Do you need HELP ?

I have been writing this blog for over 4 years now and one of the most common queries that I get from readers is whether I provide any Financial Planning services. Let me be upfront about this at the start – I do not provide such services in the way they are normally understood, nor am I a SEBI registered Financial Planner. In fact, I have absolutely no intention of being one too as I do not see this as my profession.

However, I do provide a service to select people who approach me directly. I have given the acronym of HELP to it. The expanded form is Holistic Engagement in Life Planning. In this post I will explain about this service and explain as to how interested people can avail of my services for this. As I have explained in several posts of my blog, life planning must precede financial planning. As an individual or as someone responsible for your family well being, you will need to plan the important life events as well as the lifestyle choices you want to maintain. Note that the typical financial planning process assumes that people will by and large plan for typical goals such as children’s education, marriage, own retirement etc. I find this a completely unsuitable way of doing things as the life of each individual is unique and needs to be catered as such.

So what is HELP then? As I said, the starting point is to take stock of your life in terms of where you are today and what are your dreams as a family – individually and collectively. So if you are a family of 4 with two teenaged son and daughter, your dreams could look like this when you are 42 years old :-

  • Son wants to take up a career in Bio technology, daughter wants to be a film maker.
  • Your wife is 38 and gave up her career for her kids 10 years back – she now wants to open up a boutique of her own in the next 3 years.
  • You are interested in starting your Consultancy practice by the time you are 50 and for that you need to be financially independent.
  • All of you like travelling and want to take a domestic vacation every year apart from short trips and also an international vacation every alternate year.

The idea of HELP is to bring out these life goals and lifestyle choices clearly, so that it can be determined what kind of financial support these would require and how can that be organized. Yes, the last part will involve financial planning but it will be in a very different way than just how to buy MF through SIP etc. 

As I said, I have provided HELP to several people and all these were people who have approached me after reading my blog. Some examples will make interesting reading:-

  • Advised a Colonel in Indian army as to how he could fulfill his dream of migrating to Canada in a teaching role.
  • A software professional in Kolkata was worried about longevity of job and worked out an alternate plan should such an event occur.
  • Got several people started on building a stock portfolio from scratch.
  • Helped a mid career software professional to join a startup as it was more aligned to what he wanted to do in life.
  • Motivated a frustrated career CEO to organize his money to become financially free and move on to training people, something he really enjoyed.

Note that in all of these cases, the people already had a financial plan made through a SEBI accredited Financial planner but they were not happy with their life and lifestyle.

The question that will definitely be asked is why am I the right person to do this? Let me start by giving some background of myself :-

  • BE in Computer Science & Engg from Jadavpur university, Kolkata in 1986.
  • PGDM from IIM Calcutta in 1988, with major in Marketing and Systems.
  • Overall experience of 31 years plus, 27 years in regular corporate roles and nearly 4 years now in my Consultancy practice.
  • I have worked almost entirely in the software services and BPO space.
  • Have worked as a CXO for 15 years plus, nearly half of this in 2 publicly listed companies.
  • Lived in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad besides having travelled widely all through the world for my work.
  • Have been financially independent since 2014 and writing a blog since 2015 June. The blog has had views in excess of 4 lacs till date.
  • My daughter is BE from BITS, PGDBM from XLRI and working in a Consultancy firm now. My son is from BITS with  a dual degree – Msc Maths + BE in Computer Science. He is now working in an MNC in Bangalore.
  • I am associated with helping students in career counselling for Engineering / MBA.
  • Am in the Hyderabad panel for IIMC admissions.

I believe in the Indian context, I am one of the few people who are able to deliver a service such as HELP. This has been proven by the 10 situations where this is done.

So if you are interested in knowing more about this, how do you get started? Well, the first step will be to write to me at expressing your interest to avail of this. I will then ask a few questions over mail to assess your current situation and then we can have an introductory call. After this I will let you know if I can do this for you and what will it cost.

Typical duration for the complete exercise is 1 month, with 2 interactions over phone per week and costs depend on the individual situation, there is a one time fee for the first year. Yearly reviews after first year will be 25 % of the year 1 costs.

If you reach out to me, do not get offended on my inability to take you up ( if that happens ). I am doing this to add real value to the lives of the people and therefore cannot spread myself too thin.

Look forward to hearing from some of you – believe me, your life will undergo a serious transformation once you go through this exercise.

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 75,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

How to use my blog effectively

I started this blog on June 17th of this year, so it has been around for about 4 months and a fortnight. I must say that I am very surprised at the reception the blog has had. The reason I started it was simple – I knew that a blog with such personal dimension in creating awareness about how to arrive at financial independence did not exist, and given the current interest in personal finance related issues, I was quite sure of a decent readership. Even so, a readership of about 55000 views in this period is astounding to me – it has also encouraged me to keep writing regularly, as the 160 posts will show.

