Why can’t we handle Personal Finance properly?

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I came across this post from Ranjan asking “why can’t we handle Personal Finance properly? The reasons he mentioned sounded very superficial to me; they are just shallow in my opinion (with all due respect to Ranjan).

As per my understanding, “Personal Finance” implies detailed analysis of financial flow of an individual at various point in time. Please carefully note that Personal Finance is not synonymous to having knowledge about stocks quotes, mutual funds, insurance or pension policies.

The single biggest reason why we can not handle personal finance properly, is because from childhood we are never taught to think about money in that fashion, making us believe that it is a materialistic entity that is just a means to satisfies our immediate material needs. 

How many people remember their first lesson in personal finance or handling money given to them during childhood? I remember, the first time I was given money (it was 10 paisa), which I could independently spend, I rushed to the near-by kirana store to buy that juicy candy bar. When was the last time your parents tutored you on personal finance and importance of setting financial goals? (I am not talking about parent pestering for buying property etc). Also whatever limited parental advise that most youngsters receive regarding personal finance is based on their personal experience at burning their hands with specific financial tools.

In India, at the least, I’ve never heard about creating personal financial goals from my parents and I have not met anyone whose parents told them about it. In effect, people start accumulating their debts and then the financial situation blows out of proportion. I guess, they themselves never heard about it from their parents and did not find it important enough to be delivered to their off springs.

The biggest confusion among most people regarding financial planning stems from the fact that:

  • They fail to understand their financial dreams
  • They fail to prioritize and reach their dream financial goals
  • They fail to learn and make the strategies either individually or using some professional advisor to achieve their goals.
  • They lack the persistence to transform their dream goals into reality by executing and re-aligning their strategies.

And this confusion is carried over from them to their next generations and generations. Unless people realize that managing personal finance involve setting goals, creating strategies to achieve those goals and sticking to it, Personal Finance will remain an arcane and unmanageable subject.

Legal Guide For Indian Bloggers

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imageI came across an astonishingly detailed guide for US bloggers on the legal issues that a blogger can face due to various acts. It clearly mentions that the guide is exclusively for US bloggers since there is strong constitutional protection for speech. I tried to search a similar guide for India and failed to find anything useful. With the advent of social networking, blogs have become an extremely viral media, so apart from the financial risks of social networking, there are definitely legal issues for any public dissemination of information including blogging.


(Picture courtesy Over the Top of NY)


India has been typically laggard with respect to cyber laws, not only in implementation but unambiguously defining it as well. One of the biggest reason I would assume would be that law makers themselves may not be able to keep pace with the fast changing technology. The first indian IT law was introduced in 2000 called the IT Act 2000 [Summary Slides from IIT-M - PDF]. This act was further modified in 2008 The Information Technology Act 2008.


The pertinent question is “Why blogging cause legal issues?”. The problem is the extremely viral nature of blogging, since it has now become more ubiquitous with millions of people getting influenced by what they read on blogs.


I would provide you a real world analogy. Let us say you bought a product from Company X, unfortunately it turned out to be a junk and useless product with not keeping up to the promise that was given before you purchased. You go to the customer care or their office and nothing happens, no-body listens to your complaints. But instead of “chalta-hai” attitude you decided to tell it to few of your close friends and let them be warned about it. It is still fine with the company, but now imagine you called up a public meeting and started talking about your rough experience with the product. Initially there might be just few of your friends but slowly hundreds and thousands of folks joined your meeting and started getting warned about the junk product and the pathetic customer service from Company X. That is illegal, you just de-famed the Company X.


This is exactly what happens when you blog. You are disseminating information for public consumption which can have significant influence on people either in their behavior or opinions about something. The first indian blogging controversy happened for exactly same reason.


It is so difficult to read through the mumbo-jumbo of legal laws, as Mark Twain rightly said


Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any law on the planet.


So how do bloggers (just about anyone with internet connection can become a blogger) keep themselves safe from the legal wrangle? Here are some simple DO’s and DON’Ts that will help any blogger to avoid cyber law (typically applicable to Indian bloggers):


The ultimate expression of a government’s lust for power lies in a term coined by Orwell in 1984: thoughtcrime. Thoughtcrimes are thoughts that have been criminalized, and if the technology to detect emotions existed, It is not unlikely that the Indian government would ban hatred. Or, at least, hatred of things that it deems should not be hated.

