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Ep 16B: Let's talk about Money: From Investing to Career Advice- Sravana & Sai Kancharla

Updated: Jul 17, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

In Part 2 with Sravana & Sai Kancharla (sister and brother) we talk about investing, navigating life in the workplace after college & talking finances with family & friends.

Each podcast has a few takeaways and resources at the end. Check them out and leave me your feedback!!

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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[01:12] -Retirement, Investments, Real Estate [Jump to section]

[03:41] - Financial Risk Tolerance... It's Personal [Jump to section]

[05:27] - Career Conversations...Salary Negotiations [Jump to section]

[11:18] - Talking Money...with Family & Friends [Jump to section]

[14:27] - Advice about College & after... incl. Networking [Jump to section]

[20:38] - Food for thought. Episode takeaways [Jump to section]


Retirement, Investments, Real Estate [01:12]

Sirisha: You both stayed together. Are your financial outlooks, very similar, And what did you learn from each other?

Sravana: On a very basic level, we have similar philosophies to try and save as much and keep the expenses to a minimum. We don't really share finances, although we live together, we would keep them separate.

Sirisha: When you're thinking of long-term you've done your first big investment. Are you looking at 401ks? How do you start thinking of retirement?

Sai: For me, I have 401k. I have stock that my company provided those are long-term retirement and I don't get to choose how they invest we have the investment company looking after those. When I think about the long-term, that's more of a safety net. It's not something I rely on or look at regularly for me, I like doing my own investment right now I'm a big proponent of the stock at least investing for yourself, and learning about the market. Number one, saving, just having capital on hand and two is investing it correctly. 2020, 2021 was a great bull market. If you talk about long-term for me, it's a mix of the stock market investment in great companies and what I'm looking forward to next, apart from my home is investment properties. They could be rentals or they could be just empty land in places that I think would grow. For me, retirement is more in my hand than relying on a 401k. I liked taking an active role in retirement or at least thinking about the future.

Sirisha: You've done a lot of research and you've done a lot of reading, which is fabulous because you have thought of all the different avenues that people are learning from, Land versus properties versus 401k, or even the market itself. You've covered all the bases which fit your profile and are very personal, tolerant and what they want to do. It may not be his investing plan, but what about you Sravana?

Sravana: It's pretty much the same approach, I do have a 401k and then stocks with the company as well. I do max out my 401k and then our company matches, to a certain percentage, so I have that and then stocks. The past couple of months I've been thinking about investing a lot more just because of how the market has been doing.

And that's something that I want to learn more of this year and do more of personally, maybe start off small and see what the returns look like and how comfortable I am with that. But that's something I've definitely wanted to dabble in more this year. Just because it's crazy to see the amount of returns that people have gotten over the past two years just actively, investing in the stock market, so that's something I want to do as like a long-term plan and keep building that

Financial Risk Tolerance... It's Personal [03:41]

Sirisha: So you've also given it thought and planning to do a lot of the learning. Anything you still want to share from a financial perspective or just your journey, figuring out your path to where you are now, as you look to the future?

Sai: I've been here since 2008. I graduated around 2013, worked for a few years then did my Masters, but I truly believe my real financial journey started in 2018. Once I started working here in Austin and, since then I've become more active, earlier I was more passive. I truly believe in savings, Number one, Even if you don't invest, you need to save, I think that's a huge safety net, having cash on hand or savings on hand, pretty important just because, you never know when an opportunity comes, it could be in any format.

So I think that's been my way of thinking about future investments, but for everyone, it's very different. It's very personal, what risks they choose. But for me, I'm in my early thirties, I'm less risk averse, and I'm okay with a little risk. That might change maybe 10 years down the line. It's a personal journey, and as I learn more it changes over time.

Sirisha: That's really good advice. By no means, are we giving financial advice here. I just want to be clear to whoever's listening, we are not financial planners, not advisors. We are just talking about money just to feel comfortable with having that conversation with family, with friends, because how else are you going to learn? We don't necessarily learn at school. Sometimes some of us have conversations at home, growing up with our parents, but not always. It is just a place to go and learn and find someone to have a conversation. Could be a professional, could be a friend, could be a brother, it could be a sister, who do you have that? It's really about getting comfortable. That's why I'm saying let's talk about money for no other reason than we don't talk about it becomes a taboo subject very often.

Career Conversations...Salary Negotiations [05:27]

Sai: One thing I missed is negotiations. If I had someone, a cousin or someone coming here, I'd probably have a talk about negotiations because when I got my first job, they asked me what my salary expectations were. I was dumbfounded, I hadn't done any market research, I didn't know what to say. I know I lowballed myself at that point, but negotiation's important. That's one thing I did learn pretty late, I would look at what the markets paying. I think negotiation's important when you get that call from HR, I think you need to be ready on what you're trying to ask for.

