‘Investments’ is a sacred term for individuals. For many, investing means a kind of ‘compulsory’ savings from one’s earnings and getting lumpsum money later.
However, there is a lot more to investing than just that. Investing falls within a broader gamut of financial planning. It requires considerable thought and groundwork. Here, we have outlined some important guidelines to be borne in mind while planning your finances.
1. Do your homework
Before investing your money, ensure that you have done your homework well. It is ‘normal’ for sales pitches to be aggressive. Most sales executives are mainly interested in ‘commission earned’ or ‘business garnered’, which reflects in their monthly targets. That is why one only gets to hear the ‘best case scenario’ from agents/sales executives.
A lot of sales agents/consultants try to exploit the individual’s vulnerability and lack of knowledge while making a sales pitch. For instance, how else can you explain so many individuals in the low-risk category investing in high-risk ULIPs?
Or why term plans, in spite of being the cheapest form of insurance, are still not bought by most individuals? Or why mutual fund IPOs find so much favor with investors even when there is no fit in their portfolios?
One should understand his own profile in terms of income, risk appetite, and future plans and only then, make investments in tune with the same. Individuals need to know what benefits different products offer and how they fit into their financial portfolios before taking a call on investing in them.
You must listen to advise from different quarters but the final decision should rest with you alone after a careful analysis. After all, it’s your own hard-earned money.
2. Keep your eyes and ears open
Keep your eyes and ears open at all times for any investment opportunity that comes your way. The opportunity could be by way of changing market scenario or new product launches. Individuals shouldn’t lose out on any opportunity just because they didn’t know it existed.
Of course, this involves a bit of updating yourself with latest product trends, market conditions and changing economic scenario. This way, you will not be completely at the mercy of the consultant/agent to provide you with investment-related information and solutions.
3. Involve yourself
While buying any financial product, ensure that you have involved yourself at critical stages. For example, while taking life insurance, see to it that you personally fill all the details in the proposal form.
Insurance agents many times used to, themselves, fill up details like the height and weight of the insured, his age and medical history among other things, based solely on their own judgment. They merely asked the individual to sign on the form at the end.
What individuals don’t realise is that this can lead to rejection of claims at a later stage if discrepancies are found in the proposal form. The insurance company cannot be faulted for rejecting such a claim. It is a shortcoming on the agent’s part who should have requested you to fill the form yourself, else fill it himself after verifying your details.
All the necessary medical tests should also be diligently given. As mentioned earlier, any ‘false claims’ might lead to rejections at a later date.
4. Inform your near and dear ones
This is especially true in case of life insurance. Inform your near and dear ones as soon as the policy is bought. If your spouse and/or parents know that you have a life insurance cover wherein he/they are nominees, they will be better placed to follow up with the life insurance company for the claim proceeds should something happen to you.
Typically, life insurance should not be so sacred that you don’t broach the topic in the family. All related (and affected) parties must know exactly what needs to be done in your absence.
5. Maintain a logbook
Always maintain a logbook of your life insurance policies/investments. Individuals can and do have a variety of investments ranging from life insurance (endowment, term plan, ULIPs) to mutual funds and PPF/NSCs. A logbook should contain details about the same.
Over an extended period of time, it becomes difficult for one to remember or track investment details like maturity date, maturity value and rate of interest. This logbook will take care of that problem. Of course, it goes without saying that for the logbook to be really effective and useful, it should be updated periodically to reflect investments and redemptions.
This logbook should also include details of an individual’s liabilities like home loans, personal loans, the amount outstanding on such loans, the EMI and business liabilities (in case the individual runs a business) among others.
Details of the logbook should also be shared with your dependents (spouse, children, parents). An important reason for making a copy is, in case of an unfortunate eventuality, the spouse knows his/her exact financial status. Also, one wouldn’t want someone to come out of nowhere one fine day and stake a claim on the family’s assets based on some ‘fictitious’ liability.