Tagged: Debt

ATM :: Pick the best NPS funds

Babar Zaidi | May 8, 2017, 03.15 AM IST | Times of India

ATM

Though it was thrown open to the public eight years ago, investors started showing interest in the National Pension System (NPS) only two years ago. Almost 80% of the 4.39 lakh voluntary subscribers joined the scheme only in the past two years. Also, 75% of the 5.85 lakh corporate sector investors joined NPS in the past four years. Clearly, these investors have been attracted by the tax benefits offered on the scheme. Four years ago, it was announced that up to 10% of the basic salary put in the NPS would be tax free. The benefit under Section 80CCD(2d) led to a jump in the corporate NPS registrations. The number of subscribers shot up 83%: from 1.43 lakh in 2012-13 to 2.62 lakh in 2013-14.

Two years ago, the government announced an additional tax deduction of `50,000 under Sec 80CCD(1b). The number of voluntary contributors shot up 148% from 86,774 to 2.15 lakh. It turned into a deluge after the 2016 Budget made 40% of the NPS corpus tax free, with the number of subscribers in the unorganised sector more than doubling to 4.39 lakh. This indicates that tax savings, define the flow of investments in India. However, many investors are unable to decide which pension fund they should invest in. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the NPS investments are spread across 2-3 fund classes.

So, we studied the blended returns of four different combinations of the equity, corporate debt and gilt funds. Ultrasafe investors are assumed to have put 60% in gilt funds, 40% in corporate bond funds and nothing in equity funds. A conservative investor would put 20% in stocks, 30% in corporate bonds and 50% in gilts. A balanced allocation would put 33.3% in each class of funds, while an aggressive investor would invest the maximum 50% in the equity fund, 30% in corporate bonds and 20% in gilts.

Ultra safe investors
Bond funds of the NPS have generated over 12% returns in the past one year, but the performance has not been good in recent months. The average G class gilt fund of the NPS has given 0.55% returns in the past six months. The change in the RBI stance on interest rates pushed up bond yields significantly in February, which led to a sharp decline in bond fund NAVs.

Before they hit a speed bump, gilt and corporate bond funds had been on a roll. Rate cuts in 2015-16 were followed by demonetisation, which boosted the returns of gilt and corporate bond funds. Risk-averse investors who stayed away from equity funds and put their corpus in gilt and corporate bond funds have earned rich rewards.

Unsurprisingly, the LIC Pension Fund is the best performing pension fund for this allocation. “Team LIC has rich experience in the bond market and is perhaps the best suited to handle bond funds,” says a financial planner.

The gilt funds of NPS usually invest in long-term bonds and are therefore very sensitive to interest rate changes. Going forward, the returns from gilt and corporate bond funds will be muted compared to the high returns in the past.

Conservative investors
In the long term, a 100% debt allocation is unlikely to beat inflation. This is why financial planners advise that at least some portion of the retirement corpus should be deployed in equities. Conservative investors in the NPS, who put 20% in equity funds and the rest in debt funds, have also earned good returns. Though the short-term performance has been pulled down by the debt portion, the medium- and long-term performances are quite attractive.

Here too, LIC Pension Fund is the best performer because 80% of the corpus is in debt. It has generated SIP returns of 10.25% in the past 3 years. NPS funds for government employees also follow a conservative allocation, with a 15% cap on equity exposure.

These funds have also done fairly well, beating the 100% debt-based EPF by almost 200-225 basis points in the past five years. Incidentally, the LIC Pension Fund for Central Government employees is the best performer in that category. Debt-oriented hybrid mutual funds, also known as monthly income plans, have given similar returns.

However, this performance may not be sustained in future. The equity markets could correct and the debt investments might also give muted returns.

