* I’m currently off the blog until March some time since I am moving from the UAE to Australia. For more details, just check the post right after this one (or click here) 🙂 Also, I am alive and kicking on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (ID: shehzeen-r) and Instastories (@shehzeenr on Instagram) as always.
Interrupting the moving-countries transmission to bring you a post which I wanted to get out there before I started the whole transition but it didn’t happen and so here we are. It’s strangely exciting to be doing a post after a bit of a gap, I hope the feeling is mutual and you feel as excited reading it? (Your response options are ‘yes’ and ‘jee bilkul’).
So this post has been requested of me SO many times. And I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable giving financial advice because finances are tricky and everyone has a different lifestyle – what’s important to me, may not be important to you and vice versa. But eventually I figured that I could always share my own financial story with you, which may potentially work for everyone. And by everyone, I mean all genders, all (adult) ages, everyone. I’m not giving financial advice, I just want to share my personal story and my learnings.
So here I am sharing with you my journey of learning to save. Everything I’m mentioning below, every.single.thing. has been an organic part of my own personal process to becoming more financially intelligent. These things – I’ve learnt them, I’ve embraced them, and I now use them, everyday, all the time.
Let’s get moving: please to see the three most important steps that were part of my journey to save.
1. Becoming comfortable with money management. I started saving when I was 21, which was when I started working full-time at my first real job. I started saving because that’s what most of us have been conditioned to believe: Saving is good. When you earn, you should save. I wasn’t really putting money away for anything particular except helping out the parents, etc. But gradually my saving became more goal-oriented: Save for next year’s rent, save to pay college loans, to contribute back home, to save for my wedding. It became a very natural part of my life.
This period of my life made me truly realize the value of saving and I managed to become very comfortable with the concept of managing my own money. But because I never took expert advice on what’s the best way to manage my money, I was mostly only getting my paycheque, putting some money away and then working with what I had. I was saving but what was going in, was also exactly the same coming out. I spent a lot of years in this phase and now I realise that if I had gotten financial advice earlier, I could have done SO much more with my money. If someone had guided me, I could have moved to Step 3 so much sooner.
2. Learning to be smart about saving. About three years ago, I read this book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ where the author talked about making your money work for you. Not work for your money but make your money work for you. I was super intrigued. Basically, saving money on the side in a bank account, for example, was the same as putting it away in a cupboard or your pocket – it would always remain the same amount (and potentially decrease in value over time). When you invest your money smartly in a place where it can safely give you returns, you earn and save X, but you may get 2X (or more) back. You make your money work for you. Both Nabeel and I loved this concept so much we started planning on how to start doing more of that and just generally become more smart with what we earned.
3. Investing my money. We read that book, you guys, and the very next day Nabeel and I started thinking about how to ‘make our money work for us’ (we also have some grand plans of retiring early so we really wanted this, lulz). We were slow in picking up but gradually we began putting our money in places where we could start getting returns. One of our first and all-time favorite options as beginners were Mutual Funds because you can start with a low capital investment and low commitment (unlike investing in property, which is great but requires large capital). It can be low risk and is liquid so your money doesn’t get stuck somewhere and you actually get returns which basically…makes your money work for you. Nabeel has since branched out into investing across a number of avenues; I’m more risk averse so I love Mutual Funds and mostly prefer to stick with them only. But overall, we’re both no longer just putting cash away to use at a later time; we always have it placed somewhere where it’s working for us.
A while ago, MCB Arif Habib Investments reached out to me to talk about their iSave plan where you can invest in Mutual Funds sitting at home, from the comfort of your couch (or office chair, or a beach, totally flexible), just by simply going online and creating an account. Nabeel and I have been MCB account holders for a long, long time now (it was the very first bank account for both of us incidentally) and so we’re very comfortable with them generally. I loved the iSave program (in fact quite impressed by it) and so I’m going to take a few minutes to tell you about them. I’m not doing a comparison post, there may be other banks that offer the same, but because of our long association and trust with them, I was happy to check them out and decided to make iSave a part of this post too. You’re welcome to check out other options, but if you’re interested in iSave, the rest of the post is for you.
