How I took charge of my financial life in my 30s
Despite having knowledge and experience in the financial services industry, and starting my financial journey early, a few years ago I found myself behaving irresponsibly when it came to managing my own finances.
As life caught up with me, in my late 20s, a working new mom, managing a young child, and the long work hours all left me feeling too drained to focus on my physical or financial health. And just like that, I didn’t realize when all my savings started stagnating and the income was spent on ways to pamper myself or my newborn. The voices in my head during this phase were something like this:
“You deserve this! At least this!”
“Enjoy life today! Who knows about tomorrow.”
“What do you earn for, if not to indulge a bit?”
“It’s too hard to find someone reliable to get started with my investments again.”
Four years later, in my early 30s, after having worked for over seven years, this is what my financial reality looked like:
Negligible Mutual Fund investments (had used my savings for my business)
Two Unit Linked Insurance plans with a cover of less than 5L
Roughly two Months’ of expenses saved up as FDs
Saving about 15% of monthly income
For someone who felt like she knew about investments, this was the moment when I learnt my first meaningful personal finance lesson:
Lesson 1: Success in personal finance is 80% discipline and 20% knowledge
Knowing is no good if it stops us from taking action. One fine day, I finally broke the inertia and decided to take charge. After consulting a highly recommended advisor, after a gap of half a decade, I finally had a long discussion with him about my goals, my current portfolio, my risk-return expectation. Based on his recommendations, after a brief round of questions, in my office, during my lunch hour, I signed that form and handed over the cheque. There is nothing quite like signing a cheque on BIG occasions, is there?
Lesson 2: Take the first step, don’t overthink it
Most importantly, don’t worry about making mistakes and learn and keep moving. After passively investing for a year or so, I decided to find myself a community of like-minded investors. The idea here was two-pronged – first, I wanted to keep the momentum of investing; second, I wanted to upskill and update myself. Within a month, I enrolled myself in a course with a women investor community where I met several other determined, knowledgeable, inspirational women. In addition, I also started connecting with old colleagues and network of friends, who further brought back the much-needed vigour and pace in my financial discipline. My next lesson stared me right in my face.
Lesson 3: Reach out, create a support structure and upskill
It could be your close friend who is in the investment industry, it could be your alumni network of investors, or it could just be a meetup group in your vicinity – reach out now.
The last thing which I did was to read, reflect and rethink. In the journey of being deliberate about taking charge, few of the many revelations about myself were:
I like to do my own reading about investment products
I don’t trust advisors easily, prefer to take my own decisions which can delay action
I don’t focus on my spending pattern, only on earning pattern
Debt makes me anxious because it feels binding
I want to be financially independent at any cost (no dependency on partner or parents)
The above made me take certain actions like blocking time on my calendar to consciously assign time to my investment study, to create my spending log and play with all types of analysis on every last Sunday of the month.
Lesson 4: Automate and prioritise
Just like we do for all things meaningful, be it our health, our social life, our family time. We all forget, lose track of things, so if payments investments can be automated, have set reminders it would go a long way. Now after 3 years of having re-started my journey, here is my current financial situation:
Single Excel File with a consolidated view of all my investments (including insurance) including nominee details
Cumulative portfolio of Mutual Funds & Stocks (self-managed) is now 4X of what it was back in 2016 Medical Insurance cover of my own (apart from employer-provided) of 10L
Six months’ of expenses as Emergency Fund in my Auto Sweep account Term Insurance cover with critical illness & disability rider
Added some debt products like PPF, NPS to my portfolio
Saving 40% of monthly income
Still no debt ☺
While it’s a long, long journey to achieve the net worth required for financial independence, it does not feel unachievable. I hope to never go back to my ‘closed eyes’ state and even if I do, now I know the trick to get back on track!
Neha Singh has over three years of wealth management experience in her corporate career of 12 years. She now works with a leading online travel company and hopes to inspire women of all ages (including her 6-year-old daughter) to take charge of their money lives.