Paying back in kind
Leaving a successful career midway to give back to the society
By Anagh Pal
At 42 and single, Rajesh Chitalia comes across as someone who is well sorted in life. At the peak of a corporate career as director with one of the big four accounting firms, he gave it all up to be with his 76-year-old father. “I always wanted to retire by the time I was 45 and then do something meaningful in life,” he says. Things changed for him to advance that decision in 2013, after his mother passed away and his father’s health was far from its best. “I wanted to spend more time with my father as after losing my mother it was not going to be easy for him,” he recounts.
Chitalia had taken his parents into confidence on his decision to quit early from corporate life and it made sense with the changed family situation. Besides, Chitalia’s boss had assured him that he could re-connect whenever he wanted, even on a part-time basis.
A good cause
The transition from the high-paying job of a chartered accountant to being on his own meant a lot of changes, which Chitalia had planned for. These days, every morning, Chitalia walks out of his house in Malad, to visit V.D.Navnirman School, for children with special needs, and spends time with kids there, explaining basic mathematics and English. Teaching is done mostly on one-to-one basis and does not happen through regular text-books, but through friendly conversations.
“There is a boy who might not be able to answer immediately what 10 minus 5 equals to, but he knows that if a biscuit pack costs Rs.5 and he gives the shopkeeper Rs.10, he will get back Rs.5. This is a way of teaching that they grasp easily,” he says. While in job, he had enrolled himself in a teacher’s training course on weekends to equip himself to teach at the school for children with special needs.
Six months before he quit his job, Chitalia started looking at the various activities he could be involved in after leaving his full-time job, so that he won’t fall short of Rs.50 lakh a year. He wanted to focus on education, something that had always been very close to his heart.
“I approached select corporate bodies and found out how I could volunteer and be a part of their CSR programmes in education,” he says.
Finally, he decided on voluntary association with an NGO, which works closely with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, for educational development of tribal children in Maharashtra and Gujarat, where he could offer his time.
Chitalia also likes to spend time with senior citizens and his exteachers, especially those who are staying alone. “I try to keep them happy in my own little ways,” he quips. This life also allows him to spend not only ‘more’, but also ‘quality’ time with himself, doing Yoga, Vipassana, listening to Osho discourses, and playing with youngsters in his housing society.
He also actively interacts on the Prime Minister’s website— pmindia.gov.in and offers his views on various subjects. “My decision to quit my job bode well as my father is fit and healthy, while I feel more energised from these honorary involvements compared to the monetary compensation I could have got otherwise” he says.
An early retirement is fancied by several Indians, but only a handful manage to get it right. Chitalia was astute and planned for it in advance. “My goal was to have investments in place which would replace 2-3 times my regular household expenses and vacation breaks when I retired,” he explains. Understandably, till 2013, his investments were skewed towards equities. But now his equity exposure stands reduced to around 60 per cent. He invested the money he got on retirement– EPF, gratuity and PPF maturity amount into AAA-rated 20-year bonds which provide a tax-free income of around 9 per cent, and being listed, also grant liquidity.
The income from bonds and the returns from his investment in debt funds account for more than 1.5 times his household expenses, while income equalling 50-100 per cent of his expenses comes from the tax-free dividends of his equity investments. What Chitalia does without fail is that he re-invests his income in excess of his expenses, which adds to his financial security. Chitalia has also smartly used his investments; for instance, his mutual fund investments are largely in thematic and sectoral funds, which has paid out well and have given him very high returns over the last few years. “For that, you should keep an eye on development of businesses and economy around you”, he adds. Plus, he has a health cover of Rs.10 lakh to take care of any heath costs that could arise.
Quiz him on the future and he says that, too, has been thought of. What happens when he is old and cannot do things for himself? Who will look after him? “I can hire someone to look after me when I require help,” he says. Else, I may explore gated retirement communities where people stay in their golden years. “There are so many structured ways of living a happy and secure retired life,” he says. In fact, he knows people who, with kids settled abroad, live in retirement homes and they are happy and content. On the question of re-connecting to profession, he says, full time resumption is completely ruledout, but the roll-out of Goods and Services Tax could provide theoretical trigger, though he has not made up his mind.
Chitalia is a rare breed in an otherwise capitalist world. He believes he is now in the 4th and last quadrant of life, where ‘money works for you’ and you can do what you really wish to do. For him, it boils down to doing something good for the society.
“If I cannot practice the saying ‘Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you’, at least, I can do it the other way round, that is, after I got the best from this world, I must also give the best in return,” he says.
In his case, he wanted to and has already initiated the ‘payback’ on two fronts, in terms of the love and affection he got from his parents and elders, and education, which gave him a very successful career.
All of us have different priorities and Chitalia’s is in doing his bit for the world around him.