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National Pension Scheme (NPS) which is a defined contributory savings scheme was introduced by the government with an intention to provide retirement solutions for Indian citizens.

Under the NPS there are two types of accounts – Tier I (pension account) and Tier II (investment account).

  • Tier I is the a mandatory account which allows limited withdrawal options until the person reaches the age of 60.
  • Tier II which is a voluntary savings/investment account is more flexible and allows the subscribers to withdraw as and when they wish without any restrictions.

In Jan 2018, the PFRDA (NPS regulator) relaxed the withdrawal norms and allowed the subscribers to withdraw up to 25% of the balance after the completion of 3 years. The purpose of withdrawal included treatment of specified illness of a family member, education of children, wedding expenses of children and purchase or construction of house.

Partial withdrawals – some more options now

The PFRDA has recently added two more events under which partial withdrawal from the NPS can be made before retirement. They are as follows:

  • Partial withdrawal towards meeting the expenses pertaining to employee’s self- development/ skill development/ re- skillingwill be allowed. This includes gaining higher education or professional qualification for which the employee might require in and out of India. However, if such activities on request of the employee are sponsored by the employer then these will not be considered as a class for withdrawal as in such cases the employer bears all the expenses.
  • Partial withdrawal towards meeting the expenses for the establishment of own venture or a start upshall be permitted. However, if an employer-employee relationship exists, then in that case the partial withdrawal will not be applicable.

There are certain limitations to the partial withdrawal clause which remain unchanged:

  • The subscriber should have been a member of NPS for a period of at least 3 years from the date of joining.
  • The subscriber shall be permitted to withdraw accumulations not exceeding 25% of the contributions made by him or her, standing in his/her credit in his or her individual pension account as on the date of application from the withdrawal without considering any returns thereon.

For instance, if you have Rs. 2 lakhs in your account out of which Rs 1 lakh was contributed by you and Rs 1 Lakh was contributed by your employer, then you will be able to withdraw only Rs. 25000 or 25% of your contributions.

  • The frequency of total partial withdrawals shall remain unchanged i.e. the subscriber shall be allowed to withdraw a maximum of 3 times throughout the entire tenure of the subscription of the NPS. For the withdrawal, the subscriber must make a request to the central record keeping agency or the Nodal office.


Adding equities to your retirement corpus

In addition to adding more withdrawal options, there have also been increases in the allowed equity percentage to the retirement corpus. The percentage of equity assets that a subscriber can choose under active choice have been increased. The percentage of equity assets allowed has been increased to 75% from 50% (applicable for non government employees).

All in all the PFRDA is trying to make the NPS more attractive as a retirement solution. Depending on your age, time horizon, risk profile and current retirement corpus investments, the NPS could still prove as one of the avenues that you could consider using for building a retirement corpus.

 

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Today marked the second and much awaited Bi-Monthly policy statement by the RBI for the new FY 2018-19.

In line with what bond markets expected, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) delivered a 6-0 verdict on an interest rate hike by 0.25%. The was largely in line with market expectations post the release of the minutes of the last meeting and thus the bond market had only a marginal impact of this change.

However, the MPC also continued to maintain a neutral stance, indicating that it is trying to play a delicate balance between inflation and growth, and decisions are being taken basis news flow and fresh data coming in.

The MPC noted that domestic economic activity has exhibited a sustained revival in recent quarters and the output gap has almost closed. Investment activity, in particular, is recovering well and could receive a further boost from swift resolution of distressed sectors of the economy under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. This is in general good news for the economy.

Retail inflation i.e. CPI grew to 4.6% in April. The decision to raise rates is therefore in line with the objective of keeping the medium term inflation at 4% i.e. well within the 2-6% range.

Since the MPC’s meeting in early April, the price of Indian basket of crude surged from US$ 66 a barrel to US$ 74. This, along with an increase in other global commodity prices and recent global financial market developments, has resulted in a firming up of input cost pressure thus persisting in a high CPI inflation projection for 2018-19. On the other hand the summer momentum in vegetable prices was weaker than the usual pattern softening the food inflation in the short term, though this has been more than negated by the changes in oil prices. Household inflation expectations have also moved up sharply and  pricing power seems to be on its way up as well.

Taking these effects into account, the projected CPI inflation for 2018-19 is revised to 4.8-4.9 per cent in H1 and 4.7 per cent in H2, including the HRA impact. Excluding the impact of HRA revisions, CPI inflation is projected at 4.6 per cent in H1 and 4.7 per cent in H2.

Crude oil prices have been volatile recently and since consumption, both rural and urban, remains healthy and is expected to strengthen further, all this imparts considerable uncertainty to the inflation outlook, possibly on the upside. With an election year upon us and possible fiscal risks emanating, along with global outflows on the back of higher US interest rates and a falling rupee, this may not be the last of the rate hikes in our view.

Your Investments

Geo-political risks, global financial market volatility and the threat of trade protectionism pose headwinds to the domestic recovery. However, it also important that public finances do not crowd out private sector investment activity at this crucial juncture.

In most Emerging Market Economies (EMEs), bond yields have risen on reduced foreign appetite for their debt due to growing dollar shortage in the global market and on prospects of higher interest rates in Advanced Economies.

Equities continue to remain overpriced from a price to earnings perspective in spite of recent corrections and a better growth outlook. However, signs of improved demand and pricing power for companies, along with good growth expectations and better capacity utilisation,  bode well for earnings growth going forward. Corrections into equities could therefore be bought into.

Real rates continue to remain positive.The rising G-sec yield makes dynamic bonds and long term bond funds unattractive and the exposure to the same should be minimized. Bonds with a shorter duration of 3 months to 2 years are ideal in the given scenario. We therefore, continue to believe that investors should continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of lower duration and short term strategies.

Your Loans

Even before the RBI meet, the banks had begun hiking both their lending and borrowing rates. This rise in lending rates was brought about by the rapid increase in bond yields and increased loan demand, especially in private banks.

With an increase of 25 basis points by the RBI, the deposit rate of the banks could further increase which would be followed by lending rate hikes. Thus look at prepaying your loans with excess liquidity.

A 6-0 verdict is therefore a clear indicator that inflation targeting continues to be the MPCs primary role, and a conservative stance will probably give foreign investors a more positive view on India.

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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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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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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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