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Finances: Put your money to work

June 16, 2012

If you’re in your thirties, chances are you’re more interested in buying the latest in cell phones or laptops, upgrading your car or staying on top of the fashion scene. Saving up for your retirement fund may not have crossed your mind, or perhaps it’s something you plan to do in the future — after all, there is plenty of time.

But let’s face it; your increment isn’t able to match the inflation rate, the value of your house is eroding with time and by the time you hit your late 40s, with children growing up, their college funding, marriages and your own standard of living biting a big chunk of your money every month, you’ll notice there is little room for savings. Time is a luxury that people between the 20-35 age bracket can afford so don’t waste these precious years. In your youth, you have the time compounding muscle in your control; think of it as a super power because with just a little determination and foresight it can be used to plan an ideal retirement.

The average inflation rate for Pakistan in 2011 was 12 per cent and who knows what it will be 20-30 years from now; however, if you start saving intelligently from right now, over the years your money will grow.

Consider this: If you smoke one less pack of cigarettes every day, it can lead to a monthly saving of Rs3,000. Put this amount in a savings or an investing account (at an assumed rate of 12 per cent return per annum and in 20 years it will become Rs2.8m against a total investment of Rs7.2 lac!

Or: One less lawn suit per month at Rs5,000, invested every month at a safe average of 12 per cent return in 20 years will yield around Rs10.5m against a total investment of just Rs18 lac.

Nonetheless, before plunging your money every month into one of the existing options available, you need to:

Step 1: Calculate how much you should target as a retirement fund and how much you need to save every month, starting now, to achieve that goal. The fewer the number of working years remaining with you, the higher per month you would have to save.

This figure can be easily calculated with on online retirement savings calculator that is readily available on the internet. To ensure a more realistic scenario select a calculator on a Pakistani bank’s or fund-management company’s website.

Step 2: Do some research on savings options available in our country, then compare those you are most comfortable with. Government funds offer low risk/low returns schemes averaging an 11 per cent annual returns rate, while savings accounts in banks offer around the same but may restrict the redemption time frame.

Only four to five Pakistani asset management companies (AMC) associated with trusted banks have the license to offer ‘Voluntary Pension Schemes’ which can be customised with an added benefit of tax rebates. These schemes vary from medium to long term, are administered at a minimal charge of two to three per cent per annum and provide you the comfort of choosing either a low risk/fixed returns plan or a high risk/high yield mutual funds and commodities market.

Most banks and AMCs offer both Islamic and conventional interest-based products. But while saving in bank accounts does not provide penalty-free money withdrawal or tax rebates, AMCs do. The decision on how you choose to save for the best days of your life, in order for them to be absolutely stress-free depends on your tolerance for risk of fluctuating markets and level of trust and comfort with a certain savings option. The earlier you make this choice, the better your chances of achieving your goal.