Reader Story: A Force Awakens!

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This is a guest post by Guhan Ramanan, a friend I got to know through the blog. I requested Guhan to share his money management journey and hence this post.

Guhan is what I would call a ‘quick-to-understand’ investor.When he saw the value of managing money with a plan and in an organized way, a force awakened!

Guhan describes himself as

“an avid but quiet reader of this blog, hugely interested in technology, photography and spends most of his time sitting in airports, trying to make light of things!”

Despite his extremely busy schedule, Guhan was kind enough to videograph and post-process the second Chennai investor meet held on June 14th, 2015

Over to Guhan. Ps. The title is mine. If you don’t like it, I am to blame. All of us have the force within us to manage money well. We just need to believe that we do and harness it.


Till last year, I didn’t know my elbow from my head when it came to personal finance. I still have a long way to go, but this blog and Pattu have been a great source of inspiration, ideas and confidence in getting me started. Thank you Pattu for letting me share my experiences with your highly erudite readers.

A little context to demonstrate how dangerous an Engineering and MBA degree can be.

  1. 2004-2006 – Invested in well advised “stock tips” from friends and uncles – I never understood why they went up or down. (“Equity is long term you see…”)
  2. 2007 – Invested in Futures and Derivatives (“I learnt call and put options in MBA –it’s simple!”) – I lost all of it and then some.
  3. Intermittently reading “Outlook Money” and vague blogs, investing randomly in star-rated mutual funds and believing I was “distributing risk across asset classes”
  4. 2007, Q3 – Returning from the US, I thought the market was headed for 30K and jumped straight in. Oh, well the deep end was fun, till the waters receded next quarter. In hindsight, when my barber gave me stock tips in Mumbai, I should have paid closer attention!
  5. 2009 – The crash literally knocked some sense in me and my bank accounts.
  6. 2009-2014: I stuck to bank FDs! I even started a Recurring Deposit!

2014 – Two kids and a Vedanta class got me thinking as to what I was doing in life. Vedanta exhorts you to find purpose in life- and since it spoke of Artha (“security”) as the first step, I decided to figure out how much I really needed to be “secure”. And soon enough, I found this site and few others which caused me to think very differently about money.

Going through the retirement calculator and thinking “Wow – that much?” Naah, it must be an Excel mistake. Several hours of (unnecessary) formula-searching later, I came to the dismal conclusion that the sheet was right.

So, I thought about it some more and read some more blogs about investing (easier to read about it than do something about it!)  It eventually dawned on me, other than a few scattered bookmarks in browsers and downloaded Excel files, I was essentially in the same place, where I started months ago. So, I consolidated the action plan post into a simple table – and filled up what I knew and didn’t.

Here is a quick before and after.

ItemWhen I started PlanToday
Setup Emergency FundAll investment was in FDs – so all of it was “emergency”Consolidate FDs and earmark bucketsSpecific FDs + looking at liquid funds
Buy Term Insurance1 Jeevan Shree was all I had.Buy LIC. PeriodLIC eTerm(815) done.
Buy Health InsuranceProvided by officeLook at optionsStill looking at options!
Decide Investment StrategyMostly hoping everything will work out (Vague XL sheets that never got updated). It was mostly prayer, “tips” and bad luck.Quantify goals, and then build plan to get there.Wrote an investment plan that helped clarify what I was doing.
Equity/Debt AllocationHuh? Think asset diversification <insert fancy MBA jargon>60% Equity and 40% debtIt’s not as watertight, but generally there.
Choose instrumentsIdentified 3 MFs using Fund pickerWell defined equity portfolio, and 3 MFs that I invest in monthly
InvestMostly FD;
Sporadic equity purchases;
“Well recommended MFs” –
New ideas every time I read an article
Invest each monthNo SIP. I don’t like being bound to it – still prefer to invest when I like, every month though.

Fair warning: Pattu’s time estimates for how long each item should take – and how long it actually takes differ by a significant margin! I attribute this to my own ineptitude.

How has all this helped? Fundamentally, it altered the way I look at investment in 5 ways.

