Category Archives: Finance

A Personal Finance Checklist for Newlyweds

http://www.covermiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/newlywed-finance.jpgGetting married is one of the most important events in your life. There is so much to consider—the flowers, the jewel, the dress, the venue, the photography—the list goes on. Once you are back from the honeymoon, the daily life of marriage begins and also begins the challenges of managing the finances of a new household with your spouse.

In recent studies, many couples ranked financial matters as one of the most essential factors when it comes to happiness in a marriage. It is one of the key factors causing marital stress.

 

Money Compatibility

First thing to do is to check how compatible you and your spouse in money management. You may be conservative and your spouse may be aggressive. You may think that the best place to invest is stock market and your spouse may think bank FDs.

You should communicate your money management style to your spouse as well as you need to understand the money management style of your spouse.  Both of you need to analyse the merits and demerits of money management style of each other and their own. Then you need to create a mutually agreed combined money management style.

This will be vital to you both throughout your married life to help minimise stress from disagreements about money.

Update Your Records

  • Change of Address: You could have shifted to your in law’s place or both of you could have shifted to a new place. So you need to make necessary change of address requests to your bank accounts, demat accounts, mutual fund accounts and so on.
  • Change of Name: Generally the women change their initial or the last name after their marriage. This need to be updated in all the accounts.
  • Change of Nominee/Beneficiary: You may like to change the nominee to your spouse for the investments, accounts, insurance policies which you have taken before marriage.
  • Changes in Will: You also need to create a will if you have not created one so far. If you have already a will, then you need to revisit your will now.

Assign Financial Responsibilities

You need to decide, who is going to take care of day to day money management i.e. paying bills, monitoring investments and the like.

Develop a Family Budget

You need to create a workable budget for your family that gives extra money and life. This budget should take into account both of your income, the individual expenses and family expenses.

Create an Emergency Fund

You need to accrue savings for some surprise situations like loss of job, break in job or sudden expenses like a major repair to your car or house. Generally the emergency fund need to be in the range of 3 to 6 month of family expenses.

Insurance Coverage

 

So far, you may not be having any dependents or less number of dependents. You could not have considered life insurance or take for a less coverage. This is the time to look at life insurance seriously. When I say life insurance, I am talking about only term insurance and not the ULIPs. Ulips have been rejected by the market for its heavy front loaded charges.

Debt Payoff Plan

Suppose, if you are already on debt, you need to create a debt payoff plan. This plan will help you in getting out of debt and staying out of debt.

Spend Smarter and Save More

Spending habits will be different from individual to individual. Both of you need to align your spending pattern and learn how to spend smarter and save more.

When both are working and not having kids yet is the stage you have more income, especially more disposable income. Couples need to be careful and avoid overspending and save as much as possible during this stage. This will ease you out when you have more expenses at the later stage of your life.

Set Combined Financial Goals

Both of you need to spend some quality time discussing about the financial goals like buying a home, international vacation and the like. This is the right time to plan your retirement.

Chalk out a Financial Plan

Once you have set the combined financial goals, then you need to chalk out a financial plan to achieve these goals. You need to take into account growth rate of your income, inflation on your expenses, time set to achieve various goals, rate of return expected from various investment options.

This is slightly a complicated procedure and this plan need to be review periodically. That is why it is better to outsource it. You may seek assistance from a professional financial planner.

To financially succeed, it needs teamwork from both the partners. As a newly married couple, you have enough time and plenty of opportunity. I am sure that with this checklist and the guidance from financial planner, you will reach your life goals together.

 

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.

Real Estate Investments Made Simple

http://www.muamat.com/adpics/4de0cbb7557c4fddc14c05988.jpgGold and Real estate are very traditional investment avenues. Gold has evolved from its traditional investing and found its place in the modern sophisticated investment world via Gold ETFs. Similarly Real estate is also emerging as an investor friendly avenue with less hassle via PMS route or private equity route. Have you ever thought of investing in real estate will one day be as simple as investing in mutual funds? If no please read on….

Real Estate as an Investment:

Buying a dream house or flat to reside ourselves is basically not a real estate investment. Buying real estate with a view to generate income and capital appreciation is considered as Real Estate investments.  Real Estate investments can be further classified into residential, farm house, commercial, retail, leisure. Leisure is a relaxation place where one can spend their free time or vacation.

