Browse Category: Investment

When you should start investing in stocks?

When is the right time to start investing in stocks?

Most of the people who start looking to bring their financials in order have a question in their mind. “When should I start investing in high return instruments?”

They are fascinated by high 20%-30% annualized returns from equities. They have some extra cash which they want to invest for some time and even before anything happens, they convince themselves into investing the spare cash in high risk equity markets in order to rush towards achieving financial independence.

 

stockmarket

 

This reminds me of one of my friend, who reaped exceptionally well returns during the dot com boom and used to tell me how easy it was to tame equity market and double your money in no time.

Unfortunately he had invested all his eggs in one basket that is into the stock market and lost big time during the 2008-2009 market crash. This friend of mine had borrowed a lot of money to buy stocks in hope of making big and that too very quickly. But things didn’t work out as he expected.

There are two basic investment criteria of investing in stock which every investor should consider before taking plunge in stock market investing

  1. You do not have high interest loans looming at you:
    This implies that you should not have high interest loans like personal loan, consumer loans, credit card balances and rotation of balance on credit cards etc. The basic home loan is perfectly fine as home loans create assets and the home you bought is giving you shelter. Stock market investments are high risk investments. If you have high interest loans and still you go ahead with investment, you might land in trouble. There is no fixed investment life-cycle in stock markets. Sometimes you may have to remain invested if market conditions are not good. This might affect your loan repayment ability if you are planning to pay off the loan monthly payments from the returns on your investments in stock market.
  1. You have sufficient emergency fund to bank on during emergency situation:
    Emergencies never give you written intimation before they come. Emergencies bring mental trauma as well as financial hardships too. What if you lose your job due to some meltdown and you do not have money to pay for utilities and your home loan? To counter this type of situation, you must have sufficient liquid emergency fund to pay for rents, monthly home payments (EMI), utility bills etc. Ideally you should have an emergency fund to fund your 6 months of unemployment which should take care of all your bare minimum expenses in case of emergency. This fund should be somewhere stacked in liquid fund which can be accessed quickly. Never put your emergency fund in debt funds, equity linked mutual funds, insurance or stock market. Idea is you should not depend on market conditions to take back your money.

Also, one more important aspect you should consider. Being educated, you should know what you are doing. Take charge of your investments as it is not a rocket science to do a bit of arithmetic before taking the plunge. You need not to be an expert but a basic idea on how mutual funds work should be alright to start investing into mutual funds. Central idea is to avoid the risks posed by high risk investments as a naïve investor.

Investing is fun, it can be highly rewarding but to enjoy it you must set your house in order first, explained above in two simple points. This will cover yourself from the risks posed by the high risk investments in equities and you can do proper asset allocation to counter the risks.

 

 

Your Car is not your ASSET !

Your Car is not your ASSET !

Yes, you read it right. Your car is not your asset. Or as a matter of fact, none of your vehicle is your asset unless you are into transport business. If you ask any literate human being about “what is an asset?” you will get a spontaneous reply as “It is something that has value and the value appreciates over a period of time / or it generates some regular income”.

 

Car is not asset

 

But if you ask same person to list down his assets, he will most likely to write car as one of the line item. Cars are no ASSET. A fact which is hard to digest?

Car does not appreciate
• Car does not give you income, unless you are a taxi operator
• Car does not keep your principal safe (what you chipped in to purchase it)

When you are writing line items in your asset lists, cars are definitely no-no. They are money drain and are more status symbol in today’s world.

They depreciate quickly, they drain your money quickly –

  • You need to pay insurance,
  • You need to pay fuel costs,
  • You need to pay maintenance costs,
  • You need to pay registration and
  • You need to pay emission related expenses to keep them road worthy
  • You need to pay for wear & tear costs

Imagine, one fine day when you do not have a monthly income coming in, you are retired from your day job. Even though you have a big car parked in porch, it will not give you good or money to buy food. My point is this – a car cannot generate a regular income for you hence it is not an asset. An asset is something which generates monthly income for you like your real estate property given on rent, a fixed cash deposit with your bank, a commercial shop you owe generating monthly rentals for you, gold coins appreciating over the years.

