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Inflation concerns mean rates stay as is…

As was broadly expected, The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Wednesday left the policy repo rate and reverse repo rate unchanged at 6 percent and 5.75 percent, respectively. Out of six members, five members voted for no rate cut and one member voted for 25 bps rate cut. RBI continued to maintain its view that the 4% target on inflation remains its focus. Retail inflation measured by year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) had recorded a seven-month high in October, and with an indicated range of 4.3% to 4.7% for the next two quarters, along with higher inflationary expectations getting built in through the possibility of higher oil prices and some possible fiscal pressure, this was very much in line with expectations. Surplus liquidity in the system has also continued to decline, reducing chances of rate cuts going forward.

Focus on the real rate of return

With the RBI referring to possible green shoots on growth starting to appear in the economy, it does seem that whilst they will continue to track data closely, strategies that are focussed on interest rates getting reduced are likely to face pressure. However, considering that real rates of return (returns from fixed income investments less inflation) continue to be significantly positive, we continue to believe that investing in fixed income is attractive.

Your Investments

Considering positive real interest rates, and equities continuing to trade at significant premiums to long term price to earnings ratios,  it may be a good idea to continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of largely accrual, short to medium term, and hold to maturity strategies. For investors willing to continue to look at interest rates heading downwards, dynamic bond funds that have flexibility to move across bond maturities, can be explored for a small portion of the fixed income portfolio.

Your Loans

The RBI’s decision to hold rate cuts could indicate that there is unlikely to be any impact on existing lending rates, especially home and car loans by banks. Whilst the transmission of the rate cuts for bank loans over the last couple of years has only been partial, we believe that interest rates may not head down much more going forward.

Way Forward

Considering that the next policy meeting on Feb 6 and 7 is likely to be post the Union Budget, one will need to track how the government manages its fiscal policy and its focus on growth going forward. Global interest rates headed upwards, will also continue to drive RBI’s decisions on interest rates.

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Landing airplane

This 7th of December is the International Civil Aviation Day and marks the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.The purpose of this day, as pilots all over might be well aware of, is to recognize the importance of aviation to the overall development of the world.

And while pilots draw great confidence from being able to manage the process of reaching passengers to their destinations safely and comfortably, a more pressing question can be that are they confident when it comes to management of their finances?

The profession of a pilot demands almost all their time all year round. Hence they are left with limited personal time which they wish to live to the fullest. And like most busy professionals,more often than not money management seems to come at the end of this wish list. Pilots go through meticulous preparation and planning for their flights daily but sometimes are unable to do so for their finances.

While money is not the end, it is definitely a means to achieve certain objectives. Proper planning and structure to a pilot’s personal finances can result in he/she being prepared for all kinds of life events and responsibilities. Events such as:

  1. Sudden Illness:The requirement for pilots to be medically fit is of prime importance as they are responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers daily. Every pilot needs to ensure a good health cover to cover sudden illness and hospitalisation. A pilot may wonder why would he need insurance when he is already covered. But if one actually things about, it might be prudent to have a separate health insurance cover for times when you may not be employed or between jobs or in cases where employer insurance is inadequate.
  2. Need for upgradation of Skill Sets:Like all professions, skill updation is a critical requirement that must be met by all pilots on periodic basis. But these do not come at a cheap cost. Ensuring enough provision and funds are kept aside and is available at the time of requirement can go a long way in avoiding last minute stress.
  3. Contingency Needs: A major issue plaguing the aviation industry is the availability of opportunities. The last few years have clearly demonstrated that problems are plenty in the Indian aviation sectors. For eg. Airlines have closed down, pay cuts are becoming common, or there have been significant delays in salary payments. Such events can have huge financial implications on pilots and their families. Having contingency funds parked in highly liquid assets can help bring some normalcy in such difficult times.
  4. Retirement and Sunset Years:Insufficient planning for your golden years i.e. Retirement can cause stress. In case of pilots, who are among the top earners amongst professionals, this only magnifies the problem. Why so? Pilots more often than not tend to have busy lifestyles with high discretionary expenses. As such they are accustomed to a lifestyle that will only get more and more expensive as years pass This year on year rise in prices is called Inflation and it is an important factor that more often that not, is grossly underestimated. Furthermore, like any other busy professional, even pilots like to keep themselves occupied during retirement years. The interests or activities that they might pursue would also usually have financial implications. Activities such as investing into various ventures, pursuing hobbies or dream goals, continuing leisure flying by enrolling in the local flying club can be just some of the examples. To be able to fund these without affecting retirement corpus requires careful planning early on.

