There was a lot of unrest and anxiousness in the gang of friends living in a residential complex in the suburbs. There were a lot of dreams, and a lot of talent, too. However, there were not enough resources or support from their homes.
Kyra and Piyush were brilliant Hip-hop dancers, who wanted to hone their skills and perform in Europe and North America before returning to India to launch a dance academy.
Nathan was a gifted caricature and cartoon artist. A big fan of Mario Miranda, Nathan had his own unique style of cartooning and a witty perspective about the world around him. He had a lot in mind to say through comics and graphic storytelling.
Amy and Shelly were cooking enthusiasts. If not browsing the internet for new recipes around the world, the duo would be experimenting with a new dish in any of the friends’ kitchen, while the others eagerly await to taste and comment.
Aaryan was a bit different from the group as he was more interested in science and space more than any art form.
Yet, they were all great buddies, almost of similar age group, who hung out together after college. Their parents were little cogs in the giant machinery of the city’s economy. They worked 9 – 5 and travelled for four hours each day in crammed-up trains and buses. Week after week and year after year, their parents struggled relentlessly to keep their heads above the surface, while their children grew up in creches with caregivers, and learned to look after themselves very early in life.
While there was a lot of uncertainty about the future among the gang of friends, they all were clear on one thing – not ending up like their parents who were enslaved by money.
Often, the group gathered in the small society park in the afternoon and discussed plans of a bright future, until their parents came late in the evening. If you could see this group of dreaming, planning and yearning young people, you would feel the taut, palpable mixture of anxiety, emotion and energy strung around them.
Each one of the friends experienced a mixed ball of fear and hope about the future rolling in the stomach, a feeling that only the youth can understand.
The story would have ended differently; the talent and yearning would have perished in the grind of life, had they not spoken to the wise old man that day.
Like the group of youngsters, the 75 years old Mr Bond (he once called himself that, no one knew if that was true) would also visit the park with his bundle of newspapers and a writing pad, and stayed till it got dark.
The youngsters discounted Mr Bond’s presence as he would sit quietly and never utter a word. The group had started to treat Mr Bond’s presence like the hedge marking the perimeter of the tiny park.
One afternoon, Amy and Shelly had cooked a Japanese gourmet dish, which they carried to the park for everyone to taste. Out of courtesy, they also offered it to Mr Bond, who, to their surprise, accepted the dish with a smile. After a mouthful, he exclaimed, “Ummm … delicious Tempura. Very well cooked.”
Amy and Shelly were surprised, “Mr Bond, you knew about this Japanese dish.”
“Hmm … I have had it in Japan, as well as Portugal where it is really from. But tell you the truth, I found the Japanese version much better,” he winked and laughed.
The whole group of friends was quite curious to know more about Mr Bond, and if he was rich enough to afford travels around the world.
Mr Bond was quite amused to see the group surrounding him like a bunch of reporters, excitedly shooting questions towards him.
As the youngsters looked expectantly at Mr Bond, he began telling them his story.
“I was born in a little town in a household way poorer than yours,” he began, smiling.
“And I didn’t like to live with limited resources, just like you guys. I wanted to be free of financial obligation and never wanted to slave hard to earn a little money as my parents did. I wanted to roam around the world, learn new cultures and eat exotic food from far off lands.
“My parents would often tell me that there is no point having dreams that couldn’t come true, and that I must accept my reality. But that was a bit too much for me,” he laughed heartily.
“As I grew up, I started learning skills, randomly. By the time I was about the age to join college, I could fix a transistor, weave baskets and make puppets,” Mr Bond said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“But do you know, which was the most important skill that I learnt while growing up?” the group shook their heads in a no, transfixed in the wonderful story narrated by Mr Bond.
“It was the skill of learning to manage money. I once taught Math – yes, I was really good in the subject – to the children of a rich gentleman who took a liking to me, and taught me some valuable lessons,” Mr Bond said with a faraway look in his eyes.
“What were the lessons,” a curious Nathan asked impatiently.
Mr Bond smiled and bent a little to look closely at the faces around him, “He taught me that money saved is money earned. He taught me to distinguish between needs and wants. And most importantly, he taught me to work hard initially in my life, make regular investments and to make money work for me instead of me working for money.”
There was pin-drop silence in the park. The group had never heard about money working for people. It was always the other way around!
On their persistence to elaborate, Mr Bond told them that when you start investing the money instead of spending it, you earn more money as a return on the money you have invested. Over a period of time, your money starts to grow, in turn, attracting more returns as it grows. See, that’s your money working for you,” explained Mr Bond.
As the group of friends tossed and turned the idea in their heads, Aaryan whispered one thought that loomed in everyone’s mind, “But we have no money of our own to invest.”
“Well, you are lucky, you have mutual funds, where you can invest as low as Rs 500 per month. There was nothing like this when I was growing up,” Mr Bond imitated a sulking child.
The group didn’t know anything about mutual funds, so, Mr Bond explained to them that in a mutual fund, several investors contribute to creating a big pool of money, which is invested in the stock market by a qualified and experienced Fund Manager. Investors have the option to pay small sums of money in a mutual fund through SIPs (Systematic Investment Plan) each month.
“Drop by drop, you add money to your portfolio, which grows at a compounded rate, building huge wealth over a long period of time, say over ten years,” explained Mr Bond.
“I can manage to save Rs 500 per month from my allowances,” said Piyush.
“Me, too!” exclaimed Kyra.
“So can I,” chimed in Aaryan and Shelly.
Soon, all the children agreed to cut down their expenses to make room for investment. Mr Bond also introduced the children to researching various mutual funds and the stock market investments through blogs and articles.
With their parents’ permission and blessings, the children started investing in mutual funds through SIPs. They knew it well that this is going to be a long journey and they have to disciplined all through it. But that didn’t deter the talented, resolute youngsters as they were ready to take concrete steps towards improving their situation and break the shackles of livelihood. They knew the process of their transformation has begun, and that knowledge channelized their energy and talents into a more productive and rewarding way.
Nave Marg and Dr Celso Fernandes, author of five much-loved books and a leading crusader for financial literacy in Goan youth, help students secure a brighter future by spreading financial awareness. Dr Celso believes that if all the students become financially free and not depend on their jobs to survive, they can pursue careers of their choice, create and innovate lovely things and be happy and caring citizens of India.