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In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Friday recognized that a terminally-ill patient or a person in persistent vegetative state can execute an “advance medical directive” or a “living will” to refuse medical treatment, saying the right to live with dignity also includes “smoothening” the process of dying.

What is a Living Will?

It is essentially a document that sets out a patient’s wishes regarding how they want to be treated if they are seriously ill or in a permanently vegetative state. With this judgment, the right to die with dignity has been recognized as a fundamental right.

As regards personal finances, perhaps a big critical function that a living will performs is that it allows the maker of the will to prevent their family from financially overburdening themselves, sometimes to the extent of bankruptcy. Usually family members are spurred on out of love, guilt or a sense of duty to keep the patient alive, often at any cost. This results in the family’s financials going into disarray and jeopardizing their financial future and important life goals.

Who qualifies to write down a Living Will?

  • An adult who is of a sound and healthy mind and in a position to communicate, relate and comprehend the purpose and consequences of executing the document.
  • An adult must make such a will voluntarily 

What are the important items to cover in the document?

The judiciary has laid down guidelines on how such a document can be formed. They are as follows:

  • It should clearly indicate the decision relating to the circumstances in which medical treatment can be withdrawn.
  • Instructions must be absolutely clear and unambiguous.
  • It should mention whether the patient would like torevoke the instructions/authority at any time.
  • It should specifythat the patient has understood the consequences of executing such a document.
  • It should specify the name of a guardian or close relative who, in the event of the patient becoming incapable of taking decision at the relevant time, will be authorized to give consent to refuse or withdraw medical treatment
  • It should be in writing and should clearly state as to when medical treatment may be withdrawn or if specific medical treatment that will have the effect of delaying the process of death should be given.
  • If there is more than one valid Advance Directive, the most recently signed Advance Directive will be considered as the last expression of the patient‘s wishes and will be implemented.

How should this document be stored? 

The Supreme court has further laid down a road map on how the Living Will needs to be stored safely:

  • The living will should be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses. It should be countersigned by the judicial magistrate of first class (JMFC), confirming that the will has been drawn up voluntarily.
  • The JMFC will maintain a copy of the will and forward a copy to the registry of the district court of that jurisdiction.

Implementation of a Living Will 

The Supreme Court has described various checks on how a living will may be implemented:

  • Execution of the will can only be done if the medical board approves it. The medical board will consist of the head of the treating department and at least three experts from various specialized medical fields with at least 20 years of experience. The board can only give their certification (or not) in presence of the closest relatives. Furthermore, the board’s certification is only preliminary.
  • Once the board approves, the hospital has to inform the jurisdictional collector of the same. The collector will then appoint a separate board consisting of the Chief District Medical Office and three other experts from specialized medical fields. If this board approves the same, the chief medical officer will relay the decision to the jurisdictional magistrate who will then have to visit the patient at the earliest and authorize the implementation.

Any advantages of a Living Will?

  • Providesrespect towards a human being’s fundamental right to live and die smoothly
  • Doctors are likely to suggest appropriate procedures and medication knowing what the patient wantsas per his living will
  • A living willspares both the doctor and immediate relatives from taking difficult decisions
  • A living will could also spare the immediate family from the financial burden that comes up in cases of unnecessarilyprolonged medical procedures for a terminally ill family member

While Living Wills are common in the west, it is a very new concept in India. Although the general verdict, by and large is that this is a positive step in the right direction the complexity is still something that needs to be addressed.

 

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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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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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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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save on tax

The Tax Season is here! More appropriately, the time for providing those investment/expenses proofs that will give you the tax deduction benefits. Most individuals are therefore looking for smart tips on to how best avail benefits available to individuals so as to minimize their tax outflow.

While there are commonly known avenues that are utilized by one and all, following are some of the lesser known options that you could look into to optimize your tax planning:

  1. Section 80EE: In Budget 2016-2017, a new proposal has been made in which, first time home buyers are eligible for an additional tax deduction of up to Rs 50,000 on home loan interest payments under section 80EE. For claiming tax deductions under this new section 80EE, the following criteria have to be met:
    • The home loan should have been availed or sanctioned in FY 2016-2017.
    • The Loan amount should be less than Rs 35 Lakhs.
    • The value of the home should not be more than Rs 50 Lakhs
    • The buyer should not possess any other residential house under his/her name
  2. Section 80E: The entire interest paid (without any upper limit) on education loan in a financial year is eligible for deduction u/s 80E. However there is no deduction on principal paid for the Education Loan. The loan should be for education of self, spouse or children only and should be taken for pursuing full time courses only. The loan has to be taken necessarily from approved charitable trust or a financial institution only.
  3. New Pension Scheme(NPS): Employer’s contribution up to 10% of Basic salary plus DA (dearness aloowance) is eligible for deduction under this section above the Rs 1.5 lakh limit in Sec 80CCD(1). This is also beneficial for employer as it can claim tax benefit for its contribution by showing it as business expense in the profit and loss account. This comes under Section 80CCD(2).
  4. Leave Travel Allowance: LTA tax break can be claimed for travel of self and family members for journeys undertaken only within India.The non-taxable reimbursement of travel costs is limited to the actual expenses incurred on air, rail and bus fares only. The block applicable for the current period is calendar year 2014-17. The previous block was calendar year 2010-2013. Going forward, the new block will be 2018 to 2022. So make the most of this as any unclaimed allowance will not be carried forward into the new block!
  5. NRE Account: While Non Resident Indians face alot of complications with tax structure, especially Tax Deducted at Source (TDS), they also have some things going in their favor. For example, The interest earned on NRE account is tax-free and continues to be exempt for two years after the individual returns to India. In case a NRI returns to India,, It is suggested to retain deposits held in the FD NRE so as to earn tax-free interest for two more years. After two years, when the tax status changes, these deposits can be moved to the regular savings account or investments.
  6. 80RRB: Income received through Patent royalty (registered on/after 01.04.2003), under the Patents Act 1970 can be claimed up to Rs. 3 lakhs or the income actually received, whichever is less. The taxpayer must be a resident of India who holds the patent.

While it is important to reduce to tax outflow, it is even more critical that it is done in the right way and also by using all appropriate options. Furthermore, making ad hoc investments for last minute tax savings may mean compromising on the larger financial picture. Therefore take professional guidance from a financial advisor and a tax advisor, to ascertain a perfect blend of financial and tax planning and to maintain your financial plans on the right track.

 

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