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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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Like it or not, your Mutual Fund holdings, at least some if not all, are already undergoing significant changes. While the changes in some were predictable, there are instances where the proposed changes were never imagined. Now, everyone from advisors and distributors to AMCs and mostly importantly the investors are starting to scramble to make sense out of the commotion!

Since the mutual fund AMCs have started to list out the changes in their schemes, there have been plenty of eyebrows raised with some of their decisions.

For example, one particular AMC had a Liquid Fund and a Money Market Fund prior to re- categorization. As per the new re-categorization rules, there is a Liquid Fund and a separate Money Market Fund Category. The AMC has gone ahead and moved their existing Liquid Fund into the Money Market Fund category and vice versa!

Another major example is that of another AMC, where they have changed the mandate of an existing MultiCap Fund to that of an Aggressive Hybrid Fund (where only up to 80% can be invested into equities ) as per the new rules. In addition, they have decided to merge one of their existing Balanced Fund with this newly formed scheme. The N.A.V. of this newly merged entity would be that of the earlier existing MultiCap Fund.

The same AMC has dealt another googly by changing an existing pure Equity scheme to a Balanced Advantage Category Fund (a fund that manages debt and equity allocation on a dynamic basis). Note that there is no cap on either asset class as per new rules. Furthermore, they have merged another existing Balanced Fund into this new scheme, while keeping the N.A.V. of the prior equity fund. The fund could now theoretically go 100% into debt or the other way as per the discretion of the fund manager.

Another example is that of an AMC that had an Ultra Short Term Fund and separately also ran a debt fund that primarily invested into bonds of Banks and PSUs. Post the introduction of the re- categorization rules, the AMC has merged the above Banking and PSU fund into the Ultra Short Term Debt Fund. It has further gone on to change the mandate of an existing Short Term Debt Fund into a Banking PSU Fund as per new rules. Now imagine the plight of an investor who was anyways confused with the huge universe of schemes. If he/she is not careful, he/she might end up investing into the current Banking and PSU fund expecting to remain in that category when it actually will get merged into an Ultra Short Term Fund. Or he/she may invest into the current Short Term Debt Fund not realizing it will become a Banking and PSU fund shortly. These unintentional errors could have big implications later on the mutual fund portfolio.

There are thousands of mutual funds schemes out there. And if not selected right, which can often be the case, investors end up with a plethora of funds in their portfolio over time. Now imagine looking at your fund list and realizing that a lot of them are going changes and may come out as something new and unintended. In such a context, it is easy to make unintended errors or make ill informed decisions in deciding what to do next with your mutual fund portfolio.

It is with this concern in mind that Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors is conducting a seminar tomorrow at The Regus, Andheri West to enlighten both our clients and their friends and families, on the impact this massive reorganization of mutual fund schemes will have on their portfolios and how they can navigate these changes in an efficient way.

While it may seem a little inconvenient to come out on a Saturday 19th May 2018 to attend this event, the take away from this event could lead to much better decision making on your current mutual fund holdings in the immediate future!

 

 

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The universe of mutual funds within the Indian space is quite big; as per latest data on AMFI, to be precise. So it’s not particularly easy for an investor, especially a first time investor, to navigate through it to identify the right kind of mutual fund for his/her requirements.

In response to fund houses launching multiple schemes in one category, which confused investors, market regulator SEBI has come up with a new system for fund classification. The new system aims to bring uniformity to the schemes launched by different fund houses, thus facilitating scheme comparison across fund houses.

Based on the categories, mutual funds will be forced to either merge, wind down or change the fundamental characteristics of a particular scheme. This move could also have short term impacts on the portfolio on any investor depending on the schemes they have currently invested into.

As per the new classification, all open-ended mutual fund schemes will be placed under the following categories:

  • Equity
  • Debt
  • Hybrid
  • Solution-oriented
  • Others (index funds/ETFs/fund of funds)

Only one scheme per category would be permitted except index funds/ETFs, fund of funds and sectoral/thematic funds.

