We lost sleep after using a retirement calculator! This is how we recovered

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Most of us would take an instant liking to those who ask intelligent, logical questions. If they are (much) younger than you, it is also both exhilarating and inspiring at the same time. Sandeep Bondili is one such young earner from the Facebook group, Asan Ideas for Wealth. Impressed by his approach to money management, I invited him to share his relationship with money over the years. You would agree that his honesty and earnestness shines through. I hope this article serves as motivation to all those who got scared after using a retirement calculator! (This is an online version, you can try the app version or the more advanced robo template)

Before we begin some announcements: I have started two new series on the Youtube Channel: Monday Money Mantra – where we talk about generating secondary income and different ways to do it online. Weight Loss Wednesdays – discussions on losing weight and healthy living. Do check them out and subscribe to the channel. Hopefully this summer I shall also be able to start making more Tamil videos and some Hindi ones too.

This post is part of reader story series. Pratik Jain wrote about the Dilemma of a Young Investor fresh out of college! Ananth discussed an investor’s mid-life crisis: the dilemma of delayed financial Gyan Niten talked about How he selected a health insurance policy Check out the full series. Now over to Sandeep.

We lost sleep after using a retirement calculator! This is how we recovered

Here is my journey so far with money, where and how we started, how we evolved accompanied by the transitions in my life. I hope you like it.

Thief to accountant

I stole money from my home when I was a kid. Mom caught me and something miserable happened on that day. It was so brutal that I realised right away, at the age of 5 or 6, that if I need that coin, I should never steal it. My mom felt bad too, but she had a jugaad. She asked me to help her in grocery shopping, from the age of 8. She wrote what she wants on a paper and then I should get her the receipt. So, that’s when she worked on correcting my impulsions. I slowly stopped looking at that mahalacto chocolate. She asked me to recollect and explain the expenses incurred a week ago, two weeks ago. I remembered most of them, and that’s how I was trained to track the expenses.

Back to a thief and then to saver

The kid grew up and attained the age of 10 or 11. Mom felt proud too on how I corrected myself. That’s when I fell victim to peer pressure. For an event, everyone in the class contributed ten rupees and I, with five. I didn’t like it, and so I stole money again from home, a whopping 30 rupees. And the act got exposed. This time, there were no punishments, but a system was established, where I had to earn money.

Every time, I bring groceries, I can retain any coin or note which is special – any special pattern I establish on notes, or a coin that marks a special event, e.g., Coins launched for events, or notes ending with 100 etc. And then I can spend them whenever I want, how much ever I want. No restrictions. It was fun initially, but earning those coins and notes was very tough. So tough, that I fell in love with that hobby and I collected a lot. But it was so difficult for me to spend, especially for useless things or one time fun.

I was trained subconsciously to earn and to spend only on value for money cases. The lesson was so strong that even today, my mom and wife say, I am a miser.

Saver to an investor?

I completed my schooling and college. For graduation, I needed a bank account and ATM. Dad is a bank employee, and I got them in a jiffy. For me, the account was a place where dad puts money. ATM was a card that gives me that money. I completed my graduation and got my first job too. But I was still a saver, I was still a miser.

Saver to goal-based saver

When I received my first salary, I wanted to prove something strange to myself. My first goal was, I WANT TO BE A LAKHPATI. So the saver-miser duo worked aggressively towards it. Within one year, six digits were in my bank account. I was proud and told to my parents, they were happy. I met my first goal. But they sensed something fishy They asked; you could have saved more and quick, what went wrong? INCOME TAX.

Goal-based saver to “investor”

This was when mom told me about 80C, insurances, PPF and how they work and why they are important. She works in insurance domain, and she loves endowment policies. So, she told, that I already have three policies on my name and going forward; I must pay the premiums. I thanked my parents for whatever they have done so far, happily accepted the request. I went and opened a PPF account too.

Wait, No. Twist. I was a victim again, of cross-selling. I opened Postal Life insurance instead of opening a PPF account. Two such policies! A few days later, I felt odd. I don’t know what it was, but I wanted to open a PPF account. I spoke to my mom. She said, fine do it, if that’s what you want to do. I opened a PPF account too in the same post office. That’s how it started. I was earning, and I was an “investor”, with five endowment policies and a PPF Account.

