For many generations we have believed what we own (i.e. items on which we are allowed to put our names) are our assets, and monies that we owe are our liabilities. It took Robert Kiyosaki to tell us that assets that put money in our bank are our real assets – equity shares, rental property, mutual funds, unit-linked plans etc. I like to make the distinction a little differently – the “show off” assets – house, car, beach shack, and the boring assets – like mutual funds or unit linked policies – the former is loved, most people do the latter grudgingly. What you need to remember is that many artistes died broke and top of the mind recall are – Marilyn Monroe, and Marlon Brando. You keep hearing stories about how Michael Jackson has no money to pay his lawyers. The descendants of the last king of India – Bahadur Shah Zafar and the descendants of the last king of Bengal are not exactly middle class. Far from it. If you see the list of Indian film stars, who either died a pauper or have made a mess of their wealth by not leaving a clear will is quite shocking. The list could go on, naming big sports figures, entertainers, entrepreneurs and many folks who accumulated it a few rupees at a time by hard work and thrift. All of them had too many of the “show off” assets, but perhaps none of the “boring” assets. Too many people have learned that making a fortune is the easy part. The difficult part is in managing it. What all this means is how much money you have is a function of how well you managed your money, nor really how much you earned. If money management skills are, equal how is it that the Forbes list of the richest people keeps changing every year? If your money is not useful and available to you when you need it for yourself or your loved ones, money is useless. Your confidence to back answer your boss should come from your “net worth statement”, not your “next work” that you are able to get.Let us see what we can do to ensure that the money that we earn creates security for us.
· Too many people I meet are Income rich and balance sheet poor: If you earn Rs.1, 500,000 a year, but spend Rs.1.503, 000, you are broke, worse off than the person who earns Rs.500, 000 but spends only Rs.450, 000. You may be income-statement rich, but you are asset poor. Not enough people are able to realize that the amount of money in the retirement or pension kitty and the amount of life insurance is a function of your CURRENT life style, not the lifestyle you had 5 years back. Financial security comes from being able to live off your assets – and not need the job by the time you are 45.
· Start learning about money – it is not a difficult task. Start taking interest in how credit cards work, how to live within a budget, mutual funds, unit linked plans, financial goal setting, making a will, etc. Managing money is not in any academic syllabus at any academic institution, but you still need to know it. So go ahead, and learn. More importantly, for the women who are reading this article please ensure that you learn about money and encourage your friends, colleagues, daughters, daughters in law, etc. to learn about money. Money is not a “man” thing as much as “cooking” is not a “woman” thing.
· Don’t confuse debt with wealth. If you buy a Rs.8 million house with a Rs.7.75 million mortgage, you are not worth Rs.8 million. You are Rs.7.75 million in debt. Last week when my broker bought a car, he did not borrow any portion of the Rs. 14 lakhs that he needed to buy it. His logic was simple; many of the investments that he had made would yield him less than 15% p.a return – including his PPF. His logic was why should you borrow at a rate higher than the rate at which you lend? Most rich people do not borrow because they do not have money. They borrow because their assets are capable of earning much more than the rate at which they borrow. And as Robert Kiyosaki says in his book the rich buy the boring (my terminology) assets first and then use the income from these assets to buy the “luxuries” that we cannot live without.
· Get good advice: And then listen to them. A great portfolio manager manages my equity portfolio – and he keeps giving good results in all kinds of markets. My role in the good performance of my portfolio is simple – I let him be. Financial advisors like doctors are busy and they like involved and non-interfering clients. You may need a financial planner, a portfolio manager, and a banker. Or a simple mutual fund distributor. Once you have found a good advisor, trust her to perform.
· Retire gracefully: Plan for your retirement. Retirement is an amount of money, not an age. If you are a business owner, for instance, don’t assume you will be able to sell it for the “right” price when you are ready to retire. Keep shifting some money from “business” to the “personal” bucket of finances. Rather than put all your eggs in one basket, set aside a percentage of all earnings in conservative assets to help guarantee a secure retirement, no matter what happens to your other assets.
· Protect with life insurance. is the item that people pay attention to only when approached by an agent. Life insurance is a tremendous tool to help achieve distribution goals, all generally income-tax-free. It puts tremendous amount of liquidity and gives peace of mind. I know men who have constantly told their wives “use the life insurance money to pay off the mortgage if I were not around”. I would rather have guys telling their wives “I have a life insurance policy and Saki is our financial planner. I trust her, and so can you. Ask her how to collect the insurance money and consultatively chose an investment option. Use the notes we made at the financial planning seminar we attended”. Ha, that will be the day. If you do all this, will your wealth give you security? Well there are no “assured return” schemes any more. You need to keep learning and trying. However, by addressing the above issues, you can dramatically increase the potential for turning the wealth you’ve achieved into long-term financial security for yourself and for your loved ones.
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