Many readers of the blog have asked me queries ranging from insurance to stock picking to mutual funds and everything in between. While I try to answer every query addressed to me, it is getting more difficult to do so with the increasing number of transactions. More importantly, a lot of these queries would actually get addressed if the reader took care to search the blog for the relevant posts and read these properly. At another level, I may also be responsible to a degree inasmuch as I have not explicitly explained how the blog can be used effectively. So, here is my attempt to do so.

Just below the Title of the blog you will see the link “For first time Readers”. Any new reader or even the old ones should definitely click on this link. It will take you to a post which has further links to a host of useful guides that I have written over the last 4 months. All of these are a must read for anyone interested in personal finance and trying to chart out a plan of their own in their journey towards financial independence. Be sure to click on each of the hyperlinks to read the posts.

The top box on the right hand panel is for search, where you can search for any phrase. For example ” MF Portfolio” will lead you to some posts where this phrase is a part of. If you provide your email id by clicking on the Button “Follow”, you will get an email intimation whenever a new post is published in the blog. I will recommend you to do this if you are interested in following any new posts that I write. Going down the right hand panel, you will see a listing of the recent posts and the archives by month. If you have started reading my blog in October, you may want to click on the earlier month’s to check out what I had written about in those months.

The “Categories” section is obviously the most interesting. I have tried to make the category names as self-explanatory as possible and I hope you will not have problems in using this well. For example you can click on the category SIP to check out all the posts I have written on it. A combination of this and the search feature should be getting you what you want.

How can you get in touch with me if you have a question? Well, there are several ways and it really depends on why you want to interact with me. See below:-

  • If you have a query or a comment on a post I have written then you can simply comment in the blog itself. I normally respond to all the comments within a day.
  • If your query is specific to stock markets or stocks, I encourage you to become member of my Facebook group “Market Musings” and post your query there. You will get a response not only from me but also from a lot of other members who are active in the stock market.
  • If you have a query on your personal investment then the best way will be to send me a message on Facebook Messenger. I normally respond within 1 day here too.
  • If you want me to help you with your financial plan send me a message and ask for my email id. Once I respond with it, you can send me the details through email.

I will of course, continue to write the blog but feel that it already contains a wealth of information that you can use effectively in planning out your route to financial independence. Read it and use it well – it does have potential to decisively change your life for the better.

A compilation of all my guides

Over the past 2 months and a bit, I have published several posts in the blog that have pretty much covered most aspects of personal finance and goal based investments. As new readers keep visiting the blog, I get inundated by the same queries which have already been answered in the earlier posts. I thought it will be a good idea to point all readers to the guides that I have published over this time. You can read these to gain a complete understanding of most investment issues.

The following are the guides that you will find to be the most useful:-

As you know I had started a series on how to build your own stock portfolio from scratch. Over the next week, I will get into specifics of the sectors and companies that you can look at investing.

I am happy to see many people have got started out here. Also, become a part of my Facebook group Market Musings where a lot more is discussed on the general market situation and also individual stocks.

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.

Building your own stock portfolio – Know the ground rules first

So you have finally decided that you need to invest in stocks. You have defined an amount you can spend, have got a Demat and a Trading account in place and may even have signed up with a broker or some financial adviser to help you select stocks. However, before you take the plunge ans start investing, there are a few critical ground rules that you must keep in mind. This post ia about such rules to be remembered.

  • You will always look to build a portfolio pf stocks and be concerned about performance of portfolio. The portfolio approach is the most important aspect of equity investing. The basic idea is this – as you spread your investment over multiple stocks in multiple sectors, the scale of the risk in each of these is contained. So at an overall portfolio level you have a lower risk of losses. We will discuss on how to build a portfolio at a later date.
  • Ideally no stock should be more than 10 % or less than 2 % of your portfolio value in the long run. All of us will have our own favorite companies whose shares we want to buy. However, if we cap the investment at not more than 5 % of the portfolio value then we are once again containing the risk. Similarly, by investing at least 1 % of the portfolio value in a stock, you are ensuring that the investment is at a meaningful level.
  • You do not need to analyse companies yourself but must have access to the right information. Many people may have told you that you must read tons of financial information and understand every word of the Balance sheet before you can invest in a company. That is completely unnecessary and frankly it is an utter waste of time. Do not reinvent the wheel – there are far better qualified people than you who can do this well. All you need is to have access to such data and an ability to understand simple stuff well.
  • Always buy in small lots and with price triggers for both buying and selling. In stocks it is very important to understand that pricing is dynamic and is impossible to predict in the short run. It therefore does not make any sense to invest a large amount at one go. You can decide on what is a large amount based on the portfolio value that you want to create. We will be discussing this in much greater detail at a later point in time. Also, you must set price triggers for both buying and selling – this will take away the emotion from the decision and enable you to carry out trade calmly.
  • All profits and losses are notional till you make a sale. The value of your portfolio will be changing everyday and it can be like a roller coaster ride emotionally. While we will get elated when it rises by 3 % on a single day, it will be emotionally gut wrenching to see it nose dive by the same amount on other days. Remember that you do not make or lose money till you actually sell. On many days doing nothing can be the best solution.
  • Never bring yourself to a situation so that you have to sell stocks at the wrong time. The most serious risk in stock markets is that we may sometimes be forced to redeem part of our portfolio at the wrong time, as we need the money for some emergency. Your financial plan must address this issue squarely and make sure that you will have other sources of obtaining this money even if there is an emergency.
  • You will make both right and wrong calls on individual stocks do not worry about it. You must always evaluate your portfolio performance, it is impossible for most people to get even 70 % of their stock picks correct. Even if you get half of your stock picks correct for your portfolio, you will make a great deal of money from it.
  • Review your stocks in the portfolio every month / quarter but do not be obsessed with it.
  • You need to try and buy stocks at the right price and also hold these for as long as practical.
  • Do not be sentimental about any stock, if the review shows it has to be got rid of, do so immediately.

