Three factors that make a difference to our financial success

Published: December 31, 2022 at 6:00 am

All of us dream. Some of our dreams are serious enough to become goals, and like it or not, many dreams are financial. That is, they require money to implement. Here are three key factors that decide our financial success. That is, how well we can achieve our financial goals. Although each individual is different, there are some similarities.

This post is inspired by a discussion with fee-only SEBI registered investment advisor Swapnil Kendhe. It is step 12 of our free ebook: Re-assemble Step by step money management basics.

The three factors are:

1: Being debt-free for the first few years of earning

2: Understanding the difference between a job and a career


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3: An understanding, cooperative and non-interfering life partner (if you choose to have one)

Before we begin, it is crucial to recognise that we cannot control everything that happens to us. Our role/responsibility in all of the above is only partial. Many cannot avoid debt even before they start earning. Most of us settle for a job instead of a career because of family circumstances or because we do not know what to do with ourselves – after school, after college or even now (like me).

How our life partner will turn out is, well, potluck. The point of this post is only to recognise the importance of these factors. Often, not much more can be done about it. However, if you are less than 30, chances are that you have time to turn it around. If you cannot, regret will not help.

1: Being debt-free for the first few years of earning

Building wealth depends primarily on when and how much you start investing. Where you invest is important but secondary.

Most young earners today start their earning careers in debt. Aside from an education loan (which is, in one sense, an investment), these are car loans/personal loans or credit card debt. There is a home loan, too, but it is often a bit down the line, so not too bad.

If you could avoid paying EMIs for the first five years after you start earning and invest only what you can  (enjoy your spending), it will make a huge difference to the corpus you create 20 years or 25 years later.

Rs. 12,000 a year invested at 10% return for 20 years gives about 6.9 Lakh. If you had started five years earlier, the corpus would be 1.7 times higher. If you had started ten years earlier, the corpus would be about 2.9 times higher. Time is not just the ultimate currency but also the ultimate wealth builder.

2: Understanding the difference between a job and a career

In the early 90s, when Star TV was in its infancy, I saw a movie scene that changed my perspective on work. A mother tells her young son, who says he will go to a job after college

not a job, son a career

Unfortunately, I am unable to recollect the name of the movie. That scene made me understand the difference between a job – doing as told and a career – a chance to progress from “doing as told” to telling others what to do or at least having considerable freedom of execution. There are, of course, many other definitions for “job vs career”.

Swapnil Kendhe’s point is: If a person spends several years after college focussed on building a career, she can start investing late and catch up comfortably as the salary would be pretty high (but would arrive late). Completely agree.

I started earning at 32 and spent 11 years after school pursuing BSc + MSc + Phd + post-doctoral assignments to land a tenured academic position. Though I started investing only by age 34, I could manage to achieve financial independence over the next 12 years or so. See Fourteen Years of Mutual Fund Investing: My Journey and lessons learned.

The point is that young earners currently employed can still appreciate the importance of a career and develop their skills. In today’s world, I would wager that it is still possible for anyone below about 40 years of age to move from a job to a career. This transition will cost time. However, if productive, the extra money can be put to good use.

As a parent, our job should be to gently help children understand this difference and push them to work hard. It is not easy and not always possible, but try we must (more on this later).

A career can also be defined as “doing something we love”. It can start as a hobby and gradually become an income that lasts a lifetime. See Passive Income Template: Steps to build a lifelong income.

3: An understanding, cooperative and non-interfering life partner

An understanding spouse is a lever and fulcrum combined for moving the world! There is no greater gift for those who wish to share their life. Unfortunately, it is almost always a gift. If we are not lucky, we must deal with what we have and hope for the best.

How to achieve financial success?

1: Avoid debt for at least the first few years of earning

2: Learn something new whether you are in a job or career. Nowadays, making money with new/existing skills is easy. You never know, your skill could become your new passion and career!

3: Discuss your goals, dreams and nightmares with your partner or partner-to-be. Be ready to change and meet her halfway.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over nine years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation for promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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