Are you 36 and still not rich?


Actually, all of us can be rich by 36. All it takes are a few small sacrifices. And strong ambition: To be rich at 36.

I learnt this simple lesson from 23-year Kirtana, who joined our team 3 months ago. I only wish I’d deployed her strategy when I was her age.

Before I share her strategy, let’s define a couple of rules.

First, a quote I love: ‘I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor. Believe me baby, rich is best’. Think about this for a moment; let it sink in. 

Second, definition of rich: Rich is someone who doesn’t earn the money he needs to meet lifestyle expenses as salary, professional fee or business income. I’ll come back this one.

Third is ‘how rich’ is actually ‘rich’? To my mind, if you can earn every month about the amount of money you earn during the 6th year of your career – say age 26 or 27 – without working – I’d say that’s rich. For instance, most well-qualified executives earn 7-8L in their 6th or 7th year of your career. Now, imagine earning this amount without working! That’s rich.

Now, let’s turn to Kirtana’s strategy.

“My father says if I save 33% of the income I earn, right from the day I begin earning, I’ll have about 75L in my bank by the time I am 36 years old,” says Kirtana.

Actually, this is moderate. Listen to second part of her strategy, in my words.

Invest some part of your balance income on risky instruments.  Like stocks, or equity focused mutual funds, or some land somewhere.  Of the three, investment in stocks is the smartest. It grows fast, and money remains liquid as you can exit anytime.

You may ask, “What if I lose?”

Yes, you can lose. In the short run. But you needn’t worry, as all your savings would be sitting in secure assets, earning you a healthy return, and growing steadily. This ‘risky’ earning is only meant to be a bonus. In fact, you may view this process of  investment as a mere ‘game’. Just play long, and enjoy the gains, without worrying about the losses. Remember, the more you play, the better you’ll get!

Also, expose no more than a couple of thousand bucks a month on this game. You’ll be surprised how much you do with that.

My estimate is that if you play this game for 12 to 15 years, you’d have a fairly tidy sum in your bank – at least Rs.25-30L. You may save this money, or, simply use it pay for your indulgences.

The two sums together can give you a crore in your bank by the time you are 36. That’s the kind of money only a few have, even at 50!

There are two pleasant twists to this saga:

One: If you continue to save at this rate for another 4 years, i.e. till age 40, you’d have doubled your bank balance – to Rs.2 crores at least.

Two: If you are employed, which is the case with most people, you’d have about Rs.50L in your provident account too. This will happily take care of your security needs, including pension.

As I know of very few people who have actually managed to do this, I’d reckon it’s difficult to do. I believe there are two challenges you’ll need to overcome:

First, think of the 33% income as untouchable, like an EMI – sacrosanct, no default allowed.

Second, learn to want less, especially possessions. Or, simply postpone every purchase that’s not a necessity. There’s no harm announcing to the world ‘I’m frugal’. They may laugh at you now…but you are bound to have the last laugh. If not sooner, certainly at 36!

Thanks Kirtana!


  1. Thanks Dreamer (Deepti), for writing your views. I’m sure many who experience situation not very different from yours, would find your views helpful. Voicing out views is always a good way to find a solution.

    From your mail it appears you are pursuing something that gives you joy but little money. I’d say keep at it; joy is very important! You are among the fortunate few who are enjoying what they do! About saving up, start that whenever you can, because it’s never too late. However, sooner you start, the better, no matter how little the amount. Though I propounded the advice, I didn’t start following the advice till a few years ago. And I’m 48.



  2. Hi Ranjan and Raj,

    I apologize for cutting into the conversation, but couldn’t help given its profound relevance to me (at least I think it’s relevant to me).

    First off I want to thank Raj and Kirtana for the advice/idea. I’m 26 and an academic stipend is the closest I’ve gotten to an actual “salary”. I’m already at crossroads to switching career paths. Just because I have nothing to save as of now doesn’t mean that I don’t want the luxury that the kind of savings Raj mentioned, will provide. Seeing that I’m still a good few years away from actually earning a decent amount of money, leaves me pretty worried as to how all of it will work out before hitting retirement. But then I think about working a job that inspires no passion in me for the sole purpose of saving up, and the meager stipend seems totally worth it!! I’m not opposed to being sensible and practical, but does money mean just as much if one hasn’t had a fabulous time amassing it? I doubt I’d be motivated enough to hold a job for 10-20 years just so I can use the potential savings to finally pursue my dreams for the remainder of my life. I have a tiny little objection with equating maturity with financial responsibility. I like to think that being poor does not necessarily make me immature. Just an opinion! Don’t mean any disrespect to anyone else’s!

    Putting my opinions aside, I genuinely do think it’s absolutely excellent advice. I’ve definitely been inspired to figure out a plan that’ll work for me! Thanks again!

  3. I am relieved to see that you think its “wonderful” to be confronted with a contrary view. Thats how a a debate comes into existence, which I think, is the only way to seriously consider a subject. Otherwise one understands the subject only partially.

