Effects That Accounting Choices Have On Users Of Financial Statements

Abstract

The paper is an examination of the effects of accounting choices on users of financial statements. First of all, a historical examination in the subject matter was examined. It was found that most researches normally dwell on single characteristic effects of accounting decisions on financial statement users. Current GAAP on the matter also concurs with the latter matter.

It was therefore found that there may be a need to look at how these factors intertwine in affecting users of financial statements. Since firms may have to content with a number of effects at any one time, it is important to carry out a study on a combination of factors. Thereafter, an analysis ought to be done in order to investigate which factor is the mot important and which one takes least precedence. This can go a long way in assisting managers and other financial decisions makers about accounting choices in the future.

Introduction

There are a number of users of financial statements within any respective firm. Usually, some of the intended effects of accounting choices can become real effects. On the other hand, there are also foreseen consequences that may emanate from external or internal factors. The essay shall examine some of these issues through existing research on the matter. Suggestions will be made on problematic areas and possible courses of actions will also be laid out. The latter suggestions will be particularly useful to the public accounting body owing to the fact that some loopholes on the subject matter will be identified. (Riper, 2006)

Historical development of theory

A lot of research has been done with regard to voluntary accounting choices. This is largely because the effects of such choices are more clear cut and predictable. For instance, a number of accountants have utilized the issue of accounting discretion in order to understate their financial performances during periods of string performance and also to overstate their financial status during periods of low performance.

Research has shown that there are three major reasons why firms can choose to engage in certain income decreasing or income increasing activities. First of all, this may be motivated by the need to include the economic events that are prevailing at that time. Secondly, such accounting choices may be motivated by strategic objectives within the corporation under consideration. Lastly, engaging in such accounting choices can be motivated by a combination of both economics and company strategy. Usually, the accountant enacting these changes may be motivated in their very own expectations. (Hopwood, 2008)
Managers tend to use income increasing tactics when there are interested in enacting strategic changes.

In fact, it has been shown that most financial users tend to believe that any income increasing measure enacted by their managers is in close relation to the overall nature of these kinds of objectives. In other words, employees are less likely to be influenced by positive or income increasing accounting decisions than by income decreasing accounting decisions. When managers opt to increase their income, chances are that employees may assume that this is part of a strategy to reach an industry benchmark. Consequently, they are less likely to believe it.

On the other hand, when managers make accounting decisions to decrease their overall incomes in their financial statements, then employees are much more likely to believe the latter results than if incomes had been increased. This is largely because such employees may assume that the reflections being put out by their employers have been one in order to reflect the economic situations prevailing at that time. In other words, it may be necessary for firms to prepare for skepticism in the former case than in the latter one.

In close relation to income decreasing or income decreasing acts in financial statements is the issue of qualification in making accounting decisions. Users are likely to regard qualified income reducing acts as being more strategic in nature than unqualified income decreasing acts. This is the case because when the acts are qualified, then chances are that the users would asses the firm in a more positive light than if the financial statement had not been qualified.

There is a need to compare financial statement user reaction to income increasing and income decreasing changes in comparison to reference point. Usually, most firms do not operate in isolation. Employees are well aware of the goings on within their industries. Consequently, when accounting decisions are made to either increase or decrease incomes within corporations, employees or other users tend to resort to reference points such industry benchmarks to see how far below the mark they are or how far above it they have reached. (Proell, 2008)

Statistics indicate that users react more positively to income decreasing changes even when comparing them to industry benchmarks. This is usually because most people may treat this as being representative of occurrences within the industry under consideration and therefore leaving room for growth.
On the other hand, when incomes are perceived as being way above industry benchmarks, then users are likely to assume that those benchmarks do not represent the goings on their particular industry. This means that they may treat such a change as being deviant from the norm. Because of this, users may assume that such a firm cannot survive within its industry of operation and that the assessment of that firms performance is therefore below par in reality.

Financial statement users are likely to remain indifferent to changes made by their employees in the event that the accounting decision is an income decreasing one but a qualified one. This is largely because users are likely to attribute such changes to either strategic reason or to reflect economic conditions within a certain industry. This means that those changes may indicate the overall problems facing these groups when it comes to the process of enacting these changes.

