All posts by Rama

an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. I can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

How to create a workable budget

“Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card petrol.”

Taking control of your cash inflow and outflow is the base for financial planning. Budgeting is important to gain control over your financial life, be prepared and avoid surprises, save for a major purchase, get out of debt and stay out of debt, expand your lifestyle, and to retire early.

 

Thiruvalluvar, a much celebrated Tamil poet emphasizes budgeting through his following lines:

Incomings may be scant; but yet, no failure there,
If in expenditure you rightly learn to spare. (Kural: 478)

Who prosperous lives and of enjoyment knows no bound,
His seeming wealth, departing, nowhere shall be found. (Kural: 479)

 

Most of us hesitate to make a budget because we think it is about cutting all the fun in life. Budgeting is not about cutting all the fun; it is about conscious allocation of funds. Once we start spending consciously, our mind will find out a whole new way of having fun within the budget.

 

Making Budget: A step by step guide

 

There is a saying, “God is in the details”. Detail every bit of your financials while creating a budget.

 

1)    Check your financial statements:

 

It could be your utility bills, d’mat account statement, other investment receipts, ITR, Form 16A, Form 16, bank statement, credit card statement etc. The idea is to make out the monthly average of income and expenses. Therefore the more details you can get the more relevant and accurate will the budget be.

 

2)    Listing out income from all sources:

 

It is very easy for us to list down the income from employment or self employment. Normally we will lose track of income from investments, rental income and other miscellaneous income. Also check is there any annual income. Don’t forget to record the incomes received by way of cash equivalents like meal voucher and credit card reward points.

 

3)    Finding out your total expenses:

 

We can easily list down the major expenses. But listing out the miscellaneous and petty expenses would be difficult. This is where the collected financial statements would help. Don’t forget the annual expenses like car insurance and property tax. Once you have recorded all the expenses then split them into fixed expenses and variable expenses. This classification will provide much more clarity.

 

Most people are surprised to learn that it may go for things that we do not need at all. Writing your expenditures down provides us with the unique opportunity to visualize and find out if any money goes for things that we do not need or want.

 

4)    Are you saving or over spending?

 

Now you have your total income as well as total expenses. Deduct the total expenses from the total income. You will know whether you are saving some money or doing over spending. If you are saving some money channelize that money into the priority areas such as clearing your credit card outstanding or any other loan to become debt free or retirement savings or children’s future plan. If you are on over spending, then you need to make some adjustments to expenses.

 

5)    Review your spending pattern:

 

On your expenses list, pay close attention to the variable expenses. This is where you can cut short a few expenses.

 

Every month we need to keep aside appropriate amount for the proportionate annual expenses.

 

You can find out the reasons for over spending. Most of the cases it would be emotional buying or unplanned shopping. Once you have pointed out the reasons for overspending, then find out the steps or precautions to be taken to rectify the same.

 

6)    Are you on the track? Check monthly:

 

Every month set aside an hour to compare the actual expenses with the budgeted expenses. If there is a negative deviation, find out the measures to control them.

Why your earlier budgeting attempts failed?

 

Budgeting is not a onetime activity. It is a continuous process. Normally we start budgeting with a genuine motive. But after a few months it may get off-tracked like our attempts on dieting or exercising. Therefore one needs to understand the behavioural aspects of budgeting.

 

1)    Positive Approach:

 

Never focus on the negative aspects. Focus on the benefits of successful budgeting. What will you accomplish by creating a budget? It could be becoming debt free, some money for vacation, planning for retirement or children’s future.

 

 

2)    Keep your enthusiasm alive:

 

Budgeting may over a period of time become routine and hence boring. Set a few short term goals like trying to repay the personal loan in 18 months instead of 36 months. If you achieve it reward yourself. Recognition could be a good motivating factor. Inform all your family members, friends and well wishers about your progress on budgeting. You can also join in some of the forums related to money management.

 

3)    Have a realistic expectation:

 

One needs to keep realistic expectation on the outcome of the budget. Over expectation may demotivate you. Budgeting is not a magic. It is an art like singing and dancing. You will be able to progress it only over a period of time with constant practice.

