Reserve fund: An investor can choose from several asset classes, including stocks, to start a diversified portfolio. — Bloomberg THE Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. But it has also taught us many valuable lessons on how to save and manage our funds for emergencies and financial stability. With the vaccine in sight, it has given new hope and there will be new beginnings. “If you had no emergency funds and are struggling financially during the pandemic, then you will start to look at your financial goals as pandemics and other eventualities as part of life, ’’ says an expert on financial planning. An emergency fund is money stashed away for emergencies to pay for three to 12 months of expenses. If you do not have one, you need to look into setting up one and also map a long-term financial plan to invest for the future. Only use the emergency fund when you are faced with financial surprises. Keep replenishing it so that you always have a fund to rely on, according to an expert. Success Concepts Life Planners chief executive officer Joyce Chuah (pic below) believes investing needs to start by reviewing financial goals, cash flow and net worth statements. “A purpose-driven portfolio is what works. It comes with a purpose to invest, a timeframe for the investment and a portfolio that is suitable. “In a ‘risk on’’ market, everyone wants to invest and accumulate wealth but almost all the time, quick profit-making emotions run high with contagious herd mentality added in. That would not be the right place to start, ’’ she said. Joyce said one of the key investment goals to start is for retirement, as it is one of the most expensive life events. “When growing your money, ask yourself if you are investing, saving or speculating? If you are speculating then you need the right skills, time and emotional capital to do that successfully, ’’ she adds. If you are investing, you may need to hold your investments for a year or so. Once you have set your goals, do a research. Spend some time looking at the various options and asset classes. To accumulate wealth, diversify your portfolio so that there is a buffer if one asset class is battered in a market turmoil. The last thing you should do is put all your eggs in one basket. To invest, she said you need to: > Take stock of your financial life – what assets you own and where your money is going every month. > Net worth – you put a value to what you own and a good gauge is not to owe more than 40% of what you own. > Risk appetite – are you a risk-averse investor who prefers the safe haven of fixed deposits, or a medium to high risk taker? Consider your past investing experiences for incidences that relates to impatience, fear and greed. > Emotional factor – when it comes to money matters, the emotional factor cannot be ignored. Check your emotional capacity and capabilities to risk. Dalbar Inc outlines three primary emotions that negatively impact returns, which are fear, greed and frustration/impatience. Risk tolerance (how much risk you are willing to take) is different from risk capacity (your ability to take risk given your financial situation) and the difference should be understood.> Financial goals – how much money and assets do you want to accumulate. Is RM2mil enough for retirement, RM5mil or even RM10mil as an average investor? > Several asset classes to choose from for a diversified portfolio – consists stocks (equities), bonds (fixed income and debts), real estate (property and tangible assets), and money market and cash equivalents. Some prefer to invest in antiques and collectibles. But a report said: “It may not be easy if you want the items you purchase to retain value or appreciate over time.’’ The story does not end in planning and taking bets and positions in the various stock, debt, currency and property markets. Just like your car needs rebalancing, Chuah believes a portfolio should be reviewed every six to 12 months to maximise returns.“Rebalancing is a good system that allows you to restructure your portfolio. You manage your investments according to a pre-set asset allocation and not be subject to the vagaries of the markets, ’’ she adds. One person’s asset allocation is different from another as it depends on one’s risk appetite. The general rule of thumb is to take 100 minus your current age as the percentage of fixed income instruments allocation, she says.As Chuah puts it, financial planning starts the moment you are responsible for managing your personal finances. The earlier you start, the more financially literate you will be. Learn to manage your cash flow and build your net worth as early as you can. When investing, do a research, know your risks and be mindful that there is a transaction fee for all investments.
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