Income increasing acts may also solicit different reactions in the vent that they have been qualified or if they are not qualified. Expert opinion suggests that financial statement users are much more likely to believe them if they are qualified.

In the agency theory, firms are treated as a point of convergence of contracts. This means that a number of users of financial statements view accounting choices as means against which firms can get incentives. The incentives are important determinants in the process of making accounting decisions largely because they can make the difference between the detriment or survival of a number of corporations.

Healthy and financial firms often find that they have to make accounting decisions. However, the forces or determinants affecting these two types of firms are dependent on the kind of arrangement being made. In certain reviews, some analysts have assumed that the type of incentives facing these two types of firms is the same. However, this may not necessarily be true because financially distressed firms may be challenged to engage in certain contracts depending on the type of benefits that they may derive from certain contract incentives. (Proell, 2008)

One of the drivers of accounting decisions in financially distressed firms is the issue of debt covenant isolation. Financial debts are a particularly pressing issue for such firms and it is likely that their accounting choices can be adversely affected by these decisions and vice versa (that the accounting choices they make can change their prevailing situations)

In other circumstances, firms facing financial distress may be motivated to make accounting decision that can subsequently affect their jobs or their firms altogether. In other words, some troubled firms may consider their situations as being temporary. This means that their greatest concerns may not be to get accounting bonuses. Instead, their focus may be on restoring the financial position of their firms and making the most of their kind of arrangements.

It has also been shown in a number of researches that new CEO tend to deflate their incomes when accompany has been recording poor financial management during the previous year. This is an aspect that has been carried forward in a number of companies that may be considered as financially troubled ones.
It should also be noted that accounting decisions in the latter category may also made in order o reduce incomes. This creates an image of a corporation that is vulnerable.

In this regard, such firms are likely to obtain concession from the government through government subsidies or they may find that labor unions offering incentives to poorly performing firms my be motivated to consider them if they record lower incomes. In other words, it can be said that such firms may make be affected positively by such decisions since they may gain favor from the government or from labor unions. On the other hand, if these income deflations are discovered, then a financially distressed firm may be required to close. (Riper, 2006)

In other circumstances, forms undergoing financial distress may be motivated to make accounting decisions in order to cope with management changes that may have occurred at the time. This is usually the case when the incumbent management finds that the new firm he or she is operating is dealing with lower performance than was the case in the previous regime. Such mangers may be interested in displaying positive light to internal and external stakeholders of the company under consideration.

In other situations, it may be possible to find that other firms are undergoing government assistance investigations. These are usually those firms that are in a position of getting incentives from the government if it found that their management principles are in order. Usually, such firms are likely to make accounting decisions that would affect them in a positive light by making them liable to receive incentives from the investigators.

In other researches, it has been found that firms facing financial difficulties may be required to deal with large accrual especially during their first year in dividend reductions. This means that a firm may be faced with more than one particular financial challenge at a time.

With regard to accounting decisions and the effect that the choices have on financial statement users; a number of researches have also been done on the user expectations. In other words, this is another factor that can affect the overall decision made by a certain corporation and how the users within that firm are affected by it. For instance, one is likely to find that within certain forms, the users under consideration have very little regard for the kind of decisions that they may be making because of the fact that there may be a match between their expectations and actual occurrences. However, in instances where financial statement user expectations are quite varied from actual occurrences, then it is likely that these issues may not affect them positively. (Belkaoui, 2007)

Risk management has also been shown as an important predictor of accounting choices and hence highly influential in determining some of the effects of these choices. This is largely because financial statements have a shocking effect on users when the information being displayed is included.

Risk management sis usually something that may be firm specific mostly because different companies are faced with different obstacles at any one time. For instance, when a company was faced with a number of security risks, then chances were that they would classify those security risks in manner that would portray them in a positive light. Additionally, benchmarks set up in accounting standards were highly influential in determining whether certain issues were considered as security risks or whether they were not. This means those weaker banks are much more likely to treat fewer securities as being lower than the accounting benchmark than vive versa.

