Check your expenses and adhere to your budget
People tend to forget that good times don’t last forever. If you spend lavishly during good times and continue the trend without adapting to changes in circumstances, very soon you will land in financial trouble. Hence to ensure you lead a consistent lifestyle, always draw out a budget and ensure you stick to it religiously. E.g. if you have allocated Rs 500 per month towards your entertainment expenses, don’t spend a rupee more than Rs. 500. It will not only help you handle your finances better but will develop your willpower by delaying instant gratification.
Don’t rely on future income
Depending on future income in order to spend today, is one of the biggest mistakes we make. This has been evident during a job crisis, where youth racked up a huge credit card debt and took heavy loans. But when the salary cuts and job losses occurred, they were unable to pay off their debt. E.g. if your monthly income is Rs. 20,000 always ensure you spend well within Rs. 20,000 as pay cut or job loss may land you in trouble.
Reduce your debt
Got a bonus? Then pay off any loans that you have taken. If you have multiple loans, first pay off the loans with the highest interest rate, then the one with second highest rate and so on. E.g. if you have a credit card debt, personal loan and home loan, first clear off the credit card debt, then personal loan and finally home loan. For this you will have to plan out your debts and then go on following it systematically and steadily. It will not only save you money but will also give you mental peace.
Opt for strategic asset allocation
Though experts have consistently stated the importance of asset allocation, many investors tend to overlook this fact and invest only in the hottest asset. But remember market conditions do change and what is hot today may be out in the cold later on for a long time. So ensure you divide your portfolio amongst stocks, bonds, gold and real estate to get the maximum returns from your portfolio. Though your portfolio may under perform for some time, it will end up protecting you when the things get rough.
Keep emergency cash
You never know when a crisis can strike your family. Death, disease or job loss can end up upsetting your investments. You might be forced to sell your investments though they have not been given you any profits. Hence it is advisable to keep at least 3-6 months of your household expenses aside as emergency cash.
Sort out Your Finances
Agreed, keeping tabs on and handling your finances closely, may not sound like an interesting job, but it is a necessity. However you can reduce the boredom by putting a system in place. Once it is done, you can spend a few hours a month on this job. E.g. on Sunday, you can spend 1-2 hours to find out how your investments are performing, reading up any news concerning them or talking with your financial planner about the performance of your investments.
Plan in advance
One of the reasons many people land in financial mess is that they don’t plan their finances ahead. So it is imperative to plan your finances properly. Find out your current position, where you intend to go and set up a feasible plan to achieve your objectives. Unforeseeable events may occur and make you stray away from your plan for a short time, but ensure you get back on track at the earliest. Always remain focused and keep a watch on your progress. E.g. you are saving to buy a home and have started investing for the same. But 6 months after you started investing, you lose your job. If that happens, stop your investment, get a new job and again restart your investment.
Invest systematically and gradually
The biggest problem is that most people don’t bother saving till it is quite late. So they don’t have any money to fall back on in case of emergency. Hence it is essential to start small, but regularly and then increase the amounts later on. E.g. you can start a SIP, in which a particular sum is debited from your bank account and invested in a mutual fund. Or you can open a recurring deposit, which acts like a SIP, initiated by the bank. All this will occur automatically, so you have no excuse not to save.
Be in charge of your investments
The markets have crashed, the realty is down in dumps. What do you do? Sell off? Wrong. Unfortunately, this is what most investors do. In this situation, it is advisable to hold on to your portfolio as selling will just end up causing you financial loss. Instead increase your emergency cash reserves and periodically review your asset allocation of your portfolio.
Set a realistic outlook
The days of stocks giving a return of over 40% are over. While it is possible some of them may give you those types of returns, it is setting yourself up for disappointment if you keep your outlook very high. Instead keep a practical outlook of earning 12-15% returns from your investments.