If you have not done budgeting for yourself and family so far, then now is the right time to take action. The fact that you are reading this article shows you have decided to stop procrastinating, and have answered the ancient question, “If not now, when?” with “NOW!”.

 

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

 

 

8 Financial Blunders and their fixes

How to become better at managing money? The best way to start is to avoid making costly mistakes that will be pulling you down and taking months or even years to recover. Many financial blunders are easy enough to avoid once you know what to watch out for.

1.  Decision Paralysis

Today there are so many choices, so many financial products and so many offers. It all bundled with financial jargons. It becomes really difficult for one to understand. Also there is plenty of information available on the web, on the media and on the neighbourhood.  This makes decision making much more complex. All these things coupled with the fear of making a wrong financial decision lead us to the DECISION PARALYSIS. We don’t take any decision and start postponing it.

2.  Ignoring Personal Finance

Most of us think that we need to work hard to make money and build wealth. I agree that you need to work hard but that is not enough. You work hard for money. How the hard earned money can be left idle? If you could focus on your personal finance, your money will start generating passive income with which you can achieve your financial goals with comparatively less effort.

3.  Peer Pressure

Peer pressure plays a notorious role in taking wrong investment decision. One feels very safe when he takes the decision, which everyone around him/her has taken. But a product suitable for your colleague or your cousin need not be suitable for you.

4.  Too early to plan retirement

You may be saying ‘who me? I am too young to be thinking about retirement”. It is not so! Rethink. You should have started thinking about it yesterday. Because time flies quickly. If you were smart, and planned for retirement when you are young, your retirement years will be really those “Golden years”. If not you need to compromise and you need to work longer and retire later than others.

5.  Trying to make quick buck

Risk-Return Tradeoff Principle is a very basic and profound investment principle. Low level of risk is associated with low potential returns, whereas high level of risk is associated with high potential returns. So as to generate high returns one need to tolerate high risks. If you are comfortable only with low risks, you can expect only low returns.

No one can defy this basic principle. A scheme cannot deliver high returns with low risk. There were no such schemes in the past. There are no such schemes in the present. There will not be such schemes in the future too.

Finance company deposits which assured high interest rates have defaulted. One of the latest examples would be the ponzi scheme by Madoff.

Whenever you hear about such schemes with low risks and high returns, you understand it is an illusion. It is better to ask more questions and get it clarified, instead of making assumptions.

6.  Investing in things you don’t understand

If you are choosing to invest in a scheme which you don’t understand then you will also not understand what type of returns to expect.

Do you understand the Highest NAV Guaranteed Schemes? Who gives the guarantee and what is guaranteed?

Do you understand Futures and options completely? Ultimately from where does money come if you are profiting and where does the money go if you lose?

7.  Investing in what is hot

If you are investing in what is hot, then you are following the crowd. If you follow the crowd, you will get what others are getting. You will not get anything more. You need to be fearful when others are greedy and you need to be greedy when others are fearful. So don’t go by the market trend or the hot pick of the month. Think like a contrarian and follow value investing.

8.  Too many cooks

If you have different agents or advisors for different investment products (insurance, mutual funds, stocks…….), then none of them will know your complete picture. Their advice will be very limited and biased towards their products only. Too many cooks spoil the soup.

How to fix these financial blunders?

v  Give priority to your personal finance and spend some quality time on that. We all work for money. So we need to efficiently manage our money to secure our future.

v  Set your financial goals like kid’s higher education, buying a home or retirement with more details. Work out a personalised comprehensive financial plan to achieve the goals. Then create an action plan for the year in sync with the comprehensive financial plan. Be committed to your financial plan.

v  Obtain assistance from a professional financial planner who has knowledge and access to all financial products in the market. Ask the right questions and understand the plan and products before proceeding on the same.

These tips will refrain yourself from making those financial blunders and managing your money better.

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

All you want to know about Mediclaim Policy

Health care costs are sky rocketing day by day. Therefore the need for having a mediclaim policy for you and your dependents has grown. Suppose you have to undergo some medical treatment or need to be hospitalized for certain reason, then a mediclaim policy will be of immense help to you in covering your health care expenses. The reason is Mediclaim offers protection in case of unexpected medical and health care emergencies.

