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Posts Tagged ‘Asset Allocation’

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been singifcantly higher news around Brexit and the importance of 23rd and 24th June for world markets, due to the Brexit. Let’s understand the possible impacts of Brexit on your personal finances.

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What is Brexit?

The European Union has 28 countries as its members. European policies currently aim to ensure free movement of people, goods, services and capital amongst its member states. Out of these, 19 members use Euro as its currency. Britain which is one of its members is evaluting whether it needs to stay in the EU or exit. That’s why it is termed as Brexit – ‘ Britain Exit’.

Bexit and your investments

There is a possibility of largely two scenarios in the referendum on the Brexit, that is,  either a leave or a stay. Let’s examine the impact of each of these on your investments separately. As indicated, this will be decided on the basis of a referendum which is going to be held on 23 June – a final decision will be taken on the basis of the votes.

Scenario 1– Leave

  • Depreciating Pound and Euro / Strengthening Dollar and Yen– Thus, if you have kids studying in the UK or planning to study there, you couldend up paying lesser.
  • Strengthening Dollar

The US dollar could then be expected to strengthen in the short term as investors will rush to Dollar as a safe investment vehicle. If you have any dollar denominated investments then those will increase in value.

  • Sell off in the emerging markets

In the short term emerging markets including India , as well as UK and European markets, could experience volatility due to flight of capital to safety . However, the expectation is that impact on India will be lesser compared to the other emerging markets due to its realtively stronger fundamentals. Thus, if you have investments in emerging markets then those might see temporary fall in returns. Do not panic and sell. Over the longer term, the performance of your emerging market funds will depend on the economic scenarios of the individual countries to which your fund is exposed to, apart from the temporary brexit effect.

  • Gold could become attractive

Gold is gaining importance as an  investment vehicle with rising global uncertainties. Therefore, Gold Exchange Traded funds, Gold funds and sovereign gold bonds could benefit from this price rise of gold, as well as strength of the US dollar.

Scenario 2- Stay

  • Equity markets could react positively

This will ideally mean increase in the value of your equity investments since world markets could do well, as the overhang of the Brexit has led to signficant market volatility over the last few weeks. A relief rally could follow, especially as multiple other EU countries are also at this point looking to see what the UK does with the Brexit.

  • Bond markets could be stable

If the brexit does not take place there may not be any selloff in the bond markets which means the yields could remain as is. The higher inflation ovehang on domestic bonds is likely to be the driver of bond prices going forward in that case.

  • Euro/Pound sterling could strengthen

There will be increased confidence in European markets and Euro could appreciate. Your Euro denominated investments could do well in this case.

All in all,

Since the outcome is hard to call currently, one may need to track this event carefully, and decide you investment strategy carefully basis the outcome of the referendum. In the short term volatility may be expected to be higher than normal, but do not take panic calls and stick to your asset allocation and overall financial goals and plans.

 

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Retirement is when you stop living at work and start working at living!

retirement 1

Retirement is not merely a goal but it’s a journey. There is more to it beyond merely planning for a desired sum as your retirement corpus.

Now that you are retired and you have an accumulated corpus with you, you have to plan wisely in order to sustain the sum till the end.

Expense management

The starting point of your exercise will be to have an expense pattern which you broadly have to stick to. There are many changes which will occur in your expense pattern now that you are retired.

Your retirement expenses will also have phases. Initially in your60s you may see a certain type of expenses going up. For example travel expenses. Now that you have all the time for yourself and your spouse, you may wish to go for multiple vacations –  either domestic or international. Another expense that may increase could be group memberships. You may join a hobby group or a club of your choice. Also it will take some time for your lifestyle to undergo a change so your lifestyle expenses may not change much in the first few years. Later on with age your choices and preferences may change. For instance you may no longer prefer restaurants as often, as you used to prefer at one point in time.

As you move towards your 70s your medical expenses may increase. Your medical costs will go up due to need for regular checkups and dependence on medicines. Health insurance and critical insurance do not cover your costs after a certain age. Even if they do, the cost is very high as the premiums increase with age. Therefore having a health care provision for your retirement is critical.

Plan for a regular and tax efficient stream of income

Another major change is that you will no longer receive any regular salary or business income.

Now that you have an accumulated sum, you have to plan your investments in a manner so that you can have a regular and a tax efficient stream of income. Do not be overly aggressive or overly conservative. Whilst the exact investment strategy may vary from person to person, the focus should be to maintain and grow at least a part of your existing wealth.