Interest risks that come with securities are also an important factor in determining effects of such accounting decisions. This is because levels of interest risks on a certain bank portfolio can go up depending on how that particular issue had been classified by the parties involved in the preparation of the financial statements (Warfield, 2008)

Research has also shown that there are also other factors that may affect financial decisions being made by respective individuals in terms of the perceived expectations and actual occurrences.
Current GAAP

Financial statement users are adversely affected by the accounting choices made within certain firms. One such group are financial investors. Research has shown that the manner in which financial statements are presented to non processional financial statement users such as investors has a very important role to play in influencing their choice to invest in that respective firm. When a firm opts to make an accounting decisions in which there it highlights the effects of a net income on the goings on within a certain firm, then chances are that one might have to deal with these scenarios in a relatively different manner. In other words, an investor may make the choice to invest in such a firm if the information given is forthcoming in this regard.

The converse is as true, when accounting decision are made such that investors have now ay way of understanding the fair value that they have on a particular investment, then chances are that that group may be persuaded to look elsewhere for investment. Usually, information about financial statement interpretation can be done on the same document but as a note or on the margin of the financial statement. Consequently, firms that may be in unhealthy situations may be affected positively by making such an accounting choice. On the other hand, failure to make such a decision may also influence them negatively owing to the reduced level of awareness given to these kinds of approaches. (Warfield, 2008)

It should b noted that a number of financial statement users are highly affected by the accounting policies in certain firms or the level o adoption of accounting standards. This is usually the case when considering foreign investment. In other words, there are situations in which a certain investor may be dealing with the issues surrounding that particular scenario especially with regard to the kind of changes affecting a certain party.

An example of how this can be displayed is through looking at the relationship between two countries such as the US and Australia. It is likely that a US foreign investor will be more interested in making investments within countries that are US GAAP aligned. This factor is quite important in accounting decisions and hence accounting effects because only has to look at accounting policies of a number of developed nations to understand this. The US is one of the heaviest foreign investors in Australia. In order to appeal to the latter group, it was found that Australian accounting standards took a turn and began conforming to the US institutional frameworks and also to their GAAP.

There are a number of reasons identified in literature for selecting certain accounting choices and these reason include:

Improves financial statement credibility
Reduces processing costs

When accounting policies are voluntarily done in order to come up with the most influential choices on foreign ownership, then chances are that they can attract greater investments if they are aligned to the foreign investors institutional holdings or if they are also associated with the joint determinants under consideration.

The following table illustrates the example of US foreign investors interested in Australian companies

VariablesStatisticCompanies with US investmentsCompanies matched by size and industryp-value
Total assetsMean
Median
24,157
2, 8903, 924
525

Retirement Financial Planning

With financial planning you can plan your retirement. But then, what do you think that retirement financial planning is all about? Well, in simple words, retirement financial planning engages making arrangements for the needed finances that you would need post retirement. Financial planning for retirement involves a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit plan. Some of the notable examples of defined contribution plan are as follows-

1. Individual Retirement Account (IRA) 2. 401(k) 3. Roth 401(k) 4. Profit sharing plans

In general, the aforementioned plan dont allow for any withdrawals from the savings for a stipulated span of time span.

On the other hand financial planning retirement with a defined benefit plan engages retirement accounts that is set up as well as controlled by an employer. These ensure a set payout during retirement. The financial calculation is chiefly based on the tenure as well as the salary of an employee. These funds may be further categorized into cash balance plans and pensions. They may be either unfunded or funded. Social security system is a suitable example of an unfunded plan wherein the contributions take the form of FICA or the Federal insurance contributions act. Self employed people may also go in for financial retirement planning. The Simple IRAs, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA as well as 401(k) are channeled towards the self-employed section of the financial system. Some of the benefits that the self employed people can opt for include tax deferred savings and up front tax breaks.

