1 Jan 2024

2023 yearly review: money management updates

My goal for 2022—sort of like a new year resolution—was to remove stress caused by money management. It’s been 2 full years, and I think I have accomplished that goal. This was accomplished by staying more organised, being aware of financial shocks and better planning to face them, and most of all becoming more willing to use the emergency fund.

A simpler holding plan for the emergency fund

I used to refuse to touch emergency fund most of the time because I’d tell myself that most of the situations were not a real emergency. This meant scrambling to gather cash to face the situation. All this while, I also wouldn’t want to stop my regular investment. This meant I was sacrificing the current needs only so I can stick to an ideal.

This reluctance to touch the emergency fund was also caused by my decision to use a hybrid mutual fund for holding my emergency fund. Selling equity for short-term needs never felt okay, so I kept trying to manage without touching the hybrid fund. Eventually, I took my financial advisor’s advice and split my emergency fund between 1 bank account (with auto sweeping fixed deposits) and 3 liquid funds. Living with this for about 2 years taught me that a bank account is a far better place to store cash than liquid funds. Now I have 77% of the emergency cash in a bank account; the remaining is still in a liquid fund (mostly because of inertia).

Having an emergency fund means more money for long-term investment

What I learnt after having a dedicated emergency corpus was that I was a lot more conservative than I thought. I tend to keep some excess cash everywhere just in case I needed it for something in the near future. If I have a surplus of, say 1½ lakhs, I’ll maybe invest 1 or 1.2 lakhs first and hold the surplus for a while. Now I want to change my behaviour to invest all 1½ lakhs in one go since I have an emergency fund to support me if/when a need arises.

It’s counterintuitive, but the presence of an emergency fund—a small corpus that is purposely kept in non-growth assets—enables us to invest more aggressively. I am yet to get comfortable with investing all the excess I have; I hope to get there in 2024.

Other tidbits

  • More diversification: My investment portfolio has a big concentration of my employer’s shares (which I receive as a part of compensation). I was ignorant and kept piling it up, but now, for the past 2 years, I have been working on reducing the concentration. In 2023 alone, I was able to reduce the number of shares by 15.6%. The concentration is still big, but looking at this reduction makes me happy.
  • More simplification: Back in 2021, my investment portolio had 6 equity mutual funds and 11 debt mutual funds. That has now reduced to 5 equity funds and 4 debt funds. In the next few years, I plan to bring it down even further to 2 equity funds and 3 debt funds.
  • Less anxiety: If I were a king, my spreadsheets would be my castle. I have been using tracker spreadsheets for pretty much everything. Spreadsheets + todo list + automated payments/money transfers have significantly reduced the amount of time I need to be thinking about money. Earlier, I’d check my bank account every few days and think if I had enough money to get through the month. These days I think about money a lot less because my trackers give me good visibility and I am starting to effectively take advantage of my emergency fund.

Overall, 2023 was a productive year. I am looking forward to continuing the trend into 2024 and beyond!

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