Hospitalization expenses in case of illness, disease or accident will impose a heavy financial burden on individuals and families. This is where the mediclaim policy comes in handy. The mediclaim policy can reimburse the hospitalization expenses or can pay the hospital directly on behalf of you.

A mediclaim policy provides a health cover of certain amount of money. This amount depends on the amount that the insured person was insured for.

The mediclaim policy can be taken for an individual or for an entire family. Some insurance companies allow a discount on the premium if the policy is taken for a family.

Insurance companies have fixed some age limit for medical test. If the individual is below that age, then he or she need not undergo medical test for taking mediclaim policy. If the individual is above that age limit then he needs to go for medical test.

If any pre-existing disease has been found out in the medical test, then those diseases will not be covered under the mediclaim policy for a waiting period of a first few years.

If you have a mediclaim policy from your employer, that may not be sufficient. Employer may cover the employee and not necessarily his entire family members. And moreover these policies are not portable and cannot be individualized if you leave the job. Employer provided policies cannot be transferred to another employer in case you switch your job. Also employer provided policies will give you coverage as long as you are employed. Once you retire you may not be having coverage.

It is really unfortunate that only after your retirement you need health insurance at the most. If you plan to take a fresh policy after retirement, insurance company will not cover the pre-existing diseases at that point in time. Though your employer provides a health insurance policy it is better for you to take a separate health insurance policy at least with a small amount of coverage.

The coverage amount of the health insurance policy need to be decided based on your health consciousness, your family health history, and the class of hospital you choose for treatments.

If you are not health conscious or you don’t do regular exercises or you don’t follow proper diet or you frequently take outside food or don’t go for annual health check-ups then it is advisable to go for more sum insured coverage in your mediclaim policy.

If your family has got any adverse health history like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, any form of paralysis, or any hereditary disorder then you need to choose higher coverage amount in your health insurance.

If you will be choosing high class hospitals for your treatment then you need to go for higher sum assured. If you will be choosing medium level or low level hospitals then you can choose the coverage amount accordingly.

Also you need to revise your health insurance coverage amount based on the changes in the above factors and the changes in the medical cost. Also the increase in the age needs to be considered for deciding the coverage amount.

The icing on the cake is you get tax benefit under section 80D for the mediclaim premium paid. For senior citizen the limit under this section is Rs.20000 and for others it is 15000.

Most people don’t think about health insurance very often.  But it comes to mind first when a loved one is sick. Mediclaim policy is one of those things everyone knows he or she should take but usually puts off until a more opportune time. Living without a mediclaim policy is like going out on a rainy day without an umbrella or a raincoat.

If you have not covered adequately yourself and your dependents with mediclaim policy so far, then now is the right time to take action. The fact that you are reading this article shows you have decided to stop procrastinating, delaying and have answered the ancient question, “If not now, when?” with “NOW!”.

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

8 Investment Myths To Be Avoided

http://www.moneyhoney.co.in/img/investment_planning.jpgToday I am going to debunk a few investment myths. You will know ‘why individual investors are failing miserably and how you can avoid being one of them’.

1. I am too young to plan for retirement

Have you started planning for your retirement? You may be saying ‘who me? I am too young to be thinking about retirement”. It is not so! Rethink. You should have started thinking about it yesterday. Because time flies quickly.

If you were smart, and planned for retirement when you are young, your retirement years will be really those “Golden years”. If not you need to compromise and you need to work longer and retire later than others.

2. East or west FDs are safe and best

Nothing wrong in investing in FDs. FDs are really safe and it gives us fixed return. But there is no meaning in investing all your money in FD. The post tax return of an FD will hardly beat inflation. If your investments are not beating inflation, then your money is losing its purchasing power. FDs are safe but not always the best option.

3. I can never be as good as Warren Buffet or Rakesh Jhunjhunwala so why try?

In the words of Warren Buffet “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ once you’re above the level of 125. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.” You don’t need a super brain for making investment decisions. You only need common sense and discipline. If you don’t have enough time and expertise, then you can get assistance from professional financial planners.

4. Stock markets can earn me quick bucks

This is a common myth among investors. Stock market will reward the long term investors. Stock market is a system which transfers money from investors who are fearful and greedy to the investors who are balanced and rational.

