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National Pension Scheme (NPS) which is a defined contributory savings scheme was introduced by the government with an intention to provide retirement solutions for Indian citizens.

Under the NPS there are two types of accounts – Tier I (pension account) and Tier II (investment account).

  • Tier I is the a mandatory account which allows limited withdrawal options until the person reaches the age of 60.
  • Tier II which is a voluntary savings/investment account is more flexible and allows the subscribers to withdraw as and when they wish without any restrictions.

In Jan 2018, the PFRDA (NPS regulator) relaxed the withdrawal norms and allowed the subscribers to withdraw up to 25% of the balance after the completion of 3 years. The purpose of withdrawal included treatment of specified illness of a family member, education of children, wedding expenses of children and purchase or construction of house.

Partial withdrawals – some more options now

The PFRDA has recently added two more events under which partial withdrawal from the NPS can be made before retirement. They are as follows:

  • Partial withdrawal towards meeting the expenses pertaining to employee’s self- development/ skill development/ re- skillingwill be allowed. This includes gaining higher education or professional qualification for which the employee might require in and out of India. However, if such activities on request of the employee are sponsored by the employer then these will not be considered as a class for withdrawal as in such cases the employer bears all the expenses.
  • Partial withdrawal towards meeting the expenses for the establishment of own venture or a start upshall be permitted. However, if an employer-employee relationship exists, then in that case the partial withdrawal will not be applicable.

There are certain limitations to the partial withdrawal clause which remain unchanged:

  • The subscriber should have been a member of NPS for a period of at least 3 years from the date of joining.
  • The subscriber shall be permitted to withdraw accumulations not exceeding 25% of the contributions made by him or her, standing in his/her credit in his or her individual pension account as on the date of application from the withdrawal without considering any returns thereon.

For instance, if you have Rs. 2 lakhs in your account out of which Rs 1 lakh was contributed by you and Rs 1 Lakh was contributed by your employer, then you will be able to withdraw only Rs. 25000 or 25% of your contributions.

  • The frequency of total partial withdrawals shall remain unchanged i.e. the subscriber shall be allowed to withdraw a maximum of 3 times throughout the entire tenure of the subscription of the NPS. For the withdrawal, the subscriber must make a request to the central record keeping agency or the Nodal office.


Adding equities to your retirement corpus

In addition to adding more withdrawal options, there have also been increases in the allowed equity percentage to the retirement corpus. The percentage of equity assets that a subscriber can choose under active choice have been increased. The percentage of equity assets allowed has been increased to 75% from 50% (applicable for non government employees).

All in all the PFRDA is trying to make the NPS more attractive as a retirement solution. Depending on your age, time horizon, risk profile and current retirement corpus investments, the NPS could still prove as one of the avenues that you could consider using for building a retirement corpus.

 

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uncertain inflowsI have uncertain inflows – how should I invest?

Money may not be the end in itself, but for most, it is a means to achieve many necessities as well as aspirations. Therefore it becomes important how an individual plans to use his/her hard earned money. More so when the inflows are not necessarily streamlined and consistent like that of an employee. When your personal income is linked to the performance of your firm, a well thought out plan could be all the difference between financial stability or having to make huge compromises.

Being a HR firm owner can have its ups and downs. By following certain simple financial planning steps, you can have some peace of mind with regards to your personal financial situation even though you may not have a steady income:

  1. Contingency Fund: This is a basic yet most critical part of any financial planning for a self employed individual. You never know when your next pay check may come. So it pays to prepare for the worst. Thumb rule has always been 3-6 months worth of household expenses to be kept aside in highly liquid assets as an Emergency Fund. Yet we feel that when it comes to a owner/manager, it should be at least 6-9 months worth of basic expenses!  A handy tip, do not forget to count any committed payments such as EMIs and any insurance premiums when calculating the corpus. 
  1. Risk Planning: or in lay man terms, Insurance Planning. This could be a considered an extension of contingency planning, but for very specific events. Following are the types of insurance policies one must always have at all times: 
  • Term Life Insurance Plan: The plain vanilla term plan is exactly the only kind of life insurance anyone should purchase. Handy tip, to know the amount of cover you might need, start with at least 15 times your annual revenue/income. Don’t forget, insurance should never be mistaken for an investment!
  • Individual Health Insurance: If nothing else, an individual health cover to at least cover your own standard hospitalization expenses is a must. Financial independence means you should be able to fend for yourself at the very least, even if it paying for your own recovery. 
  • Critical Illness Policy: Contracting a serious illness or undergoing a major surgery would mean a drag on your finances as well as a dent on income. Such financial risks can be mitigated by procuring a critical illness policy. Such policies usually provide for a lump sum payment to tide over the finances needed, in case of being diagnosed with a critical illness.
  • Personal Accident Policy: Another source of financial risk associated with most professionals is loss of income/job due to an accident. Similar to a Critical Illness Policy, this policy provides a supplement alternative income for certain weeks of disability depending on the terms of the policy. This can be used to either pay off medical expenses or help in taking care of household expenses during the recovery period.

While more types of insurances are available, it is essential that this set is acquired first. Having your Contingency funds and Risk Planning in place makes a strong base for you to venture into the world of investments.

  1. Planning for Retirement: Retirement, or as financial advisors put it, Financial Freedom, is something we all aspire for. The dream of not working for the sake of survival is a goal we all work towards. Yet having an uncertain income can make such a dream feel a little distant more often than not. And while retirement always seem likes a far off goal in comparison to what seem like more pressing concerns, it should ALWAYS be top priority! Underestimating your retirement financial needs can be the one of the biggest mistakes you could make and more often than not, people realize it far too late to make any significant course corrections. Even if you have to start with small amounts, it is the consistency and discipline that will ultimately help you reach your goal.
  1. Financial Goal Planning: Only after the first three steps are in place, is when you should really consider planning for the rest of the commitments/aspirations that you might have. As with any goal planning, the two critical aspects to consider are time horizon and future value of the goal, not current value. If you get these two right, the rest becomes clear.

For any individual with uncertain income flows, planning can become easier if you can channelize your savings, prioritizing in the above order! It is essentially in this area where the difference between financial planning for an owner of a firm/business versus that for an employed individual lies.

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