Book Review of Let's Talk Money: You've Worked Hard for It, Now Make It Work for You by Monika Halan

Book Review of Let's Talk Money: You've Worked Hard for It, Now Make It Work for You by Monika Halan

Financial planning is as much as art as it is a science. For a salaried professional, witnessing one’s bank account in the last week of the month doesn’t give as much pleasure as it does during the first week. If you are wondering if there is something you could about it, Monika says an emphatic YES and her book ‘Let’s talk money’ addresses that, covering a broad range of financial planning techniques.

Right off the bat, she talks about how financial planning is an ongoing process and warns that no matter how much you plan, there could be nasty surprises such as Covid pandemic, which could derail your carefully chartered out plans. Any crisis comes with learnings and this one is no exception. Analysing one’s spend against needs vs wants, recalibration of emergency fund etc were some of those that the author says she had learnt during the pandemic. She sets the context clear that the objective of the book is to help one get direction and confidence in dealing with hard earned money and putting it to work for self and for the family.

First and foremost, she introduces readers to the concept of Money Box and guides us in constructing one, with insights on ‘how to and why’ of critical aspects such as managing cash flows, building an emergency fund, choosing the right medical and life insurance, selecting right investment products etc. Just like a teacher tutoring a grade one student, she deals with each one of these topics with anecdotes from her own life and from her interaction with others, helping us relate to the situation better.

I liked her concept of maintaining three bank accounts – Income Account, Spend It Account and Invest It Account, so you can mentally as well as physically earmark the amount for your spending and keep a watch on it, at the same time, ensure that atleast some money flows into your Invest It account. The need for a sizeable emergency fund is also well emphasized and nothing more stresses its importance than the ongoing pandemic, which led to job losses, salary cuts etc. To ward oneself off from such unavoidable circumstances and to keep life going, she advises one to maintain atleast 3-6 months’ expenses separately- fixed deposit or in a good debt mutual fund, depending on one’s risk appetite.

After the cash flow system and emergency fund are in place, she addresses the need for medical insurance and factors to be considered in choosing one. Personally, I felt I wished that I had read this book earlier, because I spent almost 6 months to figure out a suitable insurance policy after going through various key aspects that one should consider. And, I would say, Monika, with her experience, has done a great job in laying them bare and would definitely help you in picking ‘the one’ from thousands of (baffling)policies that are available in the market.

Another major topic that she has covered with finesse is the equity investing, especially Mutual Funds. She rightly captures the mindset of our previous generation who perceived stock market investing as an act of gambling. Trading is different from Investing and she strongly bats for investing in equity markets as she believes that it is the one that will help us confront ever rising inflation and the traditional methods of investing in real estate and gold don’t really make sense, given the changing trends and the pathetic ROI it delivers. When it comes to Mutual Funds, she wants us to first identify our needs and the timeline by which we wish to attain those, which would range from atleast three years to thirty years. She classifies these into Almost There, In Some Time, and Far Away and suggests that one start investing through Systematic Investment Plans via Direct Plan (as against Regular Plan) in Balanced, Hybrid, Mid Cap funds etc depending on one’s risk appetite. Monika rightly says, “Not everything suits everybody – we need to match our financial needs to financial products.” If the thought of staying invested for long term scares you, she reminds you that if the foundation for basic and emergency needs are met through sizeable emergency corpus and insurance, then your money box is ready for the risk involved in the volatility that comes with equity in the short term.

Not everything suits everybody – we need to match our financial needs to financial products.

Finally, she covers the corpus that one would require to peacefully retire and suggests a mix of financial products which could form part of this corpus such as Provident Fund, National Pension Scheme, Mutual Funds etc. In the last few chapters, she generously offers several tips that will help a lay man understand what he/she is getting into when one invests in these financial products and equip themselves with the knowledge, which will help them raise the right question before choosing a product, even if suggested by a financial planner. She also touches upon the need for a Will and stresses that one should willingly write a Will so that the family doesn’t fumble or fight over the assets upon one’s death. This book also clarified my misunderstanding that a nominee is not a legal heir but more of a caretaker!

Overall, this book is a great read and given my financial background, I was able to complete it in a few days. For a non-finance person, the content has to be digested slowly and one can also browse through various mutual fund sites, life insurance policies to practically relate to what is being said in the book. The “You are doing ok..” section at the end of each chapter conveys author’s thoughts succinctly. I would say this is a must-read book as it covers a broad range of topics and gives the essential financial literacy, in the Indian context, that one should possess given the conmen around and their easy access to you and your money in this digital world. Monika subtly reiterates throughout the book what many seasoned investors have already said that one should start investing early and stay invested in the equity markets, as what matters is one’s time in the market and not timing the market! So why wait?! Now is the time to reassess and course correct your financial fitness. 


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