First salary of FY 2017-18 is in and invested. It sure isn’t very interesting when you do one transaction and all of your investments are done for the month. There is no real thrill of researching and reinventing as you go along once you narrow down on a strategy to Financial Independence.
We started last year on shaky legs still learning to walk the financial planning bit of our lives. We were clueless about direct investing in mutual funds, zero brokerage trading (affiliate link) and more importantly the real long term game.
As we put first of our saved money, into various mutual funds we learnt we might want to change our approach to what we thought would suit us better. As the year went on we realized these early years are the best time for us to experiment with the investment strategy.
Below is an account of how we decided to save our money and how it went for us.
Most investors in Indian markets would advise to put your money in something which has high growth potential and it is still possible to beat the market. Why? Because we are still growing as an economy and a lot of measures are being taken to take us from a developing to developed nation.
With the urge to beat the market there is the need to know what will let you achieve the beating. We have no clue (like most around us) and we know we are in it for the long term. We know that the market will go up in the long run however the share or sector we bet upon may completely vanish the other day. You can easily ask those who lost money of kingfisher airlines or on businesses which are redundant today.
It was surprising for me to know that SENSEX and NIFTY change every day in how they weigh the stocks in the index and which company should be a part of the index.
With the uncertainty which accompanies making specific choice and our need to keep the money alive for as long as we can, index funds become the best choice.
Lower expense ratios are just added bonus and with the (late) discovery of direct funds we are paying as less as 0.3% for majority of our funds in expenses. This might not be a valid point for many but we don’t believe in sharing the returns of our money unless we have to.
We have thought of adding a few sector specific funds to the portfolio going forward but have not been able to justify the purchase. We own a few other funds some from before we decided to take charge of our finances and others as an experiment.
I am sure you can see where we believe our money is best invested.
The Dividend Gamble
In last November we started another experiment to see how dividend stocks would work for us. We started small and we have been keeping our holdings within 10% of our net worth. The reason for this is twofold one it keeps more of our money in other long term safer holdings and secondly we accept we are no stock picking experts.
We are still at the experiment and did pump a decent sum around March. However we are probably not buying a lot more individual stocks in near future and definitely not making individual stocks a majority sector in the portfolio. Since we bought the stocks in last few months on the FY it is not fair to judge how much dividend we got out of them. That analysis I would hold back for the next FY.
The Real Estate Factor
It would be stupid to not talk about real estate as a major contributor to our net worth. We do get a monthly rent but we do not include value of the house when we talk about our net worth because we don’t own it outright and because that value is never absolute.
Currently we are landlords for the only flat we own and additional money sure doesn’t hurt. We have gone back and forth about whether we want to add more properties to our portfolio. Over multiple discussions we have gone back and forth about our decisions to buy but the answer for now is – no. This stems not just from our desire to keep our lives simpler but also because we don’t really have spare money to put into a non liquid asset.
The Home loan
As said above and in multiple posts here and here we own a flat. We also own a home loan to go along with it and it is more than what the rent covers. Last year in April we equated our home loan, using the overdraft facility offered by our loan provider. That meant we would not be paying any interest at all and our loan would eventually end earlier. At that time it felt like the best use of our money and a guaranteed way of ensuring we do not default on our loan.
Around June we had started challenging our financial beliefs with something known as maths, which told us this was not the best approach. We ran multiple scenarios which helped us determine the best ratio between offsetting the loan and investing in other heads. We have since reduced the amount we maintain in the OD account and have invested remaining.
The OD account is our emergency fund account which allows us to travel (replenished by us) dole out money when needed for family emergencies or invest in bulk. Currently we divert rent collected to this account which allows us to take money out without making a huge permanent dent in the account.
We had been following NPS for sometime but it wasn’t till late February that we seriously looked into what this instrument can do for us. We found that it is a good way to both save today as well as let our money grow without any interference from us for a good time. We have opted into the aggressive plan which invests 75% of our money into stock market using funds and remainingn is split in debt instruments. This is in line with what we intend to do with our money anyways.
Before we invested in NPS we were aiming to max our contribution for PPF. PPF in its own right is a great instrument to let your money grow but being an interest based option it does not provide the benefits that NPS does. We are currently aiming to put 50K each in NPS to get the extra tax saving we can and keep on contributing 1Lac to our PPF.
In our tax bracket we are able to reduce our tax liability 20K while investing which makes it a double benefit deal.
We are blessed with a profession which allows us to earn some on the side without flouting company policies. Even though with increased workload we have not been able to grow the revenues we have however been able to support a big chunk of our travels through it. That has allowed us to build our stash and not feel trapped into the grind completely.
As we work towards re-balancing our lives and learning how to say no to unfair requests at work we both hope to achieve better quality of life and time to increase our side gig earnings.
The Life Changes
Apart from what financial changes we made including reining in our expenses last year led us to multiple personal changes as well. We are now much more conscious of both spending and consumption. We have always known how much we spent past month but how that relates to our overall goals was never clear. This was perhaps because we had no goals we were aiming for except for finishing our mortgage.
Our life has much more clarity now and we have far more discussion about where we plan on being in next decade and decades after that. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in inching our way to the goal.
Before this we were usually looking at our expenses and the amount left from income as potential expenses. Now every penny we make is a way for us to get out of mandated working and allows us freedom to choose how we wish to spend our lives. I feel much more at rest mentally about our way forward and running multiple scenarios has led us to for the first time settle into our current job. As we said here we firmly believe saving is more of a mind game than a money game.
We are always open to better opportunities but knowing even in current job with its job security we are on our way to ensuring a far better and relaxed life than many around us. We get frustrated every now and then but know we are not in deep trouble with where we stand today.
The desire to be able to work on our own terms has reduced our desire to own more stuff. We have been actively purging our belongings and have reduced a lot of clothes, plastic ware and small knickknacks which have been gathering dust in various storage locations.
This is also the first time in years that we have a household which we run completely and it has taken us over a year to realize we can finally grow some roots. We can choose to retire from this city if we want or swap to another once we have the chance. Like I said above we know even while living in this expensive city we can get our numbers to work.
Even if you are not looking to actively save or retire and would rather spend every last penny you earn, take the time to think and decide where you want to be in five or ten years from now. If you are worried about what you can afford or how much you can save in your current situation running a few numbers can help you reach answers quicker.
How do your investment breakups look? What category of investments do you believe are best for you?