Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Preet Banerjee: A Penny Worth Picking Up

Find a Penny
As I was walking home, after dropping off my daughter at school this morning, I did something unusual. I stopped to pick up a penny. Normally, I don't stop to pick up anything smaller than a Loonie and I actually walked three driveways down the road before I decided to go back for it. So what changed my mind?

It didn't have anything to do with the old adage, "Find a penny pick it up and all day long you'll have good-luck." I don't believe all that much in luck. The thought that made me stop in my tracks was this: we live in world that is so crammed with good stuff that it's really easy to walk right by something that is seriously valuable.  

My latest interviewee, financial blogger Preet Banerjee, is kind of like that penny I picked up this morning. Here's why.

Meet Preet
I really can't do a better job describing this thirty-something Torontonian's background than he does himself in a bio on his blog, Where Does All My Money Go, that features a photo of himself potty training. In a nutshell, Preet has a wonderfully diverse background that's one part neuroscience, one part car racing and more than a few parts finance.

We first met through the camera lens on CBC. I was the poor soul in need of retirement advice while Preet played the wise "young" man on The Lang and O'Leary Exchange. That nine minutes on air was fun but not as fun as meeting Preet last week while he was in Vancouver.

Over orange-scented water at Giovane (one of my favourite downtown coffee spots) we spent a half hour talking about his blog, his new TV show on the W Network called "The Money Pit" and financial literacy.

Preet starting developing his financial literacy skills in his youth when his father gently suggested that he read a couple of books on personal finance. As a result, Preet started saving for retirement when he was fifteen, using income from his job at McDonald's to kick-start his nest-egg. He also recalled that when he was fourteen, he sat down and worked out just how long it would take savings and compound interest to make him a millionaire.

Another milestone in Preet's acquisition of money language came even earlier in a grade eight economics class where students had to fill out an entire income tax return from scratch. "I think every kid should do this exercise," he said. When I asked him about his thoughts on financial education in the school system, Preet said flat out, "There's not enough."

Financial Advisors as "Translators"
I asked Preet about the years he spent as a financial advisor. What's it like, I asked, for an advisor to talk to a client who does not really understand the language he is speaking? Preet laughed out loud and said that some advisors are good at translating and some are not and that the happiest clients are usually those who understand the jargon.

Having said that, Preet suggested that there is a broad spectrum when it comes to the client-financial advisor relationship. On one extreme there are clients who say "take care of everything" and walk away, while at the other end there are clients who are on top of every aspect of their portfolio and only use their advisor as an order-taker.

When I asked Preet about the secret of success in personal finance, he said that it comes down to the basics.
  1. Disaster-proof your life (make sure you are covered).
  2. Run a surplus (spend less than you make).
  3. Aggressively pay down high interest debt.
Before we headed over to the Olympic torch where a cooperative construction worker snapped this pic for us, I asked Preet what money word he thinks every Canadian should understand. He said "budgeting." If you cannot save, you cannot be an investor. Financial well-being comes down to paying attention to money in and money out and it's better to have more of the former.

And now back to my thought that Preet is like the penny I picked up this morning. There are a ton of money blogs out there, so many that it's easy to cruise right by them like I almost did with that penny this morning. But you should stop and read Preet's stuff. Like today, he wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail about the benefit of spending $1000 for 10 minutes in a Lamborghini rather than buying one for $299,000.

Preet Banerjee's writing (like his background and personality) is lively, intelligent and worth at least a penny if you stop and pick it up.

Copyright 2011. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission contact money@agentstory.net.


  1. This is a great post Laura! Since I "make" all my students learn how to budget in a variety of contexts, and was thinking about "making" all my seniors fill out a tax return this year, Preet's stuff (and of course yours) will be the perfect on-line resource!

    It always helps to have the published experts validate my learning activities!

    Karen Gadowsky
    Program Creator and Teacher
    Delta Work Options
    President and Speaker Coordinator
    BC Alternate Education Association

  2. Thanks Karen. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about validation...that's a wonderful thing for an educator to receive once in a while!

  3. One topic not discussed or understood is life insurance. I sat down with Preet this week in Oakville and gave him a copy of LEAP by Robert Castiglione.

    Some of the topics Castiglione covers are inflation, stock market declines, real estate, RRSPs, planned obsolescence (shorter life spans), technological changes,why sometimes compounding is bad financially, taxes, corporations, how the "four basic rules of financial institutions", work and much more.

    The bold statement is after understanding these and many other factors, one can have 20% more money in retirement and pay less taxes with better protection if properly arranged.

    Brian Poncelet,CFP

  4. I have a new appreciation for picking up pennies.