Some tips I follow to manage my personal finance in India (Tweet Thread)
If someone suggest insurance+ investment combo opportunity …RUN: NEVER EVER mix insurance and investments. It makes no financial sense. So many of us are stuck paying premiums for junk polices like Jeevan Anand, just because our neighbourhood uncle convinced our parents that it is a good deal. Should we start a “Jeevan Anand Peedit Sammelan”
Remember Benchmark: Whenever someone talks about “great returns” always benchmark it against its peer. Eg in last one NIFTY 50 gave 42% returns. Almost everything did well post the covid market crash. I am pretty sure some agents are trying to sell you policies quoting an awesome 20% return last year . Ideally ignore the last year anyways
Fee only financial planners ONLY . Avoid your bank’s wealth managers at all costs. The incentive of anyone who makes money via your investing is not aligned. More often than not they would try and sell you what gets them maximum commission rather than be beneficial to you.
Direct mutual funds only: There is no real advantage of giving commission to the brokerage. Direct mutual funds not only give better returns, they are now super accessible. Just go open an account with Zerodha (referral link) and start investing there. I liquidated all my MF holdings after they crossed the threshold of exit load and moved to Zerodha
No point buying an apartment: I personally see no point plonking in a huge sum of money into an apartment, especially in places like Bangalore. – The rise in real estate is more or less correlated with stock market growth – Rental yield is just 2-3%. – The houses you want to stay would not have the same EMI as rent ( as some ppl claim). You just end up paying “Rent” to the banks, and its super expensive and you are locked in – There is also cost of non mobility
The only reason to buy a house is emotional which obviously cannot be priced in. If owning a house helps you feel good and has a positive effect on your self image, thats your call. To me at the moment it makes no sense. I may eventually buy when I have enough spare.
Book I recommend
I typically recommend Lets Talk money (Amazon Ref link) by Monika Halan . It is simple, and good enough for most people. Personal finance should be simple, you are not managing a hedge fund
While I speak from a more Product manager’s perspective, this is generally true for everyone who wants to be intellectually curious
It’s easy to be be a believer, it gives you sense of purpose, a sense of comfort, but if you really want to succeed, you need to be a bit of a skeptic.
And skepticism can be taught. Here is a simple trick I suggest
Developing a habit of skepticism
Whenever you read or listen to something interesting, something that catches your eye, especially something that makes claims: Think about one small fact that you can verify. I typically add a small note “really?” in my personal notes.
Go ahead and try to see if you can substantiate that. It could be a very simple thing: Eg someone says that a new study says that Covid vaccine is very effective, you can just check if the study exists and it makes that claim. It could be even simpler than that: Eg a startup says that their market is all tax payers in india and that is Y Million people. Just try ad find that data, is that accurate.
Slowly you start moving to questioning the interpretation on those facts. Eg: In the covid vaccination is “good” case above, you could now try and substantiate what is good. The research report may say 80% efficacy. Is 80% good? How does it compare to other vaccines. Are there any specific things that have been missed? Which age group, which demographic, which variant?
Eventually you start questioning the whole premise of the argument itself.
At the highest level you move to the very motivations driving the argument.
Most things you evaluate would be correct, but that is not the point. You are not trying to find malice, but just building a muscle for questioning.
With enough practice you would start seeing a pattern. You will get a “gut” for understanding what to check and verify.
Every industry, and also every individual has a pattern of what they tend to overlook or what they exaggerate. It could be personal bias or just a generally accepted “industry practice” (see Uselessness of NPS score article as an example of how a generally accepted industry practice is not necessarily accurate)
With this you are not trying to be cynical, but just being skeptics.
A very good exercise might even be to treat this very article with skepticism
Have I defined skepticism right
Can skepticism be taught, or is it just genetic
Who said PMs need to be skeptics. Is there some kind of qualitative or quantitative evidence to support that claim?
After writing this article, a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this came about. I started seeing some WhatsApp forwards and tweets talking about how upto 40% apple workers intend to leave for lack of full remote, or 90% apple employees want indefinite remote.
While I am all for flexibility and do believe that full remote is here to stay, the 40% / 90% number seemed way too high.
So I decided to look a bit deeper. Thankfully one of the newspaper itself posted all the details including their own skepticism
This data does exist. It was collected from employee survey done at Apple
It was done by Apple Employees themselves
It was done in a slack group specifically meant for people invested in remote work . DUH!!!
