• Compounding, the Eighth Wonder of the World

    If you ask around, what’s the eighth wonder of the world? you’ll get all kinds of answers. I think only investors/financial advisers will refer to Compounding :-) …that too very few of them. Even though I have been in investment business since last 15 years, I never understood or cared about the importance of it. Only since last few years, I’m beginning to understand how powerful the concept is.

    Yes, Einstein called “Compound Interest” the Eighth Wonder of the World, he added further “He who understands it, earns it..he who doesn’t..pays it.” The Snowball Effect means the same thing and makes it easier to understand, here is a post that explains it beautifully in simple language..not recommending the stocks mentioned here but idea is to get familiar with the concept.

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  • Easiest path to Riches

    There’s subtle and mystical world beneath the gross one that we perceive via our senses. This creation of ours has certain laws; the “Law of Giving” is one of them.

    If we are to accumulate riches, we ought to harness the Power of Giving. It is super effective but takes time and some reflection to realise its full potential.

    Giving-opens-the-way-for-receiving.-Florence-Scovel-Shinn

    In today’s rational world, it appears that if we give..we end up with less. Those who give, make it a part of financial planning/budget and donate anywhere from 1-10% of their income…which is fine; better than not giving at all. But we should try to go beyond this typical tradition of Giving.

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  • Amazing Food in Phuket

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    I discovered some great veggie food restaurants in Phuket. All you have to do is: go to main market area on Ranong Road, walk about 100 yards or so. These are exact opposite of a Buddhist temple, hard to miss.

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  • Best of Phuket

    As the post title suggests, I’m sharing the best of what Phuket has to offer and some offbeat stuff:

    Aerial view of Phuket: My flight from Kualalumpur to Phuket was almost half empty. I couldn’t help but being glued to the window of the plane. The aerial view was breath taking, felt like I was being transported to a different planet…imagine almost 15 mins of live display of hundreds of these limestone formations dotting the blue sea.

    Phuket Hong

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  • How to get that Extra Juice from your Portfolio

    Squeeze out Better Return

    Buffett recommends buying S&P 500 and a bit of Short Term Bond for the long-term investment portfolio. But investing doesn’t have to be this boring. There’s big universe of Index Funds out there and you can have some fun with different kinds of portfolios.

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  • Warren Buffet’s Investment Advice for the masses

    It is probably the only investment plan that you need and is very different from what you would expect from one of the Greatest Investors of all time. He is a cult figure and probably more famous than Sir Franklin Templeton, John Bogle and other great investors and educators.

    Warren Buffett

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  • New Addition to the Rana Family

    It’s not what you’re thinking, our hands are full with Haripriya. :-)

    This blog is meant for Thinking Big but small things and little pleasures are also important for leading a balanced life.

    Finally, I settled on Jeep:

    Jeep

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  • Razor Sharp Focus of Mr Modi

    If I were to summarize the key traits of Mr Modi, it will be Focused and Decisive. He has an excellent track record in “transforming the way things work”. Last five years were disappointing for India in terms of business, governance and development. Now since Mr Modi is at the helm, it feels like 1947..i.e. we just gained freedom and it is time to rebuild India…no time to waste!!

    modi with Focus

    He is a fountainhead of inspiration and it is such a joy to see him in action. There are many lessons to take from his leadership, sharing few that I have noticed so far:

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  • Modi’s march to the Parliament – a non-political perspective

    Modi at Red Fort

    If I were to imagine Mr Modi’s boyhood, it would be very close to the following pics..helping his father sell tea at a local railway station. His family had to struggle to make ends meet, you can read more about his early years here.

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  • Why Pune? Part II

    Apart from the weather, Pune has several other advantages that makes it an ideal place to live. Some of these are:

    Education: India’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru termed Pune as “Oxford of the East”. I know many friends and family who did their college in Pune. It has become an education hub now, not only it attracts students from other parts of India but from other countries as well.

    Pune University

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  • Why Pune? Part I

    malshej_ghat

    Usually people decide to move back to the same city that they were brought up in. Of course, the parents/family and familiarity; are the key reasons for choosing the same place.

    Since Brinda is from Mumbai and myself from Delhi, friends find it odd that we chose Pune.

    So why Pune, India?

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  • Top 5 Reasons to Retire at 35

    Secret of Achievement

    The title of this post should be “Top 5 Reasons to be Financially Free at 35” instead. It is okay to continue working if you love your job or the business that you’re in. The problem is that most of us don’t even know whether we have an option of retiring early. That’s what the corporate world does to us; it can kill the Creative, Imaginative and Adventurous side of us if we are in it for too long.

