Let’s Talk Money (2018) – Monika Halan

In 2015, I discovered The Dave Ramsey Show on YouTube while trying to figure out how not to live pay cheque to pay cheque. I did not follow his plan, called the Baby Steps, because I thought it did not apply to the Indian condition. There was no 401k tax free investing in mutual funds, no 329B to invest in your kid’s education, no Roth IRA, no good expense tracking or budgeting apps.

However, the principles were the same. I believed that my income freed up from debt would be the no 1 wealth building tool. I believed debt was bad and broke marriages. I believed that finance was 80% habits and just 20% head knowledge. That did not stop me from incurring debt, though. My budgeting system broke frequently and I didn’t have 100% faith in the Dave Ramsey plan because at the back of my mind I kept thinking that his system would work only in the USA and not in India. Also, the program had a whole ecosystem of people involved – books you could buy, offline courses in churches, a whole spiritual dimension, a radio talk show for constant reinforcement and web resources to help in your struggle with yourself.

When I searched for a similar programme in India, I stumbled onto Bloomberg UTV’s Smart Money programme’s YouTube version. Here she spoke of stuff that we were very familiar with in India like gold, real estate, PPF, ELSS, mutual funds, endowment insurance policies, ULIP policies, etc. Like Dave Ramsey, she suggested term life insurance only, mutual funds for building long term wealth and a dislike for debt. A Google search told me that she had written a book way back in 2005 called the Seven Steps to Financial Freedom. The book was hard to get and I could eventually manage only a physical copy of the book.

So, when she announced her new book was out in July 2018, I bought the book immediately. July turned out to be a month for a lot of changes. I got a promotion at my old job and moved from an urban locality to a rural locality. While I read the book there was no coherence in my strategy in arranging my financial life. I felt the book lacked a coherent strategy of moving from a place where one was to a place where the book wanted us to be. It was good for a person arranging his finances for the first time.

The financial advice in the book is simple in substance but difficult to implement – get term life insurance, get medical insurance for you and your family other than what you get at your workplace, have 3 bank accounts for income, spending and investing, invest in mutual funds of various kinds as per your goals (index fund if you don’t want to go through the hassle), invest in PPF, PF, ELSS and NPS for tax savings and have a will. The details are in the book.

Despite being in banking for six and a half years, I felt I did not have a good grasp of financial concepts and even clarify certain concepts. This book helped me with the same. I certainly recommend this book to everyone who wants to put their financial house in order. I am currently in the process of applying Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and walking through those using the concepts that I learnt from Let’s Talk Money.

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