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uncertain inflowsI have uncertain inflows – how should I invest?

Money may not be the end in itself, but for most, it is a means to achieve many necessities as well as aspirations. Therefore it becomes important how an individual plans to use his/her hard earned money. More so when the inflows are not necessarily streamlined and consistent like that of an employee. When your personal income is linked to the performance of your firm, a well thought out plan could be all the difference between financial stability or having to make huge compromises.

Being a HR firm owner can have its ups and downs. By following certain simple financial planning steps, you can have some peace of mind with regards to your personal financial situation even though you may not have a steady income:

  1. Contingency Fund: This is a basic yet most critical part of any financial planning for a self employed individual. You never know when your next pay check may come. So it pays to prepare for the worst. Thumb rule has always been 3-6 months worth of household expenses to be kept aside in highly liquid assets as an Emergency Fund. Yet we feel that when it comes to a owner/manager, it should be at least 6-9 months worth of basic expenses!  A handy tip, do not forget to count any committed payments such as EMIs and any insurance premiums when calculating the corpus. 
  1. Risk Planning: or in lay man terms, Insurance Planning. This could be a considered an extension of contingency planning, but for very specific events. Following are the types of insurance policies one must always have at all times: 
  • Term Life Insurance Plan: The plain vanilla term plan is exactly the only kind of life insurance anyone should purchase. Handy tip, to know the amount of cover you might need, start with at least 15 times your annual revenue/income. Don’t forget, insurance should never be mistaken for an investment!
  • Individual Health Insurance: If nothing else, an individual health cover to at least cover your own standard hospitalization expenses is a must. Financial independence means you should be able to fend for yourself at the very least, even if it paying for your own recovery. 
  • Critical Illness Policy: Contracting a serious illness or undergoing a major surgery would mean a drag on your finances as well as a dent on income. Such financial risks can be mitigated by procuring a critical illness policy. Such policies usually provide for a lump sum payment to tide over the finances needed, in case of being diagnosed with a critical illness.
  • Personal Accident Policy: Another source of financial risk associated with most professionals is loss of income/job due to an accident. Similar to a Critical Illness Policy, this policy provides a supplement alternative income for certain weeks of disability depending on the terms of the policy. This can be used to either pay off medical expenses or help in taking care of household expenses during the recovery period.

While more types of insurances are available, it is essential that this set is acquired first. Having your Contingency funds and Risk Planning in place makes a strong base for you to venture into the world of investments.

  1. Planning for Retirement: Retirement, or as financial advisors put it, Financial Freedom, is something we all aspire for. The dream of not working for the sake of survival is a goal we all work towards. Yet having an uncertain income can make such a dream feel a little distant more often than not. And while retirement always seem likes a far off goal in comparison to what seem like more pressing concerns, it should ALWAYS be top priority! Underestimating your retirement financial needs can be the one of the biggest mistakes you could make and more often than not, people realize it far too late to make any significant course corrections. Even if you have to start with small amounts, it is the consistency and discipline that will ultimately help you reach your goal.
  1. Financial Goal Planning: Only after the first three steps are in place, is when you should really consider planning for the rest of the commitments/aspirations that you might have. As with any goal planning, the two critical aspects to consider are time horizon and future value of the goal, not current value. If you get these two right, the rest becomes clear.

For any individual with uncertain income flows, planning can become easier if you can channelize your savings, prioritizing in the above order! It is essentially in this area where the difference between financial planning for an owner of a firm/business versus that for an employed individual lies.

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FinalTreasuryManagmentAs the owner and /or CEO of your HR Consultancy firm, cash flow management is a constant topic of discussions with the finance and accounts team.

What do with the excess cash in hand? Where should it be deployed so that it works a little bit more and grows whilst being highly liquid and safe? How does one ensure that enough reserves are maintained to fund working capital expenses during the low business cycles?

What makes cashflow management critical is that it helps the firm maintain the business flow and also balance better returns for idle money. This in turn goes a long way in ensuring operational functioning and continuity. The question is how is this achieved?

First things first, when you talk about treasury management, you are indirectly referring to constant flow of money in very short time periods. And as most boutique/SME’s face volatile business turnovers, money can be required on priority basis at any point. Hence the priority in Treasury Management primarily lies in ensuring liquidity and safety of capital invested rather than high returns.

