JUNE 6, 2004
 Cover Story
 Personal Finance
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Market Research Jitters
The big market research (MR) problem: people, when asked, often tell you what they think you want to hear rather than what they really think.

Maggi Five
Say 'Maggi', you get '2 minutes' in response. But the brand is talking '5' all of a sudden.

More Net Specials
Business Today,  May 23, 2004
Get Document Savvy
Don't just sit there and nod. Organise your papers. This is a must-do that cannot be put off till you find the time.

August 3, 1999: Mahesh Mathur, 37, succumbed to a massive heart attack while driving from his home in Goregaon, a Mumbai suburb, to his rubber components factory located at Dombivali, district Thane.

Left to cope with the hardest edge of the blow was Shruti Mathur, 31, Mahesh's wife. As though the struggle to reconcile herself to the sudden loss was not traumatic enough, she found herself confronted with another big reality: having to take charge of the family's financial well-being. No need to panic, she quietly told herself. She held a banking job. Even the commiserations she received were aimed more at her emotional state than anything else.

Yet, Shruti had no clue what she was in for. "I was happy managing my career, our two kids and our home," she rues, "leaving all finance management to him in spite of his urging me several times to take a look. Never once did it occur to me that something of this sort was destined for me." The frustrations were a chain-disaster sequence. First, Mahesh's business was in his sole name. Second, his Public Provident Fund (PPF) had his father, who'd passed away already, as a nominee. Mahesh had invested in property on Mumbai's outskirts, the details of which were buried in their safe deposit vault (which Shruti discovered only after a year). The immediate headaches-claiming insurance, bank FDs, stocks et al, were more than enough to sap all her energy. If only she and her husband had been better organised with their documents...

Document Ready

It happens to just about everybody, thanks to a culturally built-in aversion to contingency planning. The result: the papers are typically a total mess just when the mind is too dishevelled to think straight. For some, just producing a simple proof-of-residence or voter's identity card is frustrating enough. And that's just the start.

Even if you're far better organised than Shruti was, do yourself a favour and run through a document check. We assume, of course, that you're up-to-scratch with regulars-filing your salary slips, credit card and other bills, bank statements, income tax papers. "One must put down a ready list of investments made including property and banking accounts easily accessible," says Arjun Gupta, Financial Consultant, Client Associates, a private wealth management firm, "It really comes in handy for the family in a time of crisis."

Remember, there is no such thing as over-documentation. Ideally, you should have a filing cabinet, with neat folders marked out clearly for any dependant to sort and navigate easily. The classic way to do it is to have separate folders grouped under five broad headings: income, expenses, assets, liabilities and other papers.

Income, for example, must have a special folder for tax records. Expenses must have a folder for miscellaneous tabs picked up. Liabilities: everything you owe (home loan repayment papers and so on). Assets must begin with a folder for property deeds, and include folders for every bank account and category of investment. Car ownership papers go here too. Also, insurance-but remember to mark this folder out boldly (since it barely sounds like an 'asset').

Other papers are not to be treated lightly. Folders here must have birth and death certificates of family members, academic certificates, travel and identification documents (such as passports). The boldly-marked folders here: medical records and personal wills.

Once you have your cabinet in order, go and photocopy all those papers. It's worth the drudgery to keep a back-up at some other location (along with fire insurance papers on your house). Bank lockers often serve the purpose.

The Will

Filing doesn't just mean stuffing papers into the cabinet. Each folder often needs to be organised in some easy-to-retrieve way: for fixed deposits (FDs), for example, file documents in order of maturity dates. So too, postal savings, mutual fund units and the like. Your tax folder should have papers in chronological order, the latest records being right up ahead. The same goes for dated documents such as bills and so on.

Being a conscientitious filer also involves doing regular folder reviews: shredding unwanted documents. Dust-gatherers are unwelcome. Over a lifetime, this habit could make the biggest difference to how navigable your cabinet is.

You're also advised to be particularly careful with your will-and all other nominations. It helps to run joint bank accounts with your spouse, and ensure joint ownership of important property (the house, above all). Remember, this is not something your dependants would bring up-since it is such a touchy area. "A will is a very important document that facilitates passing on your assets to your legal heirs without any problem," says Gupta, "You need to be neither rich nor old to make a will. Once you are married and have kids, file a will."

Shruti would second that advice. She had to get a succession certificate (which took her two long years) to prove that she was the legal heir to her husband's property. And this, just to get an access to his MIS-nominated PPF account. She had to repeat the routine for other asset classes too, including the FDs. A simple will could have made things a lot easier.

Remember, your dependants need you. They need your foresight, too, and they need it while it is still foresight. Now, that is.




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