Here I am not saying that Car is bad. I am aware of the convenience it brings when you are moving from point A to point B. My statement is just to make it clear to you so that you do not consider your car as an asset. I want to de-link you from the thinking that you are really doing well in your life by driving a big nice car which is taken on monthly payment. It is absolutely absurd to think that you look wealthy by owing a big car.

Bigger the car – bigger the money drain it is.

  •  You incur more expense on monthly payment,
  •  You incur more expense on insurance payment,
  •  You incur more expense on periodic maintenance, and
  •  You lose more money when you dispose it off

Cars are means to carry you from one place to other. They should not become status symbol in your life. Buy what you need, a decent piece not a luxury metal object.

Bottom-line is that if you keep buying expensive cars on payment and think your car as your asset, you are moving away from financial independence. An expensive car is never a good investment decision and is a hindrance in early retirement plan.

 

CHOICE is yours as MONEY is yours !!!

 

Save TONS of cash with timely home maintenance

A home is usually one of the biggest purchases in terms of price tag one will ever make. Real Estate costs a big chunk of money going in as down payment and a commitment of 15-20 years in terms of the monthly EMI going against the home loan / mortgage.

In addition to this, homes attract various other monthly outgoes such as

  • Insurance premiums
  • Association charges
  • Annual property dues
  • Electricity charges
  • Water supply charges
  • Any other tax imposed by local authorities

 

timely home maintenance

 

If you add up all the above mentioned charges, homes do cost a bomb. But even after paying a bomb, home can be a big drainer of cash if not maintained properly.

Home cannot be “buy and forget”. Instead it must be treated like your car or your bike. You have to do regular maintenance, oil changes, check Tire pressure, do washing and cleaning, fix up damaged parts of your vehicle in order to use it regularly without any problem. If you miss out a couple of cycles of maintenance, your car may stall during an important journey and you may end up spending a huge sum to bring it back in working condition. If you service your car properly, keep it clean, wash it, take care of electrical, change oil as prescribed in manual – you can use it for years and it will never let you down in any of the journey you undertake. Above all you can always get a good resale value. Potential buyers do consider looking at the maintenance record of automobile before striking the deal.

Same is with the real estate/ house.
The list of things which can go wrong if not maintained can go very long.

  • Not keeping bathrooms clean can hamper the outlet of water and can flood your home causing serious damage to your furniture. 
  • Not maintaining AC/Fans can make them stop functioning and can incur heavy cash damage to you. 
  • Not regularly painting the house can make the plaster weak; it may come off and might hamper the resale value considerably 
  • Accumulation of dust particles can take sheen off from the shiny furniture and make them look like scrape material 
  • Not doing regular service / replacement of electrical fittings can cause electrical short circuit and can damage the entire household furniture due to fire 
  • Not taking care of bathroom fittings can damage them and they can start rusting and become useless. Believe me it costs a lot to replace these fittings 
  • Not trimming grass in the lawn will make it look really bad and the sight is not inviting for the visitors at your place. 
  • Unclean flooring can lead to the damage tiles which in turn can decrease potential resale value of your home

There can be n number of line items which can be added in the above list. Bottom line is – the home must be kept well maintained. It gives positivity to your own life plus it increases the life and worth of your home. Later if you wish to upgrade, you can sell your home at good price if you have kept is presentable to potential buyers.

The approach to keep your home properly maintained is very simple

  • However busy you are with your schedule, take time out on weekends, make a schedule and pay attention towards one item per week and make sure on monthly basis you cover all important items from the list once. 
  • This will ensure that your property is safe, appreciates in value and looks good to any visitor coming to your place. 
  • You can plan it in such a way that first Sunday of a month clean all fans, fridge, electrical boards, sockets and check for all electrical fittings. 
  • Second Sunday typically can be spent in dusting your furniture and glass items, arranging your reading interests. 
  • Third Sunday can be spent in cleaning bathrooms thoroughly (apart from regular alternate harpik cleaning) and cleaning of drainage outlets like sinks, kitchen wash basins, balcony outlet for any blockages. 
  • Fourth Sunday can be dedicated to floor cleaning, removing stains, kitchen cabinets/tabletops/counter tops cleaning, and keeping / refilling insecticides and anti rodent. 
  • Make schedule every alternate year to paint the walls and use superior quality of paint which lasts longer. 
  • Exterior painting should also be done at regular interval with superior quality of washable paint. A monthly outside wash can work magic on the exterior looks of your home. 
  • Weeding and landscaping your lawn monthly can make them look better and they will certainly make your house inviting for the visitors.