However, each of these categories will have sub categories:

  • Equity will have 10 sub classifications
  • Debt will have 16
  • Hybrid will have 6
  • Solution Oriented will have 2
  • Other will have 2 sub classifications.

That is a grand total of 36 classifications an investor can choose from.

As such, these new classifications will have varying impact on existing funds and consecutively on an investor’s portfolio. Such impacts could include:

  • Schemes will be forced to stick to their mandate:Funds often change their investing style based on market conditions. For example, a large cap fund may have sizeable mid cap exposure because its chasing higher alpha. But now, any drastic change will force the scheme to change its characteristics resulting in the same being communicated to the investors. So now the investor will not have to worry about the fund becoming something it originally was not set out to do.
  • Like for Like Comparison:As AMCs will have one scheme per category, it will be easier for the investor to compare the options available. All schemes of different AMCs of a category will have similar styles and characteristics, which will result in a “apples to apples” comparison.
  • Better choice by fewer options:With AMCs forced to ensure one scheme per category and fund labeling to be made in line with investment strategy, options will become lesser which should result in investors being more aware of their choice.
  • Need for review in the short term:With the latest mandates, one can expect a short period of fund houses realigning their products. As such, many schemes may end up being quite different they what they originally were. Therefore, investors may need to keep a thorough eye on their funds to watch out for any changes that may occur and act accordingly.
  • Possibility of reduction in performance:Like mentioned above, funds often change their investing styles to generate significant alpha. But after these regulations, alpha creation may be more difficult as the universe of stocks will be same for all schemes in a category. Furthermore, as per the latest mandate, if a fund wants to be categorized say as a large cap, it will have to invest only stocks defined as large cap as per regulations. So in the short term it may have to sell or buy some stocks which could have an impact on cost that would be borne by the investor. Also, as regulations would demand funds to rebalance their stocks as per the semi – annual publications of AMFI which enlist large, mid and small cap stocks, it may result in forced selling to accommodate any change in status of a stock, resulting in a possible negative impact on the performance of the fund.

Overall, while there may be short term practical hurdles for both investors and fund houses alike while adjusting to the new mandates, the general consensus has been that this move is a positive step taken by the regulators in the right direction as it will bring reliability and simplicity to investors. For any investor, it would be prudent now to get professional advice on how such changes may impact their own portfolios.

 

 

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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.

Picture1

(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:

Picture2

(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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Long Term tax gain tax

One of the biggest items that came out from the recent Budget has been the reintroduction of Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) tax. This tax is applicable on gains arising from sale of  :

  • Equity Shares in a listed company on a recognized stock exchange
  • Units of Equity Oriented Mutual Funds; and
  • Units of a Business Trust

The proposed tax is applicable to above assets if:

  • They are held for a minimum of 12 months from date of acquisition
  • The Securities Transaction Tax (STT) is paid at the time of transfer. However, in the case of equity shares acquired after 1.10.2004, STT is required to be paid even at the time of acquisition

(As per Notice by Ministry of Finance, dated 4th February, 2018)

There are two major points in regards to the proposed regime:

  1. The LTCG tax will be at a flat 10% for any long term gains in excess of Rs 1 lakhs, starting from Financial Year 2018-19 i.e. 1stApril, 2018. In other words, all long term capital gains realized up until 31st March, 2018 will be exempt from the proposed tax.
  2. There is a “Grand Fathering” clause, which in essence ensures that all notional/realized long term capital gains up to 31stJan 2018 will remain exempted from the proposed tax. This means that effectively the closing price of 31st Jan 2018 would be the cost price for LTCG calculations.

How would the Long Term Capital Gains Tax be calculated?

If you sell after 31.3.2018 the LTCG will be taxed as follows:

The cost of acquisition of the share or unit bought before Feb 1, 2018, will be the higher of :
a) the actual cost of acquisition of the asset
b) The lower of : (i) The fair market value of this asset(highest price of share on stock exchange on 31.1.2018 or when share was last traded. NAV of unit in case of a mutual fund unit) and (ii) The sale value received

Scenarios for computation of Long Term Capital Gain

  • Scenario 1:An equity share has been purchased on 1st Jan, 2017 at Rs. 100. Its Fair Market Value (FMV) as on 31st Jan 2018 was Rs 200 and it was sold on 1st April 2018 at Rs. 250.