  • Do not write negative comments about any religious personality, deity or organization.

  • Do not criticize any company’s products or services. You may not like the product or services but publicly criticizing it for spreading the word is not the right way. If you absolutely have to do it like a review of a book or movie or mobile phone, please put a disclaimer mentioning these are your own personal thoughts with no legal liability on you. Defamation is extremely complicated subject in the books of law, and so is proving your innocense.

  • Do not post pornographic material including anything slightly sexually explicit (especially pictures or videos). It may be just a fun video or fun pictures for you, but it can hurt someone’s sentiments and hence an absolute NO NO.

  • Do not publish any confidential information from within your company. I would suggest do not post anything related to what you do within your company (unless you own the company and want to promote it through blog). Any information on what you are currently working on or what are the future releases or any inside information say company want to layoff people or planning to acquire any organization, absolutely everything is confidential. This information is typically governed by trade secrets which are complicated.

  • Do not plagiarize. If you copy paste the text from another website or you copy that beautiful picture or video without the consent from the original author and publishing it without providing the link to original source, then you are plagiarizing. One of the biggest and innocuous way of plagiarizing is to search that image you need from Google Images or Flickr and put it in your post without bothering about copywrite issues. You should only use legal pictures from flickr or any other website for your blog posts. Also it is illegal to edit the pictures or videos (removing watermarks or just any editing action like cropping) that you downloaded without permissions and then publishing it. Note that small actions can lead to copywrite violations.

  • Do not publish any data, numbers, figures, charts that you do not own. Always reference to original source from where you found the data. If you do not have the original source, stop and do not publish it.

  • Do not share private information about anyone you know without his/her permission. So you went with your girl friend on that famous beach and posted those pictures without asking her, think again. You just gave your friends contact details or wrote that caustic remark providing private details of the person you hate, beware you are surely violating privacy laws. I would advise not to even post edited pictures of film celebrities.


  • But if fate decides to screw you, it can not be avoided similar to when it caught Lakshamana Kailash and what he got is 50 days with 200 under-trials at Yerawada Jail, finally ending with a “sorry” from Police and Airtel.

Read some more interesting posts like “Bloggers and Defamation” and “Restricting Freedom with Excuses of Responsibility” on this issue. Here is an interesting video on this subject.


Please note that this list is not exhaustive (and definitely not legally scanned and is not a substitute for legal advise) in nature but just the common sense approach to avoid any legal issues. Just to be on safe side, here is the disclaimer, that this list does not guarantee avoidance of law-suite due to material published by you, so I would not be liable for any damages :-)

Credit Card Visual History

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Source: The Big Money

The first credit card was created, as you would guess, due to an embarrassing situation faced by Frank McNamara, while eating out at a restaurant. When the check arrived, he realized, he did not brought his wallet. This gave birth to Diner’s Credit Card.

image

Then came the BankAmericard from Bank of America. The earlier versions were flimsier and hence American Express came up with first real plastic credit cards.

image

 

Then came the credit cards with all its variants since various players saw a great business opportunity.

Check out the The Big Money for the entire pictorial history of credit card.

Another interesting video that presents how the American credit card industry became so pervasive, so lucrative, and so powerful.

This is a video from Frontline - “Secret History of the Credit Card (2004)”.

I could not find the history of credit cards in India, but it looks like that Central Bank of India, launched the first credit card in India called “Centralcard” in the year 1980.

It would be interesting to know if we can get hold of the picture of the first credit card that was launched in India. Anyone?

