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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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India is currently among the most watched Emerging Market nations. To top that, the Indian Equity Markets have witnessed unprecedented growth in the recent months. The YTD returns for Sensex alone has been 26% (data from BSE India). The euphoria and high confidence on the Indian Equities has continued to remain, especially from the institutional investors both foreign and domestic.

This is also leading to make many individual investors question whether they should invest in equities or sit on the sidelines. While individual risk appetite and time horizon would be some of the basic factors to understand before investing, there are many other fundamental factors to track. While the debate has been raging on as to which indicators should be looked at or ignored to make sense of the valuations of the Indian equity markets, the following factors can help bring some sense of clarity to the overall picture. Factors such as:

Current Price to Earnings Ratio (P/E Numbers): One of the most traditional tools used globally at gauging the valuations of an equity market of a country. In the last one year alone (based on data from Oct 16 to Oct 17), the P/E Ratio for S&P BSE Sensex has averaged close to 22 times in comparison to its historical average of approximately 17 on a trailing basis. For the BSE Mid Cap and Small Cap of the same period, the P/E valuations are at an average of 33.8 and 81.13 times.

Corporate Earnings: P/E Ratios are directly linked to the corporate earnings of the country. As per Kotak Institutional Equities Estimates, the Expected Earnings for companies representing the Nifty 50 Index are approximately 2% in FY 2018. A variety of reasons are attributed to these low earnings expectations, most famously discussed are the implementations and effects of Demonetization and Goods and Service Tax (GST).

Crude Oil Prices: Nearly 80% of India’s energy needs are import dependent. A direct consequence of this is the risk to the country’s inflation rate if the prices of crude oil are to rise. A rise in oil prices results in lower cashflows/profits for companies and higher prices for consumers. Brent crude oil prices are currently firming up at prices upwards of 60$ per barrel. This is a definite concern from an Indian economy perspective.

Exchange Rates: The Rupee is currently considered overvalued basis its 10 year average (Source: Kotak Research). This has a dual impact on the economy i.e. (A) it increases attractiveness of imported products, resulting in increased competition for domestic companies and lower profits; (B) it decreases the value of exported products and therefore hurts the margins of export based industries such as the IT sector. Both have resulted in muted growth prospects for these respective industries.

Bond Yields: In an growing economy like India, both equities and bonds compete for capital. In a equity bull rally, money is taken out from bond markets and pumped into equities, forgoing risk to capital for riskier investments. Currently bond yields are inching up to the mid 2017 high of 6.987% yield for the 10yr G-Sec. However there has only been net inflows into fixed income. Foreign Portfolio Investments into Government Securities have already reached 83.94% of their allotted limit (data dated as per 6th Nov NSDL)

Inflation Rate: Inflation brings about it own risks to the stock markets. In the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the RBI revised the inflation projections for the rest of FY 2018 upwards to 4% – 4.5%. This may indicate a stop to future rate cuts, freezing any possibilities of reduction in lending rates. Medium term consequences for companies could possibly mean dearer than expected debt to  service, resulting in subdued profits and revenue.

Role of FIIs: The way that Foreign Institutional Investors park monies in the market can give an indication to the current picture of that market. While FIIs were very bullish on Indian Equities for most part of the calendar year, starting June they slowly but surely tapered inflows in equity, finally resulting in net outflows in the month of September and October. (Source: moneycontrol)

Global Scenario: On a global scale, economies are starting to look up, with further growth expected. According to IMF Economic Outlook, average expected GDP growth for FY 2017 is 2.5%. Globally, equity markets have participated in this growth including India. What probably may need to be put in perspective is that the rally in Indian Equities may be partly due to the global rallies taking place. Therefore the Indian equities are associated with risks in terms of foreign external factors like outbreak of war in the Korean Peninsula. Such events are likely to have negative impacts on the domestic markets.

Keeping in mind the above mentioned factors, Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors has a definite view that current equity markets are over valued and investors should exercise caution. The not so positive indicators from these mentioned factors should mean a significant correction cannot be discounted, keeping us wary of diving too much into equities without first educating investors of the potential risks in the short to medium term horizon.

 

 

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Crisis 5

In today’s ever changing world, with all the geo-political, social, and technological dynamics, job surety is no more a luxury anyone can afford. Be it the CEO of a M.N.C. or a mid level manager, the changing landscape compels us now more than ever to be prepared for the worst.

Even pilots aren’t immune to such extremes. From domestic industry uncertainties to global events, pilots need to be equipped to face such an eventuality. One such recent example is the Qatar diplomatic crisis. With the neighbouring countries cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and shutting down their airspace for any Qatar bound plane or vice versa, a sense of being besieged looms in the country.  Now while this does not directly result in job losses, such incidents raise the fear, specifically for businesses closely linked to Qatar.

Therefore prudence calls for having certain provisions in place that can help ease this fear. A sort of backup or cushion for facing an event you might have never fathomed.

A checklist of such provisions could possibly look as follows:

Self funded health insurance coverage is important – Most pilots would argue that the employer already provides for this. But that’s the point right? What happens if you get the golden handshake? Guess what, no more health cover. And even if you get a new one, they always come with a waiting period. This means you won’t be covered for a certain period from any pre existing illness. This would not be a situation that you would like to end up with.

 

Personal Accident Policy and Critical Illness Policy coverage – Extending the above point, it’s critical that pilots have a personal accident and a critical illness policy. In the months of no income, one needs to ensure that one is covered for all kinds of risk. In cases where families may have accident or critical illness exigencies during such a period, such types of policies are a godsend. Such personal accident policies, for example provide the insured with either weekly allowances or in some cases a lump sum payout depending on the terms and features of the policy. These payouts can be used for medical expenses that come along with treating such eventualities.

