SIP – In India, the mutual fund industry has popularized this term for drip investing, dollar cost averaging or similar. The full form is “Systematic Investment Plan” and allows normal people to invest in Mutual Funds gradually and is proven to build wealth over a long time.
For me, there is a bigger SIP in Personal Finance – Sleep in Peace.
It may sound like RIP – but lets keep life going strong in these trying times. We will do another article on that, and in personal finance terms we will call it Retire in Peace.
SIP is a concept that is important throughout your earning and retired life, and defines a way you can manage your Personal Finance to effectively “Sleep in Peace” every night.
As we know with the current COVID-19 situation, many people are losing sleep over their financial situation.
While some can still be corrected with discipline, those following the basic principles of SIP will be unaffected by such pandemics and sail through it.
The Five components of a SIP method
1. Emergency Fund – The sleep in peace fund
The Emergency Fund is the first of SIP rules. It can be called the Sleep In Peace Fund too.
In the current situation where everything is uncertain from jobs to ability of paying mortgages and bills to medical situations, there cannot be a better cushion than possessing an emergency fund.
People who have not been able to build this fund, are now feeling the brunt of their careless handling of personal finances.
2. No Debt – borrower is slave to the lender (there is no good debt)
In US, due to low interest rates on some loans like mortgage and auto-loans, some experts justify using leverage to build your wealth. While that may sound smart in good times, in trying times like now even a so called good debt can nosedive to a bad debt.
For example, the government is now directing banks to suspend mortgage payments (for a short period, of course), giving stimulus to real estate investors and trying to bail out or let leveraged people and businesses go down.
So greed and over-smartness with debt are now taking the sleep away from people who have bought and financed huge houses, expensive cars, invested into rental properties with no-money-down. Here are 3 situations where not having an emergency fund and being over leveraged, is disastrous now.
- You spend more than 30% of your income in mortgage payment. If you lose your income, even the emergency fund will quickly run out paying the mortgage.
- You bought an expensive car with bank financing and very low down payment. The auto-loans will not get any relief from Government, and your car may be repossessed in case you fail to make the payments. Also the payments could have been used in more protective ways, if the car was bought with cash in the first place.
- You invested in rental properties with low down payment (< 20%). What happens now when many tenants are refusing to pay rent due to financial hardship or even just taking advantage of the situation (evictions are deferred now). You still need to pay the bank their share of interest and principal.
3. Do the real SIP – invest in a disciplined way
Now we come to investments and the real SIP (Systematic Investment Plan).
This process addresses two damaging financial behaviors – fear and greed.
I will not rant about the philosophy behind SIP or DRIP investing, it is pretty well known and over-emphasized in investment circles.
The advice from the legendary investor Warren Buffet applies now more than ever.
Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.
However in the Sleep In Peace method – be neither, irrespective of what others are doing.
Keep investing with a plan. I have rearranged my India portfolio recently (just before the market crash) and apparently could have done better.
- In a zeal to restructure my asset allocation, I invested a large part held in cash into the equity markets in Jan 2020. Little did I know, the markets would come crashing down in another month or two.
- However I was not overzealous on Equity. I kept a larger part in simple fixed deposit (bank CD), so as not to go overweight in one asset class, Equity.
- The current market situation does not affect my peace, since the money I invested into equity markets is planned to be held for a long time (possibly till I retire).
- I could have done better if I remained patient and deployed it in smaller chunks over several months – the real SIP.
So that’s from a recent personal experience –
If you want to Sleep In Peace, invest with SIP – the systematic investment plan.
4. Define and invest in your goals
No matter what is happening in the world, nothing can derail you in personal finance if you manage your finances based on your goals.
Every person has life goals like buying a house, opening a business, travelling the world, educating your children and RIP (Retire in Peace).
If you allocate your money to the various goals and keep adding to the corpus month after month in your earning years, then in trying times such as now – you have nothing to fear. Some of your goals are funded and some are in the process of getting built-up.
Just continue doing what you were doing.
The worst case scenario can be that one or two goals may need to be postponed. For example, if you were trying to retire early and lost your job or income, you may have to work longer for a few years more. But that does not completely cripple you or force you to liquidate your retirement funds.
5. Pay your taxes and file your return on time
Taxes and death are certain – everything else is uncertain.
There is no way to avoid taxes (except the legal ways to reduce or defer it – consult a CPA) and hence every personal finance system has to take into account – taxes. Not paying your due taxes and trying to be over smart, can really take your sleep away.
Whatever it takes, plan for your taxes throughout the year and pay the legitimate share to Sleep In Peace.
In the US, Internal Revenue Service and in India, the Income Tax Department are both quite aggressive in following up with cover-ups, non-payment and mistakes. And for working professionals like me, who has to deal with both – there is no other way than honesty, prompt action and discipline in keeping track of your tax liabilities and payment obligations.
Keep your documentation up-to-date and file away returns on time to avoid major headaches.
Conclusion – Ride the wave and learn something new
While this is the time for great financial worries and the clouds of a multi-year recession looming over us, there could not have been a better time for us to introspect and re-organize.
This is the time to take a hard look at your financial and other priorities in life. Locked down inside our homes, with more family time and me-only time – when is a better time to introspect and find your real dreams?
When the world was open and running, the rush of the morning and the fatigue of the evening left little for us to think beyond the next day.
If you want to sleep in peace when all this is over, maximize this opportunity and start something new.
I am working on starting a financial coaching business where I can help people with their finances globally. What better time to serve the world than now and next few years?