Knowing which direction to take can make the journey easier. And directions was what Ganesh Suryanarayanan and Saru Tumuluri were seeking for their personal finances. “We wanted a comprehensive view of our finances, and a structured way of achieving goals," said Ganesh. While the couple tried what banks had to offer and even a few financial planners, the initial enthusiasm would wane if they didn’t invest in the products that were offered. “I wanted someone who was not affiliated to any other institution or had an ulterior aim. The advice had to be independent of everything else," he said. Ganesh also followed a DIY website, but while the advice was good, he didn’t have the time to do everything on his own. “I didn’t have the time, and it’s not my core competency," said Ganesh.
Saru and Ganesh found the answer in Amit Kukreja, who is their financial planner now. “We got an end-to-end view of all our finances. Then the plan was put together in a structured way so that goals can be achieved and there is a sustainable framework," said Ganesh.
Initially, Ganesh and Saru were asked to write down what they wanted. “This streamlined our thought process," said Ganesh. Then they looked at all the insurance policies, investments and sources of income. “This was time consuming but good. It put our cash flow in focus," said Ganesh. This exercise also led to some recalibration. “For example, the method to reach our retirement goal changed," said Ganesh.
Having a template has given them more visibility. “Having a plan means that even unplanned expenses, or even savings, can be fit in. What wasn’t part of the plan can also be included," said Saru, giving the example of education needs of their two daughters (13 and 10 years old). A clear look at investments led to a change in asset allocation. They realized that their portfolio was real estate heavy. “It was skewed towards real estate and equity, which meant our near-term goals could not be met. Some of this was moved to debt funds," said Ganesh. According to Saru, it helped that a planner could give his opinion unemotionally.
The Bengaluru-based couple already had life and health insurance, but this was enhanced with top-ups. “We also looked at property insurance; this is not something I had considered before," said Ganesh.
A different perspective also meant a more informed decision making, according to Saru. “Most of us acquire assets easily, but selling is harder. To sell or not? To sell it now or later? Another opinion helped us with these decisions," said Saru, referring to some of the real estate investments they decided to liquidate.
Over years of investing, Ganesh and Saru were familiar with various financial concepts, but needed someone to reconfirm what they thought was right. “While there weren’t any surprises, a planner’s approach helped. It is good to take advice. He is like a doctor for finances—he helps you know your financial health," said Saru.
“We have seamlessly interacted over Skype (for about 6 months) and we share documents online. We worked with Excel sheets that we shared. Now we have one ‘master’ document that contains our entire financial status—past, present and future. It’s all in one place. This is like a living document; it changes according to various events," said Ganesh. Having everything in place gives the couple a comprehensive view. “Now we know what the result will be and how to plan our lives. A second opinion in which the expert concurs with your initial assessment gives a lot of confidence," said Saru.
Ganesh now feels he is on “on top of it; no leaks, no lacuna." And Saru feels “great that Ganesh feels great."