Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Own 2016 With Honesty

You are working full time. You have many responsibilities as a breadwinner. There are bills to pay, a couple of loans, kids' education fees, daily expenses, etc. You have zero to small savings. Your hands are full and you lack time to check out on your investment options. You are always tired and working hard but yet they do not translate to improvement in your finances

That could be your situation in 2015. The good news is it was also the same with several people I know just a few years back who have turned their lives for the better ever since. It's not hopeless. I was also facing the similar case not too long ago but was able to find a way out of it little by little. And while I asked those people about how they climbed out of the hole, I found out that the common thing that helped us to begin moving away from that same situation was "honesty".

Honesty is not just a virtue which improves our relationship with people but also a character that would help us in building up our financial situation. Here's a list on how honesty helps you with your money woes.

  1. Be honest with yourself. Is it really that you don't have what it takes to begin or you're just afraid of investing? Is your fear of the unknown worse than the fear of the inevitable which is your child's education expenses, your retirement, sudden loss of job, health deterioration and ageing? 
  2. Be honest on which things you really don't need. Then stop wasting your hard earned money on them. Rather set the money aside for more important things like investments.
  3. Be honest with your investment knowledge. Even if I'm doing this for years, I still ask the more seasoned guys. Everything is a continued learning experience. Don't be shy if you know nothing nor too proud if you know a bit. Asking and studying will always do wonders. 
  4. Be honest with your targets and expectations. This is the only way that a financial advisor could direct you to the investment that would suit you. 
  5. Be honest with your situation. Stop fooling your self that you're just fine even if you're not. Stop making excuses for not beginning to save and to invest. Accept the reality that you have to do it now, no matter what.

Just be honest. Begin your investment and make it a habit. No need to start big. Just start. And when you say that you will, be honest.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gratefulness is Wealth

Health is wealth, and so is gratefulness. Motivation and a clear mind are necessary to make money. And one of the gateways towards it is by being thankful. When you appreciate the things you have, the people around you and the environment you are into, your decisions and actions will be better and your vision will be clearer. You'll see opportunities out of challenges and you'll see difficulties as part of your development. You'll become a better person and you'll attract more positive things.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Investing is Boring, Election is Exciting But

People are on a high during elections and campaign seasons. We feel that the power is in us. We push names of those who think would save us from our current situation. Those who are sitting on the pedestal suddenly kneels in front of us just to get our support.

Elections and candidates usually give us hope for a better future. Some of them might be able to live up to their promise. But most of them don't. But really, it doesn't matter what they do or what policies they create if you don't act for your own future. We may be able to elect the best, but the person that will have the largest impact on your growth is yourself. Your vote won't give you money for your child's tuition fee, your medical expenses, for your planned car or house, your travels or your retirement fund, but your investment today will.

You won't get much high in investment though. It's a boring thing to do. You do due diligence, you research, you ask, you put money, and then you wait. Boring indeed. But your future self will thank your boring old self for doing so while you will forget the names of those you voted and campaigned for. But still, vote wisely. You will only get a better output out of an investment or an election if you use logic and reason more than emotions.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hitting Big and Losing All

Earning money is good. But keep in mind that it's never the end goal. Don't be too desperate and compromise morals just to have more. You might succeed in hitting a big one today then have your life gone the next day. Or you might live long enough to regret doing a grave thing in the past for the sake of money that will ruin the rest of your future.

Being a good steward of things here on earth is a responsibility given to us by God. We are expected to make good use of our skills, strength and talents to take good care of our family, surroundings and our own selves which includes financial matters.

Earning and building wealth to put into good use is always a great thing. But never forget that all material things are temporary. We might be capable to buy all the things we want but we can never afford to lose sight of the more important things in life which are everything beyond material things and money.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Aim for the Value

If you want to earn for a living, your goal must not be how to make money. Your focus must be on offering something of value to others. It may be your skill, talent or some product that improves other people's lives. People pay for things that makes their lives better and easier. Look at yourself, then on the others. What problems do you have now and what could be your solution? Think of what you could do or create to make lives trouble-free. Then build it. Make people know about it and you can start from that. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Laziness Does Not Bring Contentment

You call it prudence, others will see it as playing safe. Your passion for planning of your future is perceived by some as dissatisfaction and ungratefulness of your current situation. Laziness and hopelessness are sometimes interpreted by others as contentment. Or maybe to use it as an excuse to do something.

Contentment is not when you keep on complaining about your situation while criticizing those who are striving to improve their lives.

Investing for your future must not be mistaken as a sign of discontentment and ungratefulness of your current situation. It actually means you are grateful and contented with your life that you want your loved ones to feel the same or better even when you are gone.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Is The Right Time To Invest?