A small schedule can make your home last longer and can increase its value over time. Above all it can save you tons of money that can go into drain by handling emergency maintenance arising of negligence.

Timely maintenance can also help you in creating and increasing your wealth. more the price of your home, more wealthy you would be.

 

Overspending – the biggest block in financial freedom

We dream about having nice things, big cars, nice homes, latest gadgets, fancy cloths. The moment we start working after graduating from university, we start accumulating the things we dreamt as a kid or student. Thanks to the media around us – be it print media, social media, electronic media, TV channels blaring advertisements 24X7. They make us convinced that if we do not owe the latest, we are not human in sync with the world. The tone of modern day advertisements is that we are inferior if we do not have the latest gadget, latest fashion.

Overspending - hurdle in personal finance

 

Once the income starts coming in Post University, we welcome all the stuff, toys to keep us happy. We submit ourselves to frequent outings with friends and relatives and many more things which we could not do being a student. Owing the stuff and frequenting restaurants is considered as a new COOL. Suddenly we feel urge to buy new automobile because all our peers have one. We want to outshine our peers hence we want the best automobile, fully loaded with all amenities – just to show off and in our heart we feel “we deserve it”. We look to get hold of the well deserved large house in the toniest neighborhood which we were eying from long. Consumer credit is readily available. This gives us a good excuse to buy the latest 80 inch 3D LED. Obviously we need these gadgets to flaunt ourselves in our circle. Also this reflects in the society that I am cool and doing well in my professional life.

We try to do everything except saving & investing money. It’s always good to pretend that we do not have sufficient income to start investing now and we will have much better success with investments when we have higher income than what we are earning now. A big chunk of our earning is dedicated to the monthly payments that are going out for the nice house, a big car, 80 inch 3D LED and many more gadgets which we have accumulated – just to show off that we are doing well.

This tendency to spend salary as and when it comes makes us struggle financially month on month. Every month we have a list of TO BUY and the list never gets trimmed. One item leaves the list, another item occupies the place. So what can we do if we are making 6 figure incomes and still struggling to pay for necessities to survive day to day life? We must put a cap on non – essential spending. Cut it down so that we have precious cash saved for essential spending and investing. It will hurt for a month or two, but we will not die if we do not have latest iphone 7 in our kitty or if we do not have the latest Honda or Toyota parked in our garage.

Unless we stop spending recklessly, we will not come to know what is essential and what is non essential spending.

A simple plan: How can we check overspending

1. Make a list of monthly expenses without which we cannot live like Home loan EMI (mortgage), electricity bill, maintenance charges, telephone bill, and internet bill. Mark them as NEED

2. In another list, keep all expenses which are our WANTS, like eating out, buying latest phones, new cloths, and outings during weekends etc.

Now once the list is made, strictly write every penny that you spend under respective list. Over a month or two you will get a very clear picture that what you are spending on essential items and what is being spent on non-essential. Cut down on non essential, put brakes and see the magic. In a couple of months you will have a very positive cash flow and loads of money freed up for investing.

This is basic money management, not a rocket science. We need not to be an expert in finance to make money work for us.

Overspending has to be tackled at the earliest if you are not having a positive cash flow month on month. Overspending can ruin your retirement plans and can even upset your life’s balance sheet. If you wish to retire early to pursue your passion, if you are looking for financial independence, if you want to generate passive income so that you do not have to depend on your day job – you must sit down and do the basic exercise to assess your expenses and come harsh on overspending.

