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bonus 4

Anxious times lie ahead for employees across India as the season for the annual bonus starts in full swing. People often consider bonuses as “money found” rather than “money gained” and therefore almost always consider using these pots of income for discretionary expenses such as gadgets and treats and vacations. While there’s nothing wrong in indulging oneself, it is also equally important to have the big financial picture in mind.

And whilst the list of to-do items can be endless, we at Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors have distilled that list into a few essential options.

  1. Payoff those Debts: As crucial as it can get, reducing those crushing debts can go a long way to ensuring long term financial happiness. With that thought in mind, one should ideally those pay the ballooning credit card and personal loans which have very high interest cost. This could be followed by any car or educational loans, though do remember that an educational Loan has certain tax benefits. If nothing else, prepaying your home loan should also be considered though the pros and cons of prepaying the loan might be best arrived at after consulting with a registered investment advisor.
  1. Replenish Emergency Funds: Keeping funds aside for unforeseen events is a handy tool. And ensuring that tool is always at optimal levels is critical. Therefore, if you had dipped in those funds previously, the bonus is a good opportunity to return them to their originally intended levels. Ideally, anywhere between 3-6 months of expenses, including any EMI or insurance premiums, should be available in such funds.
  1. Revisit your Insurance Needs: Speaking of insurance premiums, it is common knowledge that with age, insurance requirements change. Chances are high that as you age, your health insurance premium might be bumped up or that you realize that your life cover is inadequate and needs an increase. Using your bonus for such needs is a prudent way to utilize the same.
  1. Pay attention to your unfunded Financial Goals: There may be certain milestones that may not have been attended to by you earlier. Some may be upcoming in the next year, while others could be years away. Earning a bonus is always a great time to re look at those goals and use the bonus to bridge any gaps that may be there to fund such items. This could also be, but not limited to, ensuring adequate investments into tax saving instruments as appropriate.
  1. Invest in yourself: They say the biggest asset anyone can have is himself/herself. Therefore, using the bonus to upgrade your skills/knowledge can be a rewarding decision for the future either by increasing your prospects for that next big professional leap or even increasing your earning capabilities.

While the above are some of the “to-do” items with bonuses, there are also certain “do nots” that one should look out for, such as:

  1. Although quite common, never over spend beforehand, especially with credit cards, with the assumption that you will receive adequate bonuses in time to cover for the same.
  1. Money in savings accounts usually vanishes quicker than one expects. So, don’t wait too long on deciding what to do with that bonus. You may find out that by the time you decide what to do with it, it has already been spent somewhere unknowingly.

Bonuses are the result of your hard work throughout the year, so ensuring that your bonus works as hard as you have, can go a long way to a financially secure future. By considering the items listed above, you are more likely to arrive at the right choice of what to do with your bonus. And if you are still confused, it is always advisable to bring on board professional advice to ensure that you are on the correct path.

 

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Your money matters – Simple steps to take charge of your money matters

1In today’s world, women are equal to men in most ways. Women have achieved high accolades and are doing very well in modern Indian, sometimes even better than their male counterparts!

However, when it comes to financial planning for their family, most times they take the back seat, leaving the details for the husband to handle. Financial planners are unanimous in saying that when it comes to making investment decisions, women rarely take an initiative. A study commissioned by DSP BlackRock Investment Managers Pvt. Ltd and conducted by global research agency Nielsen across 14 cities in India in July 2013, found that only 23% of working women make their own investment decisions.The reason often is that the complexity of products and the mathematics involved in financial planning makes it seem puzzling.

However, women should take control of their finances. Here’s what the empowered women should do when it comes to financial planning for herself and her family.

Create Self Awareness and Get Involved:The first step would be to involve oneself and start discussing these aspects actively with family. Women face different changes in life which affects their finances – be it marriage, child birth, divorce or death of spouse. If you are a single mother, the financial responsibility of raising a child needs to be planned. If you are just married, understanding the outlook of the spouse and jointly planning the future finances should be a top priority. Therefore, it is important to increase the financial awareness when all is well and to be prepared for adversities. Things to do:

  • Read articles / blogs / personal finance books
  • Discussing and take active interest along with spouse
  • Take the help of a financial planner or advisor
  • Attending personal finance sessions

Take advantage of various incentives provided for women:Both the private and public sector institutions provide financial incentives for women, most of which go under the radar. (1) Banks offer customized savings accounts with cash backs and rewards for women who spend using bank’s debit card on shopping, food, etc. Some banks also offer discounts on medical tests required by women like thyroid tests, etc. To save for their kid’s education, mothers can open a ‘Junior/Kid Account’ with the waiver of monthly account balance requirement if it is linked to a Recurring Deposit (RD) Account or a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). (2) While buying an insurance policy, women receive a benefit on the premium paid as compared to their male counterparts. Traditionally, women pay less premium than men for the same sum insured when it comes to buying a life insurance policy. (3) Many banks offer lower interest rates on home loans if a woman is applying for it or if she is the first applicant for a joint loan. The same goes for car loans too. (4) Some state governments provide certain exemptions with respect to stamp duty and transfer duty in case of sale deeds, conveyance deeds and gift deeds if the property is in the name of a woman.