Balanced investors
Balanced investors who spread their investments equally across all three fund classes have done better than the ultra-safe and conservative investors. The twin rallies in bonds and equities have helped balanced portfolios churn out impressive returns. Though debt funds slipped in the short term, the spectacular performance of equity funds pulled up the overall returns. Reliance Capital Pension Fund is the best performer in the past six months with 4.03% returns, but it is Kotak Pension Fund that has delivered the most impressive numbers over the long term. Its three-year SIP returns are 10.39% while five-year SIP returns are 11.22%. For investors above 40, the balanced allocation closely mirrors the Moderate Lifecycle Fund. This fund puts 50% of the corpus in equities and reduces the equity exposure by 2% every year after the investor turns 35. By the age of 43, the allocation to equities is down to 34%. However, some financial planners argue that since retirement is still 15-16 years away, a 42-43-year olds should not reduce the equity exposure to 34-35%. But it is prudent to start reducing the risk in the portfolio as one grows older.

Aggressive investors
Aggressive investors, who put the maximum 50% in equity funds and the rest in gilt and corporate bond funds have earned the highest returns, with stock markets touching their all-time highs. Kotak Pension Fund gave 16.3% returns in the past year. The best performing UTI Retirement Solutions has given SIP returns of 11.78% in five years. Though equity exposure has been capped at 50%, young investors can put in up to 75% of the corpus in equities if they opt for the Aggressive Lifecycle Fund. It was introduced late last year, (along with a Conservative Lifecycle Fund that put only 25% in equities), and investors who opted for it earned an average 10.8% in the past 6 months.

But the equity allocation of the Aggressive Lifecycle Fund starts reducing by 4% after the investor turns 35. The reduction slows down to 3% a year after he turns 45. Even so, by the late 40s, his allocation to equities is not very different from the Moderate Lifecycle Fund. Critics say investors should be allowed to invest more in equities if they want.

Source: https://goo.gl/oUp9FP

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ATM :: How to save and invest for your child’s education

By Sanket Dhanorkar, ET Bureau | 25 Apr, 2016, 08.00AM IST | Economic Times

ATM

The class of 2018 of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad will pay Rs 19.5 lakh for the two-year course. This is 400% higher than what the premier B-school charged in 2007. If the fees of the two-year management course continues to rise by an average 20% every year, it will cost roughly Rs 95 lakh in 2025.

Even undergraduate courses have not been spared. The tuition fee for engineering courses in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has been hiked from Rs 90,000 to Rs 2 lakh per annum. This is just the tuition fee—the total cost is much higher. At an average running inflation rate of 10%, a four-year engineering course that costs Rs 8 lakh today is likely to set you back by Rs 17 lakh in another eight years’ time.

By 2030, the same would cost more than Rs 30 lakh. If you have not planned well, you could get a rude shock, falling way short of the required corpus when your kid is ready for college. In fact, for engineering and medical aspirants, the costs start even while the student is in high school. Coaching institutes charge anywhere between Rs 80,000-1 lakh a year for preparing the student for the entrance exam.

This sharp spike in fees is a wakeup call for parents saving for the higher education of their children. “Higher education costs have the highest inflation rates in the country. Parents need to realise it is going to be an expensive affair,” asserts Nitin Vyakaranam, CEO, Arthayantra.

This week’s cover story is aimed at parents who are saving for their children’s education. The investment options before them will depend on the age of the child. If the child is 3-4 years old, the investment choices and strategy will be different than for a parent whose child is 15-16 years old. Our story lists the most appropriate investment options for three broad age groups and the strategies to be followed at each stage. Choose the one that fits your situation to achieve your dreams for your child’s higher education.

How to save and invest for your child's education

Higher education costs may be rising at a fast clip, but Delhi-based Balbir Kaur is not perturbed by the projections of future costs. Balbir and her husband Puneet are saving for their son Jivvraj’s higher education. They started small last year with SIPs totalling Rs 5,000 in three mid-cap equity funds.

If they continue with that amount and their funds earn 12% a year, the couple would have roughly Rs 20 lakh by the time 4-year-old Jivvraj is ready for college in 2029. But Balbir has a neat strategy in place. “From this year, I have increased my SIP amount to Rs 10,000 a month. We plan to keep increasing this every year as our income goes up,” she says. If they hike the SIP amount by 20% every year, they will accumulate over Rs 1 crore in 13 years.

How to save and invest for your child's education

The benefits of an early start cannot be stressed enough when you are saving for a long-term goal. If your child is 3-4 years old, you have a good 13-14 years to save. Starting early helps you amass larger sums that may not be possible later in life. Tanwir Alam, MD, Fincart, points out, “The multiplier effect in the power of compounding comes from the investing time horizon; longer time horizons have a higher multiplier effect.”