As actual cost of acquisition is less than FMV, the FMV will be considered as cost of acquisition and therefore the LTCG will be Rs. 50 (Rs. 250 – Rs. 200)

scenario 1

  • Scenario 2:An equity share has been purchased on 1st Jan, 2017 at Rs. 100. Its Fair Market Value (FMV) as on 31st Jan 2018 was Rs 200 and it was sold on 1st April 2018 at Rs. 150.

Actual cost of acquisition is less than FMV. However the sale value is also less than FMV. Therefore the sale value will be considered as cost of acquisition and therefore the LTCG will be NIL (Rs. 150 – Rs. 150)

scenario 2

  • Scenario 3:An equity share has been purchased on 1st Jan, 2017 at Rs. 100. Its Fair Market Value (FMV) as on 31st Jan 2018 was Rs 50 and it was sold on 1st April 2018 at Rs. 150.

As actual cost of acquisition is more than FMV, the actual cost of acquisition will be considered as cost of acquisition and therefore the LTCG will be Rs. 50 (Rs. 150 – Rs. 100)

scenario 3

  • Scenario 4:An equity share has been purchased on 1st Jan, 2017 at Rs. 100. Its Fair Market Value (FMV) as on 31st Jan 2018 was Rs 200 and it was sold on 1st April 2018 at Rs.50.

Actual cost of acquisition is less than FMV. As sale value is less than both the FMV and actual cost of acquisition, the actual cost of acquisition will be considered as cost of acquisition and therefore there will be Long Term Capital Loss of Rs. 50 (Rs.50 – Rs. 100). Long-term capital loss arising from transfer made on or after 1st April, 2018 will be allowed to be set-off and carried forward in accordance with existing provisions of the IT Act.

scenario 4

Note, there is no clause of indexation on cost of acquisition. Setting off cost of transfer or improvement of the share/unit will also not be allowed.

 

LTCG on these instruments realized after 31.3.2018 by an individual will remain tax exempt up to Rs 1 lakh per annum i.e. the new LTCG tax of 10% would be levied only on LTCG of an individual exceeding Rs 1 lakh in one fiscal. For example, if your LTCG is Rs 1,30,000 in FY2018-19, then only Rs 30,000 will face the new LTCG tax.

What should you do now with your Equity Portfolio?

Even with the reinstatement of this tax, we believe that equities are still an efficient post tax investment avenue. We would therefore continue to recommend to remain invested in equities provided the investment horizon is long. Alternatively, if you require monies in the short term, this may be a sound window to book profits and shift to less aggressive avenues.

 

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blog 2With the recent launch of the ICICI Bharat 22 ETF, a lot of buzz around Exchange Traded Funds or ETF’s has been doing the rounds. Most investors may be wondering whether it is worth investing in ETF’s?

So what is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An ETF is a passive investment instrument whose value is based on a particular index and such a scheme mirrors the index and invests in securities in the same proportion as the underlying index. For example, a Nifty ETF will invest in the 50 stocks compromising the Nifty index. ETF’s are freely marketable securities which are traded on the stock exchange.

Since ETF’s trade on the exchange, their value fluctuates all the time during the market trading hours. This is different from the working of a mutual fund scheme which has a single Net Asset Value (NAV) per day that is determined after the trading hours are over.

