Vairamuthu waxes lyrical on savings

Tamil poet says one must invest wisely forthe future and give back to society too

“I earned my first income when I was in college, when All India Radio paid me ₹15 for every poem read by me,” says well-known poet Vairamuthu, who has enthralled the current generation of Tamil music lovers with his sensitive and pithy lyrics. In a conversation with BusinessLine, he reveals his money mantra.

Born in 1954 in a village called Mettur, in Tamil Nadu, and hailing from an agriculture family, he completed his graduation and post-graduation with a gold medal from Pachaiyappa’s College, Chennai.

Since his entry into cinema in 1980, he has written the lyrics for over 7,500 songs and has also penned 37 books. His poems and books have been translated into many languages including English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Russian and Norwegian. Many students have researched his works and obtained doctorates on his writings from various universities.

Investments

Vairamuthu came to Chennai with just ₹240 in his pocket in 1970. After his studies, he earned his first salary at the age of 24. He was working as a translator for the State Official Language Commission (Government of Tamil Nadu), headed by Justice Maharajan.

His work involved translating law books from English to Tamil and his income was ₹652. “The value of money will only be recognised by one who has faced financial insecurity,” says the celebrity. His family struggled to pay for everyday needs and poverty taught him the value of money. Vairamuthu entered the cinema field in 1980 with the film Nizhalgal directed by Bharathi Raja. “I was offered about ₹2,000, but I took only ₹50…I thought that was enough as I was given a great opportunity…” Thus began his film career, and he has since won many accolades and appreciation. He has bagged the National Award for best lyrics seven times.

Paying one’s dues

“My first commercial investment was in a marriage hall” he says. “I believe in investment that gives me immediate return. I don’t have the age or patience to wait for an asset to grow and give me benefits later in time”.

He has also invested in a working women’s hostel. That said, the celebrity ensures he gets an average stable income from other sources, considering the irregular flow of income from his profession as a poet. “I own a publishing house, Surya Literature Private Limited; it only publishes my wife’s, my son’s and my work. That gives me an average steady income”.

Vairamuthu invests in land as well. His house in Trustpuram, Chennai was his first investment in land. “I consider my home to be a poem factory. I write there, I draw inspiration from it and it gives me my income”.

Vairamuthu hopes one of his future investments will be in an educational institution. “It is my dream to offer students a good standard of education. I’m in discussions with my friends about this, let’s see how that pans out” he comments.

He strongly believes that a person has a right over an asset only after all his tax dues are paid. He is very regular with his income-tax payments. “It is big deal if an investment fetches atleast 0.5 per cent, as many investments give no return,” says he, explaining his investment philosophy. He also thinks that every asset requires you to spend at least 1 per cent of property value on its maintenance

Financial knowledge

The award-winning poet obtained his knowledge in finance through experience from the previous generations in the film industry. His friends and colleagues gave him some sound advice too. “The reason why I wanted to save was because, one day cinema will let me go or I will let go of cinema. Either one is bound to happen, hence I invested,” he says.

“The first generation folks in the cinema field earned a lot, but they had neither the options nor the knowledge to safeguard or grow what they earned. This is because, their preoccupation with work left them with hardly any time to manage investments. It also held little interest for them,” he says.

According to the artist, this mistake was corrected in the generation of actors that included MG Ramachandran and Shivaji. They had the knowledge and exposure to make investments and learnt the right lessons from their earlier generations. These people invested in land. Vairamuthu proudly says that the present generation is highly advanced and well educated. Even if the current set of artists act in two movies, they plan their investments well. It could be in the stock market, flats or even land.

His financial advice to the younger generation is: “It is important to save for the future. A responsible individual should also give some of his or her money to society. It is mandatory to put away one-third of the income earned for a better future.”

Planned expenditure

Vairamuthu has always had complete control over his expenses. “I try my best not to take any loans, unless unavoidable. The progress of the investments I have made thus far is a surprise, even to me” he comments.

Vairamuthu took about ₹10 lakh as loan for building the marriage hall, after which he avoided opting for any loans. He says “If a man falls, it is because of unexpected and luxurious expenditure”

Similarly, losses happen if you enter a field about which you have no knowledge. Thus, he has not invested in stock market or mutual funds.

“In future too I’m not planning on venturing into these options, because of my age and lack of patience to learn” He quotes yet another poem “I will not go swimming without knowing the depth of the water. So, small rivers and streams are fine but not the ocean”

Vairamuthu’s principle is to set aside a certain portion of one’s income for two things: contingencies, and gifts or donations. He signs off with this bit of advice: “A person should plan for three things: rice for today, paddy for tomorrow and then seeds to sow for the days thereafter. In investment terms, these are cash, gold and land — cash being rice, paddy signifying gold and seeds being land. This will help any individual meet his or her financial necessities.”

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