Starting early also put lesser burden on your finances because it requires a smaller outflow. For instance, if your target is Rs 25 lakh, you need to save only Rs 5,004 a month if you start now. But if you wait for six years, you will have to invest Rs 9,195 a month to reach the target. Wait for three more years and the required amount jumps to Rs 23,875. Worse, you may not be able to invest in certain assets if the time horizon is too short. “If you delay investing, not only do you have to invest a higher amount every month, but it also reduces your ability to take risks,” says Vidya Bala, Head-Mutual Fund Research, FundsIndia.

How to save and invest for your child's education

The investment strategy changes if your child is a little older. Since you have only 5-9 years to save, the risk will have to be lowered. The ideal asset mix at this stage is 50% in stocks and 50% in debt. Instead of equity funds that invest the entire corpus in stocks, go for balanced funds that invest in a mix of stocks and bonds.

If your risk appetite is lower, monthly income plans (MIPs) from mutual funds can be a good alternative. These funds put only 15-20% of their corpus in equities and are therefore less volatile than equity or balanced funds. However, the returns are also lower than those of equity funds. In the past five years, equity funds have delivered compounded annual returns of almost 12%, while balanced funds have given 10.5% and MIPs have given around 8.85%. Investors should also note that the returns from equity and balanced funds are tax free after a year, while the gains from MIPs are taxed at 20% after indexation benefit.

How to save and invest for your child's education

For the debt portion, start a recurring deposit that would mature around the time your child is scheduled to apply for college. If you are in the highest 30% tax bracket, avoid recurring deposits and start an SIP in a short-term debt fund. These funds will give nearly the same returns as fixed deposits but are more tax efficient if the holding period is over three years.

It is also important to review the progress of your investment plan. “You should check every year if you need to step up your contribution towards the higher education kitty,” says Bala. “At times, you may put in a lump sum investment even if you have a SIP running.” Keep monitoring the cost of education on a yearly basis and accordingly adjust your investment requirement.

How to save and invest for your child's education

For parents of teenaged children, the investment strategy should focus on capital protection. With the goal barely 1-4 years away, you cannot afford to take risks with the money accumulated for your child’s education. The equity exposure at this stage should not be more than 10-15%. Kolkata-based Sanat Bharadwaj started investing in a mix of mutual funds and bank deposits for his son Siddhant’s college education almost 12 years ago. But now that the goal is just one year away, he has shifted 75% of the corpus to the safety of a bank deposit.

This shift from growth to capital protection is critical. The 3-4 percentage points that equity investments can potentially give is not worth the risk. A sudden downturn in the equity markets can reduce your corpus by 5-6% and upset your plans. “As you come closer to your target, you should stop SIPs in equity funds and shift to a short-term debt fund,” says Kalpesh Ashar, CFP, Full Circle Financial Planners & Advisors.

How to save and invest for your child's education

As mentioned earlier, the cost of higher education is shooting up. Many parents who started late or chose the wrong investment vehicles may find themselves woefully short of the target. If you face a shortfall, don’t be tempted to dip into your retirement corpus to fill the gap. This is a mistake. “Your retirement should be given priority over your kids’ education,” says Rohit Shah, CEO of Getting You Rich. Instead, you should take an education loan with the child as a co-borrower.

Apart from keeping your retirement savings intact, it will inculcate a savings discipline in your child after she takes up a job. The repayment starts after a 6-12 month moratorium when she completes her education. Banks offer loans of up to Rs 20 lakh for courses in Indian institutes. If your child is keen on a foreign degree, it would require a larger corpus. While banks are willing to lend up to Rs 1.5 crore for foreign courses, they insist on part funding in the form of scholarship or assistance.

How to save and invest for your child's education

When saving for your child’s education, do remember that the whole fianncial plan depends on regular contributions by you. But what if something untoward happens to you? The entire plan can crash. The only way to guard against this is by taking adequate life insurance. A term plan does not cost too much. For a 30-35 year old person, a cover of Rs 1 crore will cost barely Rs 10,000-12,000 per year. That is too small a price for something that safeguards your biggest dream.

