Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Elusive Future

"Madam," the agent, Vikram, smiled. "Your investment in one of our products is maturing madam..."

"Yes, that's right," 43-year-old Bindu smiled and responded.

"We will process it and make sure it reaches your account within 10 days. But meanwhile ma'am, we have this scheme which has been doing very well in the market. If you put in, let's say, about 2 lakhs annually for five years, it will start giving you returns from the 8th year for the next 15 years. So if you see..." And he quickly did a back-of-the-envelope calculation to tell her how she could earn an annual income of x amount, draw a loan against the amount and the final maturity amount with the bonus.

It excited Bindu. She could see how her life was going to be taken care of after retirement too, and of course, her children's education. She looked at the figures again. Okay, maybe she was dreaming, and it wouldn't be enough for retirement and education, but still, it would count. She nodded and signed the forms.

"Actually, ma'am, do you remember you invested in one of our wealth schemes five years ago?" Vikram asked as he put the papers into his bag.

Bindu nodded, remembering. That was also a fantastic investment, if she remembered right. "Yes, there were three payments of 2.5 lakhs each. And oh, I have in another ULIP plan too... Can you update me on that?"

"Yes ma'am, I was going to ask you about that too. I think you made five payments?"

"Yes, 1.5 lakhs each I think...." she recalled.

"Yes, correct. Ma'am at the time those schemes were started, they were really good. But now market dynamics have changed. But we have a scheme that will make up for the slowdown, ma'am."

"But they are not yet ready for maturing, right? The schemes were for 10 years?"

"Yes, ma'am. But there is no penalty in taking them out now. That's why I am talking to you about it."

Bindu blinked and felt ill-equipped to provide any counter as he explained how the new scheme could benefit. "But all my money is tied up in different schemes," she said.

"You don't have to worry, ma'am. From the two investments you have, we can withdraw the necessary premium annually," he explained and showed a working of how it will work. The numbers floated like stars, making Bindu feel all she had to do was reach out and presto! She could stop working and reaping the benefits. She found herself nodding and signing more papers.

When her husband Shail came a little later from work, she told him about how their future was going to look after retirement. "If I can retire tomorrow, I would be happy," he said with evident tiredness.
"Is there any scheme that lets you retire right away?"

Bindu laughed away his frustration. "You have to work for another 10 years at least to pay all those EMIs. At least I am saving!"

"Yes, but I remember you mentioned that a couple of schemes will start paying us something in... what, another two years?"

Bindu looked guilty. "No, darling. In fact, because of poor market conditions, those are not doing so well, it seems. So I have opened a new investment to route the money from these two accounts to that one." Shail grimaced. "And I have also started a new one," and she told him about how in 8 years, that one will start fetching some more income. "So in a year, we will be getting..." she calculated, "close to 50 k!"

Shail sighed. "We need 50k a month! And what if these two new schemes also do not perform?"

"You are always negative," Bindu complained.

"I am a realist!" he retorted and went to the bedroom to change. When he came out, he said, "Do you realise, Bindu? It is always the case. They sell us a dream for a secure future. But just as the future nears, they push the date a bit more."

Bindu stared at him, befuddled. But slowly, her mind worked on his meaning. Yes, this was not the first time she had taken money out from one account, where the payments were over, to another before maturity. Always, always chasing something better, while the old promises were forgotten. She felt like a fool.

Next month, Vikram called, "Ma'am, I have a couple of new schemes that will really excite you."

Bindu told him, "When do they start paying?" she asked him, half teasing.

"In 5 years ma'am."

"Is there something that will pay me today?" she asked. He chuckled. "There are, ma'am, but the returns are not very big. Let me come and explain."

"It's okay, Vikram," she sighed, realising that he was just a salesman. Just like she resisted processed foods in fancy packages, she had to learn to discern and invest with greater caution. "No more investments till I actually see the maturity amount," she said firmly and cut the call.

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