Depends upon his/her risk tolerance and time horizon one can invest in real estate at different risk levels. It can be at the time of converting a rural land to urban land, or at the time of building development stage or in already developed city area.

Real Estate and Risk:

Most often investors assume real estate prices will not fall down and they only go up year after year. It is not so.  During the mid 2009 some of the real estate investments were quoting below 30% to 40% from their 2007 prices. Real Estate investments are also prone for price fluctuations.

Real estate Vs Stock market:

Real Estate is a complex and complicated investment when compared to stock market.

Non-transparent: There is no transparency in the price. It is not easy for a buyer or seller of real estate to identify the last transacted price in the same locality. There is no price discovery mechanism.

Illiquid Asset: Selling a real estate is a time consuming process. It is not liquidable easily. There is no organized market for the buyers and sellers to meet.

Impact Cost: Stamp duty and registration charges are really very heavy when compared to the other investment products.

No Regulator: There is no regulator for the real estate participants and intermediaries. Anyone can become a builder. Technical qualification is not mandatory. Also anyone can become a real estate intermediary or advisor. There is no certification or training to be completed before practicing.  As there is no qualification requirement for participants as well as the intermediaries, it is very difficult to see best business practices.

 

 

Real Estate hassles:

The other hassles with reference to real estate investment are documentation, maintaining the asset without any encumbrances, and genuineness of the title deed.

There are some practical problems with diversification. Normally an investor invests in a real estate in his own locality. It is very rare to find someone in Chennai investing in the real estate properties located at Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.  Affordability also limits diversification. An investor may not be able to diversify his investments across various cities with Rs.25 lacs or 50 lacs.

It may not be possible for an individual investor to buy a land and develop a viable project in that land and sell it in the market. Managing the project development need some kind of expertise.  Even if an individual is able to do it, he will be doing it in his limited ways and means.

Is there a solution for this? Of late yes.

There are some collective investment vehicles. These investment vehicles will be promoted by an investment management company. The investment management companies collect money from investors. Being professionals, they will identify good projects and do joint venture with the project developers. They will be able to diversify across various cities as well as various types of real estate investments such as housing, commercial, hospitality and the like. These investment management companies charge a reasonable management fees.

At times they collect money via PMS route and at times via private equity route.  The minimum investment ranges from 10 lacs to 25 lacs. This amount needs to be invested over a period of 3 years. That is they will collect money from investors in 4 or 5 installments. After 3rd year whenever they exit from a project they will repay the principal employed in the project as well as the profit generated out of that project. End of 6th year or 7th year, the investment management company will exit from all the projects.

The advantages of this collective investment vehicle are

  • One can invest into real estate without any hassles. All the hassles will be managed by the professional investment management companies.
  • One can invest in various real estate projects at a time.
  • One can geographically diversify his investments across India.
  • One will be able to apportion his total investment into small sums in large projects like township development, Technology Park, industrial estate, health city…
  • Cost advantage because of economies of large scale operation

This is really an investor friendly investment vehicle. Apart from the regular stocks, mutual funds and fixed deposit investments investors can consider investing in these real estate products also. This will give better diversification to your overall portfolio. Also Investors need to be careful in choosing such investment options. Background of the investment management company and their transparency levels are more important. Investors can seek the advice of the professional financial planners before investing.

This investment vehicle is in its primitive form only. It still needs to go a long way. As of now there are only a very few companies in India which specializes in promoting collective real estate investment products. But in a few years time these kinds of products will be available from various investment management companies and in different varieties like our present mutual fund schemes.

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.

Instruction Manual for Investing

http://www.onlinefinancialupdate.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/investment.jpgLet’s open the manual:

Every gadget you buy in the market comes with an instruction manual or user’s manual. But your salary, savings…retirement don’t come with an instruction manual.  So we don’t know how to handle these and we end up mishandling. The result is poor investment choices and unhappy retirement. This article is an effort to draft an instruction manual for our investments.

Investment forms an integral part of our work life, with many wanting to save and invest to meet our long-term financial needs. We would all agree that just living from paycheque to paycheque would leave us in a bad financial state making us incapable of meeting our family’s financial commitments and our expenses after retirement.

Don’t Fly Blind; Have a Financial Plan

It is vital to chalk out a financial plan at the very beginning of our career. This plan would tell us how much we should save and invest. This plan also ensures that our long-term financial needs are met. It may prove difficult and sometimes costly in the long run if we chalk out a financial plan on our own. So it is better to engage a professional financial planner, who would be in the right position to advice us on the investments to meet our long-term objectives in life.