Believe me; cutting down overspending can work miracles on your cash flow. You can free up a lot of money which can be invested judiciously to generate good returns over a period of time.

Recipe – How to be wealthy ?

If you blow up all the money you earn every month, you will always struggle financially

We all need money to survive in this world. The reason why you and I wake up every morning and doesn’t matter how dreadful is our job, we go to work religiously to work every morning. We go to work to pay our monthly bills, have a roof on head, have food on table for you and your immediate family, pay for the commute etc. These are all known as basic needs. Almost all of us earn enough to take care of our basic needs.

How to be rich

We all want bigger home, nicer car, to dine out in better restaurant, more and more nice and trendy apparels for our wardrobe, latest smart phones, latest gadgets and the list never ends. The reality is that a majority of working class spend their entire salary what they earn every month. By month end they have to wait for the next salary to come in to take care of their basic needs & never ending list of wants. This cycle repeats every month and the same way every year.

If the above description portrays what you are, indeed you are in deep trouble. Unless you hit a lottery, you can never be rich in your life. You will always be struggling with your finances. If you wish to avoid this financial struggle, you have to take control of the situation. You have to save money. Not just one month, every month and keep investing money such that it gives you returns.

 The key ingredients in the recipe here is

  • You have to spend less than what you earn.
  • Keep working towards increasing the gap between your income and your expenses.
  • This gap, you need to invest such that your money works harder for you to generate more money.
  • Repeat above steps month on month – year on year for as many years you can
  • One of the most important tip – Do not fall in DEBT trap

This is what is required to be wealthy. There is no magic to become wealthy. You have to change your mindset; the money you earn is not for spending in entirety. Once you master this, you are on right track. If you have control on your spending, you have control on your money and on your future finances.

There is only one magical formula “You have to spend less than you earn”

One you achieve this, you need to focus on investing the amount you save each month. It’s not just about investing – its about investing wisely to maximize your returns. Keep on repeating this for donkey years; – you will end up as a rich guy/girl.

Only thing you should focus is consistency in investing money. Yes, I repeat consistency in your approach of investing. Just like you earn a monthly salary – pay your investment kitty also a monthly salary. This amount you invest every month will keep on increasing your net worth.

“Money is not everything in this world, BUT money gives you a cushion which is a mean to survive in this world. ”

Money instill a kind of confidence in your life to take on life’s challenges.

When you should start investing in real estate?

People when they purchase a place to live in, they consider it as an investment. It is indeed a big investment as the ticket price is very high. With easy credit availability, aggressive advertising and last 10 years of upward trend in real estate market, people start thinking that why not to buy another home/flat as an investment and keep it. The general belief is that the price will increase in proportion with how it has increased in the past decade.

This is a kind of greed which is churning out a category which is house RICH and cash POOR.

real estate investment

Investment in real estate is not a bad idea, but one must have done basic investments rightly and must have enough cash buffer to take on emergencies. Also, the person should factor in the potential extreme property market swings. Since house purchase is a big ticket investment, one must weigh all necessary parameters carefully before taking the plunge.

Purchasing first property for self occupation cannot be considered as a pure investment. Everyone needs a roof over the head. First property provides this roof over the head and even in worst scenario, you will have your house intact – a shelter for you during your bad times.

When you are out to buy your investment property, then a lot of parameters kicks in to be considered before you buy your investment property. You have to safeguard yourself from emergencies, invest certain amount at other avenues which can be cashed in bits and pieces when required. An investment property is a big chunk of money parked and you cannot sell it piece by piece.

Some thoughts on when you should start investing in real estate

  • You are adequately insured (life cover)
    There are plenty of thumb rules and formulas floating around which will give you an idea of how much insurance you should buy. Do a little bit of research and purchase a good term plan to cover your life.

  • You have sufficient funds for taking care of emergencies
    Again as told earlier, property is a big ticket purchase. You cannot sell it at will and money gets locked when you make purchase. So to safeguard yourself, you must create one emergency fund which will take care in case of any emergency.

  • You have adequate medical insurance
    Whether buying property or not, you must be covered adequately for your health. Cost of medical treatment is increasing hence you must take adequate cover for you and immediate family.

