Follow 4 proven steps to plan for an early retirement

It is a persistent question on everyone’s mind. How much I need to save per month for a stress-free & early retirement? Am I saving enough? What should be the ideal expense to savings ratio? Follow these 4 simple steps in order to plan for your retirement savings and achieve financial independence:

  • Track Current Expenses (CE)

It is a first step towards any sound financial planning and particularly so in planning for retirement. Without knowledge of your current expenses (CE), it is almost impossible to understand what sort of annual or monthly budget would be required few decades down the line. More so it is difficult to judge how much of saving is possible without understanding the outflow.

You may be able to identify extravagant expenses & make appropriate cuts in your CE to clinch that goal of early retirement. These days there are variety of apps available, such as Finart, to help you automatically track and categorize your spending.

  • Determine Cost of Living (CoL)

Cost of Living is a subjective term and depends on your city & lifestyle. But it can be crudely defined as the expenses required for bare necessities such as house, groceries, transport etc.

  • If you are supporting a family, it will also include their expenses such as Children’s school fees etc.
  • If you have incurred any major expense such as buying a TV or a vacation, average it over a year and include it in CoL This is assuming that you will be expecting such expenses over a foreseeable period of time

Use your discretion to filter through your current expenses (CE) over last few months to come up with a final CoL number.  This is a non-negotiable amount which you will require month-over-month.

  • Determine Ideal Income-Savings Ratio (IISR)

This can make or break your early retirement plan. So spend some quality time to determine your Ideal Income-Savings Ratio (IISR). There is no golden IISR which can be applied to all. But you can come up with the ratio which is just right for you by making use of CE & CoL numbers obtained in previous steps. Compare your cost of living or CoL with your income & follow these rules of thumb:

  1. Your cost of living (CoL) consumes a significant portion of your income (e.g. between 60-100%) It becomes rather difficult to do reasonable savings. In this case, make sure you save at least 10% of income even if it requires some cuts in your current expenses and/or CoL. If you can do more savings, the better. Do not allocate budget for any luxury/discretionary spending until you are saving at least 25% of your income.
  2. Your cost of living is much less than income (e.g. 40% or below) It indicates you are in a higher income bracket relative to your CoL. In this case target a saving of 40% or more of your income as you can afford to do the same. This will still leave a room of about 10% for your luxury/discretionary spending  to improve your quality of life.

 

  • Right Investment Instruments

Let’s say you want to continue with your current lifestyle in your retirement period as well. An intuitive estimate is if you save as much as your expenses from today onward, you will be able to enjoy as many years of retired life as the remainder of your working years.

But this is based on assumption that the instrument of your investment is close to inflation index in your country. For example, If the inflation  in your country is close to 10%, you need to target an investments which can give at least similar returns. Keep in mind that returns have to be post-tax.

Let’s say a long-term fixed deposit gives close to 6% p.a. post tax You might want to split the investments into some high-gain medium-risk mutual funds which are giving close to 15% per annum. Look for their historical performance. Bear in mind that there is always some risk involved but it will ensure that your corpus does not decrease in value day-by-day.

If you have entrepreneurial gene, here is the bonus tip to plan your retirement on your own terms.

  • Own a Business Stake

You won’t get rich renting out your time. You must own a stake in a business to earn your financial freedom. But a business stake is not easier to get, you have to take accountability and take risks. Renting out your time to someone can earn you money but not wealth (leaving some thoughts to ponder). Take your 2019 plunge to create wealth for yourself and for everyone around you.

How to Get Out of Debt – A simple 6 Step 2019 Guide

A Debt trap is not a good thing. We can relate to the struggle to get out of it. It requires a conscious and focused effort of making a list, tracking your expenses, consolidating the debts and making changes in your spending so that you do not splurge more than your income.

What is the best way to get out of Debt?

Getting out of debt requires discipline. At multiple levels. You will need to be disciplined in your spending, disciplined in paying your bills on time and disciplined to follow through the steps outlined here.

We have given below a six-step guide to help you get out of debt as fast as possible:

1. Finish off Smaller Debts First 

Every debt has a string of charges involved starting with the interest on loan money, processing fees, pre-payment charges & so on. Not to mention the burden of maintaining a debt account, tracking the due dates and making the payment. Hence if you have multiple debts, make a list of all of them and sort in the increasing order of pending amount. Thereafter look at the top 1 or 2 debts to see if you can quickly close them in a few months by making more than required payments.

2. Consolidate when possible

Multiple loans are difficult to track, just like multiple credit cards. And if you missed any one of the due dates, you will be slapped with severe late payment and finance charges + taxes. In order to avoid that, explore if you can consolidate your debts at one or two places. This applies more to items which are towards the bottom of the list created in step 1. You can either avail more loan from one of the sources to pay off the others or opt for outstanding balance transfer facility available for some financial institutions.

