Troubleshooting & Refreshing the Personal Finance
KIRAN KUMAR K V
“You do pay a price for your Financial Freedom, but it is far lesser than what you pay for a Lifetime Slavery” – (quotes Manoj Arora in his book “From the Rat Race to Financial Freedom”). Financial freedom is one’s ability to have zero worries about future financial needs. Is it a practical possibility? Definitely not. Does it mean we can ignore this aspect of life? Does it mean we focus our energy & efforts towards maximizing our earnings, and overlook the management aspect of what’s already been earned? Professional financial planners disagree.
Personal financial planning is… Personal financial planning can be defined as a step-by-step and a continuous process of forecasting the future financial needs and structuring a route map to achieve them. The process involves assessing one’s financial health, in terms of income stability, expense control, asset-liability match and risk appetite. It’s a self-introspecting process. Each individual’s finances are unique and challenges are specific. Personal financial planning is not a problem solving exercise, by the way. Every individual’s financial needs and provisions would generally be already matching. It’s just that, there lies a need to identify the need and ensure, which source of cash flow could be attributed to a particular need. The entire process finally delivers a framework or a structure, which connects all the dots in one’s finances. As mentioned already, financial need of every individual, is not something created out of the blue. It is already existing. The planning process identifies the same, puts in the timeline of individual’s life, quantifies the same and computes the gap in the quantity to be attained to meet the goal. These financial goals can be:
- long-term goals like children’s education, marriage, estate creation, philanthropy, or retirement
- medium-term goals like housing, entrepreneuring, or having a baby
- short-term goals like clearing of debt, house renovation, owning an automobile or purchasing of jewelry.
Each such goal need to be estimated with as much accuracy as possible, same must be quantified, after accounting for inflationary effects and checked whether any of the existing asset can take care of the same. If there is any gap found, a plan to fill the gap through further savings needs to be identified. Troubleshooting with Hygiene Factors… The financial planning process focuses on the future. Planning for the same and working towards executing the plan is an ongoing process. In the process, it should not be ignored that there are certain hygiene factors that need to be maintained. No individual starts financial planning, the very moment he starts earning. The planning can happen anytime during the lifetime. Before one begins planning for future, it becomes important to check whether these hygiene factors are present in one’s financial health. If these factors are absent, one may have to first ensure these are taken care of, before even future is planned for. The hygiene factors to be troubleshooted can be discussed in the form of a checklist. Questions to ask are: I. Do I have enough liquidity to take care of my expenses in case of unexpected stoppage of earnings?
It is said that at least six months equivalent of one’s expenses should be available in cash/bank balance form, which could be accessed within hours of an emergency striking the individual or his family. The emergency could be loss of job, meeting with an accident or may be a demotion in the job. A simple process to follow:
a) Estimate the monthly expenses on a liberal basis, let’s say Rs. 40000 a month b) Multiply the monthly expenses by 6, i.e., Rs. 40000 X 6 months = Rs. 240000 c) Deposit Rs. 240000 in a no lock-in fixed deposit (preferably a sweep-in account with your bank) II. Can my dependents continue the same lifestyle in case of my sudden demise? The need for insurance for securing the lifestyle of the dependents in the instance of unforeseen demise of the breadwinner of the family cannot be overlooked. A calculation of human life value as a present value of all future earnings of the individual can be taken as a thumb rule figure and typically a term insurance product can be a good solution for the same. Below is an illustrative details of various term plans one can consider. A standard 35 year old male’s case is presented. III. Am I prepared to tolerate medical expenses, if any were to raise unexpectedly? A health insurance that promises to bear the unexpected medical expenses that can arise due to any of the dependents’ health issues, is a must have. The sufficient coverage amount depends on the place they live in, pre-existing disease, family health history and also the kind of hospitals, one would prefer to get treated at. For a standard health plan covering a family of 35 year old male, 32 year old female and a 5 year old child may cost in the range of Rs. 8000 – Rs. 13000. One may have to be careful in checking the other features, terms, conditions of the plan. One should be aware that a health insurance can be a critical illness insurance or a mediclaim insurance plan. Other factor to consider include the coverage provided by the employer. On a stricter sense, holding even a credit card is discouraged for individuals by financial planners. The only debt one should go for in his life would be a mortgage towards his first house. Personal loans, auto loans and cash credits have the potential to disturb the financial well-being of the individual and act as a gridlock. Even if someone is already committed to these debts, it is highly advised to exit at the first chance available. In addition, one must also ensure the debts (including the mortgage debt) need to be separately insured, such that, in the event of unexpected demise of the borrower, the dependents would not be pressurized to sell the underlying asset to clear the outstanding. V. Is my immediate family member well-informed of all my finances? Ideally, the spouse should be aware of the financial aspects of an individual, including the details of bank accounts, savings plans, insurance plans, contact persons, document source, passwords, if any, and preferably a written document of the future plan. In the case of estate holdings, it is advised to have the Will drafted and registered. It is advised to maintain a set of these documents, one could be kept in a safe locker with a bank, and a true copy of the same can be maintained with easy access to the family members.
The above five self-introspecting items need to be answered positively, before proceeding with the long-term financial goal planning. These are hygiene factors of any individual’s financial health. This ensures the troubleshooting of the issues, if any in the system and refreshes the financial system of the individual to proceed to create the structure of meeting future financial needs.
Individuals need to plan their finances, because…