 

An Emergency Fund is a must have – A highly liquid investment is the preferred choice to host such a fund, as it’s meant for immediate use. While Bank FDs and saving accounts is the age old choice, research and time has proven they are better options out there. One such alternative is Liquid Mutual Funds. These typically provide the similar liquidity and safety – principal features that a bank savings account offers, but with the added incentive of significantly higher returns on the investment. These returns currently are in the range of 6-7% versus 4% on your savings account.

 

The objective of this corpus should be to provide enough to maintaining the essential household expenses + EMIs in case of sudden exigencies and or temporary absence of income. Thumb rule states this corpus should ideally support 6 months of household expenses, including EMI’s and Insurance Premiums.

 

Move towards conservative assets – If you feel the crisis period is going to be prolonged then you are better off cutting down on riskier investments and moving towards conservative assets. Why so? Because liquidity needs could crop up anytime. Hence capital protection and not capital appreciation must take the driver’s seat.

 

While in all probability this crisis might be short lived, planning for it should not be left unattended. Like the saying goes, “Better to be safe than sorry”! And checking off this list could just go a long way in maintaining that safety net at all times, even when you might feel down in the dumps financially.

 

Till then, happy flying!!!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So prepare well before takeoff to have a safe flight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As a passenger, getting from point A to B simply includes sitting on your assigned seat and enjoying the flight till the destination. You are completely unaware of the preparation and planning that goes behind every flight.  A smooth flight is an end result of the meticulous preparatory work including facing any emergency.

All sorts of emergencies can happen during a flight. Engine malfunctions, instrument failures and unanticipated weather issues are just some of the emergencies pilots can face at any time.  In such times the long hours of training, learning from past experiences and pre flight preparations comes to the front and saves the day. Sometimes passengers are blissfully unaware of the issue and continue to enjoy the flight. All this all possible because one aspect, planning! More specifically, planning for an emergency.

Yet, more often than not, pilots in the Indian aviation sector seem to be unprepared for one kind of emergency that is their own personal financial emergencies.

Personal financial emergencies can be broadly classified into two types based on nature of emergency i.e. (A) loss of job or life and (B) unexpected big ticket financial commitments.

While both can prove to be a heavy toll on one’s finances, if we look back to the last 5 years of the Indian Aviation Industry, job losses have been a major theme throughout.

Now as a pilot you earn a handsome salary starting from a young age. Hence your lifestyle tends to be on the more plentiful side.  And this only increases in significant jumps as you climb higher in your career. As such expenses are always on higher side. Luxury cars, high discretionary expenses, significant EMI’s and top notch education for children. All well within your reach. That is as long as you continue to earn that kind of money.

But what happens if you can’t? What if salaries are not paid for months or worse, you are given the golden handshake. What then? Take a step back and think about this for a minute. Ask yourself, will I be able to continue to live the life I have led so far under such circumstances; at least temporarily till I can get things back on track?

A majority of pilots will fail to have an answer to this. And that’s far from ideal!

So what should you do now? How do you start preparing for such unforeseen events? A thousand questions and ideas might run through your mind. Maybe you can get it right, maybe not. But with the help of a trusted financial advisor, who knows the intricacies of the aviation sector, you could stand a much better chance of confidently facing such troublesome periods, safe in the knowledge that you were geared up for it in advance. Exactly like handling an emergency while flying a plane.

As professionals specialized in planning for the worse, it definitely be worth your time for us to meet and discuss how to enrich your life.

Till then, happy flying!

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blog picPilots are probably one of the most stretched professionals when it comes to time management. The constant flux in schedules is always a hassle. Even when you are not flying you are on standby which means that you are still on your toes. The weekly off standard in the Indian Aviation industry is one day every week. And money matters are usually the last thing you want to tackle on such a day. Life is already stressful enough as it is!

By most industry standards, Indian pilots take away a very handsome salary. The more experienced you are, the more significant are your financial takeaways. But it is not all rosy all the time.

With the high earning potential at a pilot’s disposal, it becomes vital to channelize these earnings to fulfil a whole set of commitments and dreams that are unique to a pilot’s life, both during their career and post retirement.

But what are some of these unique problems that only pilots face? Pilots for once, have to always be medically fit. And for good reason! Priority to healthcare hence takes prime importance. Now a pilot reading this might say, oh we are covered by our company, so I don’t have to worry above covering any financial cost regarding my health. But if you really think about it, is that actually enough?

Another thing which pilots always need to be on top of is upgrading their skill sets. Not so much a unique item, but very important nonetheless. And it does not come cheap. Preparing for it well in advance can be far more beneficial than just scrapping up every penny at the last moment to fund for this expense.

One another issue is the state of aviation industry and opportunities. The last few years have clearly demonstrated that problems are plenty in the Indian aviation sectors. For e.g.  Airlines have closed down, (leading large time periods of unemployment), pay can be delayed significantly or indefinitely. All these lead to great financial complications for pilots and their families. Preparing for such circumstances is prudent and must at all times be actively considered.

Probably the biggest challenge a pilot will face is retirement! With no more significant inflows, you are faced with a very real possibility of compromising on your lifestyle just because of a lack of proper planning and this change is not easy! This struggle can be easily avoided with some proper and sustained guidance throughout the earning years so that you can live through your golden years in comfort all the while fulfilling your passions.

Pilots are well aware of the importance of planning. Every flight involves hours of preparation beforehand so that you can take the best possible decisions in terms of route, landing approach and understanding weather patterns of the areas you will fly through, just to mention a few!

As a fellow professional with a prime importance towards professional planning, it would be definitley worth your time for us to meet and discuss how to enrich your life!

Till then..Happy flying!

 

 

 

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