3. Switch to lower rates

There is stiff competition in the loan market. Banks and NBFCs are trying to outbid each other in order to acquire more customers. There is always one or the other new schemes which can lower your interest rates. Keep an eye out to see if it can benefit you substantially. But also bear in mind the processing fees involved . Also dont do it too frequently or when the loan is nearing the end as it will lead to unnecessary botheration without significant financial benefit.

4. Track your Expenses

Next step is to start tracking your expenses. It is a sound financial practice and more so if you are in a debt trap. Tracking expenses will help you understand the difference between your expenses and income, which is the amount you can split between savings and payment of your debt. These days there are many apps available which simplify the task of tracking expenses. They also provide an idea of your average monthly expenses and also which category is consuming most of your budget. Among those apps, Finart is worth mentioning. It is simple, secure and easy to use. Keep a budget for each category as well as an overall monthly budget

5. Never pay late payment or Finance Charges

When you have multiple debts, it also means multiple due dates and bills. Failing to pay the EMI or minimum amount due can result in serious charges which can derail your recovery process. Make a list and ensure that you are never late for any payment due to negligence. Set reminders or use apps such as Finart to give you automatic due date reminders.

6. Continue to Save a Minimum Amount

Whenever you have a positive difference between income and expenses, you may be tempted to use the full amount for paying your debt. This may not be completely wise. Always keep a certain amount of saving fund or an emergency fund which can be used in unforeseen circumstances. We recommend it to be at least 10% of your income. Use the remaining amount to prepay your debts.

Once you are fairly our of debt, checkout this advice on living a debt free life

Check your SBI account balance using toll free enquiry

There are many occasions when you may want to know your State bank of India (SBI) bank balance. For e.g you may want to make sure that you have sufficient balance to cater to your scheduled auto debits or someone might have deposited money in your account and you just want to make sure its credited in your account. The days are gone when you had to visit SBI branch or ATM to check SBI account balance, now with mobile phones everything (including account balance) is available on your tips.

SBI has been traditionally known to provide legacy systems and leaving the needs of digital savvy customers. unaddressed. But in recent year, SBI has been adopting latest and relevant tools to offer excellent customer service. SBI toll-free balance enquiry is one of the easiest and quickest methods to check your SBI account balance without visiting your SBI branch or ATM.

SBI enquiry using toll free number

SBI has setup a state-of-the-art IVRS system to provide key services from the comfort of your home. IVRS enables you to use a toll free number to avail multiple services including account balance enquiry. To use the IVRS service to check your account balance, you can follow either of these 2 options:
1. Give a missed call to 09223766666 from your mobile number which is registered for this service.
2. Send a SMS in following format to 09223766666 from your mobile number which is registered for this service.
SMS Format: ‘BAL’

SBI will send a SMS with account balance information to your registered mobile number.

If you are not sure if your mobile number is registered for toll-free service, you can check it by simply dialing 09223766666 number. If your number is registered, then you will receive your account balance information in a SMS otherwise your call will be simply ignored by the IVRS system. You can register your mobile number by following simple one time registration process. You just need to send SMS ‘REG<space>Account Number’ to 09223488888 e.g. REG 2233445566

Check bank balance using ATM

Apart from toll-free service, you can also check your account balance using your ATM-cum-debit card. You need to visit a State Bank of India ATM and follow these steps:
Swipe the SBI ATM-cum-debit card
Enter your 4-digit ATM PIN
Choose the “Balance Enquiry” option

ATM will display the account balance on screen and also provide a print option so you can take it for your record. You can also visit non-SBI or other bank’ ATM service to check your account balance. But please note that RBI has limited the total number of free transactions per ATM/debit card. Balance enquiry is also counted as one transaction towards this limit. If you cross this monthly limit of free transactions, you will have to pay transaction charges. The number of transactions is inclusive of the ones you carry out at any ATM whether it is an SBI or a non-SBI bank ATM. This is one of the main reasons why you should do your balance enquiry online and reserve the ATM transactions for cash withdrawal only.

You can also find more details on different options for account balance enquiry on SBI website

5 Tips for Your Upcoming Europe Trip

Europe trip is always one of the most cherished dreams for many of us. We spend years dreaming about it, planning it and saving for it. And suddenly the stars align and everything falls in place for us to embark on that memorable journey.

Today we would share five important tips so that you can enjoy your upcoming Europe trip even more.

Without further ado, here they are:

1. Travel Light

It is age-old, But it still remains a golden rule.

You should print it out and paste it around the house before you start your packing. Because we are tempted to ignore it so often. Try to cut down on things which you can & probably will buy on the trip. This includes — clothes, estimate your shopping destinations and plan one or two days of clothing from that shopping itself. Shoes — one for the cold and one for the comfort. Enough. Woolens — Check the weather forecast. You would probably be carrying one entire big suitcase for the whole trip, just for Jungfrau-josh, which is less than half a day event.

