Saving for your own marriage or education? Here’s how

Our social norms and practices have undergone huge changes in the past decade or so and this is a continuous process. One area where this is seen quite starkly is how marriages are arranged and carried out today. In the older days the parents were most likely to find a match for their child, arrange the marriage logistics and of course pay for the same. Given the fact that people married relatively young, especially the women, it made sense to do this then.

Times have changed greatly now, especially in urban India. The incomes have increased manifold but so have the responsibilities of parents. Increased cost of school education, high graduation costs and not really being able to depend on children for the retired years like before has created a need for funding retirement to a much greater extent than ever before. Also, as children nowadays prefer to choose their own partners and have their own ideas about how the marriage should take place. In this kind of situation it makes a lot of sense for the children to plan for their own marriage expenses. Of course the parents will give gifts etc as per their financial bandwidth but in case there is a seriously expensive wedding, that needs to be planned by the child.

So, let us say you are just out of college and are in a job which pays you about 50000 Rs a month. How do you go about planning your life at 22, when many things are not really firmed up for the near term or far term? For example, you may want to do an MBA, may have ideas to start something on your own in a few years time or may have an idea of getting married in 6-8 years time. While you do not have to decide exactly on what course of action you want to follow, it will be important for you to invest from the beginning in a fairly disciplined manner. This will enable you to have the financial ability to do the spend when required.

How do you start? We will assume that your initial salary is 50000 a month and this will increase at 10 % every year. You should be doing the following:-

  • You really do not need insurance so do not spend on it. For debt investments your PF is adequate but as a matter of good habit open a PPF account and put 5000 every month in it.
  • With the above and your monthly expenditure you should still be able to invest 10000 per month in MF fairly easily. In case you can do more, all the better.
  • With every passing year increase this amount by 5000 Rs per month. This should not be difficult with your annual increments or job changes, if any.
  • Assuming you plan to work for 5 years before you need the money and it grows at 12 % every year how does it look?
    • Initial 10000 for 5 years will grow to 8.24 lacs
    • Next 5000 for 4 years will grow to 3.09 lacs
    • Next 5000 for 3 years will grow to 2.17 lacs
    • Next 5000 for 2 years will grow to 1.36 lacs
    • Final 5000 for 1 year will grow to 0.64 lacs
  • So in 5 years you will have a corpus of 15.5 lacs.
  • You will also have about 5 lacs in your PPF account

With this in place you can easily plan for your marriage or higher education. For example if you want to do an MBA from ISB the cost is about 30 lacs today. You can use part of your corpus and also take an Education loan. In case you are looking at funding your marriage, the amount in your corpus should be adequate for most weddings.

Now many financial planners will tell you that you must not put money in equity for 5 years etc. Do not listen to them at all. Firstly you are creating an MF portfolio which you may or may not want to redeem in 5 years time. So, strictly speaking there is no real need to think of it as 5 years. If you do not need the money, you just continue with the portfolio as normal. Just to motivate you a little more, if you keep investing 10000 for 25 years, at a return of 12 %, you will end up with 1.9 crores from just here.

I hope this has given all the new earners a lot of food for thought. You need to be in charge of your finances now. So far your life events have been largely managed and almost wholly funded by your parents. Now is the time to really chart out your own course and depend on your own resources for the same.

Once you make up your mind to do this, success is almost guaranteed.

A life plan must precede a financial plan

With the increasing readership of my blog, I get a lot of requests to either make financial plans for people or to review an existing financial plan that was made by someone for them. What strikes me as amazing is that people by and large focus greatly on their financial goals and almost take their life goals for granted. This flies in the face of the obvious reality – your finances are there to support your life goals and therefore must come after you have thought through your life goals.

The first thing which surprises me is that people project their lives for the next 30 years or so without having the ambition to do more with it. Let us say you have passed out of college and got a job. While it may be a job which you like, you may still look at ways and means of improving it. An IT person who started his career just 5 years back may already be finding himself in the cross roads. There is no guarantee that your current job will last for 10 years, let alone 30. It is therefore imperative that you fix your life goals based on your current skills, future skills you may need to acquire and the kind of work you want to do. It may be necessary for you to take up your first job for many reasons, but there will be equally good reasons as to why you may want to do other things.

