2022 Week 38 Update

According to entrepreneur, author, and business coach, Brad Sugars, words can inspire, thoughts can provoke, but only action truly brings us closer to our dreams. What this means is that while we can read inspirational quotes and messages and even think of doing good, unless we get up and take action, all the thoughts and words in the world are useless.

BB is enjoying his project work and we hope he can do his best this semester. GG is enjoying her break and is also busy with her CCA activities. She is also busy working on her university applications and I hope that she gets admission to the course of her choice at the university she wants to go to.

The festival of Navaratri starts tomorrow and for the next 10 days, we will spend time in prayer and contemplation of the female power. May the feminine energy bring you the blessings, luck and joy you deserve.

Memories: Grandmother Tales 4 – The Travel Edition

I guess I get my love for travel from my paternal grandmother, my ammama. She used to take off as the urge struck her and has travelled the length and breadth of the country. There are three such stories which I remember even today, two in which I star in and one which I remember.

When my sister was born, I was about less than a year and a half and because my mother could not handle a newborn and a toddler, my grandparents took off to New Delhi with me. Her daughter lived there with her husband, who worked in the Indian Air Force and they must have lived in airforce quarters. This would a when India’s then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency in the country. I was barely eighteen months at that time, so don’t have many memories of that period, but I remember the name Indira Gandhi used to be used to evoke fear, especially among children. So when I refused to do something, say eat my food, or drink my milk, I would be threatened by Mrs Gandhi. It’s a wonder that I didn’t develop any irrational fear of the government and especially Mrs Gandhi. But kudos to my grandmother, who at that age, (she must have been in her late forties or early fifties) took a toddler with her and looked after her for a few months. We returned to Bombay about three months or so later and by this time, my mum and sister were back home from my maternal grandmother’s house where she had gone for her delivery.

The next story is also from my childhood. I must have been around 7 or 8 and we were travelling by train to our ancestral village in the Tirunelveli district in the Tamil heartland. We were travelling with my father’s cousin for his wedding. My grandparents were also travelling with us but in a different compartment. After we reached Chennai, my parents, uncle and we children were supposed to take an overnight train to reach the district headquarters of Tirunelveli and my grandparents were to take the overnight train to the same destination. My sister and I threw a tantrum at the station and insisted we travel with my grandparents and not our parents. They had to give in, my grandparents giving in to us was a huge reason, and so we took the train. We were ticketless and had nothing with us, which was with our parents. I remember my grandfather talking to the ticket checker to buy tickets in the train and scrambling to find space for us to sleep in. They found space and we managed to get to Tirunelveli in one piece.

The last story does not have either my sister or me in a starring role. Around the time I was around 6, after my grandfather retired, my grandparents decided to go on an all-India pilgrimage. I don’t remember the specifics after all these years, but I do know it was led by a tour leader and was aimed at mostly senior citizens. They would take the train and maybe also travel by road and visit many of the important places of worship. The tour also included a trip to Kathmandu in Nepal to visit the Pashupatinath temple and other places of worship in that city. I do know they visited the temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath and from the north went all the way down south to Kanyakumari. I remember them making a stop in Mumbai during the trip and we went to the station to meet them. I have a memory of my uncle taking me with him to the station and then because I was so upset of meeting my ammama and then getting separated from her, he took me out and we came home quite late, after eating ice creams and chocolates. I remember this was during our summer holidays and because we reached home so late, I overslept the next day and was still asleep when my friends came to call me to play in the morning. From Kathmandu, my grandparents got me and my sister a beautiful chain with a butterfly pendant which I treasured for many years.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of my grandmother’s tales. If you want to read more about my memories of my ammama, here’s part 1, part 2, part 3 and one about my maternal grandmother.

2022 Week 37 Update

The highest spiritual leader and former head of state of Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama is the author of this week’s quote. The Dalai Lama reminds us of something so basic, but something we don’t see that often. He asks to choose to remain optimistic because it feels better.  Being optimistic means seeing a glass as being half full rather than half empty. So when one sees the good in every and any situation, we automatically start seeing the good as opposed to seeing the bad when we are pessimistic and this opens up our hearts and our lives. And for me especially, this quote spoke to me this week as I grapple with seeing some things happen and taking it positively as opposed to my usual pessimism.

This weekend, we celebrated BB & GG’s 19th birthday. Because they have different sets of friends, BB’s friends came yesterday and GG’s friends will come later today. And because the bulk of the children coming wanted Indian food, that’s what they got. We had a lot of fun yesterday and will do so today also.

According to the World Health Organization chief, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we are not there yet, the end is in sight according to him, the most upbeat assessment from the agency since the start of the pandemic. It has also been reported that deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020. We’ve moved beyond the emergency phase of the pandemic and today most governments  are now looking at how best to manage COVID-19 as part of their routine healthcare and surveillance.

Happy Birthday GG & BB!

GG & BB turn 19 today and as I have been doing for the past few years, I thought I will write them a letter this year too. Since they will graduate next year, I thought this year’s letter will be about how they can be financially savvy and learn about money.

Dear GG & BB,

As you start to look and plan your future, money will be a huge part of how you plan your lives. Money and the lack of money may be the difference between surviving and living the life of your dreams. So you must learn to manage your finances, and manage them well enough that you never have a day when you panic about not having enough.

If you think that financial planning is too tedious and can be put off to a later date, you’re not alone. Many of your friends and peer are too caught up with life to think about long-term finances. Plus, there’s always the misconception that you can only start growing your wealth after you earned your first pot of gold. However, contrary to what you might think, the best time to start planning for your financial goals is while you’re still young and have plenty of time to grow your savings.