Sirisha: Thank you so much for saying that I am just blown away by your honesty about talking about it because negotiation is very hard to do, even when you prepare for it and do your market research and advocate for yourself.

For me, that is the hardest part I think of is finding your voice no matter whether you're having a career conversation or even asking for negotiation, and when I've had those, they have been quite uncomfortable conversations at work.

And how do you approach it? How do you prepare for it? So there's, I think it's a thought because that is stuff you leave on the table.

Sai: It adds up over the years.

Sirisha: Totally compound interest, right? Compound interest works in so many ways. It's how much you save and how much you invest. It is how much your salary growth is. It's all of those things and when they talk about wage gap we all might be paid equally to men, it's hard to tell. Surveys show that 82 cents to a dollar what's this male wage gap. I was just watching someone talk about it today and how much that compounds and so no differently negotiation is part of that equation. Even for yourself, if you're negotiating or not, you can potentially leave that and to your point, you want to be paid to what the market is getting paid.

Sai: I think it's important to, especially if you plan to stay at a company for a longer period of time, what you get paid your first year's important unless you change roles, it's a standard. What? 3%, 5%, I don't know what different companies do, but if you plan to stay for a while, I think your first year you really have to negotiate.

Sravana: I actually have a story that ties in. Both of the things that you guys mentioned to your point, what you had mentioned to Sirisha about people not talking about money in general, and then also about low-balling.

I had a colleague, on my team who got laid off and he'd been working there for 20 years. So he joined in as a new grad, so he didn't really have a say and his salary just grew. He was interviewed at this company and HR asked him 'what's like a base salary that you're looking for' and he had no clue. So he said, can I actually get back to you in a couple of days? And since he'd been in the industry for 20 years, you don't really have that conversation with anyone at work right on your team, that's not really a conversation that you have.

So he went and, talked to people that were doing the same thing, he's a hardware design engineer, and he went and talked around and he realized that he was being low-balled where he was working for 20 years and then he found a base salary that he was comfortable with. His friend said you should give them a ballpark figure, give them a figure that you think is an insane amount where you think they're going to laugh at you, but then come back to you with a figure that's much lower. 'It's okay, cool. I've never done this before' so he went and gave HR a ridiculous figure and they came back and they said OK, They didn't negotiate. He got this ridiculous figure and it kind of ties in, is that you people need to talk about these things just so everyone gets a share of the bag and don't lowball yourself.

Sirisha: That's a great ending I'm so happy that he got what he deserved and it must've been shocking for him. First of all, to realize he was being lowballed.

Sravana: He called me and he was shocked and he said, I pulled this ridiculous move off and it worked.

Sirisha: Exactly, and that is fantastic because it's a learning process for so many people. I have a friend, she worked at a company and she realized she was probably not being compensated. She moved companies, some really high percentage she got a raise, which she was really happy with, but I don't think everyone negotiates when they get a high raise necessarily, which brings it to the other point. So what can happen in this case, is she got great pay she accepted it, but, she also found out a few months later, someone else who got hired into a similar role was making a significant amount more than her.

I don't think it bothered her so much because you know the difference from hers, but I think it's still leaving money on the table to our conversation. It's not about whether you want it. It's do you want to leave it there and wonder about it. So I think doing market research is important.

Figuring out how to negotiate, talking to friends, if that's possible and making sure you're compensated. There was a LinkedIn post I saw the other day, it was from an HR recruiter who said, someone interviewed, the job paid maybe 120 K . She said the person asked for 85, so I gave her 85. So it depends what you ask for. So it's something that all of us have to be cognizant and think about. None of us talks about salary and stuff at work or not at home either so much, that's one component of it, but I think the other part of it is going back to our initial conversation when you come here do you save, what do you do with your credit cards? What do you do with, should I buy a house? It's all personal decisions, but you still have to ask questions and gather all the information so that then you can make an informed decision what is right for you. But unless you have a conversation, how do you even make a decision? Because sometimes you don't have the opportunity to revise the decision, especially for some of the big ones.

Once you lock it in, it's locked at least for a significant amount of time, unless you can retract it like a job or a house down payment, or when you're looking at your interest rate, you can revise it if the interest rate is going down, but there are some big financial decisions that happen that there's not a do-over or at least not quick enough to go in and redo that.

Anything else you wanted to share Sravana?