Investor to Mutual Funds investor

I wanted to see real money in my bank account. I loved it. Daily. I used to wait for the days when I get quarterly interest credit on my SB account. The Endowment policies and PPF were not increasing my bank balance. PPF Interest comes once in a year and Endowment policies at the maturity. My money was not increasing every day in my bank account. So, thanks to The Hindu business line, welcome FundsIndia.

On my own, in 2010, I opened an account to invest in mutual funds. I opted three funds, one large cap, one mid cap and one small cap. SIP. 50-25-25 was the asset allocation. The goal was to fund my MBA hostel fees. All this while I did not know about market cap, asset allocation. Life was so simple with this SIP. My bank balance was not increasing, but my portfolio was growing. Slowly, I felt happy.

Enter inflation

Meanwhile, Inflation hit me hard. So hard. The curry point fellow increased the charge of 1 dal packet from Rs 10 to Rs 15 overnight. That MTC bus increased the bus ticket to my office from Rs 5 to Rs 8 overnight. That canteen increased the prices two-fold. I increased my SIP realizing that this is how the real world is going to be. The bank balance was not increasing, and the miser in me didn’t like the change happening in my life. He was so adamant that he pushed me to reconsider my thoughts on increasing the SIP and re-focus on increasing the bank balance. I was a fool.

Mutual Funds Investor to Goal based Saver, again!

I wanted to see real money in my bank account every day. But the portfolio was not growing up to my expectations. I lost money, every day, a lot (notionally). Then I realised that Equity is not for me. That tantrik who wrote my jatakam when I was born was right. My mom was right. Equity is not for me.

So back to square 1. I kept the money in my bank, idle. For six years of my active earning life, I kept money in a savings bank account; reached 7 seven figure balance. I was so proud to see a five-digit quarterly interest. Meanwhile, I married the love of my life in 2017.

Sandeep guest author

Goal-based saver to goal-based investor

Life changed a lot, post marriage. My wife is a minimalist. Even though my parents, grandparents and in-laws pressurised us to buy a home and save some tax, she stood by my side and never pushed for a home. She is comfortable staying in a rented house. I too realized that I couldn’t combat inflation and accumulate for the down payment with quarterly interest. That’s when we restarted my SIP’s in 2017. I asked my wife to open an account with FundsIndia, and we started to save for down payment, car etc. We were investing for our goals. We were goal based investors. That’s what we thought, though we don’t know the term.

Using a retirement calculator for the first time!

I hate to write sentences in the past tense. Don’t know why. In summer 2018, I came across a term called FIRE. Then I found freefincal blog, and from there on I found AIFW -like magic. My initial thoughts, before reading was, they would have written what my parents taught me so far. But, I was wrong. So I binge read all the posts from the professor and in AIFW.

Trust me, each sentence in the BASICS and reassemble series is a gem. My wife and I had to unlearn and relearn a lot of things. We had to change our priorities in our life. Simple is so complicated to attain. And then one fine evening, My wife and I sat together and opened the divine Retirement corpus calculator from our very own professor. I lost sleep for two days. My wife lost sleep for a week. It showed the total corpus as 13 crores if we have to retire by 45. We are 29 now. She felt so bad that she hates to have any monetary discussions with me now.

Goal-based and DIY investing

We took one step at a time. Started classifying the seven digit bank balance.

  • Opened term insurances for my wife and me. Though the number is what we want, it’s better to have some than zero.
  • Opted medical insurance for my wife with professional help. I had one already, thanks to my parents again.
  • Created six months of expense as an emergency corpus.
  • Classified three short term expenses and met them 95% from the balance left.
  • Understood the need for the medical corpus. Target is so simple, 50 lakhs by 2022. To be used for any medical expenses of my parents, in-laws, ourselves and kids. On track.
  • Started investing in index funds, Ultrashort funds for Kids education, Retirement, though not as required. Whatever that’s left, we are investing for home.
  • Closed my postal life insurances.