Take the case of pilot Mr. Sharma. Currently aged 30, the household expenses for him and his family is Rs. 12 lakhs per annum. Even if we assume a general inflation of 8%, the same Rs. 12 lakh will become Rs. 1.75 crores at the age of retirement at 65. ( Rules permit pilots to fly till the age of 65 ). In other words, Mr. Sharma would need to have a big enough corpus at retirement that will provide them atleast Rs 1.75 crores every year that will help them maintain current lifestyles.

Pilots are aware of the importance of planning. Each flight requires hours of pre flight preparation which means going through weather reports, system checks among other items to ensure that the flight goes by without any hitch. Similarly having a strategic plan in place for one’s finances can also help prepare for any “rough weather” that could come along in a pilot’s financial life.

 

 

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indian-stock-market-news-update-as-on-april-02-2014

India is currently among the most watched Emerging Market nations. To top that, the Indian Equity Markets have witnessed unprecedented growth in the recent months. The YTD returns for Sensex alone has been 26% (data from BSE India). The euphoria and high confidence on the Indian Equities has continued to remain, especially from the institutional investors both foreign and domestic.

This is also leading to make many individual investors question whether they should invest in equities or sit on the sidelines. While individual risk appetite and time horizon would be some of the basic factors to understand before investing, there are many other fundamental factors to track. While the debate has been raging on as to which indicators should be looked at or ignored to make sense of the valuations of the Indian equity markets, the following factors can help bring some sense of clarity to the overall picture. Factors such as:

Current Price to Earnings Ratio (P/E Numbers): One of the most traditional tools used globally at gauging the valuations of an equity market of a country. In the last one year alone (based on data from Oct 16 to Oct 17), the P/E Ratio for S&P BSE Sensex has averaged close to 22 times in comparison to its historical average of approximately 17 on a trailing basis. For the BSE Mid Cap and Small Cap of the same period, the P/E valuations are at an average of 33.8 and 81.13 times.

Corporate Earnings: P/E Ratios are directly linked to the corporate earnings of the country. As per Kotak Institutional Equities Estimates, the Expected Earnings for companies representing the Nifty 50 Index are approximately 2% in FY 2018. A variety of reasons are attributed to these low earnings expectations, most famously discussed are the implementations and effects of Demonetization and Goods and Service Tax (GST).

Crude Oil Prices: Nearly 80% of India’s energy needs are import dependent. A direct consequence of this is the risk to the country’s inflation rate if the prices of crude oil are to rise. A rise in oil prices results in lower cashflows/profits for companies and higher prices for consumers. Brent crude oil prices are currently firming up at prices upwards of 60$ per barrel. This is a definite concern from an Indian economy perspective.

Exchange Rates: The Rupee is currently considered overvalued basis its 10 year average (Source: Kotak Research). This has a dual impact on the economy i.e. (A) it increases attractiveness of imported products, resulting in increased competition for domestic companies and lower profits; (B) it decreases the value of exported products and therefore hurts the margins of export based industries such as the IT sector. Both have resulted in muted growth prospects for these respective industries.

Bond Yields: In an growing economy like India, both equities and bonds compete for capital. In a equity bull rally, money is taken out from bond markets and pumped into equities, forgoing risk to capital for riskier investments. Currently bond yields are inching up to the mid 2017 high of 6.987% yield for the 10yr G-Sec. However there has only been net inflows into fixed income. Foreign Portfolio Investments into Government Securities have already reached 83.94% of their allotted limit (data dated as per 6th Nov NSDL)

Inflation Rate: Inflation brings about it own risks to the stock markets. In the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the RBI revised the inflation projections for the rest of FY 2018 upwards to 4% – 4.5%. This may indicate a stop to future rate cuts, freezing any possibilities of reduction in lending rates. Medium term consequences for companies could possibly mean dearer than expected debt to  service, resulting in subdued profits and revenue.

Role of FIIs: The way that Foreign Institutional Investors park monies in the market can give an indication to the current picture of that market. While FIIs were very bullish on Indian Equities for most part of the calendar year, starting June they slowly but surely tapered inflows in equity, finally resulting in net outflows in the month of September and October. (Source: moneycontrol)

Global Scenario: On a global scale, economies are starting to look up, with further growth expected. According to IMF Economic Outlook, average expected GDP growth for FY 2017 is 2.5%. Globally, equity markets have participated in this growth including India. What probably may need to be put in perspective is that the rally in Indian Equities may be partly due to the global rallies taking place. Therefore the Indian equities are associated with risks in terms of foreign external factors like outbreak of war in the Korean Peninsula. Such events are likely to have negative impacts on the domestic markets.

