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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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A few days ago, I had this terrible headache. My first reaction was to take a pain relieving pill thinking it must be a normal headache but my friend gently castigated me saying ,”Don’t take self-prescribed medicine. From the outside, it can look like a mere headache but you don’t know what’s within. There are myriad ailments with common symptoms. Your job is to go to the doctor and let him decide on the cause and remedy, so that you can go back to your job at the earliest.”

Let’s relate this example to our finances. We often think we know everything about finances. We have chosen star rated mutual funds, fundamentally good large company stocks, we are well informed traders, etc. Of course, we know that the medicine is good, but the key question is – are we taking the right medicine?

When it comes to our savings, we are saving in a disciplined manner. But do we know, what’s the optimum level of saving for ourselves and our family -are we saving less or more than we require? We are often under an impression that if we save a certain portion of our earnings, thats good enough. However, we still aren’t sure about the level of saving and types of investments that suit our age, goals, expenses, etc. As far as investment products are concerned we may be excited by some product which is apparently very attractive but, are we sure it’s really good? Or even if its good, is it suitable for our requirement?

If we admit that we need a specialist to handle our health, we need a specialist to manage the health of our finances as well. The specialist who will guide us through all our important transitions and be with us as a ‘FPG’ (Friend, Philosopher and Guide) for all our financial decisions.

Like a doctor who will first focus on your problem and not on the medicine to be sold, your planner will always be interested in you, your financial goals, needs, abilities, etc. and not on a product. Is it not time you stopped being your own doctor?

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Over the last few months, India has been in the news for a lot of reasons that have not exactly been flattering – corruption scandals, high deficit numbers, a sharp fall in its currency, a decadal low in terms of GDP growth, etc. All of this negative newsflow had made investors wary of investing in India and Indian equities, with most investors getting comfort by being in fixed income, real estate or gold. In spite of the sharp correction in gold prices, a large number of investors are viewing this sharp correction as an opportunity to add gold, rather than looking at it as a possible indication of the end of a decade of supernormal returns from gold.

We strongly believe that it is time for investors to start looking outside this comfort zone , that is, look at equities for four reasons:

Number 1, Low valuations – With forward earnings in the region of 1.3 to 14 times currently, we think that there is great merit in investors looking at what has happened in the past, when markets have been in these valuation zones. Investors buying into these valuation levels have in the past been rewarded with significant returns over the next 3-5 years. Whilst it is very common to hear that investors in the last 3-5 years have not made money in equities, we need to remember that valuations 5 years ago were closer to 20 times forward earnings, and therefore the advantage of investing in a low Price to Earnings environment did not exist at that stage.

Number 2, Sharp fall in gold prices and other commodities – A significant portion of the deterioration on the current account deficit has been on account of higher gold imports. With 1 year returns on gold now being negative and 2 years returns being in line or lower than bank deposits, we believe that it is only a question of time before investors start to question the future prospects of gold. We believe this is very common as most investors tend to look at returns from a rear view perspective, and just as they are uncomfortable with buying equities, because of its poor performance in the last few years, this is likely to start showing up with their gold purchases slowing down as well. Lower demand for gold should be good news for India’s current account deficit and currency.

Number 3, Low correlation between election years and stock market returns – Data from the past election years or the year before election years, do not seem to show any evidence of a strong correlation with equity market returns. In fact, if anything, equities have tended to do very well in these periods. Thus, we believe that the fear of uncertainty around elections is already priced significantly into markets currently, and investors with a 3-5 year view should be focusing more on low valuations and less on guessing the outcome of the election, especially if data from the past indicates that election outcomes do not have a high correlation with equity market returns.

Number 4, Majority views do not work with investment portfolios – Investor portfolios tend to get polarized towards particular asset classes due to high returns in that particular asset class. For example, most portfolios we see today are significantly overweight gold and real estate. Fund flow data ie where the majority is investing, has tended to show that the majority normally gets it wrong, and strong outflows from a particular asset actually make it a good time to buy. The significant outflows from equities over the last many months and years, and the low level of conviction, in our view are strongly indicating that there is every chance that the majority are going to get it wrong again and wealth is going to get created for those who open their eyes to equity today and build it to add up to a meaningful part of their wealth over the next six months to one year.

The biggest risks to this outlook come from high oil prices, so if I was an investor wishing to get wealthy today, I would keep my eyes wide open to see what is happening to oil globally. High oil prices are therefore your biggest risk to getting rich.

I urge everyone who does not have a meaningful exposure to equities to open their eyes to this opportunity to get wealthy, that seems to be available for those who wish to take it for the next 3-5 years.

The windshield of a car is many times larger than the size of its rear view mirror, so that the driver can focus more on the road ahead, with the rear view mirror being used sparingly. Unfortunately, in an investment portfolio, the rear view mirror gains more importance than the windshield, which can be very dangerous for the driver. Look at equities through a windshield, and not through the rear view mirror.

I cannot help but quote Sir John Templeton here – The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy.

 

Disclaimer : This communication is for informational, financial literacy and educational purposes only. This communication should not be construed as financial advice.

