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Talking Money with Mint's Monika Halan

Monika Halan wears a lot of hats - journalist, financial advisor, policy and regulatory advisor - braingainmag.com asked her a few questions about her career-journey.
BY Achala Upendran |   14-11-2013
Monika Halan
Monika Halan wears a lot of hats - journalist, financial advisor, policy and regulatory advisor. She completed a Masters degree in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics and another in Journalism from the U.K.’s Cardiff University. She was nominated as a Yale World Fellow in 2011.

As Editor of Mint Money, Halan writes a weekly column on personal financial matters. She also hosts a personal finance show on Bloomberg India, called Smart Money, where she handles viewer questions and decodes policy jargon for the masses. She was Advisor to the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA) in 2009 and advised the Swarup Committee, and is on the mutual fund committee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Halan chatted with braingainmag.com about balancing her different career choices, lessons learned abroad and handling that most challenging of tasks for students of any age - personal savings.

  1. How did you get into financial journalism?

  2. My background is Economics, and numbers have never fazed me. When I finished my Master’s in Delhi School of Economics, I got an entry level position in Business Today, a magazine which was just starting.

  3. What was your experience studying journalism at Cardiff University like?

  4. What I liked about Cardiff was that it was a one-year programme. That is possibly the first time I really enjoyed studying. I think that one year was a complete transformation in the way I looked at myself. I was able to decode my own role as a journalist. My view of my profession got formed significantly in Cardiff.

  5. Tell us what excited you about the Yale Fellowship Program.

  6. It was an interesting experience because after twenty years of working you’ve got your own gig going. They pick 14-15 people from across the world from different fields—politics, business, NGOs, think tanks, the works! It’s a leadership development program, so they believe that they’re grooming future leaders of the world. It’s an interesting thing to rework who you are, because you’re already well-known in your own space, your own country. And suddenly you’re with a bunch of other people who are equally accomplished, equally qualified and important in what they do. You’re taken out of your comfort zone. It’s good to see what that does to you and how things that you had thought you’d overcome still lurk somewhere. On the surface you take courses, attend seminars, but the subtext is this reworking and reassessment of who you are.

  7. Was it difficult to go back to school after being in the professional realm for so long?

  8. It’s not easy. It’s a difficult process to go back in terms of just trying to establish who you are in a group.

  9. Do you actually view yourself as a journalist or someone who works with money?

  10. The core of what I do is issues around money and then there are various spokes to my life, one of which is media—print, television. I’m also on committees where I work with regulators on issues of investor protection and financial literacy. I work with policy as well, in terms of thinking through where the financial sector should go and gearing it towards consumer interests. So really, money is the core of what I do, and I work around that.

  11. What is the most repeated advice you’ve found yourself giving on your show, Smart Money?

  12. It’s more about getting money to work for you than you chasing after it. It has to suit who you are. It’s about the here and now, what you have and what it is that you can do today with it, even in terms of planning long-term. It’s a very difficult decision to take, but I try to convince people that this is what they should do. What I’m trying to do is get people to think differently and change their habits.

  13. Do you see your different career strands as complementing each other?

  14. They do, and there’s a thin line that divides all of them. There are times when, because of what I do with policy or regulation, I know I’ve stumbled across a very good story. But I cannot be a journalist at that moment, because that’s just not right. These are the Chinese walls, the moral guidelines I have. Since I understand both policy makers and households, I can be the bridge that gets the issues of both across to the other. I’ve taken this role upon myself.

  15. What’s the one thing you can’t leave India without?

  16. I eat this mixture of saunf, laung and elaichi (aniseed, cloves and cardamom). My housekeeper roasts these spices and makes a nice mixture. That is one thing I just cannot leave without!

  17. Do you have any advice for students trying to survive on a budget?

  18. It’s a good idea to live cheaply, eat at home rather than spend an extra dollar on a cup of coffee. If you have any surplus money, put it away rather than spend it all. Live a good life, enjoy yourself, but it’s a good idea to start extremely early with a saving plan. It doesn’t matter how little it is—after forty years, you’ll be thankful for every dollar that you put away!

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