A heavy luggage will slow you down everywhere. And you will be forced to take taxis instead of wonderful public transport.

2.   Pack Home Food

Food can be an issue, especially if you are a vegetarian. Also it is pricey. You will find good vegetarian options in McDonald’s as well as at Subway. Look for them everywhere. Use google for help.

Chances are, you will start craving your home cuisine as soon as the second day itself. So carry some dry non-perishable versions such as theplas, khakras, MTR, Maggi which you can just microwave and eat. They are also very useful while you are taking long EuroRail journeys.

Visit a good neighborhood supermart in europe in the morning or while you are done with a day’s attractions and buy packs of croissants — they are great for both adults & kids throughout the day.

3.   Don’t Cut on Taxis

This can sound opposite to conventional advise, But if you failed to pack very very light, which you will, then better not to cut corners on Taxis. That is, when you are moving bases. There is no point dragging 2 large size suitcases and 3 of their babies in a tram or metro. You will regret this even more when you will have to climb stairs with them in a suburban metro station where there are no escalators. It will only diminish your spirits, waste time and take out the fun.

For rest of the days when you are just with a handbag, take the public transport for sure.

4.   Add one more day for Switzerland

Here is a prediction, even if you allocate equal days for different countries, chance are that you will remember and cherish Switzerland far more disproportionately. One does not believe this until it happens with her.

So it would not hurt at all to add another day for Switzerland in your itinerary (if you already don’t have enough days for it)

5.   Track Your Expenses

This is important as we did not find this advice anywhere. But it will be easy to get lost in all the expenses made at several places. Install a nice expense manager app such as FinArt.

While it will automatically record expenses wherever you get SMS from Bank (enable international roaming before going, it will be handy), there is a widget to easily enter the expenses. You can do it one or twice a day whenever you get time. It will make your life much easier once you get back. Especially true if you are travelling with a group of friends.

Did we say 5 in the title? Here are some Bonus Tips:

6.   Keep a good Mobile Camera

We know you are planning to take your SLR but plan for a good mobile camera with enough memory space (get an SD card). Mobile cam is handy and you can click pictures in a jiffy. You will end up capturing some nice moments. Plus side is that you can upload them on facebook/Instagram as your trip progresses.

7.   Be Mindful of your Belongings

Italy is a beautiful country. And this advice is true to almost anywhere But be especially mindful of your belongings while travelling in public transport in Italy. There are enough reported incidents of pick-pockets in Florence/Pisa stretch. Be especially careful of visa & passports. Carry photocopies with you in your handbag at all times.

We hope you come back with a treasured bag of memories to be cherished forever.

How to secure your mobile apps & avoid data leaks

Delving a few months back in time, USA was witness to an outright, well schemed and open robbery in pure daylight. No, we’re not talking about any bank robbery. Neither are we referring to an economic scam or a political scandal that seems to have gained a fair share of popularity. The crooks in this crime were armed with the most modern form of weaponry in today’s digital age – Tools to exploit mobile app safety!

People in the US had their personal details palmed off by an e-mail subscription service to Uber. Most of them were consumers of Lyft, a competitor of Uber. And the name of this offending e-mail service was Unroll.me.

It was widely reported in the American press that Uber had fingerprinted its users. This meant that even after a user deleted the Uber app from his/her mobile phone, Uber would still be able to track the user’s mobile usage.

This crime found an identical twin in the security breaches of 17 million accounts with Zomato and 3 billion accounts with Yahoo.

Scary, isn’t it? One moment you entrust your information in the hands of the world’s top global service providers and in the next, some unknown hacker is memorizing your password in the comforts of his room.

However scary it may sound, we can not run away from the tech world , almost every aspect of our life is dependent on technology.  Our saviour is awareness and adoption of good practices to ensure our mobile apps do not compromise our privacy.

  • Read the fine print

    You must read the privacy policies of all the apps that they intend to use. To be fair to Unroll.me, the Company had declared its intention to share users’ data to third parties. Unfortunately, many subscribers of the e-mail service ignored the fine print.

We should go thorough all terms and conditions of the apps before we grant any permission to them. Got no time for this? Then atleast do following:

Scan through the terms and conditions , your sixth sense may spot something critical.

Use Google / Quora to serach “Is <app name> safe/secure to use?” or “How does <app name> make money?”.

  • Check app’s business model

    It is likely that the app that you are going to sign up for is free to use and doesn’t have any advertisements running either. Now, doesn’t it sound funny to you? How would this app make revenue for itself?

Some apps that are free and do not even serve ads, share users’ data like email, phone number, income, etc. with third parties.All this information is incredibly valuable to many marketing companies.