You need to be calm, patient, disciplined, and rational. You don’t have to be smarter than the rest; you have to be more disciplined than the rest.

5. Timing the market is important

Investors often spend a lot of their time in trying to identify when the market is very low or high, and timing the purchase and sale of investments accordingly.

In other words, they want to time their exit when the market has reached its top and to time their entry when the market has reached a bottom. This not a practical idea because there are so many influencing factors to the stock market. Predicting all the factors and making investments is practically not possible.  Instead of that stagger your investments through SIP, STP and stay invested for long term.

6. There is no such thing as too much diversification

Diversification is needed. A well diversified portfolio can be created with 10 stocks or 3 mutual funds. Having more than 20 stocks or 6 mutual funds can dilute your returns. The reason is you are not only investing in best stocks and funds, you are investing in above average and average stocks and funds. So your returns will come down. Instead of over diversification, you need to concentrate on a few stocks. It is possible to achieve the required diversification with a few stocks or funds.

7. The best way to make money is investing in what is hot

If you are investing in what is hot, then you are following the crowd. If you follow the crowd, you will get what others are getting. You will not get anything more. You need to be fearful when others are greedy and you need to be greedy when others are fearful. So don’t go by the market trend or the hot pick of the month. Think like a contrarian and follow value investing.

8. Saving tax is the only objective for me to Invest

Which group you are in? There is a group of people who invest just to save taxes. They will not bother to invest anything more than that. They will meet their objective of saving tax. There is another group which invests to save tax as well as to save for their other life goals like retirement, children’s future. They will meet the objective of saving tax and achieving other life goals. Kindly check you belong to which group.

You can be an assured successful investor if you could avoid these investment myths.

 

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

Mutual Fund SIP

http://www.hdfcbank.com/personal/investments/images/hd_mutual_funds_sip.jpgIt may look very strange when everyone is advocating Mutual Fund Sip for long term, what is the necessity for this debate on ‘Is Mutual Fund SIP for Short term or long term?’.

Theoretically doing a Mutual fund SIP for long term will work for investors. But for practical reasons we need to commit a Mutual Fund SIP for short term. That is we need to break that long term into many 6 months or 1 year periods and commit your Mutual Fund SIP for first 6 month or 1 year.

Then at the end of 6 month or 1 year renew your SIP for another 6 month or 1 year. You need to renew like this till you complete your predetermined long term period.

You may think it is an unnecessary paperwork and waste of time. But you will be completely convinced when you have finished reading this article.

Contribution towards Mutual Fund SIP Changes:

How much you are contributing towards Mutual Fund SIP changes over a period of time.

  • At the beginning of a career a person will be able to commit Mutual Fund SIP for small sum of amount. As he progresses in his career, he or she will be able to increase his contribution towards Mutual Fund SIP.
  • Similarly, when someone reaches a stage where he need to spend more on kid’s higher education, daughter’s wedding, buying a house or meeting a major financial commitment, it is difficult for him to continue the same amount of Mutual Fund SIP contribution.
  • So whenever you renew your Mutual Fund SIP at the end of 6 month or 1 year, you can look at your cash flow position and based on that you can renew the Mutual Fund SIP for the increased amount or the same amount or the reduced amount.

Portfolio Review:

Also it gives you a chance to review your portfolio with your advisor once in 6 months or 1 year.

  • The scheme which you have chosen for Mutual Fund SIP is performing well when compared to its peers or not? You need to review this periodically. The scheme may turn out to be a laggard.
  • The scheme may be performing well when you have chosen for doing SIP. But over a period of time, it could have derailed from its performance. This is something like our cricket players. They will be in a good form in the game for some period of time. Then they will lose their form after sometime. So you need to periodically check up whether the fund is performing NOW or not.
  • If you are committing a Mutual Fund SIP for 10 years, then the advisor may not be coming back to you whenever you call him for reviewing your portfolio. If you commit for 6 months or 1 year he or she will be definitely coming to you for renewing the Mutual Fund SIP. You can have a review with him or her at that time.

When you commit Mutual fund SIP for long term, generally we ignore to review it. It may generate poor returns. You can avoid this by periodic review.

