The summer break had just begun, and Joanna had a lot of things on her mind. After a strenuous academic year, she had passed High School with flying colours.
One evening, after a dip in the pool, Joanna found her parents poring over a bunch of papers. Their serious expressions, feverish tapping on the calculator and scribbling on various sheets suggested that something ominous was going on.
After changing, Joanna made coffee for the three of them. She settled herself on a vacant chair on the dining table – where her parents sat engrossed in a discussion.
‘Ok. Can anyone tell me what’s going on?’ Joanna couldn’t bear it any longer.
‘Umm … nothing much, we were calculating how much funds would we need to live on after retirement,’ her mother explained.
‘ … and I must say, even if we reach half of it with the current saving rate, we would be lucky,’ Joanna’s father added brightly in his trademark humorous manner.
But the matter was not to be laughed away, Joanna could tell. Her mother drew in a sharp breath, Joanna noticed – as if taking the blow silently.
It tormented Joanna that she couldn’t help. She knew how hard her parents worked to get her the best of the comforts and opportunities in life. Joanna had always admired her parents, who were frugal in their means and were very practical people. They never spent on nonsensical things, and always made it a point to save money and invest in fixed deposits.
But clearly, that was not enough. Probably they needed to earn more or save more or both!
Joanna woke up the next day with a ticklish feeling that came from knowing that while the whole world is scampering and rushing about to face Monday blues, she had absolutely nothing to do!
She woke up a bit later than usual to an empty house. The scattered evidence of a rushed exit from her working parents were all over the place; the half-empty coffee mugs, a barely-nibbled toast, and next to it, Joanna’s breakfast and lunch, packed neatly in casseroles.
Joanna was still figuring out how to deal with the hot sunny day when her friend, Rose, called up.
Rose told Joanna that her mother was insisting that she should go for a financial literacy seminar being conducted in the neighbourhood.
‘I will get so bored, please come with me, please, pretty please!’ begged Rose.
Hearing the words financial literacy, Joanna couldn’t help but think of her parents’ dilemma.
‘I will come with you,’ promised Joanna, much to Rose’s surprise, who expected Joanna to set some conditions for giving her company for such a ‘dull’ event.
At the designated hour, both the friends reached the venue and the seminar began.
And it changed Joanna’s world.
The financial expert conducting the seminar explained how traditional investments like Fixed Deposits actually decrease the capital owing to the ever-rising inflation, or in simple words, cost of living.
He explained that investing in the stock market makes inflation work in the investors’ favour. He went on to explain how small investors, even young students, could start investing regularly – committing as low as Rs 500 a month – and build a massive wealth over a decade.
Once the seminar got over, Joanna kept sitting, mesmerised at what she had just heard. If what the financial expert had said was true, her parents could build a retirement fund much larger than they planned. Moreover, if she started investing small sums of money each month, she had the opportunity to be a millionaire by the time she turned 25 years of age!
The thought made her feel happy and relieved.
That evening, she waited impatiently for her parents to arrive home from work.
As her parents entered the house, after a visibly rough day, Joanna led them by hand to the dining table, where three steaming cups of coffee were waiting besides a plate with a few slices of cake Joanna had baked – one of her recent obsessions.
‘What is it Jo?’ her father said irritably, but as soon as he spotted the cake and coffee, he became rather cheerful, ‘Oh, a treat from our beloved daughter!’ he beamed.
Joanna looked at her parents with a mysterious smile as they took mouthfuls of cake and blew at the hot coffee.
‘Ok. Your problem from yesterday is solved,’ she finally broke the silence.
Her parents looked at each other quizzically.
‘Well, I had gone for a financial literacy class with Rose, today,’ Joanna paused for a moment, before continuing, ‘And I am sorry to say, but we need to change the way you guys are investing. It won’t take you anywhere. In fact, your fixed deposits are actually eating away your capital!’
‘You don’t say that!’ her father’s attempt at dry humour didn’t discourage Joanna from going on.
‘Yes. And be ready to meet a financial expert and discuss your retirement goals with him. I have taken an early morning appointment for tomorrow. Please bear with me if you may have to report a bit late for work tomorrow, but it’s important. Make provisions,’ Joanna’s parents gaped at her as she commanded them.
Joanna filled in her parents about the things said in the seminar. She explained to her parents how one can make small, regular investments in mutual funds through monthly SIPs. And she also told about the power of compounding that helps investors accumulate significant wealth over a long period of time. Her parents were amazed to hear their teenage daughter speaking like a financial pro.
It was her mother who spoke first, ‘Well, since we are not making any headway with our current investment plans, let’s try out your way.’
‘It’s a YES from me, too,’ her father spoke like one of the judges from the talent show on TV, making Joanna giggle.
Thanks to Joanna’s willingness to carve out a better future for her parents, and for herself, her family successfully avoided a future financial disaster by taking concrete steps well ahead in time.
Ten years later, Joanna is escaping the belligerent Goan summer by holidaying in Switzerland with her parents.
Thanks to the single-minded approach to growing rich, Joanna not only invested in SIPs regularly, but she also kept increasing the SIP amount each year. Additionally, she made it a habit to do top-ups in her mutual funds whenever she had some extra income.
Joanna became a millionaire when she was just 23 years old. And since then, her portfolio has been growing at an even faster pace.
By attaining financial independence at a very young age, Joanna has escaped the beaten down route of pursuing medicine or engineering or management as career options. With no necessity to earn a living, Joanna does what interests her the most – public speaking. A good orator with a pleasing personality, Joanna is a successful ‘Personal Life Coach’ in India.
Her parents, too, are in good financial standing. Since the couple already knew how to differentiate between needs and wants, and had the knack for savings, it was not difficult for them to invest significant sums each month in mutual funds through SIPs.
In a decade, a lot can change for better, just like it did for Joanna and her family!
Dr. Celso Fernandes is a renowned financial expert known for driving financial literacy in his home-state, Goa. Author of six much-loved books including the famous, ‘Who Says Money doesn’t Gro on Trees?’, Dr Celso gives a lot of his time in counselling and advising the youth of Goa on the merits of financial discipline and planning. Dr Celso Fernandes can be reached at +91-9422058741.