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Why you need an Investment Objective

Specifying exact goals that investments must achieve is a crucial step in eventually meeting those goals

business Updated: Jun 09, 2015 16:53 IST

Specifying exact goals that investments must achieve is a crucial step in eventually meeting those goals

Understanding and deciding on investment objectives is a crucial stage which many people are unable to do. The importance of doing this well— and the pitfalls of doing it badly— are demonstrated by the following example, which an analyst came across while studying real-world investment portfolios.

The investors were a retired couple who, despite having a good understanding of investing, were unable to figure out whether they were on the right track for their goals. They had investments in a number of funds, mostly equity. They also had a number of needs for which these investments were made. One, they needed a monthly amount regularly to meet household expenses. Two, they needed emergency funds that could be withdrawn at short notice for unforeseen uses. Three, they had some large family-related expenses coming up in about three years. And four, there was the money they would need in the long run to fund their monthly living expenses far into the future as prices rose and needs changed.

Even though this couple had chosen their funds well, they were having problems understanding whether they were on the right track. What they needed was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, many others have more complex needs. Even so, it was difficult for them to be confident that their investment portfolio was indeed the right one for the job.

But that wasn’t their fault. Understanding how an investment portfolio maps onto a set of different needs is practically impossible. Some of the needs are contradictory. For example, the short-term income needs require stability while for the long-term nest egg, high returns are more important. Looking at a list of ten or more funds; with SIPs, dividends and withdrawals of varying amounts flowing in and out; with different performance and quality levels; and different expectations of risk and returns, it is impossible to figure out, even roughly, whether the portfolio will do the job.

So what’s the solution? Some sophisticated analytical tool that will give us an insight? No, actually, it’s something that someone in your family probably already practices, or at least used to in the decades gone by. The solution is bags— separate bags for each need.

Do you have a grandma in your family who used to save money by keeping it in little bags, each for a different purpose? Lots of us do, or at least did in earlier days. Many of us know of women in the older generation who would run her family’s entire life’s finances on this basis. They typically have little pouches with a drawstring around its neck, like a pyjama. When the husband brings home his monthly salary, they put some money in the vegetables pouch, some in the milk pouch, some in the household servant’s pouch and the dhobi pouch and so on. There were also a few bigger pouches that were meant for savings, as for a daughter’s wedding. This savings in the pouch would be converted into some gold trinket or the other every few months.

While financially sophisticated readers will call this system primitive and sub-optimal, it has a lot going for it. It was a simple system, easy to implement and easy to understand and above all, it worked. Most importantly, it incorporated one of the golden rules of personal investment management— separate portfolios for separate goals. The old lady would not have been such an organised household manager if she had kept all the money into one big bag, and nor should you.

Summing up

Investing without understanding one’s exact needs (objective) is of no use. Unless you think about what needs will investments fulfill, it is not possible to choose the right kind of investments. It is also important to invest separately for each life goal so that they are easy to track.

Click here to watch an interesting video on this topic


Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.

This article is dated April 30, 2015. Information contained in this article is not a complete representation of every material fact and is for informational purposes only. Regulatory/ taxation details, if any are provided on a best effort basis and are as per the existing laws and subject to change from time to time. The recipient is advised to consult an advisor/ tax consultant prior to arriving at any investment decision.

Source: Franklin Templeton Academy