The Dilbert One Page Summary: All that one really needs to know

dilbertA couple of days back I was reading “Dilbert and The Way of the Weasels”. While this is a funny book, a small section has some amazing insight quietly embedded. In that book, the author claims, perhaps jokingly, that everything that a person really needs to know about personal finance and investing can be summarized in one page. Which actually, I thought, is quite true.

Exactly the kind of problem that I had been facing for a while, when a friend of mine asked me why I don’t write about specific stocks or do more frequent analysis. And all I could tell him is I felt it was not important, and also that I honestly did not have anything to write.

There is only so much you need to know about finance and investing, as an ordinary investor. If a reader reads the earliest few posts written in this blog about investing, and garnishes it with some of the book synopsis or guru speak posts, that’s all that any one needs to know. And that’s also an overkill in my view, and perhaps, even unnecessary. The truth is everything that one needs to really know does not take much writing. The tougher part is in following the simple things with discipline and without emotion.

As an individual investor, if you are interested in a really brief and simple summary, Dilbert’s summary is all that is necessary, honestly. Simple, but by no means, easy to follow.

So here are the 10 things mentioned in the ‘Dilbert One Page Summary’, adjusted a bit with my own inputs. The things that one really needs to know, and would work for most individuals in ordinary conditions:

1. Pay your credit card bill in full, and stop using credit cards. Use only debit cards – money that you already have.

2.  Get term life insurance as early as you can in your life, and keep adding cover every 5 yrs as your income increases. Don’t buy any other insurance, except health insurance every year.

3. Contribute to your employer’s PPF/ Retirement scheme by making mandatory as well as voluntary contributions if you can.

4. Buy a house, if you want to live in your house, and if you can afford it assuming you don’t take more than 60% of house value in loans, which should also be less than double your annual post tax income.

5. Put 6-9 months of your expenses in a liquid fund or cash equivalent that you can liquidate in a day or two.

6. Save at least 25% of your post tax income.

7. From your savings, put 65% in a stock index fund, 25% in a bond fund (or fixed deposits based on tax slab), and 10% in a gold fund. Make increments every couple of years. Do not touch it till retirement.

8. In case you are adventurous, replace the stock index fund with (or add) 3 actively managed diversified equity funds which are rated 4 or 5 currently on Morningstar (or Value research online or similar). Once you choose them, stick to them for at least 5 years, else replace them with the index fund.

9. If any of the above is confusing (specially step 7 and 8), hire a fee-only based financial planner (not someone who takes a fee based on percentage of assets or transaction size) for a two hour advice session and follow whatever he tells you.

10. Ignore everything else that any one tells you.

Anything else is likely to be a waste of time (and money perhaps) more often than not. Even if it does give you some incremental returns for some time, the costs and lack of sustainability are unlikely to make it worth it.

At the crux of it, honestly, that is all there is to it.

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