Wordless Thursday – 14 most common Cosmetic Procedures

Medicine has come a long way, from the days of finding a cure to ailments to now altering appearance in a materialistic world. However, the demand for the doctor is now at the peak with people spending in millions for the sake of appearance. Society has become more and more obsessed with appearance, so much so that some plastic surgery procedures have managed to make it to the list of top 14 medical procedures. In America people sure do like to eat and it shows with liposuction being the top cosmetic procedure with 203,106 done in 2010.

Although it is not very detailed it provides us with some pretty entertaining facts. Did you know there were 62 million CT scans done in 2010 and that 30% of those were unnecessary for diagnosis? For the uninitiated, Wordless Thursday, is this blog’s way of bringing interesting info graphics to light every week on Thursdays.

Inquisitive Interviews : Simmy Mathew – Auditor

Hi all we are back this week again with Inquisitive Interviews, yes it’s not been on for a couple of weeks, and I am to blame completely. However, this week we are back with something inquisitive for you guys to look at. The profile that we will cover today is that of an Auditor. Yes Auditors, the very same people that can give a shiver to many. If at all you wondered what they do and why people seem to be scared of them, well here are probably some answers.

For the uninitiated, Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.

 

[Q] Tell Us something about yourself (Things like Name, how many years you have been working and anything else you would like to add.)

 I am known as ‘Simmy Mathew’.

Lived in Dubai for the last 14 years and counting….

Work has been part of my life since the last 7 years.

[Q] What do you Do for a living and Where?

I work as an auditor for Ernst and Young, Dubai

[Q] Is the job what you had expected it to be?

Yes, and maybe a little more…I always wanted to be an auditor and I still remember when I was 16, telling my aunt that I wanted to be an auditor and work in the Big4.So, yes! I am living my dream! 😀

[Q] Is the salary what you had expected it to be?

Yes, I started off at the junior level and it was what I expected.

[Q] What is your average day like?

Well, being an auditor means you are never in office but at the clients – auditing their books.  So an average day is working in a team and trying to achieve deadlines. It varies – depending on the industry you are working in, the size of the entity you are auditing…They are times that I am at a client for months and they are times I am at the client for one-two weeks…. and no two days are the same.

 I work with different sets of people , which is a challenge in itself .

[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job?

The exposure that I get is high and the learning curve is great. ..But I think the most interesting part of the job is multitasking – applying what you learned in different types of industry and getting your work done, supervising your junior staff work, being proactive and planning ahead.

[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job?

People ….i guess in a country like UAE – you meet different types of people  – different upbringing, different cultures, different nationalities….so working with them…can be a challenge but I love challenges and embrace  them with open arms.

[Q] What’s the part of the job that you don’t like?

Actually nothing……Sometimes it can get monotonous hence maintaining a right mix of work is important.

[Q] Do you get bored at your workplace at all?

I have to say I don’t have time to get bored……so the answer to that would be no!

[Q] Do you report to someone? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job?

Yes, I do but that varies…it could be a senior/asst manager/ manager.  Basically they are there to review your work and sort out any issues you have while auditing .

[Q] Do you use all the skills that you learnt in school / college? or where did you pick up the skills ?

well, I have to say what I studied in college as my degree was a bachelors in accounting and Finance definitely helped….Also. ACCA had been an added plus point on the growth path.

 Also, at Ernst & young, if you join as a graduate – they have the graduate development program which ensures you are up-to-date with the Ernst & Young methodology and the latest developments in the accounting world. So there are enough training to develop your career at Ernst & Young.

[Q] What are your Alumni? Where did you study?

School              : Our Own English High School, Dubai

University         : Middlesex University, Dubai campus

Currently pursuing my ACCA

[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry?

Yes, I would. But it requires a little effort and being able to manage a lot of work in time pressure situations.

[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry?

Plan ahead. I f you are an university student and want to try a career, decide where you want to get in and plan how you are going to go about it. Have a roadmap to where  you want to go …and that will help you plan your direction.

[Q] Anything else you want to tell the readers?

Love what you do…no matter what industry you are …then work is all fun…otherwise all work and no play will definitely make Jack a dull boy! 😀

[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession?

ACCA website : http://www.accaglobal.com/ 

IAS plus : http://www.iasplus.com/

You can get in touch with Simmy on Facebook at here profile here: http://www.facebook.com/simmy.mathew

If at all you wondered what Auditors do, I hope this would have given you a better idea. Thank you Simmy for an insight into the world of the Auditors, hope you guys the readers are more aware of the work of Auditors. Until next time, Be Inquisitive.

Why I do NOT support Anna Hazare ?

For starters I have been asked by quite a few people about what I think about the Anna Hazare case. And I have been telling everyone the same thing, I do not believe that it is right to support him, nor do I think what he is doing is right. As the days go on, and as people start adding into the fight, I can’t help but think that this is just going downhill from here. Days on end, news channels seem to have forgotten about everything than the ‘Fast’ by Anna Hazare, people are sending texts to each other to forward around, telling us how Indian we are if we support him and how unpatriotic we are if we do not support him and things like that. Yes, I do not support the entire fiasco behind it, and nor to I completely agree with the ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’ as it is called and here is why.

First things first, most people who are supporting Anna Hazare in this so called Revolution do not have a clue of what the Bill is actually about. Ask most of your friends who have sent you texts, posted Facebook Status updates about it, and they will actually tell you it’s about stopping corruption and bringing Black money back into the country. Yes, it is but has anyone looked beyond the objective, into the methods and the ways of making this happen ? Well I can bet, it would be 1 in 10 or even 1 in 50 who has taken time to read it. I actually did when the name Anna Hazare popped up a while back, out of the blue. This is after I wrote about him, being blinded by my sense of patriotism and effortless, protest.

I wanted to check who he was an what was the entire deal behind it ? So I went on to the website that has a lot of information about the campaign, India Against Corruption. To make my point I can go down the route of personal attack on Anna Hazare, from his RSS support right through to his treatment of “Harijans”, but I do not want to do that (you can research those for yourself). I want to open what I believe is the flaw in the entire campaign. I did a bit of a scrutiny of the campaign, like Arundathi Roy  who wrote about it in the Hindu, it’s a long but compelling read. Check it out here.

While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not. Contrary to Gandhiji’s ideas about the decentralisation of power, the Jan Lokpal Bill is a draconian, anti-corruption law, in which a panel of carefully chosen people will administer a giant bureaucracy, with thousands of employees, with the power to police everybody from the Prime Minister, the judiciary, members of Parliament, and all of the bureaucracy, down to the lowest government official. The Lokpal will have the powers of investigation, surveillance, and prosecution. Except for the fact that it won’t have its own prisons, it will function as an independent administration, meant to counter the bloated, unaccountable, corrupt one that we already have. Two oligarchies, instead of just one.

Yes, I got to reading the amendments to the bill as well as most of the bill myself. Here is what I think of it.

  • It is a good plan to convert our democracy into a machinery that would be under the control of a single person (sort of) rule. By giving all power to the Lok pal, he will be able to keep the government at ranson at any time he wants.
  • It is also a plan for certain people (ahem .. Anna supporters and successors) to become incredibly wealthy. By blackmailing the politicians who is planning to investigate.
  • Will not be limited to Government Departments, so does this mean that they will start scrutinizing the private companies, street hawkers into following the law of the land ?
  • Will be able to scrutinize the PM and the Judiciary. Interesting considering that the leader of the largest democracy In the world will now be answerable to this LokPal and not the people ?

