Stop thinking about money by reading this book

My ‘Kindle Unlimited‘ subscription gives me access to some really good books, and then some excellent books. Since I don’t really have to pay money for the individual books, I get an opportunity to cause indigestion by selecting too many books to read and attempting to understand the world better.

It was with this sincerity I approached the book ‘I love money‘.

Although most of the mortals want a good love affair with money, I go into these glorious day-dreaming sessions of achieving beyond mere mortals by not having the need to think about money on a regular basis. I hope at least some of my reading will assist me in this pursuit – it has been a mixed bag so far.

i love money

‘I love money’ has noble ideas. In there, money is the good guy.

Money wants to be your friend if it isn’t not already. It has also gone ahead and written the foreword – what more would you expect?

The book announces to the whole world that you need to love money and make no bones about it.

Sadly, the entertainment value stops there.

‘I love money’ takes itself too seriously. It goes about creating a PhD-like course about how money is important, what it can do for you, how you should be doing stuff, and so on and so forth. A PhD course with some badly written content.

In this whole journey, you get many a cliche applied in today’s India (or let’s say your parent’s India if you are less than 30 years old).

Teach your children the value of Money (yes, with a capital ‘M’) and the virtues of saving, healthy habits, and other traits.

In the game of Money and Life, every opportunity matters.

Procrastination is a thief of both money and time.

Don’t jump to conclusions, or conclusions may jump back at you.

And things that a religious elder might not approve, but secretly admire anyway.

Start caring for money, treat it with lot of love and respect.

Sow the seeds of money consciousness deep in your heart.

Being playful with money is when you can see money and enjoy its natural beauty.

Pick up a currency and kiss it thereby expressing your love for money.

Well after reading 50% of this, I seriously started becoming uncomfortable. And, this had nothing to do with the nature of love expressed in the last sentence provided above.

The book simply calls upon you to respect/love money and has advice to treat money seriously – which includes gems like ‘note down who borrowed money from you’.

The book may be good advice and prep for the author’s workshop attendees. The book professes author’s love for money, and I have nothing against love of any kind (let’s not get wild here – afterall this is a G website). But, it fails miserably as a book.

There was no need to get so emotional about the message and create a melodrama about the ‘process of doing it’, ‘around doing it’, ‘about doing it’ and ‘how glorious you will be after doing it’. All the author needed to rather say was to ‘do the sh*t’ and ‘this is how it is done, baby’.

Look elsewhere if you want to read about money advice or how to get along with money.

 

I Love Money by  Suresh Padmanabhan.

We want free Credit Scores [India]

In India we can get Credit Scores/Credit Reports from CIBIL. What started as a surprise in 2009-10, has now become the norm for issuance of loans, credit cards and the like. Credit score is important to get any kind of financial assistance from reputed institutions today.

 

About Credit Score issued by CIBIL

Credit score are issued by CIBIL, the Credit Bureau licensed by Reserve Bank of India.

The score, technically known as “CIBIL TransUnion Score”, is a three digit integer between 300 to 900. It is a summary of your credit history that indicates your past credit health – whether you have repaid your loans on time, whether you have defaulted any credit card payments, availed loans beyond your repayment capacity, and so on.

While the score is the summarized overview, the detailed analysis is contained in the Credit Information Report. This report outlines all your credit performance till date.

cibil credit score free
src: CIBIL

Getting a good credit score is important.

As per CIBIL 80% of loans sanctioned are for people with a credit score of more than 750. Unless you are confident of gaming the system, can supply larger collateral for a smaller value, or are open to securing credit from unscrupulous sources, you need to try and stay in the top 80%.

Banks and other financial institutions become a member of CIBIL and enrich it with the financial history of individuals. They in turn get benefited when a new individual requests financial assistance. All those banks are now on the same page with respect to the standards – it is of course their prerogative on how they apply those standards.

As of July 2014, the CIR alone costs Rs. 154.

While CIR + Credit Score costs Rs. 470. Since Credit Score is what is important, it makes absolute sense to opt for this package.

 

The case for monitoring credit score

While we place all of the trust in our banks, and expect them to submit only the correct information to CIBIL, there can be multiple things going wrong.

  • You had a unclaimed credit card that was mysteriously used by someone else. The bank is now unable to reach you and that default has impacted the credit score
  • Another person has claimed the same PAN for some reason in one of the lesser known outlets to get a loan. And, now you are being penalised for that (this was a rumour I heard, not substantiated yet)

The onus shifts to the individual like you and me to monitor the credit score, and make sure our fellow humans do not err. This is only possible when we know what our credit report is.

 

Make Credit Reports free

Although Rs. 154 is not a big amount for a middle class family with an individual worrying about his credit, every bit adds up :).

