Though she would not like the tag of a hardcore feminist, she isn't the stereotypical helpless woman investor who relies on men when it comes to money decisions. Truth be told Debashree tells her male friends what to do with their investments. The Mumbai resident doesn't discuss fashion or movies; her favorite conversations are almost always about money and investments. Money to her is a form of energy, and so it must keep flowing. She defines ‘risk’ as being ignorant. Let us trace Debashree's riveting money journey, which started from writing her first cheque at 7 years of age to today as a mutual fund enthusiast, with more than a passing interest in direct equity investing.
Debashree was born and brought up in Jamshedpur. It was a joint family set-up, where tomboy Debashree drew inspiration from many people around her. Her grandma was one of the biggest influences. "I have seen my grand-mother being financially prudent. She taught us the benefits of being frugal yet extending helping hand whenever we needed extra money for study or business related purpose," Debashree says. Her father taught her something else: second income. Mr. Chatterjee practiced what he preached through having an LIC agency and also giving maths tuition.
Work brought her to maximum city, Mumbai many years ago. When Debashree began her career by handling communications for listed infrastructure companies, her existing interest in stock market doubled. She started following those companies as an investor and opened a demat account. Early in her career, she had a life insurance policy, a recurring deposit and a PPF account besides the EPF her company provided her with. "It helped me during the time of needs, it helped me use some money during my marriage etc." recalls Debashree.
But stocks were not her first investment. It was an endowment policy. In tier 2,3 cities like Jamshedpur, mutual funds weren't that popular, says Debashree as she defends her decision. "Personally I just kept the endowment plan as it is only rupees five thousand yearly premia and an emotional value attached to it. Otherwise, a 21-year-old doesn’t need to buy this," she added.
When work brought her closer to mutual funds, she started reading about them. Debashree started to learn about various product categories way back in 2010.
On the mutual fund front, Debashree remembers her first investments distinctly. "My first 2 mutual funds I bought were Franklin Asian Equity and ICICI Infrastructure Fund, I did keep them for over 5 years and sold for profit," she says, with a hint of pride in her voice.
With the proceeds of her recurring deposit, Debashree had bought a computer. With the proceeds of her first mutual fund, she gifted herself with gold jewelry. Also, it helped her address some financial needs.
Positive experiences create a virtuous cycle of good actions. Today, Debashree is big-time into funds. "I hold 10% in gold ETF, 15% in Debt (Liquid and Short term) and 75% in equity-based mutual funds in the mutual funds' portfolio. I hold some consumption led stock portfolio as well as have a PPF account. I like a diversified portfolio, it gives many options to leverage from. I also hold a fixed deposit as a contingency fund," she said.
Her biggest MF scheme allocation would be HDFC Equity, followed by HDFC Taxsaver. Some odd but hedge buys in her portfolio are Motilal Oswal NASDAQ 100 ETF and GOLDBEES (now owned by Reliance MF). Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs) are a big hit with her too. She has a few long-running SIPs like HDFC Prudence, DSPBR Taxsaver, and DSPBR Opportunities Fund.
But when the stock market drops by a good chunk. Debashree is not afraid to take out some gun-powder. "Besides investing through SIPs, I do some lump sum investments after sudden market falls. I feel it gives me good entry points. I invest about 50% of my investible surplus in mutual funds and stocks every month. I also save some money to invest during the downtime of the market," says Debashree, who writes on personal finance in her free time.
Debashree may be investing when the market tanks, but quickly emphasizes she is not a trader. "Market is a dynamic reality. The level of the market is just numbers, it gives ample opportunity at each level. At every 500 points fall on Sensex, I do some lumpsum buys on tax-saving mutual funds and portfolio stocks. And, yes those bets are paying off," the media professional says.
But don't emotions cloud her judgment, we asked. Emotions like greed and fear always play havoc with investment strategies. Debashree says she has had first-hand experience with how emotions can almost damage one's investments.
"Emotions and investment should never be in one basket, it caused me the biggest loss on Lanco Infratech. After the Lanco debacle, I have made practical choices. Before investing in any product, I do a SWOT of the product and decide on which life goal it can take care of," says the fast-learning woman investor.
For mutual funds, she does some basic checks – asset size, the history of AMC, the background of fund manager and investment style of the funds. She does check reviews of some esteemed bloggers as well to get a fix on the product. For her stock portfolio, she likes value stocks more than growth stocks, and also believes in India’s consumption story.
Debashree knows she hasn't seen everything and keeps an open mind when it comes to learning. "Investing is a process to reach financial freedom. My lessons on investment are borrowed from the big investors of the world," she says when we ask her about top things she has learned.
Being frugal is important. Debashree is clear that what we save will create our wealth, not what we earn. She saves for the rainy day. "Every appraisal may not be in your hand, but your daily expenses can be," she says.
She also understands the virtue of being disciplined. Debashree asks her friends to save a portion of their salary every month. "Saving an extra Rs 1000 every month for 5 years through SIP in an equity mutual fund, with a meager 8% return it will give you an extra 75 thousand rupees," Debashree adds.
Debashree doesn’t rant over potential loss/ gain or past failure. She thinks such practices do not serve any purpose, as what is gone won’t come back.
Like her father, Debashree is a believer in having a second income. "Investing in oneself is very important. You may not be doing a job of your choice, but you should invest in things you love doing, maybe writing your travel blog, doing pottery or giving tuitions to standard-4 students, it can earn you good sum...Besides your 9-6 job, having a second income will not just give you extra money, it will impart mental satisfaction," Debashree signs off.