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Foundations

One Idiot: A Movie From IDFC

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IDFC recently got in touch about a video they had created called “One Idiot’”.
It’s a well edited/produced 30 minute movie about the power of compounding and how to save and invest rather than only spend money. Focussed towards the younger generation, the movie talks about an “idiot” who buys his own veggies every Sunday, and is mocked by the kids in the building. However, they all turn sheepish and embarassed when they find out he’s worth Rs. 100 cr. (!). Peppered with quotes like Buffett’s “Don’t save what’s left after spending, spend what’s left after saving”, the movie focusses on building the young adult’s interest in investing.
But I have issues with the movie. (If you’re looking only for glowing recommendations, stop right here and move on)
One is the 100 cr. figure. The perception given is that the “idiot”, a seemingly middle class person with no pretences about wearing “hawaii” chappals and buying veggies, is now worth a 100 cr. through systematic investing. Nothing could be further from the truth. A net worth of 100 cr. is not something you and I will achieve through systematic investing – for that, we really need a big stroke of luck.
At a 12% average return, if he invested at age 22 and finished at age 60, he would have to have invested Rs. 100,000 per month to get there. If you’re investing 100K a month for 38 years, you are quite likely to be already rich, which defeats the purpose. Even if you assume a 10% increase in a monthly investment, leading to 1 lakh a month in 2012, you’ll have gotten to Rs. 10 cr.
If the idiot was worth 100 cr. he didn’t make it through systematic investing. He made it by either selling a company or a large parcel of land, or winning the lottery. Or, he inherited it.
The reason I find this bad is that it is a false promise. Anyone investing will soon get conned with false promises: of high returns, of low risk, of a wrong product. This movie does no better by promising a juicy 100 cr. return only to find that the sum is totally unattainable for a similar candidate. Yes, Rs. 10 cr. is also a good sum, and they should have used that number instead. I would like realistic returns; yearning for ridiculous returns makes people do silly things. (For people in Bombay this will probably buy an apartment with a little bit of money left over, that’s all. If that makes you sad, you should move to a different city.)
Second, Kids – and adults – don’t listen easily to the “don’t have fun now, save instead” argument. When you’re young, you should have a lot of fun. Saving money should be “save when you can” rather than “save even at the expense of a good life”. Remember: you won’t take it with you when you die.
Also, remember that someone retiring now is perhaps one of the luckiest generations ever. It’s like America in 1999. The high of a decade long bull market. I hope systematic investment helps people going forward.
The movie was a little too direct. The fawning when people heard someone is worth 100 cr. was obnoxious. There was no climax – the end kind of dragged on into a sing-song story. The editing and production was awesome, though!
I found it sad that there were no credits at the end of the movie. I wish they did tell us who acted and produced the movie – it might be a work-for-hire, but all movies, even short films, must not disrespect their actors.
A good watch, nevertheless.

  • Ankur says:

    I couldn’t agree more – when I saw it a while back, my first reaction was – no way can a guy with a professional career get to 100 cr just by systematic (and I assume, risk-free) investing. The other thing the movie is short on is about practical next steps.
    Also, I just thought that the protagonist was over-acting a tad.

  • dpt says:

    I second your thoughts Deepak. This exactly looks like financial p0rn rather than something practical. While the message was good, it could have been more realistic while being educative.

  • Namrata says:

    One Idiot is directed by Amol Gupte of Taare Zameen Par and Stanley Ka Dabba fame. Mint had a piece on it a while back http://www.livemint.com/Money/Tu1Hg4HnnbY6pOznVgQx1M/Sometimes-its-good-to-be-called-an-idiot.html?facet=print
    Have to agree with you on the unrealistic expectations of Rs. 100 crore networth. Also, what’s with the “flash forward” where the grown-up kid still lives in the same apartment complex but has a Rolls Royce?!

    • Ah, they did tell me that but I looked for credits and couldn’t find anything.
      The flash forward was very strange – forgot to mention. Fellow owns a Rolls, is supremely obese, and goes to buy sabji. This is like prime kidnapper paradise apart from the fact that the fellow totally stopped playing games it seems. Plus, who the heck buys a Rolls Royce in India if not to show off, and if spending to show off is bad…anyways.

  • Kaushik says:

    Financial P0rn is everywhere.
    1.Real estate promos. Everyone expects 20%/per yr ROI to eternity.
    2.All equity/MF investment promos. Lets not discuss the figure.
    3.Govt plan estimates. The wastes & reestimates are self evident.
    We never question the sustainibility and natural limits of human ability.
    Let have the party fun till the fat lady sings!

  • Srinivas says:

    I have a different take.
    It is a movie. Some exaggeration, though not in line with calculations, can be construed as director’s freedom.(Should we say Director should get his maths rigt, first?). The idea appears to be, to jolt youth from financial illiteracy and consumerism and show them a different way. I agree that even 10 crore would have got the attention.
    In this context a personal example. I was impressed by the rich dad series(I read only one or two). I donot follow the author’s real estate dealings etc. There are/were many arguments for and against the author’s views. But my inferences from his books moulded my financial thinking in the past couple of years for the good.
    To one his own.

  • Sandeep says:

    Deepak, look at the bigger picture, few years back MF’s used to go after lump sum investments (from HNIs). The going was good from 2003 till 2007, after 2008 crash this lucrative group was gone (which went back to lending at 1.5 per month hundi market). Next the MFs went after the salaried class for SIPs -1,2,5k whatever they could get per month. For last 5 years even the SIP returns have been nothing to write home about (I saw a return chart of 3 and 5 year SIPs couple of months back and barring couple of schemes remaning 300+ equity schemes had returns in single digits – so much for the power of much hyped up SIPs). Earlier MFs in their presentations used to show 3 years as long term, after 2008-09 they started saying 5 years is long term. Now even five years returns 2008-12 are pathetic so they have come out with real long term investing plans – goal oriented plans – like child plans etc. so it won’t be before 20-30 years that the poor investor will realize that he has been taken for a ride and by that time, the distributor, the AMC sales guy will be long gone. So its just to hide their performance failure of last 5 years that the MFs have changed the marketing pitch to “real long term”. They are still living in the same old world of trying to find new ways to fool the public. I saw a report of a leading fund house few months back titled “time to buy is now” stating how the market is cheap based on PE etc. The same fund never came out with a report “time to sell is now” when the markets traded at >25 PE twice in last 5 years (Jan 08 and Nov 10).
    There is a very big discrepancy in the objectives of the two key players in this game : Investors and Fund Managers. Investors are always interested in absolute returns while fund manager is always trying to save his job by staying in the herd and staying close to the benchmark and trying to look smart 🙂 by giving statements like “Markets will be volatile in 2013” “India is a long term structrual bull story- having said that…”