The same goes for people who are in their mid career with a family. Yes, changing your life direction may be more difficult now but it is not impossible by any means. I had a friend who was a hotel manager for 10 years, worked in Rediff for another 10 years, went on to do an MBA abroad and is now a professor in an US Business school. Note that the latter career moves were all done when he had a family. Another friend of mine who is from an IIT and an IIM, went to the US recently to pursue a second MBA as he was not happy with how his career was shaping up. In his case too he took his wife and a young daughter to the US. There is no doubt that these people had to go through a lot of tough times but they were clear as to what they wanted to achieve.

Changing careers are getting much more common nowadays than ever before. I just came to know of a Doctor, who practised for 7 years after his MBBS and has now got into IIM Ahmedabad for their one year Executive program. He wants to be associated with Health care but not as a practising Doctor and felt that an Executive MBA will give him the opportunities that he is seeking out.

The problem with financial plans is that they are done assuming people will proceed in their lives linearly. They will start with a job, increase their salaries every year, get married, invest and increase their investments, plan their finances, home buying and have other goals such as children’s education, marriage and retirement. This does not at all cater to real life and real people. For example, I started working at 24 and always wanted to retire at 45, or at least be financially independent by then. If I had been to a financial planner, he would probably have told me that I needed to work for 35 years and early retirement was just not possible in India.

The logic can get extended to any particular passion you have in life. Earlier it was difficult to take up your passion due to lack of resources and opportunity. However, many people nowadays want to take up their passion after they have fulfilled most of their responsibilities. I know of people who have taken up travel, reading, teaching and several other interest areas at a relatively late stage in life and have done very well in them.

So the point is your life plan must be dynamic in nature to fulfil the aspirations you have. We will not meet all our aspirations but there should be a clear and concerted attempt to do so. The financial plan must adapt to your life journey not the other way round. You need a financial planner who understands this.

How does one go about doing this? Let that be the subject of another post.

Educational costs & inflation – A personal perspective

May is that time of the year when all parents of college going children have to figure out ways and means of arranging the fees for the upcoming semester, term or year in college, as the case may be. I have been in this situation for 5 years now and am likely to be in it for a few years more, given that I have two children.

Let me give a brief background for new readers here. My daughter Rinki has graduated from BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus with BE in ENI. After her graduation in 2016, she has joined XLRI for their BM program and has now completed her first year there. My son Ronju is doing a 5 year dual degree course from BITS Pilani, Goa campus in Msc Maths and BE Computer Science. He will graduate in 2019 from there. If you are interested in knowing more about the overall costs and how I arranged for the funds etc, you can read up several posts available in the blog under “Education” category.

In this post I particularly wanted to discuss about the overall costs of a college degree in BITS and the inflationary nature within the course. Unlike some colleges, which give you a total figure for the 4 or 5 year course when you join, BITS only talks of the first year costs and then increases it every year. They have been transparent to say that the fees can increase by up to 15 % a year and, more often than not, it actually increases by that much. Let me take the component of the Tuition fee and see how it increased during the time Rinki was in college :-

  • In her first year 2012-2013, Tuition fee was 70000 per semester or 1.4 lacs in the year.
  • In 2013-2014, it was 78000 per semester or 1.56 lacs for the year.
  • In 2014-2015, it was 89000 per semester or 1.78 lacs for the year.
  • In 2015-2016, it was 101000 per semester or 2.02 lacs for the year.

Now apart from these there were Admission fees, hostel fees, mess fees, personal expenses, travel, practice school fees etc. From my notes I can see that the total expenses for her college degree was approximately 12 lacs.

At XLRI the overall costs are in the range of 24 lacs and you can add another 2 lacs or so for travel etc. Therefore her total Education costs in college is about 38 lacs.

For my son Ronju the last 2 years of Rinki will be common. Beyond this the fees for the other 3 years are as follows:-

  • in 2016-2017, it was 1.13 lacs per semester or 2.26 lacs for the year.
  • In 2017-2018, it is 1.30 lacs per semester or 2.60 lacs for the year.
  • in 2018-2019 it will be 1.5 lacs per semester or 3 lacs for the year.

