Pre-ordering a book before publication is like buying units of an NFO. You are committing money before you know what you are going to get. But in the case of ‘Money Wise’ by Deepak Shenoy, I knew it was a sure bet. Having known the author and reading his works for several years, I had a pretty good idea about what I would receive, and hence as soon as the book was announced, I jumped on it with an instant order.
Any reader of Deepak Shenoy’s essays would know that he writes with an eager passion that is infectious. Whether writing about an arcane RBI notification or analysing a specific stock’s movement in the market, he writes in a way that makes you want to try your best to understand what he is saying. He is like that Physics lecturer who practically dances on the podium to make you understand the differences between a particle and a wave. He makes you want to learn, want to understand the inevitably arcane matters that he invariably writes about.
So, the main thing I was looking for since I learned about this book was to see if this quality translated into the long form. Will this book make me WANT to understand and appreciate the topics he covers?
After having finished the book within 24 hours of it getting delivered, I can confidently answer ‘yes’. Let’s take a look at what the book is about and who it is for.
A life-time of financial learning in just 5 chapters
The book is simply about how to be smart with money. It covers all the important things – savings, insurance, a variety of investment options, and most importantly, the wrong things you could do with your money. It does all these in just 5 chapters over about 250 pages.
As any good author should, Deepak knows the value of his reader’s time – he starts without much preamble and gets right into it. In the very first chapter, he gets right into the topic of how to get started with getting your financial house in order. How to take a step back and review your personal finances, what to prioritize, how to clean-up, and what are the important things to get started with.
The second chapter is about the most important investment vehicle that every investor should know about – mutual funds. Here, Deepak covers the whole spectrum and introduces mutual funds from the very basics. He explains all the concepts, all the variants, all the categories, who should consider what, how to put together a portfolio, and more. An MF-curious person can get in and get out of this chapter with all the confidence he/she would need to get started.
The third chapter is a curious one – the practical methods to get started. The reason I say ‘curious’ is that most books would leave this question unanswered (like a ‘choice’ question in an exam). Deepak knows that mere theory will not get you from point A to your financial goal. So, he takes the extra step to tell you what it means to put a plan to action and get going.
The next chapter is about the world of direct equity (stocks) investing. Different people may find value for themselves in different parts of this book. For me, my paisa-vasool for the book was this chapter. Deepak uses a slew of anecdotes and stories to explain various aspects of stock market investing in this power-packed chapter. True, this 60-page chapter will not make you a stock-market expert, but you will come out wiser than you were when you went in.
I think a lot of people will read the final chapter about pitfalls to avoid (or as the author says, how not to get ‘suckered’), and chuckle to themselves about how they will never fall for something like these. They would be wrong. Very smart people have been made to look very foolish by the devious sales machines of the financial world. In this elaborate chapter (and appropriately so!) Deepak narrates a bunch of ways in which you could lose your way in your personal finances and how to spot them and stay away. This chapter alone should be a must-read for young people or people just getting started outside the safe confines of savings accounts and fixed deposits.
A book for the investment-curious
I would describe the audience of this book as the ‘window-shoppers’ of the investment world. There are lots of them – very likely you know a few of them in your life. These are the people who are eternally curious about the world of investments but afraid to dip a toe. These are the people who are sold and mis-sold financial products through their life on false promises that they cannot find fault with. They are the ones who know that their personal finances can be better, but just don’t have the confidence of knowledge to get going the right way.
These people will find a friendly tour-guide in Deepak. He writes with an amiable tone that is neither patronizing or complicated. He writes with authority but without berating you. He writes with humor (there are a couple of true LOL moments in the book!) but conveys his points clearly.
The other class of people who will find value are those that would like to have an insight into Deepak’s investment philosophy – they would find, like I did, interesting passages in the chapter on stocks that provide key understandings.
The final chapter on scams provides detailed review of a couple of famous scams from recent history – the NSEL scam and the Nirav Modi scam. Nobody does a better job of explaining them than Deepak, and followers of financial history will find them an interesting read.
I would have liked the book to have a companion website – a common thing these days – with downloadable spreadsheets and tools, especially to support the opening chapter(s). That would have made the book’s guidance more readily usable for the readers.
A must-read book for investors in India
People who complain about Indian books on stock markets and investing typically have three complaints: one, the book is too ‘gyan-ish’ – too much pontification, too little analysis and insight; two, it reads like a text-book, not written in a readably interesting way, or three, it is not about the Indian markets – what will I do knowing the history of S&P 500 over 100 years?
This book takes care of all three of these – analytical and full of insights, beautifully written with wit, and squarely about the markets in India. This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in learning, understanding, and appreciating how money moves in our nation and how to profit from investing in it. I have reviewed good books for Indian investors in the past – this book goes to the top of that very short list right away.
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