Without even trying too hard you can see that only 36% of employees in a group specifically meant about remote work spoke about resigning.
If I was teaching a class on bias, I would use this as a perfect example.
You can draw absolutely NO conclusion about what apple employees want in aggregate from this. While I do give points to media sites for publishing the survey details, I hold them accountable for publishing it in the first place knowing fully well that this data has no validity.
It leads to absurd headlines and unnecessary conclusions amongst people who trust them.
It’s like me doing a survey in a “Board game lover”internal group about how important it is to have board games in the break room, i may get 90% Yes. That does not mean 90% people in my company want boardgames in the break room
NO company is going to lose 40% employees just because the do not offer full remote work. Ironically, the most accurate data about the pulse of their organisation might be with the company itself. The company’s survival depends on it. No one would risk losing 40% of employees.
You can obviously dig further and look at specific questions and see if these questions had inherent bias already. Surveys are not that easy and results can vary widely based on how you ask a question.
Motivation: Now you can ask, why did these news sites publish these results knowing fully well that they are widely inaccurate and biased. What is the motivation:
While it has been a year since I have been working from home due to covid, I have been investing in a good WFH setup much earlier than that. The productivity improvements by just having a dedicated space to sit and do your work at home is highly underrated.
So here goes the detail of stuff that helps me work better
PS: some links below are referral links and i make a small commission for qualified purchases
The Sitting Desk: This is perhaps one of my best investment yet. I got it made a few years ago. My main specifications were:
It should be longer than normal( I like to have books and reading material also on the table)
Specific design(see the whites)
No annoying leg support that most desks in the market had. They are a nuisance for slightly taller people
The standing desk setup: This is new. I figured the best way to have any standing time is if I take some meetings standing. Unfortunately most standing desks are either super expensive, or just not ergonomic. I also did not want to give up on my existing desk.
The key to a good standing desk is to have the monitor at your eye level and your arms at 90%, very similar to how it should be when you are sitting.
While this looks a lot, this gives me a comfortable standing posture. I can stand straight and type without straining my neck or my back
My Monitors I primarily only work on my monitors and my laptop is only used when I am away from my desk or taking a standing meeting. I love keeping one monitor vertically as it helps me read long documents better, or open multiple windows together. I use Samsung’s curved monitorfor my primary work. I love the curved monitor so much that I don’t think i would go back to flat ones any time soon. Also it seems curved monitors are better for your eyes.
I also use Amazon basics monitor armsthat can connect to my table without any drilling. I can shift it relatively easily to any side of the table. Monitor arms not only save space, they also allows me to put one of my monitors in a vertical position
Chair: I use a gaming chair by Greensoul. I assumed that gaming chairs should be super comfortable because gamers spend a lot of time sitting, but after using it for a year I think its not the case. It is a decent starter chair, but I am thinking of upgrading. Suggestions welcomed (Update: It seems they updated the lumbar support in the new model)
VC setup My entire setup is fixed and I do not move around the laptop much, as a result I cannot use my laptop for my calls. Also if you are using a monitor, and stare at it during a video call, it can be super distracting or annoying for the other person. As a product manager, making at-least some personal connection is super critical and hence investing in a decent VC setup can go a long way (In budget)
Microphone: I use and a Ahuja MTP-20 wired unidirectional collar lavalier mike , which is attached directly to my Macbook. While the Logitech webcam comes with an inbuilt microphone, it’s voice capture is not that great. A cheap Lavalier microphone can work wonders. I use this unidirectional one that cuts out any background sound such as a running fan. Also, since it is wired, its pretty economical
Sound: Macbook Pro built in
A note on using bluetooth devices I did experiment with a bluetooth setup for both microphone and speakers, but there was always this slight lag that made conversations unnatural. I recommend against using any bluetooth device for audio in or out.
Mesh Wifi: My life has been different pre and post mesh wifi. It has been the single best upgrade I have done to my home office setup. I use Deco M4. See below the speed tests before and after mesh. Directly from router Wifi: 22Mbps On mesh: 160Mbps
Keyboard and Mice: Apple original Keyboard and Magic Mouse. If you are using a mac and can afford it (or your company pays for it), I recommend just closing your eyes and going with apple original. They not only work well, but also support all kinds of apple specific gestures, especially when it comes to the mouse
Wire organisers, lots of them to keep the wires always in place and mostly out of sight. I even created a charging station
Amazon basic lamp: Not only it looks cool, its great when you want to work in a yellow light during the night. Its rechargeable so no need to keep it plugged in. Really handy if you want to read a book on the desk.