I am not able to understand the actual intent of the “Merry men of Anna” they have put these constraints in the bill. Understandably they have their own justification of the terms mentioned. But this is the hind side of the same terms.

Take Karnataka for instance, the state has a LokAyukt, a similar committee as the LokPal in the central government, to curb corruption in the state. But over the past few years there have been unconfirmed whispers among the people of the LokAyukt blackmailing the ministers, extorting money in exchange of a no investigation. Whether it is true or not, the fact remains that it is possible with the bill. Imagine that now nation-wide, what this bill will provide is a open chit to those who will be in the Lokpals chair to extort and make more money through the very thing they have set out to stop; Corruption.

I am not suggesting that Anna is corrupt, I am saying that once he is done with his term it will be an open invitation to someone to take on that position and possibly misuse it. How long will Anna take the position of LokPal and try to protect us from his successor ? It’s not detailed in the LokPal Bill.

When it comes to the place where this system fails, will another Anna Hazare rise to form another governing body to monitor the LokPal and the Government ? Possibly. And how many of these do we need from corruption to stop happening in the country ? The only way we can stop corruption is to stop being a part of it. Our ministers and Politicians are hungry for money, as are the 1.2 Billion people in the country. If you are telling me you are completely satisfied with what you have and do not ever want any more money you are lying. So it does not matter who is in power they will make some money, either through bribes, or if they cannot they will make it legal like in the US and call it lobbying fees. But this will not stop.

As long as we are a nation of people ready to pay our way through inconvenience, we will always have corruption. Regardless of whether we have the LokPal bill passed or not. We need to take a stand and STOP paying bribes, only then can this be stopped and not through a sort of Mexican Showdown with the government using “Ghandism” and “Patriotism” as cover.

India will be against corruption only when we stop paying, nothing else will stop this. I am like always open to debate.

India Independence Day, celebrate cos it matters

“At midnight when the world sleeps, India will awake.“ The words of the first Prime Minister of India echo this Independence Day all over Facebook, a lot of my friends are showing their “patriotism” on Facebook by putting status messages of wishes. Then there are those who are insulting the neighbours of India as a “patriotic gesture” and the last kind are the ones with loads of speculation and negativity about the current state of affairs in the country making them quite angry and negative about the Independence Day. But really what is the right sentiment ? Has the Independence Day lost relevance in this day and age ? I try to answer some of these questions this time for the Independence Day.

An elderly person who I spoke to in India during my visit last week, was asking me about Facebook and I showed him. He was quite happy about what you could achieve and how you could communicate on Facebook and how the world is becoming a more connected place after social networks. Then he saw some negative status messages on Facebook about our Independence Day, from the younger generation. He was saddened.

He recalls with me his teenage days when India had just received Independence, and the days he celebrated his first few Independence Day’s. From being orphaned to losing an elder brother in the fight for Independence, he mentions how Gandhi was able to ensure that many more people were able to enjoy the Independence from the British, than through Violent methods.

He talks about when his mother used to complain about the fact that we would pay unreasonable amounts of tax to the British in their conquest to plunder our nation more and more. In the end he was glad that he got to see the country free from the British in his lifetime.

As he was speaking to me about the Independence Day, it dawned upon me that most people look at the Independence Day to be a Holiday these days, sit on their laptops at home and typing negative sentiments on their Facebook statuses, talking about the India today.

 Today is not about the present, it is about the triumph of a David over a Goliath. It was the riddance of tyranny of the British, by the timid Indians. It is a day to celebrate the success of many years and countless sacrifices of the countrymen towards driving the British out of India. Not a day to be angry about, but a day to feel proud and grateful for all the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters, who these days are not even enquired about. It is unbelievable that at a time of no internet, Mobile Phones, telephones, emails, twitter and other communication medium as well as a planning resource such as the Internet, the Freedom fighters were able to coordinate strikes on the governance of the British.

 Independence day is as significant as it was on the day we got our independence. Just because time has passed does not mean that the relevance of the lives lost and the sacrifices made are reduced. Nor should they be marred by the in competence of the current politicians. The discussion on Independence Day should revolve thanking our freedom fighters for their dedication and commitment, and not pointing out the mistakes of the country.

 Would you not feel bad, if rather than wishing you Happy Birthday, your Parents or siblings just mentioned the bad marks you scored Or the fact that you lost in a race in school or some other competitive analysis about you, you would certainly feel disappointed and sad. So if that being the case, why are we still doing it to our country.  This Independence Day, let us celebrate the Independence Day correctly, let us all be happy for and wish the country Happy Birthday 64th time. We have the remaining 264 days to question the government and its workings. With that note, I wish you all a very Happy Independence Day.

6 reasons I love my Phone, and 3 reasons I hate it

It’s been close to 1.5 years with my Android, the gorgeous Nexus One from Google. And let me tell you they have been eventful 1.5 years and I have loved it. I want to highlight what I have loved the Nexus one and maybe some reasons I hate it. I wrote about the raging excitement when I got my Nexus One as a gift from my wife and have been an avid Android promoter ever since.

The Nexus One was Google’s first made Android Phone which aimed at selling the phone on-line without tying it to any carrier in the US. However the marketing plan of selling Nexus One bombed, but the Operating System flourished. As most people got hold of Android phones knowing that Android was fully backed by Google, the popularity of the Operating system just quadrupled. Thanks again to Nexus One which you cannot really buy now in the market, you can just get a developer version from Google on request.

Here are my 5 reasons I absolutely love my Phone.

1. Android

For most of you who read this blog frequently you will know that I am a big fan of Google and how they work. Google’s Android is not just a break from the monotony of the iPhone and the marketing gimmick of Steve Jobs, but it’s also a new way for people to stay united with the freedom to choose what you want to run on your phone. From getting a large choice of hardware, than a monotonous iPhone to the Galaxies of the world and the Nexus One of course, Android gave freedom of hardware and software.

2. Over the Air Upgrades

Android’s biggest losing point has been the fact that it has been criticized for not being able to provide uniform upgrades to all the phone manufacturers and models together. The main problem was that phone manufacturers add custom skins on the Android Devices to be able to customize them as their own branded phones. However this has created a lot of problems as well.

Google’s upgrades need to be vetted against the custom skins before they can be installed on the phones making them difficult to install. With Nexus One running stock android the upgrades to the Operating System are delivered as soon as Google releases them and it’s a nice feeling to get the new features before anyone.

3. Google Services

Having the stock Android means that all Google Services are configured to run well from the word go. Google ensures that the applications are working from the word Go in most stock Android flavors. Google Services like Contacts sync, Maps and Search all integrated into a consolidated package, making the services integration seamless and borderless.

4. Break away from stereotypes

Well I say that, but Android fans are getting into a stereotype themselves. Before I bought the Android, I have always been a Nokia user, from my first awesome Nokia 3310 right through to the N95. While N95 was my favorite phone of all times, its upgrades did not keep up much with the competition. Nokia lost the way when it came to touch screen smart phones, although they had great visions for what they wanted to do and still want to do, where they lost their way was in Software.

They were the first to realize the potential of Apps and custom Ringtones, as well as music. And they were the last to do something about it. By the time they came back with Ovi, I guess it was too little, too late. At the time that Nokia was losing ground, blackberry and the iPhone were catching on. The clumsy blackberry models available then were not really appealing and the iPhone was too expensive outside of the US.

