You Live Only Once, Keep it Stress free

Being thankful for what we have is one of the most beautiful feelings. But we often take this positivity too far. Very recently, I was talking to a friend about getting our residential complex insured against Fire. The friend dismissed my concerns saying that I am fretting for no reason and even her building is not insured. At the end of it, I felt like the pessimist in the argument, over-worrying as if hell is just waiting to break on us.

That evening, I read about fire in this high-profile high-rise and immediately called up my friend. It was my turn to make even. Well, not really. The friend conceded to my concern. She said that had it not been for our little chat, she would have brushed aside this news. But not now. She is going to press for fire safety & insurance to be followed to the T in her building.

Great! I thought as I hung up the phone and started reading about why we overlook Contingency Planning. I came across this interesting interview of Author Robert Meyer of the book The Ostrich Paradox – Why we underprepare for Disasters. He called optimism pretty dangerous – “excessive optimism is probably the most damaging one. The idea that triggers action is worry or fear over something bad happening to us, and if it never hits the radar screen, we’re not going to prepare for it. And so the more we ignore worst case scenarios, the more we think that bad things are things that happen to other people & not to us, the less able we are to prepare’’. (Read the full interview here: http://wwno.org/post/why-arent-humans-better-prepared-natural-disasters)

True said the author. We always assume that a calamity won’t hit us. If there’s fire, it would be in another building. If there’s theft, it would be in neighbor’s. If there’s accident, it would be another guy on the road, not us. Due to this, we never equip ourselves financially for the emergencies. However, there won’t be a sane financial plan, unless it accounts for an Emergency Fund.

What is an Emergency Fund?

A Girl Having an Accident

An Emergency Fund is the pool of money that we keep aside for unannounced large expenses so that we don’t have to compromise on living expenses. Emergency could knock in any form like loss of job, major house repair, sudden ailment in family, unexpected travel. The fund should be easily accessible almost like cash since you may not have the time to access investments.

The fund should be 3 to 6 months of your monthly running expenses. For example, if your monthly expenditure is Rs. 1 lac, then Emergency fund should be between Rs. 3 to 6 lacs. Having said this, it is not easy to set aside a large sum just like that. It requires a bit of planning.

How should you create an Emergency fund?

To create an Emergency Fund, you have to do some math. A quick step by step will help here.

  1. Chart your monthly income and expenses: This must include the essentials like rent, fees etc. plus other discretionary expenditures like shopping, movie, eating out.
  2. Set your amount for the Fund:Consider the total of all essentials in a month. That total will give you a sense of how much you need to keep afloat in case of any emergency.
  3. Work out a Saving Plan: To accumulate a large sum, you need to work out a strategy. Evaluate how much is ok to keep aside every month and how long you need to keep saving to achieve the set amount.
  4. Put Emergency Fund in accessible place: The money should be available even at mid night if required. So you can partly keep it in cash, partly in a bank and some in maybe a liquid fund (more on Liquid Fund later).
  5. Stay on Track: You may have a festive month or new (school) session month which may prevent putting money aside but ensure that you are back to saving from next month on. Discipline is key in securing yourself.

I am doing Emergency Fund building for myself and can vouch for the peace of mind I have had lately. After all, it’s one life & those gloomy skies are better off at bay.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/a-girl-having-an-accident_2188407.htm”>Designed by Freepik</a>

Simple math that makes most sense

edu_math

The back story

My 2-year-old almost every day stops over at the ‘Turtle Aunty Home’. After play time, he asks to make a pit stop on a floor below ours where this aunty has a pet turtle. He loves to watch the reptile respond to sounds, eat its given food and take its head out when it wants.

Yesterday, we reached her door. Even before we could ring the bell, ‘Turtle Aunty’ opened it to let a few children out of her home. Kids with heavy back packs and very solemn countenance made way into the lift. Aunty welcomed us in and while my son enjoyed his turtle time, the two of us got chatting. I learnt that it was a math tuition class called almost as an emergency since the next day was exam day. The class will assemble again next day to analyze the questions in the paper. I was impressed with her dedication. More chatting ensued as aunty went on to talk about her love for math.

