Skip to content

My Money Story (Or is it yours?): From Despair To Control To Contentment

I am a typical middle-class Indian in terms of birth, upbringing and manner. My interest in money management and investing stems from despair and anguish and not interest or passion. In this post, I discuss my failures, shocks and how they acted as a catalyst to seek financial independence. Although driven my specific events, my story is no different from of most middle-class Indians.

With the benefit of hindsight and word of mouth statistics, there are two common money mistakes that young earners are guilty of. In this context, a young earner is an unattached less than 30-year old, with no dependents and no loans.

  1. They spend like there is no tomorrow. Well, make that, spend like there is tomorrow.
  2. Buy crappy products for saving tax (depending on the context, this includes ELSS mutual funds that allegedly "literate" use).

I was guilty of the former. When I first got a taste of money 22 years ago as an MSc student, I was like a kid with candy. I immediately got a book on cinema for 3K. In today's money that is about 25K! The mindless spending would continue for the next 8 years with fellowships received in Rupee, Swiss Francs and Euros. As I have mentioned before, there is little point in regretting it, as we all evolve in different ways.

Academics and (medical) doctors are doomed to study for half their lives. I got my first paycheck a good 14 years after I finished school (BSc + MSc+Phd+2 post-doc assignments). Five days after salary day, my father's right leg broke on its own. Exactly a month later, his left leg broke. A couple of days later, we realised it was multiple myeloma - a form of bone marrow cancer and it was at an advanced stage.

No medical insurance, escalating hospital bills and a generous interest-free loan from my brother-in-law left with me a net worth of minus 3 lakh. At one stage my mom wanted to sell her jewels to fund his treatment.

To compound matters, I was trying to change jobs and was left salary-less for three months. If I had not joined IITM in Aug 2006, we would have been out of money in September.

When my father passed in late 2007, I thought I could breathe easy, but life likes to kick a fallen man and little did I know that it was just a taste of things to come.

The point is, I was spooked out of my ivory tower in which I thought my only responsibility was to study physics. Even a loan with no interest and no urgency to re-pay can cripple you emotionally (because you were not prepared for it). That is when I started to learn how to manage money and one thing lead to another.

Perhaps my journey from despair ---> a sense of control over money ---> contentment ----> financial independence in about a decade is a case of once bitten thrice shy.

Aside from systematic investing through market ups and downs, there is no take away from my story. The only reason I keep harping about it is to reiterate that simple actions combined with patience are all that is needed to build wealth.

At first sight, my story may appear to be an outlier - a rarity. In terms of actual events, it probably is, and I certainly pray that it should be. However, if you ignore that, there is a lot in common with me and typical 30+ earners.

Most of us in that age group suddenly wake up to realise that our financial life is a mess. Unlike me, even those who had been investing in one form or the other for close a decade realise that they have chosen unsuitable and /or ill-liquid products from which one cannot get out so easily. They too are spooked out of their slumber, perhaps by a friend (who showed them the freefincal retirement calculator over lunch 🙂 ), some article that they chanced upon or some new about how college fees are increasing. No need for a life altering event.

This results in a sense of urgency to set things right fast, regret over lost time and a fear that they may not catch up. In other words, despair.  Many have successfully come out of this state with a little effort and time.

My first book, You can be rich too (co-written with P V Subramanyam) aims to serve as a workbook for earners with dependents and responsibilities to ask the right questions and seek simple solutions.

Gamechanger, my second book co-written with the brilliant Pranav Surya, is an attempt to provide a framework and specific set of instructions for other aspects of money management like spending, travel, credit and financial independence.

Pranav is a mechanical engineer with an MBA in hospitality and tourism. He has worked in 4 countries across 3 continents and is currently working in the tourism industry. He is an expert backpacker with extensive travelling experience.

As Pranav will explain later this week, the book focusses on aspects like productivity, using credit cards wisely and some awesome travel tips that drastically reduce your next international holiday. If you have never taken one, the book will give you the confidence to do so. These topics should be of interest to all age groups.