  • Learn and know the available benefits available for women when buying products / availing loans

Cover Risk and Contingency:All the planning you do could be ruined in case of any emergency. Therefore, contingency planning comes before any investment planning. Such contingencies could be risk to life, health, hospitalisation or any unforseen emergency which may require her to step in financially. If you are a working couple or a single earning member family with a loan, having adequate life insurance ensures that dependants will not have to compromise on their finances in the income earner’s In regards to health, various medical research reports say that women live longer and may have more health issues compared to men. Therefore the need for health cover for women.

  • Have a contingency fund for your family
  • Understand and create enough life cover and health coverfor spouse and you

 Plan for Retirement/ Sabbaticals: For you, retirement can either mean retiring at the end of your working age, usually 60; or when you have children and decide to not work anymore. Various studies show that as women usually live much longer than men, therefore they may outlive their spouses. So, in order to have a secure retirement, it is essential to plan for it well in advance. Factors such as inflation, lifestyle, providing for dependants need to be synced together efficiently.

  • Understand the funds that you may need in retirement (with spouse and without spouse) and invest towards it
  • In case of sabbatical / pause in work, understand the income loss you may face from such a decision and work towards providing a buffer for it

 Investing: While women are known to be great savers, saving in itself becomes futile if savings are not deployed to grow. Women need to get involved in such aspects and contribute actively. Working women should also understand these nuances rather than letting the husband or father decide about her money and investments.

  • Involve yourself in investment decisions, slowly and steadily, to grow confidence and understanding of the subject

 Legacy Planning:– In case of wills, the voice for women to register their own wills is growing louder. Now, more than ever, women have assets in their names which if left without proper will/nominations, can inadvertently end up in the hands of a person for whom the asset was not envisaged. Women may also inherit their parents’ assets. Even in the case of the husband’s will, the wife needs to be informed of the existence and details of such a w Dealing with the loss of a loved one is challenging but can become easy if there is awareness and the lady of the family is prepared and informed.

  • Understand and be part of the will making process

 

From the above, you would have gathered how important it is for women to get started on money awareness. Getting women to manage money requires a mindset shift and the above steps, we hope, will give you some pointers on how to start managing your money matters. After all it is your money and it matters.

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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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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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MEdical emergencyPilots lead highly strenuous lives. They are responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers while flying a 200 ton highly advanced and pressurised aircraft. That’s a whole lot of responsibilities!

As such pilots are mandated to maintain high medical fitness standards. These stringent standards are kept in place to ensure pilots remain at the top of their health as long as they are on flying duty. Keeping this in mind, airlines can ground pilots on medical grounds, both temporarily and permanently. In either case, a pilot can face financial insecurities which can hamper his or her life’s plans. Therefore, it is imperative that pilots of today prepare for such kind of medical contingencies.

While avoiding a medical problem completely may not be possible, it is very much possible to mitigate that risk.  This can be done through meticulous planning and understanding what kind of financial products would help in such scenarios.

Firstly, let us look at a scenario where a pilot, say Mr. X, is temporarily grounded on medical grounds. These could be due a variety of reasons such as chest pain, congestion of the lungs, fractures or incapacity to fly due to external/internal injuries, even pregnancies!

A multi pronged approach can be used to deal with such an event:

One, pilots should always take a health insurance for themselves. This can be sought either personally, many times through the employer or certain pilot associations may also provide such policies. A basic health insurance policy helps financially tackle any hospitalisation expenses for general medical procedures. While this is a basic policy which every individual should have, pilots should go one step ahead.

Second, procuring a Personal Accident Insurance and Critical Illness Insurance plan should be very much on the priority list. In a nutshell, a Personal Accident policy involves payout of a lump sum in the event the insured suffers an accident.  Depending on the policy terms, payout is based on the severity of the injuries from the accident. Some policies have a beneficial feature called Temporary Total Disablement. This is a unique feature in which if the insured suffers temporary disablement of a certain severity, the policy mandates to give a weekly payout to the insured for a certain period! This can be highly useful if the insured is grounded for a while and has his/her’s income temporarily suspended. It becomes an ideal income replacement. Some insurance companies provide this feature for a period up to 100 weeks, that’s two years! Also some companies give a compensation up to a total of Rs. 5 lakhs. That is Rs 40,000 p.m. for 2 years. Not a bad proposition.