Most Retirement Financial Planning are inclusive of life insurance and health insurance products. These plans allow net-worth individuals an affordable and quick access to the investment classes. These are inclusive of products which diversify the contribution of an investor into multiple sub classes such as bonds, cash, commodities, stocks to name a few. Estate planning involves committees and trusts which safeguard your assets as well as their distribution incase of the applicants demise. To sum up, Retirement Planning is a crucial factor that you need to take into consideration if you want to lead a financially secured life post retirement.

Enhancing Financial Inclusion in India

http://egov.eletsonline.com/2013/10/enhancing-financial-inclusion-in-india/

Anurag Jain Joint Secretary, Department of Financial Services Ministry of Finance, Government of India

-Government has issued detailed strategy and guidelines on Financial Inclusion, advising banks to open branches in all habitations of 5,000 or more population in underbanked districts and 10,000 or more population in other districts,- says Anurag Jain. In Conversation with Nayana Singh.

Today Financial Inclusion is a key focus area for the Government of India. Tell us about the work that you are doing for promoting Financial Inclusion in the country? We need to develop policies and systems for proving basic financial services like insurance, banking and the related facilities to all sections of society. It is well known today that the expansion of the banking and insurance networks are being planned very aggressively. RBI and similarly IRDA have already come up with guidelines that enable certain kind of branches to be opened without any permission. In the ministries last budget speech, the Hon’ble Finance Minister had set a very aggressive target for opening up of new branch offices for banking and insurance verticals. Another major step that we have taken is to map the entire country into zones that are not being adequately serviced by the banking industry. In such areas, other systems, like the Banking Correspondents model, are being developed to provide banking related services. In 2006, RBI permitted banks to use the services of intermediaries for providing financial and banking services through the use of Business Facilitators (BFs) and Business Correspondents (BCs). Business Correspondents act as retail agents of the banks in providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch/ATM. BCs and the BC Agents (BCAs) represent the bank concerned and enable a bank to expand its outreach and offer limited range of banking services at low cost, particularly where setting up a brick and mortar branch is not viable. BCs as agents of the banks, thus, are an integral part of the business strategy for achieving greater financial inclusion.

Financial Inclusion

Banks play a key role in implementation of DBT and this involves four important steps: Opening of accounts of all beneficiaries Seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers and uploading on the NPCI mapper Undertaking funds transfer using the National Automated Clearing House – Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (NACH-APBS) Strengthening of banking infrastructure to enable beneficiary to withdraw money Financial Inclusion

What kind of impact are the initiatives taken by the Finance Ministry having in the rural areas? Please tell us about the challenges that you face in bringing Financial Inclusion in the country. The challenges will always be there, but we are working to bring improvements. It is only a matter of time before we are able to reach out to every corner of the country. The point is that if you look at from the point of viability, then it becomes obvious that the brick and mortar kind of branches will not be financially viable in the sparsely populated rural areas. Therefore we need to come up with innovative approaches like Ultra Small Branches (USBs) and the BC model. Opening a brick and mortar kind of branch, even if it is of minimum staff strength, will cost lot of money, so we have to rely on the USBs and the BCs. You see an USB can work very effectively with only one employee and an affiliated BC. Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) are also allowed to open branches in Tier 2 to Tier 6 centres (with population up to 99,999 as per Census 2001) without the need to take permission from the Reserve Bank in each case, subject to reporting, provided they fulfil certain conditions. The challenges that we face are being overcome by use of new technology. Today BCs can share data by using small hand held devices. This enables us to reduce cost, while providing timely services in remote areas.

The government has come up with the ambitious Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme. What kind of impact do you see DBT having on Financial Inclusion? DBT will definitely serve as an incentive for the people to open bank accounts. After all, there can’t be any DBT if people do not have bank accounts. In some places, where banking facility was not available, people had accounts in post offices or primary cooperative society. Now many of these institutions are not on CBS, so you can’t make transfer of funds. The postal departments are now having an aggressive programme for computerisation; once that happens they will be able to support DBT. Many cooperative banks are also developing the CBS platform. You see, the DBT will force players in the financial space to upgrade their technologies and that will be beneficial from the angle of financial inclusion as then these institutions will be able to deliver many more financial services.