Secondly, while significant growth in short term investments should not be expected; it should not necessarily be considered that there are no better options other than the company current account. While Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits have been traditional avenues for company owners to park extra monies, they remain inefficient from a taxation perspective. Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) is a definite thorn as tax incidence is occurring even though there are no capital gains received in hand.  Furthermore, falling interest rate scenarios are making them an even less attractive option.

An alternative that should be considered is liquid/ultra short Term/ short term debt mutual funds. Two aspects they score over traditional avenues is (A) they usually do not have any exit penalties  as compared to bank FDs and (B) they are more tax efficient due to tax deferment, as tax incidence only occurs at the time of realised capital gains at the hands of the investor, and they are eligible for indexation benefits as gains from any debt mutual fund investment held for 3 years or longer are taxed at 20% after indexation, thereby improving post tax returns.

In addition, often companies decide to park certain monies with a longer term view. This could be to prepare for possible expansion/acquisition as envisaged in their business plans. But as the requirement of funds is not in the immediate future, short term investment options might not work out in the best interest. Hence separate planning should be considered for such investment purposes.

Last but not least, understanding past company cashflows and extrapolating the data to approximate future cashflows is essential to determine the kind of investment strategy would be ideal. This analysis, while including business growth projections, should also include current liability repayments and expected abnormal gains in the future.

While managing cashflows will indeed be a constant objective, through efficient planning and proper advisory it need not become a source of constant headaches.

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As was broadly expected, RBI cut policy rates by 0.25%, taking repo rates down to 6%. This was brought about largely due to the annual retail inflation in June to be the slowest for over five years and as expectations for inflation going forward remain at about 4%, a number that RBI seems to be comfortable with. In addition low core inflation, a good monsoon thus far and a reasonably decent GST roll out thus far. They also held the stance as neutral which was expected, considering that too many shifts in policy could impact long term credibility.

The good news is that the 6 member committee decision was not unanimous – four members voted for 25 bps cut, the fifth voted for a 50 bps cut and the last one voted to maintain status quo.  Hence repo rate got reduced from 6.25% to 6%, reverse repo rate from 6% to 5.75% and marginal standing facility (MSF) rate from 6.5% to 6.25%.

Big Image- What does the Monetary Policy mean for RBI monetary stance

Focus on the real rate of return

With interest rates remaining subdued, there is a tendency to want to take greater risk on the portfolio to achieve a higher absolute rate of return. We think that it is critical that investors focus on real rates of return ie the return after inflation on their portfolios. We believe RBI continues to keep its focus on real rates of return at 1.5% – 2%, which makes fixed income attractive at this stage. Avoid higher risk strategies in chasing a higher rate of return in the current environment, as the risk return trade off may not be favorable.

Your Investments

The decision of the MPC is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth. The neutral stance does not mean that there won’t be any future rate cuts, but it does seem like rate cuts going forward may be slow and investors expecting a repeat of the returns from bonds made over the last few years, are likely to be disappointed, if they have very high expectations.  The bond and equity markets had probably already priced in this 0.25% rate cut and thus they did not react  to this announcement. It may be a good idea to have bond fund exposure being weighted two thirds towards accrual/hold to maturity strategies and one third towards duration/dynamic strategies. With global bond yields in developed markets headed upwards, investors in equities may need to be careful, especially with equity markets priced to perfection.

Your Loans

The RBI decision to cut its policy repo rate to 6 per cent is likely to lead to a further cut in the lending rates, especially home and car loans by banks. New borrowers can expect EMIs to come down and which would also cut down interest outgo over the loan tenure. Banks may come also up with promotional offers till the festival season to attract more customers. Old borrowers under the MCLR would have to wait until the next reset period to get the rate reset as normally rates are reset once in a year. There is also an option for the old borrowers of switching the loan portfolio to another lender. The decision to examine how the shift to MCLR has worked, considering that most loans are still linked to the base rate, would be interesting to watch closely as RBI has set up an expert committee to look into how monetary transmission can be more effective.

Way Forward

With inflation being the focus of the RBI, the factors determining inflation as mentioned in the Monetary Policy include:

(a) The impact on CPI of the implementation of house rent allowances (HRA) under the 7th central pay commission (CPC); could be estimated to have a 1% impact on inflation over the next 12-24 months

(b) The impact of the price revisions withheld ahead of the GST; and

(c) The movement of food and fuel inflation.

Watch out for inflation, the movement of the Indian rupee and how the economic slowdown led by weak manufacturing and cape data, till the next RBI policy on 4th October 2017.

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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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