This FY targets

  • To focus on creating a lifestyle and things which have a big impact on our health and wealth.
  • To try and think and act like a rich guy. See: Want To Get Rich? Write Yourself A One Crore Cheque!
  • To try and be as frugal as possible.
  • To check our CIBIL scores.
  • To correct the mistakes which I did concerning our term insurances.
  • To further refine the goals.
  • To take the accidental insurance and finish off the BASICS.
  • Have a habit of keeping some amount at home and as minimum as required in banks.
  • To try something, maybe an app or something, which will at least bring 1000 rupees per annum till we retire. SeeWhy a second income is important! Why you have to start now!

We want to be debt free and EMI free as long as possible and we hope that our circumstances permit it. By God’s grace, if we don’t touch our medical corpus, we will donate it to an NGO.

We are Dual Income No Kids. Thanks to my super-minimalist wife, so far, we are able to save and invest 70% of our take home. By some efforts, we will try to top-up by 10% next year. That’s how money and I evolved, thanks to my parents, my wife and all the teachers in my financial journey. It is a very long post. My sincere apologies if I have wasted any of your precious time. I am sharing this with my parents too; I hope they like it.


Thank you for sharing Sandeep. I am sure your journey would inspire many young earners to start to work on their financial goals and basic fortification. Please join me in wishing Sandeep the very best for his future. 

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of freefincal.com.  He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras since Aug 2006. Pattu” as he is popularly known, has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management.  He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Pattu publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates  and associations(see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, TamilNadu Investors Association etc. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
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  1. Great stuff Sandeep! Thank you for sharing, it helps and good luck with your goals.

    Pattu sir: you should share this with family too. Am sure they will be filled with joy knowing you are inspiring all of us!

  2. I think we complicate retirement planning too much for no reason.
    All we should be doing is accumulate enough corpus at slightly above inflation rate during our working years.

    Lets say, 25K is our monthly expenses for 2 (husband and wife) today. We need to accumulate (25K + X) per month and allow it to grow at the rate of inflation, where X is an extra cushion we may need, to be comfortable. If we do this, we will accumulate enough corpus by retirement which can then be put in a debt/balanced fund for SWP.
    The rate of return could vary at that time and we need to assume that it will be around the inflation rate at that time, which will mostly protect the principal amount from reducing month by month.

    Now how to reach this: Is PF and PPF not sufficient to accumulate this corpus? I think it will be, considering they fetch 8-8.5% tax free interest which is more than the current inflation rate. If we need higher return, we anyway can to go to equity option also.
    Of course one has to have health/term insurance and children education expenses covered on top of this.

    Note: Expenses today will be much more than 25K for a family because we have EMIs, other expenses for kids etc.
    Just for a couple at retirement, there will be substantial reduction in expenses and above mentioned amount could be sufficient to lead a comfortable life in a metro city.

    So I think if ppl are doing this much, there is not much to fuss about.

    Any comments are welcome as I see several posts complicating retirement and pointing huge amounts to accumulate for no reason.

  3. Sandeep, your investment journey made me recollect my past thirty five years (I am happily in to retirement years now)… Being a PhD, our earning life and job career starts pretty late compared other professionals and added to that I was married with a kid by the time I entered the job market…. Forget investments, our challenge was saving money for Lactogen and other baby food essentials in the early years of my earning life!!
    We started small and ensured our savings with a compulsory RD equal to 15% of my take home pay and like you we made many mistakes, bought useless LIC policies because some relatives suggested them… We missed many an opportunities in late eighties,like investing in an Hiranandani apartment at Powai when they launched the complex there as we lacked the royal sum of one and half lakhs needed for buying the one BHK flat…. Looking back, our investment journey went through similar self discovery and settled in smoothly with investing in equity mutual funds and now living our retired life with SWP in such a way to ensure our corpus will last till my wife turns ninety….
    Moral : Start early even if it is five hundred rupees a month…
    Regards, Dr. S. Hariharan

  4. Hi,
    I was nice reading it.

    Saving 70% of your take home is quite impressive (must depends on how much you earn).

    No ownership of house is again a brave step. Once I also thought of doing the same and in 1-2 months get call from owner to vacate the house.

    Now again the house purchase delima started.

    Good to read honest story and how your Mom motivated and course corrected you timely.


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