Thursday, November 16, 2006

7 deadly sins of financial planning

Financial planning is a critical necessity for each one of us who seeks financial control of our affairs and wish to create wealth. Then why is it that most of us do not have a Financial Plan or have not even given a thought to it?
Why is it that we keep trudging along and feel that all will become right one day? Why is it that we always think of how to earn more but hardly give a thought to what our earned money is earning for us? Most of us have not even thought of having a dual income stream – one from our work and the other from our investments.
Whether we accept or not, each day or each time we think about creating wealth we are imprisoned by what I call - the seven deadly sins.

Caused by excessive belief in one's own abilities, Pride happens because in school we were taught to believe in ourselves. But that belief was with knowledge. This sin is committed when we believe in ourselves and choose to act without adequate knowledge. All we want to have is only some idea of what is the best investment. And believing it to be the best for us, we commit that sin forever under the pretext of “I know how this works.”

You've just seen someone make a killing. And you think, that is reason enough for you to take the plunge as well! But then what if you have taken the plunge at the wrong time. We all know the old age wisdom, “Do not break your own hut by seeing someone else's palace.” Then why is it that we change our asset allocation and bet on something that has worked for another?

Have you incurred credit card debt? that case know for sure that you are committing a sin each day. Have you taken a loan for a depreciating asset? Now that’s an example of financial gluttony. But then, if you're able to manage the installments of that depreciating asset from your investment returns you're a smarty.

Whatever you do you are driven by money only. And if you're prepared to move from one job to another for a 20 per cent rise without considering the credentials of the company and the nature of job, you're far from being smart. What if you've just missed on the stock options there. Besides you could have always had the opportunity to create a niche for yourself no matter how large the organisation.

This is widely seen when you are dealing with an agent to who comes to make a sales call and objects to your knowledge or when your broker did not sell when the markets were falling. In both the cases, you were to take the decision. You recall that with anger and/or arrogance you commanded that nothing be done without your consent. Know that in financial management there are two choices – either you take all decisions yourself or let your advisor take that for you. Of course given that you trust his skills and knowledge.

I hardly need to say anything here. Most people rush to invest in the stock markets when they touch an all time high. Others think markets will go up forever. Surely you cannot time the market but when the goal is achieved why not sell? After all, that's precisely the reason why you invested in the first place. Now if there is no goal and no plan to manage that goal, it is quite likely that this sin will keep revisiting you from time to time.

This is the one that I love to talk about. The bible says, “Whatever we do in life requires effort” so if we wish to ask for tips and then act, it is a sure way to disaster. Either we must take effort to do all the hardwork ourselves or take the effort to search for a trusted advisor and outsource our efforts. Finding a trusted, knowledgeable and skilled advisor is not a very easy task to do.
Sins that were spoken of centuries ago are still so relevant. Needless to say, it is up to us how much we wish to cleanse.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

5 common investment mistakes

Retail investors tend to be burdened with information on how they should go about investing their monies. Distributors, agents and fund houses all play their part in “educating” investors on this front. Our experience with investors suggests that apart from the aforesaid, there is also a need for investors to be aware of a few common and frequently committed mistakes. We present a checklist of 5 common investment mistakes that investors need to steer clear of.

1. Not setting an investment objective
A large number of investors are habituated to carrying out their investment activity in a haphazard and sporadic manner. Very often they fail to set an investment objective which is a basic tenet of financial planning. Investors should adopt a more systematic approach to investing by creating distinct portfolios for all their needs i.e. short-term (planning for a vacation), medium-term (buying a car) and long-term (planning for retirement) needs respectively. Setting of investment objectives also incorporates a degree of discipline which is a vital ingredient for the success of any the investment activity.

2. Not doing your homework
Investing like any other serious activity needs a fair degree of preparation at the investors’ end. Investors need to gather information and acquaint themselves with all the options available to them. Investing in a given asset class (for example fixed deposits) simply because you have conventionally done so is inappropriate. Investors have a plethora of options ranging from mutual funds, fixed deposits, and bonds to small savings schemes to choose from. After getting the facts in place, investors should select instruments that are best equipped to fulfill their investment objectives.

3. Succumbing to the “noise”
Every time the equity markets hit a purple patch, investors come face-to-face with a lot of “noise”. Fund houses go on an IPO (Initial Public Offering) launch spree and distributors do their bit by convincing investors that the recently lunched scheme is the place to be. For example recent times have seen a surge in interest in funds of the flexi cap and mid cap variety. Investors tend to succumb to the noise and get invested simply because everyone else is doing so. The trouble is that investors could discard their pre-determined asset allocation and make investments contrary to their risk appetite.Investors must exercise a lot of discretion and resist falling prey to the herd mentality, especially at a time when everyone around them is busy painting a rosy picture of the investment scenario.

4. Getting attached to investments
Investors must remember at all times that investments are a means to achieve ends (financial goals) and not goals by themselves. If investments have failed to perform their requisite task, then investors should be flexible enough to act on the same. Investors should never get attached to their investments and stubbornly cling on to them. Assess at regular intervals how well your investments have performed and initiate the necessary corrective measures.

5. Timing the markets
A large number of investors like to believe that they can time the markets; nothing could be farther from the truth. If this notion was correct, we would have experienced a surfeit of fund managers and investment gurus. Instead of trying to outsmart the markets and failing in the process, adopt a more scientific approach. Use the SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) route and invest regularly to benefit from the markets. Don’t try to beat the markets, join them instead