5. Apps, Apps, Apps

This I guess I have in common with the iPhone lovers. From getting an app for WordPress, to Firefox right though to task managers and other software (I promise I will write a post about the apps on my phone soon) Apps are all around us. Well Apps also covers mobile games for me, and Angry Bird is the king of them. From being a free app on Android to getting into the lives of anyone who has tried it one, the Apps on the Android will definitely make the phone much better in functionality.

6. The 5MP Camera

The camera is one of the most versatile tool on my phone, from Augmented reality apps right through to just plain old taking pictures, there are awesome applications for the phone. I wrote about 18 such tools here in one of my most read posts of all time. The camera is brilliant, with apps providing additional control and functionality into the cameras.  They are so good that they also can replace your everyday tools, again something that I wrote about a while back here. All in all the camera with some of the cool Android apps are breathing a new lease of life into my phone.

I hate my phone too !!

As much as I love my phone I do hate it, at times. While not all frustrations I have are due to the phone itself its the feeling of having the problem that would bother me.

1. The Data Packages in UAE

While most of the world is receiving amazing data packages for the phone (read, India, UK, US), the data packages in Dubai are still made to hurt you, financially. Be it calling right through to using 3G and GPRS services. The part that is really frustrating is the fact that Etisalat and Du both seem to try and gain revenue from the large expatriate population, but it is just the middle and lower classes that they tend to hurt the most, this is not the best deal.

On the contrary the Blackberry users in Dubai face a lovely 3G package, where in the services are activated and provided at affordable prices. This for sure seems to be the very reason for the sheer increase in the number of Blackberry users.

Although Customer service is not the best in India, the packages and the deals for using the data packages are really unbelievable. It makes for the common man to go and use technology a little more. Which is the actual reason technology exists, to use it.

2. Android Market and its non availability 

I have written about this earlier, the fact that Google has not yet recognized the region as an important region for its mobile business, means more android users are getting deprived of the wonders of Android. This include some of Google’s apps too, like Google Earth, Google Plus the app and more.

We all know how Google is really putting a lot at stake in making the Android work (read, patenting problems) still the phones here without Android Market will work adversely for them. Having said that I must admit that the number of Android Phones I am seeing these days are really a lot. From the every persistent Samsung phones through to some interesting Sony and Acer phones, the Android OS is gaining ground in the middle east.

Hopefully now is a good time Google ! I know you are fighting a multi sided war with all the tech companies for us, a little attention here will mean financially we will be able to back you up and help you as well.

3. Some parts of the Hardware 

Although the first 2 annoyances are nothing to do physically with my phone, this one definitely does. Here are 4 of my annoyances with the hardware of the Nexus One.

a. The Coverage 

I am happy with the coverage, but when the phone gets into tight spots like lift lobbies which have low coverage, the phone not only looses signal like most other phones, but takes a long time to get back the signal.

I am not sure if this is an Android thing, or just my phone thing. But definitely this has hurt me in more than one occasion in the past. I hope that my next android will not have this issue (yes, I will buy an Android next as well).

b. The RAM / ROM 

There is inadequate local storage in the Phone. Period. Regardless of what Google thought at the time the phone was released, the fact that the RAM on the phone is small and restricts the usage of more apps, it is a serious problem with the hardware.

Although there are apps like App2SD and with the support of the Honeycomb version to support Apps to be installed in the SD card, its applications like Facebook which are not only large and cumbersome, but also not movable to SD that compound this issue.

c. Front Facing Camera 

Well to be honest, when this phone was launched, the world of internet calling was dominated by the desktop and the phone market was not getting there quick. Now that services like Skype, Fring and others operate well on the Android and that too for free. It is a feature that I miss a lot.

Google did not preempt the requirement which is why it was not there, however it was not there in the iPhone too until iPhone 4 was released. How I wish that there was a front facing camera for Skype, would have been able to catch up with my sister in the US even more easily.

d. The Battery Life 

Here I believe, it is my fault. I used to leave the phone charger on charging the phone when I go to sleep and it used to be connected. Now like laptop batteries the performance has begun to degrade. But keeping in mind the fact that the phone needs quite a lot of juice just to operate and run it does not help the cause.

The screen and most of all radio communication, are the biggest energy hoggers and have hurt my battery life of the phone, with degraded performance it definitely seems to be a problem.

Last words 

Although when you read this post it would sound like I am 50 – 50 with the phone, I will tell you I will purchase an Android Phone next as well. Make it the next nexus series. Although Nexus S will be a good option, I currently love this phone and will use it for much longer. ruling out the possibility of changing phones currently.

I love the Android Operating system especially in its stock format. And a looking forward to Ice Cream Sunday (the next Android Version). to release.

Inquisitive Interviews : Kishor Raj – Senior Planner

Inquisitive Interviews is back, and this time it is an engineer, I know that a lot of you will be saying that it was not part of the plan to introduce many engineer’s and doctors. However, I have decided to do so, as this is a very specialist role. Kishor is a Senior Planner. Engineering is just the base on which his profession is based on. Keeping that in mind, I think we should go ahead and have the chat with Kishor on life, job and career.

For the uninitiated, Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.

[Q] Tell Us something about yourself (Things like Name, how many years you have been working and anything else you would like to add.)

My name is Kishor. I’m a civil engineer with over 9 years of work experience in the construction industry both within and outside India. I’m an entrepreneur as well, involved with the start-up of a few companies back in India.

[Q] What do you Do for a living and Where ?

I’m working at present as a Senior Planner with one of the leading construction companies in U.A.E.

[Q] Is the job what you had expected it to be ?

Not really. I didn’t have much of an expectation about a dream job.  My career got shifted to planning due to an unexpected event when I was working in India. But now, I do enjoy my job.

[Q] Is the salary what you had expected it to be ?

As I said earlier, I didn’t have any expectation about what I should earn at any point of time in future. I believe that my present salary is enough for me to sustain my present life style.

[Q] What is your average day like ?

Every single day in my life starts with a prayer. I spend most of the time in front of my computer. Most of my working hours are consumed by meeting deadlines and attending meetings with subcontractors and management.  Sometimes, I spend hours studying project drawings and specifications. I may have to visit construction sites at times.

[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job ?

The most interesting part is the brainstorming sessions with the management on how to execute upcoming projects. As a planner, I’m the one to advise the management about the various methods of project execution.

[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job ?

The most important job of a planner is to develop a construction program. For starters, a construction program is a detailed description of construction activities sequenced the way it should actually be carried out at site. Planners use software such as Primavera or MS Project to develop such programs. The challenging part in my job is to visualize the project from the two dimensional drawings and description available, and come up with an economic and time saving plan. A minute unaccounted detail can sometimes result in a huge loss for the company.

[Q] What’s the part of the job that you don’t like ?

Explaining the logic of the program and convincing the management about its feasibility is the part which I find to be most difficult to deal with.

[Q] Do you get bored at your workplace at all ?

Repetitive type of work is a big boredom for me.

[Q] Do you report to someone ? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job ?

Yes, I report to the tendering contracts manager. As for me, everything about my job depends on him.

[Q] Do you use all the skills that you learnt in school / college ? or where did you pick up the skills ?

Obviously not. But I think, the knowledge we acquired during our academic years always play a role in every point of work. I have to undergo various project management trainings to sharpen my skills.

 [Q] What’s your Alumni? Where did you study ??