Generally investment advisors or financial planners ensure that we invest in the right type of investments that are relatively safe and tax efficient. They ensure that our investments do not divert away from the set financial goal. The advisors or planners who charge a fee, can be expected to act in the best interest of us; their clients. But we will not be in a position to trust those who live out of the commissions earned from selling insurance policies or mutual funds or stock broking.

However, it is best for you also to be cautious and not allowed to be fooled by flattery. Since it is your money you need to be cautious and vigilant.

Do control what you can:

The first thing that we can control is unnecessary expense on investment.

It is in our interest to try to minimize or avoid investment expenses like entry load, exit load, fund management fees, commissions for buying and selling stocks, account maintenance fees,  allocation charges, administration charges, surrender charges, and other overheads. Small drops make a mighty ocean. Similarly these small amounts of cost cutting will definitely pay us in the long run.

The second control is over the diversification of your investment. You also need to ensure that at all times your investments are done over a wider variety of assets. This will ensure that you do not suffer large losses in one type of investment. The losses in one would then be offset by the gains in the other and you will be financially safe at all times.

The third control is the maintenance of our asset allocation to reach our financial goal. We need to keep a check over the asset allocation or ratio of equity to debt and to other things in your portfolio with the help of a professional financial planner. This will help us ensure that we are not taking more risk than what we want or can possibly handle.

Do pay as little attention as possible to the financial media.

It is best not to be influenced too much by the media to buy and sell investments. Investing is not a competitive sport. Buying and selling stock frantically by being influenced by the media is counter productive to your financial objectives.

It is best to understand that our conscious investment is for long-term wealth appreciation. So we should not be distracted by the investment shows that run 24 hrs a day, investment column they publish 365 days a year. Media doesn’t understand your requirements. So it is difficult to get a customized solution for your personal finance.

Don’t fall into “Invest and Ignore”

We have invested your precious savings, so do not be careless and sleep over it. Though our investment advisor would make sure that our investment grows, it is better that we too are vigilant and keep track of market conditions. It is our precious savings that we have invested. So if we lose it, we would be losing not only money but also our peace of mind.

Don’t fall into “HNI Trap”

Being a high net worth person exposes us to being influenced to invest in dubious projects that may bring down your financial status. This is true because the financial industry are on the look out for people that have a lot of money and are of a high status. They try to influence them to invest in dubious projects appealing to their status and vanity.

Being a HNI doesn’t mean that you need a completely different set of investments. They try to pack something and will say “This is a HNI product”, just to massage your ego and get business. Many HNIs would be lot richer, if they could have bypassed their private banking department and just invested in an index and a very few diversified equity funds.

A final thought:

The instructions in the user’s manual need to be used to get the maximum benefit and long life of the gadget. Similarly, having read the set of instructions to make wise investment decisions, it is up to you to follow them strictly or leave it and go back to your routine life.

If you decide to follow these instructions, you will definitely see a lot of positive changes and financial prosperity in the long run. So today is going to be the first day for rest of your life.

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.

Do’s and Don’ts in the Stock Market

http://www.tech2date.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Stock-Market-Startup-Tips.jpg

Let’s introduce do’s and don’ts of investing:

Most of us have our own perception of investment based on our experiences, but also tend to be confused with the opinions given by others. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of the stock market would help us turn really as a smart investor.

The do’s and don’ts in the stock market are:

slow, steady, and boring wins the race:

It is best not to panic over information about stocks on the media. Being slow and steady with looking at the activities that your money is to be used for would ensure that you invest in ventures that are good, useful and profitable.

Reading good books on personal finance will help you in taking right financial and investment decision. In addition, finding good financial advisors would help you get advice regarding stocks and mutual funds, along with entrusting the custody and management of your funds to them.

All this may seem too boring and time consuming, but it is better to be cautious than bitten too hard.

Don’t give any weight to market forecasts. All opinion pro and con is already built into the price of equities today:

Market forecasts on the media has got good entertainment value but doesn’t have any investment value. It is just enough for long-term investors to invest in good stocks, and mutual funds that would appreciate in the long run.

It is best to understand that market forecasts only show you the expected direction in which the market is heading based on the available information. This forecast is only a forecast and need not become reality.