It is strongly suggested that you should check the business model of the app that you are interested in. A little bit of research in the present can save you the troubles of many problems in the future.

  • Review apps and permissions

    We should periodically audit our apps. Now what does that mean?

It means that once in a while, you must scan your phone and delete the apps that have been idle for a long time. Chances are, you have used your Twitter, Facebook or Google accounts to access these apps. Over a period, you tend to forget you ever downloaded them but they are present on your devices, leeching off information.

Google and Apple have recognized the data security and privacy threats posed by mobile apps. Over last few years they have strengthened the Android and iOS platforms to empower the users so they decide which app can access their data. While granting any permission to an app, you need to wear a critical hat. Grant the access only if you are 100% sure about the purpose and need of that permission. If in doubt, do not grant.

In today’s world, data theft is an extremely hideous crime of serious nature that must be dealt with an equally serious attitude. The first step to protecting yourself is believing the fact that you need protection. And in this case, all you need to do is Read, Check and Review.

GDPR – in simple terms & It’s impact on Indian Consumer

What is the GDPR?

GDPR is a set of data privacy guidelines which came into force in European Union nations from May 2018.  These guidelines were approved in 2016 and there was a 2 year transition period. The acronym GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation.  It is a result of 4 years of labor by EU member states.

What does it replace?

GDPR replaces an old data protection directive of 1995. Good part is that the across all 28 member states of EU, only one standard is to be met, thus simplifying the process. But the standard is very high and difficult to meet and administer.

Why GDPR?

There are now new ways of data collection & which could not be foreseen in a pre dot-com era and therefore not covered by the 1995 directive. GDPR aims to address this and regulates the exporting of personal data from EU to outside world.

  • EU wants people to have more control over their data
  • Internet brought in new ways of exploiting the personal data which needs to be addressed
  • Enhance people’s trust in digital economy
  • Bring in a simpler and clearer legal framework throughout EU with regards to data protection

What are GDPR Requirements?

The GDPR requirements will force the companies to change the way they process, store, and protect customers’ personal data.

Consent:  Companies will be allowed to store and process personal data only when the individual consents and for “no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed.”

Portability: Personal data must also be portable from one company to another. Companies now must store people’s information in commonly used formats (such as CSV), so that they can move a person’s data to another organisation (free of cost) if the person requests it.

Right to Access: People can ask for access at “reasonable intervals”, and controllers must usually respond within one month. They can also ask for that data, if it is incorrect or incomplete, to be rectified whenever they want

Right to know:  how they collect data, what they do with it, and how they process it . Companies must explain it to them in a clear & plain language. why that data is being processed, how long it’s stored for, and who gets to see it

Right to be forgotten: Companies must erase personal data upon request. Users have right to demand that their data is deleted if it’s no longer necessary to the purpose for which it was collected. They can also demand that their data is erased if they’ve withdrawn their consent for their data to be collected, or object to the way it is being processed.

Reasonable data protection & privacy: Companies must be able to provide a “reasonable” level of data protection and privacy to EU citizens. What the GDPR means by “reasonable” is not well defined, though.

Report Data Breaches: What could be a challenging requirement is that companies must report data breaches to supervisory authorities and individuals affected by a breach within 72 hours of when the breach was detected.

Performing impact assessments: It is intended to help in identifying vulnerabilities and how to address them.

Where do Indian Laws Stand?

Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) provides for general obligations for the collection, transfer and use of personal information.

The Privacy Rules (Information Technology Rules 2011) broadly define two classes of information: “Personal Information”, which includes any information that relates to a natural person, which directly or indirectly, is capable of identifying a person; and a another set of Personal Information known as “SPDI” (Sensitive Personal Data or Information), which includes  passwords, financial information such as bank account or credit card details, physical or mental health information. biometric information etc

The Privacy Rules set out various obligations including mandatory consent and disclosure requirements for data collection, usage, processing, storage and transfer, and requirements for appointment of a grievance officer. These Rules also require every company to have information security practices, programmes and policies which are in proportion to the information being protected.

Further Department of Electronics and Information Technology published in 2013, a set of rules for the regulation of data privacy and personal data protection including  mandatory notification requirements (Cert-In Rules).

While India has laws in place which govern many aspects of data protection, breach and privacy, but the enforcement remains a question.

Will the Indian & Non-EU Consumers gain from GDPR?

Many companies directly or indirectly operate or deal with EU residents and thus they will be required to comply with GDPR. Indian companies having branch offices in European Union member states and also the companies which provide back-office data processing services to EU companies would be affected. Many big E-commerce, food tech and ride hailing companies in India are operating or planning to operate internationally.

As these companies will improve their privacy standards for compliance with GDPR, the Indian & non-EU residents would gain as a side effect.