 My pre-university was done in SB College, Changanassery in Kerala, India.

 Engineering was done in M.S. Bidve Engineering College, Latur, Maharashtra, India.

Currently, I secured an admission for MBA in Hult International Business School in Dubai campus.

[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry ?

Sure. I suggest that civil engineering graduates should start thinking of any type of specialization when they are in still in college. Having a good logical mind is very much essential to become a successful planner. I believe a left dominant brain is more suitable for a planner.

[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry ?

Getting a good site experience is essential for all specialization. Even if you plan to specialize in any particular civil engineering job, my advice is to gain around 5 years hardcore site experience before you start moving into office.

[Q] Anything else you want to tell the readers ?

For civil engineers, while you are studying, it is advisable to visit some construction sites whenever possible. Civil engineering is a blue collar job. So, you should be prepared to deal with the dust and dirt at the site after graduating.  Getting some exposure to daily job activities at construction site can help you to get used to this reality.

[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession ?

www.planningplanet.com

www.oracle.com/primavera

You can check out Kishor’s Facebook profiles and other contact information below where you can get in touch with him.

Facebook Profile    http://www.facebook.com/kishoru

Linked in : http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=71816506

Not a man of many words, however Kishor has a really interesting job. I did not really get into the entrepreneurship of Kishor this time, maybe another time, for information in the mean time Kishor has his hands full on an online website in India, and a few other ventures like a hospital and construction. Yes it is something we will get back on, in the mean time, keep reading and be Inquisitive.

Let us help – NGO Awareness – Part 2

Through the years NGO’s (Non Government Organizations) have come forward to fill the gap which the government in India has been unable to fill in. While talking to Sowmya on her interview (which you can read here) I realized that the number of NGO’s that are trying to work on issues related to India are quite a few, and they talk to research analysts like Sowmya to help them do the right thing. But there are those who have already spent a lot of time in trying to help various segments in India, like the poor, the old or just children. Working with profit or non-profit these people definitely deserve a mention in their role in the society in India.

 

The list of NGO’s last time was inquisitive enough to receive a lot of hits from you folks. So this time around I thought it would be good time to send in the second set of NGO’s list for the sake of NGO action from all of us, maybe eventually we will start our own action plan to help pick one of the NGO’s on the list.

Bhumi

Website  |    |    |

Activity: Bhumi is one of India’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organisation. Our volunteers work amongst orphaned and underprivileged children in Chennai, Thiruvallur, Bengaluru and Chandigarh with the aim of providing children with quality education and enable them to become responsible and productive citizens of the future. The efforts of our volunteer force consisting of over 300 students and young professionals under the age of 30 benefit over 2,500 children every year.

Support: Education, Children, Environmental Conservation, Mentorship

Note: Bhumi is an under-30 youth volunteer organisation, and to be able to reach out to more children, we need volunteers who can spend 2 hours every weekend to teach at an orphanage near their residence.


Help A Child to Study

Website | |  |

Activity: Help A Child to Study sponsors the higher education of meritorious underprivileged students, supporting them to achieve dreams of a better future. We sponsor all formal courses above 10th, including 11th and 12th, diploma courses, degree courses, B.E., M.B.B.S. and Postgrad. Through education our students are able to escape the cycle of poverty through their own talents.

Support: Education, higher education, sponsorship of students.

Note: – We are looking for financial donations to support the higher education of our students, most of whom live in rural areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka.


SAHAI helpline for suicide prevention and emotional distress.

Website | |  |

Activity: Started on 2nd Oct 2002, SAHAI is Bangalore’s telephone helpline for people in emotional distress. Our dedicated, trained volunteer counsellors are available to answer your calls between 10.00 a.m. & 6.00 p.m., from Monday through to Saturday.

All calls are confidential and privacy is assured.

Whether it is facing problems with your family, in school, at work or with your friends,Sahai Counsellors will give you their undivided attention and will guide you. And, when you’re ready, SAHAI will help you find a long-term solution to your problems, through telephone counselling.Sahai volunteers will help and equip you with the skills,needed to cope with distressing situations of life like loss, failure, broken relationships or the ever-increasing demands of today’s fast-paced life.

SAHAI volunteers are homemakers, professionals and college students – people from all walks of life who are committed to saving lives. SAHAI volunteers undergo 30 hours of suicide prevention training conducted by professionals from NIMHANS and the Medico Pastoral Association, along with Rotary Bangalore East, three of the help line’s founding partners.

Volunteers are trained to help each caller ventilate, to respond without judging, and to guide the caller to address their problem. Volunteers learn how to listen pro-actively, and to recognize and assess signs of stress and depression.

Support: Suicide prevention and emotional distress telephone helpline.

Note: Public awareness, more volunteers and funds to raise awareness.


This post is a part of BlogAdda’s Bloggers Social Responsibility (BSR) initiative. I am exercising my BSR. You can too by spreading the news of these NGO’s and Support. Its the least you can do if not donate money.

Get Richer by avoiding Mental Accounting

The Inquisitive Minds, features guest authors who are interested to contribute to the readers of this blog and the author of this article is Ramalingam Kan MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial PlannerHe is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.  He has been a regular on this blog for a while now. If you would like to contribute something then please let us know on guest [at] melvinpereira.com.

Mental Accounting is one such money mistake even smart people are committing.  Understanding this mistake and avoiding this could make us richer. Behavioral Finance experts say that mental accounting works this way: Let us say you have bought a Rs.200 ticket to a movie. When you show up at the entrance of the theatre and realize you have lost your ticket, do you buy another ticket? If you are like most people, you would probably think twice. You may still drop down the money, but you will now feel that you paid Rs.400 for a Rs.200 movie.

But let’s construct the scenario differently. Let’s say you hadn’t bought the ticket yet, and you show up at the entrance to buy your ticket. Unfortunately, you realized you’ve lost Rs200 in cash since you walked from the parking place. But fortunately, you still have enough in your wallet to cover the cost of the ticket. Do you buy the ticket? Again, if you are like most people, you may feel upset about the lost money, but it probably won’t affect your decision to buy the ticket. Why?

Behavioural Finance experts conducted similar experiments. They found that 46% of those who lost the ticket were willing to buy a replacement ticket. On the other side 88% of those who lost an equivalent amount of cash were willing to buy a ticket.

Both scenarios are a loss of Rs.200. However, in the second scenario you separate the loss of the Rs. 200 from the purchasing of the ticket. In the first you consider the cost of the movie as a total of Rs.400 and suffer at the high cost.

It is because of the psychological phenomenon known as mental accounting. One of the fundamental concepts in Economics says that wealth in general and money in particular, should be fungible. Fungibility, in a nutshell, means that Rs.100 in lottery winning, Rs.100 in salary and Rs.100 tax refund should have the same significance and value to you since each Rs.100 has the same purchasing power at the market. But do you treat them in a similar way?

Mental accounting has enormous consequences in your daily life. It affects how you spend money and how you save. It influences how you deal with losses and windfall gains.

How Does Mental Accounting Affect You?

1)   The source of the money affects how it is spent.

  • You tend to dine lavishly with the “gift meal vouchers” given by your company. But you will be dining consciously if you are paying out of your salary.
  • You are most likely to spend more with credit cards than with cash.
  • You may consider Tax refund as“free money”. In actual terms it is your own money. You will not spend tax refunds, birthday gift money or lottery winnings on essential things like utility bills, school fees, paying off your credit card debt. But you will be more than happy to spend the same money on discretionary items such as vacations or a trendy mobile phone.