Keeping in mind the above mentioned factors, Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors has a definite view that current equity markets are over valued and investors should exercise caution. The not so positive indicators from these mentioned factors should mean a significant correction cannot be discounted, keeping us wary of diving too much into equities without first educating investors of the potential risks in the short to medium term horizon.

 

 

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Financial Welness image 1The traditional thoughts on wellness usually revolves around health and nutrition. However, in our current lifestyle, achieving a good health and having decent nutrition involves regular check ups and having healthy eating habits; which may be kind of difficult if we are stressed about our money. If you ask a group of working people who are having difficulties sleeping at night the reason for this, chances are high that a good number of them will cite financial stress as the cause. The impact of such stress is not unknown to us, with impact on health and loss of productivity just two of the effects.

Here are just a few reasons why Financial Wellness should be giving due consideration in today’s time:

Financial Concerns can be a major source of stress

According to the 2017 PWC Employee Wellness Survey (a survey done for employees in the United States), more than Fifty Percent of the employees surveyed are facing some sort of financial stress.

The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey conducted by Willis Tower Watson further showed that Fifty Three Percent of Indian Employee respondents claimed to have some sort of financial worry i.e. either long or short term, or maybe even both. Furthermore Seventy Three Percent of these respondents claimed that these worries have caused them above average stress. Following is a chart depicting the data collected by the Willis Tower Watson survey:

One in two survey participants have some kind of financial worry!

Picture1

It can be a major reason for loss of productivity

According to the PWC survey, distractions due to financial stress is a real thing and it can lead to wastage of working hours. The survey indicated that on average, financially stressed people spend up to 3 working hours per week on dealing with financial matters and they are also twice as likely to miss work due to personal financial matters

Improves Physical Well being

The American Psychological Association’s 2016 Stress in America report stated that Sixty Seven Percent of those surveyed revealed that money was a form of stress. And that rise in stress can lead to stress related health concerns.

While these are certain aspects that may be more applicable to an employee, employers should also look at this as a prime employee engagement tool for the following reasons:

Financial Planning take Time

As mentioned above, the stress caused by financial worries forces employees to bring these to the work place. As such they devote working hours to such matters and also altogether take leaves to attend to various financial concerns/emergencies. This only increases the burden of the employer ultimately.

Increases Employee Productivity and builds Loyalty

We have already read how financial worries leads to a loss of productivity in the office. An efficient manner in which employers can counter such trends is to increase financial awareness among its employees. Thus not only will employees worry less and reduce work hours wastage, they are also more likely to use their well deserved breaks better and therefore not be absent from work. Providing financial wellness initiatives can make them confident of planning better for major events like Retirement. This ultimately leads to trust between the organization and its employees, a great source of encouragement for all employers. 

Employees want Support and improve their Financial Literacy

Financially burdened employees would like their employers to help them in achieving wellness. Employees who stress from money issues are looking for help to improve their financial situation.

Financial Well Being is steadily gaining acceptance as an important factor of consideration for one’s overall well being. As such it it becomes critical for an individual to ensure that his/her’s financial situation does not lead to issues that has negative impacts on different aspects of life. And as an employer, Financial Wellness initiatives can be a source of efficient employee engagement and possible retention strategy.

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1 (1) (1)In a world where access to internet is becoming more and more widespread, information on almost anything is subsequently becoming easier to find, simply by “Googling” it. Furthermore, free information quite often results in self proclaimed experts of the field, sometimes resulting in unfavorable outcomes for anyone who follows their views/advice without understanding how such individuals arrived at those outlooks.

As such it is important to separate a few facts from myths in terms of what data an individual should consider when faced with some common financial planning aspects rather than what is most commonly/easily available of the internet.

Sending children abroad for higher education is no more a matter of consideration for the upper class families. Nowadays, more and more middle class families aspire to send their children outside India for their education. As such, planning for such an major event requires careful attention. The common misconception is to take simple average rise of Indian education costs and apply the same data for education in a foreign country. However, two critical data points get missed out in such an exercise, (A) the rise in education costs in that particular country to which you plan to send your child. It is inappropriate to consider the inflation numbers would be identical or even similar to that of India. (B) the rise/fall in the currency exchange rate for the two countries in consideration. The following illustration should help clear this concept:

Particulars % Change
Rise in average education cost of  universities in the U.S. in last 10 years 5%
Rise in Currency Exchange rate in last 5 years 4%
Total Inflation to Consider 9%

Now In comparison the inflation rate for the Indian colleges is approximately 10%-11% p.a.