Therefore for Ronju’s graduation the overall costs will be in the range of 20 lacs or so. I have not thought about his PG yet, as he is not sure whether he wants to do one. However if it is from a good B school, it will be in the range of 28-30 lacs. Assuming this to be the case, his total costs of college education will be in the range of 50 lacs or so.

From the above data you will be getting a pretty good picture of the educational inflation too. In 5 years the tuition fees has increased from 1.4 lacs to 3 lacs. The other costs have also increased and as you can see, a 4 year course for BITS starting today will easily cost more than 22 lacs or so, all things considered. Just the Tuition fees will be 13 lacs or so.

How will this look if your child is starting college after 15 years? Well, at an inflation of 15 % the tuition fees alone will be 1.8 crores. I know this sounds fantastic, but remember just 10 years back the Tuition fees of BITS was 50000 a year and it has gone up more than 5 times.

I am happy to spend this amount on giving a good education to my children as it is going to be a huge competitive differentiating aspect. However, I was able to do so as I prepared for the same in terms of my planning. Even then the inflation was surprisingly high and I had to rejig some of my plans.

You need to work on your plans right now and put them in place.

Bet on these MF schemes for now

We are passing through rather interesting times in the Indian economy and markets. The rise in the indices have had investors thinking as to whether it will be a good idea to keep buying as of now. By all conceivable logic, there is a correction round the corner. Is it likely to be momentary or very deep? We can only speculate in an intelligent manner.

In my opinion, it does not really matter much if there is a correction soon. Nifty will probably find support at 9000 plus levels and that is something none of us expected a couple of months back. In the scenario I see unfolding, we are very much in a structural bull run and corrections are going to be price based rather than time based. To that extent you need not really change your investment plans a great deal.

What about people who are starting off building a MF portfolio or ones who want to realign their portfolio to better funds, taking advantage of the current highs? Which funds should we bet on for the next 15 years or more? I gathered some inputs from experts managing HNI money and this is what they had to say:-

  • A good fund manager has generated 4-5 % alpha over the indices in the past 2 decades. For this reason avoid Index ETF in our markets right now.
  • There may well be a structural bull run in our markets over the next 10-15 years.
  • Multi cap funds will be the best suited for this time frame but look at other categories like large cap and mid/small caps too.

So which are the funds to bet on? Here are a few for you to consider:-

  • ICICI Focused Blue chip
  • Kotak Select Focus
  • Reliance Vision
  • SBI Pharma
  • Kotak 50
  • Franklin High growth
  • MOST 25
  • MOST 35
  • ICICI Value Discovery

You will not find many of your known funds here, but then these are futuristic in their likely performance. Go with them if you are willing to take some risks for potential higher returns.

However, if your existing funds are doing well, do not change for the sake of change.

Do Equity returns compound? No !!

In my last post I had written about the frequent wrong usage of Maths to create misconceptions in investing which are not factually true. One such glaring misconception is for investors to feel that there will be compounding returns on equity investments, at least over the long term. This is simply not true and I would have thought that most investors would be able to understand this. However, as I have got quite a few queries and requests for clarification, let me do so here.

To start with let us fundamentally understand what Compounding is. I have used the following definition from Investopedia:-

DEFINITION of ‘Compounding’

The ability of an asset to generate earnings, which are then reinvested in order to generate their own earnings. In other words, compounding refers to generating earnings from previous earnings.

Essentially compounding involves some positive return on your asset, irrespective of what the return might be. Due to this the absolute value of your investment will always be increasing. Note here that we are not talking of inflation and Real returns here. For example, if I have a FD of 1 lac Rs and it pays me an interest of 8 % today then at the end of 1 year I will have an amount of 1.08 Lacs. Now if inflation is also at 8 %, my real return ( interest rate – inflation rate) is 0 and I have not really gained anything in terms of my purchasing power through this investment. At the same time, the absolute value of my investment has definitely grown by 8000 Rs in the one year period. This 1.08 lacs becomes my principal amount in the next year and I earn interest on this new amount. So in effect, compounding entails my earning interest not only on the principal amount but also on the interest amount.

The usage of compounding logic works great with debt products where the interest rates are relatively stable. Take an FD as an example again. At 8 % interest rate your money will double in approximately 9 years, at 12 % rate it will double in approximately 6 years and so on. Your money always grows in absolute terms, ignore the real growth for this discussion.