On the other hand in a Critical Illness policy, a lump sum is handed out to the insured when he/she is diagnosed with a severe illness that is under the coverage of said policy. The critical illnesses covered are kidney failures, some forms of cancer, major burns and major organ transplants to name a few. The lump sum from either policy can be considered as a replacement of income for the insured as the patient is most likely to be out of work for a certain period. As such the usual sum assured of such policies are in multiples of ten lakhs.

Lastly, tackling a temporary grounding is keeping enough monies handy to pay for the various tests and certifications the pilot has to pass to regain status of an active pilot. While some of these tests might be covered by the concerned employer, some might not, depending upon the certification and seniority of the pilot. And a lot of times these certifications have a substantial fee. So a dedicated liquid corpus to handle such situations is always advisable for pilots.

Like a temporary suspension of the job has its own hurdles, permanent grounding due to medical reasons has its own challenges that must be overcome. The biggest issue in such a case is obviously how to cope with the very significant loss of income. On top of that, major medical conditions add to the depletion in assets. Certain medical conditions related to cardiac conditions, optical and vision issues, mental disorders etc are such examples. Hence funding to treat this illness will also have to be arranged.  Such a sudden loss of income results in compromise on expenditure choices, especially lifestyle expenses. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if you are used to having the best of everything. While holding all above mentioned types of insurance policies goes without saying, in such a case this might not suffice. Hence setting aside a large enough corpus to deal with such an event has to be planned and arranged for. A lot of factors go into deciding what corpus this should be, such as current income, current monthly expenditures, estimates on current big medical surgeries and medication, inflation, age etc. It requires careful factoring of each aspect and coming to a reasonable amount that is feasible for the person but also able enough to help in such scenarios.

All pilots are aware of the risks that go along with not complying with medical and health standards. Yet many a times they blissfully remain ignorant to the fact of preparing for such events. A financial advisor has the required expertise to help with such contingency plans. Including them in such planning could mean all the difference between comfortably navigating a temporary/permanent job loss or leading a life of compromise and constant worry.

So prepare well before takeoff to have a safe flight!

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Retirement 1Retirement is usually something that is not considered by most of us till we are nearing it, so naturally we do not plan for it, until it is probably too late. This general ignorance or lack of attention to retirement planning can have far reaching consequences.

Retirement planning in the simplest sense means preparing for life after the tenure of paid work ends.  This does not only include the financial aspect, but other aspects such as what to do during retirement, the lifestyle choices that one can take and what dreams one might want to pursue during the remainder of the years.

While the concept of Retirement Planning applies to pilots just as it does to other individuals, there are certain unique points that are exclusive to retirement planning for commercial pilots. These unique points are crucial while developing a retirement plan for a pilot.

Firstly, under the current DGCA rules, the retirement age in India has been pushed up to 65. This is an entire 5 years longer than the mandated retirement age in most other industries. This translates to more income earning years, probably at the highest salary slab of the industry, since usually pilots around this age are most likely to have their designations as Captain. This extra income earning period is crucial in formulating and ironing out the retirement plan before the pilot ultimately retires. The significant income flowing could be the difference between living a compromised and a fulfilling retirement.

One of the most important things a commercial pilot has to consider is Lifestyle Inflation. Because commercial pilots have one of the best salary packages amongst all industries, they tend to have more lavish lifestyles. And they are comfortably able to match up the ever increasing expenses that come alongside their lifestyle choices. But on retirement, the salary stops. Yet expenses continue to stay, with inflation only adding to it. But more significantly no one would want to compromise on their lifestyle they have become accustomed to. As such it becomes imperative to plan much ahead so that lifestyle compromises don’t become the norm during your golden years.

Just to drive home the impact of inflation, let’s take an example. Consider a pilot Mr. A, currently 30 years of age and has a monthly expenditure of Rs 12 lakhs every year (not a very high amount, from what we hear from our pilot clientele). Assuming he will retire at age 65 and taking an average of 8% lifestyle inflation till retirement,  the same Rs. 12 lakhs expenditure will inflate to approx Rs. 1.75 crores. In other words, to maintain the lifestyle that costs Rs 12 lakhs as of today, Mr. A would require Rs 1.75 Crores annually to maintain the same expenditure choices, forget upgrading!

Furthermore, pilots are used to having extremely busy schedules. So when retirement hits, they are unprepared to handle the ample time in hand. Hence they always look for options to keep themselves engaged. This could mean, taking long leisure trips or finding, researching on and investing lump sums in “exciting investment avenues”, committing money to be part of a start up or just following their long drawn passions or enrol at the local flying clubs just so that they can regularly indulge their lifetime love of flying. All this comes at hefty financial expenditures.

All of the above means that Pilots would need to plan and develop customized retirement plans for themselves to ensure a smooth flight during retirement.

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