Talking Money...with Family & Friends [11:18]

Sravana: Since Sai gave his final thoughts, once I started my first job I don't think I'd say I have regrets, but I wish, I had a more active role with my money and how I invested it. But I think it's also a function, again, not having those conversations with people is if I had friends or family that I could talk to about at that stage.

And if someone brings up that conversation, I think that would have probably started a thought back then, and then of having a more active role in investing my money, rather than just relying on my 401k and things like that. Better late than never. But I think that's one thing I would probably say is to, have more active role in your finances and invest it because it makes more sense to have it work for you than just lying in sitting there and the banks in here really don't give you any amount of interest if that makes any sense.

Sirisha: That is such an apt statement. Another example, we have IRA accounts, retirement, there are different investment vehicles. So a friend who came here in her mid-twenties, I think she said she only found out in her mid-thirties about it. There was 10 years that she could have been doing something just because there was no way to learn because we don't talk about it.

Are you having financial conversations with anybody, both of you or with each other or with friends?

Sai: We do with close friends, people we grew up with from Fiji. We're pretty open and since we grew up as kids, we're much more open than we'd be with somebody we've met recently. We talk about salaries, investments, goals in some cases where we want to be. We're pretty open and you're now talking about someone who learned about IRA at 30, I was no different. I found out from the same friend of ours to IRA when she was opening her, she told us about it. So we do have this conversation and there's another one, I think it's called the HSA. I didn't even know that existed. That's when she opened one and they're more, I think we've started having them more the last two years. I want to say exactly 2020, but I constantly learn like HSA, there must be other accounts that I don't know about

Sirisha: And that's really good and what triggered it to be in 2020?

Sai: The bull market everyone's talking about stocks. Everyone's trading from home and whatever the reason is, people are more vested in the stock market. Once you have that opening conversation about, have you seen this company, that's probably where it starts, but you get more open about through group chats and things, at least for us, that's how it started, I don't know for other folks.

Sravana: The stock market of 2020, where everyone working from home had the chance to sit in front of a laptop and do things on the side and invest on the side. We've already been talking about investing with our friends and things like that.

But I think that kind of snowballed it even further where we would talk about very specifics. Did you buy this company? Yeah, I did. I bought it at this price. Or, we sold it at this price or in a way, look out for each other and say, Hey, have you heard of this? Or have you heard of that? Or if you're not doing this, or if you're not doing that, you should look into it. But, you have to have that conversation because one person doesn't know everything and you need a group of people to be able to pull in things that you don't really have a radar for.

Advice about College & after...including Networking [14:27]

Sirisha: I'm very happy to hear that. I do it with some friends, but I don't know if they all do it. I'm just glad you guys are doing it and getting, actually an early head start. You may think oh, it's been a few years, but actually, it's really good that you're already having that conversation. You're way ahead in figuring out what you want to do. So this is the final question I ask everybody I interview. It's an open-ended question. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self for a future career?

Sai: What you plan to do after college is pretty important. Your first job very important it's because it sets the tempo of what you'll do going forward. Of course, you can switch careers, it's much easier to do that than ever before. I would say the last, I think your senior year is a good time to start thinking about what you want to do and working on interview preps and deciding which career you want, which, if you're doing electrical engineering, you have 10 different kinds of professions within it that you could choose.

You're trying to be certain about what exactly you want to do in that field rather than taking a job that was given to you. For me, it's being in your last year of college it's about what exactly you want to do the next 40. If you're wrong, you can always switch, but I think it's a good time to start getting serious.

Sravana: Maybe from a career perspective going back to college is, does matter how well you do in college. At least I think at the grad school level people do pay attention to your resume and GPA. A group at work is hiring and I just got pulled into interviewing certain people and it's surprising the amount of emphasis we do look at, their college GPA and how well they did, even if they do have work experience. So taking college seriously and I think another thing that personally resonates with me is probably just networking and talking to people.

That's how I got my first internship through a career fair although it was a career fair, I think it was just me being very personable with the guy who I was talking to. Turns out his daughter was going to the same school that I was going to. So we just had a very free conversation about what I was doing in school in general, and I didn't feel like I was being interviewed. I walked away from that booth, not feeling, I't was like, okay. I had a good conversation with this guy,' but I didn't really pay much attention to it and turns out that's the only place I got a call back from. So just networking.

Also when I started working at this company, I was in one position for a certain year, but then I made a bunch of friends and I talked to a lot of people and the job opened up on the team that was adjacent to me. And usually, it's not a move that a manager would do is to come and ask me if I want to take that role because it's, we're sister teams. There's like etiquette to that, but it worked out just because I knew them so personally, and like I had a big networking group, so I found out about it and she was comfortable enough to talk to me about it and things like that. So I think networking really helps. I know it sounds cliched.