Before we get all technical, I want to clarify something that a lot of our desi financial management realities are influenced by. Investing is not for rich people or those who love money. I personally don’t care about having too much money. But I do care about being smarter with my own time. I can work hard and make X amount in 8 hours, but I would always prefer to make 2X in the same number of hours or make X in half the time. This allows me to invest my time in other avenues like self-growth, travel, family, hobbies, just live my life with a higher quality.
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Now let me tell you guys about Mutual Funds first, because when you’re not into this stuff, things can almost feel like a complex abstract algebra equation or something.
Mutual funds are an investment option for getting into stocks, bonds, and more. From MCB Arif Habib Investments’ own website, “A Mutual Fund is basically an investment security that allows various investors to pool their money together into one professionally managed investment. These mutual funds can invest in a number of securities like bonds, stocks, instruments of money market, etc.”
Sounds complicated but since I’ve been doing it, I promise you it’s not. You only have to pick the fund and you put your money in. Then instead of watching the market like a hawk, you let experienced people manage your money for you to generate maximum profit and gains. They also diversify it for you, so you don’t end up putting all your money in one place and spread out the risk.
And iSave is MCB Arif Habib Investments’ online portal for doing all of that.
I’m going to list down the topline benefits that you get from registering with iSave right here for you:
- You can start your investment as low as PKR 500. That’s it.
- You can open your account online (while preferably having takeout). No branch visits anywhere.
- Anyone can do this. Whether you’re a college going student or just starting out in life or have a bazillion kids or a homemaker, ANYONE can do this.
- There’s no minimum monthly transaction amount. So you can invest PKR 500 and let it stay that way for as long as you want. Of course, if you invest more, the returns are higher. But if you don’t want to, you can invest in the beginning and then never again.
- No redemption holding period. Some banks can ask you to wait a period of 90 days to withdraw funds after you’ve invested. Here, you invest, your money shows up in your account and you can choose to withdraw the next moment.
- They have many Shariah compliant options.
Since I know money talk can be intimidating or overwhelming for a lot of people, especially if you’re someone who is on a limited budget like a student or don’t make their own money like a full-time housewife, here are some suggestions from me if you’d like to explore iSave.
- Visit the website and slowly go through every page. Read up on everything they have lined out, it’s nothing difficult, just information that you need to read through patiently. It’s easy and ANYONE understand it. Don’t worry. (By the way they’ve done a fabulous job on the content, it’s very simply explained and straightforward)
- Remember that you can start investing with as low as PKR 500. So you can pick out the fund that sounds the best one to you and get started. See how you feel about it.
- If you still don’t understand, call them up. They’re experts and happy to help. Lock down some time, pull out a notepad out, get together with a friend and ask them to explain everything to you. No questions are stupid, it’s your money, you can ask whatever you want. If you don’t understand in the first meeting/call, get in touch again.
- Always make an investment that you feel fully comfortable with. Get inputs from MCB Arif Habib Investments, read up some more again and then begin.
- Always test the waters first before making a large transaction. Start small, see how the funds move, get your bearings on it, and then take it to the next level.
- Your financial saving goals don’t have to match with anyone else’s. If you’re happy with a slow or small return, go for that. If you feel comfortable to go bigger, why not. But focus on your individual growth and keep learning for yourself.
- Investing, especially if you start low risk, starts giving off results slow. It’s not a magic wand otherwise all of us would be using money as kleenex. It really is a lifestyle, you have to get into it and let it become an organic part of your overall financial portfolio.
If you’d like to check iSave out, here’s their website. You can also have a look at their FAQs, a quick crash course on Mutual Funds but to be honest, take out an hour and go through the whole website first. You can also follow MCB Arif Habib Investments on Facebook right here (I really encourage this because updates on such topics are always good).
That’s about it. See you again on the blog a little bit later 🙂
Disclaimer: As with all investments, it’s entirely dependent on the fund you choose, the amount of risk you take, among many other things. Please understand this is my story with some suggestions and information on a Mutual Funds available in the market; the responsibility for any financial decisions you eventually make, completely rest with you.