    But what’s the big deal if we retire at 35 or 40? What’s in it for us?..one may ask.

    So I have prepared top 5 reasons to retire early in current landscape: in terms of economy, our lifestyle, relationships etc. They say we only live once. With that in mind, let’s see if we have anything to gain by dropping out all of a sudden…of course with careful planning behind the scenes :-) .

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  • Cashing in on the Corporate Dream: How to Retire at 35

    I got the inspiration to write this post after reading a book titled “Cashing in on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35”. This book was written by Paul Terhorst about 25 years back. The main idea is to save enough from a high paying job in the US and then move overseas (cheaper location) to live off your investments. And you do this while you’re young, living life to the fullest and doing what you really love.

     

    Cashing in on the American Dream

    Paul used to work for a major accounting firm when he retired at 35. Once quit, he never looked back. He still travels and blogs; you can get the latest updates and some tips from his blog at this link.

    I’m surprised that even 30 years back, people were thinking of an Extreme Early Retirement. I guess the “Desire to Break Free” has been in our blood since time immemorial :-) .

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  • Liposuction and Love of God

    Plastic Surgery

    It was a short flight from Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) to Kuala Lumpur. As flight attendant catered to special meal requests, the gentleman seated next to me was also served a vegetarian meal. This person was none other but Dr Soma, the renowned Plastic Surgeon. He happened to glance over while I was reading Bhagavad Gita and doing my Japa Meditation.

    After I was done with my reading, we chatted. I was taken aback when Dr Soma told me about his profession. What appreciation would a plastic surgeon have for spiritual matters?…I thought. I mean here is somebody engrossed in the bodily concept (dull matter) and I’m shooting for the highest goal of Human Life i.e. Going back Home (or reawakening our Love for the Almighty) which is purely a matter of Soul/spirit.

    Returning_back_Spiritual_World

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  • Ta Prohm and Angelina Jolie

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    Cambodian tourism got a major push after Tomb Raider movie was shot at Ta Prohm. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with these pictures.

    Apart from Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon are the most visited temples in Siem Reap. I was very impressed with Ta Prohm, the sight is really unique.

    DSC_0478

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  • The people of Cambodia in B&W

    I don’t think B&W pics require any explanation but I was able to capture some of the most desired shots/moments in B&W.

    Here is the reminiscence of my most favorites that require few words: Though I took quite a while taking few shots but the expression remained same

    Though I took quite a while taking few shots but the expression remained same

    There were few musicians playing but this gentleman was totally immersed in the joy of Music

    There were few musicians playing but this gentleman was totally immersed in the joy of Music.

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  • Angkor Wat, Great Temples but no Soul

    DSC_0332 Ever since I saw the first pic of Angkor Wat, I imagined visiting this Wonder of the world some day. A westerner might feel like Indiana Jones here but being from India where you have such wonders at every corner, I was disappointed as far as the temples of Cambodia are concerned. It is a lost civilization, the country has thousands of other temples that are neglected. Only Angkor Wat and few others drew world’s attention in recent times. DSC_0650 DSC_0127 Though Cambodia is a Buddhist country, Angkor Wat and other temples originally are of Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva that were built during Vedic period. These temples are just ruins now, no elaborate worship or meditations are going on in the premises. You just notice a deity or two of Lord Buddha, mostly for tourists to offer prayers and to facilitate an experience of a different culture/religion. DSC00247

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  • Compassion, Non Violence and Buddhism

    Prince Siddhartha (young Buddha) taking care of injured Swan that was shot by his royal cousin

    Prince Siddhartha (young Buddha) taking care of injured Swan that was shot by his royal cousin

    During my recent visit to Siem Reap, I stayed at Golden Takeo, a family owned guesthouse. It is run by Prom: a professional, friendly and kind gentleman. No wonder, it repeatedly gets the best reviews. This place is centrally located and makes a perfect base for exploring Angkor Wat and other historic temples.

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  • Son of Billionaire who became Monk

    I wanted to experience Cambodian countryside so I decided to take a bus from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap (Home of Angkor Wat temples). The city outskirts are still raw and basic with continuously changing landscape, not much affected by urbanization. The journey proved to be a refreshing experience for the soul!!

    I met Mr Tan, a businessman from Malaysia whose seat was next to mine. He was also visiting Cambodia for the first time to do some sightseeing but mainly to explore new business opportunities. He was a Chinese Buddhist and must be in his 50s.