Talking about inflation, another topic of debate is if the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data is an adequate inflation benchmark, especially for higher middle class/ HNI families. To put things in perspective, following is a snapshot of items considered in the CPI basket and their respective weight-age:

Sr. No Particulars Weightage
1 Food and Beverages 45.86%
2 Pan, Tobacco and Intoxicants 2.38%
3 Clothing and Footwear 6.53%
4 Housing 10.07%
5 Fuel and Light 6.84%
6 Miscellaneous 28.32%

(Source: Ministry of Statistics Programme Implementation Circular Dated 14th March,2017)

As you can see, the weight age of expenses, while more suitable for the lower strata of income generating families, might not be appropriate for the higher end. Something like expenses on food/groceries would certainly not be half the expenses. As such, while current CPI numbers are around 3.5%, indicating that going forward inflation is to be expected around that range, it would be right to assume that a middle class family living in Mumbai would face the same inflation rates. A more appropriate method would be to calculate the individual inflation of major expense heads i.e. food, rent, education, lifestyle expenses and find the average of the same. You would more likely discover a very different inflation rate compared to the CPI.

Past returns is a favorite filter for most investors when choosing products of an asset class, especially stocks and mutual funds. However almost all online data provided by various service providers show Trailing Returns.. Trailing returns show how a fund has performed from date A to date B, by simply seeing the difference in NAV of those dates. But it does not show how consistently it performed in that period. A recent upswing in its performance can skew the average of say a 3 or 5 year performance. To adjust for this, Rolling Returns is considered. It does not take only one block of a 3year period but several blocks of such periods. Thus it allows you to see a range of performances across blocks of time. They therefore capture performance of funds over different market periods, giving a more reliable view of the fund’s performance

Similarly, another topic of debate is usage of Total Return Index v/s Simple Price Index as a benchmark when selecting a mutual fund. A Simple Price Index only captures the capital gains due to stock movements in the fund. But the Total Return Index considers the capital gains and dividend paid by the companies to the investors. Hence it shows a truer picture of the returns. Almost all mutual funds today benchmark their returns against the Simple Price Index. This can result in showing higher alpha generation by the fund which may not give the right picture to the investor. For example, Nifty 50 Price Index over past one year (as on 27th October 2017) was 18.63 percent and Nifty Total Return Index for the same period showed 19.75 percent. Hence a mutual fund will show different alpha based on the benchmark used.

Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors believes that Rolling Returns and the Total Price Index are the correct data points to consider.

Finally, the widespread use of the general rule of thumb when it comes purchasing a Term Insurance Plan i.e. the sum assured is to be 15-20 times the annual income. Procuring a term plan should be about covering financial risks that may befall on the dependants in case of an unfortunate event. Financial risk does not only include loss of income but also other factors such as pending liabilities, future financial goals, current assets that can be redeemed shortly to meet any obligations. Such factors also play a significant role in determining how much cover needs to be taken.

Using the right data is critical during the financial planning process. As you can see, wrong data can lead to significant errors/assumptions which can have detrimental impacts.

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HR Post 1 (2)Consultancy is the new age choice of profession. And being a consultant is right there amongst the top dream jobs!

One of the most upcoming fields in this professional niche is in the sector of Human Resources. Consultants in this sphere are referred to as Human Resource Business Partners.

A Human Resource Business Partner goes beyond the regular functions of the organization’s HR team. As such, HR Business Partners generally tend to be very busy as they handle important head hunting and hiring mandates. With bigger mandates and responsibilities comes a much nicer pay package alas with no time to look at personal finances!

But like all professionals, Personal Financial Planning should infact be at the top of the priority list. Why you ask? Let’s delve into the reasons.

Time Restraint: Like all consultants are occupied 24/7, a HR Business Partner is always vying for personal time. And when they do find some, the last thing on their mind is personal financial matters. In the catch up for personal things to get done, personal finances are a low priority. Yet should it not be the complete opposite of this? The importance of financial planning is not just related to finding out how much to invest and where. Financial planning and giving a structure to overall finances is aimed to attain peace in the thought that despite all other commitments, you are working towards insuring that financially your dreams and aspirations will be taken care of. And that is a great source of calm for a person constantly on the move.