The story of passion

She said she had always topped math exams in her school and made sure her daughters continued the winning streak. There were trophies of various sizes decorating her living room. As a child, she enjoyed the tag of a ‘bright student’ by family and friends. After her marriage too, her in-laws were won over in no time as they got to know about her fluency with the subject.

I heard her tale of passion and in my awe, asked her how she calculates her finances like budgeting and investing. Who else than a math whiz could excel in it. Suddenly, Aunty drew a blank. For a second, I thought I asked a wrong question. After a moment, she said that money management is done by her husband. He allocates monthly expenses to her which is the only part she manages.

Sigh! The tale of passion was now a tale of disbelief. “Never mind”, I thought and asked her for a glass of water. Such a capable lady deserves to do much more. And I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, to tell her that. Yes, it was time to introduce her to the real math – the 50-30-20 math.

The Real Math

We all broadly know what we want money to do for us. We just have to spell it out in what is called as short-term and long-term goals. These goals have to be achieved with some bit of planning. You have to do budgeting smartly to your monthly income post taxes.

50% of Your income – Essentials

To begin abiding by this rule, set aside no more than half of your income for the absolute necessities in your life. In general, these expenses would include housing, food, transportation costs and utility bills.

30% of your income – Discretionary

This is the category that can bring the difference. It’s the part you spend on your lifestyle and therefore the more you keep this in check, the better you can channel towards goal achievements and future.

20% of your income – Savings

This part should be non-negotiable. You have to allocate this amount to savings & investments after taking care of your loans and other debts. This is the part that makes your net worth / corpus / portfolio and will take care of goals.
While documenting my experience yesterday, I found this very simple representation of the rule.

rule-50-30-20

Aunty grasped everything in no time and had a few doubts to ask. I was extremely happy she took keen interest. Little man however, had his fill of the turtle and asked to be taken home. Aunty and I promised each other to continue our discussion later.

Now its me who can’t wait to make a pit stop at the ‘Turtle Aunty Home’.

What does a financial detox look like?

I was looking at my Instagram feed. My friend Manisha’s new post popped up. It was a photo from her off site. I thought to myself, “she looks resplendent”. Within a second, my watsapp was open and I was typing to Manisha. She was online and infact relaxing on a hammock under the evening skies. The breezy beach after a day of team building exercises was her only company at that time. We got chatting. I was happy to see her look so great, and told her so. She sent me lots of love. The next thing I asked her was how were things with her. She instantly knew what I was checking about and took the effort of replying in detail. She mentioned that she sorted her financial mess, quit the workplace nearby that made her feel a persona non-grata and joined another place at a far senior role. Travel is a bitch but she is in a deserving place finally. We said our bye-byes and fixed on the coming weekend to meet. Manisha, my friend had given me a panic call 4 months back. She had meagre savings, no major investments (an FD, a life insurance policy and a PPF), a home loan, a car loan, 2 high limit active credit cards. She lived an enviable lifestyle, drawing an earning of around Rs. 20 lacs per annum. Her husband’s salary was also a handsome figure. Between the couple they had split spends. Running expenses, children’s quality education and annual travels went to husband while Manisha helmed the responsibility of saving and investing. One day, they had had hosted family friends who asked them how they managed their portfolio. Both Manisha and her husband were flummoxed with the question, to say the least. That evening, I got the call. We met the next day. It took me half a day of discussing and questioning Manisha about her income, expenditure, assets and liabilities. Having gauged the depth of her situation, I made this recovery path of sorts and gave her to follow. Over the next fortnight, we got a lot of it implemented.

  1. Streamline Expenses
  2. Get rid of debts
  3. Define goals and invest for them

Let me touch upon it in some more detail so it could be of some use.

