Posted tagged ‘income tax’

How can a doctor retire?

September 4, 2008

How can a Doc retire early?

Docs start earning quite late in life – at least the big bucks come at a late stage. So is it really possible for a Doc to retire early?

It really looks difficult. Docs unless they are super specialized and have created some kind of aura about their capabilities do not really earn the mega bucks of sports star or a film star. However, they do have a lot of flexibility in their profession. They can be on their own, be in a partnership or grow it like Dr. Reddy of Apollo Hospitals.

Having established that it is a good idea to retire early, and to never stop, how does one go about doing this?

Investing early and well, normally means the doc can retire early and well. If things are done properly then by, say, age 55, or whenever the kids are coming off the doc’s financial hands, the income from investing starts to exceed the income from the practice. This is a great position to be in, particularly if the income consists largely of unrealized, and hence un-taxed, capital gains. Also given our current tax structure where there is no INCOME TAX on dividends, the doc may be in a good position to retire.

Interestingly, most docs continue to practice even when they are at this point. But thankfully they can skip the long hours, choose lesser locations, and work more sensibly. They can also decide to and take many more holidays and long weekends. And there is a huge difference between the doc driving to work because she wants to, and the doc driving to work because she has to. One is happier than the other.

The major issue here relates to the costs of general practice. Unfortunately Docs do not have much training in considering Fixed Costs, Variable Costs and Marginal Costs! Not all costs fall just because the doc is doing fewer sessions. Many costs, for example, rent, some wages, depreciation of equipment and so on, stay the same regardless of how many sessions are completed each week. These costs are called “fixed costs”. This is because they

are fixed irrespective of how many sessions are completed each week. It is also called a Period Cost. At the end of the period, the cost has to be paid – immaterial of whether the equipment or place got used. A common mistake is to assume that there are no fixed costs. A doc completing, say, 7 sessions a week (only Mornings) and making Rs.15,00,000 a year may reason that his income will fall to, say, Rs.950,000 if he cuts from 12 sessions a week. Sadly this is not so. More probably, because fixed costs stay the same, profit falls by much more than this, say down to Rs.700,000, if not less.

How can he avoid this? There may be some options which he can consider:

  1. He may start teaching at a Medical college including doing sessions on how to handle customer psychology. Lady docs are sometimes preferred because of better soft skills.
  2. The doc can stop practising solo or in a group practice where costs are shared equally irrespective of the number of sessions.
  3. The doc should try to change to a practice structure where all costs (or virtually all costs) are variable costs not fixed costs.
  4. The doc can join a friend who has similar ideas and become a partner. One of them could used the infrastructure in the morning and the other person in the evening.
  5. The doc could also get into an arrangement with 2-3 junior docs who will use the geography of his practice are – and split the fees.
  6. One more alternative is to sell a portion of his practice to a deserving junior and get into a fee sharing arrangement.

Many of these arrangements may look difficult, and in many cases involves the DOC selling all or part of the practice to younger Docs. In at least one case I know the doc used his practice till his age of 81, but sadly many of his customers had gone away. He had to just sell his premises to a dentist. The practice fetched him nothing. Surely retirements could have been better planned.

Mutual funds? Myths surrounding SIPs

February 1, 2008

What is a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP)?

An SIP is simply; a method of investing a fixed sum, regularly, in a mutual fund. It is very similar to regular saving schemes like a recurring deposit. An SIP allows you to buy units on a given date each month, so you can implement an investment / saving plan for yourself. Once you have decided on the amount you want to invest every month and the mutual fund scheme in which you want to invest, you can either give post-dated cheques or ECS instruction, and the investment will be made regularly.

As is customary I have I have started with describing what an SIP is. Let us break some myths on SIP.

1. Investment in equity mutual funds or unit linked insurance should ALWAYS be done in SIP mode: I remember in 1999 when Templeton Mutual fund talked about SIP – the market looked at it skeptically. And it would take a lot of convincing for customers to accept it. Now, life has come a full circle. Everybody wants to (ALWAYS) invest using SIP. If you have the maturity and calmness to realize that equities are for the long term and are willing to give your funds about 10 years, AND you have a lump-sum, you can afford to give the SIP route a go by. However if your horizon is less than 5 years, you MUST do an SIP.

