#WorkDifferent: Mastering Personal Finance With Mani Raja Chandran

I’m sure most of us are familiar with BAC Education’s Learn Different initiative, encompassing four pillars (Learn, Play, Work, Impact) to ensure the ultimate holistic next gen education. Chairman of BAC Education, Raja Singham, realised that these four pillars need not be limited to only their students. He envisioned a workforce that also benefitted from these four pillars, giving way to a holistic workplace experience. And that’s how Work Different came to be.

Apart from fun activities and engagement events, BAC Education had begun a series of talks that would add benefit to their staff’s personal lives and growth. The second talk in this series was one that encompassed the essence of #adulting…

Mastering Personal Finance with Mr Mani Raja Chandran, 2nd July 2021

This webinar was introduced by none other than Kumar Nagalingam – most of you would remember him from your first day at Orientation! BAC’s artistic Motivation Man opened the talk by briefly introducing his long-time friend, Mani Raja Chandran, who has been in the industry for 23 years, and currently leads a team of 40 wealth planners at Wealth Zenith.

The moderator then passed the floor to Mr Mani, who began his talk on Mastering Personal Finance.

The expert started off with a question, “Why are you working?” This led to some interesting answers from our staff!

“I can’t stay at home” , “Because it’s fun!” , “To be able to afford the things I want” , “I love my job and my team” , “Giving myself a purpose”, “To pay the bills”

Mr Mani concluded that we work to achieve something, and sometimes, it’s to achieve financial goals. He then broke down the different stages of life:

0-20: Go to school, have fun, meet new friends

20-40: Make major decisions (graduation, first job, first car, marriage)

40-60: Growth of children, reaching retirement

60-80: Retirement

He drew parallels between our first and last stages of life – a lack of income. But whether we’re dependant between 60-80, depends on what we do between 20-60. He explained how the money we’re making today is not just for now, it’s for our tomorrows too. We have to start saving for our future, especially when we can’t work anymore.

“Most of us have a career because we have a goal.”

Mr Mani brought up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, explaining that we’re all driven to work by certain goals we want to achieve at different stages of our lives. It could be Physiological, Safety, a sense of Belonging, Esteem Needs or Self-Actualisation. Some may be happy just catering to basic needs whereas others are looking to purchase luxury cars and houses. Either way, there is no wrong goal.

Mr Mani then summarised how, regardless of our types of goals, mastering our personal finances is absolutely vital. How much money is earned, spent, saved, invested, used for insurance and miscellaneous purchases.

He then quizzed the staff on the two things a budget compares. After many answers, Mr Mani explained that the two factors are INCOME and EXPENSES. The two types of expenses are fixed and variable expenses. The wealth planning expert emphasised that it’s important that we know what we’re spending on each month.

The next step is to then understand how to make money or how we should reduce our interests on loans.

COMPOUNDING INTEREST. The answer to doubling our money. Mr Mani gave the example of credit card interest, however he cautioned that these tools can be quite dangerous if one is not familiar with how to reap its advantages.

He then listed the potential outcomes of poor financial planning and the effects of not mastering our finances – uncontrolled debts, overspending, lack of preparation for the unexpected, lack of a retirement fund or an education fund, taxes unpaid, estates aren’t distributed.

To avoid all these outcomes, Mr Mani proceeded to explain what solid financial planning should look like.

Firstly, we have to work within our budget. Spending should be within our incomes. This first step allows us to fulfil the second step – saving towards our life events. “We have to live within our means and allocate money for potential financial risks,” Mr Mani emphasises.

In terms of managing our personal finances, Mr Mani laments that we are responsible for our own finances. Unless we can afford to hire wealth advisers or financial planners.

For those managing their own finances, Mr Mani explained the steps we should take in financial planning. The first step is always setting financial goals. This helps to plan a direction. What do you want to achieve and why are you trying to achieve this goal?

Secondly, we need to set income goals, ie: how much do we want to earn? For higher income goals, we need to either develop our potentials or work a couple of jobs to reach this bracket. Thirdly, we need to set our savings and investment goals. For example, you want to reach RM1 million by retirement. The last two steps involve allocating money for personal and familial needs, and allocating for emergency funds.

He then showed us an example of a budget template for our personal financial planning.

The next segment was on savings and investments. “You always have to think of savings and investments first before you consider spending,” Mr Mani advised. He provided us with a basic quotation – 10% for savings, 10% for investments and 10% for insurance. This will help greatly in saving for your future. He encouraged us to increase our savings over time by either expanding our income or cutting down on expenditure.

Mr Mani displayed a few examples of what we could save for and invest in.

For the parents in the audience, Mr Mani provided two situations for funding their children’s education – saving monthly or taking a lump sum loan at 50. “Which is best? I don’t need to tell you the answer” Mr Mani joked.

Moving on to the retirement stage, Mr Mani explained how Malaysia is becoming a retired society, thus making it even more important for us to start planning retirement funds. He warned against relying solely on the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) as it is insufficient. “Don’t depend on just one tool.”

Mr Mani advised on a few ways we can build these funds – unit trusts, insurance policies and other property investments. He, then, went into the pros and cons of each instrument, giving us a clearer picture for our future decision-making. He also provided us with tips on how to manage these instruments.

In the next portion, Mr Mani detailed a few financial risks we should prepare for in our personal financial planning. “Insurance symbolises the roots of a tree – you have to pay attention to them. If they’re not strong enough, a storm could easily knock the tree down.”

Mr Mani reminded us that in life 2 things are certain – taxes and death. He brought attention to how tax plays a fundamental part in all our financial planning and proceeded to highlight the personal reliefs we can gain by paying taxes.

His final segment was spent on discussing distributions of wealth. He couldn’t emphasise enough how important this aspect is for our future generations. It was a surprise to find that most Malaysians have not written a will. Mr Mani raised a few important aspects of will writing, nominations and insurances so the audience has an idea for how they’d like to proceed with their wealth distributions.

In summary, Mr Mani repeated the importance of managing a financial plan – budgets, savings, investments and expenditures. He also reminded us to include important life events (marriage, children’s education, property investments, unforeseen circumstances) in our financial plans.

The session ended with a few questions from the eager audience members, who thoroughly enjoyed Mr Mani’s talk. Being a fresh graduate in my early 20s, I learnt so much about how I should begin my financial planning journey. It used to seem like such a daunting aspect of adulthood but Mr Mani broke it down to such simple terms – now, it doesn’t seem so daunting anymore!

Tushaara, a fellow BAC staff member said the talk provided her with a lot of useful information in navigating her finances, especially during this particular period of time

Another BAC staff, Ann, quipped the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” In all stages in life, one has their respective goals to achieve, and missions to accomplish. This webinar has provided a much insightful take on financial planning and its importance, and it is never too late to take charge of your income, expenditures and investments.

All in all, it was another successful talk in BAC Education’s Work Different series and I can safely say, our staff are only eager for more!