Source : http://goo.gl/uTf5qh

ATM :: Best ways to use your bonus

Chandralekha Mukerji | Apr 25, 2016, 05.13 AM IST | Times of India

ATM

It is the time for annual appraisal letters and the bonus. Many of you might have got your tax refunds too.

While you may be happy to have some extra cash, handling it can be tricky. You need to juggle multiple aims and concerns to maximize your yearly perk. Here are suggestions for getting the most from that extra money .

OPTION 1: Reduce your debt burden
Before you start investing your surplus, pay off your debt. It could be outstanding credit card payments, car loan, personal loan, etc. Start settling your debt in the order of interest rates. The ones with no tax benefits and higher interest cost should be paid off first. Loans that offer tax benefits should be the last on your list.

OPTION 2: Invest in National Pension Scheme (NPS)
Upto Rs. 50,000 invested in the NPS, under Section 80CCD (1b), can be claimed as deduction, over and above the Rs1.5 lakh investment deduction limit under Section 80C. At the highest tax bracket of 30%, this could mean a savings of Rs 15,000 on your next tax bill. Under NPS, it is mandatory to buy an annuity plan with 40% of the corpus at maturity . The remaining 60% can be withdrawn. The Finance Minister has made withdrawals up to 40% of the corpus tax exempt, adding to NPS’ appeal.

OPTION 3: Increase equity exposure
The Sensex has fallen around 12% in the past year, and this provides an opportunity for long-term buyers. You can invest your lump sum in a debt fund and use a systematic transfer plan to move the money into equity funds. You could also earmark this corpus for a goal that is 5-10 years away. For instance, you can use the money towards increasing your down payment for an asset purchase and reduce your future loan burden.

OPTION 4: Invest for your daughter
If your daughter is less than 10 years old, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) is the best debt option to invest in for her future. At 8.6% yearly compounded rate, this is among the highest paying small savings schemes. Investment in SSY is tax deductible under Section 80C, and you can invest up to Rs1.5 lakh per financial year. The principal invested, the interest accumulated and the payout are all tax-free. However, you have to stay invested till your child turns 21.

OPTION 5: Build corpus to buy a house
An extra Rs. 50,000 in tax break has been introduced for first-time home buyers where loan amount is less than Rs 35 lakh and the property’s worth is not more than Rs 50 lakh. Use the bonus to increase the size of your down payment. It will bring down your loan requirement, which means lower EMIs and, if it falls below Rs 35 lakh, there’s the extra tax benefit as well. Put the bonus in an income fund if purchase is less than a year away.

OPTION 6: Build an emergency corpus
If you do not have an emergency fund, you should use your bonus to build one.You should invest the money in highly liquid options such as short-term debt funds. The corpus will help you manage sudden, unplanned expenses.

Source : http://goo.gl/QPXcFx

ATM :: Financial planning in new year: Start it now

Don’t tinker with your long-term investment plan. But it is always better to make some critical changes, based on new tax laws and instruments
Sanjay Kumar Singh | April 3, 2016 Last Updated at 22:10 IST | Business Standard

ATM

The start of a new financial year is a good time to review your financial plan and take stock of where you stand in relation to your goals. If new goals have emerged, this is the time to make fresh investments for these. While having a steady approach is a virtue here, make some adjustments in the light of developments that have occurred over the past year.

Equity funds
Large-cap funds have fared worse than mid-cap and small-cap ones over the past one year (see table). Over this period at least, the conventional wisdom that large-cap funds tend to be more resilient than mid-cap and small-cap ones in a declining market was overturned. Nilesh Shah, managing director, Kotak Mahindra AMC, offers three reasons. “For the bulk of the previous year, FIIs were sellers of large-cap stocks, whereas domestic institutional investors (DIIs) were buyers of mid- and small-caps. Large-cap stocks are also more linked to global sectors like metal and oil, whereas mid- and small-caps are linked to domestic sectors. The latter has done better than the former, leading to stronger performance by mid- and small-cap stocks. Large-cap stocks’ earning growth decelerated or remained subdued throughout last year while mid- and small-caps delivered better growth,” he says.

