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Anxious times lie ahead for employees across India as the season for the annual bonus starts in full swing. People often consider bonuses as “money found” rather than “money gained” and therefore almost always consider using these pots of income for discretionary expenses such as gadgets and treats and vacations. While there’s nothing wrong in indulging oneself, it is also equally important to have the big financial picture in mind.

And whilst the list of to-do items can be endless, we at Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors have distilled that list into a few essential options.

  1. Payoff those Debts: As crucial as it can get, reducing those crushing debts can go a long way to ensuring long term financial happiness. With that thought in mind, one should ideally those pay the ballooning credit card and personal loans which have very high interest cost. This could be followed by any car or educational loans, though do remember that an educational Loan has certain tax benefits. If nothing else, prepaying your home loan should also be considered though the pros and cons of prepaying the loan might be best arrived at after consulting with a registered investment advisor.
  1. Replenish Emergency Funds: Keeping funds aside for unforeseen events is a handy tool. And ensuring that tool is always at optimal levels is critical. Therefore, if you had dipped in those funds previously, the bonus is a good opportunity to return them to their originally intended levels. Ideally, anywhere between 3-6 months of expenses, including any EMI or insurance premiums, should be available in such funds.
  1. Revisit your Insurance Needs: Speaking of insurance premiums, it is common knowledge that with age, insurance requirements change. Chances are high that as you age, your health insurance premium might be bumped up or that you realize that your life cover is inadequate and needs an increase. Using your bonus for such needs is a prudent way to utilize the same.
  1. Pay attention to your unfunded Financial Goals: There may be certain milestones that may not have been attended to by you earlier. Some may be upcoming in the next year, while others could be years away. Earning a bonus is always a great time to re look at those goals and use the bonus to bridge any gaps that may be there to fund such items. This could also be, but not limited to, ensuring adequate investments into tax saving instruments as appropriate.
  1. Invest in yourself: They say the biggest asset anyone can have is himself/herself. Therefore, using the bonus to upgrade your skills/knowledge can be a rewarding decision for the future either by increasing your prospects for that next big professional leap or even increasing your earning capabilities.

While the above are some of the “to-do” items with bonuses, there are also certain “do nots” that one should look out for, such as:

  1. Although quite common, never over spend beforehand, especially with credit cards, with the assumption that you will receive adequate bonuses in time to cover for the same.
  1. Money in savings accounts usually vanishes quicker than one expects. So, don’t wait too long on deciding what to do with that bonus. You may find out that by the time you decide what to do with it, it has already been spent somewhere unknowingly.

Bonuses are the result of your hard work throughout the year, so ensuring that your bonus works as hard as you have, can go a long way to a financially secure future. By considering the items listed above, you are more likely to arrive at the right choice of what to do with your bonus. And if you are still confused, it is always advisable to bring on board professional advice to ensure that you are on the correct path.

 

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Your money matters – Simple steps to take charge of your money matters

1In today’s world, women are equal to men in most ways. Women have achieved high accolades and are doing very well in modern Indian, sometimes even better than their male counterparts!

However, when it comes to financial planning for their family, most times they take the back seat, leaving the details for the husband to handle. Financial planners are unanimous in saying that when it comes to making investment decisions, women rarely take an initiative. A study commissioned by DSP BlackRock Investment Managers Pvt. Ltd and conducted by global research agency Nielsen across 14 cities in India in July 2013, found that only 23% of working women make their own investment decisions.The reason often is that the complexity of products and the mathematics involved in financial planning makes it seem puzzling.

However, women should take control of their finances. Here’s what the empowered women should do when it comes to financial planning for herself and her family.

Create Self Awareness and Get Involved:The first step would be to involve oneself and start discussing these aspects actively with family. Women face different changes in life which affects their finances – be it marriage, child birth, divorce or death of spouse. If you are a single mother, the financial responsibility of raising a child needs to be planned. If you are just married, understanding the outlook of the spouse and jointly planning the future finances should be a top priority. Therefore, it is important to increase the financial awareness when all is well and to be prepared for adversities. Things to do:

  • Read articles / blogs / personal finance books
  • Discussing and take active interest along with spouse
  • Take the help of a financial planner or advisor
  • Attending personal finance sessions

Take advantage of various incentives provided for women:Both the private and public sector institutions provide financial incentives for women, most of which go under the radar. (1) Banks offer customized savings accounts with cash backs and rewards for women who spend using bank’s debit card on shopping, food, etc. Some banks also offer discounts on medical tests required by women like thyroid tests, etc. To save for their kid’s education, mothers can open a ‘Junior/Kid Account’ with the waiver of monthly account balance requirement if it is linked to a Recurring Deposit (RD) Account or a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). (2) While buying an insurance policy, women receive a benefit on the premium paid as compared to their male counterparts. Traditionally, women pay less premium than men for the same sum insured when it comes to buying a life insurance policy. (3) Many banks offer lower interest rates on home loans if a woman is applying for it or if she is the first applicant for a joint loan. The same goes for car loans too. (4) Some state governments provide certain exemptions with respect to stamp duty and transfer duty in case of sale deeds, conveyance deeds and gift deeds if the property is in the name of a woman.