2)   Don’t be a victim of ‘Relative cost’.

Assume you are going to a super market to buy a laptop. The price is Rs.40000. But you get to know that there is another branch of the supermarket, a ten minutes walk away, in which the same laptop is sold for Rs.39950. Will you walk down to the other branch? Let us say instead of buying a laptop you have planned to buy a memory card. The price at the supermarket is Rs.100 and at the other branch is Rs.50. Where will you buy the card? Most of us will make a trip to the other branch for the memory card but not for the laptop. Because we think that the Rs.50 saved on a Rs.100 item is better than the same amount saved on a Rs.40000 item. But both the situation is same. You save Rs.50 by making 10 minutes walk to the other branch. Remember that money is money. Rs.50 saved on Rs.40000 laptop is not less money than Rs. 50 saved on Rs.100 memory card.

How to face Mental Accounting and spend consciously?

  • You can use mental accounting to your advantage by spending money out of your salary. Immediately invest the “free money” like Tax refunds, gifted money or any other windfall gains.
  • Imagine that all income is earned income.
  • Use the free meal vouchers and other gift vouchers to buy essential items.
  • Pretend you don’t have a credit card. I am not telling you not to use credit cards. I am saying you should stop and think: would I buy this if I was using cash?

A Successful Practical Strategy:

You can have two bank accounts. One for the purpose of savings and the other one for spending. Every month you need to set aside some amount for expenses as per your budget or previous experience. That amount you need to transfer to your spending account. Balance amount you need to keep it in savings account.  You need to meet all your expenses including your credit card payment from the spending account. You should not spend from your savings account.

In between, if you receive any cash gifts or windfall gains, deposit them in your savings account. If you receive gift vouchers, then transfer the money equivalent of that voucher from your spending account to your saving account. That is your spending limit will not go up by just receiving the gift voucher. So that you will not use it lavishly and use it only on pre-planned things. When it comes to money your mind unconsciously plays this trick of mental accounting. You have understood that today. So hereafter, you can avoid this mistake and you become richer day by day.

Inquisitive Interviews : Vishal & Samir Bharadwaj – Graphic Designers (Freelance)

Another Sunday and I am proud to present another Inquisitive Interview for this week. Usually though I try to get the interview on  a single person. This week however we have 2 brothers at the interview together. I did think of splitting it, but somehow reading it over and over I thought I enjoyed it as being read together. Both are friends I have made in Dubai and I should tell you that I am more than happy to have got in touch with them for the interview. Right through to the end of the interview there are links to their blogs and personal and professional websites which do carry some really interesting posts in them, they are definitely worth a read as well. Witty, creative and awesomely interesting with the conversations, this is a must read even if you have been skipping on the previous interviews.

For the uninitiated, Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.

[Q] Tell Us something about yourself (Things like Name, how many years you have been working and anything else you would like to add.)

Vishal: I’m Vishal Bharadwaj, but not that famous guy who makes those movies. I’ve been working since 2003 when I finally wrenched myself away from the clutches of Academia with most of my vital organs intact.

Samir: I’m Samir Bharadwaj, and I’m Vishal Bharadawaj’s brother. No, not the famous guy, the lesser know Academia wrestler. It’s sometimes difficult to make the distinction between when I wasn’t working and when I was, but I’d say since 1998 or so in various freelance capacities.

[Q] What do you Do for a living and Where ?

Vishal: I’m a graphic designer, mostly web & identity design, with a healthy side of illustration. I work from home, which means that, yes, I do not have to dress up and go to work. Pants, in fact, are optional.

Samir: Graphic Design is the official version of what I do, but it does vary from web design to more traditional print design, to illustration and even writing when the need arises. Generally, design covers all of it. I also wear pants, most of the time. I leave the well ventilated artistry to my esteemed colleague.

[Q] Is the job what you had expected it to be ?

Vishal: This is a hard question to answer since I rarely think of it as a job, more a craft that I sometimes use to make me money. I could say yes, because the kind of actual work I do and the skillset I bring to it is entirely what I envisioned using my brain & hands for. I could say no, because (at least initially) I thought I’d be doing the majority of my creative work for other people in a strict client-designer setup, rather than today, where most of the truly creative work I do is for myself, and the client work is just what pays the bills.

Samir: There’s an initial idealism which comes with getting into any field of work, especially in creative fields, when you imagine you will have the complete freedom to do what you want and produce the best work. You imagine you will not need to compromise with clients and other human creatures who don’t always know better but still have a say. Thankfully, I didn’t really have that phase of idealism, because I had my first client experience almost before I was doing any major projects for learning. It’s a useful lesson to learn. However, I’ve gained my idealism at a later date to make up, and am now more selective about what and who I will work with. It’s a choice to be made, to either do what you imagine doing or do what is required. What is required is always far from ideal, but it is easier.

[Q] Is the salary what you had expected it to be ?

Vishal: There’s a SALARY? Samir, you never told me!

Samir: I neither confirm nor deny the existence of a salary! Unless I’m asked by the authorities, in which case I’m paying myself handsomely and have a wonderful boss. Vishal is a CEO, you know? This is why he makes the big sacrifices. I get to pretend to have a bigger salary than he does, so that I feel wanted and nurtured by our design studio, Primordial Soop.

On a more serious note, being your own boss and being in a creative field without a “steady salary” is not for the light-hearted, or for the smart-phone-laden. Freedom comes at a price, especially as you try to build things up from scratch, and that price is often in the form of living a monkish existence. You sometimes even come to prefer it in some ways.

[Q] What is your average day like ?

Vishal: This is the part that sounds enviable; I wake up pretty-much whenever I want (unless I need to be somewhere, say a client meeting), and spend the better part of an hour sitting in front of a computer screen slowly caffeinating myself, and revving up my brain with idle tasks like twitter & checking mail. Then it’s onto the tasks at hand, be it client work or personal projects. Somewhere between then and 4am the next day some actual work may be done, as well as the rest of daily life. The downside of working for yourself is you often do not know when to quit, and concepts like ‘weekends’ and ‘quitting time’ become far-forgotten things. Honestly, if you asked me what day it is today, I’d have to look it up.

Samir: I concur with Vishal on all the above. Except for the caffeinating myself thing. I prefer using a slideshow of kitten images. When I can’t take it anymore, I force myself to work. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the kittens win.

Working for yourself can often mean doing everything for yourself, and this can be a huge variety of tasks from administrative paper work to making invoices, communicating with clients and doing the actual work you get paid for. All of these things are very different and require different schedules and mental disciples, so the days vary depending on the tasks at hand. But invariably, design today involves a lot of computer time, and pacing while you try to figure out an idea.

[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job ?

Vishal: The design itself, and certainly in the broad ways we define it there’s enough to keep our interest. In a regular job the term ‘graphic design’ means something very narrow and is increasingly fragmented (identity, UX, UI, etc etc), but since it’s just me & Samir — and we like to work on everything — our job involves thinking of everything from aesthetics to technical aspects of, say, putting a website up, mucking about with HTML & CSS, choosing a proper light source when doing an ink drawing, user experience, getting a magazine to offset print correctly, making music for an animation, and so on. It’s the variety that truly keeps me going: in a single day, on a single project, I can and must bring several skills into play.