In addition, market fluctuations are the very nature of share markets and should mean nothing to long tem investors. Making accurate market forecasts is tough, as they are influenced by various factors like the outcome of political elections, the direction of the economy, interest rates and world events. It is also wise to know that these fluctuations are incorporated in the price of the share, stock or mutual fund.

Do make your own analysis of the stocks, shares and mutual funds:

It is unadvisable to place your full faith on analysis of others regarding stock, shares and mutual funds. No wise man would always tell you all about his market beating strategy. Making ones own analysis keeping your financial goals in view and framing a strategy would help.

This involves studying the performance of top performing stocks and mutual funds over 5 years and existing mutual funds over a period of 3 months to decide on which stock to maintain and which to dispose off. All this would ensure that you are investment smart.

Don’t think you can successfully engage in short-term market timing:

As a long- term investor you should never contemplate taking advantage of short-term market dealings and speculations. Playing with shares and mutual funds in the short-term market may give you a profit in a few transactions but will not give you profits forever. So you can’t have an investment strategy which gives profit inconsistently. We need a strategy which can bring profits consistently so as to be a successful investor in the long run.

It is true that playing in the share market is neither entertainment nor fun. It is also futile to borrow or work on short-term margins to make money.

Don’t assume that if anyone were genius enough to devise a market-beating strategy he would be stupid enough to share it with anyone:

Stock tips are good to learn, but not to act on for speculations. It could prove dangerous to act on speculation tips given by one and all, as they may not be correct.  In addition, everyone has his or her own perception of investment, with other not having full knowledge or skills.

You need to take time to think over each tip and analyze if it contributes to your long-term objective of capital appreciation. Similarly it is not advisable to subject your money to risk with investing in investment fads that may or may not earn you huge profits.

The final advice:

You need to make a calculated decision considering the pros and cons whenever you make an investment. In addition abstain from trading often in the stock and mutual funds market. Always think in terms of long term investing.

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 Family Budgeting Misconceptions demystified

http://www.onlinemoneyblues.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Family-Budget.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.

Spend smart to save more

The willingness and the ability to save money is the secret of building wealth. So as to save money, you need to spend less than you actually earn. Though it looks very simple when you say, it is really difficult to implement. There are plenty of ways to help you start saving money even on the very tight budget. Saving money or spending less is all about the personality, belief system, values of a family.

Spending less and saving more are lifelong living skills that need time to develop. Unless and otherwise, you have a written financial goals, you will lose your focus and go after consumerism and materialism.

To save more, obviously you need to spend smarter. To spend smarter, you need to understand you own spending patterns. Consciously you need to track all your expenses on a daily or weekly basis. So that you will be able to find out what influences your spending pattern.

Spending money has got so many influencing factors. But all these influencers can be classified into five broad spending influencers.

1)      Emotions:

Your emotions play an important role in your spending pattern. The positive feelings like happy, fun, joy can influence you to spend more on entertainments and gifts. The negative feelings like envy, jealous, shame, stress, depression, frustration can influence you to spend more on smoking, drinking, buying things you actually don’t need, relaxation and healthcare.

2)      Traditional Thought:

This is because of you belief system and your thought process. I need to buy a silk saree every year for my wedding anniversary. I have to bust crackers for diwali. These are all the classic examples of how your traditional thoughts will influence your spending pattern.

3)      Society:

Society in which you live will have more influence on your spending. You have to buy a car as all your colleagues are coming to office in their own car. On the occasion of your kid’s birthday, you need to arrange gifts for all the classmates of your kid. You should be watching this movie, on a first day first show.

This influencer is caused by friends, colleagues, neighbours, relatives, and club members. Even at times, the advertisements and promotional offers like a discount sale can make you to spend more.

4)      Habits:

Habits formed when you are growing up can make us spend impulsively. Generally this will be for our sensual pleasures. Spending on movies, music, eating out, smoking, drinking are the best examples for this influencer.

5)      Commitments:

This includes paying off your debts and loans, commitments towards family like school fees, buying groceries and other provisions, paying rent, paying for medical insurance. You are committed to pay these expenses earlier.

By tracking and analyzing your each and every expense, you will be able to identify the influencers which made you to spend. Here are some strategies to overcome these influencers and spend smarter:

Control Your Emotions:

Instead of spending money, you can control your emotions by doing something else like doing yoga or meditation, watching comedy shows on TV, going to temple or beach. You need to solve the root of the emotion. You have to do introspection and need to keep a balanced mind always. Balanced mind is a key for spending smarter.

