“The property which houses my clinic is on rent which I will have to vacate sooner or later. I had already taken a professional loan of ₹15.11 lakh when I started my practice. I needed money for setting up my dental clinic and also for meeting my personal financial goals,” Akshat Agarwal says.
Early investment journey
Gondia is also known as ‘Rice City’ due to the abundance of rice mills in the area. “People mostly invest in land and when they need money get into informal lending at a high interest rate. I did not want to do it,” he says.
After consultation with relatives and friends, Agarwal ended up investing in more than 10 mutual fund schemes. He also created a stock portfolio. “One of my friends connected me with a mutual fund distributor (MFD) who made me start systematic investment plans (SIPs) in mutual funds. A relative later told me that distributors get commission from mutual fund companies .My distributor had not shared details of the schemes in which I had invested. I did not know that I could track these investments by myself,” he says.
Meanwhile, Agarwal lost about ₹50,000 after dabbling in the stock markets in 2021. “I was clueless about how to set things right and I needed somebody to guide me,” he says.
A random google search landed him on the website of SahajMoney, a financial planning firm founded by registered investment adviser (RIA) Abhishek Kumar. Agarwal had no idea about Sebi-registered RIAs or fixed-fee financial planning model till then. To be sure, RIAs are authorized to impart unbiased financial advice and barred from earning commissions from the sale of financial products.
“When I came to know that RIAs only charge a fixed fee for the advisory, I was impressed,” he says.
Personalized guidance was another big plus. “I had always preferred a personal tutor over coaching classes. And when Abhishek sent me an excel sheet in which I was supposed to share details of all my existing investments and also asked questions about my risk profile, it struck me that nobody had ever sought these details from me. The others would only push a product irrespective of whether it suited my risk profile or not,” says Agarwal.
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End-to-end financial planning
RIAs follow a process before creating a financial plan. They seek details of existing savings, investments, liabilities, expenses and financial goals. They also analyse their clients’ risk appetite based on a few questions. It helps them allocate their funds in debt and equities in the right proportion. Not only do they recommend investment products, but also advise on loans, insurance and saving taxes.
Agarwal didn’t have much idea about insurance either. He did have a health insurance policy of ₹5 lakh coverage from a public sector insurer. “I wasn’t aware that insurance and loan advisory will be a part of the package,” he says. On Kumar’s advice, Agarwal bought a life insurance cover of ₹2.5 crore. His wife took a term life cover of ₹1.5 crore. She was paying an annual premium of ₹1.25 lakh for an unit-linked insurance plan, but surrendered the policy and replaced it with the term plan. Besides a family floater health insurance plan from a private insurer, Kumar also suggested that Agarwal buy professional indemnity insurance and property (clinic, machinery, fire) insurance.
The right direction
Kumar asked Agarwal to separate his personal and clinic expenses. “I opened a separate account for my business expenses and earnings. It gives me a visibility of how much I am earning and spending specifically for the clinic vis-à-vis my personal expenses,” he says.
For instance, when he needed to buy medical equipment, he bought it on lease instead of dipping into personal savings. “Kumar suggested that there was no point in buying the machine as the technology will get obsolete in a couple of years,” he says.
Does he follow all advice from Kumar? Not really! “Agarwal wanted to buy a land on loan for his clinic. We initially asked him to defer the plan and focus only on building the corpus but when the couple insisted on it, we advised them to withdraw funds from the emergency corpus because they already had financial liabilities. Financial discipline was needed to move them away from excessive leverage. Moreover, being a small city, their expenses were limited against their cash flows. Their emergency corpus could be built again,” says Kumar.
Fees and process
Kumar charges ₹15,000 as first-time fixed fee to analyse a client’s finances, create a financial plan and recommend products. A renewal fee of ₹5,000 is charged after every six months to review the portfolio.
Did his fees deter the Agarwals? “The fee is surely lesser than the quality of financial advice they have given me,” he says. The process, however, could have been better. “I needed to fill up an excel sheet manually before they could on-board me. The sheet needs to get updated every time I get my portfolio reviewed,” he says.
The client implements the action plan by himself. “Abhishek shares with me relevant links but I make the investments myself. This contrasts with the MFD who had taken care of all the paperwork himself,” he says.
The excel sheet problem, though, could be addressed through account aggregators (AAs). The aggregators act as an intermediary between financial information providers (FIPs) and financial information users (FIUs) and exchange customer data after taking their consent. “Once SahajMoney is live on AA as an FIU, I shall be able to automate the process for my clients. RIAs will be able to fetch the data directly from FIPs after getting client consent,” he says.
The Agarwals, meanwhile, have made up their mind to stay connected with SahajMoney for their long-term financial planning. Their goal is to retire in their late forties before which they want their son to study abroad.