Despite last year’s anomalous performance, investors should continue to have the bulk of their core portfolio, 70-75 per cent, in large-cap funds for stability, and only 20-25 per cent in mid-cap and small-cap funds. Large-caps could also fare better in the near future. Says Ashish Shankar, head of investment advisory, Motilal Oswal Private Wealth Management: “IT, pharma and private banks, whose earnings have been growing, will continue to do so. Public sector banks and commodity companies, whose earnings have been bleeding, will not bleed as much. Many might even turn profitable. FII flows turned positive this month and FIIs prefer large-caps. With the US Fed saying it won’t hike interest rates aggressively, global liquidity should improve. If FII flows continue to be stable, large-caps should do better.” Valuations of large-caps are also more attractive.

Financial planning in new year: Start it now

Debt funds
Among debt funds, the category average return of income funds and dynamic bond funds was lower than that of short-term, ultra short-term and liquid funds (see table). Explains Shah: “Last year, while Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut policy rates, market yields didn’t soften as much. The yield curve became steeper. The short end of the curve came down more than the long end, which is why shorter-term bonds did better than longer-term gilts.”

Stick to funds that invest in high-quality debt paper, in view of the worsening credit environment. Shankar suggests investing in triple ‘A’ corporate bond funds. “Today, you can build a triple ‘A’ corporate bond portfolio with an expected return of 8.5 per cent. Many of these have expense ratios of 40-50 basis points, so you can expect annual return of around eight per cent. If bond yields come down, you could end up with returns of 8.5-9 per cent. If you redeem in April 2019, you will get three indexation benefits, lowering the tax incidence considerably.” Investors who have invested in dynamic bond funds should hold on to these. “A rate cut is expected in April. Yields will drop and there may be a rally in the bond market,” says Arvind Rao, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Arvind Rao Associates.

CHANGES YOU NEED TO MAKE
Investment

  • Fixed deposit rates from banks will be better than returns from the post office deposits in the new financial year
  • Choose your tenure first and then, do a comparison of bank fixed deposit rates before making the final choice
  • Invest in the yellow metal via gold bonds

Insurance

  • If your liabilities have increased, revise term cover upward
  • Revise health cover every three-five years to deal with medical and lifestyle inflation
  • Revise sum assured on home insurance if you have added to household assets

Tax planning

  • Conservative investors should invest in PPF at the earliest
  • Those who can take some risk should bet on ELSS funds via SIP
  • Invest Rs 50,000 in NPS

Traditional fixed income
The recent cut in small savings has jolted conservative investors. The rates on these have been linked to the average 10-year bond yield for the past three months. These will be revised every quarter now, make them more volatile. “People who want to invest in debt and want sovereign security should continue to invest in Public Provident Fund (PPF). No other instrument gives a tax-free return of 8.1 per cent with government security,” says Rao.

As for time deposits, financial planner Arnav Pandya suggests, “From April, fixed deposits of banks will give better returns than those of the post office. Decide on your investment tenure, see which bank is offering the best rate for that tenure, and invest in its deposit.” Lock into current rates fast, as even banks are expected to cut their deposit rates.

Tax-free bonds are another good option. Nabard’s recent issue carried a coupon of 7.29 per cent for 10 years and 7.64 per cent for 15 years. Beside getting tax-free income, investors stand to get the benefit of capital appreciation if interest rates are cut.

“People who have some risk appetite may also look at debt mutual funds and fixed deposits of stable companies,” adds Rao.

Gold
The sharp run-up in gold prices over three months, owing to the rise in risk aversion globally, took most people by surprise. The sudden spurt emphasises the need to stay diversified and have a 10 per cent allocation to the yellow metal in your portfolio. However, instead of using gold Exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which carry an expense ratio of 0.75-1 per cent, invest via gold bonds, which offer an annual interest rate of 2.75 per cent. The Budget made gold bonds more attractive by exempting these from capital gains tax at redemption.