Set goals early: Setting your financial goals is the first critical step. Putting down your goals in writing will help you establish a finish line to aim for and determine what you need to do to get there. To help to stick to your goals, keep them somewhere you can see them regularly and also review them at a pre-determined interval, so you can fine-tune your plans as life happens.

Start saving as soon as possible: Starting to save at an early age gives you a longer runway to reach your financial goals and gives you more time to benefit from the power of compound interest. There is a formula known as the Power of 72 which allows you to determine how many years it takes for your savings to double at a certain rate of interest. In the Power of 72, you divide 72 by the interest rate to determine how many years it will take to double your principal amount.

Use the 50/30/20 rule when budgeting: A simple rule of thumb is to split income into three broad buckets to meet expenses and savings needs. In this rule, divide your monthly take-home pay into three categories where 50% will be spent on needs, 30% will be spent on wants and the balance 20% will be set aside as savings.

Set up a dedicated bank account for your savings: To ensure that you don’t spend money meant for your long-term savings, it’s a good idea to open separate accounts; one for your regular expenses and another just for savings. Arrange for the funds meant for your savings to be automatically transferred to the dedicated account the day you receive your salary. You can do this by applying for a standing instruction with your bank, saving you the trouble of having to make the transfer yourself each month.

Look for ways to cut costs: Financial stability is not just about savings or increasing your income, but also about reducing expenses. Always be on the lookout for ways to save money; whether it’s finding the cheapest place to buy groceries or taking advantage of dining deals on your credit card.

Focus on income, not savings: While keeping a lid on expenses is important to budgeting, some experts recommend that you should focus more on income. After all, there are only so many of your costs that you can save on, but your income has a far higher potential to grow in the long run. If you think you are good at something, try to have a side hustle so you can supplement your income.

Keep your debt in check: Having too much debt is a big obstacle to building your savings. For a start, you should ensure that you make at least the minimum payment on all your outstanding debts every month to avoid late fees and extra interest charges. You must also always pay off your credit card bills every month. Using a credit card is a great tool, but not when you incur interest in it. A good rule of thumb is that each time you use the card, you should immediately transfer the money to the account with which you pay the bills so once the bill comes, you are not in shock. You should also list your debts from the highest to the lowest interest rate and repay as much as you can on the debt that incurs the highest interest. Keep doing this till you are debt free!

Protect your personal information: Keep identity thieves from stealing your information. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Avoid using public wi-fi for online banking and protect your bank PIN and shield the keypad from view when using an ATM. Review your financial statements each month to make sure there are no fraudulent transactions.

Always have emergency funds which are easily accessible: You must have at least two types of emergency funds which can be easily accessed in case of emergencies. The first should be a liquid savings account which should have about three to six months of living expenses. This is if something happens like losing your job, you can use it to get by until you are on your feet again. The second is what I call a Home Fund and this will especially be useful once you both have your homes. Try to put in a couple of hundred dollars into this account each month and maybe more when you have them. At home, things break down or you spoil and you may need to replace them. Things like a television, air conditioners etc and having money in an account meant for these things can help a long way in replacing broken items immediately without dipping into your savings.

Educate Yourself: If you don’t learn to manage your money, then other people will find ways to mismanage it for you. Some of these people could have bad intentions, others may be well-meaning, but not fully informed about your circumstances, so the best way to get the right advice for your particular circumstances and not rely on random advice is to take charge of your financial future and read a few basic books on personal finance. Once you’re armed with knowledge, you know what works best for you.

Start saving for retirement now: You may think retirement is at least four or five decades away, but you need to plan for it from today. I’ve spoken about the power of compound interest to you both, and this is the best way you can grow your money at a faster rate. The sooner you start saving, the less principal you have to invest to end up with the amount that you need to retire. Compound interest is one of the most powerful forces in finance because it grows your money exponentially, which means it can super-charge your savings, especially over time. The magic of compound interest for your retirement account is that it is interest on interest—literally. You earn interest not only on the principal which is the money you put in but also on the interest which is the money the bank pays you for holding your principal.

Remember, your finances are in your hands and you don’t need any fancy degrees or special backgrounds to become an expert at managing your finances. So go ahead and learn what you can while you are still young, so your later adulthood and retirement are not fraught with worry.

Happy birthday once again GG & BB! I know you will do great things in life and I am waiting to see you both reach your full potential.

Lots of love, hugs and kisses,

2022 Week 36 Update

Today’s quote is attributed to the polymath known as Omar Khayyam, known for his contributions to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and Persian poetry. This is excellent advice for all of us. What it means is that we need to find the now and revel in it. Life is nothing more than moments and we should not waste this moment by being anything but happy and feeling the joy of this moment. And this is something that nobody can or should tell us about feeling this joy and happiness, it should come from within us.

This week, the longest-reigning monarch in the world, Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96 on Thursday 08 September.  Her son took over as the new King of the United Kingdom and is to be known as King Charles III. For many generations, she was the only Queen they have known, but I guess the death of her husband, Prince Philip last year may have hastened her death because I believe that when two people love each other very much and have a long marriage together when one passes away, the other pines for them and soon has not much will to live.

BB starts his final year project tomorrow and will have to start going to school daily. When I asked him about his project, he told me something, but I didn’t understand much about it and will try and learn more about it when he has had a chance to work on it some more.

That is all from me this week. Talk soon!