    Of course, it works better eye to eye. The chances of arriving at a conclusion improve immensely.

    But that notwithstanding, I am happy to play the agent provocateur, on any forum.

    Cant help it. Force of habit.

    All the best !

  4. Thanks Vinod for sharing your views. Very interesting – it’s wonderful to hear a contrary views.

  5. One doesn’t need lakhs and crores of rupees to be rich. That’s an infantile understanding of the concept.

    It is true that if one has all that money, one would be called rich by some. Many.

    But that doesn’t really make one rich. Being called rich, doesn’t make one rich.

    The opinion of lesser intellects; metaphorical infants and juveniles, hardly merits any serious consideration.

    Rich is a state of mind.

    It doesn’t really matter whether you are a million in minus or plus; whether you actually have a million or owe a million, you are still a millionaire!

    The Kirtana strategy lacks spunk. Its overtly conservative, masochistic, and in the end, pointless. It’s a recipe for mediocrity that can only serve to rob oneself to realise ones true potential.

  6. Looking for your ‘calling in life’ is always a big deal. You can never be sure if you have finally discovered it. An easier (more handleable) question to ask is ‘what’s my CURRENT calling in life’. Pursuing that with all your madness is enough. And if and when you discover the next one… get after that too 🙂

    By the time you are 60 or so you will have sampled many careers / hobbies and because you put your heart into them, you’ll have loved them all and not to forget the byproduct – the pots of money that the world will have given you for playing your play 🙂

    Is age 20 too young to ask the question ‘what’s my current calling in life’? I don’t think so. The question is not age dependent. Try asking it right now (whatever your age), you’ll get your answer.

    Go ahead…ask.

  7. Ranjan,

    I think for most of us it’s not possible to find our ‘calling’ or ‘passion’ early in life. It takes a few years of working to figure it out. Also, early in our careers there are too many commitments, and a great deal of pressure to start earning.

    One more point, on lighter vein though: backed by the security of a big bank balance, it would be easier not only to figure one’s calling, but also to follow it. Remember, at 35 years to age, we have a good 30-35 years of work life to look forward to:-)

    Let’s connect sometime.

    Warmly, and a big thanks for sharing your views,


  8. Extremely pertinent word, and fantastic logic! Kirtanas and others, please pay attention.

    Thanks so much Ranjan!

  9. Thanks for your response Raj.

    Let’s look at the key point of resonance in what Kirtana, you and I are saying:

    “It is possible to be rich by the time one is 36 if one begins saving early and intelligently.”

    Absolute agreement with the logic. The only disconnect is with the unarticulated assumptions on which this statement might be based on. Let me try and articulate some (again my assumptions on what people’s underlying assumptions might be):

    1. If one wants to lead a ‘fulfilled’ life one must be rich

    2. Being rich allows us to do things that we love doing (indulge / play) – Indulgence = consumption of desirable things & experiences (consumption fueled fulfillment)

    3. So in order to have money that allows us to indulge (play), one needs to ‘work’ (activities that help us earn money)

    4. Activities that help us earn money (work) might not be the same as activities that help us pursue fulfillment (play).

    I have tried to challenge all these in the last few years with some success. That’s why my advice to the youngsters. Here it is again:

    Don’t think money. Think what you are mad about and go crazy living it – money will chase you.

    Just play your play (as against ‘work your work’). The real fulfillment is in the ‘play’. And you know what, while you are totally into your play, the world will throw more many than you can handle or need, which will also take care of all your ‘consumption fueled fulfillment’ needs.

    Think about it.


    PS. Let’s find a way to meet soon. Shall we?

  10. I hope the youngsters reading this article avoid the mistakes we’ve made (more specifically I’ve made). Actually, why youngsters, anyone for that matter. As it’s never too late to begin saving and investing. Remember, we’ll all be living till 75-80, and we’ll need a lot of money to look after ourselves and our families.

    Thanks, Raj

  11. Thanks Shiv for your extremely interesting observations! And very powerful ones as well. Especially the last one: committing ones finances too early without asking ourselves WHY. (Recently, I saw one of my friend do that to compete with ‘Jones’).

    I myself have gone over pretty similar path – reason I’m still not rich 🙂

    Regards, Raj

  12. Thanks Ranjan! I think your advise is invaluable.

    Two disconnects however. One has to save only up to age 36, and not 45. Most guys at 36 are married, with one 1-3 year old child. So responsibilities kind of begin around that time. Of course, girls are likely to have older children, but if they are working, they’d one of the two income earners.

    Saving 1/3rd will be great, but one must save whatever one can. So there’s no need to sacrifice one’s passion.

    When we meet sometime ,we’ll discuss in greater detail. Still, do share your views.

    Best, Raj

  13. Hi Raj

    Love the calculation. Like the way you have articulated it.

