How I Did It

The homemaker investor

Bithi Patnaik's story is one of exploitation and mis-selling by banks, yet she chose not to lose hope and became an informed investor

The homemaker investor

The interesting investment journey of Bithi Patnaik is sure to inspire housewives to warm up to the world of investing. Born and brought up in Cuttack, Odisha, this lady is an ardent supporter of mutual funds and Value Research. To her, Dhirendra Kumar (DK) is nothing short of a demi-god. Market corrections have no meaning for her and she only adheres to what VR and DK say, the 60-year-old admits.

Bithi is a graduate, is blessed with good families both on her parents and her in-laws sides. Her grandfather-in-law was a zamindar, and her father-in-law, a joint secretary. Finance or money was never discussed before women or children in her family. 'I got everything without having to ask for it but within limits. Every paisa was accounted for. There was no liberty with that. Mostly men and the elderly women of the family handled money matters. We had to justify our expenses. Lying didn't ever work,' Bithi says with an impish smile.

Bithi vividly remembers their very first financial investment. 'After my elder son's birth in 1981, we invested small amounts in an FD and two RDs. We also bought two money-back policies from LIC. At that time, we didn't know anything about investments. We knew only about the savings account. Those policies were also purchased to help our friends, an LIC agent and a banker, to meet their targets. My husband knew nothing about investments, nor did I,' she admits.

Back then Bithi and her husband went on putting away any surplus money they had only in FDs. Her husband till date is very conservative. He only wants to stash away money for emergency.

Bithi first came across Value Research and Dhirendra Kumar in 2007. It was around the time of her son's marriage. Her brother-in-law had brought a copy of Mutual Fund Insight after listening to Dhirendra's analysis on a news channel. 'I asked him about the magazine. He asked me to read it and, being a voracious reader, I read it and was very impressed. After that, I subscribed to it for three years. I came across terms like equity, debt, ratings, retirement goals, risks, SIPs etc.,' Bithi elaborates.

Bithi's first mutual fund investment was worth Rs 5,000 in SBI Magnum Multicap Fund (now SBI Flexicap Fund). Then she started SIPs of Rs 2,000 each in HDFC Top 200 (now HDFC Top 100 Fund), DSPBR Equity (now DSP Flexi Cap Fund), HDFC Long Term Equity (now HDFC Flexi Cap Fund), IDFC Premium Equity (now IDFC Flexi Cap Fund) and Sundaram Diversified Equity. All the SIPs were done in the direct plans. 'After three years, I got some money. The growth was encouraging, in double digits. I redeemed my investments in 2011 when I was operated for throat and ovarian cancer.' Bithi says. Her health was not in good shape even after her operation, she was diagnosed with diabetes. After that, Bithi endured kidney failure in 2014. 'But my spirit was never down. My family's unconditional love and support and my indomitable spirit helped me to recover. My children and my husband always make me proud. Their care and timely medical attention helped me pull through this difficult time. Though I am on medicine, I am totally stable and active,' Bithi narrates the story of her courage and conviction.

Bithi says she is deeply motivated by her sense of duty to secure her family's finances and savings. Truth be told, she never worried about the future as the family has never faced any serious financial issues. 'Our wants are always within reach and we have no debt,' Bithi confirms.

People's lust for money has also hurt Bithi's family. 'When I was critically ill, some distributors convinced my husband to redeem my mutual funds and deposit the amount in a savings account. My husband is not very smart with money and as a result he got duped by them. As if influencing him to sell the mutual funds was not good enough, they mis-sold six policies to him, Bithi says, with anguish written in her voice. All this happened, Bithi says, because the people concerned knew very well that in her absence they could fool her family.

Although being the head of the family my husband took most decisions for us, he never fathom the intricacies about ULIPs or mutual funds. My children are all grown up now, and they have learned the hard way to go through the documents in details before investing.

Bithi also shares the outcome of some learning experience of her family. Her son has bought pure term insurance and group health insurance of Rs 25 lakh, covering parents, children and spouse. Her son has also set a goal for his children's education. 'We have learnt our lesson. We don't have any advisor now, but we always refer to the VR Portfolio Manager, Ratings and Hangouts', Bithi says.

Bithi has two mutual fund SIPs running for more than three years in HDFC Top 200 (now HDFC Top 100 Fund) and ICICI Prudential Bluechip. She also has some shares in Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, ITC, Infosys, TCS, Reliance Industries, HDFC Bank, SBI, Coal India and Lupin.

From June 2016, Bithi has started fresh investments again. She put her money in ABSL Frontline Equity, DSP BR Micro Cap (now DSP Small Cap Fund), Franklin India Prima Plus (now Franklin India Flexi Cap Fund), ICICI Value Discovery, Kotak Select Focus (now Kotak Flexicap Fund) and SBI Bluechip. Bithi understands that these are too many funds, but she hopes to continue with them for some time at least.

Bithi has been fooled by emotions, but now she is twice shy. 'Emotions fool us to making bad choices. But now emotions have no role to play in my investment related decisions,' she declares.

For Bithi, the word 'investment' means putting aside some money for your future. She says, 'though I learnt it very late, after 50, one should start investing as early as possible.' Any time is a good time to start investing though. 'Just go for it,' she says. Bithi has simple lessons for us but they have profound implications.

This story was first published in January 2018.

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