What is the roadmap for implementing DBT in every government department? The DBT programme was rolled out on January 1 this year, beginning with 43 districts and expanding to 121 districts from July one. Transfer of LPG subsidy through DBT was rolled out from June 1 and now covers 20 districts. In LPG, over 2.8 million DBT transactions valued at `116 crore have taken place in seven weeks. The thing is that when people talk about DBT they usually mean Aadhaar linked transfers. Unfortunately in many districts Aadhaar is yet to be generated. The Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG (DBTL) scheme is currently under implementation. In this case the districts have been selected on basis of their success in enrolling the population for Aadhaar. The districts were the Aadhaar generation is highest have been taken up for DBTL. As of now this is working quite well. Once we have sizeable Aadhaar enrolment in all the districts, DBT will become the norm. The bulk of the work in DBT at the moment is in digitization of databases, re-engineering government processes for automating financial transactions, enrolling in Aadhaar and ensuring that every recipient has bank accounts seeded with Aadhaar.

ATMs have become very popular in the urban areas. Do you see the scope of using ATMs for improving access to financial services in rural areas? ATM can provide the 24X7 services, and so it is very important. In rural areas, we have issues about the timing of the bank branches. Normally the branches operate from 9 AM to 6 PM, but villagers normally want services early in the morning or late evening. It is also true that you can’t have bank branch everywhere. So ATMs are important as they will allow the citizens to access their funds in banks whenever they wish. The Finance Ministry has now asked state-run banks to expedite installing ATMs in rural areas.

Ministry of Finance has started the scheme to install White Label ATMs. What kind of progress is being made in that area? The banking space has seen considerable growth through the ATMs, (approximately 87000 ATMs at present) but the same has been restricted principally to the urban/metro areas. Last year, the Reserve Bank of India, had allowed corporates to set up white label ATMs to increase the penetration of ATMs in several areas of the country. Most ATMs, or machines that dispense cash, are owned by banks. But ones that are owned and operated by non-banking companies are called while-label ATMs (WLAs). They function just the same way as any other bank-run ATM. This scheme has picked up late. From Jan 2013 it is started so by Dec 2014 we should have 63000 WLAs in place.

In Kenya and few other countries of Africa mobile banking is a success story. But in India mobile banking is not picking up to a substantial extent. Why is that so? Efforts are being made to popularise mobile banking. Today most public sector banks have enabled mobile banking and it is matter of time before large number of consumers start recognising it as a good medium to meet their banking related needs. As far as policy front is concerned, all the regulations are in place, not it is only a question of taking the product to the consumer. In Africa, mobile banking is popular because it is the only channel for consumers who want to avail of banking facilities, whereas in India consumers have access to a range of facilities. Also the mobile banking charges need to come down. Another point is that even though today we have more than 70 crore mobile users, not everyone is using device with data connectivity. That too needs to change.

DBT Will Enable our Financial institutions to upgrade their technology

Over the last decade Public Sector Banks have made many commendable efforts to integrate IT into their operations. What else can be done to leverage ICT to improve the efficiency of the public sector and cooperative banks? Today it is difficult for us to imagine banking without IT technologies. Most of the banks have integrated operations with Core Banking Solutions (CBS) in place, and most of these platforms are capable of talking to each other. The same is the case with ATMs. The Department of Financial Services has worked to make PSBs become clones in terms of technology, standardisation of manpower recruitment, accounting practices. Cooperative banks are different; their operations are such that they cannot immediately go to the CBS platform. NABARD came up of a scheme to put the cooperative banks on CBS, but its execution will take time. One reason why cooperative banks find it difficult to achieve a 100 percent implementation of CBS is the remote locations of branches. This also makes it impractical to roll out technological solutions to all branches.

Financial Predictions 2012-2013

Precious Metals:
Ive been predicting a long bull market in gold since 2008 when the price was just $850 an ounce and silver was only $11. This year it gold shot up to $1900 and is now a bargain at $1555. Silver too nearly hit $50 again and is now hugely underpriced at $27 an ounce.

