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Friday inspiration: Paying for education & preparing for retirement

Friday inspiration: Paying for education & preparing for retirement

This is the first in a series of interviews with people who are either working to improve their financial situation or who have already reached their goals. Pooja Sood has done a little of both: She earned the money needed to attend school without going into debt, and is currently working toward early retirement. She writes Indian Thoughts. Here’s what she has to say about her experience:

Could you tell us something about yourself?
I am a professional and Indian by nationality. I want to work for a total of 20 years, out of which I have already worked for 3 years. My financial goal before I retire is to have a house of my own and to have Rs 10 million (1 dollar = Rs 42) in my account. So, right now I am working to achieve my financial target. So far it all seems to be on target. But time and effort are needed to manage wealth and work towards financial goals.

In what way have you turned your financial life around? (Or what are you working on changing?)
So far I am working on my mortgage for our house and my other financial goals. Before I started my professional life, I decided to support my education on my own. I took a break in my studies between graduation and post graduation and used that time to earn money before going for further studies. I achieved my target of supporting my education on my own. That was quite a success. That is something we don’t see frequently in my country. That makes me feel happy.

Can you give a little bit of background on your story? What were things like for you pre-change?
When I finished my studies, I only had some 10,000 bucks in my bank account. Whatever I earned over the next few months, I spent. So at the end of that financial year, when tax time came I had no money do the necessary investments. That caused me to pay huge income taxes. And I learned an important lesson: saving should be as important a habit as splurging on what you love. From that point onwards, I decided on my financial goals and have been working hard towards them.

How much progress have you made?
Quite satisfied with my progress so far. I have 0.6 million Rs and have bought a house and am paying my mortgage for it. It seems to be on target.

How do you feel about your financial situation right now?
Great! But at times really worried about whether my savings will actually grow at the expected rate! Being a little uncertain about the future makes me anxious at times.

What was the catalyst that caused you to take action?
An empty bank account after working for one whole year triggered a sense of financial insecurity. So I decided on my financial goal and on following a regime to achieve it. (i.e. spend less then what you earn and save judiciously.)

Did you have any setbacks? If so, how did you deal with them?
Oh, I had many setbacks. Setbacks are part of the process, as much as success. For an example, my portfolio is quite exposed to the equity market. When the equity market crashed earlier this year I saw my savings going down. I was tempted at the time to book my losses and come out. But now I can see some recovery there. The thing that kept me going was my allocation of savings at first place. Every time I saw my equity exposure hurting me, I kept telling myself that I was in equity for the mid term, i.e. 5 – 10 years and ups and downs have to be taken gracefully. Just stick to your decisions.

What has been the hardest part of the process?
Of course the starting. Giving up the splurging habit and getting into a more disciplined mode with money is quite a difficult thing. There are so many tempting things out there to spend money on, that being wise consistently and sticking to your pathway of goals is often tough.

The easiest?
Making the budget. :)

How long has it taken?
To support my first goal I needed a one year break, and then along with scholarship I achieved it.

For my next goal of retirement, I am working on it for last 3 years and it seems to be on target as of now. Even when the equity market crashed badly, my savings seems to be on track. I am quite hopeful that I’ll be able to achieve my target of early retirement.

What will be your next step?
I always keep on learning about new investment tools. Currently I am learning new things in the equity market. To know “Deliverables” is my target for this year. Last year it was mutual funds and delivery based stocks.

What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?
Stick to your calculations. No one can understand your money better then you yourself.

What inspiration could you give to someone in a similar situation?
Persistence will always pay you back, so be persistent. Have clearly defined goals and no target is unachievable and yes, be good with numbers. Nothing is more important then being good with the basics.

If you would like to be interviewed for a future article, please email me at
c o m m e n t s @ (without the spaces)

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