Theoretically, ETF’s are structured to provide a variety of advantages to investors. The most prominent among them are as follows:

  • Diversification: ETF’s can provide a variety of diversification based on following themes:
  1. Asset classes such as equities, gold, fixed income
  2. Sectors such as financial services, consumption, infrastructure
  3. Based on market cap i.e. large, mid and small cap
  • Low Cost: One of the biggest attraction of ETF’s has been it’s very low cost structure, especially in comparison to Indian mutual funds. The low costs is primarily due to the fact that an ETF is a passive investment i.e. there is no active intervention in stock selection, re balancing based on a certain view. Therefore the costs associated with hiring professionals and the required infrastructure is avoided, resulting in a significantly cheaper product. Furthermore, most ETF’s have kept the expense ratios low to induce significant inflows from institutional investors. Following are examples of some commonly known ETF’s and their respective Expense Ratios
ETF Expense Ratio
CPSE ETF 0.07%
Motilat Oswal MOSt Shares M100 ETF 1.50%
Kotak Banking ETF 0.20%
ICICI Prudential Nifty iWIN ETF Fund 0.05%
SBI – ETF Nifty 50 0.07%
Average 0.38%

(Source: Value Research, mutual fund websites)

  • Suited to Efficient Markets: it is a global observation that passively managed funds have performed significantly better over actively managed funds where markets are more efficient. This is because in developed markets, all related information that should be priced into the equity market already happens, leaving very little space for the fund managers to beat their respective benchmarks.
  • Reduced Risks: Due to its passive structure, the risk arising due to stock selections by a fund manager are reduced. Furthermore, as an ETF comprises the same stocks in the same allocation as in the underlying index, tracking error is significantly reduced to the point of it being almost negligible. Tracking Error is the standard deviation between the returns of the fund and the underlying index. A lower tracking error indicates the fund is that the ETF will mirror the index more closely and therefore its performance will be more consistent with the same index.

Despite many advantages that ETF’s can bring to the table, in India they so far have been primarily avoided for the following reasons:

  • Liquidity: One of the major disadvantages plaguing ETF’s currently is liquidity. As ETF’s are traded on the exchange like any stock, its not always you will have to opportunity to either buy or sell at the desired quantity or price, depending on the type of ETF involved. However an alternative to this problem is the use of a market maker. A market maker is appointed by fund houses. They, on behalf of fund houses, provide quotes for buying or selling an ETF based on the current NAV of that ETF. This helps ensure liquidity for investors. Any investor can approach a market maker for transaction. The difference in their quote and the NAV of the ETF is called “spread”, is the cost for the services. –
  • Lack of awareness: Distributors receive negligible commission for recommending and executing an investment into an ETF. Because of these low margins not much efforts have gone into promoting ETF’s. Thus, most investors are unaware of what an ETF is and how it can add value to their portfolio.
  • Relative Underperformance over long term: While in theory ETF’s should out perform active managed funds in an efficient market, the point to note is that India is still some time from achieving that status. Hence actively managed equity funds, especially in the top quartile, are able to beat the underlying index, and ETF’s over long term horizons. This currently results in alpha creation which ETF’s may take time to match up to. The following table is a comparison between a random mix of actively managed equity funds and equity oriented ETF’s:
  1yr 3yr 5yr 10yr
Aditya Birla Sun Life Frontline Equity 26.62 10.21 16.89 10.61
Franklin Templeton Franklin India Prima Plus 24.86 11.17 18.22 10.87
HDFC Top 200 28.42 8.39 14.99 10.65
IDFC Premier Equity 30.35 11.72 18.68 14.08
ICICI Prudential Nifty 100 iWIN ETF 27.54 8.44    
Kotak Sensex ETF 23.88 5.36 10.7  
Reliance ETF Nifty BeES 26.78 6.7 11.91 5.75
S&P BSE Sensex 25.58 5.01 11.15 5.14
NSE Nifty 100 26.97 7.55 12.71 6.08
source: value express , date (07 Dec 17), returns data CAGR        

As in the Indian economy continues its march towards being recognized as a developed nation, there is fair certainty that ETF’s will have a far larger role to play. However in current scenarios, practical hurdles continue to keep them out of favor among investors. We believe that assigning a small allocation towards ETF’s, after due diligence, is sufficient basis investor’s risk appetite and investment horizon. As Indian Equity markets evolve, so will the ETF space and this will increase investors interest towards them.

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