We will get into more specific aspects of building a high performing stock portfolio, the next post onward.

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.

Guide for buying a first home

Over the last week, I have published a few posts on my blog dealing with issues of first time home purchase. I thought it would be a good idea to combine all these posts to make a guide for home buying. As before you can follow the hyperlinks to get to the individual posts. New readers should read all of these to get a complete understanding of all the relevant aspects.

Should you buy your first home now outlines all the important factors that need to be taken into consideration when you are planning to buy your first home. The first case study talks of a situation where a family can afford the home they are seeking to buy. The next case study is of a situation where buying the kind of home the family is looking at will not be financially prudent. 

There is an idea some people have that investing in equity now and buying a home later on will work out better. This post handles that aspect and discusses it thoroughly. This first time home buying checklist will help you to make a better decision on whether you are ready to buy the home or not.

Most of us will need home loans to buy a home, get a fuller knowledge of it here. The next post outlines why you must try to pay your home loan quickly. The final post of the series looks at my own experience of home buying and home loan.

I hope armed with this knowledge many first time home buyers will be able to buy their own homes in a financially productive manner.

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.

My experiences with the blog

One week they say is a long time in politics but, not being a politician, my knowledge of that will only be second hand in nature. As a blogger though, I do have a rich experience of 2 full months now to the day. June 17th was the day when I started the blog and today is the day the blog has completed it’s second month.

Though several people had encouraged and urged me to start a blog on personal finance aspects, I was always reluctant to do so. My main reason for the hesitation was that, I would not want to do something which would be read by very few people. Having been readers of some blogs myself, I know it is hard to get readership and the initial enthusiasm very often peters out and you are left with only a handful of loyal readers. However, the reception I had to some posts I wrote in the Facebook Groups AIFW and Market Musings ( my own group ) assured me that there would be a decent response to my blog.

The trigger point of starting the blog were mainly three. Firstly, I was finding it difficult to handle all queries from readers in the Facebook groups I was in. I thought it would be a good idea to write posts and direct readers to those, instead of explaining the same stuff multiple times. Secondly, my daughter being present at home during her summer vacation meant that she could help greatly in setting up the blog. Not that it was very complex to do, but I doubt whether I would have done it completely on my own.Thirdly, being on my own with the Consultancy practice gave me a fair amount of time to do this. If I was in a CEO role, as I was till last year, it would not have been possible.

The start of the blog was rather auspicious as I had a good deal of viewership almost immediately. I thought it was mainly because of the curiosity value of something new, but I am happy to note that the readership has sustained. The challenge is to keep writing posts that I have conviction about and making sure they are relevant to the readers at the same time. Not knowing, details of statistics on similar blogs at start-up, I am unable to comment on how successful the blog has been, but I can present some basic statistics to give an idea to the readers.

  • Number of posts published in the blog including this = 100
  • Views till today = 26,756
  • Visitors till today = 11102
  • Highest number of views in a day = 970
  • Highest number of visitors in a day = 532

But more than the numbers, I have been really glad that there has been some difference made in the following:-

  • Several people have been encouraged to take up investment in direct equity.
  • Many of my posts tackling controversial topics such as SIP effectiveness have been read widely.
  • Many readers have reached out to me for advice and through these interactions I have learnt a lot too.
  • A lot of the feedback has been quite complimentary, but more importantly, usefulness of the blog has been agreed upon by most readers.

The following posts have been the most popular in the blog in terms of viewership, so here are the links:-

  1. Why you must invest in PPF
  2. My current SIP in Mutual Funds
  3. Why you must be in direct equity
  4. Should you buy your first home now
  5. SIP – A modified version

What of the future? I do plan to continue the blog and hope that it is already in a place where many new investors can come and find useful resources to help them in their own financial planning process.

The century of posts was scored rather easily, but it is now time to take fresh guard.

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.