The investing part of money management is written with 20-somethings who are about to or have just started their career in mind. Hopefully, it would serve as a gamechanger for them to get things right the first time around, unlike us.  It is our aim to demonstrate that fun and prudence can co-exist to create financial independence for today and tomorrow. More about this in tomorrow's post.

Our aim so to keep the price of the hard copy and kindle as low as possible so that we can reach out to a wide audience. We have a special offer for all email subscribers to freefincal and pranavsurya.com (this was announced earlier) before the book is available for pre-order at Amazon. So keep any eye out.

As always, feel free to ask any questions regarding gamechanger, share your thoughts on this post, including your own "scared into action" story.

If you have not subscribed to receive freefincal posts, please do so now. You will be eligible for the special offer if you subscribe before the countdown ends.

Download Gamechanger Table of Contents

=-=-=-=-=

Ask Questions with this form

And I will respond to them next weekend. I welcome tough questions. Please do not ask for investment advice. Before asking, please search the site if the issue has already been discussed. Thank you.

Kolkata DIY Investor Workshop May 28th, 2017

Register for the Kolkata DIY Investor Workshop May 28th, 2017

You Can Be Rich Too With Goal-Based Investing

You can be rich too with goal based investing is my new book with PV Subramanyam. If you have not yet got the book, check out the reviews below and use the links to buy.
Reader Quotes:

particularly useful for first time investors

Every earner should read this

Five stars. Gifted my friend. He found it very helpful

If you want a book that's unbiased and that will hold your hand and walk you through the personal finance jungle, then buy this.. the best thing 300 bucks could buy you.

Gift it to your Friends and Relatives whom you care more. Already follower of Pattu and Subra's forum. Ordered 4 more copies to give gift to my friends and eagerly waiting to read

The best book ever on Financial Freedom Planning. Go get it now!

Your first investment should be buying this book

The (nine online) calculators are really awesome and will give you all possible insights

Thank you, readers, for your generous support and patronage.

Amazon Hardcover Rs. 317.
21% OFF

Kindle at Amazon.in (Rs. 90.74 74% OFF) Read with free app

Google PlayRs. 90.74 Read on your PC/Tablet/Mobile
Infibeam Now just Rs. 315 24% OFF.

If you use a mobikwik wallet, and purchase via infibeam, you can get up to 100% cashback!!

Bookadda Rs. 344. Flipkart Rs. 359

Amazon.com ($ 3.70 or Rs. 267)

  • Ask the right questions about money
  • get simple solutions
  • Define your goals clearly with worksheets
  • Calculate the correct asset allocation for each goal.
  • Find out how much insurance cover you need, and how much you need to invest with nine online calculator modules
  • Learn to choose mutual funds qualitatively and quantitatively.

More information is available here: A Beginner's Guide To Make Your Money Dreams Come True!

What Readers Say


Create a "from start to finish" financial plan with this free robo advisory software template


Free Apps for your Android Phone

Install Financial Freedom App! (Google Play Store)


Install Freefincal Retirement Planner App! (Google Play Store)


Find out if you have enough to say "FU" to your employer (Google Play Store)


About Freefincal

Freefincal has open-source, comprehensive Excel spreadsheets, tools, analysis and unbiased, conflict of interest-free commentary on different aspects of personal finance and investing. If you find the content useful, please consider supporting us by (1) sharing our articles and (2) disabling ad-blockers for our site if you are using one. We do not accept sponsored posts, links or guest posts request from content writers and agencies.

Blog Comment Policy

Your thoughts are vital to the health of this blog and are the driving force behind the analysis and calculators that you see here. We welcome criticism and differing opinions. I will do my very best to respond to all comments asap. Please do not include hyperlinks or email ids in the comment body. Such comments will be moderated and I reserve the right to delete the entire comment or remove the links before approving them.

Do let us know what you think about the article