    I was doing Japa meditation since it was an early morning bus. Some time later I opened Bhagavad Gita and immersed into it as the feeling of gratitude overtook me. What have I done to deserve this? To be fortunate enough to be in a strange, new land surrounded by people from different countries, all on their own journeys but still sharing a common bond!!

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  • Phnom Penh – An Introduction to Cambodia

    CSC_0074

    Angkor Wat is what really attracts people to Cambodia.  But I highly recommend spending few days in the capital city: Phnom Penh before heading to Angkor Wat.

    Phnom Penh is a lovely city to stroll around. It has more of a small town feeling and gives a perfect opportunity for getting accustomed to the laid back lifestyle of Cambodia and its people.

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  • How much Life Insurance do we need?

    Life Insurance1

    Once we know that Term Insurance policy is the simplest and cost effective solution for our Life Insurance needs. The next question is how much cover do we need?

    In my experience, I have noticed that majority of the folks are either under covered or have life insurance in excess. The answer is different for every one so we will try to find ways to determine an ideal cover for different situations.

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  • Insurance is not an Investment

    Term Insurance1

    I’m sure that somebody has already tried to sell you an Insurance policy (anything but Term) at some point of time in your life, actually it might happen multiple times. The worse is if we walk into the trap ourselves, in the hope for higher returns, guaranteed income or some savings on taxes.

    I was at the bank yesterday and one gentleman walked in. He was a new customer that was going to bring in funds to the bank. While opening a savings a/c, he asked the customer service manager for advise about Mutual Funds. Lo and Behold, the bank rep immediately suggested a Life Insurance policy instead and started to talk about its benefits. Within no time, the customer was convinced. I sat there helpless, couldn’t do much as I was at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

    These incidents are not new to me, I have been in that customer’s shoes long ago and continue to come across such situations with my friends and family where I have to warn them of these products. The Life Insurance policies are the worst investment products. They come in different packages such as Universal, Ordinary, Variable, Whole Life, all kinds of Annuities (USA), ULIPs (India) etc. I don’t think there will ever be an end to these. So what’s so terrible about them?

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  • Glimpses of an Eco Village

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    We visited Govardhan Eco Village last Diwali, it is just 1-2 hours drive from Mumbai. What a respite it was from the hustle and bustle of traffic choked Mumbai!!

    DSC_0571

    DSC_0474

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  • Traveling Solo

    Yes, it has been a long time since I have written on this blog.

    For the last few months, I have been busy planning of a two months long trip to Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia. Many different places to stay, eat and of course different activities.

    I think this is the longest travel for me so far. It requires much more planning than a usual family trip. I don’t remember when I traveled solo last time. :-) This is the experience I have been really waiting for.

    Traveling alone might not be for everyone. But I love the freedom, adventure and the excitement that comes with it. Especially, when you’re visiting new countries, meeting different people.

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  • Villa d’Este, Rome off the beaten path

    CSC_0596

    Apart from the topmost things to do, I’m always looking for hidden gems (off the tourist map) when we visit a new country. I’m glad we found Villa d’Este in Italy, which is about an hour drive from Rome.

    It is an Italian Villa nestled in the countryside with sweeping views of Rome. There are many gardens, hundreds of fountains, cascades and the grottoes.

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  • A Little Tour of Italy

    DSC_0332

    France and Italy are the two countries in Europe that I had always wanted to visit. Since we checked off France in 2011, Italy was next on the list. Rome, Florence and Venice were the cities on our itinerary. But due to sudden hospitalization of my father, we visited only Rome. I guess that gives another reason to visit Italy again. :-) Rome took me by surprise; I expected it to have usual big city issues like traffic, smoke, crowds etc. But surprisingly it is a very clean city with elegance, so much of history and diverse architecture.

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  • What’s bothering you…Pop?

    Being away from family for too long can be emotionally taxing at times. Whenever I visited India, I saw my father’s body shrunk and weaker than the year before. These are the typical old age symptoms that we either try to hide or learn to deal with over time. Having him in the US wasn’t an option either since he preferred living in India.

    “What’s bothering you…Pop”, this line is part of a dialogue between Al Pacino and Marlon Brando in one of the “The Godfather” movies. This was at a time when father had grown old and worried about his family and the business. I recall watching this movie (all parts) many times; such emotionally charged dramas were somewhat comforting whenever I felt alone in the US.

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  • Hope, Encouragement and Peace

    If I were to add one more word to the above list, it would be “satisfaction”; that too “Deep Satisfaction at Heart”. But these are usually not the emotions that one would experience in case of closest family member’s death.