My predictions are that gold will go over $2000 in 2012, possibly closer to $3000 and silver will hit $50 or more. I think that gold will be the investment of the year because none of the fundamentals have changed. We have the Euro crisis, US debt, QEand yet Central Banks have more than doubled their purchases of gold in the last year. Thats got to tell you something. If you havent already got some physical gold and silver, I strongly suggest you get some while the prices are still so low.

Stocks and Currencies:
The Dow Jones and the S&P will close lower at the end of 2012 than this year, despite it being an election year which is often bullish for stocks. Unless you have money you can afford to lose, I would suggest you sell your stocks and put the money into precious metals.

There will probably be a major dollar rally for at least the first half of 2012 if not for the whole year. If you wish to diversify your risk and invest in currencies other than the US dollar, I would suggest the Canadian dollar, Swiss Franc and Australian dollar. However, it will be very volatile and my first preference would be gold and silver above currency investment which is far more speculative.

QE
The Federal Reserve will resort to more QE in 2012 and so will Europe.

Banks
Well see the collapse of more banks, the most likely large one being the Bank of America. The US banks I would be very careful of are: Wells Fargo, US Bank and of course Bank of America.

Downturn Markets:
Cosmetics, jewellery, clothing, the law, police, security, insurance, the funeral business, banks, financial institutions.

Growth Markets:
Communications, technology, computers, mobile apps, writing, cellphones, transportation, social networking, nanotechnology, robotics, mind power, new payment systems, educational and learning devices.

Real Estate
Further falls are anticipated in most major markets. There will be small pockets of real estate that may not be affected by the huge price decreases, but they will be far and few between. In the main, I see property prices falling much further, probably another 40% and in some areas up to a 70% drop. If you are going into debt to buy a property right now, be aware that that same property might be considerably cheaper in a few years time. Dont be in too much of a hurry to buy real estate or you might be kicking yourself for not waiting until prices fall even more.

Property prices have tumbled in the US and in the UK and Europe leaving a few bargains out there. However, be very careful with buying any property and land during 2012. We will see so many more natural disasters its going to be like a lottery finding safe places around the globe. This would not be a time to take out debt but to pay in cash for any assets that you buy. With events happening so suddenly and property being such an illiquid asset you may be stuck with something that you cannot sell and is worth much less than the amount you paid for it.

Top Tips:
Have at least 3 months living expenses in cash outside of a bank.
Keep a small amount of cash in bank.
Spread your money between different banks.
Dont take out any debt.
Pay down any debts you have.
Buy physical gold and silver bullion.
Think carefully before investing in real estate prices will come down further and with increased seismic activity and natural disasters, land could be a risky investment.
Find a backup source for your electricity, e.g. a small solar panel to charge your mobile phone and laptop.
Have emergency supplies on hand: at least 3 months water, 3 months food.
Make sure you have copies of all your important documents.
Have an evacuation pack near the door so that you can move at short notice.

When you face financial difficulty from time to time

When people have too many financial commitments on a monthly basis, they tend to default on their repayments as they lose track of their borrowings. Debt consolidation of a loan refers to the process of taking a single and larger loan to pay off multiple smaller debts. This is can be done by putting down collateral by way of an asset such as property or land or even without any collateral. The interest rate on the latter is higher. The underlying principle of consolidation is to get a lower rate of interest and the borrower has only one repayment to make. Generally, consolidation loans are considered by people who have good credit histories and a fairly high percentage of high interest debt.

Bankruptcy used to be the only option available to those with serious debt issues

In the past, bankruptcy was the only way out for those people with serious debt problems. These days there are various debt solutions that one can choose from. For a lay man to understand what is debt, there are various financial organizations and personal research tools that provide the necessary information. Debt arises when there is sudden unemployment, ill health, splurging on unnecessary things and family hardships. Financial counselors help in determining the amount a person can reasonably pay back every month and how long it will actually take for the debt to be paid in full.

Benefits of debt consolidation

Debt consolidation of a loan has several advantages. The borrower can save money as the interest rate and principle amount repayments are much lower than small loans. It has a set repayment plan to help people get on top of their loans. Borrowers save time and other issues as they have to worry about making only one single repayment. They have the flexibility of choosing a fixed or a variable interest rate depending on the disposable income they have. Consolidating a loan helps in improving credit rating and also puts an end to extra payments being made on account of late payment. When a person has multiple loans, consolidation is recommended by financial experts because of the added convenience of having to deal with only one lender.

