The story of Adolf Merckle

Adolf Merckle was one of Germany’s richest business man. He developed his grandfather’s chemical wholesale company into Germany’s largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, Phoenix Pharmahandel . He was educated as a lawyer,  but spent most of his time investing. He lived in Germany with his wife and four children.

In 2006, he was the world’s 44th richest man. Merckle’s group of companies employed 100,000 workers and had an annual turnover of 30 billion euros (around 39.9 billion U.S. dollars).

All this turned upside down after his business empire was plunged into difficulties due to the financial crisis. Merckle hit the headlines in 2008 when he suffered massive losses on investments he had made on movements of the share price in Volkswagen, Europe’s largest car company.

On Jan 06,2009 German news agency DPA reported that –  Merckle, 74, threw himself under a train at his hometown of Blaubeuren, a small town near southern Germany city of Ulm, and a railway worker found his body by the side of the track.

Before his death, he had been negotiating with banks for a bridging loan of 400 million euros (around 547 million U.S. dollars) to save his empire, which includes the pharmaceutical company ratiopharm and drugs maker Phoenix. That figure shows the depth of financial crisis he had.

The picture above shows the place where his body was found. What a tragic end to the life of one of the world’s richest man.

…MERCKLE ISN’T ALONE


Here’s more -

In Jan 2009 , The national suicide preventing hotline in US reports that, calls have soared by as much as 60 per cent over the past year – many of the  calls were from people who have lost their home, or their job, or who still have a job but can’t meet the cost of living.

A 45-year-old businessman in Los Angeles murdered five members of his family before turning the gun on himself, saying in a suicide note that he had done so because of his troubling financial situation.

Karthik Rajaram, 45, who had made almost £900,000 on the London stock market, shot his wife, three children and mother-in-law in the head before shooting himself at the family home near Los Angeles.He did this after seeing his family’s fortune wiped out by the stock market collapse.

A 90-year-old Ohio widow shoots herself in the chest as authorities arrive to evict her from the modest house she called home for 38 years.

In Massachusetts, a housewife who had hidden her family’s mounting financial crisis from her husband sends a note to the mortgage company warning: “By the time you foreclose on my house, I’ll be dead. Then, Carlene Balderrama,  shot herself to death, leaving an insurance policy and the suicide note on a table.

WE INDIANS AREN’T BEHIND..

Thousands commit suicide unable to bear the pressure and crisis, that mismanaged investments create.

Internet and newspapers report about people falling prey to financial frauds like ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes and money chains, eventually losing every penny they had earned.

Did you know that a small state like Kerala spends more than Rs 40 crores a day on lottery tickets alone?According to Tehelka.com’s reporter Shantanu Guha Ray , Illegal lottery tickets account for atleast 60 per cent —Roughly Rs 7,200 crore — of the Rs 13,000 crore gambled every year on lottery tickets in India. All sections of the society are involved in this. I know doctors, HR consultants, engineers, stock market investors, Government officials,housewives and students who regularly put money in lottery tickets. Anyway, lottery tickets ( if you’re lucky to get an original one :) ) at-least gives you a chance to win.

There is another section of people who gets involved in money chains – where wealth gained by participants entering the scheme earlier, is the wealth actually lost by those coming later. In-spite of hearing about many schemes in which people have lost their wealth, India continues to be a happy hunting ground for such fraudulent operators. The root cause of all this can be brought under one head-Greed for money and  financial illiteracy.

This is exactly the reason why we will first discuss about the basic principles of money management . People spend lakhs to get a  doctor’s degree or a MBA from the most prestigious of  institutes. They spend a lot to pursue their hobbies such as music and salsa.  But when it comes to managing their money , they hardly make any effort to learn  at-least the basics , forget about gaining specialized knowledge !

The next chapter will take you through the basic principles of money management. These principles are important to everyone out there– housewives, businessmen,musicians, students, professionals , priests , social workers.. anyone who deals with money directly or indirectly.

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Why is investing important?

50 YEARS BACK.

Recall the scenario when your parents were working…In those times, it was common for people to stay in the same job all their working lives. Most of them had government jobs where job security was ensured. Opportunities were limited. So they were content with what they had.

With whatever financial assistance and savings they got, they managed to raise children, educate them and buy a home. Medical field wasn’t so technology driven and expensive.

When they retired, they got the benefit of pension that has dearness allowance built in so that, their pension pay grows with inflation. And, they expect their children to look after them in their old age.

NOW..

But now, times have changed. Most people work in the private sector where there is no guaranteed job security. But, every sector has an ocean of lucrative job opportunities to offer.  This generation lives in a very competitive world than ever before.

It’s a situation where they need to work really hard to make a mark.At the same time, they need to look after their aged parents, take care of their children’s needs, and fulfill their own dreams.

