Financial planning is for everyone

PHOTO: Financial planning is for everyone

More than half of Singapore's rich do not have any financial planning in place, according to a survey.

It found that only 40 per cent of the affluent - people with at least $200,000 in assets under management - have plans to help them grow and manage their wealth.

The poll - which was jointly commissioned by HSBC and other banks and conducted last year - also found that consumer sentiment is generally cautious among the rich with investment portfolios.

Yet, wealth planning and management are crucial to helping people achieve their financial goals, said HSBC Singapore's head of wealth development, Mr Deepak Khanna.

"Managing wealth ensures we are saving and growing our wealth for different financial objectives so we do not land into situations of not meeting our monthly expenses or our liability obligations or not reaching financial independence in our golden years."

The 2009 HSBC Asian Tracker report showed that people here accumulate wealth primarily to provide a comfortable lifestyle and to fund retirement and their children's education.

Mr Khanna said: "Most people who do not carry out financial planning feel that this is a daunting task, have limited understanding of principles of financial planning (and) perceive that it is an expensive process or meant for richer people."

Yet there are several ways the uninitiated investor can kick-start this endeavour.

For one thing, people can look to compound interest to help them pursue gains over time.

For example, a person who saves $1,000 a month for 10 years will have a total of $120,000. But if that person earns 5 per cent interest each year on their savings, after 10 years they would have accumulated $274,992. By the 40th year, that sum would be $789,867.

People should also invest regularly to take advantage of dollar-cost averaging. This means that you buy less of an investment when the price rises, and more when the price drops. This "smoothens out" the fluctuations in market prices, giving you a lower overall cost for investments.

Similarly, diversification of an investment portfolio helps to balance risk among the various assets. A lack of diversity means less liquidity in times of need.

A simple two-asset portfolio helps to enhance returns and reduce risk. Investors who want greater diversity should choose asset classes with few similarities.

Given the dynamic global economy, investors should review their financial portfolios regularly and change the mix of investments to ensure they are on track to meeting their goals.

To help customers tailor a plan, HSBC offers a goal planner tool that allows users to evaluate their risk tolerance, financial attitudes, motivations, preferences and experiences, as well as understand the basic characteristics of their investment portfolios.

The tool can also churn out an illustration of the returns a customer can gain, given a specific time period based on their savings and planned investment amount.

It will come up with three scenarios - high, moderate and low returns - so that investors can evaluate the differences for themselves.

After the session, which can be conducted at any HSBC branch, customers will receive a report with an overview of their financial standing.

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