  1. Get your lifestyle on a budget

First up, I understood from Manisha what were her usual expenses like, how indispensable were they. In her case, there was a lot of impulse spending. Her credit card was swiped at the drop of a hat. There was not an iota of planning with money. Her credit cards had high outstanding amounts. We assessed her inflow and outflow and created a monthly budget to follow. Manisha was put on credit card detox with immediate effect. She also cleared the outstanding from the balance in her salary account. Here’s a tip. When you want to stay off credit cards, you can start spending in cash. This is what we did with Manisha. Using cards doesn’t give an immediate sense of losing money and therefore it’s much easier psychologically, to spend.

2. Say no to ‘em expensive loans Living in debt is the most hazardous way of living. The first step to financial semblance is getting rid of expensive loans. And like Manisha, when you have multiple loan accounts, you have to start with the most expensive loan – Credit Card. Next was the car loan. We did a little math here. She was half way through her loan. Fetching an 8 percent annually on FD was a sub-optimal choice. She was paying over 10 percent rate of interest on car loan. It took some convincing but Manisha had little options remaining. She discontinued her FD and closed her car loan account. Next was a joint home loan by her and husband. It was a rather large amount to pay up, plus the couple was getting tax breaks on interest amount as they both were in highest tax bracket. So, the home loan continued. But they decided to use their performance bonuses for the year to foreclose a part of the loan by foregoing their international holiday.

3. Don’t save. Invest. Merely checking your spends will never provide for future. It requires planning and consistency in investing, not just plain saving. We met a professional financial planner, who did a deep dive to arrive at what kind of monies they will require in future and how to achieve them. Their goals were bucketed in short and long terms. By cutting down on wasteful expenses, Manisha managed to save a considerable sum from her salary. All the money saved was pivoted towards well-chalked out goals. For short term goals, she invested money in debt funds. For long term goals, she started with equity funds. Manisha’s car EMI contribution was free now. The planner immediately started an SIP of the same amount. Manisha and her husband realized that their savings were much lesser than similar earning couples. They decided to increase their SIP amounts with every hike they would get. Having done so much of financial cleansing, they still were unable to work towards retirement planning. But it was now on their radar and in a year’s time they would get started on it. Meanwhile, I am not able to decide a place to meet Manisha. A fancy lunch never sounded vainer to me. Financial detox is very rewarding but not easy. Maybe, meeting for a walk or run would just be the best catch up.

Have you planned for your child’s future?

Diwali storms up the social whirlwig; food, dress up and meet up is all on cards. The usual worry of how to keep the kids gainfully occupied is thankfully averted during such catch ups. They find playmates and enjoy their time, which for us parents is a huge load off.

 This diwali, we too had some great fun socializing. A new parent couple among our friends got talking about how responsibilities are keeping them engaged. Life has been very different after their child’s birth and one responsibility they can’t get a handle on is money planning. More discussions among the group led to finding out that it is a rather widespread question, parents are grappling to figure. It obviously became imperative that a blog post covers the topic of planning our children’s future.

Before setting out on a task, we have to understand what is it going to achieve. So parents unanimously voted Education and Marriage as goals to work for. Both are gargantuan expenses and require disciplined action. Depending on your age, children’s age, your risk profile, choice of education field and costs involved you will have to ascertain a sum required after a said amount of time. We are mentioning the tools you can use for investing. 

SIP

When you keep a horizon as long as your child’s growing up years, SIPs in small to mid cap funds and balanced funds are your best bet. They let your money gain with the benefit of compounding year on year. For those with some risk appetite, consider funds which invest a considerable part in equities of growing companies. Balance funds are slightly less risky because they have equity and debt (such as term deposits, bonds) instruments both.

For the uninitiated, SIP is Systematic Investment Plan better known as ‘the good EMI’. You invest every month a fixed sum as small as Rs. 500 into a mutual fund. The fund is managed by a team of experts and they in turn invest in various instruments to generate returns. We have more posts on MFs coming momeys 😄


Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana
This has to be our favorite for those who have daughters. The scheme encourages parents to build a fund for the future education and marriage expenses for their female child. The scheme currently provides an interest rate of 8.3% p.a. (new rates are likely to be announced). It allows deposit upto Rs. 1.5 lacs in the name of your daughter every year and it matures when she reaches 21 years of age. You can either choose monthly or yearly contributions. Momeys should absolutely consider monthly contribution!

