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Posts Tagged ‘Expenses’

Ulips

 

Unlike a pure insurance policy, a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a product designed to give investors the benefits of both insurance and investment under a single integrated plan. ULIPs are insurance + investment plans suited for investors with long investment horizons. They work well with investors who may not otherwise keep the discipline of investing as they usually come with long lock ins and high exit costs.

The tempting benefit ULIPs offer is the administrative convenience of not needing to execute the two legs of transactions i.e. insurance and investments separately.

From our experience with investors, we understand that there’s a good chance you already own a Unit Linked insurance plan (ULIP) that either your parents bought for you, or you landed up buying one in the hurry scurry of tax related investments, only to realize later that one should not be mixing insurance and investments.

In the case that you may have purchased a ULIP or you may be contemplating to buy one, it is critical to know a few important items related to them so that you are more aware of what you have or might get yourself into.

 

1. Understand the purpose for purchasing the ULIP – tax planning cannot be the sole motive

While tax planning is clearly on the agenda, you should also assess the objective for which you want to purchase an insurance policy. Is the policy being bought for long term wealth creation, retirement planning or building a corpus for your child’s future? A decision that is prompted solely by the need to save taxes often results in the purchase of a wrong or an unsuitable product.

 

2. Check the charges carefully

All Ulips come with a host of charges. Understanding each of them is crucial to understanding if the product is suitable or not. Such charges include:

  • Premium Allocation Charges: As the name suggests, these fees are to cover expenses incurred by the company to allocate funds, do the underwriting, medical expenses, etc.Your agents commission is also covered under this head.
  • Policy Administrative Charges: These are the charges that are deducted on a timely basis to recover the expenses incurred to maintain the policies under the fund.
  • Surrender Charges: Similar to the exit loadin a mutual fund, these are the charges applicable when encashing a part or the full investment in a plan. As we know that in most of the Mutual Funds, exit load is at about one percent. In ULIPs, surrender charges could vary from a few percentage points to very exhorbitant amounts, basically to deter investors from exiting the plan in a short horizon.
  • Mortality Charges: These are the fees that are deducted on a monthly basis to cover the costs borne by the insurerfor providing a life cover to the policy holder. Depending on the age and the sum insured, these charges are deducted for life cover.
  • Fund Management Charges: The allocation of investment in debt and equity requires the insurer to bear the costs of managing the fund.These are charged as fund management charges.
  • Fund Switching Charges: As the name suggests, switching from one fund to another requires the insuredto pay an amount for covering the expenses borne by the company for making the switch.

 

3. Understand the flexibility to Switch

An investor’s need for liquidity, time horizon, and risk appetite will determine the initial allocation but these change over time. ULIPs offer the flexibility of switching between the funds based on changes in market cycles and changes in investor preferences. The number of free switches during a policy year, the cost of switches and the ease of switching are factors that are important evaluation points when choosing a ULIP.

 

4. Analyse and estimatperformance

With the complexity of the ULIP structure plus the huge list of charges and expenses that comes with it, it is difficult to approximate the kind of performance the product may have given during its existence. Always insist with the insurance agent/advisor to show illustrations and data demonstrating how the fund would has performed and is likely perform considering markets ups and downs. More often that not, data would help you decide better on the decision to invest or not.

 

Probably the only benefit, though largely accidental, of an ULIP is that the investor’s money is locked in due to the structure of a ULIP, forcing him to think long term. However, it is needless to say that other options must also be evaluated in comparison to ULIPs before making a choice to invest in them. The most common strategy might be a combination of Pure Term Life insurance policies along with separate investments in Mutual Funds. But like every investment decision, the first step to take is to determine the investment horizon and risk appetite and not get swayed by fancy words or past performance.

 

 

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1 (1) (1)In a world where access to internet is becoming more and more widespread, information on almost anything is subsequently becoming easier to find, simply by “Googling” it. Furthermore, free information quite often results in self proclaimed experts of the field, sometimes resulting in unfavorable outcomes for anyone who follows their views/advice without understanding how such individuals arrived at those outlooks.

As such it is important to separate a few facts from myths in terms of what data an individual should consider when faced with some common financial planning aspects rather than what is most commonly/easily available of the internet.

Sending children abroad for higher education is no more a matter of consideration for the upper class families. Nowadays, more and more middle class families aspire to send their children outside India for their education. As such, planning for such an major event requires careful attention. The common misconception is to take simple average rise of Indian education costs and apply the same data for education in a foreign country. However, two critical data points get missed out in such an exercise, (A) the rise in education costs in that particular country to which you plan to send your child. It is inappropriate to consider the inflation numbers would be identical or even similar to that of India. (B) the rise/fall in the currency exchange rate for the two countries in consideration. The following illustration should help clear this concept:

Particulars % Change
Rise in average education cost of  universities in the U.S. in last 10 years 5%
Rise in Currency Exchange rate in last 5 years 4%
Total Inflation to Consider 9%

Now In comparison the inflation rate for the Indian colleges is approximately 10%-11% p.a.

Talking about inflation, another topic of debate is if the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data is an adequate inflation benchmark, especially for higher middle class/ HNI families. To put things in perspective, following is a snapshot of items considered in the CPI basket and their respective weight-age:

Sr. No Particulars Weightage
1 Food and Beverages 45.86%
2 Pan, Tobacco and Intoxicants 2.38%
3 Clothing and Footwear 6.53%
4 Housing 10.07%
5 Fuel and Light 6.84%
6 Miscellaneous 28.32%

(Source: Ministry of Statistics Programme Implementation Circular Dated 14th March,2017)

As you can see, the weight age of expenses, while more suitable for the lower strata of income generating families, might not be appropriate for the higher end. Something like expenses on food/groceries would certainly not be half the expenses. As such, while current CPI numbers are around 3.5%, indicating that going forward inflation is to be expected around that range, it would be right to assume that a middle class family living in Mumbai would face the same inflation rates. A more appropriate method would be to calculate the individual inflation of major expense heads i.e. food, rent, education, lifestyle expenses and find the average of the same. You would more likely discover a very different inflation rate compared to the CPI.

