Travel Planning for Summer Vacation on a Budget

Summer is when the attractions get the most crowd. No wonder, planning for a vacation becomes a tedious task. But if you do your homework well, it can turn out to be the most enjoyable outing you’ve ever had.Blog-Summer-ItineraryBased on my extensive travel in the last few years, here’s what needs the most attention before you hit the road:

– Destination and Itinerary

– Attractions

– Accommodation

– Pack light

– Be flexible with the plan

– Funding

You can read the entire post with details on each point on Money View blog.

Why is it important to change jobs?

I have been employed for 11 years across 6 firms in the IT space. During this long stint, I have worked with some of the marquee clients in the Financial Services domain. I must say I’ve had a good time, primarily because the salary funds my travels and I have really enjoyed some extracurricular activities I got introduced to during my journey, including Toastmasters. I wouldn’t say I always enjoyed the work I was doing, that’s why I changed jobs!New Job creative sign with clouds as the backgroundDuring my social interactions, I found many people to be unhappy with their jobs, mostly their managers or the work they were doing. In spite of the grin, I never understood why they stayed at their jobs for that long…if you are unhappy with something for long, shouldn’t you be parting with it? Even otherwise, I feel it is good to change jobs every few years. Let me explain the reasons:

  1. Gives you a fresh start: A new job gives you something fresh to look forward to. You don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over, every day! Having said that, I wouldn’t advise changing jobs every year! I’ve been with my current employer for 4 years already, and I spent 4 years with my former employer too.
  2. Interviews keep you sharp: I prefer giving at least one interview every year (might not be active job hunting). That way I get to stay current with the latest expectations of the market. I also get to keep myself sharp, rather than letting the passiveness set in.
  3. For the next career move: If you’ve been unhappy in your current job, most likely you’ve not risen as fast as you expected to be. Or maybe because people around you have moved onto their dream jobs! This is where a new job can do wonders for you…look out for the career move that you have been waiting for.
  4. Make use of the hot job market: With the economies of many countries on an uptrend (after the recession of 2008-09), tons of jobs are being created every day. This is the time to make use of your skills and negotiate a deal that you could only dream of earlier.
  5. It does get you additional money: There is no denying that fact that a new job can give you a monetary bump-up (if you’ve negotiated well). With plenty of jobs around, you wouldn’t have to travel far as well from your current workplace.

I do understand some people don’t want to change for fear of learning something new from the start or location or family constraints. But if there are companies willing to go the extra mile to hire the best, you will most probably get one that fits the bill. It’s just that you have to get your resume ready!

Picture sourced from here

Of Diwali and India Visits…

It is that time of the year when you should be in India – to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights! This year the D-day is October 19.

Well, I long for celebrating Diwali in India every year, but my work doesn’t allow me to take off between September through November. Every year, the deadlines get pushed back and everything piles-up to be completed in October or November…nobody tinkers with the Christmas time in the West though! So, early this year, I closed it with my manager to allow me to be in India to indulge in the festivities with the family back home. And, gladly, we are taking off for New Delhi tonight 🙂

alok singhal diwali
This was shot last year on Diwali in the US
Actually, had it not been for a medical emergency in September, we would have spent a few weeks in Europe (my dream destination) and then a couple in India. We had to cancel our bookings at the last moment. We are sort of fine now, but the situation threw us off physically and monetarily. Whoever said “Man proposes, but God disposes” did say it loud and clear! Anyway, seems my dream will have to wait a bit long.

We were supposed to take off on September 21 and, coincidentally (on the positive side), I achieved all of my Stock Market-related targets for the Indian fiscal year April 2017-March 2018 the same day. What a day for such extremes to happen! The profits came at the expense of many sleepless nights though, because of the time difference between India and US/Canada. I have often questioned myself if I should be doing what I do, but then money does matter. Consequently, I got a bit too ambitious and created another plan to be achieved by the end of 2020. Maybe I should be leading some global firm managing billions of dollars 😛

Just a bit on the markets – I am a huge proponent of the incumbent Modi-led government in India. Things have been looking up ever since he came to power a few years back, courtesy some bold reforms. I expect Indian Stock Markets to remain hot for another few years. Btw, US Markets are not doing bad too…if you had invested money in any of the two a couple of years back, you would know what I mean. Let me not delve deeper into the topic, as I have written on it quite a few times earlier – here and for the Money View blog.

With that, let me wish my Indian readers a very happy and safe Diwali. I’ll be off for a month as our trip will culminate with my sister’s marriage in November.

*I have a few posts in draft and would publish them on the go. Your comments are always welcome 🙂

When is the best time to invest in Stock Markets?

Each of us have our own perspective when it comes to timing the Markets! If you look at where the India Stock Markets are right now, some would say the conditions are ripe for a much further move up; while some others would say the valuations are over-stretched and it is better to book profits. Well, to be frank, nobody knows what would happen tomorrow. Our guesses are as good as the toss of a coin!stock-market-investmentSo, where does that leave us?

