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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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For the past few months, there has been a debate on whether starups set up by teams in their twenties are more likely to succeed than those set up by teams in their 40s and 50s . While youth does stand for innovation as shown by Carwale, Ola, age also stands for wisdom as is evident from IBM, GE, Nestle and Ryanair. Just like myths exist around start-ups,there are many such myths surrounding personal finance too. This article was written by Vishal for the Indian Express five years ago. Whilst the blackberry mentioned in this article is probably dated, the myths around personal finances are still as relevant.. Please do comment if you have heard any other things that could be myths around personal finance in your view, please let us know and we would love to share our thoughts.image-0001

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Returning Indians

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For cricket enthusiasts, the last week saw two glorious innings and sixes galore at the World Cup from Chris Gayle and A B De Villiers. Indophiles were seeking the same from the first real budget of the Modi Jaitley duo – some big sixes out of the stadium or big bang reforms as it was more popularly known in the run up to the Budget.

So did Budget 2015 deliver on those expectations?
We thought there were a few sixes, but mostly a combination of singles, twos and boundaries, essentially an innings that is being built for the long term so that India is well prepared to hit many more sixes when it really matters.

  1. Inflation targeting agreement with RBI – Inflation and inflationary expectations have been a huge challenge for India, and we will now have both the Central Bank and the government willing to work together through a Monetary Policy committee to have coordinated action on the inflation front. Inflation is the single largest variable that influences your personal financial plan, so stability around inflation should be your biggest benefit as an investor.
  2. Roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by April 2016 – We finally have a clear date to look forward to, for a tax regime that is potentially much easier. Remember though, that GST will take a couple of years to settle down, and is not likely to change things overnight.
  3. Scrapping of the Direct Tax Code (DTC) – Stability of a tax regime is most critical and the DTC was trying to change too many things at once. It got a quiet burial in this budget.
  4. Focus on ease of doing business – Whether you run your own businesses or are salaried, the need to get rid of red tape and make it simpler and easier to move forward, will be of huge help. Plug and Play could be significant.
  5. Collaborative Centre State Relationships – The Big Daddy approach of the Central government, getting replaced by a collaborative approach and greater flexibility for states to spend their monies in areas where they think it is most relevant, is refreshing. After all, don’t we all think that it is critical to know what’s happening on the ground to finally decide.
  6. Focus on financial assets – With most Indian households having a significant portion of their wealth in physical assets like real estate and gold, there has been a significant effort to get savings towards financial assets. This focus is evident through the fact that even where the underlying asset could still be physical, products like Real Estate Investment Trusts ( REITs) and sovereign gold bonds get a fillip.

Union Budget 2015 and your financial life

Your income

  1. Additional 2% surcharge on annual taxable income – In case you earn more than Rs. 1 crore, you will need to pay a higher tax due to this enhanced surcharge.
  2. Transport allowance exemption doubled to Rs 19200 per annum – Most people will benefit, and expect your employer to restructure your salary so that this benefit is available for you.
  3. Additional tax saving of Rs 50000 per annum by investing in the New Pension Scheme (NPS) – Whilst the tax break is important, weigh this tax benefit vis a vis the fact that the returns from the NPS are taxable, and necessarily need to be annuitized to a significant extent. Ensure that your choice of a retirement product is not driven by the tax benefit alone.
  4. Higher deductions on health insurance – Limits raised to Rs. 25000 per annum for those below 60 and Rs. 30000 per annum for those above 60. In case of those over 80, even though they may not be covered by health insurance, medical expenses of upto Rs. 30000 will be permitted as a deduction.

Your expenses

  1. Increase in service tax – You will need to pay higher service tax for the services that you consume, as service tax has been raised to 14%. In addition, there is an enabling provision to charge 2% additionally as a cess, which may or may not be used. If introduced, service tax could then move to 16%.
  2. Better targeted subsidies – In the past, we may have all benefited due to the fact that subsidies were provided across the board. With significant focused on direct benefit transfers, expect these subsidies to be available only to those who truly need it. The JAM trinity (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile numbers) could have this working quicker than anticipated.
  3. PAN mandatory for all expenses above Rs. 1 lakh – Whilst this will help in curbing unaccounted money, let’s hope that the process does not increase notices to people who are paying all their taxes anyways.

