29 December, 2011

Planning for the year ahead

It was dark.  Bala got out of bed to go to the bathroom. On his way, he  saw light streaming out of the hall. How many times I have asked Pranay to switch off the TV before going to bed -  he was cursing under his breath. When he reached the hall, he was able to see that the TV was off and a blinding light was coming from the far-end, near the sofa. 

Bala was thoroughly perplexed. For a moment he thought something was afire. The light was however a powerful white light and there were no flames or smoke.

He was confused. He heard a voice call him. For a moment, fear paralysed him. The light was now subsiding and he was able to make out the silhouette of someone seated on the sofa. He panicked, thinking that it might be a burglar.

Sensing his panic, the figure addressed in a soothing voice, ”Don’t worry Bala. Don’t you recognize me? ”. Bala’s panic subsided; but he was questioning his sanity now. He slowly moved forward and found a  saintly figure seated on the sofa, with a flowing beard – much like Bhisma pithamaha.

Somehow the benign countenance comforted Bala.  He felt a surge of reverence well within him. “No Sir, I’m not able to recognize…”, he trailed. Then it dawned on him that this could be the Lord himself. He immediately fell to his feet and when he looked up, he saw the Lord, as he imagined him. Then he was back to being the Bishma pithamaha.

Words failed Bala. The great one gave tongue. “We are almost upon the new year.  You people make resolutions and then promptly break them. Why don’t you keep them for a change?”.

Bala’s tongue still was in knots. The Grand Sire intoned –“Let’s see what you can do in the next year – Finances is an area which you have mismanaged, all along. Why not take a few resolutions in that area and keep them?”

Bala’s heart was in his mouth. Finances were his nemesis. He could hardly manage two plus two – forget about managing finances. For a moment he was angry. Then he realized that he was dealing with The Almighty. Bala felt privileged, for God had chosen to talk to him, though it was on finances.

Invest before spending, said the Sire. Now this was a new paradigm for Bala. He normally spent almost everything and invested if he had anything left behind. The Lord knew what was going on in his mind. “You always have to think about the future. Future is not always as rosy as we think & hence the need to save”, cautioned the Lord. This got Bala a bit worried… was God hinting at an upcoming problem… a job loss perhaps?

“No, that is not what I’m getting at”, said the Sage, reading Bala’s mind. “I was just being cautionary and meant that one should put aside money to meet future goals. But many of you cash out your future income itself, by taking loans and buying what you cannot afford.  So, that’s the next one you should not do”, the Lord said.

Was he talking about him, wondered Bala again.  Bala had been in the habit of taking loans at the drop of the hat. He has a home loan, car loan, personal loan & a small loan for the washing machine.  Yes, he could have postponed some of it – like the washing machine. He had replaced a perfectly working washing machine with a new one, since he liked the technical wizardry,the bells and whistles the new machine had.
The-cashing-in-your-future-bit now hit him. He realized at once that he was recklessly spending his future earnings and is also jeopardizing achievement of major future goals, like retirement and education for his children, by throwing money on unnecessary thingies.

Bala resolved then and there that he will put a stop to such impulsive purchases and giving wing to flights of fancy.

The Sage was smiling. “That’s good”, he said.  That will ensure that you don’t have to keep looking for a new job, every couple of years. Bala was speechless. He had just that idea the previous evening, but he had dismissed it. He was doing well in his position. The thought had come in the first place, as he was struggling to make ends meet, inspite of his good income.

“Be realistic in your expectations. Be willing to take some risk. Give your investments time. Don’t worry too much after investing. You should have done that before”, the Lord said.

Sage counsel – Bala thought.  We all invest in something and start worrying. We pick up the paper and check the quotes and get palpitation. We don’t give the investments time. And in those cases where we cannot check, like property, we don’t worry, we retain it for long and tend to make money. Bala instantly understood that risk reduces with time – risk is inversely proportional.

“And finally, don’t chase fads. Don’t invest because everyone else is investing. Invest only if it makes sense in your portfolio. Invest as per the asset allocation required in your case for meeting the goals. What is good for one, need not be good for another”, held forth the Lord.

Bala was deep in thought. Yes. All these are good advice, which I should incorporate, he thought. There was a blinding light and the Lord was gone. Bala was in an uplifted mood now. He cannot go back to sleep now. He saw that the clock and it said it was five in the morning. He resolved to go for an early walk. The weather was great. When he hit the road, there was a cycle passing by with a man gaily pedaling and waving to him. “All will be well”, he said while he passed and then pedaled away in a jiffy. Bala saw the beard and he thought he caught a glimpse of the Bhisma pithamaha!

Article by Suresh Sadagopan ; Published in Moneycontrol.com on 29/12/2011     

No comments: