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Mahesh L has adopted the bucket approach and has faced no hiccups until now.
Mahesh L has adopted the bucket approach and has faced no hiccups until now.

A bucket approach to retirement planning may insulate you from market falls

You can simply decide to withdraw a specific amount from your savings every year and increase the amount every year to adjust for inflation. The bucket approach goes one level deeper, segregating the portfolio according to the time of withdrawal

Once you have built a large corpus for retirement, how do you invest it to provide for a good two-three decades of life? For those who seek early retirement, the time span is even longer. To solve this problem, Mahesh L., 47, a Bengaluru-based IT professional, followed the “bucket approach" suggested by his financial planner Deepesh Mehta, founder and CEO, Grow Wealth.

In 2014, at age 42, Mahesh began to seriously consider early retirement. He had spent more than two decades working in India’s booming IT industry with a multinational company. However, he was tired of the monotony of work and wanted to focus on his passions, yoga and badminton, and on having a healthier lifestyle.

He met Mehta in 2008 and gradually got used to investing in mutual funds while working with him. “I always saved a huge portion of my salary, but in the early years, I would just put the money in fixed deposits (FDs)," he said.

On the plus side, Mahesh had already built up a large corpus after years of work when he met the planner in 2008. His father, a government employee, helped him inculcate a powerful saving habit.

A series of conversations and an early retirement plan put together by Mehta allowed Mahesh to actually put in his papers in 2018. Mahesh is now 47, two years into his early retirement.

Mahesh has all his retirement years in front of him and also needs a financial plan for his two daughters. His wife Sunitha Mahesh, 42, is a school teacher.

Mehta has invested his retirement corpus in what he calls the “five-bucket plan". Mahesh’s emergency corpus sits in the first bucket. It contains two years of monthly expenses and it is not drawn down except in emergencies.

The second bucket takes care of the first three years after retirement. It is invested in liquid and ultra short-term funds as well as bank FDs and savings accounts. Risk is low in this bucket, but not quite absent. An exit just in the nick of time from Franklin Ultra Short Term Plan saved Mahesh from the freeze in Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund’s debt funds on 23 April 2020.

The third bucket kicks in from the fourth to the sixth year of retirement. It is invested in arbitrage funds, ultra short-term funds, low-duration funds and medium-term funds.

For the fourth bucket, running from the seventh to 10th years, Mehta has prescribed balanced advantage funds and the fifth and final bucket is into equities consisting of large-cap, equity-oriented hybrid, multi-cap and mid-cap funds.

The buckets are not static though. Mehta moves money from the equity buckets to the debt ones after significant rallies in the market. In times of major corrections, he sticks to the existing plan.

Overall, the plan provides resources for Mahesh and his wife till they reach the age of 90. There is also sufficient corpus available for the numerous holidays, including foreign holidays, that Mahesh has planned in the years to come.

For Mahesh’s daughters, there are separate buckets altogether. For the older daughter aged 14, the bucket has equity and debt to finance her higher education, which will come up in a few years. For the younger daughter, the investment bucket has equities, considering the much longer time frame available.

In addition, the family is covered by a family floater health insurance policy recommended by Mehta. “I am not the least bit worried about the covid-19 crisis in terms of impact on my finances. The bucket system insulates me from stock market corrections," said Mahesh.

His only regret is that he has been unable to conduct his yoga classes because of the pandemic. “This is a social service. I don’t do them to earn a living," he added.

There are several approaches to retirement planning. For example you can simply decide to withdraw a specific amount from your savings every year and increase the amount every year to adjust for inflation. The bucket approach goes one level deeper, segregating the portfolio according to the time of withdrawal. But seek professional help if it appeals to you.

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