Samir: Yes, I agree, the variety is the most interesting part. Having said that, there is also a certain sharp focus that happens when you work for long on one aspect of a project, especially things like HTML/CSS coding or a series of illustrations, when you really get into the flow and issues get tackled with a natural comfort. Those are good moments too.

[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job ?

Vishal: Deciding on what to do next. It isn’t so much a matter of ‘time management’ as seeing the big picture with regards to both the projects at hand & other projects down the road, and what you need to do now to make your life easier then. It takes a month to make a website from scratch, more if that site is for yourself and you need to create content too. Motion graphics take a lot of planning. And then there’s keeping your skills up, educating yourself in new techniques & technologies, and honing your skills with things like illustration — practice, practice, practice. It’s easy to neglect one or more aspects of your life and discover to your horror that you haven’t drawn anything for six months.

Samir: The balance between doing, dreaming and planning. These are all essential to our kind of work and to most visual and creative fields. Cutting out any one of the three will hamper your success, but the entangled nature of the three aspects of the work mean that it’s very difficult to consider them all and never get anything done. Keeping on track and on time is always challenging when there isn’t someone telling you exactly what to do every single hour of every single day. Add to that the fact that things can never be perfectly predicted, with each project being unique, and you have a lot of uncertainty that requires plenty of thinking on your toes.

[Q] What’s the part of the job that you don’t like ?

Vishal: Education. I don’t mean school or college, but the inherent gap — especially in this market — between what you’re offering a client and what they think they’re getting. It’s fair to say that most clients we’ve encountered don’t have a proper understanding of how graphic design or the internet works, how they can use it as a business tool, and ultimately how much they’re willing to pay for it. Let’s put it this way: if you think you want a website for your business ‘just because everyone has one’ that is the worst reason, and chances are the price we ask for the project is going to make you scream. We’re expensive, but not if you know what you’re getting and how to use it to make your business money.

Samir: As Vishal mentions, getting people to understand what they are getting is a big stumbling block. And there is also the issue of clients behaving as if they are buying a commodity. A service is not a product that can be bought per-kilo, or based on how many pieces there are. Designers charge based on time, effort, and often simply based on what the service is worth to the end-user. We’re constantly getting clients who want to get a break-up of what we are charging for each part of our service, and frankly that is usually a dead-end mode of thinking as far as we are concerned. You don’t buy a car based on how many kilos of steel there are in it, and we can’t really make a logo for you based on that measure either.

[Q] Do you get bored at your workplace at all ?

Vishal: Frequently. Not the actual physical desk, but certainly Dubai. All creative jobs require constant stimulation — it’s the fuel that runs your idea engine — and all the tall buildings and malls, or even browsing every design website in the world, is not a substitute for being plunged into someplace that keeps your interest.

Samir: Ditto. Garbage in, garbage out.

[Q] Do you report to someone ? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job ?

Vishal: I report to Samir, and Samir reports to me. We’re constantly communicating on the work we’re doing, be it client or personal. We either work together on a project or apart, and it’s pretty fluid as to how much we look to each other. In the initial stages of a design we tend to work alone on ideas each may have, and consult each other when there’s a first draft. By the end of a project we may be working together at the same station squashing bugs and fixing graphics, working through a checklist. It’s good to have someone right across the room I can call over for an opinion, a set of fresh eyes.

Samir: Nothing much to add to that, except that my boss is always drinking at work, coffee that is. Also, I don’t see why he gets to have the larger imaginary car.

[Q] Do you use all the skills that you learnt in school / college ? or where did you pick up the skills ?

Vishal: My course was focused more on software than design theory, and in the initial few years it certainly helped just to get things done. Were I looking for a regular job, the skills may have gotten me in the door. But software goes out of date, design trends change, new technologies are introduced. The way we make a website today is almost completely different to the way I was taught, and this has been a gradual change over the years as new tech is introduced & assimilated into my workflow. My aesthetic sense has been honed by thousands of hours of looking at better work, seeing what I like, trying to emulate it, failing, trying again, failing better, and eventually making some leaps that lead to good, creative work.

Samir: Education can help but only to a point. I found that almost everything I actually use I learnt by reading and exploring things myself. I had no training in web design or HTML, but I taught myself as I was working on freelance web design projects. Ultimately, doing something for actual use is the best teacher. No amount of dummy projects and practice sessions can help. If you want to learn how to do something, do it. Where education can help is in putting you in touch with a variety of people (hopefully), with varying thoughts on the subject. The rest is up to you.

[Q] Whats your Alumni ? Where did you study ??

Schooling 

Vishal: Indian School Muscat, mostly. I spent a few months in Our Own English High School Dubai. I got my O-Levels from Grammar School Dubai.

Samir: Indian School Muscat was my school for almost all my schooling years.

Pre University College 

Vishal: I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. I got a diploma in graphic design from a college in England (I did the course in Dubai) that I literally do not remember the name of off the top of my head. It was a piece of paper. I think it has my name on it. I hope. (See what I mean about wrenching myself away from the clutches of Academia?)

Samir: I did a year long technical course in general IT, databases and such which certainly gave me a good grounding in the technical aspects of computers. Again, I can’t say what I learnt there was of any specific use, especially since Windows 95 was a revolutionary new thing when I was there, but it helped me know what to learn and what to read up on when I need to.

Bachelor’s Degree 

Samir: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. I’ve been a fine bachelor ever since … What do you mean that’s not what it’s meant for?

Vishal: That is indeed what it’s meant for. I should add that you passed with distinction, which makes you a distinguished fine bachelor.

Master’s Degree

Samir: Study more? In a classroom? I don’t know if I’m ever going to be that bored.

Vishal: I’d rather invest the money in Victoria’s Secret futures.

[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry ?

Vishal: Definitely. Even if all you’re interested in being a low-end art monkey in some ad agency, it sure beats digging coal for a living. I can complain about bad & lazy designers all I want, but the truth is it’s fun if you’ve got some creativity in your bones.

Samir: The levels you can work on vary wildly, and most people in the design field will always be doing low-end grunt work, but if you are the regular job kind of person and you can’t stand digging though spread sheets instead (I can’t promise you’ll be saved from Power Point, in fact I can guarantee you won’t), then there are a lot worse things to be doing that making layouts and editing photos and making websites. If you enjoy this sort of work, it can be extremely satisfying.

[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry ?

Vishal: The internet is a vast resource that rewards deep research, but is also a death trap of productivity. Stay off it & a computer as much as possible, and never give up on a piece of paper & a pencil — it’s where the best designs will be born. As long as you keep picking up new techniques/software one at a time and discarding any that are outmoded, you’ll do okay — but ultimately what software you know is secondary to your aesthetic sense & ability to put out work of a high technical proficiency.

Samir: Read a lot, look at a lot of art and movies, try to find patterns. Try to experience as much nature as you can, because if there is a design idea, whether visual or otherwise, it’s a good bet nature already thought of it before you. Feel free to steal. Always go around with a small notebook and pen (or equivalent high-tech device if you absolutely must), and write down ideas and questions that come to you. Sketch things you see. You can’t imagine what a treasure trove your notebooks can be. Always be curious. Make things.

[Q] Anything else you want to tell the readers ?

Vishal: Working for yourself is not glamorous. Graphic design only sounds cool from the outside, to other people. Like everything else, it is a serious profession and 99% of the time you’re doing dull, tedious work. The good news is you can step back once the work is done and you might have made something truly good. And if you didn’t, learn and move on. The next great idea is always around the corner.

