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Neeraj Chauhan is a Certified Financial Planner and CEO of The Financial Mall. The Financial Mall is a financial supermarket & in operation for over 20 years. It manages total financial affairs of clients through wealth management and financial planning Process.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sensible Investing in Senseless Markets

Sensible Investing

There are scary times for anyone trying to build or preserve their Wealth. Today's roller coaster ride of market with economic ups and downs -- the swings in Sensex is enough to churn stomachs in all but the most steely nerved passengers.
Is this simply another predictable, even healthy, correction in a long-term bull market? Or are we poised for an investor meltdown?

No one knows for sure, of course. Even a modern-day Nostradamus couldn't tell us what's going to happen tomorrow. But no matter what, sticking to these six valuable investment sense will help you to keep your head above today's troubled waters and sail smoothly.

Sense No. 1: Riding over market fluctuations

Fluctuations in the market are a natural part of our economic cycle, "When the market is in a downturn, it may seem logical to cash out and go home, but before you do that you may want to think about your long-term goals for that investment."
Market downturns, even recessions, are relatively common occurrences in a economy. A recession is defined as a decline in Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.
Many people sell low and buy high because emotion drives their investment decisions, "Remember, you haven't lost money until you actually sell the security.
"If you decide to sell, buy something else right away. Studies have shown that your investment returns will suffer dramatically if you miss the best days of the market. Nobody knows when the best days will occur, so stay invested."
In short, investing for a financially healthy future still calls for the same kind of common-sense approach that has worked so well in the past. Most experts predict that the long-term future will most likely mirror the long-term past. That is, a steady pattern of economic growth with periods of expansions, recessions and downturns in the market.

Sense   No. 2: Not Reacting to daily economic reports or Media Commentary

In an effort to sell newspapers and air time, the media trains investors to look out for the next economic number of the day, "Whether it's employment numbers, capacity utilization, Euro Crisis or inflation statistics, there is always a number of the day to tempt investors into overreacting. In reality it is nonsensical to react to daily economic reports. No investment strategy is better than identifying superior companies and holding them while letting your money compound over time."

Sense   No. 3: Turning on your buying during a downturn

Some of the world's most successful investors made their fortunes by buying when everyone else was selling. But that's not easy to do. Investing steadily during market downturns may be too much of a psychological adventure for most of us, but there is a system that enables almost anyone to take advantage of those tempting buying opportunities. It's called Rupee-cost averaging.
"Rupee-cost averaging calls for investing a fixed amount each month or quarter on a specific investment or part of a portfolio, regardless of the ups and downs of the share or unit prices," By following this pattern consistently, you will purchase more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high.

For example, if you decide to invest Rs 5000 each month on purchasing shares, you will be able to buy only a few shares if the price is Rs 1000 per share. However, if the price goes down to Rs 500 the next month, the same money will buy twice as many shares.
By making regular and consistent purchases over a longer period of time, your cost basis -- the total amount you pay for a security -- is spread out. That provides a cushion against normal market price fluctuations.
Rupee-cost averaging is a time-proven and effective way to minimize the effects of emotion in financial management.

Sense No. 4: Not Trying to time the market

It's better to invest regularly, without regard for the general condition of the economy or the direction of the stock market.
“Timing the market, trying to determine the best time to buy specific stocks, rarely works”. You might get lucky once in a while, but your luck isn't likely to last.
"Market timing and day trading are for suckers. The financial press or stock brokers makes money from advertising and churning, and they do that by keeping you breathlessly chasing the latest tip. They make money whether you win or lose."
Waiting for stocks to hit the "bottom" before you buy or hit the "top" before you sell has long since proven to be a loser's game for investors. Select the stocks or mutual funds that you buy only on the basis of sound fundamentals.

Sense No. 5: Maintaining an appropriate asset allocation

If there is one point that virtually all financial advisers agree on, it's the critical need for you to maintain an asset allocation suitable to your personal circumstances.
Asset allocation refers to the process of dividing your investable assets among equity, bonds, gold, Real estate and cash.
The diversification mix that is right for you at a given point in your life will depend on such things as your age, goals and your tolerance for risk.
If your retirement is years away, most experts recommend relatively heavy investments in equities, 60 percent or more of your total portfolio. "However, if your time horizon is less than three years," stay in fixed investments like CDs, short-term bonds and money markets."
Once you allocate your assets in the manner right for your circumstances, it's important to rebalance at least once a year. As the price of equities goes up or down, the ratio you have established will change. If the value of your equities has risen, you may want to sell off some of them to restore your original ratios. If their value has dropped, moving more cash into equities may be appropriate.
If it is regular, taxable money, consider at least annually, perhaps more during extremely volatile periods. For a rebalancing strategy to work, you must own assets that don't react the same way over differing market conditions.

