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Rags to riches in 18 minutes...

May 24, 2014 09:16 IST

Rags to riches in 18 minutes...

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Lessons in saving and investing from a taxi driver :-)

As a financial planner I do spend a lot of time with 16 year olds working in call centers, media companies, banks and so on.

When I am with them and discussing their problems, one question that often comes to my mind is, "If these guys cannot make their monthly salary stretch one month, how will they be able to stretch their 'retirement nest egg' for 30 years?"

The normal problems are over-running their credit limits, paying partly for their cell phone bills, delaying the rent cheques, and all this, despite being paid well.

I try telling them the virtues of saving, starting early, investing, life insurance, mutual fund and all that. At my age I guess I sound like their dad/mom giving them advice, so like dutiful children they hear me patiently and ignore me nicely.

Whenever I run into them again, in the canteen or the corridor, they sheepishly tell me, "Sir, I was just looking for you. Will you be there till 4.30 pm?"

At 5.30 pm when I am leaving, there is no sign. But by now I know their game, so I shrug it off!

But surprise, surprise one day a smart, young woman comes up to me and says, "Can I invest in a mutual fund or an insurance policy, or preferably both?"

I flipped.

I had been chasing a lot of these people and only a couple of them had come voluntarily to invest. So I had to probe.

Then came out the secret... and I liked it. And since she was a mediaperson, I asked her to write the story in her own words. So here it is... in her own words.

I was on my way to work and Murphy's law had struck in the form of a traffic jam. In an attempt to dissuade my cab driver from blaring Himmesh Reshamiya's latest assault on music, I began to chat with him. In the course of my discussion, I asked him if the taxi he drove was his or was he on a shift system like many others.

His reply had me speechless.

Not only was the taxi he was driving his own, but he also owned six other fiat taxis, one Toyota Qualis, which he hired out and was now debating between a truck and bus for his next acquisition. Wow!

I asked him where he got the money from... slightly nervous that I was riding with a possible hitman for Dawood. And his answer was even more surprising.

He said, "Madam, whenever you need to go some place you take a cab and go. When I have to go some place and I don't have a fare going in that direction, I park my taxi some place and hop into a bus."

I listened as he spoke: "How much does it cost you to travel from your home to your office?"

"Rs 100," I said.

"Well, Rs 200 for a round trip?" he continued.

"Well let's say you travel through the month by taxi. How much would that cost you?"

Some quick math later, I came up with the answer: Rs 6,000!

I was spending Rs 6,000 a month to travel.

Then he said, "The bus ticket costs you Rs 10 and say another Rs 20 to get from your home (this was quite some time ago) to the bus stop and vice versa. That's Rs 60 per day for a round trip. You are saving Rs 140 everyday. That's Rs 4,200 a month... nearly Rs 50,000 a year. If you invested that in something, you'd be able to buy your own car!"

What could I say?

I now travel by bus.

And am doing a systematic investment plan in a mutual fund and paying a monthly premium in a unit linked insurance plan.

What I could not do in 18 months, a taxi driver had done in 18 minutes.

As told to P V Subramanyam


Photographs: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com