Now let us look at equities and see if this logic can be sustained in the light of our knowledge of it. If you look at stock prices over a period of time, you will see that it is clearly not so. Let me give you some examples from well known companies and their share prices from fairly recent memory:-

  • ITC reached 400 Rs and is now down to 300 odd levels.
  • HUL went to 1000 and then declined to levels of 800.
  • Reliance has had negative growth over years, so has Tata Steel.
  • Some company shares like Kingfisher Airlines have become penny stocks today.

There are also many examples of company shares having done extremely well and generate spectacular returns. My point here is simple – equities can give great growth but the way to understand that is not through the compounding principle. The growth in equity is non-linear and carries serious risk with it. Now at this point, people may tell you that over the long term of 15-20 years the compounding logic will hold true for equities. Sorry, it does not – if you bought the shares of Deccan Aviation at 146 Rs in the IPO , you have lost this money pretty much forever, never mind how long you are going to wait.

When I think about why there is such a great misconception about something really straightforward, I could come up with the following reasoning in my mind:-

  1. Most people invest in equity through Mutual Funds. As a MF scheme maintains a portfolio of stocks, the overall NAV of the scheme would normally increase in a reasonably good market, which we have had in recent years.
  2. Of course, the above can change in a prolonged poor market, but not many of today’s investors have had this experience. 2008 through 2010 was such a phase but has been mostly forgotten now.
  3. The usage of CAGR term, somehow makes one think that equity investments compound. This, of course, is complete nonsense but I have seen many sensible people believe this. CAGR is an artificial construct to understand annual returns, it in no way says that such returns are stable and not even that they are positive. In fact you can have negative CAGR and negative IRR / XIRR quite easily.

So, if it is clear by now that compounding logic is irrelevant to equities then how do we go about financial planning with equities as an investment asset class? I will answer that in a future post. For now, do understand that you cannot just hope that you will invest in stocks and it will give you an XIRR of 15-20 % because that has been the historical returns in the index. I really wish life were that simple for me and you, but it does not work like that.

Take heart though – we can make great returns from equity, by understanding the correct ways of investing in it.

Interested readers may pls follow my blog on email by clicking on the relevant button on the right hand panel. I will shortly be stopping the practice of posting the links in different Facebook groups. Following the blog will ensure you get intimated whenever there is a new post.

IndiGrid InvIT Fund IPO – should you invest ?

In the investment world we are all looking at newer ways to invest, always hoping that the next product coming across will hopefully give us better returns than our earlier ones. In this context the Infrastructure Investment trust bond issue from IRB Infra generated a lot of interest in the market and was oversubscribed 8.6 times, despite the high ticket size of 10 lacs. Close on it’s heels we have the IndiGrid InvIT fund IPO, open from 17th to 19th of this month.

To begin with, Infrastructure projects such as ports, roads, power projects and other kinds of construction are normally on a massive scale and need a lot of funding. These are also long gestation projects where the returns will only come after a certain number of years. If you look at NHAI for example, the several companies started by it for the different projects are all technically running at a loss, due to the high interest rates and depreciation that they have to deal with. Their loans are huge and though the marginal profits on EBITDA are very good, progress in some of these projects have been slow due to the adequate availability of cash at the right times.

The idea of an Infrastructure Investment Trust ( InvIT ) is to restructure these loans by paying it off with the investment they will get in the trust. The Trust will then have an arrangement with these companies to get returns from them through the profits generated. Investors in InvIT will get their returns through dividends, buyback etc. As all these companies are having pretty much assured revenue over a period of time, the returns are likely to be good.

The below information about the IndiGrid InvIT Fund IPo, is taken from the website and a few other sources of publicly available information:-

Incorporated in 2016, IndiGrid InvIT Fund is an infrastructure investment trust (“InvIT”) established to own inter-state power transmission assets in India. They are focused on providing stable and sustainable distributions to their Unitholders.

Sterlite Power Grid Ventures Ltd, sponsor of IndiGrid InvIT Fund is one of the leading independent power transmission companies operating in the private sector, with extensive experience in bidding, designing, financing, constructing and maintaining power transmission projects across India.