Sense No. 6: Following your investment strategy

"Creating a plan such as Rupee-cost averaging and sticking with it under all market conditions is the way to maximize your returns," Human nature makes it difficult for the average investor to stick to an investment strategy unaffected by emotion. Sometimes it's fear; sometimes it's pure greed. Either way, allowing emotions to affect your investing decisions is certain to damage your financial future.
It's human nature to chase hot sectors that have already made a significant move, It's also natural to panic and sell-out when everyone else is doing the same.
While it may be the natural thing to do, it's not the smart thing, "It's important to have an investment strategy or Financial Plan and stick to it. Remember: If the headlines are full of it and everyone else is doing it, you're probably too late."
There is, of course, much more to the maintenance of an investment portfolio that may well help you sleep during these scary investment times. However, sticking with these common-sense fundamentals will go a long way toward achieving that end.

Happy Investing !!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tired of being Retired ???

Proper financial planning is important no matter what your age, but it is even more critical when you retire. When you still work, you have many more options at your disposal, including working additional years and putting more money aside for retirement. However, when you leave your job for good, your options are much more limited. That means that it is essential to take care of the money you have saved all those years and make sure it lasts as long as you do

The budgeting process is very different for a retiree than it is for a working person. Some of your expenses are likely to go down when you retire, most notably your work wardrobe, the cost of commuting and the money you put aside for retirement. Other expenses are likely to increase, especially health care expenditures. It is essential to include these potential expenses in your post-retirement budget.
Well, the main financial hurdles are first, your income is going be less, and secondly, your pattern of spending is going to be completely different. You won't be going to work every day. You will have other things to do. You might want to think about having off holidays. You are going to have to find the money maybe, for a new car, or a replacement car. How do you cope if you had a sudden expense on the house, you know, the roof needs repairing or the fence has blown down. So there will be all those things to deal with, and the things that you just have to spend. There will be your electricity bills, your property tax. Things that are very, very hard to avoid, and those will take a bigger proportion of your income. So, again controlling those is going to be an important part of planning for retirement.

One of the biggest differences between pre- and post-retirement financial planning is the ability to recover from mistakes and rebuild your nest egg. Recovering from a bad investment or an unwise tax move is much easier when you are still working, since your ability to generate additional income is much greater. Once you retire, it can be difficult to generate the type of income you could bring in during the peak of your career. That means you must be much more careful about your money, moving the funds into lower risk categories such as bonds and CDs instead of riskier investments such as stocks may also not help.

Make a cash flow statement

How much you will spend in retirement is a function of your standard of living and how long you expect to live! If your parents (or grandparents) have been living to the age of 90 years, chances are you will hit a century!
Make a realistic estimate of help that you may need for day to day living – say nursing, assisted living, old age home, inflation, un-insured medical expenses, medical insurance expenses – these are what we can call the ‘non-negotiable’ expenses. Then there are expenses like travel, fun, eating out, entertainment, – called the ‘discretionary’ expenses. These expenses will happen if the body listens to the mind!

Monitor expenses

It is critical to control discretionary expenses such as those on travel and entertainment. A common mistake many newly retired people make is of spending their savings corpus on a house or on other fixed expenses. Consequently, there is inadequate money to meet variable expenses like medical bills. Try to live off interest, dividends and capital gains, keeping capital untouched for as long as possible.

Health Care arrangement
The persons should plan for health insurance at least about 4 to 5 years in advance of the retirement so that the premium will be comparatively less and the medical expenses of serious problems are taken care of. One has to take into account of the fact of longevity of life as compared to the earlier periods. So the health care arrangement should be planned with long term perspective. The cost of medical treatment has become prohibitive and health care arrangement should not be forgotten. In many institutions during the service period the employer company will have arrangement with some insurer for health care of all employees. If this facility is there during service the same can be extended after the retirement with the same insurance company. 

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.

Get Rid of All Your Debts

If you have taken 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 can enjoy your retired life when you have 100% financial freedom, not when you have to repay your loans.

Tap tax-free funds

Use your tax-free retirement funds first like Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), superannuation schemes and gratuity payments to meet regular expenses and reinvest the rest. Another attractive source of tax-free retirement funds is the PPF and the lump sum payouts of pension plans.