Insurance

Well it’s not our favorite, but we have to bring it into discussion to give you our reasons. If you search online for children investment options, you will find a gazillion ads by Insurance companies luring you with child plans. What should you do? Well our advice would be to ignore. They are mostly selling ULIPs to you which are far inferior in returns to mutual funds and charge expensive premiums. You might as well directly invest in MFs through SIP.

However, we have to add that you must take insurance, as life cover to safeguard your family and children in an unlikely event.

Gold ETFs

Gold ETFs are exchange traded funds that passively track the performance of Gold Bullion. These funds buy gold with investor’s money (on the behalf of investors) and convert it into units. 

Gold Exchange Traded Funds can also be an option if you want to invest for using them during marriage. These are traded on stock markets and are a great alternative to physical gold.

With children, you wouldn’t want to take a chance. So invest today for their tomorrow.

The Corporate Mom

Hello Moms! This is our part 2 in the Millennial Mom series. I am sure you recall our first one was The Media Mom.

To get started, I remember a discussion that dates back in time when I was a salaried employee. I was discussing my tax plan or rather the lack of it with another female colleague. I thought I was in pits as far as my investments were concerned, but to my utter surprise, my friend said that she has never made a single investment on her own. “There is something done by her husband on CA’s advice”, were her words. At that point, we were joined by another team mate and a senior, and the all women’s team shared their investments. A 5 year FD and real estate respectively were spoken of as their investments. But when asked, why these instruments, for what time horizon, what would be their future money requirements be like, these questions drew a blank. 

Now, Moms let me profile these women. Working millennial moms, married to high pressure jobs, over worked most of the times, all very well paid. Academically, management degree holders, fitness lovers, keen readers, well turned out, well travelled, conscious eaters and aware parents. Wouldn’t you expect them to be on top of their finances? But here’s the truth, they may have been HNIs along with their spouses but they were clueless about wealth creation.
Just like my colleagues, there are many millennial moms who have high disposable incomes but lack of awareness, interest and time add up to their financial ignorance. 
So there! We are sharing investments that the uninitiated can consider. These are overall recommendations which can aid in wealth generation and tax planning. However we do encourage our Corporate Mom to take help of a professional financial planner.

Emergency Fund: This is a critical element that we all must pay heed to. All the planning may go for a toss if we don’t keep an accessible emergency fund. Keeping all the money invested with a long term view may not be the best idea since exigencies can come down as a hard reality.

You should consider your 3 to 6 months expenses in emergency fund. If you are savvy about growing your money, then you can park the emergency funds in short term debt funds.

ELSS Funds: Equity Linked savings schemes are an ideal tax saving tool which can give better returns than traditional tax saving schemes. These are essentially tax saving mutual funds that come with a 3 year lock-in.

PPF: For those who are risk averse can invest in PPF for its tax efficiency but declining interest rates are definitely playing dampener on the returns. Plus a 15 year lock-in is a long enough horizon to get above-moderate returns from market linked products.

Mutual Funds: The equity markets have been climbing charts for the last few years. MFs have also been doing well therefore. Since MFs are professionally managed by a team of experts, they can be the best vehicle for working people. You don’t have to monitor market movements everyday basis. 

New investors with a long term horizon should start with large cap funds or balanced funds. 

The most preferred way for the salaried is Systematic Investment Plan better known as SIP. We will speak about it in detail in a following post.

Term Insurance: An important part of financial literacy is life cover. However due to misspelling and ignorance, it is not emphasized enough. Term Insurance is the protection that all income generators should take to cover for their lives in case of any uncertainties. It is a must for the Corporate Mom who makes a crucial contribution to household income.

In addition to above, working moms can also invest a small portion in Gold ETFs or if keen, then dabble in Equities with a long term view.

In the end, all we can say is investments don’t take as much time as we think. Moms and all women should consciously take steps towards investing. Remember Earning for Spending is not the deal, Earning for Growing is.