Past returns is a favorite filter for most investors when choosing products of an asset class, especially stocks and mutual funds. However almost all online data provided by various service providers show Trailing Returns.. Trailing returns show how a fund has performed from date A to date B, by simply seeing the difference in NAV of those dates. But it does not show how consistently it performed in that period. A recent upswing in its performance can skew the average of say a 3 or 5 year performance. To adjust for this, Rolling Returns is considered. It does not take only one block of a 3year period but several blocks of such periods. Thus it allows you to see a range of performances across blocks of time. They therefore capture performance of funds over different market periods, giving a more reliable view of the fund’s performance

Similarly, another topic of debate is usage of Total Return Index v/s Simple Price Index as a benchmark when selecting a mutual fund. A Simple Price Index only captures the capital gains due to stock movements in the fund. But the Total Return Index considers the capital gains and dividend paid by the companies to the investors. Hence it shows a truer picture of the returns. Almost all mutual funds today benchmark their returns against the Simple Price Index. This can result in showing higher alpha generation by the fund which may not give the right picture to the investor. For example, Nifty 50 Price Index over past one year (as on 27th October 2017) was 18.63 percent and Nifty Total Return Index for the same period showed 19.75 percent. Hence a mutual fund will show different alpha based on the benchmark used.

Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors believes that Rolling Returns and the Total Price Index are the correct data points to consider.

Finally, the widespread use of the general rule of thumb when it comes purchasing a Term Insurance Plan i.e. the sum assured is to be 15-20 times the annual income. Procuring a term plan should be about covering financial risks that may befall on the dependants in case of an unfortunate event. Financial risk does not only include loss of income but also other factors such as pending liabilities, future financial goals, current assets that can be redeemed shortly to meet any obligations. Such factors also play a significant role in determining how much cover needs to be taken.

Using the right data is critical during the financial planning process. As you can see, wrong data can lead to significant errors/assumptions which can have detrimental impacts.

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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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Remember your college days when you had to manage your pocket money between stationery expenses, conveyance expenses and lifestyle expenses. The amounts may not have been large and budgeting was critical. So what’s changed in your life today – most definitely the amounts involved, but then so have your needs and wants.  So its budget time again. Budgeting could be at an individual level, at a family level, at an organization level or even at a company level. From a Financial Planning perspective, budgeting at an individual and family level is critical. Budgeting is all about managing your incomes, expenses and cash flows effectively.

Incomes can be of different types. You can basically distinguish between regular income and irregular flow of income. Regular incomes can be your net salary income, government pension, income from business. All the other incomes like professional income in the case of free lancers for example could be irregular, interest income will last till maturity of investment, rental income will last for the tenure that you have let out your property and variable pays/bonuses if any will fall under irregular income.

images 1                                                       rental

Image Source: taxmantra.com                                                 Image Source: properji.com

If you have a regular flow of income then you should manage your expenses and develop a regular savings habit so that you can invest to achieve your financial goals.  If you have an irregular cash flow, then you need to plan your cash flows wisely because your income may not be regular but your fixed/non-discretionary expenses certainly are.

If you have an irregular cash flow, then you need to plan your cash flows wisely because your income may not be regular but your fixed/non-discretionary expenses certainly are.

There are two things you can do to address this. Depending upon the age you are in, you should invest in skill development which can earn you a regular income. If you are a freelancer for example or in a business which is seasonal in nature and it does not occupy your time all 365 days, then maybe you can master some professional skills which will enhance your already existing skill set or maybe enhance your career in one way or the other. Sports professionals and actors, for example, may have shorter earning life spans and thus may need to build their skills accordingly.

The other thing you can do is that you can plan a portfolio in such a way that your investments will provide you regular flow of income. It can be done in the following manner:

Emergency-funds

Image source: businessdayonline.com

  • Since your primary goal is always  to meet your regular expenses, start of by creating a contingency fund which accounts for at least 6 months of your non-discretionary expenses like your children’s school fees, your EMI if you have any, your basic monthly household expenditure, amongst other things. If both you are your spouse are working, you could plan for 3 months.
  • Do not block all your money into investments that are illiquid ,even though the returns they may be offering you could be tempting. Ensure you have enough liquidity at all points in time to meet your regular expenses. Locking in your money into illiquid instruments might not only make it difficult for you to exit but if you wish to exit in case of an emergency you may have to settle for a lower value. Investing in real estate is a classic example. People invest in it in anticipation of high returns growth but have to hold on to it for long periods till the time it gets an appropriate value, due to its cyclical nature. Emergency exits may require you to settle at lower valuations.
  • Invest in simple products which provide safety, liquidity and returns.
  • Investments should be made in line with your goals and not in isolation.
  • Have adequate life insurance cover so that in case something happens to you, it will help your family members to continue with same standard of living.
  • Health insurance and critical Insurance is a must. You certainly do not want to spend your hard earned money on high medical expenses.

Once you have your income and expenses in place, it is critical to begin the job of tracking them. Whether you use technology or an old fashioned diary for this, doing it is crtical. After all, a budget is not relevant if it is not tracked.

Whilst you may not be able to go to college again, you certainly can go back to budgeting for yourself and your family. It may be boring at first, but I promise you that you will enjoy the benefits of it some day.

 

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