Home / Money / Personal Finance /  ‘Financial planning is not just for the billionaires’

Karthik Kumar, manager at a retail firm, started saving when he was just about 22 years old and into his first job back in 2010. He gives the credit for that to his father, who is a tax advocate and also deals with mutual fund investments. “I started saving and investing early, and that too in mutual funds through SIPs, when none of my friends were doing so. That was possible because my father was there to guide me," he says.

Karthik’s focus to save got sharpened when he decided to get married to Harshada Patil, who is a senior engineer at an automotive ancillary. “I wanted to have a fair amount of saving before approaching my father-in-law with a proposal for marrying Harshada. I wanted to assure him that I was financially stable and would be able to take care of his daughter," he says. That, he thinks, really paid off.

After their marriage in 2015, they began their new life on steady financial ground. Karthik had put aside a neat sum, and Harshada too was doing her bit by saving in traditional instruments, including fixed and recurring deposits. While there was enough cash to bank upon, their expenses shot up as they got busy setting up their house and attending family events. “The outflow increased, while the inflow more or less remained the same, and we lost track of systematic saving and investing," says Harshada. To manage all the expenses, they often found themselves dipping into their savings. “This made me uncomfortable and I felt the situation needs to be fixed," says Karthik.

It took them about two years, a lot of discussion about their goals and aspirations and some research before they decided to go for a financial planner and narrowed down on International Money Matters Pvt. Ltd (IIMPL), where they met Abhinav Sethi, certified financial planner and business head, Bengaluru and Chennai, and Siddarth Asrani, manager, client relations. “I earlier believed in the myth that financial plans were only for the filthy rich or people in senior positions in their 40s and 50s with enough corpus, but then as I read about it more, I decided to give it a try. Later, the planner explained to us that we could start off even with a small corpus," says Karthik.

The initial meetings were about clarifying doubts and learning the basics of financial planning. Then came the brainstorming sessions where they discussed and formalised things they wanted. “He kept saving without knowing for what and where he was going to be using the money. The financial plan gave a structure to his savings," says Asrani.

There were many things to take care of. The couple likes travelling, gifting, socialising and plans to have children in future. All of these had to be categorised into goals with proper timelines, which the couple did systematically.

Their short-term goals include vacations once in two years, self-education (they want to do new courses and certifications to add to their skill sets), and maternity expenses as and when it arises, and the registration expense of the house they have recently bought once they get its possession. “We invest in liquid and ultra short-term debt funds for these. We did a reverse calculation to arrive at the sum we need to save for each of these goals," says Karthik.

The planner made them take a risk tolerance test, and their risk appetite seemed to be on the higher side. “Age is on our side, so for long-term goals like children’s education and marriage, and retirement, we invest in a mix of large-cap and multi-cap funds," he says.

One area where the couple struggled a bit was life insurance. While Karthik had term insurance even before meeting the planner, he later topped it up in line with his income and liabilities. However, Harshada did not have a life cover at all. “I was a bit sentimental about Harshada having to cover her life, so it took a bit of convincing from the planner before we finally took it," says Karthik. The couple has taken care of their own as well as their parents’ health needs. They have health insurance as well as a medical corpus as back-up.

The best part about having a financial plan, says Harshada, is that you can think of realising most of your dreams by converting them into time-bound financial goals.

What I learnt

1. Save and invest early

2. Don’t redeem your investments for short-term needs

3. Use cash gifts to pursue your hobbies or passion

4. Financial planning is not just for the billionaires

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