Sai: If I could change my answer, I would say networking is very important. A lot of opportunities open up when you, network, especially if you're looking for a career change. For us, if we have a lot of friends from school in the same industry, about job openings, people will tell you, 'Hey, I have a job opening here'. I'll go with networking and it sounds difficult to do, depending on your personality, but a small amount of it, I believe is necessary.

Sravana: Apart from just being good at school, I would say the next biggest factor that's played a good role in my work life has been just, making friends along the way, it's not that hard, getting involved in things at work as well, like different activities or different groups and just, the more faces, I think it really helps because just the amount of opportunities I've got to participate in things because someone knew me from, 'oh, I talked to you a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about this or someone else told me about you and I wanted to get in touch with you about if you could help me with this or, things like that'.

Sirisha: I love your answer. I couldn't agree more. Call it networking, call it information, call it working with us, as you call it as many faces as I could not agree more. It's expanding it, It's also, about finding the next role or part of that is that, but I think it just gives you such an expansive scope.

All the opportunities are there, and then you get to pick and choose. It goes to something that Sai said in the beginning, being intentional about your first job, now even as you're making a move, it's much more intentional because not just the outside facade that you're seeing, but something deep about that job or the personality or the intricacies to make a more conscious decision as you're doing it.

The other reason that it excites me is the first season I did was called Returning to Work after a Break. When I did the season recap, that was the first thing I said, everything you have to remember is to network and network. So it's not to think about it as networking, I think you guys said it right. It's about information gathering or just talking to people, It's just about having a conversation.

Sravana: Just saying hi to someone and introducing yourself is good enough.

Sai: I like calling it, being involved. Just, it doesn't have to be about when you go to events, just getting involved in an event. It doesn't matter. You see something going on, let's go say hi, that doesn't always work for me, but I think that's a good way of just getting to know people. It doesn't have to be through the intention of knowing people, but if you get involved in events and organizations, it's something that comes up and happens organically instead of being forced. Doing this to meet somebody, no, you're getting more, if you're participating in activities and you might make friends along the way.

Sirisha: That's the best way right? Now, it's something that you're doing, not for the sake of knowing somebody, but because you enjoy it and you already have a common ground to start a friendship, it builds on the friendship and I think that's what, you were saying. Your opportunities came because of friendships you've developed and people also saw your professionalism on the side.

So it was a combination of the two that they felt good about coming and asking you saying, 'Hey, I know you can do a really good job. Do you want, this is something we've talked about.

Thank you so much. This has been fun. I know we started to talk about money, but I think it's expanded to a lot more, but that's what it is, right?

Money is not just money, it's all of the other parts of life that tie together, and it's about growing ourselves and all the relationships we've built.

Sai: Thank you for having us.

Sravana: Thanks for having us, this is fun. I don't think I've thought about all of this in one go, so it's been good.

Food for thought. Episode takeaways [20:38]

As we wrap up this second part of the interview with Sravana and Sai Kancharla, on 'Let's Talk about Money,' the food for thought for this episode are,

  • Make sure you invest in your retirement at work, or if you're self-employed so that you get the company match and you're prepared for the future.

  • Look at other investment options, we will go into this in future episodes.

  • Make sure you are having conversations with family and friends about finances and outlook because you will learn so much information. Many of us have found out about HSA and IRAs through those conversations, so keep the dialogue open.

  • When you're stepping away from college and starting to look into the future, your GPA is very critical to set you up for success, but also some of the things that would enable that success is trying to think of what, avenues of work you would like to get into.

  • Starting to network and even once you get into work, to build those relationships and get to know people, so not only do you make friends, but you also learn about opportunities that are there and start exploring what that would look like for you as well.

  • One of the critical things we talked about, if you could go and remember the story when you start taking a job, offer be it your first job or your 10th job, make sure you negotiate, negotiate what you are worth, not what you were paid in your previous job and go in with the different aspects of negotiating. We will talk about this in future episodes and there's a lot of information out there for you to go ahead and get prepared on how to negotiate for your best offer.

Life is a journey. Finance is a big part of it, but they all intersect together. So I hope you walk with us through this journey and tune in to listen to future episodes as we talk to other guests and experts on this series on 'Let's Talk about Money'. Happy listening!

Resources Mentioned:

  • Website | Annual Free credit score check from 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)

Guest: Sravana Kancharla

Host: Sirisha

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