Director, Country Counsel & Company Secretary of Boeing: Always spend Money to build your Character but never otherwise
Personal finance is the most neglected and so The Finance Story ‘Money & Me series’ features finance professionals who share their journey with Money. This is an initiative to learn from each other.
- Hi, I am Dr. Akhil Prasad; Director, Country Counsel, and Company Secretary at Boeing, India.
- I grew up in Meerut (India) and by all means, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, however, everything started to change when our family businesses started to flounder and the family went into deep financial problems.
- Here is my personal view on Money and some learnings from my experience.
What does Money mean to you?
My family at least in the last three generations I know of, have given more value to "name" than "Money"... I do the same.
My grandfather and his brothers had a cinema business and were well to do. Then my grandfather and his brothers started a bank in the early 1900s. It did well but over the years went bankrupt... the question came whether we embrace bankruptcy or save family name, they chose the latter. We sold jewelry and a lot of property to pay off the creditors. They lived to the name of a “Patharwala” "their word is cast in stone."
Then in the 1960s 70s and 80s, our family was the largest film distributors of India. Then businesses started to fail, the family had huge debts to pay off.
To repay the debt my father and uncle started a construction company. I was a Director in that company. As luck would have it, the construction business also failed and our debts multiplied many-folds, the Bank that financed our construction project, filed suit against us and our ancestral house about to be auctioned.
I lost my father around that time. All our reputation was at stake... we were verbally also labeled as "wilful defaulters" by the Bank... so again the question came should we declare bankruptcy...we didn't instead we paid off the creditors by selling our personal property and lived to be a Patharwala.
I was just about in my twenties then but having gone through the tough situation myself, am proud that had the courage to live to that name.
To answer your question, while Money is important for your daily life if you don’t have enough, one should not lose one’s mind to compromise on ethical behavior and fair conduct to adopt unfair means to make Money.
No matter how little Money you have, always have the heart to share it with someone who needs it more than you do.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards Money?
My father was a medical doctor and a very pious person. He had a huge OPD of 500-600 patients a day and was devoted to his patients. His practice was a “service” without seeking Money in return. As the matter of fact, he never took any money from the family business that we had.
I remember as a child, anyone who would visit our home would always be served a meal and was provided excellent hospitality.
With limited financial means, it’s still a mystery how my parents were able to give us a very good life, education, and upbringing.
Another impactful learning was my parents always gave the same respect to everyone, irrespective of their financial status.
I still recall, I was a kid and a rickshaw-puller had an accident and my father operated on him in one of his clinics that was at home. It was late at night, and after the person was treated, my father asked him to join us for dinner. Suddenly, someone rang a bell and the local Member of Parliament stopped by to meet my father. The rickshaw-puller immediately stood up and asked to take leave. My father calmed him down and then he along with the MP had dinner together with my father.
There were many such instances of my father being completely oblivious of a person’s monetary status and his ability to treat everyone equally and with the same respect.
I will never forget this and I emulate him for this. I treat everyone equally and give them the same respect, never more or less depending on their monetary or financial status.
Are you a saver or spender and tell us why?
Saving or spending is often relative to the time you are in.
I was born with a silver spoon but my family fell through very hard financial problems.
During those tough days, when meeting financial ends was difficult, learning from my parents, I always had the courage to spend on necessities - whether my children or my own education, whether for the needs of others, including our family’s orphanage and other necessities.
Of course, we were taught to be and careful at not being extravagant, which we still are but we continue to put priorities and areas we need to spend and save to secure our future.
We also ensure that we spend on others to make their lives better. However, I realize that one should secure one’s future so savings are extremely important to ensure that we try and fulfill our dreams and aspirations.
How old were you when you started properly investing/saving?
I had lots of financial obligations so I started saving at a very late age.
The first saving was when we started to “invest” in our own home, for which we had to take a mortgage. Like many people, we too minimized our expenses and paid off the mortgage before time (of course not by cutting spending on family and others’ necessities).
Now, we focus on financial instruments for our savings.
The biggest mistake you made when it came to Money?
My bigger focus has been on constant learning, so Money has not been a priority or something I have gone after, so don’t recall committing mistakes with respect thereto.
Like others, we have our share of experiences where we faced thefts or misappropriation or partners not being fair to us in family business matters.
I am not saying that I am timid of not fighting for my rights but when there has been a question of Money over relationships and good conduct, I have always preferred the latter.
At times, you feel cheated and someone may be unfair or unkind to you, they value Money over a relationship, I would rather move on and focus on progressive things that make me positive and energetic.
I believe that one should do one’s karma, with dedication, honesty, and respect for others and though the road may be long, more often than not, you will emerge successfully.
In view of this, I don’t regret or believe that I have made mistakes in matters of Money, I may have compromised on certain situations related to Money but those situations, in the long run, have so far been in my favor.
As of today how do you invest/ save?
Having gone through challenging financial situations, somehow the Value of Money is something we understand very well.
I try and save a 'significant part' of my earnings each month so that we are able to focus on the necessities, where we need to spend in the future.
I have a friend who is my financial advisor and has made me diligent that I invest every month in the SIPs (systematic investment plan).
If you had to go back in time and plan your finances, what would you do differently?
My ambition was to own a home and have financial savings. Though I struggled to make ends meet initially, I am thankful to God that I have been able to work on my objectives.
Even if I were to go back in time, I don’t foresee how this sequence would undergo a change.
When your income increases do your expenditure increase?
There is always a tendency to be extravagant and I look out to search for things that I always thought I should acquire.
It is no wrong that one should dream to acquire material possessions but it may be disastrous that you try and acquire them even though your financial capability does not permit it.
I never look at what others have, rather I confine myself to my needs.
A very important aspect is “patience”. One should always dream about what to acquire but be patient enough to acquire when your financial capabilities permit.
Another virtue, which is closely associated with “patience” is “priority”. The priority is a necessity, for example, your kids’ education or your own or your savings, which should always precede any extravagance.
If you are able to prioritize the necessities, as above, of the remaining Money, there is no harm in satisfying the dream of acquiring something that you always longed for.
The takeaway to other professionals?
I would advise that always spend Money to build your character but never spend your character to make Money.
Always pursue excellence in whatever you do, Money will follow.
It’s not bad to go for material things, once you have taken care of the necessities and if financial capability permits.
Try and live within your means but always have the courage to provide financial help to others who need it more than you do.
Always upskill yourself and invest Money in learning. In fact, I have invested a lot of Money in pursuing various certifications which opened various career opportunities for me.
Now It's Your Turn...
What is Money for you?