    I try to observe (or rather evaluate) every major event in life from both the angles: Material and Spiritual. I’m doing the same here i.e. in case of my father’s death. It is not a deliberate effort but something that comes naturally. A calling that makes me share this experience, to express what I feel.

    It is my choice: I can be very upset, depressed or sad by sudden departure of my father. But instead I’m looking at this moment in light of Hope and as a result, I see the positives only. The death is inevitable, key is how one leaves this world. Easier to understand is the Material aspect.

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  • The Last Breath of My Father

    Now that my father had arrived home, entire family was at peace. There is a huge difference between the atmosphere at home and of the hospital; anxiety and sadness rules ICU waiting area. The patient’s family, relatives and friends are usually confused, depressed and frustrated. On an average, few deaths a week seems to be a common routine.

    Back home, I could see that my father had calmed down a bit. Though he was still unconscious (to a certain degree), his body and the subtle consciousness seemed to have reacted favorably to homely atmosphere. Now we could prepare his meals that were first offered to the Lord in a prayerful mood. I knew this might be my last chance to serve and take care of my father. Rest of the family felt same and all of us gave our best.

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  • A Blessing in Disguise

    My father had been in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for last two days. We met doctors the same morning that we arrived in India. The timing was perfect as they had enough time to review my father’s case during this period.

    He was brain dead, half side paralyzed, his heart was working at about 15% of its capacity and he was put on ventilator. The doctor briefed on his condition: there is no chance for his survival, it is just matter of time.

    But the family wanted to wait, to see if a miracle can improve his health.

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  • Connecting the Dots

    Steve Jobs used this term in his 2005 Stanford commencement address. It is worth reading. If you haven’t, please do so. Here’s the link.

    He says “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

    Instead of “…Life, Karma, whatever”, I call it “Lord’s hand in everything”. I’m sure all of us have observed this phenomenon in our lives. Though at times, it becomes very difficult to believe in it especially when we face adversity and there doesn’t seem to be any hope.

    I can recall many incidents related to this phenomenon ever since my elementary school years. Here is the most recent one.

    Fall season was around the corner and it was time to visit Europe again. It is my most favorite time of the year as Summer crowds are gone and weather is just perfect..60-80 (F) degrees. I spent about a month planning this trip. It had to be a different place, different culture that we haven’t had experienced yet.  The final itinerary looked like this: spend two weeks in Rome, Florence, Venice and one week in Istanbul.

    The trip was going great, no flight delays or unexpected travel hassles. Every day was a beautiful sunny day in Rome. To make the most of our vacation, we don’t carry a phone while traveling international and limited internet access is good enough for us.

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  • Call of the Entrepreneur

    Most of us dream about having a small business or putting our creative juices to work. As we spend more time in the corporate environment, this call becomes stronger. I’m amazed at how some individuals shun the respect and security of a well paying job and risk everything to start their own venture.

    Such venture is usually based on an idea or the interests/hobbies that we hold dear to our heart. We become so convinced and motivated that we can foresee it becoming a reality.

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  • Planning to do an MBA?

    Recently a friend of mine asked me for advice. His younger brother had just finished BTech (BS equivalent) in Computer Science and wanted to know whether he should accept a job or pursue an MBA right away.

    My answer was: It depends.

    Many of us (especially with Science, Engineering or Technology background) face similar dilemma at some point of time in our lives. We’re faced with this choice either in our college years or when we have added years of experience and it is time to move up the ladder.

    Let me share my experience in this regard.

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  • The Ancient City of Siam – Thailand

    I did lot of research before deciding on this landmark. I had a good feeling about it and I wanted to experience it alone. There are some things in life that are best when experienced alone.

    Why?

    We run into limitations when out with the family but going solo allows us to be adventurous and be in meditative and reflective mood. Plus, architecture and history is not something that a two year old would appreciate.

    Thanks to Brinda, I got the permission to venture out alone. :-)

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  • Thai Food at its Best…that too Vegetarian!!

    The name “Banana Family Park” is misleading, actually it is more of a Buddhist sanctuary. The place has very zen like atmosphere, the water bodies all around, a spa, café, Juice bars, Ice cream parlors and many food stalls…all Vegetarian.

    No, you won’t get Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup or White Rice but whatever they have, it is truly homely, authentic, healthy and GOOD!!

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  • Orchids Galore – Thailand

    Last I saw orchids growing in the wild was in Hawaii. Of course, we see many varieties indoors but there is something fascinating about these plants growing in their natural habitat.

    I again got a chance to observe these in Muang Boran, Thailand. It seemed like all the varieties loved tropical climate. I took my time relishing the sight and taking pictures as the park had very few visitors.