Equity Exposure in Overall Portfolio:

How much equity exposure you can give to your overall portfolio can change the amount of Mutual Fund SIP in equity and debt.

  • As the age goes up, your ability to take risk comes down. So you need to change your equity mutual fund SIP contribution periodically.
  • How close or distant you are to achieve your financial goals will also decide your equity exposure. If you have got long period to achieve your financial goal then you can have more equity exposure. When you have short period to achieve your financial goal, then you need to reduce your equity exposure.
  • Rebalancing your portfolio based on your predetermined asset allocation will also decide your equity exposure.

All this can change your Mutual Fund SIP amount in equity funds.

So committing a Mutual Fund SIP for long term looks good on paper. For practical reasons we need to commit for short term and renew it at the end of every short term till achieving our financial goals.

In this regard, instead of committing a Mutual Fund SIP just like that, having a long term financial plan and committing Mutual Fund SIP based on that plan will be really fruitful. This will make a solid difference in achieving your financial goals.

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

All about Mutual Funds ELSS

http://www.familyfinancesource.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/money-market-accounts.jpgThere are so many tax saving investment options; how Mutual fund ELSS Schemes stand out from all other options?

A Mutual Fund ELSS is similar to diversified equity funds. That means the fund manager can invest in shares of various companies across various industries. The difference is ELSS has got the added tax benefit, something a diversified equity fund does not offer.

ELSS is part of the Section 80C instruments which are cumulatively eligible for a deduction from income up to Rs.1 Lakh. This gives the tax payers benefits from 10 per cent to 30 per cent (excluding the educational cess) based on their current tax slab.

The other tax saving investments like NSC, PPF will give only 8% return p.a whereas the Mutual Fund ELSS has got the potential to deliver more than 12% return p.a. Also the lock-in period in Mutual Fund ELSS is 3 years and with NSC it is 6 yrs lock-in and with PPF it is 15 years. Among the various tax saving investment option, Mutual fund ELSS has got the least lock-in period.

Ulips are also one of the tax saving investment options. But now everyone has realized that Ulips has got heavy front loaded charges. Moreover smart investors want to separate their insurance from their investments. They no longer see insurance as an investment; they see insurance as a protection plan. So the smart investors go only for pure term insurance and reject ulips.

This is how Mutual Fund ELSS stands out of the crowd.

Before deciding to go for Mutual fund ELSS, here are some points to ponder over. First check your overall portfolio. Does it need more equity exposure? If yes then you can go for ELSS; if no then you can go for PPF or NSC.

Second thing is to keep in mind, the equity investments are for long term, say 5 years or more. Though the lock-in period in ELSS is 3 years it is better to invest with a time horizon of 5 yrs or more.

Also investors need to keep in mind, SIP is the best form of investing in mutual funds and ELSS is not an exception. So doing an SIP in ELSS is a good strategy to be followed.

The poor performing ELSS has given around 10% annualized return in the last 5 years whereas the best performing ELSS has delivered around 25% annualized return in the last 5 years. So investors need to be careful in choosing the right ELSS scheme. Past performance, risk adjusted return, consistency are a few parameters to be evaluated in selecting a best performing ELSS scheme. Investors also can approach financial advisors for selecting the right scheme.

There are two groups of ELSS investors. Majority of investors belong to the first group. They will wake up late to these tax saving investments. For salaried individuals, it is typical that they will be informed by their accounts department somewhere around end of January to provide proof of tax saving investment immediately or else extra tax will be deducted from their February salary. At the neck of the moment, the choice ends up being guided by convenience alone. They tend to think about tax first and investments later. As long as something saves tax, its real benefits and features as an investment are paid less attention to. That means the investments will be chosen more for convenience than for suitability.

There is another group of investors. Though this group is a very small group, it is a very smart group. They will not rush for tax saving scheme at the last minute. They will plan in advance. That means they will have more time to choose the right product. They will save tax as well as choose a good investment option. They will also check whether this particular tax saving scheme will suit their overall portfolio or not; will this tax saving investment is going to fit into their comprehensive financial plan. That means they will consciously choose an investment which saves tax as well as helps them in achieving their financial goals like children’s higher education, buying a house, retirement plans.