Company’s sponsor owns 11 inter-state power transmission projects with a total network of 30 power transmission lines of approximately 7,733 ckms and nine substations having 13,890 MVA of transformation capacity. Some of these projects have been fully commissioned, while others are at different stages of development. They recently won bids for two transmission projects in Brazil,

Of the 11 inter-state power transmission projects owned by the Sponsor, they will initially acquire two projects with a total network of eight power transmission lines of 1,936 ckms and two substations having 6,000 MVA of transformation capacity across four states (the “Initial Portfolio Assets”).

Objects of the Issue:

The object of the issue are to:

1. providing loan to BDTCL and JTCL for repayment or pre-payment of debt (including any accrued interest and any applicable penalties) of banks, financial institutions, SGL1, SGL2;
2. repayment of any other long term and short term liabilities and capital expenditure creditors.

Comparision of InvITs

Comparision of InvITs (IRB InvITs & IndiGrid InvIT)
Particulars IRB InvITs IndiGrid InvIT
Price band Rs. 100-102 Rs. 98-100
Issur Size Rs. 5921 cr. Rs. 2250 cr.
Sector Toll Road constructions Power Transmission
Likely yield 8 to 12% 10 to 15%
Entry Level At a Premium At par value
Tenure 16 years 35 years
Corporate Ratings AAA/Stable AAA/Stable
Proportionate Allotment 75% of the issue (i.e. except retail) 75% of the issue (i.e. except retail)
Risk Factors Inflation, Traffic Volume, Govt. policies Load Availability, Market trends
Market perception Bearing Risk as above Considered as Safe asset class Globally
Promoter IRB Group Sterlie Group

Should you be applying to this issue? Well, if you have not got an allotment in the IRB InvIT IPO then you should definitely look at it. The one thing which may be a spoiler here is that the yields are primarily going to be in terms of interest and this will be taxable in the hands of the investor.

In case you are not yet fully invested in equities through MF and stocks, you may want to delay investment in InvIT’s for now. Focus on building your equity investments and you can then look at future InvIT issues. There will surely be many more soon.


An Italian odyssey

Writing this post is an anticipated event for me as, even before we left for our Italy trip, I got a lot of requests from several quarters to do this. I will directly start with the trip itself as I have already covered the planning of the trip as well as my thoughts and experiences with the tour operator Kesari in other recent posts.

We started off from Hyderabad on 5th May morning as we had to join the group for the night flight to Abu Dhabi and Rome. Though the wait in the Mumbai airport was somewhat long, we were quite impressed with the facilities, the only jarring point being the food costs. We connected with the Kesari representative on the appointed time, collected our hampers and checked in early. The tour leader welcomed us and wanted us to meet her before the transit from Abu Dhabi. The flights were largely uneventful, though tiring as usual. Breaking it up into two flights is a good idea as long as the layover is manageable. We reached Rome in the early morning. Immigration was a rather long process and freshening up in the airport with hordes of people wanting to do the same took it’s own time. We boarded the coach after that and the trip was well and truly underway.

We had a pretty comfortable coach which we would be using for the entire trip, the tour leader was articulate and knowledgeable and the visit to Pompeii was fulfilling a long time desire. The ruins of Pompeii are maintained rather well and we were lucky to have a good guide who spoke English very well. She explained the times of 2000 years back with a lot of imagination and some of the things such as the water pipe of those years, the stepping stones on the streets so that people could cross when they got waterlogged in the rainy season, the roadside eateries with ovens for cooking the food and a brothel with the services menu drawn on the walls were the highlights for me. As was Homer’s Odyssey drawn as fresco’s on the walls of an erstwhile commercial place.

In terms of sheer heritage, history and scale few places in the world will beat Pompeii. Our own Hampi is great too but it is not as old as this. Moreover only 25 % of the city has been excavated and that itself boggles the mind. A near perfect experience was made even better by an excellent 3 course lunch in a good restaurant.

Day 2 of our Italy trip was very different from the first. From history and heritage of Pompei we landed in Sorrento and Capri, with all it’s natural beauty of the sea and hills. The views all over were quite captivating and the sheer cliffs rising practically right from the sea. Much of Sorrento is perched atop these cliffs.