Self Talk:

You need to consciously change your thought patterns to come out of traditional thinking. “I don’t really need a saree for every wedding anniversary”. “I am not a kid; so I need not bust crackers on diwali”. These kinds of auto suggestions will change your thought process and you will be able to really prioritize things on which you spend.

You are unique:

You were born original. Please don’t die a copy. There is no need to feel bad if you don’t get to spend or buy things like your friends or people around you. You are unique and special in your own way. You need to discuss with your family and friends about “How to live happily by achieving compromised spending patterns?”

Learn and unlearn Habits:

The unwanted habits which make you spend more can be unlearned. Good habits which make you spend smarter can be learned. Habits can be learned and unlearned. But you need to know it is not a quick fix. It involves a process and a commitment.

A habit is an intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge is ‘what to do and the why’. That is we need to spend less to save more and become richer. Skill is ‘How to do’. That is ‘how we spend less and what are all the strategies to be applied for spending less’. Desire is the motivation, the want to do. What are we trying to achieve by spending less? How that is more important to us than spending more. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three.

Unwanted Commitments:

You can’t avoid certain commitments like groceries, schools fees. But definitely you can discontinue unwanted commitments like the club membership in which you are not actively participating and not getting any actual use out of it; the chits impulsively you have enrolled with a jewelry shop.

Money not spent is saved. These above strategies will only work if you truly have a desire for future financial success. You need to be disciplined and persistent in the course of implementing these strategies. The more you practice smart spending, wealthier you become.

 

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.

Real Estate Investments Made Simple

http://www.realestateagentworld.org/images/Real%20Estate%20Home.jpgGold and Real estate are very traditional investment avenues. Gold has evolved from its traditional investing and found its place in the modern sophisticated investment world via Gold ETFs. Similarly Real estate is also emerging as an investor friendly avenue with less hassle via PMS route or private equity route. Have you ever thought of investing in real estate will one day be as simple as investing in mutual funds? If no please read on….

Real Estate as an Investment:

Buying a dream house or flat to reside ourselves is basically not a real estate investment. Buying real estate with a view to generate income and capital appreciation is considered as Real Estate investments.  Real Estate investments can be further classified into residential, farm house, commercial, retail, leisure. Leisure is a relaxation place where one can spend their free time or vacation.

Depends upon his/her risk tolerance and time horizon one can invest in real estate at different risk levels. It can be at the time of converting a rural land to urban land, or at the time of building development stage or in already developed city area.

Real Estate and Risk:

Most often investors assume real estate prices will not fall down and they only go up year after year. It is not so.  During the mid 2009 some of the real estate investments were quoting below 30% to 40% from their 2007 prices. Real Estate investments are also prone for price fluctuations.

Real estate Vs Stock market:

Real Estate is a complex and complicated investment when compared to stock market.

Non-transparent:

There is no transparency in the price. It is not easy for a buyer or seller of real estate to identify the last transacted price in the same locality. There is no price discovery mechanism.

Illiquid Asset:

Selling a real estate is a time consuming process. It is not liquidable easily. There is no organized market for the buyers and sellers to meet.

Impact Cost:

Stamp duty and registration charges are really very heavy when compared to the other investment products.

No Regulator:

There is no regulator for the real estate participants and intermediaries. Anyone can become a builder. Technical qualification is not mandatory. Also anyone can become a real estate intermediary or advisor. There is no certification or training to be completed before practicing.  As there is no qualification requirement for participants as well as the intermediaries, it is very difficult to see best business practices.

Real Estate hassles:

The other hassles with reference to real estate investment are documentation, maintaining the asset without any encumbrances, and genuineness of the title deed.

There are some practical problems with diversification. Normally an investor invests in a real estate in his own locality. It is very rare to find someone in Chennai investing in the real estate properties located at Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.  Affordability also limits diversification. An investor may not be able to diversify his investments across various cities with Rs.25 lacs or 50 lacs.

It may not be possible for an individual investor to buy a land and develop a viable project in that land and sell it in the market. Managing the project development need some kind of expertise.  Even if an individual is able to do it, he will be doing it in his limited ways and means.

Is there a solution for this?  Of late yes.

There are some collective investment vehicles. These investment vehicles will be promoted by an investment management company. The investment management companies collect money from investors. Being professionals, they will identify good projects and do joint venture with the project developers. They will be able to diversify across various cities as well as various types of real estate investments such as housing, commercial, hospitality and the like. These investment management companies charge a reasonable management fees.