Samir: Not only is graphic design not glamorous, but it is a lot of hard work. Even in regular jobs, office hours can often be disregarded in this profession, so beware of that. The only way to improve you experience of it is to do better work and hence get into better positions based on your talent. When in doubt, ask someone whose work you admire for advice or pointers, but be polite and understanding about their time. Beyond their mad schedules, people are usually willing to share insights or provide guidance. Listen to what they all have to say, then do only what seems exactly right for you. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession ?

Vishal: There’s a million design resources out there, but specifically for freelancing, http://freelanceswitch.com/ is a nice portal.

Samir: This is a great talk on graphic design by a well experienced designer. It’s worth a listen: http://www.ted.com/talks/paula_scher_gets_serious.html

You can check out their Facebook profiles and other contact information below where you can get in touch with them.

Facebook Profile

Vishal: http://www.facebook.com/allVishal

Samir: http://www.facebook.com/samir.bharadwaj

Twitter Profile

Vishal: http://www.twitter.com/allVishal

Samir: http://www.twitter.com/SamirBharadwaj

Any Other Profiles?

http://www.allVishal.com

http://SamirBharadwaj.com

http://www.PrimordialSoop.com

I am sure that you guys enjoyed the Interview as much as I did when reading it, it has been an absolute pleasure working with both of you for this interview, am sure the readers really liked it. That’s it guys from the Inquisitive Interviews desk for this week, more interesting interviews coming soon, until then Be Inquisitive.

Eight Simple Ways to Plan your Taxes.

The Inquisitive Minds, features guest authors who are interested to contribute to the readers of this blog and the author of this article is Ramalingam Kan MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial PlannerHe is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.  He has been a regular on this blog for a while now. If you would like to contribute something then please let us know on guest [at] melvinpereira.com.

You have got only a few more months to complete this financial year. Very soon you will get a call from your company to submit the proofs for tax saving investments. So why don’t you spend some time on organising your tax plan?

1)     Proper Allocation of Annual compensation

Restructuring your salary with some additional components can reduce your tax liability. This restructuring doesn’t require any additional cash outflow. The following components can be efficiently used to reduce your income tax liability.

v  Transport allowance to the extend of Rs.800 is exempt

v  Medical expenses which are reimbursed by the employer are exempt to the tune of Rs.15000

v  Food coupons like sodexo or ticket restaurant are exempt from tax up to Rs.60000

v  Individuals who are all living in a rented accommodation can include House Rent Allowance ( HRA ) as a part of their salary

v  Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) can be part of your salary as this can be claimed twice in a block of 4 years.

2)     Effective Utilization of Tax Exemption

As far as possible utilize the maximum exemptions available under section 80 C, 80 CCF and 80 D. The maximum exemption available under section 80 C is Rs. 100000.

Under this section Rs.100000 investment or contribution can be made in PPF, NSC, Life insurance premium, 5 year FD with banks and Post offices, Mutual Fund ELSS, Principal Repayment of housing loan, and the tuition fees paid for children’s education.

Under Section 80 CCF, you can invest up to Rs.20000 in infrastructure bonds.

Under Sec 80 D, the premium paid towards the mediclaim policies are exempt. The maximum limit of exemption is Rs.15000 and for senior citizens the limit is Rs.20000 and for covering senior citizen parents there is an additional exemption to the extend of Rs.15000.

3)     Properly Structure your Housing Loan

The Principal repayment of a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.100000. The interest paid on a housing loan is eligible for a deduction up to Rs.150000. If the housing loan is for a sizeable amount, then it is possible that the principal repayment and interest may exceed the specified tax exemption limit. To utilise the maximum tax benefit, an individual can consider going for a joint home loan with his/her spouse or parent or sibling. This will make sure that both the co-owners can claim tax deductions in the proportion of their holding in the loan.

 4)     Tax Plan in Sync with Overall Financial Plan

You should not do your tax plan in isolation. You need to do it in sync with your overall financial plan. So a tax plan is not only to just save taxes and also it should assist you in achieving your other financial goals like children’s higher education, buying a home or retirement.

5)     Avoid Last Minute Rush

In fact the right time to do the tax plan is the beginning of the financial year. If you postpone your tax planning even now and do it in the last minute, then you will not be able to choose the right investment. In the last minute rush, you will be forced to choose a scheme which gives the proof immediately. Is the investment sound and profitable? Is there any other better options? You will not be able to choose the best scheme and you may settle with a mediocre one.

6)     Invest Some Quality Time

Before investing your money, you need to invest your time. You need to take some quality time to understand the various tax saving options and compare their benefits and limitations.

7)     Check for Future Commitments

Some tax saving options like NSC or ELSS need only onetime investment. Some other tax saving options like PPF, Ulips need periodical investments year after year. You need to be careful in choosing a tax saving scheme where you need to commit for periodical future payments. You need to check on a few things like; do you need such a future commitment? Will you be able to meet the future commitments at ease? The law may change and you may not get any tax exemption for your future payments. Would you consider the scheme irrespective of tax benefit for the future payments?

8)     Changed Your Job; Redo your Tax Plan

Did you switch your job in the middle of the financial year? Then you need to redo your tax plan with consolidating the income from both the companies. It is advisable to inform the new company about the income during the particular financial year from the old company. So that your new company will deduct the right amount of TDS. Otherwise you may need to pay extra tax at the end of the financial year.

Whenever you change your job, you need to have a sitting with your financial planner or tax advisor. So that the required changes in your tax plan can be done proactively. With proper tax planning you can reduce your tax liability; save more; invest better and become wealthier.

Real Estate Investments Made Simple

The Inquisitive Minds, features guest authors who are interested to contribute to the readers of this blog and the author of this article is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.  He has been a regular on this blog for a while now. If you would like to contribute something then please let us know on guest [at] melvinpereira.com.

Gold and Real estate are very traditional investment avenues. Gold has evolved from its traditional investing and found its place in the modern sophisticated investment world via Gold ETFs. Similarly Real estate is also emerging as an investor friendly avenue with less hassle via PMS route or private equity route. Have you ever thought of investing in real estate will one day be as simple as investing in mutual funds? If no please read on….

Real Estate as an Investment:

 Buying a dream house or flat to reside ourselves is basically not a real estate investment. Buying real estate with a view to generate income and capital appreciation is considered as Real Estate investments.  Real Estate investments can be further classified into residential, farm house, commercial, retail, leisure. Leisure is a relaxation place where one can spend their free time or vacation.

Depends upon his/her risk tolerance and time horizon one can invest in real estate at different risk levels. It can be at the time of converting a rural land to urban land, or at the time of building development stage or in already developed city area.

Real Estate and Risk:

Most often investors assume real estate prices will not fall down and they only go up year after year. It is not so.  During the mid 2009 some of the real estate investments were quoting below 30% to 40% from their 2007 prices. Real Estate investments are also prone for price fluctuations.

Real estate Vs Stock market:

Real Estate is a complex and complicated investment when compared to stock market.

Non-transparent: There is no transparency in the price. It is not easy for a buyer or seller of real estate to identify the last transacted price in the same locality. There is no price discovery mechanism.

Illiquid Asset: Selling a real estate is a time consuming process. It is not liquidable easily. There is no organized market for the buyers and sellers to meet.

Impact Cost: Stamp duty and registration charges are really very heavy when compared to the other investment products.