Contract based Income: As a consultant, you are a contractual worker in essence. In other words, you are in receipt of the handsome income only as long as you manage to keep the contracts alive. Shouldn’t simple logic dictate your actions that this hard earned should be channelized for situations when no contract is available? Or in layman’s terms, creating a Contingency Fund for those truly lull periods in the industry. Wouldn’t you want to make this hard earned money work as hard as you so that your dreams of an early retirement or that fancy foreign holiday come true?

Insurance: While you may have already thought of the regular health and life insurance policies, what is worth considering are additional risk covers in terms of Personal Accident and Critical Illness Policies. These provide features which help augment income in case you cannot report in to work due to major accidents. In addition insurance that is worth considering for senior HR Business partners or top executives of HR Consulting firms is the Keyman Insurance Policies. (More on all these in the subsequent posts.)

What is it that you truly fancy doing with your hard earned monies that you worked so relentlessly for? Would it not be nice to know that your efforts can be enough to fulfil your life dreams? Most likely your answer would be a resounding YES! So then, what is stopping you? Mere inertia? An inherent fear of doing something wrong that can’t be taken back? Lack of knowledge on how to go forward? The questions are many.

And yet, the solution might be as simple as the professional choice that you have made for yourself. Why not consult an expert consultant from the financial advisory field? It is after all why you are hired right? So why the hesistance in doing the same thing for your personal benefit.

As fellow consultants and advisors we believe, like you, that specialization leads to credibility and expertise. And like consultants, we understand that trust is only gained through repeatedly providing sound and quality advice. Being credible and trustworthy is essential, more so in matters of personal finance.

Having a word with a Financial Advisor to make certain your hard earned wealth is doing the right thing may be a good idea and most certainly worth your coveted personal time.

Till then…continue the good job of quality consulting!

 

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Crisis 5

In today’s ever changing world, with all the geo-political, social, and technological dynamics, job surety is no more a luxury anyone can afford. Be it the CEO of a M.N.C. or a mid level manager, the changing landscape compels us now more than ever to be prepared for the worst.

Even pilots aren’t immune to such extremes. From domestic industry uncertainties to global events, pilots need to be equipped to face such an eventuality. One such recent example is the Qatar diplomatic crisis. With the neighbouring countries cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and shutting down their airspace for any Qatar bound plane or vice versa, a sense of being besieged looms in the country.  Now while this does not directly result in job losses, such incidents raise the fear, specifically for businesses closely linked to Qatar.

Therefore prudence calls for having certain provisions in place that can help ease this fear. A sort of backup or cushion for facing an event you might have never fathomed.

A checklist of such provisions could possibly look as follows:

Self funded health insurance coverage is important – Most pilots would argue that the employer already provides for this. But that’s the point right? What happens if you get the golden handshake? Guess what, no more health cover. And even if you get a new one, they always come with a waiting period. This means you won’t be covered for a certain period from any pre existing illness. This would not be a situation that you would like to end up with.

 

Personal Accident Policy and Critical Illness Policy coverage – Extending the above point, it’s critical that pilots have a personal accident and a critical illness policy. In the months of no income, one needs to ensure that one is covered for all kinds of risk. In cases where families may have accident or critical illness exigencies during such a period, such types of policies are a godsend. Such personal accident policies, for example provide the insured with either weekly allowances or in some cases a lump sum payout depending on the terms and features of the policy. These payouts can be used for medical expenses that come along with treating such eventualities.

 

An Emergency Fund is a must have – A highly liquid investment is the preferred choice to host such a fund, as it’s meant for immediate use. While Bank FDs and saving accounts is the age old choice, research and time has proven they are better options out there. One such alternative is Liquid Mutual Funds. These typically provide the similar liquidity and safety – principal features that a bank savings account offers, but with the added incentive of significantly higher returns on the investment. These returns currently are in the range of 6-7% versus 4% on your savings account.

 

The objective of this corpus should be to provide enough to maintaining the essential household expenses + EMIs in case of sudden exigencies and or temporary absence of income. Thumb rule states this corpus should ideally support 6 months of household expenses, including EMI’s and Insurance Premiums.

 

Move towards conservative assets – If you feel the crisis period is going to be prolonged then you are better off cutting down on riskier investments and moving towards conservative assets. Why so? Because liquidity needs could crop up anytime. Hence capital protection and not capital appreciation must take the driver’s seat.

 

While in all probability this crisis might be short lived, planning for it should not be left unattended. Like the saying goes, “Better to be safe than sorry”! And checking off this list could just go a long way in maintaining that safety net at all times, even when you might feel down in the dumps financially.

 

Till then, happy flying!!!

 

 

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