At times they collect money via PMS route and at times via private equity route.  The minimum investment ranges from 10 lacs to 25 lacs. This amount needs to be invested over a period of 3 years. That is they will collect money from investors in 4 or 5 installments. After 3rd year whenever they exit from a project they will repay the principal employed in the project as well as the profit generated out of that project. End of 6th year or 7th year, the investment management company will exit from all the projects.

The advantages of this collective investment vehicle are

  • One can invest into real estate without any hassles. All the hassles will be managed by the professional investment management companies.
  • One can invest in various real estate projects at a time.
  • One can geographically diversify his investments across India.
  • One will be able to apportion his total investment into small sums in large projects like township development, Technology Park, industrial estate, health city…
  • Cost advantage because of economies of large scale operation

This is really an investor friendly investment vehicle. Apart from the regular stocks, mutual funds and fixed deposit investments investors can consider investing in these real estate products also. This will give better diversification to your overall portfolio. Also Investors need to be careful in choosing such investment options. Background of the investment management company and their transparency levels are more important. Investors can seek the advice of the professional financial planners before investing.

This investment vehicle is in its primitive form only. It still needs to go a long way. As of now there are only a very few companies in India which specializes in promoting collective real estate investment products. But in a few years time these kinds of products will be available from various investment management companies and in different varieties like our present mutual fund schemes.

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.

11 ways to get out of debt and stay out of debt

http://www.debtsettlement-california.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/debt-settlement-california-benefits-1.jpgIn spite of steady, regular income there are so many individuals who live paycheque to paycheque, carry their credit card outstanding, and fail to save anything for retirement. If you are one of them, now is the right time to take action to come out of debt and stay out of debt. It is not only possible; it is unbelievably achievable.

 

List down all your debts

You need to take stock of all your loans. It could be credit card due, personal loan, car loan, housing loan, education loan, loan from FD, loan from insurance policies, loan from your employer, hand loan and so on. For each and every loan you need to note down how much you owe, the present interest rate, EMI, Number of months to be paid.

Negotiate for lower interest rates

If you could negotiate the interest rate and bring it down then you can come out of debt faster. Most of the credit card companies come forward for negotiation if you really show interest in repaying. They need not run after you to collect the debt. It will reduce their expenses. So they will be happy to negotiate. Balance transfer offers from credit cards are also a way to reduce your interest rate.

Refinancing and consolidation

Replacing a loan with another is known as Refinancing. By doing a refinance it should reduce your interest rate and it should bring down the time you are in debt. But most often people go for refinance that provide them lower EMI but increasing the time they stay in debt.

Categorise your debt

Housing loan can increase your net worth over a period of time. Housing loan gives you tax benefit also. For a business man car loan provides some tax benefit. Based on these factors a debt needs to be categorized. This will help us in comparing different loans.

Prioritize your debts

After sorting out various loans, now we can comfortably prioritize the loans. Obviously this will be based on the interest rates and tax benefits. At times paying off a small loan first can give you a lot of motivation to get out of debt.

Creating and Executing a Debt payoff plan

You need to create a debt pay off plan with different scenarios. So that you can find out how some more savings or a different repayment order will help you to get out of debt faster. When creating a plan, you need to choose one which is comfortable to your attitude. Otherwise, you may not execute it properly.

Refrain yourselves from applying for fresh loans

You need to make a vow that you will not be adding any fresh loans, till you come out of all your debts completely. Think for a moment, how you will feel when you become debt free. This will give you a lot of positive energy to come out and stay out of debt.

Postpone buying major assets

Buying a property or any other assets need to be postponed till you get out of debt. With your new ownership comes the new, probably large and unpredictable expense. This can make you deviate from your debt pay off plans and at times the consequences could be uncontrollable.

You stop using your credit card

There are two groups. One group of people uses the credit cards responsibly. That is they will repay the credit card dues in full when they receive the bill. The other group will pay the minimum amount due and carry forward the balance amount due. If you belong to the second group, you need to stop using credit cards temporarily. Take out and keep your credit cards in the locker. Once your financial situation and buying habits improve, then you can start using your credit cards again.

Change your spending habits.

Being in debt obviously means that you have been living beyond your means. The solution is very simple. Spend less than you earn and you will get out of debt soon. You need to change your spending habits. Then only this simple solution will be achievable. If you buy things you don’t need, you’ll soon sell things you need. Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving.

