Hardworking and exceptionally bright, Fiona worked as a senior manager in a global software firm. She was quickly progressing to the top of the company’s management. Unsurprisingly, she kept a busy schedule and rarely took any time off, except for an occasional shopping spree.
However, today was different. Fiona had taken a few hours off from work. But it wasn’t for a quick trip to her kids’ school, a shopping spree or a fancy meal. Instead, she was going to meet an old friend – Naisa, who had chosen an old café for their reunion, a place they had frequented as kids for years.
As Fiona left office in her sparkling BMW, she couldn’t help but smile at the memories from her childhood. Both Naisa and Fiona hailed from humble backgrounds. Their fathers worked in the same company, and mothers had become thick friends over time. Naturally, both the girls had bonded, mostly because they were the same age and stayed two minutes apart from each other.
However, Fiona and Naisa were always very different from each other. Naisa, a simple and headstrong girl, preferred to keep to herself. She was gifted in many aspects and possessed a photographic memory. Yet, she never bragged or boasted about her achievements. Fiona, on the other hand, loved being the centre of attention, treating her friends in the school cafeteria often and blowing away most of her pocket money in cafes and movies. Usually, she would borrow money from Naisa who received the same amount of pocket money but always seemed to have extra!
Soon, the car stopped outside a dusty café. As Fiona stepped out, she spotted Naisa parking her two-wheeler and coming to greet her. Both the friends hugged each other warmly and walked down to the café, ordering two steaming mugs of latte to prepare for a long evening of hearty conversations.
Fiona quickly filled up Naisa with her hectic lifestyle. She told her about her growing position in the company and how she earned enough and more. While Fiona talked excitedly, she also felt curious about her dear friend. Naisa was simply dressed as always and drove a two-wheeler. Was she going through any financial problems, wondered Fiona.
Soon enough, it was Naisa’s turn to spill the beans.
“I feel so happy for you, Fiona. You have achieved everything you wanted and will continue working hard to afford all these luxuries you love,” said Naisa. “I, on the other hand, have opted for a simple life. My husband and I recently stopped working and spend our day educating underprivileged kids in the neighbourhood. We are also collaborating with some NGOs to provide remedial classes to underprivileged kids in STEM subjects to help them excel in their studies.”
Fiona was confused. Both the friends were in their early forties. While Fiona was working harder than ever before to climb the corporate ladder, Naisa had already retired and was focussing on her passions.
“But Naisa, how do you get by? Did you come across some lottery that you could stop working and continue living a decent life?”
Naisa laughed at her sweet friend and decided to share her secret.
“Fiona, if you remember, I was never a spendthrift. I always spent enough to fulfil my needs, but I never overspent on my wants. So, when everybody I knew was splurging on iPhones, I was happy with a functional smartphone. I followed this strategy in all aspects of life to ensure I invested at least 30 per cent of my income to build my retirement fund.”
“What do you mean, Naisa? By spending less and investing a third of your income, you think you’d be able to sustain forever?”
“Yes, Fiona. You can consider that I have a money tree that will never stop bearing fruits.”
“Are you kidding me?” remarked Fiona.
“No, my dear. Let me tell you a story. My husband and I were putting all our hard-earned money into fixed deposits and savings accounts many years ago. However, each time there was an emergency or some personal requirement, we’d remove the funds and start all over again.
“One fine day, I happened to attend a seminar on financial literacy at my office. I was surprised when the learned teacher spoke about financial independence and growing your money tree.
“As I listened to him raptured, all the figures on the board started to make sense. I learned about investing in stocks and shares, equity and market risk, and also about Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs), which changed my life forever.
“Most of us are scared of investing in stocks due to lack of knowledge. Yet, equity investments are known to give the best returns over an extended period. To mitigate the risk, we can put our money in SIPs that refer to a group of well-performing mutual funds managed by an experienced person.
“So, after this lecture, I approached the teacher in person and fixed an appointment to discuss my finances. He helped me choose some high-performing SIPs according to my life goals, and soon I had a thriving portfolio that continues to grow, even after I have stopped investing money.
“However, this did not happen overnight. I have invested my money wisely for over a decade and a half to reach this position today. You, too, Fiona, can stop being a slave of money by investing wisely for the future.”
Fiona was shocked. “You know, Naisa, I do have a fancy car and an enviable lifestyle. I love my job and am doing exceptionally well. But I often wonder whether I would like the same things ten years down the line. Perhaps, like you, even I would want to retire and follow my passion for writing eventually. Yet, I worry if I’d be able to sustain a decent lifestyle if I decide to quit my job sometime in the future.”
“Fiona, you know how proud I feel of you for making a name for yourself in your industry. You have been managing so many things like a superwoman, but it is your finances that you need to focus upon. Small changes in your spending and saving patterns will go a long way in funding your dreams and making them real….”
“Ma’am, would you like another cup of coffee?” A steward interrupted the friends at that moment, and they decided to sip on another coffee before leaving for their respective homes.
They continued chatting about life and kids and soon bid goodbye to each other. Naisa felt that she was finally able to change something in her friend. She was right. Fiona had resolved to get her finances in order and nurture her money tree, just like Naisa, to create the future she had only dreamed of until now.
Dr. Celso Fernandes is a celebrated author, speaker and financial advisor. Fondly referred to as the ‘Financial Doctor of Goa,’ Dr. Celso has been working on a mission to spread financial literacy in the state for the past several years. Approachable to all, he can be reached at +91-9422058741.