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  • Swimming with Haripriya

    Our apartment building had a nice rooftop pool overlooking the surrounding bungalows and gardens. The sweet singing of Asian Koel Bird among mango and other tropical trees such as Tamarind, Banyan and Coconut resembled India.

    The pool area was deserted most of the times, offering privacy and peace. It was a perfect setting for Haripriya’s first swimming lesson. :-)

     

    Bangkok Sunsets:

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  • Thailand – The Land of Smiles, Buddhism and Good Food

    It was about time to experience another country and a different culture. The warm weather and a reasonable flight time were the main criteria.

    As we’re based in India now, I scanned through many countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Maldives, Mauritius. We even considered Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Each one of these offers a unique experience but this time around we decided on Thailand.

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  • Listen to Your Heart

    If you do that then you will be the happiest and most satisfied person in life.

     

    So how do we do it?

    By spending some time in silence and contemplation daily. Or whenever possible, given the challenging and busy lives that we lead. The ideal place is your prayer room or your quiet space. It can also be done while doing other favorite activities of yours such as walking, biking, exercising, showering, taking bath etc. The key is to be alone so that you’re able to listen or talk to yourself.

    The problem is that we can’t do without Noise :-). We need the radio, music, TV or headphones all the times. If that’s the case, how will we ever connect with ourselves?

    Each one of us has inherent strengths or some unique talents. We are here in this world to fulfill a purpose and the “art of listening to our heart” allows us to discover the very same. It allows us to be in sync with the Higher Purpose and relieves us of everyday anxieties.

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  • Time is Money

    It is an old adage that I swear by.

    There is so much noise in the world. In this Age of Information, we get continually bombarded with endless options. So it is important for us to be selective and choose the ones that will add value and quality to our lives.

    For now I will focus on the “Time” aspect in terms of career and education.

    In order to be successful in the corporate world, there’s a constant pressure to update (that too continually) our skills. I have been told and advised many times to do a master’s degree, especially during the early years of my career in IT. This advice usually came from my techie friends and the family. Surprisingly, it never came from my seniors or mentors. :-)

    I personally didn’t feel the need of earning a Master’s degree, especially an MS (Master of Science) in some technology field. Several reasons for the same:

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  • Sailing in Arabian Sea

    Our wedding anniversary was just around the corner and we were wondering what different can we do this time. Brinda took the responsibility of planning an appropriate event as she knows her city better. Thanks to Haripriya’s Nana, Nani (grandparents), they happen to be in Mumbai around that time and offered to babysit.

    Something around the water is always nice, thanks Advantage Mumbai!! Sailing in Arabian Sea, off Gateway of India sounded exciting and adventurous as this was our first time. The location is quick and easy to get to from Brinda’s house, that was another plus. We picked a weekday to avoid the crowds. It was a nice sunny day with perfect wind.

    The sailing company is just few months old, started by this young couple. I like the fact that they’re doing something different. It is nice to encourage such small businesses.

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  • Georgia on My Mind

    We moved to Atlanta in 2005 after living in New Jersey for six years. Like most of our moves, it was a planned move. Though we had a nice circle of friends, family, good job opportunities, access to a great city like NYC but it was the time to move. Of course several reasons for the same, let me get into some of these:

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  • Reminiscence of our stay in Paris

    Paris was the only disappointment, out of all European cities that we visited last year. I guess because the expectations were high. We had heard so much about Paris. The Maharajas (and other elites from India) are known for their love affair with the French designers for centuries. Even now, the city remains a magnet for the most.

    As our train approached Paris, it reminded me of Delhi. The old and not so tall buildings, some of the avenues and streets are just like what we see in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

    After doing all the research, we narrowed down to only a few landmarks: Luxembourg Gardens, Palace of Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and Eiffel Tower (of course). I will start with the most favorite first:

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  • Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

    I hope you have read Greg Smith’s letter by now. It takes a great deal of courage to do something like this. I wrote about the very same issue in one of my earlier posts:

    “Hiring wrong Financial Advisor: The Big Financial advisory firms such as Goldman, Merrill, Credit Suisse and other prestigious ones are the Worst. Even the firms like Fidelity and Schwab that are portrayed as Customer Friendly are bad. Your best bet is to work with a Fee based Independent Financial Advisor.”

    Now you get to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

    But if you have been in the corporate world long enough, this shouldn’t come to you as a surprise. I have found such ethical issues with all the Fortune 100 companies that I worked for and it is not limited to financial or brokerage industry either.

