbag, i.e, to secure yourself financially against various uncertainties. This is divided into three parts: Emergency fund, medical insurance and life insurance. While defining these cells the author lists down important do’s and don’ts that should be considered before buying any insurance product. The book cautions its readers of a very important secret of the financial industry. According to her, it is in the interest of the financial sector to keep things complicated. These complications pave the way for middlemen who are ‘experts’ or ‘agents’ that sell products to you for the benefit of commission as opposed to for your own well being.
Once these cells have been thoroughly explained the author then dives into investing. Through these chapters she explains the various options available to us for investing and how we can customize them according to our own needs. All the relevant asset classes are explained in detail. The book wraps up with the last three chapters about retirement, estate planning and how to not destroy your money box.
Towards the end of the book, you will understand that while finance is not tough, choosing the right financial product is. We need to know our capacity, ability and goal and see if the product matches it.
What makes the book so great?
Monika uses simple terms and easily understandable examples to explain what we perceive to be complicated. She provides thumb rules, tips, cautionary tales and anecdotes. She de-jargonises finance which makes it far more interesting for the readers who hate financial terminology. A principle for investment that she tries to enforce is that each financial product you buy must have a purpose and solve a specific problem. This she explains with the help of carbohydrates in rice and roti, protein in dal and the vitamins in veggies.
Look at different financial products as different food types – each has a role and solves a specific problem
The book is written with a deep insight of human psychology and behavioral economics. The system that the author lays out is built with a goal of correcting the way we use mental accounting. It is hard to be objective with money due to a lack of structure. She uses this one simple yet important discovery about human behavior and establishes a system that makes personal finance less of a burden.
I read the book in about two and a half days. This is not to say that I am a fast reader, it is just a very concise book. But in those two and a half days I learned more than I did in a semester of online classes. It covers a wide range of topics: how to establish a routine, what financial products to use, their features and how they can be customized, things you should avoid doing. Basically everything you need to know to have a balanced financial diet.
Most books emphasize on what you should do. Let’s Talk Money besides doing that also tells you what not to do. The financial industry has been over exploited and over complicated. There are several predators out there who are waiting to take advantage of our lack of knowledge and fear. To our benefit, there are certified financial planners who will put our interest first and give us good financial advice.
“It just takes common sense and some time to ‘get’ finance.”
Once we understand the basic concept of finance, function and features of each investment product, we can choose the right one for us. In case you still think that you do not have the time or expertise, you can hire a financial planner. First, pick up this book and empower yourself. After you have learnt more, you can ask the right questions to the people selling you products or giving you advice. Just like physical fitness, financial fitness should not be a choice or a habit that you cultivate, it should be a lifestyle.
At twenty years old, I am scared and uncertain about what the future holds for me. I am at that crossing the threshold between college and corporate world stage in my life and my financial future seems so so so intimidating, school didn’t prepare us for this. But, and I say this with conviction that coming across books like Let’s Talk Money feels empowering. I feel a certain sense of confidence after reading the book.