Involve all your family members

You need to inform all your family members and dependents about your debt status. Then you will be able to take decisions with much more clarity. Moreover, if your family members know about your debt, they will also change their spending habits and support you in getting out of debt faster.

Consider the postage stamp: Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. Similarly, you need to stick to your debt pay off plan till you get out of it.

 

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.

Get Richer by avoiding this Money Mistake

http://im.rediff.com/getahead/2009/sep/08debt2.jpgMental Accounting is one such money mistake even smart people are committing.  Understanding this mistake and avoiding this could make us richer. Behavioral Finance experts say that mental accounting works this way: Let us say you have bought a Rs.200 ticket to a movie. When you show up at the entrance of the theatre and realize you have lost your ticket, do you buy another ticket? If you are like most people, you would probably think twice. You may still drop down the money, but you will now feel that you paid Rs.400 for a Rs.200 movie.

But let’s construct the scenario differently. Let’s say you hadn’t bought the ticket yet, and you show up at the entrance to buy your ticket. Unfortunately, you realized you’ve lost Rs200 in cash since you walked from the parking place. But fortunately, you still have enough in your wallet to cover the cost of the ticket. Do you buy the ticket? Again, if you are like most people, you may feel upset about the lost money, but it probably won’t affect your decision to buy the ticket. Why?

Behavioural Finance experts conducted similar experiments. They found that 46% of those who lost the ticket were willing to buy a replacement ticket. On the other side 88% of those who lost an equivalent amount of cash were willing to buy a ticket.

Both scenarios are a loss of Rs.200. However, in the second scenario you separate the loss of the Rs. 200 from the purchasing of the ticket. In the first you consider the cost of the movie as a total of Rs.400 and suffer at the high cost.

It is because of the psychological phenomenon known as mental accounting. One of the fundamental concepts in Economics says that wealth in general and money in particular, should be fungible. Fungibility, in a nutshell, means that Rs.100 in lottery winning, Rs.100 in salary and Rs.100 tax refund should have the same significance and value to you since each Rs.100 has the same purchasing power at the market. But do you treat them in a similar way?

Mental accounting has enormous consequences in your daily life. It affects how you spend money and how you save. It influences how you deal with losses and windfall gains.

How Does Mental Accounting Affect You?

1) The source of the money affects how it is spent.

You tend to dine lavishly with the “gift meal vouchers” given by your company. But you will be dining consciously if you are paying out of your salary.

You are most likely to spend more with credit cards than with cash.

You may consider Tax refund as“free money”. In actual terms it is your own money. You will not spend tax refunds, birthday gift money or lottery winnings on essential things like utility bills, school fees, paying off your credit card debt. But you will be more than happy to spend the same money on discretionary items such as vacations or a trendy mobile phone.

2) Don’t be a victim of ‘Relative cost’.

Assume you are going to a super market to buy a laptop. The price is Rs.40000. But you get to know that there is another branch of the supermarket, a ten minutes walk away, in which the same laptop is sold for Rs.39950. Will you walk down to the other branch?

Let us say instead of buying a laptop you have planned to buy a memory card. The price at the supermarket is Rs.100 and at the other branch is Rs.50. Where will you buy the card?

Most of us will make a trip to the other branch for the memory card but not for the laptop. Because we think that the Rs.50 saved on a Rs.100 item is better than the same amount saved on a Rs.40000 item.

But both the situation is same. You save Rs.50 by making 10 minutes walk to the other branch.

Remember that money is money. Rs.50 saved on Rs.40000 laptop is not less money than Rs. 50 saved on Rs.100 memory card.

How to face Mental Accounting and spend consciously?

  • You can use mental accounting to your advantage by spending money out of your salary. Immediately invest the “free money” like Tax refunds, gifted money or any other windfall gains.
  • Imagine that all income is earned income.
  • Use the free meal vouchers and other gift vouchers to buy essential items.
  • Pretend you don’t have a credit card. I am not telling you not to use credit cards. I am saying you should stop and think: would I buy this if I was using cash?

A Successful Practical Strategy:

You can have two bank accounts. One for the purpose of savings and the other one for spending. Every month you need to set aside some amount for expenses as per your budget or previous experience. That amount you need to transfer to your spending account. Balance amount you need to keep it in savings account.  You need to meet all your expenses including your credit card payment from the spending account. You should not spend from your savings account.