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  • I have got an x amount, where should I invest?

    This is the question that we usually ask when we have amassed a decent balance in our savings or checking account. For some, it might be 10K and for others a million. The amount is irrelevant. We are willing to venture out and ready to take risk as long as the return is higher than the savings accounts or fixed deposits.

    Should we invest in real estate, mutual funds, stocks, gold or insurance? We turn to our accountant for advise, watch or listen to stock channels and other investor friends. We start reading Money, Fortune, Kiplinger’s or other personal finance magazines. In addition to all this, the endless hours are spent surfing Morningstar, MSN money, Motley Fool and other financial websites, researching the best performing mutual funds, industries or stocks.

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  • The Magic Number

    Most of us have wondered about this by now i.e. how much is really enough to retire comfortably. In case you haven’t, I am sure you will at some point in near future.

    Actually “Retiring” is not the right word, I should use “Financially Free”. Many of us want to start a business, pursue our interests and hobbies, travel, spend more time with the family. There can be many reasons to leave the corporate world. But before we take the plunge, we need to be absolutely sure of our investment plan that will allow us to live comfortably without having to work again.

    I have wondered about this number and studied extensively on the subject for the last 4-5 years. I also spoke to many friends and relatives to find out their monthly expenses. The idea is to keep it simple to begin with. We will make an assumption that we have already paid for our house, cars and have separate buckets/savings for kids college education and for any other major medical expense. It is easy to come up with these numbers or any other one time(like settling costs) expenses.

    What I’m going to focus on right now is the corpus we need for our recurring monthly maintenance expenses like food, utilities, clothing, transportation, kids school education etc. I will use two separate examples:  one for living in the US (similar to other developed economies) and second: Living in India (similar to other developing countries).

    Regardless where we live, our investment plan or the Freedom Portfolio (like the term?) :-) will have to ensure following three things:

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  • A Day at the Customs

    Our shipment (furniture and household items from the US) arrived about a month back at Nhava Sheva Port, Mumbai. The shipping company advised us to be present at the time of Clearing (though not mandatory). So we planned in such a way that we would be in Mumbai at the time of shipment arrival.

    It was a door to door move; from Atlanta, US to Pune, India. We had about half a container full of household items and furniture. It took us over a year to scale down from a 3000 sq ft house to a moderate 2-3 bedroom apt. Why did we do it? It is a topic for some other day. :-)

    The customs department (like many Govt bodies) in India has a reputation for not letting anybody go without a bribe. We spoke to some friends and relatives that had connections. All advised and agreed that it would be better to bribe for a hassle free experience. Brinda and I were not very keen on the same. So we decided that we would personally visit the port and meet the customs dept. This also gave us an opportunity to inspect and make sure we received all of our items.

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  • Brussels means Business

    The title of this post says it all. This is the feeling I got during a recent trip to Brussels. I knew it is the capital of the European Union but wasn’t expecting it to be so vibrant.

    I didn’t get any sense of slowdown (in terms of economy) while I was in Brussels. This city is hustling and bustling with all kinds of business activities. The construction of new buildings and restoration work is in full swing.

    The city is also orderly and clean unlike some of the other European cities. The only issue was that we visited Brussels after Brugge.. :-) so didn’t find that many opportunities for photography. I settled with few pics and focused on being there and enjoying the moment (rather than the photography).

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  • A City called Brugge

    I have to thank Payal, Brinda’s friend who highly recommended Brugge. We had no idea that such a charming place existed in Belgium. This world heritage city is about an hour train ride from Brussels. It is also known as Venice of the North.

    We got a good feeling about this city as soon as we got off the train and our trip also ended on the same note. It had pretty much everything that we were looking for. It was a real get away for us as we hadn’t seen anything like it in the US, Asia or Australia.

    Brugge is perfect for relaxing or taking a break from busy life where you can be just yourself and don’t want to be bothered by anybody.

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  • Toastmasters International – A World-Class Organization

    I’m sure many of you have heard of Toastmasters International by now. No, it is not a Golf tournament as one of my colleagues at UPS thought it to be. :-) It is a worldwide organization dedicated for improving Public Speaking, Listening and the Leadership skills.

    Since most of the Fortune 500 companies have local Toastmasters clubs, I also had an opportunity to be part of Toastmasters at UPS. I found the experience so enriching that I’m planning to be associated with it (one way or another) till the rest of my life. The organization is not just about improving our public speaking or presentation skills, it also helps us grow in many aspects.

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  • Spiritual India in a Belgian Castle

    I had promised at the time of starting this blog that I would share with you our travels to some unique and interesting places, so here is the first one.