On the asset allocation front you have to move a portion of your investments into debt/fixed income instruments, and allocate a limited portion towards equity.

In order to have a regular stream of income you can start a Systematic Withdrawal Plan (SWP) from your existing set of mutual fund investments.  Opting for a dividend payout option could attract Dividend Distribution Tax, especially for non equity oriented funds. Therefore, SWPs can work well. Also dividendscould be irregular at times depending on dividend paying history of the fund but in an SWP you can choose a fix amount that you wish to withdraw.

You can also invest in the senior citizen savings scheme as it provides a better rate of interest amount compared to other small savings scheme options.Do remember that small savings rates have gone down and will be altered on quarterly basis going forward.

You can also look at Bank FDs. These provide an additional 0.25% to 0.50% extra rate to senior citizens which varies from bank to bank. Company FDs can be a slightly riskier option as compared to bank FDs.

If you have a self occupied property which you feel is no more needed since you kids have moved out and it’s only you and your spouse who need to stay, you might consider selling it and buying two smaller properties. One you can use as self occupied and other you can use to let out to avail regular rental income. Do consider the capital gains tax angle to it.

Make a will

It is a very important step. This makes transfer of wealth to your future generation smooth and hassle free.

Also have a nominee attached to all your investments and insurance so that there is succession challenges are reduced. Also make sure that someone knows where all you wealth and investments are lying so that your family does not have to struggle to get what you have left behind for them.

Have a Happy Retirement!

Image credit:www.cbtownandcountry.com

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In today’s volatile environment which largely stems from economic uncertainties from global markets, be it the Yuan devaluation some time back or Brazil being downgraded to junk or the September Fed meet on which everyone had an eye which resulted in no rate hike at the moment. The thing which most investors lose focus on is something that is called as long term investment perspective. By investing for the long term one will not try to time the market. Nobody can. We all know the simple rule of investment – buy at low and sell at high but invariably we tend to do it the other way round.

While focusing on short term we tend to buy stocks which have all the positive news around it and little do we realize the half of the time that news has already been priced in. If we focus on the short term our investments are bound to react to events in the short term both positive and negative. Whereas if we focus on the long term the returns will be impacted less by volatility and more by the performance of the investment instrument.

As per tax laws holding stocks beyond one year is categorized as long term but when it comes to investment an investment horizon of 3 – 4 years or more can be considered as long term. On the other hand when it comes to real estate it is far beyond that. Gold is another asset class but again it depends in which form it is held, whether in physical form as ornaments or in the form of ETFs.

Historical data also shows SENSEX had jumped 250% from April 1991 to March 1992 on the back of Harshad Mehta scam. He took crores of rupees from the banking system and pumped it in the market. The scam came to light when the State Bank of India reported a shortfall in government securities. That led to an investigation which later showed that Mehta had manipulated around Rs 3,500 crore in the system. On August 6, 1992, after the scam was exposed, the markets crashed by 72 percent leading to one of the biggest fall and a bearish phase that lasted for two years.

Similarly, from April 1999 to March 2000 SENSEX rallied 35% on the back of improving macroeconomic scenario – improved GDP numbers from growth in manufacturing, infrastructure and construction sector, falling inflation, healthy forex reserves and good industrial production numbers as against the year before and also the technology bubble was engulfing the rest of the world.

Again SENSEX fell 27% in March 2001 when the Ketan Parekh scam took place. A chartered accountant by training, Parekh came from a family of brokers, which helped him create a trading ring of his own. Be it investment firms, mostly controlled by promoters of listed companies, overseas corporate bodies or cooperative banks, all were ready to hand the money to Parekh, which he used to rig up stock prices by making his interest apparent.

Again in Feb 2008 SENSEX corrected by 8% approx on the day Reliance power Ltd. got listed. It closed 17% below its cost. Sensex witnessed a fall of approx 36% from 2008 to 2009 on the back of US Subprime crisis.

Following that there was a sharp pull back in equities between March 2009 to November 2010 led by global (Quantitative Easing announcement by US) and domestic (general elections) news flow. Putting all the pieces together the message to take away is that events will keep on happening but if one keeps a long term investment horizon it will be a safer bet.

