Melissa was just 14 years old, yet she was acutely aware of her humble background. She lived in a quaint coastal village in an old mud house with her parents and two younger brothers. Her father worked on a fishing trawler and her mother, Evelyn, worked in a departmental store near the tourist hub. The household had a meagre income, but there were love and care in abundance. And how thankful Melissa was for being born in such a loving family!
Although she was generally happy and easy going, Melissa had secret ambitions, hidden deep inside her heart. She wanted to become a doctor – a surgeon, to be precise. From her friend, Rose, Melissa had heard several heroic stories of her aunt Leona who was a successful and renowned cardiac surgeon in London. Rose would tell Melissa how Aunt Leona saved a life when every other doctor had lost hope, or about the awards she had won, or about the lavish lifestyle she had.
Melissa would lap up every word Rose would say about her aunt, and in her mind’s eye, she pictured Aunt Leona walking out of the operation theatre with a winning smile with people cheering and thanking her. She also imagined Aunt Leona lounging by the pool of an exotic resort, luxuriously sipping on a drink.
There was no doubt in Melissa’s mind about what she wanted to become when she grew up, except for one – how would she be able to pay the super expensive medical college fee. She had previously interacted with a few of her teachers and learnt that the medical college fees would run into lakhs of rupees. There was no way she could expect such kind of money from her parents!
Melissa was upset. She saw her dream being nipped in the bud. Her inner turmoil affected her day-to-day life, and she started to slip into a shell and became sorrowful.
Things, however, were going to change for Melissa. And in a positive way.
One afternoon, there was a little event in the village, a few days before Christmas, and all the children were invited. Melissa didn’t feel like going, but her brothers insisted that she should come with them. They were worried about their lovely sister’s growing gloom.
The Christmas party, organised exclusively for children, did seem to cheer Melissa, even though just for a little while. She enjoyed the magic tricks and other games. The snacks and beverages were delicious, and the Christmas carols played on the stereo made her feel better.
After a little while, she found a seat in the far corner, away from the cluster of children who danced and made merry. She sat there, musing about her future when someone came and sat next to her.
‘Hello child, you don’t seem to enjoy the party as much as your friends.’
Melissa looked at the gentleman sitting next to her. Melissa was touched by the kind and caring tone in the man’s voice, and it did not take her long to reveal her troubles to the stranger. Even she was surprised, and a little embarrassed, too, at the ease with which she communicated her dilemma with a complete stranger. However, she felt light-headed.
After listening to Melissa with genuine concern, he finally spoke.
‘Melissa dear, I understand that your family isn’t wealthy enough to fund your expensive higher education,’ he paused for a while, ‘but you are very RICH!’
Melissa was quite puzzled, ‘What do you mean? I am just a child studying in school. I have no relatives from whom I am going to inherit lots of money, then how do I become rich?’ There was a little edginess in her voice.
The stranger smiled and said, ‘I know that, Melissa. You are just a child. And that makes you rich.’
Before Melissa could object further, the stranger continued, ‘You have the wealth of time, dear. Since you are young, you have the rare opportunity to turn the tables and build a fortune. An opportunity that your parents don’t have.’
‘I know what you are saying. I am young, and I have the time to study hard and make a successful career. But don’t you understand, my problem is that I don’t have money to fund my higher education? With no higher education, there will be no career!’ she said, frustrated.
This time, the man took a minute to respond. He wanted Melissa to calm down before he ventured ahead.
‘Melissa, of course, you need to study hard and build a stellar career. But that is not what I meant by having an opportunity to become rich.’
The stranger very patiently explained to Melissa that there is a way through which she can make a fortune in years to come and could fund her education through her own wealth.
As Melissa listened with unbounded curiosity, the man explained to her that if she starts investing very little sums of money in something called mutual funds, as low as Rs 500 each month, regularly, for a long period, say 10 years, she can easily build a significant portfolio, which will keep growing on its own, even if she stopped investing afterwards.
‘It is like planting a seed and watering it and nurturing it until the time the sapling grows into a fully-grown tree that bears fruit. Just imagine that instead of fruits, your tree will grow money, and not only during the season but all year long!’
‘I can invest Rs 500 a month,’ Melissa thought, as she started to get hopeful about quashing her future financial troubles.
The stranger also explained her the concept of mutual funds.
‘Mutual funds are basically a way to invest in the stock or share market. Small investors find it difficult to buy enough shares in good companies, as the prices are very high. A mutual fund is a pool of money from thousands of small investors. Although individual contributions are quite small, the collective money in the mutual fund is vast. A qualified Fund Manager handles this pool and invests it on behalf of the small investors. With time and with the power of compounding interest, your mutual fund portfolio would grow in leaps and bounds.’
‘Thanks, I will like to explore this possibility,’ Melissa smiled and thanked the man she met just a while ago and yet who solved the biggest problem plaguing her mind.
‘Don’t mention it,’ he said with a smile. Then, he rummaged in his bag and produced a thin book with a yellow cover.
‘Read this book. This will answer all your questions and will also tell you the tales of others … like me … who managed to get rich by simply making regular investments and being patient with the market ups and downs.’
Melissa gratefully took the book and read the title aloud, ‘Who Says Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees?’
She smiled and thanked the man again before he was escorted to a waiting car.
‘Call me if you have any doubts. My number is in the book,’ the man smiled humbly and gave Melissa a quick thumbs-up.
As she walked back to her home, with her brothers chattering excitedly in her tow, Melissa knew that her life was about to change from this day. She had a strange reassurance that all her dreams will come true. She also knew that she would meet the stranger again to seek his guidance in creating wealth. Maybe, she would take her parents along, too.