Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tips to grow your money the safe way:

Plain-vanilla fixed income assets can pump up the savings of not only the retired, but also those of young professionals.

You won’t catch them dead near the stock market. They are very happy putting away their hard-earned savings in fixed deposits, public provident funds, company deposits and so on. And not all of them are retired individuals who do not want the uncertainty of stocks ruining the fun of their sunset years.

There are many young executives, who don’t want to take the extra risk of investing in stocks. While a retired individual wants a monthly income to meet his day-to-day expenses, the working individual looks at building a fixed-income corpus to save for a rainy day or emergencies which may come his way. According to an India Wealth Report 2010 by Karvy Private Wealth, as much as 66% of Indian wealth, which is around Rs 48 lakh crore, is in fixed income assets.

Compared to this, global investors invested only 58% of their individual wealth in debt instruments during the same period.

Fixed income investors are generally risk-averse, want safety of principal and do not believe in churning their portfolios too much. They also want their investments to be as simple as possible.

There was a time when fixed-income investors earned as high as 12% by investing in bonds of reputed companies such as Tata Capital and Shriram Transport Finance or fixed deposits (FDs) of companies like Telco (now Tata Motors) and Mahindra Finance. However, that was during the global financial crisis in 2008-2009. With the crisis receding, earning double-digit interest on FDs is no longer possible.

No wonder, 2010 has been a tough year so far for fixed income investors. Inflation has sky-rocketed and remained in double digits for a major part of the year. The Reserve Bank of India raised rates five times during the year, in a bid to rein in rising inflation. However, banks were flush with liquidity and did not raise interest rates.

So, while inflation was close to 10%, interest rates were in the range of 6-7% per annum. As a result, investors got negative real returns from their fixed income investments. Simply put, when an investor gets 7% from his FD while the inflation rate is 10%, he actually earns negative returns.

Typically, fixed income investors have choices such as FDs (bank and company FDs), debt mutual funds (liquid funds, income funds, gilt funds, fixed maturity plans) and post office investments like National Savings Certificates and 8% Government of India (GoI) bonds. Fixed deposits account for 30% of the overall individual wealth in India, while small savings constitute around 7% of the estimated wealth in India. Here, we take a look at some solutions for retired and working individuals:

Retired Individuals: Typically, an individual, who has worked during his active years, receives a lump sum on his retirement. Safety of capital is of prime importance to him. His objective is to generate a monthly income out of this corpus to sustain his lifestyle, some lump sum money for his children’s wedding or education and some surplus money to take care of medical emergencies or to go for a dream vacation as the case may be.

Safety is one of the biggest priorities for retired individuals. The Senior Citizens Savings Scheme, which gives 9% per annum payable quarterly, meets this important need. Individuals, aged 60 and above, and retiring employees, aged 55 and above, can invest in the scheme. The scheme has a five-year tenure and can be extended further for a period of three years.

“This is the highest return that a retired individual can get with the highest degree of safety from the central government,” says Uttam Agarwal, executive vice-president, Bajaj Capital, who advises retired individuals to invest in this scheme. However, one must note that premature closure is possible only after one year, with a nominal penalty.

If individuals want a monthly income, they can opt for a post office monthly income scheme (MIS), which gives a return of 8% per annum. Here, the maximum limit is Rs 4.50 lakh in a single account and Rs 9 lakh in a joint account. Here, too, premature closure after one year attracts a penalty of 2% while closure after three years attracts a penalty of 1%.

Investors can also look at company FDs, where in some cases the returns can be as high as 9.5-11%, though they do carry a higher risk compared to government schemes. “We advise senior citizens to invest in companies with AA or AAA rating and spread their investments across a number of companies,” says Anup Bhaiya, managing director, Money Honey Financial Services.

Remember, don’t go by returns alone while zeroing on company FDs, as many retired people often fall victim to bogus companies offering high interest rates. However, when it comes to getting the capital back, they realise that the company has folded up.

When it comes to mutual funds for retired investors, fixed maturity plans (FMPs) and short-term income funds are considered the best bet.

“FMPs give you the benefit of indexation and returns could be in the range of 8-8.5% for a 1-3 year tenure,” says Ramanathan K, chief investment officer, ING Mutual Fund.

Working Individuals: We are assuming that you are averse to taking risks and, hence, do not want to invest any money in equity. Also, you may have some loans, like home and car loans, to repay. So, liquidity will be of prime importance to you, as the accumulated surplus money can be used in times of emergencies or fulfil short-term goals like a vacation. 

~ Courtesy: ET

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