Blackout Curtains: My desk faces the window, and while it is great to look out, during sunny days the brightness was way too much. My eyes started hurting trying to adjust to two different light sources. I use these ones by Armenia Hague. Mine are fairly economical and work really well. I barely notice even if its super bright outside.( See images below)
Smart bulbdirectly on top of my desk, connected to my google mini. Its fun to ask the assistant to switch off the lights. I use Tplink smart light
While we would like to be good at everything we do, it’s neither possible, nor an attempt advisable.
You will always be bad at something either due to skill or by choice. I want to talk about the latter today.
Being bad by choice: Your profile, your CV, your choices, are all reflection of what you want to be. While you want to be strong at what the job you want to do requires, it maybe a good idea to be bad or be perceived ‘not great’ at stuff you don’t want to do.
For example: when I was in consulting, my company offered to pay for PMP certification for any consultant willing to take it. PMP is almost an industry standard for becoming a project manager.
While it rightly got a few people excited, I blatantly refused to do it. I am not against being good at project management, I feared I would suddenly become eligible for project manager roles that may need urgent fulfilment within the company.
It’s super hard to say no early in career and I specifically did not want to be a project manager. I did not last long as a consultant either, but that’s a story for another time.
Doing so saved me from two things:
I knew if the need came, no team looking for project managers could force me or my manager to let me take that up. I preferred bench over Project Management.
A lot of Product Management roles in India are disguised project management roles. Due to my lack of PMP I was not considered as a candidate for them. I auto rejected myself
Traditionally, we assume, amassing certifications and varied skills increases our likelihood of landing a job, but it can also reduces our chances of landing the one we want.
Just because it’s free knowledge does not mean it’s good for you. You need to opt out of and close doors you don’t want to be tempted or forced to enter.
Will I ever do a PMP? : Never say never. I have deep respect for Program managers who can handle large projects and keep seeking guidance and help from them, but if I do take up formal certification I’ll most likely not tell people about it :).
I am at peace with being labelled as a Product Manager who is great at Design, Research, and Data, but sucks at Project Management. I don’t think that has hindered my career yet.
Youtube recently changed its Partner program guidelines under which you can only monetize your videos if you meet these two conditions
You have 1000 subscribers
You have at least 4000 hrs of viewing time in past 12 months
I find both these rules unfortunate and detrimental to a lot of creators (including myself) .
For larger channels it implies that they now have a bigger pie to share amongst themselves ,assuming the advertisers spend remains same.
For YouTube it implies more lock in on larger channels (their earnings may go up) and less number of channels breaking community guidelines since they have more to lose.
Unfortunately for creators who do not meet one of the above two guidelines , it is a goodbye .
If I were to use my own channel on poetry as an example, I at the moment meet both the guidelines. I have more than 4000 hrs of viewing time in past 12 months and about 7000 subscribers , but
I no longer actively create videos(at least not at the level I used to)
Most of my traffic is organic, which is steady but low
Some of my older poetry videos get picked up once in a while and go semi viral , driving traffic beyond 4000 hours, but that is not very sustainable.
I record poetry , not the most popular genre.
For a creator like me, YouTube may no longer be a viable option. How do I make sure I have 4000 hours of video plays every year? I need to keep producing videos if I want to keep earning. I cannot kick my feet up and have that passive earing (however low it may be, it feels good ).
I am pretty sure a lot of people will resort to questionable techniques
Employ third-party to play videos in some click farm.
Stuff their videos with empty spaces, instead of quality trying to make sure people stick around a little longer.
Buzzfeed kind of videos– “watch till the end to know ABC”.
Auto play of your videos.
YouTube probably found these numbers based on analysis of it’s whole universe. I would have loves to see category based limits.
Eg: For Vine stars it could be 1000 hrs , for poetry 2000 hrs…for News it can be 4000 hrs. Every Genre will have a different video length and watch percentage that is considered good.
Because not every video ,every genre is equal. This broad brush stroke may be the end of road for many not so popular genres.