  • Learn and know the available benefits available for women when buying products / availing loans

Cover Risk and Contingency:All the planning you do could be ruined in case of any emergency. Therefore, contingency planning comes before any investment planning. Such contingencies could be risk to life, health, hospitalisation or any unforseen emergency which may require her to step in financially. If you are a working couple or a single earning member family with a loan, having adequate life insurance ensures that dependants will not have to compromise on their finances in the income earner’s In regards to health, various medical research reports say that women live longer and may have more health issues compared to men. Therefore the need for health cover for women.

  • Have a contingency fund for your family
  • Understand and create enough life cover and health coverfor spouse and you

 Plan for Retirement/ Sabbaticals: For you, retirement can either mean retiring at the end of your working age, usually 60; or when you have children and decide to not work anymore. Various studies show that as women usually live much longer than men, therefore they may outlive their spouses. So, in order to have a secure retirement, it is essential to plan for it well in advance. Factors such as inflation, lifestyle, providing for dependants need to be synced together efficiently.

  • Understand the funds that you may need in retirement (with spouse and without spouse) and invest towards it
  • In case of sabbatical / pause in work, understand the income loss you may face from such a decision and work towards providing a buffer for it

 Investing: While women are known to be great savers, saving in itself becomes futile if savings are not deployed to grow. Women need to get involved in such aspects and contribute actively. Working women should also understand these nuances rather than letting the husband or father decide about her money and investments.

  • Involve yourself in investment decisions, slowly and steadily, to grow confidence and understanding of the subject

 Legacy Planning:– In case of wills, the voice for women to register their own wills is growing louder. Now, more than ever, women have assets in their names which if left without proper will/nominations, can inadvertently end up in the hands of a person for whom the asset was not envisaged. Women may also inherit their parents’ assets. Even in the case of the husband’s will, the wife needs to be informed of the existence and details of such a w Dealing with the loss of a loved one is challenging but can become easy if there is awareness and the lady of the family is prepared and informed.

  • Understand and be part of the will making process

 

From the above, you would have gathered how important it is for women to get started on money awareness. Getting women to manage money requires a mindset shift and the above steps, we hope, will give you some pointers on how to start managing your money matters. After all it is your money and it matters.

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blog 2With the recent launch of the ICICI Bharat 22 ETF, a lot of buzz around Exchange Traded Funds or ETF’s has been doing the rounds. Most investors may be wondering whether it is worth investing in ETF’s?

So what is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An ETF is a passive investment instrument whose value is based on a particular index and such a scheme mirrors the index and invests in securities in the same proportion as the underlying index. For example, a Nifty ETF will invest in the 50 stocks compromising the Nifty index. ETF’s are freely marketable securities which are traded on the stock exchange.

Since ETF’s trade on the exchange, their value fluctuates all the time during the market trading hours. This is different from the working of a mutual fund scheme which has a single Net Asset Value (NAV) per day that is determined after the trading hours are over.

Theoretically, ETF’s are structured to provide a variety of advantages to investors. The most prominent among them are as follows:

  • Diversification: ETF’s can provide a variety of diversification based on following themes:
  1. Asset classes such as equities, gold, fixed income
  2. Sectors such as financial services, consumption, infrastructure
  3. Based on market cap i.e. large, mid and small cap
  • Low Cost: One of the biggest attraction of ETF’s has been it’s very low cost structure, especially in comparison to Indian mutual funds. The low costs is primarily due to the fact that an ETF is a passive investment i.e. there is no active intervention in stock selection, re balancing based on a certain view. Therefore the costs associated with hiring professionals and the required infrastructure is avoided, resulting in a significantly cheaper product. Furthermore, most ETF’s have kept the expense ratios low to induce significant inflows from institutional investors. Following are examples of some commonly known ETF’s and their respective Expense Ratios
ETF Expense Ratio
CPSE ETF 0.07%
Motilat Oswal MOSt Shares M100 ETF 1.50%
Kotak Banking ETF 0.20%
ICICI Prudential Nifty iWIN ETF Fund 0.05%
SBI – ETF Nifty 50 0.07%
Average 0.38%

(Source: Value Research, mutual fund websites)

  • Suited to Efficient Markets: it is a global observation that passively managed funds have performed significantly better over actively managed funds where markets are more efficient. This is because in developed markets, all related information that should be priced into the equity market already happens, leaving very little space for the fund managers to beat their respective benchmarks.
  • Reduced Risks: Due to its passive structure, the risk arising due to stock selections by a fund manager are reduced. Furthermore, as an ETF comprises the same stocks in the same allocation as in the underlying index, tracking error is significantly reduced to the point of it being almost negligible. Tracking Error is the standard deviation between the returns of the fund and the underlying index. A lower tracking error indicates the fund is that the ETF will mirror the index more closely and therefore its performance will be more consistent with the same index.

