Let’s Talk Money by Monika Halan

By Gaurav Pingle, Practising Company Secretary.

To begin with, there are many books on investing, personal finance, insurances, mutual funds, etc. However, not all the books fascinate a common man to read it. The reason could be legal jargon, technical concepts, statistical information, graphs/charts, discussion on macro-economic factors, global factors, financial crises, etc. There are very few books in simple language on investing and personal finance that address important questions of common man. ‘Let’s Talk Money’ by Ms. Monika Halan is one such unique book.

The book covers various topics of investing and personal finance which ultimately empowers readers in taking important decisions relating to his investments. The book is written in very simple English language (which has been further translated into many vernacular languages in India). The simplicity of language makes the book as ‘finance for non-finance’. Even software engineer or electrical engineer or doctor or an architect (non-commerce professionals, as they are not taught personal finance as part of their academic course) will find this book interesting and relevant. The book is a practical guide and helps the reader to take informed decisions relating to personal finance.

The author has given many practical examples of her friends and relatives, which makes the book very relatable to the readers. The author doesn’t recommend the use of any spreadsheets or complex calculations, etc. In fact, the author empowers the readers in asking right question to right people about financial product. The book is a conversation about money. The book also empowers common man in taking unbiased financial decisions. At relevant places in the book, the author has also recommended to take help of financial planner.

217-pages book has 14 chapters. At the end of each chapter, author has summarised important action points or preliminary questions to be asked by the reader and important financial ratios discussed in few chapter (e.g. living cost vis-à-vis take-home income, EMI payouts vis-à-vis take-home income, savings vis-à-vis take-home income, etc.). The book is helpful for employed as well as self-employed professional and even for students.

The author has explained the concept of ‘money box’ in detail with practical tips for the readers. ‘Money Box’ helps us properly maintain the cash flow system, monitoring income and expenses, and investments on regular basis. ‘Emergency Fund’ – its importance, way to maintaining funds, amount, etc. has also been explained in a separate chapter in the book. There is a detailed discussion on medical cover, types policies, premiums, benefits, important questions to be asked to an insurance agent for getting the right policy. In a separate chapter, the author explains the need and importance of life cover. There is a detailed discussion on investment (+) life cover or only life cover. There is reference to coverage, amount of premium, time of buying the policy, taxation aspect, etc. In 6th Chapter, the author now discusses ‘investing’. The author suggests the reader to note their short term, medium term and long-term investment goals based on which investments can be classified.

In the chapter titled as ‘let’s de-jargon investing’, the author has explained investment products in very simple language. The investment products include debt, gold, real estate, equity, index funds, etc. The author has given some important rules of equity investing, which includes: patience, risk, alternative option, lock-in, continuous education by reading good material on personal finance.

The chapter on Mutual Funds explains the concepts, legal structure, ‘safety’, kinds of funds, NAV, growth vs. dividend options, how does MFs make money, direct plan, systematic investment plan, etc. In the Chapter titled ‘putting it all together’, the author explains the parameters on which investment-oriented financial products must be evaluated, which includes: cost of investing, returns, lock-in, cost to exit early, holding period, taxes. The chapter concludes with a discussion on ‘asset allocation’ – a very important concept in investing.

There is a separate chapter on ‘retirement’. Taking into consideration the possibility of change in financial needs/requirements, and the plan, the author has suggested a review of goals on periodical basis. Without going much in legal jargon, the author has explained the importance of Wills and prescribed Do’s and Don’ts in preparation of Will.

In the last chapter, the author discusses and explains the factors that ‘kills the money box’ – the concept (‘money box’) that was discussed in the first chapter. Some of the factors are spending too much, high cost of borrowing on credit cards, investing in multi-level marketing schemes, investments in high-risk IPOs, bitcoins, etc.

After reading the book, the reader will be able to organise his/her finances in a rational manner. The book will help the reader to build a system and is not a ‘single shot’ solution for personal finance. It is also not a get-rich-quick book but a book that will develop good habits and discipline which will ultimately make us more confident about our investments. The book has been revised and updated with financial lessons from Covid-19.

In my view, everyone should read the book – Let’s Talk Money. The book should also be basic reading material for all graduation courses in India. This would significantly improve the financial literacy, which is also the objective of the author. It is a book that empowers readers in taking important financial decisions in unbiased manner.