Super Tips to increase your debt

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Yep! you read the title correctly. So you want to live your life King Size, in a royal fashion with the meager amount of salary that you earn (peanuts huh..). Here are some of mind-blowing tips to spend you money faster than you can blink your eyes:

  • Never read money saving posts or weblogs which may contaminate your mind towards efficiently managing your personal finance. These are evil!!
  • Spend more than you earn. This is not the “common sense” approach, but who needs any sense, common or uncommon. And if you are struggling to meet your ends every month, then you are just about learning this art. Keep it up.
  • Never pay your bills on time. Would a royal king in older times, bother himself engaging in such mundane tasks, like paying those insignificant telephone or electricity bills on time? It is for those mere mortals, who would setup email reminders or use those large desk/wall calendars with sufficient space to write notes and remind themselves of paying up these irritating bills, month after month, on time, thereby saving those tiny-miny amount on late fees. Such money-saving tips are a kill-joy for living life royally.
  • Never worry about emergency fund. What is the use of the money lying idle when it should be running around with you in shopping malls. Some crack-pot websites urge people to keep six months of expenses as emergency funds Why should you worry about keeping such a huge amount, since you will never get hit with any emergency. Those nasty accidents, job-loss (Job loss insurance, OMG) or sudden illness happens only to others and not to you. So why bother about emergency funds?

  • Never pay-off your credit card debt. You should keep a poster of John Biggins of theimage Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn, New York and make him your GOD, since he invented credit cards. This is the greatest invention of man ever (forget fire, wheel etc). I bet that humans would still love credit cards even if it would have been invented during the stone age. Why credit cards are so addictive: 

    • You do not need to think, how much your bank balance is, just think how much credit card balance exists on credit card. It makes it so easy to remember, even if you never done any math subject in your life.
    • Also credit card companies are know to be generous enough to increase your credit card limit over the period of time sometimes without intimation. But isn’t it a pleasant surprise to suddenly find, during an impulse buying that your credit card just worked when you thought the limit has been crossed.
    • You can have as many credit cards as you want with so many flavors and banks. Just look at in India and you have so many choices of type of cards.
    • RBI has so many regulatory rules for credit card issuing banks that you are very safe. It has been seen on so many occasions that credit card companies flout these rules and also charge exorbitantly, but these are just small blemishes spread by the enemies of credit card industry.   Here is an example on how credit card companies make money.
    • Buy on credit card and pay a meager amount monthly. This is called revolving credit and it is a revolution. Some people try to scare you with revolving credit maths, like this, but you can safely ignore such realities.

      Let us take a simple example. If you are spending Rs 30,000 every month and repaying half of it, you end up spending Rs 3.6 lakhs in 12 months. You pay back Rs 1.8 lakhs and owe the bank Rs 1.8 lakhs. But what the bank wants back is 40,000 rupees more than what you've spent...and keep this going for another year…this will become a runaway figure...On the same amount of Rs 30,000 spend, if you take it really easy and pay back only the minimum due, that is Rs 1500 a month, you will owe the bank Rs 2.3 lakhs. The bank will demand back, Rs 3.5 lakhs back from you and that’s Rs 1.2 lakhs more than what you've spent. Keep compounding this and you can fairly figure out where this could go.

    • Credit card can get you cash from ATM if needed, what if they charge so much extra on cash withdrawals, think of the flexibility.
    • Credit cards also offer rewards to customers (see here and here), although very few people diligently and consistently try to re-deem those reward points. But isn’t it so nice of credit card companies to offer rewards, which we do not redeem even when it can lead to significant saving, but that is just a small niggle. It is a supreme gesture from credit card companies.
  • Impulse buying is the name of the game. We are talking about folks who are obviously above “roti-kapada-makan”, the basic necessities of life. So what good your money would be if you can not spend it when you feel like buying something. It is separate matter whether the thing you buy has any real value in your life but why worry about it? If you got it, flaunt it and if you haven’t got it, credit card will help you flaunting it. 

  • Planning your money is insane. Why waste time and energy into something which is inherently unmanageable. If big companies like Satyam or Dubai World can not manage it, how would you? As you must have heard that “Money is the root of all evil”, they why keep the evil with you or try to manage the evil, get rid of it as fast as you can and you will be happy. So turn deaf when you heard words like tax-planning, investment, saving, retirement planning etc. You obviously want to turn religious during old age in post-retirement life  (to repent all your life’s sin) rather than having crores of evil roots with you.

So if you follow this advise, this is a sure-shot way to leading a luxurious life. The one lifetime you have, live it King Size.

PS: This post was written in humorous jest, so if you seriously follow the advise, you would not have enough money even to sue me for wrong advise. So get real and serious about your money!!