Your Overall portfolio

  1. Scrapping of wealth tax – making it easier for you to decide on which asset class to invest in rather than worrying about tax arbitrage on one asset class over another.
  2. Asset allocation continues to hold the key – Whilst Union Budgets can tactically create some short term opportunities, this budget was devoid of any such big opportunities, and is a more workman like budget , getting you to focus on how your investments are structured to benefit from the long term story of India.
  3. Your overseas holdings need to be fully reported and taxes paid – If you have ever worked overseas or have any monies, bank accounts, assets held overseas and have been too busy to declare them, please ensure you do so now as the penalties are very significant from now on.

Your investments in equity markets

  1. Capital gains tax benefits remain as is – India has one of the most advantageous tax regimes for long term capital gains taxes in equity markets through stocks and mutual funds. There has been no change in this regard.
  2. Corporate tax reduction from 30% to 25% over four years – With the effective tax rate in India being approximately 23% currently, this is unlikely to be a significant change. In fact, for FY 15-16, corporate  taxes will go up marginally.
  3. Multiple answers for foreign investors – Many unanswered questions for foreigners have been answered – no retrospective taxation, GAAR being deferred, a composite cap for foreign investments instead of FPI and FDI limits separately, amongst others.
  4. Infrastructure gets a big boost – The multiplier that infrastructure growth can create, can be significant if the challenges of the past can be addressed. Initiatives like plug and play, greater focus on roads and power, and some innovative financing tools like the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, could move GDP up significantly, which could see India remain a favorite investment destination for foreigners to invest in through equity markets.
  5. High strategic disinvestment target – Whilst the companies that will be divested is unclear, there is an expectation that privatization could come back as details of this become clearer, ensuring the government stays in businesses only where it absolutely needs to.

As earnings continue to be sluggish, look to build your exposure to equities gradually over the six months to 1 year through systematic investment strategies, so that you can take advantage of volatility driven by news from overseas and domestic issues.

Your investments in fixed income

  1. Fiscal deficit at 3.9% of GDP– With the government sticking to its medium term target of 3% but moving it by a year, it seemed like a tight balancing act, trying to keep the foreigners and rating agencies controlled on one side, and people screaming for growth through higher spending quiet on the other.
  2. Net Market borrowing at Rs 4.56 lakh crores – There was a wide range of expectations on this number, and the fact that it has gone up only marginally vis a vis last year, will mean that supply of government paper will be controlled, thereby helping in controlling interest rates.
  3. TDS on recurring deposits and cooperative banks introduced – As a part of the widening of the tax net, recurring deposits will also be subject to TDS from June 2015 and deposits with cooperative banks will also be subject to TDS.
  4. Dividend distribution tax on debt funds hiked marginally – increased from 28.325% to 28.84 % is unlikely to have any significant impact.
  5. Tax free bonds make a comeback – With the focus on infrastructure, the government has announced issuance of tax free bonds, which should enable investors seeking to lock into interest rates for a longer duration, an option to do so.

Whilst the timing of the next interest rate cut is going to be challenging to guess, the expectation of lower interest rates in the economy over the next 12 -24 months should continue. Thus, having between one third to half of your portfolio to take advantage of falling interest rates through government securities, income funds and dynamic bond funds would be a suggested approach.

Your investments in gold

  1. Import duty on gold remains as is– There was a consensus view that import duties on gold would be reduced either partially or fully. They have been kept as is, keeping domestic gold prices elevated vis a vis international prices
  2. Introduction of sovereign gold bonds – Whilst gold ETFs and gold mutual funds already exist giving you access to the change in prices of gold without holding it physically, gold bonds are expected to also pay a fixed return, making gold a potential income generating instrument from only being dependent on capital gains for investors to generate returns. Details are awaited.
  3. Demonetisation of physical gold – With a significant amount of gold in India lying in cupboards and lockers, the gold monetization scheme that was announced is expected to get investors to deposit their gold and earn a rate of return on it. Similar schemes have not worked in the past, so we will have to see how it is structured to make it succeed this time.

Your investments in Real Estate

  1. Real Estate Investment Trusts ( REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trust (InviTs) get tax clarity –  Whilst these are very popular overseas, the lack of tax clarity prevented them from taking off. With the pass through status of these vehicles getting clarity, expect these to be launched this year, and a potential new addition to your portfolio.
  2. Black money reduction – Multiple steps like making it mandatory for all payments and receipts for real estate transactions above Rs. 20000 to be in cheque and a benami transaction prohibition bill should result in reduction of black money reduction in real estate.

So whilst India continues on its journey to retain its World Cup Cricket title, let’s hope the implementation of this budget makes India retain its most favoured investment destination status in the years ahead.

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