In between, if you receive any cash gifts or windfall gains, deposit them in your savings account. If you receive gift vouchers, then transfer the money equivalent of that voucher from your spending account to your saving account. That is your spending limit will not go up by just receiving the gift voucher. So that you will not use it lavishly and use it only on pre-planned things.

When it comes to money your mind unconsciously plays this trick of mental accounting. You have understood that today. So hereafter, you can avoid this mistake and you become richer day by day.

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.

Risk of delaying Financial Decisions

http://quadconsultancy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/financial-planning-decision-support-executive1.jpgIs lack of time making you go crazy in your attempt to plan your finance?

Does your busy professional schedule offer you time to monitor your personal finance?

Balaji is working for an MNC. Today he has got a deadline for a particular assignment. His day is fully packed. First thing in the morning, he receives a mail from his HR Dept stating that today is the last date for producing proofs for tax saving investments; otherwise a huge amount will be deducted from his salary as tax. He wanted to do some tax saving investments urgently and submit the proof on or before end of the day.

Mahesh is an NRI, working for a software company in US. He has got a couple of crores in his overseas fixed deposits giving a return of 1.50% p.a. Returns are taxable. At times, he thinks that the return what he getting is very low.  He wanted to check up with a professional financial planner in India. He thinks he will contact as soon as his present project gets completed. Like this he has not contacted any financial consultant for the last 3years because of some reason or the other.

Most of the investment decisions are either taken because of some compulsion or urgency or postponed because of compulsion or urgency in some other area of life. This is because we want to complete the urgent thing first not the most important thing. Many important things that contribute to our overall financial objectives and give richness don’t tend to give any pressure on us. Though they may not be urgent, they are the things that we must give importance and carry out immediately.

We act upon things like pressing problems, deadline-driven projects, and official meetings. We don’t give importance to

  • prepare for a meeting with a financial planner;  appraising a financial planner before making investments
  • planning activities like budgeting, children’s future planning, retirement planning;
  • protective activities like taking a term insurance, house holder policy, health insurance;
  • empowering ourselves by upgrading our knowledge with reference to investments

Why we are not able spend time on important things and spend most of our time on urgent things?  Because, we are following a way that focuses on how fast or efficiently we are getting things done. We are not following a way that focuses on why we are doing things.

Take the case of Mr.Balaji. Why didn’t he do his tax planning during the beginning of the financial year itself? Why is he chasing at the last minute? Balaji is much worried about his deadline for assignment than tax planning. As he is making investment urgently, it is difficult for him to choose the right financial advisor and also difficult to judge which one would be the best tax saving option for him. He will be investing with an advisor who can get the investment proof on the same day.

Is this the basis on which we select an investment advisor? Will the relationship of Mahesh and this advisor be a long term one? Will this investment is going to be of any help to Balaji in meeting the higher education expenses of his son after 15 years?

Coming to the case of Mr. Mahesh, he had couple of crores at 1.5% pre-tax return. He could have tripled his returns by investing in an Indian liquid fund which is very safe.  There are far better investment options available for him to choose. But he has settled for 1.5%.

If he could have spent a day or two in carefully choosing the right financial advisor and investment product he could have earned more. The earning opportunity which he missed with his investments might equal to his 6 months or 1 year salary.

He could have generated that passive income equivalent to 6 month or 1 year salary without any pressure from the top management; without meeting any deadlines by just spending a day or two.

We are all working hard for money. Is our hard earned money is working for us or lying in our SB a/c or really growing?

We find a ladder and see there are so many people trying to reach the top of the ladder faster.  Then we also follow the group, deadlines to be met in each and every step; focusing more on reaching the top and finally reached the top. Only after reaching the top, we realize that we have come to a very wrong place or a place which is not worth missing so many things and opportunities in life. This is how the today’s world is.

Nothing wrong in working harder or focusing more on completing the assignment or spending more time on finishing the project  on deadline. These are all good thing to do. But always remember, there are better and best things to do. We keep too many good things ahead of a few best things.

Setting up financial goals; working out a plan for achieving those goals; and implementing those plans are all best things to do in life. You know in advance where you want to reach exactly, by doing this exercise. As we progress, we enjoy the journey. As we reach the place, we really feel happy and we have not missed any important thing on the way.

Procrastination and not giving priority to financial goals and investment plans are costliest mistake one can take. So let us stop procrastinating and give priority to our financial goal setting and investment planning. Then life will be really so beautiful.

 

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.