The highlight of the day was travelling to the highest point of the island in a chair lift. It is literally a chair hung from a cable. As we sat there, the mist rolling in from the sea quite engulfed us as the chair passed through some greenery with the sea to our right and the hills to the left. A surreal experience is probably not an exaggeration in this case. While I was sorry to miss the Blue Grotto, a cave with the blue reflection from the sea water, this was somewhat made up by the views from the highest point of the island – particularly, the myriad hues of the sea, I myself could count some six colours.

Day 3 of the Italy trip started with a whistle stop tour of the Naples square. Quite an impressive place with the Galleria and the Opera house, which was built way back in 1737.

Next stop was Rome and we spent the afternoon in Vatican City. I had always been interested in it and my keenness had grown over the years after I followed the Dan Brown novels. The Vatican museum was a treasure trove of Italian Renaissance creations and it was rather overwhelming in some sense. The Sistine chapel is definitely the crowning glory of Michaelangelo’s painting career and the vivid colours were remarkable just for their longevity as well as the artistic brilliance.

The Basilica is probably the most famous example of a Christian Church and the richness in terms of conception and execution is simply incomprehensible at first take. Finally, the square which finds mention in so many novels for the Papal conclave and election, the news of which is conveyed by the colour of the smoke through a chimney, was a fitting end.

Day 4 of the trip was dedicated to Rome. We saw the Trevi fountain in the morning and it was a great sight. It is maintained very clean, even though a lot of shops are around.

The Rome orientation done from the bus was rushed but we did get to know a lot of unknown stuff about the city. The Time elevator ride was a great experience and the show has been conceived very well.

The Piazza Venezia is a magnificent structure and I went and explored it on my own. Finally the Colloseum was a fitting finale to the day. Even with much of it being in ruins, it is easy to imagine the grandeur it had in the past and our guide was brilliant in conjuring up the visions of gladiators going at each other full tilt in a filled Colloseum with the spectators baying for blood.

Rome is truly a city where the past and the present live in complete harmony and we have been fortunate to witness it. Though I have posted pictures for each of the above and some of them are quite good, one will need to get a real experience to understand this.

Day 5 of the trip was spent in San Gimignano and Pisa, both of which were exceptional.

San Gimignano is a very well preserved medieval town and it got the award of an UNESCO heritage site in 1990. It is a living city but the structures of the past are all preserved. Walking through it you get the feeling of being transported to a long past age. Definitely worth a visit, even for the brilliant natural beauty of Tuscany surrounding it.

Pisa is of course known for the Leaning tower and seeing it in front of us was an amazing experience. The Square of Miracles has several other great structures such as the Baptistry and the Cathedral. As with most Italian structures these are very well maintained.

Day 6 of our trip was mostly dedicated to Florence with a worthwhile viewing of the Ferrari museum in the afternoon.

Florence is probably the best example of architecture and sculpture seen anywhere, though Italy and Europe will have close rivals. The Cathedral is undoubtedly the high point of the walking tour we had. The two domes and the Bronze door were just amazing. The main square with the replicas of David and Hercules will please any art lover. Finally, the Alexander point offers a great overview of the City landscape.

The Ferrari museum is a veritable feast for the eyes to any sports car lover. Just to see so many of these together is great and gives you a feeling of elation.

The 7th and final day of the trip was for Venice, aptly called the Queen of the Adriatic. The whole experience was great from the approach by the boat, the walk through the markets and over the bridges, the church of St Marks and finally the Gondola ride through the canals.

Venice is different from all other places because of it’s unique ecosystem and the way it has been preserved over the years. Yes, the motor boats have made it more noisy and a tad more polluted but, in today’s day and age, a place sans any surface transport is great by itself.

The memories of Venice will stay with us for long. In all ways it was a high point of our visit to Italy. I have been to several places over the years but for the sheer diversity of natural beauty, history and heritage this tour has been an unique one.

Coming back from such a trip is always laced with a tinge of sadness but the memories will last us a long time. The return journey was more tiring as we were not really looking forward to the Hyderabad heat after the salubrious climate of Italy.

For the interested reader, my recommendation will be to go through the pictures I have posted in Facebook. To be candid though, no picture can do justice to the real experience of seeing the statue of David, the waters of Capri or the Sistine chapel among many others. You really need to visit Italy if you love history, heritage and culture.

For me, it was the only major country in western Europe where I had never been and I will now be looking at Scandinavia, Africa and South America as possible next destinations for my travel.