Checklist: How not to go broke this Diwali

It’s that time of the year when we all say Mera waala Pink.. We are feverishly preparing. Starting with Ganesh Chaturthi, followed by Durga puja, Diwali and right till Bhai Dooj, its packed with festivals. 

To give you a dekko of what all has played on our minds, here’s a cheat sheet of to-dos:

● New upholstery and wall painting

● Cleaning and home decor

● Sweets and savouries – home made and purchased

● Clothes 

● Gifting

● Pooja essentials and crackers

● Hosting a card party and attending a few 😄

This fervour is not going to leave anyone untouched. To achieve all this, major spends will happen. 

I recollect last festive season came as a big learning for a friend. Saying she went overboard in prep, would be an understatement. Some hasty swipes and she was up against massive credit card bills. Soon the festivals were upon us and she was having a delusional celebration owing to money worries.

To prevent from getting carried away, here’s is a checklist everyone should run past.

1. Have you checked inflow (salaries, bonuses received) vs. outflow (fixed expenses, bonuses paid to support staff or house help)? 

2. Have you made a festival shopping budget?

3. Have you made a list of people you need to gift?

4. Are there things you can up-cycle from some other time – especially clothes / gifts / crackers

5. Have you considered saving / investing a part of your diwali bonus?

6. Can you recycle the ethnic attire in the upcoming wedding season?

7. Are you ditching physical gold purchase for ETFs or a child plan?

8. If bringing home a new car, have you paid maximum possible down payment to keep EMIs reasonable?

9. Have you regularised your festival leaves with your boss to avoid loss of pay?

10. Can you manage yourself rather than calling for professional services like home cleaning, decorations and catering?

A motley of measures can save you the post celebration crunch. Have a happy Diwali Momeys! 😊

Millennial Mom

Have you often caught yourself saying, “Life’s one heck of a bitch right now”. Finding your plates too full or sometimes too much to juggle between – you must be a Millennial Mom.

Millennial Moms have unconventional jobs, role demands, work schedules, and therefore a much higher need to be financially savvy. We are doing a series on how Millennial Moms with varying roles should be dealing with money. Here’s the piece for our first role.

Role 1: Moms who run the Media

Graphic Designers, TV anchors, Executive Producer, Creative Directors, Director of Photography… These mom’s have challenging careers and work differently from regular employed workforce. The work comes in erratic shifts, for days at a stretch sometimes and sporadically.

Most times work comes on assignment basis in the creative field. While the pays are handsome, the receiving g date is not fixed like the salary. How can one then make the best calls in managing money. Here’s a practical guide.

Pay yourself first

Freelancers are very much like the entrepreneurs. It is important to reward yourself to keep going. Take aside your salary to last you your next expected payment before you use it up in clearing the dues.

Use apps to track your payment or follow ups

A hard part of freelancing is deferred payments which you have to diligently follow up. The right apps can keep reminding you for follow ups and keep a note of your money reserves vis a vis expenses.

Emergency fund

We can’t stress more about the need of emergency fund for everyone and its even dire if your pay-checks are irregular. Emergency funds can be limited for salaried individuals who have medi-claims and other cover. But it’s critical if you are independent.

Using the upfront payment mode

When making large purchases like car, camera and heavy equipments, prefer to use the upfront payment option. Since you can time the purchase after a big payment credit, paying lumpsum will earn you rewards like bigger discounts and cash backs. You also avoid the EMI headache and heavy interest rates charged on taking loan.

Don’t compromise on Investment

Not having regularity in payments should not become an excuse to not invest. Make lumpsum investments if recurring is not possible.

Financial Advisor

The financial terms may scare you or you may be very busy to figure the investment tools. Also in freelancing, there are no employee benefits like PF, Gratuity etc. you must engage an advisor to plan your insurance, retirement and other investments.

Get a life cover

A lot of people misunderstand Insurance as an investment tool only. While it can give returns but primary use of Insurance should be of covering your life. Absence of life cover and medi claim can land you in quite a spot in case of any uncertainties.