People seek help for credit card debt solutions

In today’s world people can choose from a number of credit card debt solutions. People must have the understanding of what is debt in order to go for solutions. Having so many options is of great help to people who have small or large debts. When it comes to small debts, there is an option of balance transfer. This refers to transferring borrowings from a card having higher interest rate to one with lower interest rate. This results in reduction of the monthly installments of the debt thus making it possible to pay off the debt. For larger debt amounts, home equity line of credit and credit consolidation services are excellent options. The home equity line gives finance to pay all debts at a low interest rate when compared to the credit card rates. Nevertheless, this option is considered only when a person has very large amounts of debt.

Has Personal Financial Planning Changed After The Global Financial Crisis

After the Global Financial Crisis(GFC), a lot of people questioned their personal financial planning strategies. People often do this after a market downturn or correction, let alone after the biggest we have had in about 70 years. Anyone who has lived through other major downturns will know it will take a few years to recover investment losses. It is natural for people to wonder if their personal financial planning strategy is still the right way to go.

Is your strategy sound?

If a financial planner, as part of a comprehensive financial plan, recommended your investment strategy, then your strategy should be sound. The recommendations would have been made after he or she completed a fact find about your situation. This would have taken into account your investment time horizon and you investor profile. Your investor profile is determined by a series of questions to find out your tolerance to investment risk. In this case, investment risk refers to the exposure to short-term market fluctuations. The recommended investment portfolio would have reflected your risk tolerance by limiting your exposure to growth assets – shares and property – whose values do fluctuate with market movements.

How Long Should You Stick with an investment strategy?

You should stay with the original strategy for the length of the plan. If you have a ten-year plan then you stay with that. There is no doubt, staying with an investment strategy for the medium to long-term works best. The other alternative is to try to pick the market. This means, moving into a safe investment when the market drops and then moving back into the market when it goes up. The problem is most people cannot get the timing right – they are usually too late to get out before the market dropped or to get in before the market went up. Even the professionals have trouble picking the market. How many picked the global financial crisis?

Tough out the Tough times

The hardest part is to have faith in your original financial planning strategy when the market is moving against you. It is well to remember that is the nature of financial markets. Both the share market and the property markets have around 5 – 7 year cycles. Over the long-term, both these sectors make money. That is why your strategy would have been designed for a particular time frame, so that your portfolio could ride out those downturns. Generally, the only people who lose during market downturns are the ones who panic, sell the investments at a loss and put the money into a safe place. They are unlikely ever to get their money back. If you and your adviser worked together to form an investment strategy or if you did it yourself after doing your research, you should give the growth assets in your portfolio time to grow by staying with the origianl personal planning strategy.

Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd. – 70 Years – Famine to Food

Bengal Famine to Right Food – An insightful journey towards food security

Famines were quite frequent in the colonial rule because of the indifference of the British India government towards the plight of the starving people of undivided Bengal. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the great crisis that hit the golden land of Bengal. The estimated deaths were 1.5 to 3 million children, women and men during 1942-43. It is estimated deaths due to starvation in the colonial rule was 30 to 40 million especially in Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Bengal. The Bengal famine of 1943 struck the Bengal province of pre-partition British India during World War II following the Japanese occupation of Burma. It has been argued that the Japanese invasion of Burma was the main cause of the Bengal Famine of 1943, since it cut off all food supplies from the region. A constellation of factors led to this mega-tragedy, such as the Japanese occupation of Burma, the damage to the aman (kharif) rice crop both due to tidal waves and a disease epidemic caused by the fungus Helminthosporium oryzae, panic purchase and hoarding by the rich, failure of governance, particularly in relation to the equitable distribution of the available food grains and disruption of communication due to World War II.