Tax planning
Start investing in tax-saving instruments from the beginning of the year. “Don’t leave tax planning for the end of the year, otherwise you may have to scramble for funds,” says financial planner Ankur Kapur of ankurkapur.in. For those with the money, Pandya suggests: “Invest the entire amount you need to in PPF before the April 5. That will take care of tax planning for the year and you will also earn interest on your investment.”

Investors with a higher risk appetite could start a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) in an Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) fund, which can give higher returns. “If you invest early in the year via an SIP, you will reap the benefit of rupee cost averaging,” says Dinesh Rohira, founder and Chief Executive Officer, 5nance.com. Pankaj Mathpal, MD, Optima Money Managers suggests linking all tax-related investments to financial goals.

If you live in your parents’ house and pay rent to them to claim House Rent Allowance benefits, which is perfectly legal, get a rent agreement prepared.

With 40 per cent of the National Pension System (NPS) corpus having been made tax-free at withdrawal in this Budget (the entire corpus was taxed earlier), this has become more attractive. “Open an NPS account if you have not done so already and enjoy the additional tax deduction of Rs 50,000,” says Anil Rego, CEO & founder, Right Horizons. In view of the low returns from annuities, into which 60 per cent of the final corpus must be compulsorily invested, don’t invest more than Rs 50,000.

Tax deduction under Section 24 is available on the interest repaid on a home loan. “Buying a property to avail of the benefit is not advisable if the family has a primary residence,” says Rego.

Insurance
While reviewing your financial plan, check if the term cover is adequate. A family’s insurance cover should be able to replace the breadwinner’s income stream. Financial planners take into account household expenses, goals like children’s education and marriage, and liabilities like home loans when deciding on a person’s insurance requirement. “If goals have changed or liabilities have increased, raise the amount of cover,” suggests Mathpal. Kapur says the premium rate is likely to be lower if you buy the term plan before your birthday.

Your health insurance cover might also need to be raised to take care of medical inflation. The same holds true for household insurance if you have reconstructed your house and the structure has become more expensive, or if you have added expensive assets. Rohira suggests buying add-on covers like accidental insurance and critical health insurance for comprehensive protection.

Source: http://goo.gl/iZ3KSx

ATM :: How to know if you need help with your debt

By Rishi Mehra | 20 Jan, 2016, 10.17AM IST | Economic Times

ATM

It is common to have debt in some form or the other and it is not bad to have them. However, there may come a time when runaway debt may cause problems and you may need professional help. A look at some scenarios that can indicate you need help to tackle your debt.

Caught in minimum payments – This is especially true for credit cards. When your credit card is generated there are two payment terms in that statement. One would be total amount due, while the other is the minimum amount, which is about 1 % of the principal amount outstanding. Minimum amount, being a small percentage of the total amount due, largely consists of interest and fees. This would mean if a person pays only the minimum amount outstanding on the card every month, it would take him decades to pay the entire amount. If you find yourself caught in the trap of minimum payments, it may be time to get professional help to get out of the situation.

Over reliance on credit cards – Being caught in the minimum payment trap may not be the only indicator that your finances may be off track. When debt increases, servicing it may lead to over reliance on your credit card. Having to use the credit card for daily expenses may be proof that your finances are not in shape. However, paying by credit card because you chose to and not because you have cash crunch is okay. Similarly, if you are making payments by credit cards to earn points, rewards or cash back, it makes perfect sense. However, when you start feeling your cash drying up and having to resort to credit cards to fund your monthly need, it may be time to talk to a financial advisor to get your finances in order.

Getting a loan to tackle debt – Unless it’s a credit card debt, or the new loan has substantially lower interest rates, taking a loan to settle another loan defeats the purpose. This can be very counterproductive, especially in cases when you increase the tenure of the loan to ensure you pay lower EMIs. The very idea of taking a loan should be to reduce your debt at the earliest and most frugal manner. By increasing the tenure you may be making things easier for yourself, but the interest outgo will be much higher. You also run the risk of being under debt for a longer time. If you have any debt, your first priority should be to pay them off at the earliest. If you find yourself in a situation where you think you may need a loan to settle another loan, it is best you consult an expert first to get an opinion.