  • You have a good Debt folio
    Again in investment pyramid, a good debt investment comes at the bottom stage – that is initial stage. You should invest some amount in instruments like FD/RD/Debt funds/PF/Bonds etc.

  • You have a good asset allocation and a mix of equity into your investments folio
    Based on your age and investment appetite have proper mix of equity and debt. You must have relevant equity exposure to gain from the rising markets.

  • You have at least 40% cash for making down payment for the investment property
    Having 40% as down payment, you save yourself from huge EMI going out monthly against home loan / mortgage. You must aim for maximum down payment so that the EMI doesn’t pinch you and you can have a peaceful life.

  • You have adequate funds to cover schooling of your kids
    Again the investment in property should not leave you with insufficient amount for your kids education. Amount for kid education should be kept and invested into a separate account.

  • After paying off your EMIs you still have 70% of your in hand salary at your disposal
    You should aim to restrict your monthly EMI for home loan to not more than 30% of your monthly take home – post taxes. This will give you a good 70% amount for running house and incurring other expenses. This is a healthy ratio.

  • In case of job loss, you should be able to support your EMIs for a good 6-9 months
    You should have enough in your emergency fund to tackle job loss scenario and you should be able to sustain 6-9 months with your EMI in case of job loss scenario.

If all the above basics are in place, then only one must look forward to buy an investment property. One should not become House RICH and cash POOR, as you have many other costs associated with your life & family.

If you play it too tight, the EMIs will hurt you, you will be broke if you lose your job, you will not be able to pay property taxes /maintenance. The cash flow will hurt you and you will be rich only on paper.

Do not wait to invest

It is often said that “the best time to start investing is NOW!”

Do not be surprised with the fact that most of the new investors are always confused about what is the right time to invest. Quite obvious, the educated ones want to save their principal amount and with whatever knowledge they have gathered, they know if they enter at extreme market highs, they could stare at huge losses few years down the line.

 

right time to invest

 

Everyone knows that one cannot time market. Instead of fretting about when to enter the market, tie your investments to how long you wish to stay invested. Always associate a goal with your every piece of investment. Along with the goal, also try associating a timeline too to your investment. For example, if you start a PPF account – you have a time period of 15 years (lock in period) to invest. In addition to 15 years, you can add blocks of 5 years to this term. So now you can associate the goal of buying retirement home with the proceeds of maturity amount after 20 years. INR1,50,000 systematic investment for 20 years can yield approximately INR4,50,000 on maturity.

Once you start working, you have enough financial goals staring at you

  • Buying an automobile
  • Buying house
  • Finances for wedding
  • Starting a family
  • Kids education
  • Retirement planning
  • Medical expenses
  • Taking care of dependents

And the list can go on…..

Take control of your life. Be at the driver seat. Identify goals in your life, assign a timeline and start investments for specific goals. Do not wait for the next salary increment, next promotion, your marriage, markets to go high or markets to come down and any other lame excuse that you can come up with to start putting money aside for your retirement years.

There are enough indicators for you to start investing the moment you start earning.

  • If you are in private sector, you will not get pension
  • Due to betterment in medical facilities and healthcare, average age of a person is increasing. You may have to live around 20 years in retirement before you die or may be longer. How you will fund your expenses?
  • Inflation is eroding the investment portfolios at a greater rate than ever as medical costs, housing costs, energy and every other service cost is increasing at a greater rates.
  • Cost of education for kids skyrocketing
  • Day to day living expenses are increasing

Whatever your dreams about retirement are (playing golf, traveling etc); you have to make sure that you outlive your money. If it’s the other way round, you will have to struggle a lot to place food on your table.

As I had mentioned earlier, your money is your money and only you can manage it better. You will have to invest and make your money grow so that you have enough funds for the retirement years. This will make you not to rely on your children to feed you during your old age and you can maintain your self esteem.