Even if the Credit Score is not made free, I would believe it becomes one of our rights to know the details of the credit report. This is the information about us that is submitted by the bank to a third party company, and this would make us entitled to the report.

Giving individual access to credit reports also enable better transparency in what is being passed across to the credit bureau and why. If there are mistakes, they are corrected then and there instead of making an individual answer for a credit card payment default of 2009.

In the US, this is being addressed in a couple of ways. There is a Government mandated website  AnnualCreditReport, that supplies the annual credit report for an individual at no cost. However, this is only once an year.

There are also companies that have developed business models around providing free reports. While a few provide both Credit Report and Credit Score for free, a few other deal with only credit report. For example, Credit Karma, Quizzle, Credit Sesame. These websites enable individuals to monitor what is going on with their reports, and take action when they see a discrepancy.

It is not necessary to follow the “developed country model” for everything, but this is one of the things that we need to apply as soon as possible.

Save money weekly, see it add up [challenge]

This is an age of instant gratification. If you are into saving money, you are much better off seeing those savings add up – even if it means smaller increments. Regardless of the age we are in, humans always plan and work better in smaller chunks. How about applying the smart principles to save money for yourself.

Well, smart people have thought about that. So came the 52 week money challenge.

The premise is simple.

  • Save each week
  • Save in small increments
  • Start small and see your savings add up

You start with a negligible amount in the first week. Say $1 in the very first week, increase it to $2 in the 2nd week, $3 in the 3rd week, and so on till you save $52 in the 52nd week. This adds up to $1378 by the end of 52 weeks (or 1 year).

It works best if you can take the entire plan on a piece of paper, and stick it up on a place where you can see and measure on a regular basis. It helps if you share the challenge with others – you are now under pressure due to a publicly shared goal.

Get the 52 week chart here.

 

The All New Improved 52 week challenge chart

I have taken the same idea and made it to work for me with minor improvements.

  • Instead of starting on Week 1 of whatever it was, I start with my own custom date.
  • Depending on your own currency value, an increment of “1” may not be that high. So, I introduced the flexibility of deciding your increments by changing one number.

You can view my 52 week challenge Google Spreadsheet, and copy it for your own use.

52 week challenge Google spreadsheet

 

You can easily see that starting with a small Rs. 100 savings in the first week cascades into a Rs. 5200 savings in the 52nd week. All these savings add up to a whooping Rs. 1,02,700 which is quite a significant amount at the end of the year. The good part is that you cannot break this habit after about 6 months, and that is when the instalments have drastically increased. You are forcing yourself to save money by that time – which is a good habit to develop.

Rinse and repeat every year to set aside some money. Your savings come back to help you during distress or at a later part of your life.

Apply caution though. Always check the last instalment to check whether you can really afford to save so much. In the above example, the last month adds up to Rs. 20,000 in savings. Plan for lesser amounts if you see that it is not going to work for you.

 

Making it easier in an Indian context

Make it easier for yourself by sharing your goal. If you lead a highly digital life like me, you can find this easier to adopt. You also have the additional advantage of sharing your goal with everyone on Facebook 🙂

I am talking about ICICI Bank’s iWish.

If you have an ICICI Bank account, you can go to iWish site after you logon to ICICI Bank. You can create a goal on iWish (e.g. Save 1 Lakh in 1 Year), and allow it to feed from your bank account on a regular basis.

At this time you cannot get it to execute on variable instalments – that is something you have to manage by yourself.

save money iwish flexible savings

It looks and acts just like a Recurring Deposit account, with one major difference -you can share your goals with friends, and make your challenge well known. And, hopefully that induces some pressure on you to succeed.

iWish share on Facebook

Once you have the account setup, all you need to do is add increments on a weekly basis, and maintain your spreadsheet/chart to mark off your savings. Track your actuals vs. the plan, and see your savings grow.

Find Good Deals in India: shopclues

ShopCluesShopClues started in 2011, when things were not particularly looking up. But the influence of ShopClues in the Indian online market place has been deep and broad. Founded in the USA, but headquartered in India, ShopClues has come a long way in the two years it has been operational. ShopClues is the first internet shop providing a managed market place platform for India. That implies that ShopClues itself provides the platform, and make sure the trust is established (ala http://ebay.in) while not selling anything by itself. ShopClues does not maintain any inventory, but establishes the communication and makes sure transactions between buyers and sellers are smooth.

When I came across ShopClues at its beginning, the deals were moderate to good, a few excellent. I was mildly surprised by a new entrant who was successful in establishing trust so quickly in the chaotic marketplace. This translated into a more than a few buys, and I have been generally satisfied with the product/pricing and the service.