Little or no savings – When your entire income goes on servicing your debt and catering to your daily expenses, it may be time to get help. When you start your career you may not be able to save immediately, but as you progress in life, you should start having some form of saving. What products appeal and suit you can differ, but it is imperative to save money, especially for periods after retirement. However, if your savings are negligible or you have no products that help you save money, you may be in a tricky situation. Get help on what products will be ideal for you and start saving diligently. Failure to do so may be painful when you grow old or during an emergency.

Difficulty in drawing or sticking to a budget – To build some sort of order and responsibility between what you earn, what you spend and what you need to set aside to cater to your debt, it is important to draw up a monthly budget. This helps you come to grips with the regular expenses every month and the special ones that may creep in. This also helps you realize when you are overspending and the need to put money aside as savings. When you have difficulty in drawing a monthly budget or sticking to it despite having one, you may need to get help to figure out ways to correct your situation.

Consistently overshoot payment deadlines – This may be an early and a potentially important indicator to know if you are having problem with your finances. If you miss payment deadlines on your bills because you do not have the requisite money and have to wait for your next payday, things may be tight for you. Servicing your existing debt may be taking its toll and you should get help to see what can be done to address your financial situation.

(The author is co-founder of deal4loans.com)

Source : http://goo.gl/vehEzi

ATM :: Do auto-switch funds give better returns?

While long-term returns of these funds may be subdued compared to diversified equity MFs, they are less volatile
Kayezad E. Adajania | Last Modified: Thu, Oct 15 2015. 08 19 PM IST | LiveMint

ATM

How do you make money in a market that goes up, say, 9% (2013) one year, then shoots up 30% (2014) in the next, and then comes crashing down the following year (by 2.42% so far this year)? The tried and tested way is to allocate assets properly; and invest in equities and debt as per your risk profile and market movements. But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

Let’s see how balanced funds—these invest across equities and debt—have performed. Between February 2014 and January 2015, the category returned 42% on an average. But since February 2015 till date, the category lost 1.12%.

But there’s another animal that does asset allocation more efficiently than balanced funds. They’re called dynamic asset allocation (AA) funds. As against balanced funds, which maintain a steady balance of equity and debt split, or even diversified equity funds, which always remain invested in equities, dynamic AA funds switch between equities and debt completely; they can invest zero to 100% in equities, depending on how markets behave. But does such dynamism help?

Version variety

Although all dynamic AA funds switch between equity and debt, not all behave the same way. Funds such as Franklin India Dynamic PE Ratio Fund of Funds (FDPE) and Principal Smart Equity Fund (PSEF) switch based on the price-equity ratio (P-E) of the CNX Nifty index. A P-E ratio, to put it simply, indicates if equity markets are overvalued or undervalued. Higher the P-E, more the markets are considered overvalued; and lower will be these funds’ equity allocation.

DSP BlackRock Dynamic Asset Allocation Fund (DBDA) looks at the yield gap formula. It is calculated by dividing the 10-year government security’s yield by earnings yield of Nifty. The numerator is a proxy for debt markets, and the denominator is a proxy for equity markets. So, the ratio looks at how cheap or expensive equities are when compared to debt markets. If the number is high, it means expected returns from equities are low, and so a higher allocation to debt is necessary.

While PSEF invests directly in equities and debt, funds such as FDPE and Kotak Asset Allocator Fund (KAAF) are fund of funds (FoFs); they invest in other MF schemes. All these FoFs invest in in-house schemes. In cases like FDPE, the schemes are sacrosanct. But schemes like KAAF have earmarked multiple schemes for their debt and equity allocation. “Once the quant model decides the equity-debt split, the fund management team decides which funds (large-cap, mid-cap and so on) the FoF will invest in,” said Lakshmi Iyer, chief investment officer (debt), Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Co. Ltd.

Have they delivered?

Of all the dynamic AA funds, only three have been around for a significant period of time— FDPE, launched in October 2003; PSEF and DHFL Pramerica Dynamic Asset Allocator Fund (DPDA), both launched in December 2010. In rising markets between February 2014 and January 2015, FDPE and DPDA returned 33.27% and 26.68%, respectively, finishing in the bottom quintile of the moderate allocation category, as per data provided by Morningstar, a global MF research firm and data tracker. Morningstar classifies all schemes where equity allocation is between 30% and 75% in this category.

