Personal Finance Doctor

I am a part of the team  that does a column called “Portfolio Doctor” for Money Today magazine. This column is very popular – and the requests for being featured far, far exceeds the number of columns that can be carried.

So here is what the editor of MONEY TODAY has to say about the column:

Here is some feed back from Rohit Saran:

“Find a family concerned about its financial health. Ask for its income, expenses and investments. Check for the logic behind the investments. List out the financial goals this family has. Share these details with experts in wealth management and ask them to prepare a complete financial plan for the family. Review the plan with the family.“

“Write it down in a language that is interesting and instructive—complete with a family portrait. Do all of this for free and do it at least once every alternate week—month after month, year after year.“

“Hopelessly ambitious. That would be the justified reaction of anybody who is asked to undertake such an obligation. Yet, this is exactly the task we took upon ourselves when we started Money Today. In every issue since our launch, we have diagnosed in detail the financial health of a family.“

“Diagnosis is accompanied by prescription of what the family needs to do to improve its finances and secure its future. This section (portfolio doctor) has been our most popular and rewarding one.“

“We have been inundated with requests from readers willing to be featured and share their most intimate financial details. For us, this is a source of pride and inspiration. Pride, because we are making a difference, and are inspired to do our best to fulfill readers` expectations.“

“Each case that is examined goes through an elaborate process, akin to a medical examination. We make multiple calls to the head of the family asking for every single financial detail and future plans. A similar engagement takes place between the family and the financial expert (our partner Iris), and finally between Iris and us. Then comes the final test—to present the entire analysis in a way that is interesting and useful to readers.“

“To do the latter, we have been careful in choosing case studies from varied situations, geographies and income classes. It`s easy for us to say that we are making a difference, but where is the proof ? In our anniversary issue we had contacted a few past `patients` to check how they were doing after our `treatment`.“

“The response was overwhelming. Beginning this issue, we make this validation a regular feature. In every alternate issue of Money Today, we will bring you the experience of a family we profiled in the past. They will tell us how much of our prescription they followed with what results. So we now offer the prescription and proof of its curative effect on one sheet.”

Frankly a full review like this (completely unbiased, the team at Iris does not even speak to the client), Money Today and iris do not sell any financial products, and the recommendation is normally very hard hitting from the Iris side. However Kamya Jaiswal at Money Today tones it down and writes politely. At the Iris stage our analysts say “this client has no clue about equity markets”, “portfolio construction is a joke – this is a dhobi’s list”, “this client has 30 schemes and 74 direct equity investments, but 64% of his portfolio value is in 3 shares”, “luxury goals? he has enough money to last 3 years of retirement, ask him to cut his current life style” “He is bluffing about his cash expenses – ask him about lumpsum expenses not on a monthly basis”. Very few financial planners (or even trainers!!) will ever have the guts to speak to the customer in this tone!

So the end customer is getting a free, unbiased advice worth at least Rs. 25,000 – and also a follow up call to know how much has been implemented. A lot of the recommendations get implemented, but MT and iris cannot lose sleep over the non implemented part. However recommendations like ‘take life insurance’ is such a lose-lose game. If he takes and dies the family is not going to remember to thank Money Today. If he does not take but dies his wife is not going to remember that MT had asked him to take life insurance! Heads u lose, tails u lose. However, it is not a thankless job because many many people do take it seriously.

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