Investment is not a rocket science. If you are reading this, you must be having access to internet and internet is the biggest source of information in today’s world. It does not take special skills to get information about various avenues for investments based on your investment appetite. There are plenty of online tools which can compute returns over a period of time, based on historical data. Use them to tune your investment planning and you are good to go. Most important is the first step. Unless you take first step, you cannot climb the stairs. Same is with investments. Study, identify your goal, associate a time period to it and take plunge. You will learn many new things and there is always room to correct your mistakes in this journey, but the most important thing is the first step.

Do not think that your real estate property will take care of your retirement years; this thinking has created many house rich, cash poor individuals. You have to spread out your investments, must have proper asset allocation so that you can earn a regular income from your investments in your golden years. If you do not know how to invest, where to invest, start reading and do not hesitate to take help of experts. Investing has to be continuous process, month on month, year on year till you retire.

Remember you have to outlive your money without being burden on your children.

Happy investing !!!

 

Power of Compounding

The Magical power of compounding

Albert Einstein is purported to have once remarked that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.

In simple terms, compounding is the financial equivalent of a snowball, rolling down the hill and gathering momentum as well as weight. More the ball rolls down, more weight it gathers in terms of the snow that get attached to it and more its momentum increases. By the time it reaches down the hill, it can well translate into a small avalanche. More the distance of travel, more is the impact of snowball.

Almost all personal finance websites/blogs and all financial magazines emphasize on power of compounding. If you start early, use compounding effectively, the end result could be a huge avalanche of money. The key is to start early and remain into the game.

I am not going to give chart of person A starting early and person B starting at later stage in life and the potential gain for person A over person B. But if you start early in life, it makes a HUGE difference.

Same is applicable to the money that you spend on material gains or for momentary gains. If you put the figures in any of the online compound interest calculator available for the money you spend in leisurely sipping cups of tea / enjoying junk food day by day, month on month, you will be astonished to know the amount of money you stand to lose over the years. The loss is two ways, one in terms of actual money you spend and other is the health you stand to lose by gulping junk food.

So gear up and use compounding as an efficient tool to maximize your gains in investments.

Framework to bring finances under control

Taking control of your financial life is not very complicated, nothing like rocket science. The basic principals are simple, easy to practice if you can co-relate them with your day to day life and the expenses you incur.

  • Get a good education, work towards building your career
  • Spend less than you earn – This is the most important part
  • Track & budget your expenses – Any given point of time, you should know where you are financially
  • Invest diligently rather religiously every month towards your goals
  • Plan for taxes; take informed decisions on your regular taxes and taxes on your investments. Optimize them so that you do not end up paying a lot to the government
  • Keep enhancing knowledge to manage investments, budget and taxes. Remember, it’s your money and none else will help you in planning for your goals unless they have vested interests

The above 6 points sums up the key to financial success. And remember, there is no place for debt which can spoil any good retirement plan. Especially the debt meant for buying lifestyle goods. You need to beat inflation as well as lifestyle inflation to beat the financial blues

Your money is your money!

As title says, “your money is your money“. None other than you would be able to manage it better. Others, who claim they can manage better, have their conflict of interest since they would be doing it for their livelihood. When they earn commissions for suggesting you the investment tools, they can never be honest with you. Here I am talking about the insurance agents, investment advisers and host of bank officials who always push you with some “REAL GOOD” plans

I am not pointing fingers at the financial planners, but at times, they cannot be believed due to conflict of interest clause. Their “BEST PLAN” might be the “BEST PLAN” for themselves but may not suit your needs.

A common man, who is working his way up in his career, is an educated person. He has basic knowledge of this world, how to live, survive, commute, plan things. Why not take charge of the finances instead of outsourcing it to someone who is unlikely to give you honest advice. We as employee help our companies to grow by managing their balance sheets, why not help ourselves by managing our own balance sheet of household finances & investments?

So remember, your money is your money. If you outsource your money management to someone, he will be more interested in sucking the commissions out of you by suggesting funds/avenues which gives him better commissions instead of suggesting you honestly where to invest. So take charge, control your finances. And believe me, with little knowledge you can be easily at the driver seat.

You alone will be the best person to guide your investments which is ultimately going to lead you to a financially stable retired life.