Ensure tax efficiency

How you manage the taxes on your retirement investments can make a huge difference to how long your retirement money lasts. One of the most common problems of retired people is the huge payouts made in the early retirement years due to bunching up of retirement incomes. Therefore, it is essential to spread your retirement income over your retirement years.

Re-evaluate your risk appetite

Don’t re-invest your retirement money in low-risk options like fixed deposits. Long retired lives entail growth investments. Keep a certain portion, around 10% of your savings, in equities and equity funds in order to beat inflation.

Post retirement engagement
Some people may take voluntary retirement and join some private company or start some self employment or some other business or agency business etc so that some extra income is available. In order to avoid the psychological effect the retirees have to mentally engage themselves. The best way is to pursue your interest and engage in that hobby.
All have some inner urge in certain specific field like social service, religious activities, tour or travel programs, attending music programs or visiting relatives or it may be any other thing depending on the individual. Some might have taken some course in some hobby like electronic, homeopathy, accounting, horticulture, floriculture etc. These occupations may involve additional expenses but it should not deter as the benefit will be higher than the savings. But this post retirement engagement should not be neglected as engaging the mind in one's interested field will keep the mind busy and will take care of the psychological and emotional and to a great extent the health. Thus the persons will be happy and the happy person/s will be considered as useful to the society instead of being a drag. 

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 your left out wealth

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Clean Up Your Financial Home!

Is your financial home in order? From time to time, it’s good to spruce things up a bit. Use some of the following helpful hints to make the task a little more orderly and worthwhile:

1. Clean the “attic.” That’s the spot where you have stored items such as old, unused credit cards; nearly empty bank accounts; or savings certificates you forgot to cash in. Close them out or cash them in.

2. Refurnish your credit “room.” This can include refinancing your loans with low interest rates, transferring credit card balances to lower-rate alternatives, or utilizing a home that offers a low rate and tax-deductible interest. You will appreciate the new “look” you create. It can be especially pleasing to empty the “room” of some credit commitments by paying them off completely, thus giving your overall budget more breathing space.

3. Consider a complete renovation. Is your savings & investment plan sufficient to meet your short- and long-term goals? You may be at a stage of life that requires different strategy. Review financial blueprint with your Financial architect to know the current strength of your financial home and take corrective action if required.

4. Look at future “housing” needs. What accommodations have you made for your retirement? If you expect to be relying on government or company benefits alone, you may want to consider start an additional investment to supplement your income in golden years.

5. Solidify your “foundation.” Now may be a good time to review your life insurance, Health Insurance, Critical Illness, Accidental policies. The policies you started years ago may need updating to meet inflated costs and your current needs. Setting up an annual review with your financial planner or insurance advisor can be instrumental in ensuring the adequacy of your coverage.

6. Protect your home. Update your householder policy and make sure that items are adequately covered against earthquake; flood, burglary, fire etc. also make a videotape of your home—both inside and out—as well as your valuables. Store the tape in your safe deposit box, and add to it as the need arises.

7. Dust off your tax records & Will. The time when you will need them will be here before you know it. You may also want to speak with your tax professional regarding any changes you need to make to brighten your tax picture before filing your return as we are near end of financial year. This is also a time to incorporate changes in your will for smooth transfer of Estate as per your wish.

8. Establish a regular “maintenance” program. If you haven’t done so previously, set up a budget. Make “paying yourself first” — putting a set amount into your savings and investments every month — a priority. Analyze your current spending habits, and plan ahead for large bills and expenses.

It is always more relaxing to live in a clean and orderly home. By taking these eight steps, your financial “home” will become an inviting, enjoyable corner of your life!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Are Your Income Sources If Disability Strikes?

How much money do you spend to protect your assets? Most individuals have automobile insurance, homeowners insurance to protect a home and its contents and, possibly, additional coverage for items or collections of particular value. These assets are, without doubt, valued at a sizable amount. However, their income-producing value is negligible.

Your true wealth comes from your ability to earn money. The money you earn most probably pays for everything from the rent or mortgage and property taxes to the costs of maintaining your home. You have food and clothing to buy, as well as loan and credit card payments to make. You must pay for the property insurance noted previously, as well as for premiums on casualty and life insurance policies. What other miscellaneous expenses do you have? If your income from employment or your business were to cease suddenly, what financial resources would be available to you to help pay your ongoing expenses?