My experience investing in over a decade says invest regularly. That way you won’t feel left out if the stocks move up; if they go down, your further investments would average out the ones you’ve already made. However, basic common sense would say a developing market like India should pay off in the long term, and that’s what it has done! Nifty50 – a widely tracked index of the Indian Markets – has a CAGR of 11.7% in last 20 years (since 1996) and 7.5% in last 10 years (since 2006). But one has to keep in mind that these are long-term averages, meaning there were ups-and-downs over these years. To put things into perspective, if you had invested a lump-sum amount just before the crash of 2008, your money would have taken a serious beating; but, if you had invested at the peak of the crash, you would have made a killing in the next few years. That’s why the wisdom says invest over time.

One basic mistake is to blindly go by the commentary of Analysts. Many have been advising since long that we are in the over-bough territory. If I had followed their advice, I would have not made record profits in each of the last few months! Though it might sound concerning, most of those profits have come from stocks that already rose a bit and my gut feeling asked me to still go with them. Having said that, I do maintain a balance between investing directly in stocks and also in mutual funds via sip route…the individual stocks might get hammered during tough times, but a basket of them would be relatively better off. It is essentially risk vs reward playoff.

This leaves us with using our best judgment when it comes to investing. If you have a long enough experience in the markets, the call will be relatively easy to make; but if you are a novice, you might burn your fingers initially. Again, that’s where investing regularly over a period of time helps and you learn in the process too!

*Picture sourced from here

A different sort of AtoZ Challenge – with Stocks!

April is when many of us take the rigorous AtoZ Challenge. For the record, I have never taken part in any challenge because my full-time job and other of my hobbies don’t allow me to do so.a-to-z HEADER [2017] - aprilThose who follow me here or on Facebook would know I have been pretty active in the Indian Stock Market in the last couple of years. I have written a few posts here and also on Money View Blog as to why the times have been (and are still) exciting and that there is a bounty to be made in the markets!

In fact, my active churning of portfolio is the main reason I have cut down drastically on the blogs I visit (not that I want to). The other reason is spending more time on the work-outs and Instagram, where i’ve had a good line-up of sponsored posts by international clients. Hope God continues to keep showering his blessings!

Coming back to the challenge – Just yesterday, a passing thought on the Stocks I have either bought or sold in the month of April made me realize they could easily fit into the prompt. So, I put them down alphabetically. And, voila…I didn’t do terribly 🙂

The ones in Sea Green in the table are my buys or sells in April; the ones in Gray make me guilty of not completing the challenge 😛

A Adani Transmission Ltd
B Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Co
C Cineline India Ltd
D Delta Corp Limited
E Emami Infrastructure Limited
F Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd
G Geojit Financial Services Ltd
H HOV Services Limited
J JM Financial Limited
K Kopran Limited
L LT Finance Holdings Limited
M MEP Infrastructure Development Ltd
O Onward Technologies Limited
P PTC India Financial Services Ltd
Q No favorite stock
R Royal Orchid Hotels Limited
S Sanghi Industries Ltd
T Triveni Engineering and Industries Ltd
U Uttam Sugar Works Limited (sold in March)
V Vijaya Bank
W Welspun Corp Ltd (favorite)
X No favorite stock
Y No favorite stock
Z Zee Media Corporation Ltd (favorite)

Nevertheless, I guess I still qualify to be awarded for taking part in the challenge (though unintentionally). Had the thought struck me in March, I would have certainly completed the task.

P.S. Please do your own research before investing. Profitable investments are a result of extensive analysis on multiple factors.

*Image sourced from here

5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Stock Markets in 2017

Exactly 6 months back I had mentioned on this platform that this is an excellent time to take the plunge in Indian Equity Markets (read that post here). Looking back, the markets have had a phenomenal run, and things are still looking bright for the remainder of this year at least.

I was bullish all through 2016, and my Investments did perform quite well! Here is how my Portfolio has stacked up compared to Market returns. I invest both in Equities and Mutual Funds (lump sum and via SIPs). On all these aspects, my investments have beaten the market comprehensively!*Indian Equity ReturnsIndian Mutual Fund ReturnsJust to put things into perspective – If you had invested Rs 1 Lac when I had recommended in October, you could have easily made at least Rs 20,000 on any decent stock…that too just by buy-and-hold strategy (no active trading). Many stocks have more than doubled in this time frame! Compare it to the current instrument where you have parked your money, and you would be at loss of words!

Nevertheless, there is still time to pour cash into the market as there are many positive factors that would push it further. Read my detailed post on what lies ahead on Money View blog.

*Tail Stocks comprise less than 2% of my Total Portfolio value.

**Money View is India’s No 1 Money Manager app and has a user base of over 5 million.

A new collaboration…with Money View!

I recently collaborated with Money View (MV) in India – a Financial Management app for Android that helps one keep a check on their savings and expenses. It is one of the highly rated apps and already has 5 million users, and their blog is one of the best in Business and Finance in India!

Though I would be paid to write for them, the association is going to add immensely to my qualifications (Engineer-Gold Medalist, MBA from IIFT-ranked 6th in India by the Wall Street Journal, and FRM certified) and also to my experiences with global Investment Banks over the last 10 years.