So…now just check up which group you are in.

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

10 Things To Do Before You Retire

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_UU6ZUXi8Zks/TSnXj_0QkDI/AAAAAAAAA7c/RW70nhNhwK4/s1600/Retirement+Planning.jpg

Don’t put off today what you can’t afford to do tomorrow. In spite of the world wide pension crisis and a growing acceptance that we must plan and save for our retirement, the harsh reality is we are actually not saving enough. Research reports reveal that only 15% of the individuals are saving sufficiently for their retired life. Here are a few tips on things to do before you retire so that your retired life is more comfortable and enjoyable.

Get Rid of All Your Debts

If you are taking a housing loan, personal loan, car loan or any other loan make sure that you will be repaying them on or before your retirement. You need to choose the term of the loan in accordance with your retirement age. You can enjoy your retired life when you have 100% financial freedom, not when you have to repay your loans.

Protect Your Emergency fund

Emergency expenses can happen any time. But the possibility goes up during the old age. So we need to enhance the emergency reserve year on year based on the inflation and change in your expense levels. Emergency fund will give you a sense of security and also you need not touch your other investments during emergency where you need to pay pre-closure penalty. Also don’t forget to refill the emergency fund once you met an expense out of emergency fund.

Establish a Retirement Budget

You need to visualize your retired life well in advance and need to create a budget for your retirement. That is you will not be going to office. So the expenses on transport and clothes may come down. Also you will have more time to spend. You may need to spend more on leisure travel and health care.

Examine Your Cash Flow

Take a close look at your cash inflow as well as outflow. Is there going to be any income after retirement? Like rent, royalty…. Would there be any unwanted outflow during retired life? Like paying life insurance, or SIP. At times during your beginning of the career , you could have taken a policy where you need to pay premium up to the age of 60. But now you may plan to retire at 55 itself. So you need to realign your existing policy and other investments in sync with your retirement age.

Grow Your Retirement Corpus

Find out how much corpus you need to have when you retire so that you will be having complete financial freedom. A professional financial planner will of great assistance to you in this regard.

Develop a withdrawal strategy

How are you planning to withdraw your cash outflow during retirement from the retirement corpus? Monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually? Through Sytematic Withdrawal plan in mutual funds or by way of dividend or interest. All these will have a great impact on the corpus you need to accumulate. So you need to decide in advance.

Minimize taxes

Your retirement corpus and retirement income need to be tax efficient. You need to pay taxes as and when the fixed deposits matures irrespective of that you withdraw interest or reinvest under a cumulative option. But you need to pay interest only when you withdraw from the mutual funds. Careful selection of investment vehicle can reduce your tax during the retired life.

Get Sufficient Mediclaim coverage

The moment you retire, your employer will stop covering you under the group mediclaim. So you need to plan for your individual medical cover well in advance. At old age the medical expenses are inevitable. If you have not planned it properly the all your retirement plan will become a mess.

Consider Inflation adjusted annuities

The monthly income you need when you retire is not going to be the same even after 5 years of your retirement. Inflation will increase your retirement expenses year after year. So year after year your retirement income needs to go up.

Oversee estate planning

How your fixed assets and financial assets need to be distributed to your legal heirs? Create a WILL. You can avoid creating relationship problems to your next generation because of your left out wealth.

 

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

Stock market movements: A crucial factor to investment decisions or not?

http://www.topnews.in/files/stock-market_2.jpgSome days stock market goes up and some days stock market comes down. Some days it closes on green and some days it closes on red. Should all these stock market movements play a crucial role for an individual investor in making his investment decisions?
I have some money to invest.

If I see that market is coming down, then I have two choices to make. Either I can decide to invest today or not to invest. IF I HAVE INVESTED TODAY and the market go up tomorrow, then I will be happy because I have bought it at lower rate. Suppose if the market comes down further, then I will feel bad because if I could have delayed my investment by a day, then I could have bought it at much lower rate. IF I HAVE NOT INVESTED TODAY and the market goes up tomorrow, then I will be worried because I missed an opportunity to buy it at a lower rate. Suppose if the market comes down further, then I will be happy because I can buy it at a still lower rate.

