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According to Investopedia, “Geographical Diversification” is the practice of diversifying an investment portfolio across different geographic regions so as to reduce the overall risk and improve returns on the portfolio.

As with diversification in general, geographical diversification is based on the premise that financial markets in different parts of the world may not be highly correlated with one another. For example, if the US and European stock markets are declining because their economies are in a recession, an investor may choose to allocate part of his portfolio to emerging economies with higher growth rates such as China, Brazil and India.

There are two major advantages in diversifying one’s investment portfolio based on geography:

  • Taking Advantage of Opportunities in other Strong Economies:

A significant benefit to a geographic diversification of assets has to do with the way it allows you to mitigate risk by taking advantage of stable economies elsewhere in the world. It’s no secret that some economies are struggling to recover from the trying economic times of the last few years. Other countries, however, have seen higher growth rates due to a variety of factors. International portfolios have been shown, in general, to outperform domestic ones, this is because when there are so many markets to choose from, it is unlikely that the same country will ever repeatedly achieve the highest level of growth. With improved access to international markets and investment instruments such as mutual funds bringing down the costs, an additional option to further diversify has been to buy in international markets.

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(Source: Bloomberg, Kotak MF. As of 31st Jan, 2018)

The above returns data chart clearly shows that while the Indian Equity Markets have performed significantly in the last year, there were opportunities elsewhere which proved even better. Diversification into such economies can therefore result in better yielding portfolios.

  • Balancing out the risks:

While chasing better returns might definitely be one aspect of any investment portfolio, it is also crucial to understand how any strategy helps in mitigating the associated risks that are part of every investment decision. Geographic diversification provides a much needed balance that all investors strive for. If one of your assets is located in a part of the world that is or could be vulnerable, the investments in other geographies could compensate or buffer any unexpected losses. This is because despite the impact of globalisation, geographies and economies can still have limited correlation between them, and over time international markets could perform very differently to domestic markets. Following is a chart that shows how various sectors form part of some regions around the world, in % of total market capitalization:

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(Source: credit suisse global investment returns yearbook 2015)

As you may notice, different regions give different weightages to every sector. Thus by accessing these regions, you can in essence, reduce investment risks in individual sectors and therefore your entire portfolio as a whole.

Since the cycles that drive business and investment are experienced at different times in different countries, foreign markets seldom move in perfect tandem with each other. Losses in one market may be offset by gains in another. Geographical diversification significantly reduces the overall level of volatility and exposure to external factors. For an investor, theoretically this would mean that the more diversified your assets, the safer is your money. However it is true that a significant black swan event, such as the financial crisis of 2008, will likely deplete any such benefits, especially in the short term immediately after such an event. What is rather important to keep in perspective is (a) your investment horizon and (b) your risk taking capability to diversify into foreign markets.

 

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Ulips

 

Unlike a pure insurance policy, a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a product designed to give investors the benefits of both insurance and investment under a single integrated plan. ULIPs are insurance + investment plans suited for investors with long investment horizons. They work well with investors who may not otherwise keep the discipline of investing as they usually come with long lock ins and high exit costs.

The tempting benefit ULIPs offer is the administrative convenience of not needing to execute the two legs of transactions i.e. insurance and investments separately.

From our experience with investors, we understand that there’s a good chance you already own a Unit Linked insurance plan (ULIP) that either your parents bought for you, or you landed up buying one in the hurry scurry of tax related investments, only to realize later that one should not be mixing insurance and investments.

In the case that you may have purchased a ULIP or you may be contemplating to buy one, it is critical to know a few important items related to them so that you are more aware of what you have or might get yourself into.

 

1. Understand the purpose for purchasing the ULIP – tax planning cannot be the sole motive

While tax planning is clearly on the agenda, you should also assess the objective for which you want to purchase an insurance policy. Is the policy being bought for long term wealth creation, retirement planning or building a corpus for your child’s future? A decision that is prompted solely by the need to save taxes often results in the purchase of a wrong or an unsuitable product.

 

2. Check the charges carefully

All Ulips come with a host of charges. Understanding each of them is crucial to understanding if the product is suitable or not. Such charges include:

  • Premium Allocation Charges: As the name suggests, these fees are to cover expenses incurred by the company to allocate funds, do the underwriting, medical expenses, etc.Your agents commission is also covered under this head.
  • Policy Administrative Charges: These are the charges that are deducted on a timely basis to recover the expenses incurred to maintain the policies under the fund.
  • Surrender Charges: Similar to the exit loadin a mutual fund, these are the charges applicable when encashing a part or the full investment in a plan. As we know that in most of the Mutual Funds, exit load is at about one percent. In ULIPs, surrender charges could vary from a few percentage points to very exhorbitant amounts, basically to deter investors from exiting the plan in a short horizon.
  • Mortality Charges: These are the fees that are deducted on a monthly basis to cover the costs borne by the insurerfor providing a life cover to the policy holder. Depending on the age and the sum insured, these charges are deducted for life cover.
  • Fund Management Charges: The allocation of investment in debt and equity requires the insurer to bear the costs of managing the fund.These are charged as fund management charges.
  • Fund Switching Charges: As the name suggests, switching from one fund to another requires the insuredto pay an amount for covering the expenses borne by the company for making the switch.