Despite many advantages that ETF’s can bring to the table, in India they so far have been primarily avoided for the following reasons:

  • Liquidity: One of the major disadvantages plaguing ETF’s currently is liquidity. As ETF’s are traded on the exchange like any stock, its not always you will have to opportunity to either buy or sell at the desired quantity or price, depending on the type of ETF involved. However an alternative to this problem is the use of a market maker. A market maker is appointed by fund houses. They, on behalf of fund houses, provide quotes for buying or selling an ETF based on the current NAV of that ETF. This helps ensure liquidity for investors. Any investor can approach a market maker for transaction. The difference in their quote and the NAV of the ETF is called “spread”, is the cost for the services. –
  • Lack of awareness: Distributors receive negligible commission for recommending and executing an investment into an ETF. Because of these low margins not much efforts have gone into promoting ETF’s. Thus, most investors are unaware of what an ETF is and how it can add value to their portfolio.
  • Relative Underperformance over long term: While in theory ETF’s should out perform active managed funds in an efficient market, the point to note is that India is still some time from achieving that status. Hence actively managed equity funds, especially in the top quartile, are able to beat the underlying index, and ETF’s over long term horizons. This currently results in alpha creation which ETF’s may take time to match up to. The following table is a comparison between a random mix of actively managed equity funds and equity oriented ETF’s:
  1yr 3yr 5yr 10yr
Aditya Birla Sun Life Frontline Equity 26.62 10.21 16.89 10.61
Franklin Templeton Franklin India Prima Plus 24.86 11.17 18.22 10.87
HDFC Top 200 28.42 8.39 14.99 10.65
IDFC Premier Equity 30.35 11.72 18.68 14.08
ICICI Prudential Nifty 100 iWIN ETF 27.54 8.44    
Kotak Sensex ETF 23.88 5.36 10.7  
Reliance ETF Nifty BeES 26.78 6.7 11.91 5.75
S&P BSE Sensex 25.58 5.01 11.15 5.14
NSE Nifty 100 26.97 7.55 12.71 6.08
source: value express , date (07 Dec 17), returns data CAGR        

As in the Indian economy continues its march towards being recognized as a developed nation, there is fair certainty that ETF’s will have a far larger role to play. However in current scenarios, practical hurdles continue to keep them out of favor among investors. We believe that assigning a small allocation towards ETF’s, after due diligence, is sufficient basis investor’s risk appetite and investment horizon. As Indian Equity markets evolve, so will the ETF space and this will increase investors interest towards them.

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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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Financial Welness image 1The traditional thoughts on wellness usually revolves around health and nutrition. However, in our current lifestyle, achieving a good health and having decent nutrition involves regular check ups and having healthy eating habits; which may be kind of difficult if we are stressed about our money. If you ask a group of working people who are having difficulties sleeping at night the reason for this, chances are high that a good number of them will cite financial stress as the cause. The impact of such stress is not unknown to us, with impact on health and loss of productivity just two of the effects.

Here are just a few reasons why Financial Wellness should be giving due consideration in today’s time:

Financial Concerns can be a major source of stress

According to the 2017 PWC Employee Wellness Survey (a survey done for employees in the United States), more than Fifty Percent of the employees surveyed are facing some sort of financial stress.

The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey conducted by Willis Tower Watson further showed that Fifty Three Percent of Indian Employee respondents claimed to have some sort of financial worry i.e. either long or short term, or maybe even both. Furthermore Seventy Three Percent of these respondents claimed that these worries have caused them above average stress. Following is a chart depicting the data collected by the Willis Tower Watson survey:

One in two survey participants have some kind of financial worry!

Picture1

It can be a major reason for loss of productivity

According to the PWC survey, distractions due to financial stress is a real thing and it can lead to wastage of working hours. The survey indicated that on average, financially stressed people spend up to 3 working hours per week on dealing with financial matters and they are also twice as likely to miss work due to personal financial matters

Improves Physical Well being

The American Psychological Association’s 2016 Stress in America report stated that Sixty Seven Percent of those surveyed revealed that money was a form of stress. And that rise in stress can lead to stress related health concerns.

While these are certain aspects that may be more applicable to an employee, employers should also look at this as a prime employee engagement tool for the following reasons:

Financial Planning take Time

As mentioned above, the stress caused by financial worries forces employees to bring these to the work place. As such they devote working hours to such matters and also altogether take leaves to attend to various financial concerns/emergencies. This only increases the burden of the employer ultimately.

Increases Employee Productivity and builds Loyalty

We have already read how financial worries leads to a loss of productivity in the office. An efficient manner in which employers can counter such trends is to increase financial awareness among its employees. Thus not only will employees worry less and reduce work hours wastage, they are also more likely to use their well deserved breaks better and therefore not be absent from work. Providing financial wellness initiatives can make them confident of planning better for major events like Retirement. This ultimately leads to trust between the organization and its employees, a great source of encouragement for all employers. 

Employees want Support and improve their Financial Literacy

Financially burdened employees would like their employers to help them in achieving wellness. Employees who stress from money issues are looking for help to improve their financial situation.

Financial Well Being is steadily gaining acceptance as an important factor of consideration for one’s overall well being. As such it it becomes critical for an individual to ensure that his/her’s financial situation does not lead to issues that has negative impacts on different aspects of life. And as an employer, Financial Wellness initiatives can be a source of efficient employee engagement and possible retention strategy.

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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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