    Radhadesh, “Spiritual India in Belgian Ardennes” has been on my mind for the last few years. Visiting a castle in the European countryside with all the spiritual goodness around it, what’s there not to like about it?

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  • Planning a Trip to Europe

    I think it is worth sharing some of the planning and research I did for our recent Europe trip. Most of this info can also be used for other international destinations.

    The weather: This is the most important factor for any vacation that I plan. There’s nothing like being away when most of the days are sunny and the temperatures are in 60-80 degrees. That’s the reason I pin down the final destination only 4-6 weeks ahead of the actual trip. Surprised?? :-)

    It is not only the weather but mood factor as well. I usually have few destinations in mind but will know for sure which tempts me the most only before a month or two. Such short timeframe gets me excited and focused. This strategy has worked very well so far. For example, France and the surrounding countries had bad Summer this year but the Fall weather was beautiful.

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  • Visiting Europe – Think again!!

    I heard over the years how expensive Europe is and sure enough I got the taste of it during a recent trip to the continent.

    Actually there were quiet a few shockers, not just an incident or two. So let me share the key ones.

    Hotel in Brussels: We thought it would be a good idea to visit the capital of European Union as we had a stopover in Brussels. We spent weeks hunting for a hotel but weren’t able to find any that had good reviews and would fit our budget. Finally we found a small boutique hotel tucked away in one of the alleys in the fashion district.

    Cost? Cool 300 Euros (approx $400) a night. We were able to reduce the damage though by using our miles (paid a combination of miles and $$).  To get an idea, a similar hotel in the US would not cost more than $150.

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  • Moved to India, for good!!

    I know this might surprise some of you. But yes, we have moved back to India. We have been here for almost two months now. No surprises, things are going well. Haripriya is doing good too. The day to day living details would require a separate post, will write on that later.

    First of all, the obvious question is: Why move back? Especially when Brinda and I had well paying, stable jobs…easy drive/walk from our home. A decent nest in a good neighborhood, supportive friends and a close family circle. Everything was just Perfect, so why spoil the party? :-)

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  • Photo Shoot in Central Park

    Thanks to Neel, My brother in law for this nice gift of a Professional Photo shoot. When asked about our preferred location, I had to opt for Central Park. Strolling on the bridges of New York and in Central Park are my favorite things to do in NYC.

    I have posted more pictures here.

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  • Passive Income – Important pillar of Financial Freedom

    Passive Income means that you don’t have to actively work for it. In other words, these are not your earnings from primary job but from investments such as Real Estate, Bonds, Stock dividends etc. It is a regular income that doesn’t require much effort.

    I first heard about Passive income in the book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad (highly recommended for starters). I’m not a Robert Kiyosaki fan by any means. Perhaps I was in the beginning as his books gave me enough motivation to map out a definite plan for financial freedom. We all need different level of teachers, mentors at various stages in our lives.

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  • The Key to Financial Freedom

    I’m often asked, how is it possible to become financially free (or retire) at such a young age?

    Well, there are many challenges but the first one is to accumulate enough money for all of our financial needs.

    Once we’re determined to make it happen, we need to work on different aspects of the game.

    It is something like “Cracking the Code” :-)

    Let me share what I did to achieve Financial Freedom in such a short span of time.

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  • The World of Black and White

    There’s something unique about Black and White photography. No doubt, I love the colors but sometimes B&W captures the moment more effectively. It feels like you don’t need any words to describe, just the photograph itself is enough.

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  • Northern California…Ahh!! Can it get any better?

    It is the diversity that I love about Northern California. Of course, the US is full of great outdoors such as Colorado Rockies, Yellowstone, Utah, Arizona and many others. But the advantage of Northern Cali is that you can enjoy San Francisco: one of the best cities in US and also experience several great outdoors that are easily accessible. This allows you to make the most of your vacation time.

    I have visited the area many times and explored quiet a few places. But there are some places in Cali that I don’t mind visiting again and again..:-). Because only a handful of other places in the US offer the same level of experience (I am excluding Hawaii and Alaska). Now the Californians might disagree with me but I have to state the facts..:-)

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  • San Francisco, the Most Beautiful City in US?

    There’s something unique about San Francisco. I never get sick of visiting this city or the bay area. It grows more on me with every visit. First of all, San Francisco is much cleaner than any other big city in the US. It also has plenty to offer if architecture, art and history interest you. I love the colored and bright cable cars going up and down the steep streets, ringing their bells. The sharp and varied elevation of this city also offers some of the best views of Golden Gate bridge and the beautiful bay.