The two main factors to consider before taking an investment decision for one self are ability and willingness. It is very important to know the difference between the two. Willingness is more about the attitude towards risk irrespective of the financial ability to do so. Ability on the other hand is financial capacity to bear the risk. It depends on income of the individual, his savings and expense pattern. It depends on the amount of money which one can keep aside purely for investment and not dip into it time and again for personal needs and can hold on to it even if they are not doing good at a particular point in time.

But again the point to note here is that if a particular investment is consistently a poor performer, one should plan an exit from the same and reinvest it in another suitable option. If one is not very good at deciding which stock to invest in and what the best time to do so is, then there are professionally managed mutual funds with different investment objectives from which one can choose.

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With literally thousands of stocksbonds and mutual funds to choose from, picking the right investments can confuse even the most seasoned investor. However, starting to build a portfolio with which mutual fund or stock to buy might be the wrong approach. Instead, you should start by deciding what mix of assets in your portfolio you want to hold – this is referred to as your asset allocation. You should consider an asset allocation strategy based on your

  • Time horizon: Asset allocation will depend on how long can you hold on to that particular asset and whether you need it for a particular goal. If you need any of your assets for let’s say a down payment for your house which is due next year, then probably holding debt/fixed income oriented instruments is an option you should consider. Examples of debt include Bank or Corporate Fixed Deposits, short term bond funds, short term bonds and ultra short term or liquid Funds. On the other hand if you have a long term goal like retirement, you can allocate a large portion to equity oriented instruments and lesser towards fixed income oriented instruments. As you move closer to the goal, you can keep reducing the equity portion while increasing the debt component.
  • Risk tolerance: This is different for each one of us. An individual should have a realistic understanding of his or her ability and willingness to stomach large swings in the value of his or her investments. Risk tolerance will depend on age of an individual – middle aged individuals generally tend to be more risk tolerant, as they may have more capital available for investing and have longer term goals.

 

In a volatile market scenario like the one we are witnessing now, and have also witnessed in the past, asset allocation becomes all the more important. The table below shows Sensex High and low on various dates. It also shows percentage fall from high. As you can see , the 1 year returns are as high as 105.9% from April 2003, but are also accompanied by a negative 1 year return to the tune of -31% from January 2008 during the US subprime crisis. Thus, had someone invested all of their money in equity prior to 2008 without a proper asset allocation in place, he would have incurred high losses in 2008. If someone would have invested keeping their goals, time to goals, risk tolerance, savings and expense pattern in mind, they could have held on to their existing investments while strategically rebalancing their portfolio as against panic selling and booking losses. The situation that we are facing now in 2015 around the Greece bankruptcy crisis and Chinese slow down have also resulted in Indian markets correcting significantly. The fall might look attractive to a lot of investors, and they might start buying irrespective of the asset allocation they might have charted for themselves. In our opinion, such events will come and go, and it will always be a challenge for investors to know how much further they could fall. Therefore instead of trying to time the market or haphazardly investing in what looks attractive,e one should go by ones pre defined asset allocation, because what looks attractive today may lose its sheen tomorrow.

Table 1 : SENSEX fall history

UntitledSource: Bloomberg, Reliance Mutual Fund

Historically, broad asset classes move in relation to each other are fairly consistently (for eg., when stocks are up, bonds tend to be down and vice versa). In diversifying the allocation across asset classes, you can potentially create a portfolio with investments that do not all move in the same direction when the market changes. However, if you only spread investments only by industry (eg. automobiles vs. pharmaceuticals), they are all in the same asset class (i.e., all in equities) and respond similarly to market changes. You are therefore open to much greater market risk. Asset allocation helps keep volatility in check.

Ultimately, there is no one standardized solution for allocating your assets. Individual investors require individual solutions. Asset allocation is not a one-time event , it’s a life-long process of progression and fine-tuning. Empirical data shows that it pays to be diversified across asset classes.

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A very good graph showing 10 steps to start investing  by UTI Mutual Fund house.

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Asset Allocation should also include global stocks and mutual funds as a diversification strategy is always better. Its always good to get the best of all global markets.

Break your home bias-page-001

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The cost of education is increasing at a rate faster than normal inflation. Do you have enough for your child’s education? Are you aware of the best options for doing so? Do you have to sacrifice your other goals for achieving your child’s education? Read the article by Vishal and do comment how you are planning your child’s education.image-0001

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