 

ShopClues

 

The things I especially found interesting were:

  • Cracker Deal: A chosen product finds a low rate for a specified time. This brings urgency to the sale, and was typically considered a really good price
  • Offers: ShopClues runs typically runs 3-4 promotions at any given point in time, not all of them considered good
  • Clearance: As with any large market, clearance sale consists of old or out-of-season items that have to leave the shelf quicker. Again, not really brilliant. You can spend a lot of hours on the site, find big discounts (e.g. 86% discount, 75% discount etc) only to be proven wrong by the prices elsewhere
  • And, then you have the Sunday flea market typically held on (surprise) Sundays!

ShopClues Sunday Flee Market

ShopClues have their own loyalty program based on ClueBucks. Items on the market typically carry the ClueBucks earning as well. You can accumulate ClueBucks and redeem them against an equivalent cash discounts on your newer purchases. Using ClueBucks obtained from higher value purchases (e.g. mobile phone) I have been able to get mobile scratch guard, and such lower value items for free. Typically it is more satisfying to get cash discounts here and now, rather than wait for loyalty points with an ability to choose crappy products elsewhere.

 

Now, all these deals and the race to bottom started well, and I am sure ShopClues means well. For e.g. who finds a Rs. 140 Axe deodrant for Rs. 49 + Rs. 34 for shipping? But this is kind of started going downhill thereon. There were rants on the internet (trust at your own risk) about how old items nearing expiry dates, and dubious looking items were shipped to buyers from the Sunday flea market, and from suspiciously low-priced deals. That followed the old adage – if it is too good to be true, then probably it isn’t. I suspect at least some these were not looked into and addressed by ShopClues in a timely manner, hence there is not much respect today about the prices of the lower-valued items. Buy them at your own risk. If possible, stay away from deodrants, perfumes, computer cleaning kits, connecting cables, shampoos – even if they carry the sticker of a respected brand.

ShopClues continues to shine in odd deals. Keep a look out for electronics, mobile phones, and such, and you are in good hands. Support has been responsive for me, and I will look forward for them to get out of the muck created by the low-priced deals.

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Compare insurance plans for better deals in India

insurance-india

Comparing insurance plans in India has not taken off very well so far. But can save good amount of money if you are willing to do some reading up before you buy any insurance plan.

In theory there should not be a lot of difference between the insurance plans providing same kind of benefits. All insurance companies abide by the IRDA rules, are guaranteed to an extent allowable by law and try to be fair as required by the regulator. But, in practice, there are things that add/remove cost for the insurance company, and that is passed on to the customer’s benefit in today’s aggressive market. So then, it should be an established fact that you should compare insurance plans for better deals out there. These could save anything between Rs. 100 to a few thousands if you are willing to absorb some defiencies.

 

1. Policy Bazaar

policybazaar

If you have not noticed the ads recently, Policy Bazaar is on a publicity spree to get everyone to visit their site – not without reason though. I had used Policy Bazaar for my insurance needs, and found it friendly to use, easy and laying out the facts rather nicely. Not satisfied with the niceties, I did visit more ‘comparison’ websites, the insurer’s websites, and even got interviewed by two insurance agents from different companies. From all this, I came to a single conclusion. Yes – research is important, no – I could not get better rates than Policy Bazaar. Don’t trust my statement though, you should try for yourself.

Policy Bazaar lays out the comparison facts, but be prepared to read the finer details of what is covered or not covered in insurance. If you are seeing too steep difference between two rates, it is most likely that you are not comparing apples-to-apples.

2. myinsuranceclub.com

myinsuranceclub.com

Let the strange name not deceive you. myinsuranceclub.com is capable of collecting the requirements, and showing a list of plans that may be of interest to you. They deal with all kinds of insurance, and pretty much work as expected to show the comparisons. myinsuranceclub.com also claim to be the first insurance comparison website approved by IRDA.

 

3. GetmeInsure.com

Not as modern looking as other websites (and even with a few spelling mistakes), GetMeInsure.com does the job well – as far as you do not expect the comparison in real-time and online that is.

getmeinsure.com

Getmeinsure.com deals with all major types of insurance, and works in a typical manner. You provide all details, and they get back to you with some human being who is going to fill you in with details about specific companies. You might see all those companies on the home page of their website. Pretty silly for this age, if you ask me. But, you should still try this route. Human agents are sometimes intelligent and may highlight some unknown fact about why a policy is expensite or otherwise. That is the sole reason this website makes it to the list.

So, there you are – three websites that can help you compare and see what exactly the insurance plans provide you, and how much does it cost. Be extremely careful though – the details have real big devils here. You cannot compare insurance, pick the lowest plan and be happy about it. Afterall insurance kicks in when you are in trouble – lost your car, had an accident, or worse. The wrong insurance companies can harm more than help here (not deliberate, but you can blame this on legal fine print that is not for mortals). You may also note that personal details have to be given out for any of these websites to act.