    I don’t seem to be the only one who loves this city, I realized this during a recent trip. I started my search for a vacation rental almost a month in advance but was surprised to find that most of the apartments were taken for the entire summer. Somehow I managed to get a decent accommodation.. just in time.


    What I love about SFO (apart from the city itself) is that you can make it a base for visiting Northern California. If I had to make a list of Top Five places to visit in the US, Northern California will be in it for sure.

    Anyway, I’ll focus on San Francisco for now.

    So what are the topmost things to do in this city?

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  • Free Money – I love it!!

    I love when the uncertainties in financial markets present a wonderful opportunity to make money with little effort.

    We often hear that there’s no free lunch. True most of the times but not always!! This opportunity has been there for a while but has become even more attractive in recent months.

    The worsening job and housing markets have forced the US Government to keep interest rates low for some time. Many credit card companies are now offering one of the best balance transfer deals that I have seen in years. Some 0% interest  offers have the transaction fee as low as 1% ( Do let me know if you find lower than 1%), which means the total cost of funds is 1%. Now you have to ask yourself: Can I earn a better return than 1%? How about long term bonds or a real estate investment that has decent positive cash flow? Perhaps it is time to pay off an auto or student loan that has higher interest rate.

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  • Build Wealth, Don’t destroy it

    This post is meant for everyone. I mean even though you’re planning to be in the corporate world or in a business for another 10-30 years, you cannot ignore the importance of preserving and growing your wealth.

    It usually takes anywhere from 5 to 30 years to build a good chunk of savings and investments which will be sufficient for retiring comfortably. We need to be mindful of our actions that create or slowly erode our wealth.

    I’m more concerned with the habits or actions that erode our wealth. These might not seem big but can significantly reduce our wealth over the years. Imagine a large water tank with tiny holes, you know what will happen to it eventually.

    Let’s discuss the Top Five Money Leaks for now to keep it short and focused. I’ll discuss these briefly and will get into the details of each one later. I know my friends in the Insurance and Investment industry won’t like it but the Truth must be told. :-)

    So here are the Top Five:

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  • Get Rich Slowly

    Creating wealth is a slow process, it doesn’t happen overnight. Sorry, if I disappointed you. :-) Actually, you don’t want it to happen overnight. If it does happen, it won’t be sustainable. You might have heard of many renowned athletes, movie or rock stars being in debt or in some trouble even after they made their millions.

    It is a long journey and requires us to focus on many aspects of money management.

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  • I won the Lottery!!!

    Not. :-)  I wanted to set this straight before we get into the practical ways of Becoming Wealthy.

    No, I haven’t won the lottery or received large inheritance, nor was I born Rich. I come from a middle class family as most of us do. It wasn’t an accident either, we planned for it almost eight years back. I had even shared this vision with some of you along the way, so it wasn’t a secret.

    How did it all start?

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  • A typical day in my life

    It has been just about a year since I quit my job at UPS and said Goodbye to the Corporate World forever. I didn’t miss work, my job or anything related to it over the past year. Yes, I made good friends which I’m planning to keep for at least this lifetime..:-) and stay in touch with.

    The obvious question is how I keep myself busy now that I have 8-10 additional hours everyday at my disposal. The truth is whoever is financially free, it is the last thing on their mind i.e. what to do with so much time.

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  • What is Financial Freedom? Why do we need it?

    I’m often asked this question: what do I really mean by Financial Freedom. Most of us have heard this term by now. Some think of it being similar to Retirement or something that is for people in their sixties or seventies whatever the bar may be.

    Financial Freedom usually means that we have enough money to pay our bills. Or that we have met our short and long term financial obligations. In other words, we don’t really need to work anymore for our living expenses.

    All of the above definitions are correct.

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  • Independence from Corporate World

    I finally announced “Freedom from 9-5” when I handed in my resignation at UPS about a year ago. Though I became financially free sometime back, an official announcement had to wait due to some family and work commitments.

    It was hard to contain my excitement as I envisioned a world where I could pursue my interests and passions fulltime. A world that is full of creativity, excitement and adventure, finally becomes a reality.

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  • Pursuit of Perfection

    All of us are already familiar with Pursuit of Happiness which means that everybody wants to be happy, nobody wants to be miserable. Then there is Pursuit of Excellence which only few seek in their lives, though this term is more common in the Business World.

    What I’m talking about is: Pursuit of Perfection. “Perfection” is an under rated word, it doesn’t apply to only few. It applies to everybody, all of us are seeking Perfection.

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