    One disconnect though. It requires young people to begin thinking about money as if it is their primary objective in life and continue thinking about it till they are 50. The best 25 years of their lives thinking about something as mundane as earning & spending (or not spending)?!

    Sure, earning to spend on your indulgences is one way. Here’s another. Spend your time discovering your indulgences and allow yourself to pursue them in a child-like (non-adult-like) manner. You’ll be surprise at how you’ll never ever have to work for money. Money will be something that keeps getting accumulated while you were busy indulging yourself.

    At 43, I have experienced it myself in the last few years.

    So here’s what I would tell a youngster. Don’t think money. Think what you are mad about and go crazy living it – money will chase you.

    🙂 Ranjan

  14. Raj,

    Couple of random observations – you may want to consider this as an underlying layer for the `Rich at 36′ piece.

    * Most of us assume that life has to proceed on a certain path – usually defined by some one else (parents, friends, society at large, books, TV serials!). I don’t think enough people stop to ask themselves if they are really choosing their paths, or are they being passive participants in their own journey.

    * The number of people I encounter these days who say they wish their life could be different is astounding. Not that they are unhappy or particularly regretful of their present, but they just didn’t make time to think of their passions when the fire was burning at its brightest, and ended up in comfort, not contentment. Coincidentally (or not), the average number I have encountered in this process is also 36!

    * What happens if you get rich without a plan? Will that make you richer? Most of us work, and earn money to do the usual things – marriage, car, house, children, their education, and such like. The pattern is frighteningly familiar. What if you only aimed at getting richer for the sake of getting richer, with the flexibility of deciding later how you wanted to use it? Wouldn’t that take away the pressure of falling into the trap of responding to `expectations’, and truly get richer for yourself?

    * I believe most people commit their finances far too early – without ever asking the question WHY. You can be financially richer even by 30, if a couple of life questions are addressed before then. And I thought adding this layer to a purely financial perspective could force open a few new thoughts.


  15. Dear Raj,
    Thanks for writing and sharing this article. Early start to SAVE and INVEST does wonders to once financial well being. Once you have invested, the POWER of COMPOUNDING keeps working for you in the background without any further effort from your end. Many of us realized this too late, but its never late and we could do our bit now.
    More importantly by sharing our experiences we can atleast make the next generation more aware on these concepts and make many many more Kirtanas financially secure by 36.
    Good Luck!

  16. Hi Shailesh!

    Thanks for writing in.

    I think your views are most pertinent. or perhaps, better to refer them as ‘practical difficulties’.

    I think there is no hard and fast rule on how much we must save. The idea is fixed percentage of income must be saved, no matter what. Lower savings may not make us crorepatis bu 36, but it’s sure to leave us financially healthier. That itself is quite an achievement.


  17. Nagu, I guess both of us have already missed the boat. Let’s hope Sheena and Rahul learn from our mistakes and Kirtana’s strategy 🙂

  18. Very nice observation, and flawless. Coming from a 23-year-old, I must say I am impressed. Just a few points that I thought need to be added. Assumption here is that once a person starts earning, he/she has no liabilities, no loans that the person will take up to the age of 36, etc. House rent, car loan, housing loan, etc. eat into the finances, and most people who don’t live with parents, or don’t have their own home, end up spending a large part of their earnings on these items. In which case, it becomes virtually impossible to save up to 1/3rd of your earnings.

    If you need a home loan, the bank gives you the same with the EMI at most being 40% of your monthly earnings. And in any case, no bank gives more than 85% of the total value of the home – so you still have to spend 15% upfront first. In today’s time, a very average flat in an average locations costs around Rs. 50 lacs. That’s Rs. 7.5 lacs required upfront, and registration charges (at least 6% if you’re female, or 7% if you are male), mean another 3-3.5 lacs. So, around Rs. 10 lacs is required in the bank for the loan, and the EMI on Rs. 42.5 lacs loan with a 20-year tenure would alone cost Rs. 45,000/- per month. A person would need a net take home of around 1.2 lacs/month (which means that gross income would have to be at least Rs. 20-25 lacs/annum (considering PF/gratuity contribution, taxes, etc.) to get that kind of a loan, with no other loans (car, personal loan, etc.) existing. If a person takes such a loan around the 6th/7th year of his/her working life, and still needs to save 33%, this means that he/she should have a take-home of around Rs. 1.6 lac/month, or a gross annual salary exceeding Rs. 30 lacs. I don’t think many would qualify.

    So, theoretically, this sounds very accurate and nice, but reality could be a completely different ball game.

  19. Hi Kirtana!
    The idea is not new. But what I found inspiring is that it came from a 23-year old. It’s rare to find such maturity and sensibility in people your age. Actually, even in people my age. Thanks! Raj

  20. My idea of planning finance has actually interested someone to such an extent that for the first time in my life, there is a blog which talks of me. I feel elated! Thank you… 🙂

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