The most perfect timing to start investing is now. Tomorrow will be late. Yesterday is already past. Timing should be one of your last concern in investing. It should be which investment you want to start with and then begin right away upon decision.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Financial Literacy is Detachment

Flashy cars, big houses, top of the line phone models, signature shoes and gears, these things are what usually capture the attention of those who get hooked and schemed by shady types of investments. And there are lots of them. Warnings are provided by the government authorities but many are still falling victims to them. Ignorance is one reason that it happens. But there are many who are supposedly smart people but still get caught on this trap not because they are not aware of the possibility of being scammed but due to a great attraction of a possible quick chance of a home run. Greed got into them and it is a far more dangerous black hole that pulls people strongly into the depths of poverty compared to ignorance.

It is also one thing that scares people away from legitimate investments. And many of those who got victimized couldn't move on and thought that everything else are the same. Whenever they hear someone talking about money and finances, they move away. Though it's really so easy to know whose professing real financial literacy from who's not.

If someone's teaching against materialism, showing you the way to detachment from worldly riches and becoming good stewards of what you have, then that is FINANCIAL LITERACY. It is really that simple. And that's also the only solution to work on your financial woes. The more you crave for more money without the correct mindset, the more financial problems you'll have. The more you detach yourself from material things, the more content and happy you'll become.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Budgeting Basics

I lost a lot of money before but not because someone stole it but then, I didn't exactly know what happened that I just wished that I knew it was indeed robbed. And there were days that it felt like I got more stuff than what I could afford. It is like magic. But it's also called budgeting.

There are many techniques out there that offer ways of budgeting your hard earned money. For sure that many of them work since they are mostly based on experience. I tried using some of them. Some worked, some did not. But I noticed that it's not the technique that is causing me to fail or not in managing my finances. It's what I did first before applying the technique that gave better results. Or maybe it's just about it. I prioritize.

Budget consists of 2 major parts, money at hand and the things you need to pay for. Those which you are not capable of buying because of lack of money are categorized as out of budget. Therefore you allot your money only for the things that you need to make sure you are within your budget.

It's basic and I'm sure you know about this already. But there are still a lot of us that find budgeting too difficult even for those who get paid a lot higher than the average earners because we are not being honest with ourselves. Sometimes, you get confused with the things you really need from those you just think you deserve to have. There are things that you buy that you can't afford though there are cheaper options where quality is not sacrificed. And there are things you buy that you think you should have though you don't really need. There's also this tendency to upgrade just because you earned a bit higher even if it's not necessary.

Let's also not fool ourselves that we are "investing" on unnecessary clutters as discussed on this blogpost. These are the biggest killers of budget. We tend to justify buying the things we just like and then later on wonder what happened to our budget. 

Bottomline is, you don't need to do any other budgeting technique when you only buy what you need which you are financially capable of including your savings and investments. By having the familiarity of your cash flow and the discipline to buy only the things you can't live without, you don't have to do budgeting any more in your entire life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ready to Get Down and Dirty

I lost almost half of what I invested in the stock market last 2008. Just this Monday, Aug 24, things seemed to be repeating all over again. This might mean that it is or maybe it is not. No one really knows, though there are indicators that major corrections are about to happen. We have been enjoying bullish movements for the past years and we all know that it's gonna happen sooner or later.

I won't give tips on what to do about it. I'll leave it to those more experienced and seasoned traders. I read them also by the way. But what I just want to do here is to share to you and at the same time remind myself of what I experienced during the last recession. I saw people losing jobs then. Just one snap and they are jobless. Then stock prices were free falling. Foreign and local fundies were selling off and the individual traders were losing hard earned money. Property bubble was the culprit then. Now, they said it's the instability of some economies in Asia (China) and Europe (Greece, etc). Other factors come into play as well. Wars for example.

For the individual traders, it matters less what the cause is. The effect is what hits them directly into their pockets. We may be able to understand all these things and know the steps to do when it happens. But the most important thing I learned in 2008 was that, even if you think you know what to do, it's never that easy.  You know the steps but will never be sure when to execute since the market cycle is only obvious on hindsight and not when you are currently in it. And then there's your emotion. There might be signals on what to do but your feelings will always get in the way.

As important as knowing what to do is to be prepared emotionally, physically and mentally for the grind.  You must toughen up your skills, composure and physical body as much as you can. Your readiness will dictate what your actions will be during crisis.  It will be a long tough battle so being generally healthy is of high importance. Make no mistake about it. It's a war out there.

Complacency and "peacetime" will provide you the moment to equip yourself but it is always during the moment of danger that your maximum potentials will be triggered. Your knowledge will be your ammunition. But if your body is not capable to carry out your game plan, every weapon that you carry will be useless.  Also remember that the experience of how you handle these moments will be the most valuable lessons that you'll bring throughout your investment journey. Everyone of us will go through the same economic cycle bringing in the same fundamental knowledge of it. The differentiator would be nothing else but your self so being healthy is your best advantage.