“The Tarot card reader was able to pin point the exact reason for my suffering”
“I know homoeopathy does not work, BUT my uncle was cured of chronic headaches when he started taking those medicines”
“I was able to pass the exam after the holy man blessed me”
Are you one of the people who has experienced stuff like the ones stated above?
You are a logical person and believe in scientific approach of double blinded study , but you cannot ignore what happened to you and the people you know “personally” when they tried occult and other scientifically disproven hocus pocus.
Anecdotal evidence is SOME evidence,and MUST count for something, correct?
Let’s discuss a popular possible “scam” .
I am really bad at picking stocks(Fact) , but I decide to start a stock TIP service where I tell people which stock to pick. This is how I could do it
Step 1: I buy a list of 1 lakh phone numbers .
For the purpose of this post, I will represent 1000 phone numbers(target users) with 1 sheep.
I know that Infosys is about to announce its quarterly result, and post every result the stock price either goes up or down significantly. I send half of my list[Part A] a message that “Infosys will rise , Buy as many shares as you can” and the other half [Part B] “Infosys will fall, sell sell sell”
Actual result: Infosys went up.
Step 2 : I discard the Part B of the list. I divide the remaining list in 2 parts and repeat the same process with Reliance stocks.
Step 3: I do the same process 3 more times for 3 different stocks, discarding the portion of the list that received a wrong prediction for each subsequent iteration.
At the end of these 5 iterations, I will have:
50,000 ppl who know I am just a bogus guy. The first prediction itself was wrong.
25,000 will think my predictions are as good as flipping a coin, 50, 50
12,500 will think i have some talent
6,250 will think I am good.I got 3 in a row correct. Not a mean feat
3,125 will think i am a genius , i got 4 out of 5 correct. They just had to follow my advice and make a lot of money.
And last 3,125 people will think I AM GOD OF FINANCE. I just predicted the FUTURE with 100% accuracy . There is NO WAY I could have done that with such consistency . I either have a LOT of insider information or I practice occult. They will believe anything I tell them.They will refer me to all their contacts, hold my words as dear as financial gospel.
All I have to do now is send a message to 4,5 and 6 to “Signup” with a low low fees of 1000 rs for getting more updates. Any guesses if people will sign up?
If you are part of group 6, would you NOT sign up? You could have made crores by just following my last 5 free advice, what is 1000 rs in front of that?
I just did some quick projection of how much the scammer can make (lots of assumption).
Now, the question is : Do I really know how to pick stocks?
And that is how ladies and gentlemen I can become anything I want.
I can tell you how to solve your marital problems using cow dung. Given enough solution seekers, I bet I can find at least some couples who will swear by my “cow dung therapy”.
This is one of the MANY “tricks” used for the spread of pseudoscience.
I make a final prediction : Buy shares of a company called Suzlon. They will breach 18 in 2018.
If it works, send me some bitcoins ( ) , if it does not, well I already said I am bad at picking stocks ;). Deal?
//Update: Suzlon is still at 5 Rs…I failed in my prediction
Let’s first get something very Clear: My Official Name : It is MADHUR CHADHA and there is no spelling mistake here.
I never really knew that my name could be tough to pronounce or spell for anyone, but boy, have I been wrong?.
Here are some of my favorites things that have been done to my name
The Chadda Complex
A lot of people have had the tenacity to tell me that I was “accidentally” spelling my last name wrong. It is supposed to be “Chadda” not “Chadha” or even “Chada”
Yeah, probably one of my ancestors was bad at spelling and I have to live with that
At least half of my college certificates have Chadda in them. This is something I kind of lived with since childhood
I joined Infosys Hyderabad in 2006, it was the “Communications” teacher who was taking the attendance.
I marveled at her ability to pronounce those complicated names(To my “never stepped out of faridabad” ears) . She was the type of person who knew it is Telugu, not Telegu …until she met her nemesis. My name.
After about 30 seconds of trying to arch her lips in the perfect fashion to make the sound that represented that supremely complicated name—She muttered Moaaaadhor, I still do not know what exactly she said, but it was me. Everyone else had “easy” names. I was already famous.
PS: The next name was Madhulaletty –And she did not even have to read it. It was like Neha for her
When the communication instructor cannot pronounce your name…you do start questioning your whole life
Overconfidence kills and can sometimes lead to hilarious results.