  1. Defining goals gave me perspective on *why* I’m investing, in the first place.
  2. My “Aha” moment was when I saw the Russian babushka dolls as a metaphor to understanding investment – The actual investments is only the smallest doll inside – there are many layers of risk to remove before that!
  3. Learnt to admire pretty TV anchors’ on CNBC and ignore their investment advice.
  4. Read a lot about behavioural biases and multi-disciplinary thinking and how influence investing.
  5. Investment advice is much like make-up tips – Products that look good on Aishwarya Rai might not necessarily work for you. Like all things “personal” – has to be “personalized” and apply with care, it is your money after all!

Ultimately you recognize that nobody is more interested making your money grow than you are. If you let others get more interested in your money than you – it isn’t your money any more!

Unlike youth and good looks, when you start investing, time is your friend. The journey to a 12% CAGR for 15 years begins on the day you invest – not the day you read about it!

May your investing journeys give you happy stories to tell by 2031, if you start today!



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If you find Guhan’s jouney inspiring and would like awaken your own force within, do consider consulting the links below (in the ‘you may also like’ segment)

May the force be with all of us!

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of  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. Mr. Ramanan,

    Congratulations to you for the “light” that clicked on for you. Even if it was serendipity that brought you to the blogs or to the disciplined art of investing, what is commendable is that you decided to take action and are now wiser for the effort that you put in. May you achieve all your goals and continue to inspire others through your self-deprecating writing style that speaks volumes about you…all in a good way.

    best regards/GS Seda

    1. Thank you Mr. Seda.

      I’m very happy to have found this blog, its erudite and very kind readers – innocently enough The “light” is all Mr. Pattu!

  2. Dear Guhan,
    Glad you’ve started on the journey, learning and progress would follow. I’m an advisor, but an investor at heart, so I’d recommend you decide on the medical insurance ASAP. In today’s world, we come across better opportunities and salaried employees often forget that between one job and the next, there is no medical insurance coverage. Maybe you could have a policy with relatively lower coverage, but atleast you have that policy to fall back on, at any time.

  3. Very well written dear Gruhan…although managing finance looks very simple….indeed it is one of the complex thing and needs proper monitoring. All the best in your investing journey. Thank you.

  4. Very well written dear Gruhan…although managing finance looks very simple….indeed it is one of the complex thing and needs proper monitoring. All the best in your investing journey. Thank you.

  5. Guhan,
    Very much glad to see the financial journey you described and I was feeling that journey as of my own way of evolution to newer levels of financial maturity. And I am sure there will be many more such individuals who are seeking the options for better future for them and for their family or for the society, in turn.
    Congratulations for that!

    I would just share a good book that I got very nice inspiration from. It is one of the books that we MUST read while we think of making LONG TERM financial plans for us. It is “Money: Master the Game – 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom” written by ‘Tony Robbins’. It is a kind of BEST investments we make, both in terms of payment of its book cost and time to read!

    I just have one query from your posts above. You do not invest in monthly SIPs. So how do you decide the time to invest? Is it just a given any ‘better’ day when stock market is pulled down by some news? A good thing. But it is human nature which gets fluctuating and it may become hard to decide – whether to invest now or wait for some more time (days) to invest. (A famous dialogue – “To be or not to be is a question!” This applies here as well.)

    So how is your experience by doing this ad-hoc time investment? Do you do it very often or how? Are there any incidents that you think you went sometimes wrong and you think, you must have done it differently? (I started doing SIP just now and I am not sure if I did it right or wrong. haha!)

    Any way, Good Luck! Pl. let me know. Thanks, in advance.

    And last, but not least – PATTU, you are a REAL HERO! I cam to know your website recently, around one month back or so, and by now, I am very much used to go and read various articles from you. ‘Freefinancial’ is become one of the sites that my day starts and ends with.
    Many Thanks For All Your Efforts!
    Many times when I see watch the excel tools you share, I always wonder you must be someone from commerce/ finance background.
    Sometimes, when I see these sheets, I guess, there MUST be at least a few incidents that you might have done personal investments and may be you faced odd situations where you might have burnt your hands black with that!
    With that experience, you make other cautious and suggest NOT to do wrong plans or investments!
    This is so nice of your genuine sincerity to guide! I really appreciate that and THANK YOU for all that effort!

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