2. I do rupee cost averaging in a single equity – that is a kind of SIP is it not? This is a question I face every day. NO a rupee cost averaging in single scrip cannot be equated to an SIP. When the market brings down the price of single scrip it is giving you information. You need to react to that. Let us take 2 examples – Lupin laboratories – has moved from a high of Rs. 700 to Rs. 100 and back to Rs. 700. The question to ask is not whether SIP would have worked. The question to ask is whether you would have had the stomach to continue the SIP through the period. Silverline technologies moved from 30 to 1300 to 7! If you had started the SIP at a price of Rs. 1300 – today you would be licking your wounds. SIP works in a portfolio, not in single scrip.

3. You CANNOT invest a lump-sum in the same account in which you are doing an SIP. I have no idea why this myth has got into people’s head. Many people think if they are doing an SIP in a particular fund, and suddenly they have a surplus, they cannot put that lump sum in that account – far from it. In case you are doing a sip of Rs. 10,000 per month in equity fund, and suddenly you have a surplus of Rs. 100,000 and clearly you have a 10 year view on the same, just push it into your SIP account. SIP is just a payment mode, not a scheme!

4. If I miss investing for a particular month, will they prosecute me? This is the EMI fear that people have. In an SIP you are buying an investment every month (or quarter) – there is no question of prosecuting you for not missing one investment. As a matter of discipline, you should not miss any month; however, missing one month’s investment is not a crime!

5. When you have a surplus (accumulation stage of your life) you should do an SIP and during retirement you should do a SWP! No. you should keep your withdrawals only from an income fund or a bank fixed deposit. You should sell an equity fund on some other basis – say deciding to sell 20% of your portfolio in a year that the return is 4 times the 30 year historic return. SWP, by definition cannot work in an equity fund!

6. SIP works for everybody, but does not work for me! Another myth. SIP works in a well diversified equity fund in the long run. When people put forth arguments that it does not work for them, they have either not chosen a good fund or are looking at a 12 month horizon.

7. SIP is only for small investors. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I have a client who has invested Rs. 42.66 lakhs using SIP – starting from Jan 1998 till date. Obviously he has invested much more in later years as his income went up – and the funds together are worth Rs. 127 lakhs – substantially higher than his provident fund.

8. Market is too high to start an SIP – I have heard this when the index was 3000 also. I have no clue where is the market headed, but I know SIP works!

9. All fund houses are now charging a full load on the SIP, so now SIP will not work. Why not time the market? Introducing an entry load was expected to happen and it has happened. What actually hurts the retail investor is the asset management charges – 2.5% in most cases is a bigger threat to compounding!

10. If a do an SIP in a tax plan, can I withdraw ALL the money on completion of 3 years? Another regular question almost all day! The answer is every instalment has to be with the fund house for 3 years. The lock-in comes from the Income tax rules which say that a tax saving scheme should have a 3 year lock-in.

You cannot escape that by doing an SIP!

Manage the paisa, the rupee will take care of itself

January 15, 2008

If you pay taxes honestly about 50% of what you earn goes off in various taxes – income, service, securities transaction, etc. Now take away another 28% in housing EMI, then another 7% in building maintenance etc. It means your government, and your house have taken away 85% of what you earn. So the 15% that you are left with has to go long enough for you to provide for your current needs, children’s needs, parents needs and your own retirement needs. So every paisa that you spend (which is part of that 15%!) has to go towards your goal….so that extra samosa, or that soft drink, or that McDonalds trip which goes to the waist takes you that much further away from your goal. So take care of every rupee (nay paisa) that you are spending. Much of that expenditure has nothing to do with your goals!

Tax bracket change on retirement?

January 14, 2008

On retirement many people think they will be on a lower tax bracket. This is a wrong assumption. Your tax bracket may not change especially if you invest in bonds. So do not keep postponing interest income. You will not be on the lower tax bracket unless you create dividend income, long term capital gains, agricultural income. Yes at age 65 as a senior citizen your tax limits get raised, so there might be some respite.