 

3. Understand the flexibility to Switch

An investor’s need for liquidity, time horizon, and risk appetite will determine the initial allocation but these change over time. ULIPs offer the flexibility of switching between the funds based on changes in market cycles and changes in investor preferences. The number of free switches during a policy year, the cost of switches and the ease of switching are factors that are important evaluation points when choosing a ULIP.

 

4. Analyse and estimatperformance

With the complexity of the ULIP structure plus the huge list of charges and expenses that comes with it, it is difficult to approximate the kind of performance the product may have given during its existence. Always insist with the insurance agent/advisor to show illustrations and data demonstrating how the fund would has performed and is likely perform considering markets ups and downs. More often that not, data would help you decide better on the decision to invest or not.

 

Probably the only benefit, though largely accidental, of an ULIP is that the investor’s money is locked in due to the structure of a ULIP, forcing him to think long term. However, it is needless to say that other options must also be evaluated in comparison to ULIPs before making a choice to invest in them. The most common strategy might be a combination of Pure Term Life insurance policies along with separate investments in Mutual Funds. But like every investment decision, the first step to take is to determine the investment horizon and risk appetite and not get swayed by fancy words or past performance.

 

 

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SIP Plant

Mutual Funds have surely caught the fancy of the Indian Investor community with net flows crossing one lakh crores in 2017! Unlike in the past years, almost everyone we speak with has probably heard of mutual funds. The strong rise in awareness of this investment vehicle has even prompted the Association of Mutual Funds India (AMFI) to cash in on it, with their recent on going advertisement campaign, “Mutual Funds Sahi Hai”.

But what caused this sudden optimism and acceptance of mutual funds as an investment option? It clearly is not a “new trendy option”, for mutual funds have been around for over two decades. While a lot of its features and advantages may contribute to its overall success, one key factor that really has drawn the Indian investor to mutual funds is its ability to create long term wealth, not only for those who invest big lump sums in it, but more decisively, for the salaried class.

The most commonly availed route to invest in mutual funds for the a salaried investor has been Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). It has become synonymous with mutual fund investing. So how does an SIP work? And how does it help in long term wealth creation?

A SIP is simply an investment process to invest systematically every week or month or quarter into a mutual fund scheme at a periodic chosen date. The intent behind this process is that by investing small amounts over a medium or long term tenure, you are sidestepping the issue of market timing. Market timing being the decision to invest based on your view of market movement. As investments will be done over a period of time, such installments would get both the highs and lows of the underlying market, thereby averaging out the purchase cost. This concept is called Rupee Cost Averaging. But for the salaried class a SIP has been looked as a convenient method of investing, as investing monthly from the salary income is a easily achievable goal.

And what about the question of wealth creation? How can a SIP help with wealth creation?

A SIP is a great example of the Compounding Effect, referred to as the Eight Wonder of the World by Albert Einstein. Compounding, or Compound Interest, is the phenomenon where alongside the principal, the interest earned is also reinvested at the same rate of return. So if in Year 1 the principal invested was Rs, 10,000 at 10% rate of interest, the interest to be received at the end of the year would be Rs, 1000. Now because of compounding, the interest is added to the principal in the second year, making principal amount to Rs 11,000 on which 10% returns are gained, resulting in Rs 1,100 as interest in second year and so on so forth. This interest reinvestment is crucial because with passage of time, the increase in principal results in disproportional returns during the latter periods of the investment tenure.

The following table shows how certain equity mutual funds have grown a modest SIP amount of Rs 10,000 per month in the past 10 years:

Fund Name 10 year CAGR (rolling returns) Total SIP Amount Market Value
A diversified equity fund 24.72% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs. 51 lakhs
A large cap fund 22.98% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 45 lakhs
A flexi cap fund 22.96% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 45 lakhs
A large cap fund 18.96% Rs. 12 lakhs  Rs 35 lakhs

(Source: Value Express as on 30th Sept 2017) (Note: All fund data taken for regular plans with growth option)

The following chart shows the value of the investment accelerate due to compounding over time.

compounding effects in SIP

(Note: Fund data used is of Diversified Equity Fund from the above table)

Another factor to consider when thinking of compounding is time. The longer you invest and hold the investment, the better results it will provide. The following table is a clear example of the same. Taking the same funds as in the above table, if an investor started late and had to invest for the second half i.e. 5 years and even if he invested at double the SIP amount i.e. Rs 20,000 per month, he/she would not achieve the same end result:

Fund Name 5 year CAGR (rolling returns) Total SIP Amount Market Value
A diversified equity fund 19.36% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 36 lakhs
A large cap fund 16.07% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 29 lakhs
A flexi cap fund 19.05% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 35 lakhs
A large cap fund 18.92% Rs. 12 lakhs Rs 35 lakhs

(Source: Value Express as on 30th Sept 2017)

(Note: All fund data taken for regular plans with growth option)

As you may have noticed, barring the last large cap equity fund, all other funds performed significantly better over 10 year tenures, resulting in higher gains, even though in both cases the principal invested was the same.

As an investor you may have noticed various advertisements where mutual Funds are showcasing how much an SIP into their best performing star fund may have grown into, in a certain number of years. While the growth story in many such funds has been substantial, the key note all investors must keep in mind is that this is the result of staying invested into the fund for the long haul, including the times when the fund may have under performed. Compounding and a SIP will only go hand in hand when the investor has the horizon and patience to continue the SIP for a long tenure.

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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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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!

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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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