My first post for them went live few days back and helps us understand which all Investments can be done to save on the Tax outgo. There are many instruments under Sections 80C and otherwise to help us save for the future, some provide an insurance cover too…all this while also cutting down on our tax bill. Making a wise decision doesn’t come easy, but then it does earn us a peace-of-mind!

tax_saving_investment_cheat_sheet_money_view-alok-singhalYou can read the complete write-up on MV Blog here: What Investments Can Help You Save Income Tax legally?

How to find an ATM with Cash around you…

On Nov 8, Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi took the extreme step of taking out 86% of Cash in circulation in India. This is to be accomplished by banning the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes – a process called demonetization – which have formed the bread and butter of most of the cash transactions in India since decades. No wonder, there have been chaos since, as the deadline to exchange these old notes with the new 500- and 2,000-rupee notes is this year-end.

Though the move was aimed at tackling corruption (read black-money or unaccounted-for cash) and terrorism, it is the common man who has been hit the hardest so far! There are long queues outside Banks and ATM machines, but there is insufficient cash to serve everybody. Many other factors are adding too to their misery – importantly, limits to exchanging notes on any given day, some don’t even have a bank account, and many fear losing their hard-earned money because of their mistrust of the financial institutions and concerns about being harassed about where the money came from.

My sister is an Officer in Bank of Baroda in Panipat, and her bank has been working 14 hours every day to make sure they can serve as many customers as they can, but they can hardly do anything if bank doesn’t have enough cash! The issue is so serious that many people took to streets in India opposing the decision and some assaulted bank employees too; one of the Officers known to my sister died of a heart attack when he couldn’t handle the pressure! After all, general public in India can’t live without cash, though many are now trying to go cashless.

Having highlighted the brunt many are facing, do you know we have a way around to lessen the stress on ourselves? What if we knew which ATM around us has money? That would at least save us the time and ordeal of going through the torture. Correct? Fortunately, Find ATM with Cash feature on Money View app does exactly that. It gives you the location of nearest ATM available with Cash. They do this by crowd-sourcing data from more than 5 million users spread across 200 cities in India. It is one of the most comprehensive ATM tracking solutions available to us.

You just have to download the Money View app from Google Play store and use their Find ATM with Cash feature.alok-singhalEven if you are on a desktop, you can use their Find ATM with Cash page. This will help you save on a lot of time and effort by visiting the right ATM near you. Once you withdraw the money, do upload your feedback on the queue, so your experience can help other too!

My parents in Ambala are now using the desktop version, and enjoying this convenience:alok-singhal-money-viewLastly, it is not just the ATMs that Money View has mapped. We can also find active banks, petrol pumps, Big Bazaar stores, and Inox multiplexes, which are dispensing cash through their app. My sister has been recommending this app to whosoever she can, making their lives easier. You can too by spreading the word around!

Trust Cements a Relationship!

We build relationships throughout our lives. While some come and go, others stay with us for our lifetime. These steadfast relationships are nurtured with respect and care. However, with every passing year, there is one element that grows by leaps and bounds – trust. Trust is something that holds a relationship together irrespective of the label.

Do you place your trust on someone outside of your family?

I do. There are many people in my life who have raised the bar of the relationship to a point where they have our unwavering trust. One such person is my father’s friend – Bindra Uncle. Bindra Uncle has been in our lives for more than 10 years now. Initially, his association was only with my father. They became acquaintances through a charitable organization, and later on became fast friends. But over the years, their relationship has extended to our families. Bindra aunty is now friends with my mother. And, we children, replicate the same bond amongst ourselves. I can safely say we have merged into each other’s life seamlessly. Of course, there is a reason behind it. Like any other relationship, ours is also based on respect, care, and understanding.

What makes a relationship strong enough to last long?

There were many testing times when we needed Bindra Uncle’s help. Once – when dad was bedridden, and I was not there to take care of him. And, there are many small anecdotes where he or his family lent their support – in words as well as in actions. They were always there for us! Be it doing a simple task of fetching groceries when dad was unwell, or giving their emotional support, they never wavered from their duties as family friends. In fact, their entire family has been with us through thick and thin. That’s not all – the selflessness behind their acts is very humbling. They held our backs and provided unflinching support and care. The longevity of our relationship is the testimony of its success. Only those who pass the test of time stay. And, if I try to list it out besides support, there is one thing that stands out – trust. We know we can trust them under all circumstances, this is a trust that has built up over the years and one which I know will remain in the years to come. And, I hope, they think the same about us.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships – Stephen Covey”

Should we honor those who support us unconditionally?

There are countless ways to repay our debts to all those who stood by us. We can be there for them. Extend a helpful hand and make their lives easier.

Watch the video above, one more testament to long-standing relationships, and trust that comes with it. Dhoni expresses his gratitude towards people who stood by him. Exide Life Insurance has partnered with M S Dhoni to showcase the value of long-term associations #DhoniKaSaath. And, with Exide Life Insurances’ long-standing reputation, we can secure our future and achieve our personal goals stress-free.