So everyone, enjoy the ride and hold on to your seats as we go thru this roller coaster ride of stock market and investments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

VUL Phobia. Is it Really That Bad?

There are still many people who are not into investing yet they have huge amounts of money stuck in their savings accounts. They are capable yet one of the biggest reasons why most of them don't is their scepticism of the investment processes and having very little trust to financial advisors/agents. Unfortunately for some financial advocates, they think they are helping these people to decide better by telling them to stay away from an investment product by merely giving this subjective reason of "greed" of some agents.

Sure, there are really those sales people who are more concerned after the cuts and commissions from their client's moolah than into helping them. But we cannot generalize advisors/agents based on the product they sell. And it does not follow that if one is pushing for a product that you don't agree with, then he's just after the client's money. Every financial case is different and so with each of the solution and it could be something different from what you think is applicable with your case. It is just sad that even some of those seasoned "gurus" give this type of advise simply because they don't like one product nor it does not suit their ways which in turn scares away inexperienced potential investors from more possible options they can choose from.

One of the usual victims of such "hate" is the VUL or Variable Universal Life. For those who doesn't have an idea yet of what VUL is, it is basically a type of product that combines a whole life insurance and an investment facility into one. "VUL is too expensive", they say. "It's for the lazy people", they say. "It's for the agent's commissions only", they say. I will tell you right away that there's a bit of truth about these things, BUT... these TRUTHS could actually work in your favor as an investor.

1. First, by saying it's "too expensive", what is it that makes other people say that it is? You can only say that one thing is expensive if you have a comparison. Upon reading observations of some finance advisors who believe that VUL is expensive, they are wrongly comparing it like apples to oranges with other pure investment type of products. And if they understand what they are doing, then that's dishonesty. But there are some who makes a better case in comparing VUL from investing in Mutual Funds/UITF plus getting a term insurance policy separately and proving that the latter is cheaper. There might be cases like that. Though basic economics knowledge will tell you that maintenance charges of a single product compared to two will always be cheaper. And that's the case with VUL versus UITF/MF + Term Insurance nowadays. There was a period that it was not. However due to continuous researches of financial companies and the high level of competitions, companies offering VUL improved a lot on this part. That would be more true if you compare offering of each product within the same company who provides them. Don't just take my words for it. You can have an advisor/agent make a quote for you on each of these products they offer and let them compare the charges and the projected amount you can earn in a certain period considering all factors (age, face amount, length of years to invest, fund options, etc) are equal.

2. Some will disagree on the whole life insurance part of VUL and will tell others that it's always better to buy a term insurance. Let's take a specific scenario. If you are young,buying a 10 yr term life insurance and would be cheaper than the charges you will pay in 10 years for a whole life insurance combined with a VUL. But after 10 yrs, if you want to renew your insurance, you have to undergo with another approval and application process. There's a big possibility that your health condition will change at that time and there's a bigger risk that you will not be approved because of it. And even if you get approved for a renewal, then guess what, your charges will be higher than what you paid for your first term. Unlike when you have it integrated with a VUL, you will undergo with just a one time approval process for an insurance coverage that you will have for your entire life until maturity and charges get even lower as you age. The fact is, there are even many VUL products now where its insurance charges are cheaper compared to what you would pay for with a separate term insurance policy.  There was a time that VUL charges were higher than getting a separate insurance policy + MF/UITF (or what they call BTID meaning Buy Term, Invest the Difference) but it was so long ago and it did not last that way since people nowadays are smarter in choosing the right investment product for them. But it seems some people were not able to move on from that period and are stuck with the idea of what the VUL looked like on its initial offering which in turn blinded their opinion about it.

3. And there will be those who will argue on why would you sell a VUL when the client only wants a pure investment. That's another case. One would ask why would you offer someone who has an insurance already to buy another one? You will not unless he needs it as he thinks that his first one's coverage isn't enough. And also, if one doesn't have an insurance yet and he wants to start an investment, a good financial advisor would encourage that person to buy an insurance first for reasons that all advisors and seasoned investors must already know. And offering him a VUL to have it both at once can be a good option. 

4.  Is laziness a reason for buying VUL? Yes and No. Yes since you read the reasons above on why it's better to choose getting a VUL than having to deal with twice the process for separate insurance and investment. That's one good reason to be lazy. But it can also be that you are NOT lazy but a hard working person that doesn't have much time in your hands and that you could benefit more in getting a 2 in 1 product. But of course, you have to consider your needs first before starting with anything.