Similarly, if I see the markets are going up, I can invest or postpone. If I invest and market comes down next day, if I postpone and the market goes up the next day……?

The point I am trying to make here is by simply watching today’s market movement and making an investment decision will not help. One needs to forecast the movement of the next day. Not only next day, the next to next day, the next week, the next month and so on. Also by watching the market movements to make investment decision, we allow our emotions –fear and greed- to creep in. When emotions come into play, the possibility of making a wrong decision is more.

So what should we do?

Divide and rule. Predicting the market is not possible. The market is out of our control and we can’t do anything about it. It is worthwhile to focus our efforts and energy on the things we can do something about. But what is in our control is the money which we are going to invest. We can do something here. We can choose to invest the money in a staggered manner.

What would be the correct practice? Studying only during exams or studying regularly? Exercising only when we become overweight or exercising regularly? Investing only when the market comes down or investing regularly? I need not tell you the answer because you all know it. By investing regularly our investment will be spread across the ups and downs of the market. Our investment cost will be averaged out. We will not become emotional and we will become a more disciplined investor in this process

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

Family Budgeting Misconceptions demystified

http://users.stargate.net/~ashelman/JeffCo03B.jpgLet’s put on our thinking cap:

Depositing our pay cheques in bank and using the credit and ATM card for spending seems easy. However keeping the track of your income and expenses, to get full value for your money is possible only with budgeting. Budgeting helps most of us to keep track of our income and spending and not overspend.

In practice 10 budgeting myths retard the savings of a lifetime. They are:

1) I earn a lot and need not budget:

This requires a change of perspective. Michel Jackson lived like a king but died awash in $400 million debt. Budgeting by watching your spending pattern helps trace unnecessary expenses on clothes or eating out, and help you save for a future or for a much wanted dream holiday. So how much you earn has got less relevance. What is more important is budgeting. Proper budgeting can make a low income earner to retire richer and overspending can make a high income earner a pauper.

2) I hold a secure job and see no reason to save:

This does not hold well today with large corporations going in for labor layoff to save costs during recession. Small corporations also put you at a risk with the death of the owner or the company going into losses.

This insecurity demands caution to save for spending during such periods when you are caught unaware, with an emergency fund coming handy.

3) I am poor in calculations and cannot budget:

With useful tools like spreadsheet that help account for expenses and income earned make the budgeting much easier. A look at the spending helps avoid unnecessary expenses to budget and save in future. If you are interested one can easily learn budgeting. So if you say ‘I don’t know how to make a budget’, it shows your level of interest and willingness to save for a secured future.

4) I am lucky; I will never be short of money:

However your ability in meeting high bills and other unpredictable expensive events like life threatening accidents, or a major surgery without experiencing shortage of money may not be always true.

So better save and be prepared to face unpredicted contingencies and then use the savings for something else that you may consider desirable.

5) I pay my bills promptly and do not need budgeting:

Congratulations I appreciate your credit worthiness, but going into negative balance is also quite easy. You may be self disciplined. It doesn’t mean that you need not make a budget. Preparing a budget makes you much more disciplined and spend consciously. So budgeting with saving helps avoid going into negative balance or overdraft.

6) Budgeting could lead to deprivation:

Budgeting is not frugal living and foregoing all pleasures like a movie a month and an eat out once a week, but it just not allowing your earnings to be not overtaken by your expense. Everyone is planning to save, planning to invest, but do we have a well thought out plan for spending. A smart spending plan only can lead you to save more.

There is no need to feel deprived with budgeting; it just means saving a percentage of your income spent unnecessarily to have a secured future.

7) I have small wants and find no need to save:

This need not be a stable attitude in human nature, with you wanting to take advantage of certain financial trends in the market like buying house or land at cheaper rates, or investing at higher rates towards building a bigger retirement corpus. Hence budgeting helps to save when you do not want money for a time when you could profitably use it.

Your wants may be small but basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing are becoming costlier with inflation. Also you need to take into account your health care needs of the future.

8) I get rises, bonus and tax refunds and find no need to budget:

I think you have been lucky all these years, however these benefits are highly unpredictable and placing ones hopes fully on them is futile. It is better to budget and save than depend on unpredictable benefits like bonus, raise and tax refunds. The recent recession has taught us a lesson to all of us which we should not forget easily.

