Happy New Year !!

Welcome to the new year !! I am not talking about the calender year, but the financial year. An average person does not care much about it and why should he? He has already gone through the mind-boggling exercise of arranging income-tax papers and investments etc and now is a time to take a sigh of relief. In India most of us follow the "college habit approach" to investments. I remember during the college days we use to study for the exam only when it looks fast approaching.

Most of us adopt a similar approach while putting their money for investments. And the worst part is that almost everyone looks at investment as a tax-saving avenue. I would expect that if government withdraws tax-advantage out of investment schemes, no-one will want to put their money. This is sad because the goal of personal finance is to optimally use the money you earn during your working life and having a security against all mis-haps in your life. The goal should not only be to save the tax but to iron out the financial ups and downs in one's life.

April is a significant month financially. This is the time when an individual is either flush with year-end arrears credits/claims/reimbursements or in deep financial trouble due to heavy cuts on account of large end-of-year income tax payout.

So here is a short guide to mangae "April Blues" :

1) Start Early : It is easier said than done. As I was writing this I realised that I have to fill a tax-declaration for financial year 07-08 to my employer. Now this can be a good starting point. Take some time out of your busy life and spend on quality discussion with your spouse/family members on how you want to manage you finances this year. There are some investments you are "stuck" with like that insurance policy you took just to fill up the Sec80C quota last year. Think carefully on what you need and what you can manage this year.

2) Identify investments for tax-saving purpose and those for purely investment purpose. Look at the various sections. Here are some major sections for tax-saving

Section 10 & 17 : HRA Exemption, Medical Exemption, LTA Exemption etc
Section 80D : Medical Premiums
Section 80E : Higher Education Loans
Section 80C : LIC, NSC, PPF, Housing Loan, MFs etc etc (an upper limit exists)

Some sections would exist where you already have invested and have a committments like LIC premium or MF SIP route.

3) Make sure you understand the changes in the income-tax sections as announced in the budget. You can either talk to a financial consultant or check out internet for the new laws. For example, the section 80E for higher education loan has been changed which allow you to get higher educaation loan exemption benefit even when the loan is taken by your children or spouse.

4) Once you have the list of you out-goes for tax-saving purpose (which are almost mandatory), think of the inflows thoughout the year and the possible expenditure. Expenditure are of two types : Planned & Unplanned(which can be further divided as Unplanned Necessity and Unplanned Luxury). For example, if you are planning to take a abroad trip or you want to buy a car then plan for it now. These are planned expenditure. You can even put money into short-term investment options to offset any inflation or any excess in the estimated price. When you spend on impulse buying like you went to a mall and instantly liked a new mobile phone, you just go ahead and use that plastic money (a.k.a credit card), that is an unplanned luxury expenditure. Make sure you put brakes on such unplanned expenditure by having an upper limit on it and sticking to it.

I put brakes on such an unplanned luxury expenditure by following rules:
a) Spend all luxury expenses through credit-card
b) Fix an upper limit of maximum one-month salary
c) If we are about to reach that limit, then stow away all credit cards/debit cards into a locker at home. If you dont have the card handy, you cannt be impuslive in buying. Sometimes its inconvinient but thats the price I pay for splurging on other times :-)

You should also reserve some cash for contingencies like accidents or illness. That would be Unplanned Necessity.

5) Once you have chalked out your in-flows and out-flows, then you can easily know how much extra money you have. Some part of this now can be put into long-term options specifically tailored for investment purpose and not for tax-saving.

It looks like a lot of headache to plan, but once you do it, you will rest in peace (of mind that is)!!

No comments:

Post a Comment