No Regulator: There is no regulator for the real estate participants and intermediaries. Anyone can become a builder. Technical qualification is not mandatory. Also anyone can become a real estate intermediary or advisor. There is no certification or training to be completed before practicing.  As there is no qualification requirement for participants as well as the intermediaries, it is very difficult to see best business practices.

Real Estate hassles:

The other hassles with reference to real estate investment are documentation, maintaining the asset without any encumbrances, and genuineness of the title deed.

There are some practical problems with diversification. Normally an investor invests in a real estate in his own locality. It is very rare to find someone in Chennai investing in the real estate properties located at Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata.  Affordability also limits diversification. An investor may not be able to diversify his investments across various cities with Rs.25 lacs or 50 lacs.

It may not be possible for an individual investor to buy a land and develop a viable project in that land and sell it in the market. Managing the project development need some kind of expertise.  Even if an individual is able to do it, he will be doing it in his limited ways and means.

Is there a solution for this? Of late yes.

There are some collective investment vehicles. These investment vehicles will be promoted by an investment management company. The investment management companies collect money from investors. Being professionals, they will identify good projects and do joint venture with the project developers. They will be able to diversify across various cities as well as various types of real estate investments such as housing, commercial, hospitality and the like. These investment management companies charge a reasonable management fees.

At times they collect money via PMS route and at times via private equity route.  The minimum investment ranges from 10 lacs to 25 lacs. This amount needs to be invested over a period of 3 years. That is they will collect money from investors in 4 or 5 installments. After 3rd year whenever they exit from a project they will repay the principal employed in the project as well as the profit generated out of that project. End of 6th year or 7th year, the investment management company will exit from all the projects.

The advantages of this collective investment vehicle are

  • One can invest into real estate without any hassles. All the hassles will be managed by the professional investment management companies.
  • One can invest in various real estate projects at a time.
  • One can geographically diversify his investments across India.
  • One will be able to apportion his total investment into small sums in large projects like township development, Technology Park, industrial estate, health city…
  • Cost advantage because of economies of large scale operation

This is really an investor friendly investment vehicle. Apart from the regular stocks, mutual funds and fixed deposit investments investors can consider investing in these real estate products also. This will give better diversification to your overall portfolio. Also Investors need to be careful in choosing such investment options. Background of the investment management company and their transparency levels are more important. Investors can seek the advice of the professional financial planners before investing.

This investment vehicle is in its primitive form only. It still needs to go a long way. As of now there are only a very few companies in India which specializes in promoting collective real estate investment products. But in a few years time these kinds of products will be available from various investment management companies and in different varieties like our present mutual fund schemes.

A step by step guide to first financial plan

A financial help guest post again this week from our regular guest blogger Mr. Ramalingam; The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at ramalingam@holisticinvestment.in.

If you would like to contribute to ‘Inquisitive Minds’ with your article you can get in touch with us and we will provide you with the relevant guidelines for the same. Please send in your email to me [at] melvinpereira.com.

A step by step guide to first financial plan

Prabu was a college student till yesterday. Today he has got a job. He has changed his costume from T-shirt and jeans to a formal wear with a tie. When he got his first pay cheque, his father advised him to save, his girl friend asked him to take her out on a date, and his friends wanted a party. Prabu was totally confused what to do with his first salary. What are all his actual priorities? Let us help him by laying out a step by step initial financial plan for him.

Get a PAN Card:

PAN Card is an ID card issued by income tax department.  This card is useful in filing your Income Tax returns. Apart from this, the PAN card is very much useful in opening a bank a\c, demat a\c, investing in mutual funds and the like. The required documents for getting a PAN card is a passport size photo, address proof and an identification proof. You need to apply with either UTI or NSDL. They are the two approved agencies by income tax department for issuing PAN card.

Personal Accident and Disability Insurance:

Almost every day you can find a news column about road accident. It may be your colleague, your distant relative, your neighbour, your friend, your classmate. The stories of such incidents give us a reminder that the accidents can happen to anyone. The impact of these accidents on ones working life could be huge. Some accidents could reduce our employability temporarily or permanently. Personal accident and disability insurance policies will cover the financial losses arising out of accident and disability.

You need to decide the coverage amount of this policy based on the estimated loss you may suffer because of accident. That is how much loss you may incur from employment temporarily or permanently because of the accident. This will cost you approximately Rs.1500 p.a for a coverage of Rs.10 lakhs.

Health Insurance:

Most people don’t think about health insurance very often.  But it comes to mind first when a loved one is sick.  Under health insurance, the insurance company pays the medical bills if the insured person becomes sick and hospitalized. Health insurance can protect a family from financial damage in case of severe and serious illness.

If you have a health insurance from your employer, that may not be sufficient. Employer may cover the employee and not his family members. And moreover these policies are not portable and cannot be individualized if you leave the job. Employer provided policies cannot be transferred to another employer in case you switch your job. Also employer provided policies will give you coverage as long as you are employed. Once you retire you may not be having coverage. It is really unfortunate that only after your retirement you need health insurance at the most. If you plan to take a fresh policy after retirement, insurance company will not cover the pre-existing diseases at that point in time. Though your employer provides a health insurance policy it is better for you to take a separate health insurance policy at least with a small amount of coverage.

The coverage amount of the health insurance policy need to be decided based on your health consciousness, your family health history, and the class of hospital you choose for treatments.

Term Insurance:

Generally as a beginner, there will not be any requirement for any life insurance. But if your parents are financially depending on you, then you need to cover yourself with life insurance. As a breadwinner, today you are there for your family to provide a lifestyle. In case of any mishappening to you, your family members should not compromise on their lifestyle. That is why it is advisable to cover yourself with life insurance if you have dependents.

But don’t fall prey for ulips. Go for a pure term insurance policy. These policies give you a high coverage with low premium. The premium for a sum assured of Rs.10 lakhs will cost a 25 year old only Rs.2500 p.a. approximately.

Emergency Reserve:

Once you have completed the above obligations, you need to build an emergency reserve or contingency fund. One aspect of financial planning involves planning for situations where there could be a temporary break in one’s professional income. This could happen, amongst other reasons, due to ill health or could even be self opted. Such planning requires creation of contingency fund. The size of a contingency fund is linked to one’s estimate of what could be the maximum duration of such a break. For instance some people plan for the possibility of a 3 months break, others for 6 months.

This emergency fund gives a psychological security to you. In case you need to quit you r present job and need to search a new one, you can do that comfortably and confidently as you have an emergency fund for the intermediate period. You need not panic. If you have created a contingency fund, in the event of any emergency you need not pre-close your other investments and hence you avoid paying penalty or booking losses.

Tax Planning:

You can save under section 80 C up to Rs.120000. Out of this Rs.20000 need to be invested in the infrastructure bonds and the balance Rs.100000 can be invested in NSC, PPF, insurance premium, and ELSS mutual funds., You can give maximum allocation to ELSS mutual funds, as you are so young and in the beginning of your career.

Other goals:

You may have other goals like buying a laptop, higher studies, and vacation. You need to plan for all these goals. You need to keep in mind two things before deciding an investment. They are your risk tolerance and time horizon. How much risk you are afford to take and psychologically comfortable in taking? When do you need this money back? Based on the answers to these questions you need to choose the right kind of investment plan.

Plan out your work and work out your plan. Normally we don’t plan to fail, but we fail to plan.If you work on your financial plan, when your friends are partying and taking their girlfriends out, you will be definitely going to be retired richer than your friends.