Typical candidates for disability protection

Typically, permanent disability involves a series of hardships that results in an inability to perform certain work and daily activities for the foreseeable future. Some professions and occupations are at greater risk, and, therefore, consideration should be given to purchasing protection that has long-term income stream potential.

·     Jobs requiring specialized abilities. Replacing income without disability income insurance is usually challenging; comparable pay and work conditions may be difficult to restore. Years of specialization, vocational training, experience and education are invaluable, but may become unusable resources if a disability occurs. Occupations that require physical labor are particularly vulnerable to physical disabilities. However, physical impairments are just one type of disability. Workers from all professions are likely to face extreme challenges if an emotional or mental disability affects their usual functioning.

·     One- and two-income families. Not everyone has parents, in-laws, siblings or friends who might offer immediate emergency financial help or ongoing support. A one-income household is particularly vulnerable to permanent loss of income. Family situations in which each spouse covers between 30 percent and 70 percent of total financial needs may be especially impacted by the loss of one income.

·     Small businesses. Particularly vulnerable are partnerships and corporations (i.e., business enterprises run by two or more owners). If disability curtails the involvement of one owner, the remaining owner either “carries” the co-owner, or the business may close. In addition to earnings lost, the disabled business owner may miss certain planning opportunities, such as preparing for retirement.

·     High stress, service and production-oriented occupations. Long hours, deadlines, quotas and a fast-paced society place a tremendous burden on both mind and body. Our current emphasis on calorie control, physical exercise, meditation, relaxation and conscientious dieting are popular stress inhibitors that may indeed extend our life expectancies. However, every successful, healthy worker faces the possibility of a disabling accident or illness.

Alternative sources of income

Should you suffer a disability, you need to know where your income will come from. Would you have enough in savings to support yourself and your loved ones during a six-month disability? Do you know someone who would freely lend money to you if you were to become disabled? Perhaps your spouse can provide the necessary income, but the burden of being a spouse, parent, private caregiver and employee can be overwhelming. How quickly could you liquidate the assets you have insured so carefully?

Group and individual disability income insurance policies are available to cover most individual concerns and family or business situations. Careful planning will help steer you toward the proper coverage that addresses the demands on your current income and the needs of your family.       

Retirement Savings Strategies for 50 +

Today, Many age 50 and older have not yet begun to save for retirement or have amassed insufficient funds.

If you are in this age group and find yourself facing an underfunded retirement, it is not too late to take charge. There are plenty of things you can do—right now—to get on the right track. Here are some ideas:

What’s it going to take? First, you need to estimate how much money you will need in retirement. Once you have an idea of the amount, you can work toward fulfilling that goal. You may need 60–80% of your current annual income in retirement. Your financial planner can help you assess the best figures for your situation.

Work it, Friend! If your employer offers a retirement plan, contribute as much as the law allows. Many employers also match contributions, sometimes, by as much as 50–100%. Make sure you contribute enough to claim all of this “free” money, which can add up significantly over time.

Create a spending plan. In other words, make a budget. Many people think a budget will be restrictive, but look at it this way: You can spend now, or you can have the money to afford your dream adventures. It is very important that you pay down debt now and, furthermore, do not accrue new debt. Examine your spending habits and replace some of your discretionary spending with saving. Even as little as Rs 500 extra per week is a step in the right direction.

Take some initiative. On top of contributing to your employer’s plan, you can save even more by opening your own PF or NPS account. Contributions are made after taxes, but earnings and distributions are tax-free. You can also take some aggressive investment options like SIP in diversified equity fund.

Hang your shingle. Many people hope to start their own businesses post retirement. But why wait? If you begin your entrepreneurial efforts now, your business has the potential to be in full swing by the time you do retire, and any profits between now and then can be added to your savings.

Move it or lose it. It’s very likely that your home may have significantly increased in value since you first bought it. You may have already paid off the Loan. With children at or near adulthood and living separately, do you really need that extra space? If not then Selling now and moving to a smaller, more affordable location will allow you to transfer the equity in your home into a savings vehicle.

Why quit? If you want to cushion your retirement savings, consider staying on the job longer. Many people actually leave retirement to reenter the workforce because they feel more fulfilled in a working lifestyle. Others seek part-time work, consulting, or entrepreneurial endeavors. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, you will earn more money each year to save, and you may be able to put off drawing down your savings.

Regardless of which options you choose, time and compounding will be to your benefit as you save. Each year that your savings remain untouched allows more time for growth potential. The new generation intends to redefine retirement as we know it. With a few steps in the right direction, you will have the resources to usher change into a whole new era.