Fortunes changed in 2015, when markets started to fall. KAAF (3.51%), DBDA (2.06%) and FDPE (1.30%) finished in the top quintile between February 2015 and 12 October 2015. But on an average, the category lost 1.12% in the same period.

“There is a myth that people come to mutual funds for high returns. If that were the case, then so much money wouldn’t be invested in fixed deposits. Investors want a good experience. Returns are important, but if a fund is able to give a solution, like rebalancing, and return decent money over long periods of time, investors are happy,” said Kanak Jain, mentor, Ask Circle Mutual Fund Round Table India, one of the country’s largest MF distributor association.

Most of the funds are new in this space so we don’t have long-term data on whether these models have worked or not.

For instance, DBDA, which uses the yield-gap model, was launched only in February 2014. The good news is that months after its equity allocation being static at about 12% since launch, it moved up to 29% in August earlier this year when markets sank sharply, and to about 38% in September, when the Reserve Bank of India cut interest rates.

“The formula did exactly what it was supposed to do, and at the right time,” said Ajit Menon, head-sales and co-head-marketing, DSP BlackRock Investment Managers Pvt. Ltd. Menon admitted it was unnerving that the formula didn’t budge all of last year and most part of this year as well. “But last year, the equity rally was a ‘hope’ rally; there wasn’t much change on the ground,” he said.

While long-term returns may be subdued as compared to that of diversified equity funds, these funds are less volatile. We looked at standard deviation, a measure of a fund’s volatility.

According to Morningstar, average standard deviation of moderate allocation, flexi-cap and large-cap funds together was 11.94, while that of all dynamic AA funds was between 1.95 and 7.19; which is among the lowest.

“The risk-return combinations are important. These funds help significantly reduce volatility in your portfolio,” said Janakiraman R., portfolio manager-Franklin Equity, Franklin Templeton Investments–India.

Mind the tax gap

One drawback that dynamic AA funds have is in terms of taxation. On account of being FoFs, they are classified as debt funds and taxed accordingly, even if they are equity-oriented.

If you sell your debt funds within three years, you pay taxes as per your income tax rates on your gains. The threshold to claim tax benefit on long-term capital gains is three years, and even then, long-term capital gains tax is 20% (with indexation benefits).

That’s one reason why KAAF changed its objective, in October 2014, from being just an equity FoF to one that dynamically allocates its money to debt and equity, based on a certain formula.

“Earlier, all our investments were going in equity funds and yet KAAF was considered a debt fund. A dynamic asset allocation model, therefore, is superior,” said Iyer, adding that an “unfavourable tax structure” has been one of the biggest impediments to this product becoming popular with investors.

Should you invest?

Not all financial planners recommend dynamic AA funds because they feel it is their prerogative to do their client’s asset allocation. But quite a few planners have warmed up to such funds.

Yogin Sabnis, managing director, VSK Financial Consultancy Services Ltd, is a fee-based planner who still manages a motley group of investors from his early days when he didn’t charge fees. Such investors, he explains, either don’t require much financial planning or hesitate to shift to paying fees. Such clients, he said, are advised to invest in dynamic AA funds. “I don’t recommend this product to my fee-based clients because I do their asset allocation. But if someone wants a one-off advice, this is one of the first recommendations because with these funds, even if the customer doesn’t consult an adviser, the fund automatically does the rebalancing,” said Sabnis.

Jain, who has systematic investment plans going on in some of these funds on behalf of two children, feels advisers and distributors should focus more on the long-term goals of clients and their servicing, and leave rebalancing to such funds. Added Janakiraman, “Usually, we do asset allocation only in extreme situations. We don’t do it all the time, which we are supposed to. These funds monitor asset allocation at all times.”

The category does not have many schemes. And the ones that are there, don’t have long-term track records. But the ones that come with a track record have largely worked so far. The yield gap model, for instance, shows promise though DBDA lacks a long-term track record.

It’s best to stick to larger fund houses and also with those that are FoFs, despite their inherent tax disadvantage. If the underlying funds come with a good track record, then the only thing you need to watch out for is the asset allocation model.

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