In 2009, I was starting a project with a company in the US . Before traveling, we had to send our details so that they can get our email , access cards etc ready. The guy handling that on the client side was an Indian, and being an Indian, he thought he knew all Indians.
He read it once and entered my details as “Madhur Chandra”.
Now the way they made email ids was <last name><first 2 letters of first name> @<domain.com>
So I landed in US and emailed my colleagues back in India with my shiny new email ID
chandrama@<client.com> (Chandrama means the moon in Hindi)
I just got 1-word reply for multiple senior people “Lol”
PS: NO American has EVER misspelled my name. They copy paste from my signature. It is always my fellow countrymen
I have no clue why, but a LOT of Hyderabadi’s think my name is Mathur . They not only pronounce it like that (which is Ok) but spell it too. I have been corrected on this (can you imagine?)
One of my Microsoft colleagues used to ALWAYS refer to me as Mathur in Emails. I do not like to correct people on email , I sound like an obnoxious jerk correcting minor errors.
I decided to tacitly bring it to his attention.
I started putting my first name as a signature in my emails(even replies). ~Thanks, Madhur.That did not work
I Started putting my FULL name in email, to draw his attention
I bolded my Name, First name….put colors …highlighters
There still is a Microsoft employee who thinks that he had a colleague called “Mathur Chadha”
How do you correct someone after they have spelled your name wrong for 1 year and you never corrected him ?
He won, I lost. In honor of this name, I keep my screenname as “Mathur” in a lot of online games.Remember that if you are playing someone called “Mathur”
Now that does not mean, my name is awesome and cannot lead to unfortunate but hilarious situations.
When I joined Microsoft, and had had my fanboy moments, I was finally presented with my email ID. I had looked forward to that shiny new @microsoft.com email address that I could flaunt
But Microsoft used the following formulae for creating you email ID that time. <2 letters of Firstname><last name>@<domain>
yes: My email ID was email@example.com
Don’t get it? Say it out loud in one go…over and over again and see the people around you react.
No surprises, I did not message people my ID, but went to their desk and told them machadha.
Yes, I got it changed soon. A joke has a limited shelf life and mine was also NSFW
Yeah…so what’s in a name.
Now when someone talks about their name being tough.I chuckle…
Son, you have no idea…and my name was supposed to be simple
Or perhaps people are inspired by this Ron Swanson Mantra of Life
As as kid, one of my favourite subjects was Hindi.One of the things I enjoyed was writing an essay(yes sounds boring but I was really good at it)
Most essay questions in schools revolved around some finite set of themes, and one theme was religion, superstition etc ..or something like that. My Memory fails me here
I no longer remember the exact title of the essay , but I do remember that I used to always quote two dohas by Kabir for good marks
Kankar pathar jod ke, Masjid laye banay
Taa chadh mulla baang de, kya behra hua khudaey
Loose translation: You collected pebbles and stones and made a masjid out of it.
Then you got your priest to go on top of it and shout. Has God gone deaf?
Patthar puje hari mile, to main poojun pahad.
Ghar ki chakki koi na puje, joko pees khaye sansar.
Loose translation: If praying to a stone gets you God, then I will pray to a Mountain
Instead, why doesn’t anyone pray to their flour mill at home, it gives people food
Now I am pretty sure, I am not the only one who used these dohas for those “extra marks”. Many must have remembered it years afterwards like me.Many who came before me and many who came after.
Both the dohas question and satirise one of the most dearly help aspects in both religions. Azaan and Idol worship.
But it was ok to write about this in examinations.It was all ok, at least that is what we felt, to question these things without getting an exaggerated reaction from anyone.
What worries me now is, that the generation that I studied with, the generation that remembered these dohas and probably wrote them down multiple times, is also among the generations that are getting so offended over someone questioning the use of loudspeakers for azaan , aartis etc
The same generation, as kids, thought that it was OK to question the whole concept of azaan and idol worship, now has people who think its blasphemous to question the use of loudspeakers?
Yes, there are people across all age groups who fall into this category, but it makes me much sadder when I see people who I presume are from “my generation” discussing this.
Yes education is not same across, people change and blah blah blah
It is the same feeling you get when you see one of your old classmate who has ruined his life. You had nothing to do with it, but you feel so sorry and somewhat guilty. He is a part of your childhood and you cannot fathom it taking such a turn.