Budgeting and your future

Take charge of your future now. Budgeting is the first step towards controlling your financial destiny. Don’t let your unconscious spending habits decide your financial destiny.

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

Eight Simple Ways to Plan your Taxes

http://www.freetaxadvice.info/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/services.jpgYou have got only a few more months to complete this financial year. Very soon you will get a call from your company to submit the proofs for tax saving investments. So why don’t you spend some time on organising your tax plan?

1)       Proper Allocation of Annual compensation

Restructuring your salary with some additional components can reduce your tax liability. This restructuring doesn’t require any additional cash outflow. The following components can be efficiently used to reduce your income tax liability.

Transport allowance to the extend of Rs.800 is exempt

Medical expenses which are reimbursed by the employer are exempt to the tune of Rs.15000

Food coupons like sodexo or ticket restaurant are exempt from tax up to Rs.60000

Individuals who are all living in a rented accommodation can include House Rent Allowance ( HRA ) as a part of their salary

Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) can be part of your salary as this can be claimed twice in a block of 4 years.

2)       Effective Utilization of Tax Exemption

As far as possible utilize the maximum exemptions available under section 80 C, 80 CCF and 80 D. The maximum exemption available under section 80 C is Rs. 100000.

Under this section Rs.100000 investment or contribution can be made in PPF, NSC, Life insurance premium, 5 year FD with banks and Post offices, Mutual Fund ELSS, Principal Repayment of housing loan, and the tuition fees paid for children’s education.

Under Section 80 CCF, you can invest up to Rs.20000 in infrastructure bonds.

Under Sec 80 D, the premium paid towards the mediclaim policies are exempt. The maximum limit of exemption is Rs.15000 and for senior citizens the limit is Rs.20000 and for covering senior citizen parents there is an additional exemption to the extend of Rs.15000.

3)       Properly Structure your Housing Loan

The Principal repayment of a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.100000. The interest paid on a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.150000. If the housing loan is for a sizeable amount, then it is possible that the principal repayment and interest may exceed the specified tax exemption limit. To utilise the maximum tax benefit, an individual can consider going for a joint home loan with his/her spouse or parent or sibling. This will make sure that both the co-owners can claim tax deductions in the proportion of their holding in the loan.

4)       Tax Plan in Sync with Overall Financial Plan

You should not do your tax plan in isolation. You need to do it in sync with your overall financial plan. So a tax plan is not only to just save taxes and also it should assist you in achieving your other financial goals like children’s higher education, buying a home or retirement.

5)       Avoid Last Minute Rush

In fact the right time to do the tax plan is the beginning of the financial year. If you postpone your tax planning even now and do it in the last minute, then you will not be able to choose the right investment. In the last minute rush, you will be forced to choose a scheme which gives the proof immediately. Is the investment sound and profitable? Is there any other better options? You will not be able to choose the best scheme and you may settle with a mediocre one.

6)       Invest Some Quality Time

Before investing your money, you need to invest your time. You need to take some quality time to understand the various tax saving options and compare their benefits and limitations.

7)       Check for Future Commitments

Some tax saving options like NSC or ELSS need only onetime investment. Some other tax saving options like PPF, Ulips need periodical investments year after year. You need to be careful in choosing a tax saving scheme where you need to commit for periodical future payments. You need to check on a few things like; do you need such a future commitment? Will you be able to meet the future commitments at ease? The law may change and you may not get any tax exemption for your future payments. Would you consider the scheme irrespective of tax benefit for the future payments?

8)       Changed Your Job; Redo your Tax Plan

Did you switch your job in the middle of the financial year? Then you need to redo your tax plan with consolidating the income from both the companies. It is advisable to inform the new company about the income during the particular financial year from the old company. So that your new company will deduct the right amount of TDS. Otherwise you may need to pay extra tax at the end of the financial year.

Whenever you change your job, you need to have a sitting with your financial planner or tax advisor. So that the required changes in your tax plan can be done proactively.

With proper tax planning you can reduce your tax liability; save more; invest better and become wealthier.

 

The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.