5. Are agents selling you VUL solely because of the commissions they will get? It is possible. And it is NOT limited to VUL agents. There will always be sales people who will try to manipulate others to buy the things they don't need. Therefore, you must not use this reason on not getting a VUL since it is not the product's fault that we have those unethical sales people. You must decide what investment product you need based on your knowledge of your own situation, not on what other people think about you or to the others. Besides, do you really think those who are selling term insurances, UITFs or MFs are doing it for free?

6. You can maximize benefits of VUL only if you die early.  True. Very true. As investors, we all know that every type of investment is a risk. We understand that time is our friend which helps us minimize the risk. But do we always have time on our side. Maybe. Maybe not. And what if you are a young parent with small kids or a young professional who is the breadwinner of your family? What if you only have invested for a year and let's say it has Php 100,000.00 cash value in it, and then something happens and you die? I hope that this could even cover the whole funeral service fee. Then after that, who will bring the food on the plates of your loved ones you leave behind? Every investment is a gamble. So is life. And I don't think it's bad enough to gamble by at least starting with Php 3000 per month and pay it out after 1 quarter for a VUL and be able to protect yourself with a Php 1,000,000.00 insurance value right away just in case the inevitable happens. But then, if you live long enough, you just have to make sure that you choose the best fund option so you can enjoy the fruits of this "gamble" during your old age.

You must also keep in mind that an investment product (MF, UITF, VUL, etc) which are offered by each company although similar are to be treated as different animals by themselves. There are different paying terms, charges, funds options, fund managements, etc.  Therefore, there will always be the worst among them in terms of charges, management, processes, etc. But in any case, the worst in its field will not defeat the purpose of what a specific investment product would provide to a client's needs. The best way is choosing the product that suits your need, then finding the company that gives the best offering for that kind of investment. So for those who are just beginning to research about the best type of investment to start from, please, do yourselves a favor. Hold on to your emotions and let it not be swayed by a strong opinion against persons. Give yourselves the chance to look at all the options logically before finally deciding what's best for you. And let me be the one to tell you that VUL will NOT be always the best choice for you, but then, you will not know which one is unless you unbiasedly read, listen or ask.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

That Investment is Non-Investment

The "Wolf of Wall Street", Jordan Belfort, was blatant in saying that people mostly in the Asian region base their decisions on emotional reasons rather than the logical ones. We first decide based on what we feel then we try to convince ourselves and others by finding logic on that choice we make.

Same thing with our finance management. You could meet a lot of people "investing" on different things. It could be on expensive gadgets, new real estate properties, expensive shoes or clothes, new cars, etc. At a quick glance, you can say that these are all but expenses. But try to ask the person who bought them. For sure, they have a list of reasons why they purchased these things and why they consider these as investments. It really depends on their circumstances and what they are saying could be true.

I hope they earn dividends

But some people, when you ask if other than these "investments" if they have also put money in the stock market, mutual funds, insurance, VUL, UITF or heck even on a savings account for their emergency fund, a lot of them will answer "NO". And they will have reasons for not doing so like saying it's not their priority right now. Shoes, gadgets, clothes over real investments? Sure. It's our freedom to use our hard earned money in any way we want to. But fooling ourselves to believe that what we are doing is "investing" is what could hurt us later in our lives. Are you like one of these people? I hope it will never be too late for us to realize and learn what a real investment is from what is not.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Financial Freedom Is Not The End Of It

The reason why a lot of people can't reach financial freedom they are dreaming of is because of their wrong concept of it. A lot of us think that it is about us having money to buy all the things we want. That feeling that "we made it". This is partially true but the harsh reality is most of us won't be able to reach that point.

The question that you must be asking yourself first is why do you want to have that financial freedom? Is it about the money, the cars, the big houses, the gadgets, jewelries, travels? Or is it about how you could get more time doing things you like and spending more moments with those you love? The usual reason why we can't do the latter is because of the idea that we are trapped in our daily duties to earn for our primary necessities. And thinking that to earn more, you work harder and longer times. Then to reward yourself, you buy things that you don't really need but which you think you deserve for all the hard work you have done. Fair enough. But the danger on this one is on that mentality that financial freedom equates to material things. That's probably the reason why most people who get scammed easily is swayed by the promise of luxurious things that he can buy upon joining them.

Fact is you don't really need a drastic change on your money status to achieve financial freedom. A simple change in mindset towards your priority management, starting small in your savings and investment, a little review and of your current situation and looking at all the other options will get you a long way.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Live With The Risk

There is always risk in everything. Not one outcome is 100% sure. Same goes in all types of investment. One must accept that risk is always present no matter how knowledgeable a person is or how stable a business looks like. Acknowledging this fact is the first step in succeeding or avoiding total failure. The next one is is to create a backup plan. And the third is to create another backup plan. And so on. Risk will always be there and we need to learn how to live with it and not paralyzed by it. The only sure risk of failure happening is when you don't do anything at all.