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I absolutely love summer, despite the intense heat in India. There are two reasons for this – firstly, summer vacation for kids which makes them so much happier ( I’m not sure if it’s the vacations or the mangoes that brings a broader smile on their face though), and secondly, unlimited ice cream to keep oneself cool and refreshed. A recent afternoon out with friends and family allowed me a double delight – having icecream with kids. Whilst each of us made our selection of ice cream, I realized that it had taken us the better part of an hour for four adults and four children to decide which ice cream flavor we wanted. The decision making process involved multiple criteria from the way of the ice cream looked to the sweetness of the ice cream, flavor, mood, etc . As I stood there and watched, I realized how personal each decision was in terms of the ice cream that was selected.
This seemed to be in sharp contrast to the way many investors take buying/selling decisions on their finances. When gold fell sharply last month, investors flocked to jewelers to buy gold, irrespective of the gold that they already have in their lockers and homes. When stock markets fall sharply, everyone looks for the exit door before it falls further, even if all they have left in their stock portfolios over the last few years is only a small percentage of their overall wealth. The boom in real estate has made selling a piece of real estate look stupid unless it was traded for a bigger piece of real estate. As investors become aware of the benefits of buying term insurance, everyone wants to have some of it in their portfolio, so what if they are old enough or wealthy enough not to need term insurance any more.
In my view, there really is no one size fits all strategy for your finances. What’s good for your closest friend with a salaried income, may be terrible for you as a self employed professional? What seems like a perfect investment strategy for your parents who are retired in India could be terrible for the money that you are sending to India to take care of your retirement 20 years later?
Blog imageThe moot question is – Do you have a financial plan that is for you or is it someone else’s plan/ product/ suggestion that you are following? To me, following someone else’s plan sounds a lot like going to a pharmacy, to buy a drug on the basis of the doctor’s prescription for your uncle.
Your personal financial plan needs to be about you – your vision for your ideal retirement destination, your vision for your retirement lifestyle, your vision for the quality of education for your children, your vision of how you would like your family to be taken care of in case something happened to you or your spouse, your vision of how you would like to be treated medically in case something happened to you. Basis your thoughts on each of these, your financial plan should incorporate your ideas and desires, which can get you where you want to be.
Whilst you enjoy time with your children and ice cream this summer, please take some time off to think if your finances are about you and your thoughts and ideas. If not, it’s time to use the summer break to think and draw up your personal financial plan, a plan that’s about you.

Author – Vishal Dhawan

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Meeting deadlines, adding value, juggling priorities, wearing different hats are a part and parcel of every entrepreneur’s life. Whilst there is a certain high that comes with all of this, it is also crucial for an entrepreneur to critically manage money, both for the business and himself/herself and dependents. Whilst efficient use of capital is one of the most crucial elements along the entire entrepreneurial journey, we believe there are two phases where managing money is absolutely critical. Money management during these two phases can go a long way in ensuring that the business can reach a stage where it is robust enough to survive, grow and flourish over longer periods.

Phase 1: Whilst you are planning to set up

Phase 2: In the first 18 -24 months of the business

Money management during both these phases can be fairly similar. Entrepreneurs still need to lead their personal lives, even as they go about building the blueprint for the business that is closest to their heart. With a significant number of entrepreneurs today quitting jobs to find their true calling, planning the capital requirements for their business, as well as to sustain their personal lives whilst positive cash flows from the businesses are yet, to happen are crucial. We would recommend that entrepreneurs focus differently on their personal and business finances.

Personal finances

1  Create a large contingency fund – Have 12 to 18 months of personal expenses ( including personal EMIs ) in financial instruments, wherein they can be accessed immediately, as well as have no significant risks of capital loss. Instruments like PPF and EPF accounts are not great friends of early entrepreneurs as access to funds in these accounts tend to be rather difficult and time consuming. Instruments like bank deposits and debt mutual funds without a lock-in are superior options during this phase. You may need to start drawing a small compensation during the latter part of this phase, so seek tax efficiency as well.

 2  Ensure that you are covered against risks in your personal life – Have adequate life insurance (buy term insurance as it is the most cost efficient) so that debts and living expenses of your family are adequately covered. Ensure that you have health insurance cover for your family and dependents in place for an adequate amount.

Business finances

1  Avoid risky investments with your business finances – Remember, the best returns over a period tend to come from your business so avoid other risky investments in this stage with funds which are needed for your business. For example, do not temporarily park funds into equity markets or real estate. At the same time, optimize your returns depending on your cash flow requirements, by building a tiered investment strategy. In case you cannot do this yourself, use the services of a financial planner. Liquid and debt funds can be very useful tools to consider.

 2  Focus on good costs, eliminate the bad costs -With a large number of businesses, getting started without external funding and needing to sustain using internally generated cashflows, it is crucial to keep costs under control. Look at costs as good costs and bad costs. Good costs are those that have a high probability of a success outcome, whereas bad costs are those with a low or no probability. This definition may vary from business to business, for example a swanky office may be a good cost in a consumer business, and a bad cost in a B2B model.

3  Use technology tools to the maximum – Through the use of mobile technology and the internet, it is now possible to manage your cash flows efficiently, with minimal commitment of your most precious resource during this phase i.e. entrepreneur’s time. Understand how you can use technology to manage cash flows and get superior returns on your temporarily idle cash in this phase.

Remember, whilst all rupees are equal, but some are more equal than others. More so, when you are a new entrepreneur.

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