Medical expenses and retirement are real big issues.With advanced technology being used every where, the cost of hospitalisation and treatments are so high that , it’s almost beyond the reach of common man.

You need not expect your children to look after you just because, they are going to live in an even more competitive , stressful and faster world.

So it becomes quite essential for today’s generation to invest for their future needs. Mere savings from job may not be enough. You have to create wealth by investing. Simply put- while your work hard for more money, you money too should work for you!

Investing is not something which only wealthy people can do. Investing is possible for all classes of people. For this, irrespective of your income levels , you need a proper financial plan. You need not have big funds to start investing. even if you invest small amounts regularly, you will be able to achieve all your goals. The starting point is – you should decide where you will invest and how long.  To choose wisely, you need to know the investment options thoroughly and their relative risk exposures.

That’s the importance of investing. Investing is the best way to secure your future.

PLAN AND INVEST

The key to wealth is to plan and invest. Your job is only half done when you save money. That money has to be invested in wealth creating assets in prudent ways.  As a first step, you have to clearly define your short term and long term financial targets. Once you have a clear idea about your financial goals, the next step would be to draw a clear road map to reach your target. However, readers should not think that financial planning is all about creating wealth. Financial planning, in fact, is a very broad term and Investing is only a part of your financial plan. A proper financial planning can be done only if you can clearly chart out your strengths , your goals and your capacity to take risk.

Later on, we will discuss what financial planning is all about and the advantages of having a definite plan.Right now ,our next chapters would explain more helpful topics like when should you start investing and The right mind set for investing.

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What is investing?

INVESTING

Investing is not just about depositing your savings in the bank every few months. It’s about growing your money. It’s about making your money work for you.

INVESTING IS A LONG TERM ACTIVITY

When you invest, you  buy an asset like shares, mutual funds, gold or real estate when it’s available at a bargain and wait till its price go up. You may have to wait for a long time, say 5 or 10 years to get a real appreciation for your invested funds. So,  investing is a long term activity, you have to wait for your rewards.

IT’S ALSO ABOUT GROWING YOUR MONEY PRUDENTLY.

Money is a weapon that’s to be used very very carefully or else, it can backfire within no time resulting in a total ruin of your life. By being ‘prudent’ we  mean, determining an action or a line of investing that’s practically wise, judicious and careful.

When you look around for opportunities to invest, it’s natural to stumble upon ideas like multi level marketing of certain financial schemes or money chains etc that may seem to be too good an opportunity to make a quick buck. It’s important not get tempted by such investment offers. Any investing decision you take must be practical, legal, safe and capable of creating wealth for you in the long run.

REWARD FROM INVESTMENTS

Investments range from risky types like stocks  to very safe ones like fixed deposits. Depending on the type of investment you’ve made you get return in the form of rent, interest, dividends, premiums, pension benefits or appreciation in value. The more risk you take, the more you earn as rewards.

OBJECTIVES OF INVESTING

Objectives or purpose of investing would be different for different people.  By choosing to budget your expenses, accumulate money, invest that accumulated fund and limiting the amount of debt – you can achieve most of your life’s goals. Normally, a person would invest with one or many of the following objectives in mind:

  • A Regular Income
  • Creation of wealth
  • Preserving his capital
  • Planning for retirement life
  • Education /marriage of his children.
  • To start a business

THE PROCESS OF INVESTING

The process of investing is quite simple-

Depending upon the money you got, you will have to short list the type of asset suitable for investment.

Next, you’ll have to assess yourself and find out how much knowledge you have in that particular asset category. This assessment will tell you where you stand right now, and the amount of preparatory work you need to do before investing you money in it.

Once you gain enough knowledge, try to draw a plan to invest systematically – get access to the right information, plan properly and make the right choice.

REASONS TO INVEST

Why does investing acquire so much of importance? That’s because of three core benefits of investing-

First, the probability that you’ll beat inflation.

Second, the probability of achieving your financial goals quickly.

Third, the probability of building something for your next generation.

An investor’s  main focus should be to beat inflation.  Inflation and it’s after effects were discussed in our previous articles.  You’ve to invest in such a way that the rate of return beats the inflation rate. If you don’t do that, it eats away your returns. Unless your rate of return beats the inflation rate, you’re not growing your investments.We said ‘probability’ because, investments carry the risk of not hitting the desired targets. When you set higher targets ( higher returns) the risk of not achieving it is also high.

Apart from achieving financial goals and securing your children’s future, another important reason would be to plan for your retirement. When do you plan to retire? At 60 or at 50? You can opt to retire when you have a sufficient amount of wealth so that, you can maintain the standard of living that you are maintaining today. The earlier, the better!

In the coming lessons, we take to you through different aspects of investing. Each lesson has a concept to share. At the end, you’ll know what investing is all about, why it’s essential to invest early, different avenues to invest etc..In our next article , let’s see why investing is the most important activity one should have.

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