Estimates are that between 1.5 and 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition and disease, out of Bengal’s 60.3 million population, half of them dying from disease after food became available in December 1943. As in previous Bengal famines, the highest mortality was not in previously very poor groups, but among artisans and small traders whose income vanished when people spent all they had on food and did not employ cobblers, carpenters, etc.

At that time people who were studying in colleges were discussing various ways to develop the nation and combat the current situation. Seventy years now the country misses the spark in the youth who may come up with protests but lack the intellect to provide a solution which makes our great nation food secure. Even our politicians who believe the Right to Food as a game changer in the 2014 General Elections wants to rush into this. No doubt this is a good initiative by the current UPA government but it also adds up to the rising fiscal deficit which the reforms from Prime Minister’s Office can’t decrease. 70 years on we are still not food sufficient still people are dying because of extreme hunger and poverty estimating up to 2 lakh per year. It seems the great economists of the country are on a long holiday or may be their ideas are out of stock.

What’s more shocking is that being an agrarian economy with majority of the population engaged in agricultural activities still no youngster is willing to become a farmer. The country has dramatically failed to understand the importance of farming. There is no remuneration and the richest people in the country are not the people who provide you with food to survive. The biggest corporations in the country are not an agro-based company. Every day we keep hearing farmers committing suicides. In this scenario the government wants the Right to Food bill to pass without realizing or providing any protection to the farmers. If anyone wants to become a farmer the society, parents look down to the idea, they play a prime role in discouraging their wish. But they are not wrong when they do that they do it because the remuneration of a Investment Banker or Doctor or Engineer is way higher than that of a farmer who after working hard to provide food (energy) to these Engineers or Doctors or Investment Bankers to work or survive lives in less than $1.25 a day. The youth of the nation doesn’t ask the government of India why is the situation so gruesome at ground level.

The Right to Food bill may provide food to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population but it doesn’t do anything to improve the status of the farmers. There are many reasons to debate this bill but the government of the country is always interested in providing freebies before every election in the country. 70 years on the situation remains critical because policy makers have not done enough to eradicate poverty out of the lives of the people who are responsible for making this country food secure.

For more information visit: Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

Benefit from the best in Financial Planning Services

People don’t set budgets for themselves to make their lives miserable and not fun. Instead, they use a budget for just the opposite. A financial plan or budget is simply a guide to help manage your money and spending. We all have a job and some kind of income, and all of it is usually used on expenses. Without properly distributing income for the proper expense, an important bill may be overlooked and fall short. The overall goal for creating a financial plan is to lay a foundation down for the proper allocation of income required to cover each expense.

A well thought out financial plan offers nothing but benefits to you. You can do it yourself or hire a professional if you don’t think you are up to the task. No matter which you choose, remember to do it the right way and take full control of your situation. A good financial plan can turn around your financial outlook and hopefully nip some problems, like bad debts or past mistakes, right in the bud.
Compile a list of short and long-term goals. Things such as vacation plans, purchasing a new house, buying a new car and others that would require you to make a large investment should be included in this list. Think of a variety of different reasons that would affect your life and why financial planning and saving can benefit your life. The better direction and defined goals you have, the easier it will be to meet them.

Having a sound financial plan is also a great way to protect you and your family in times of hardship. You never know what the future holds. Something like an accident, job loss or a natural disaster can occur at any moment and change your life for the worse. A sound financial plan allows you to alleviate this burden and enjoy today without worrying so much about tomorrow. This kind of protective financial planning covers everything from life insurance to an emergency savings account.

Don’t let your debt take control of your life. The main benefit of good financial planning is the opportunity for you to take control of what you owe. You need a sound plan to decide how to allocate your money where it is most needed if you ever want that debt off quickly.

Another great way to use sound financial planning is if you are planning on starting your own new business. In order for you to become approved by a bank for that all important business loan, you’re going to need a business plan which includes a section for your financial planning. In order for you to spend your new business’s money wisely, you will need a well structured budget.

Pick out a set time of the month and regularly go over your plans. As you move closer to debt relief or as your business grows, your financial standings and plans will change and need to be revised. Don’t be afraid. Revising your plan is normal and should be encouraged. As long as you keeping your working on that final goal of yours, taking a different plan of action is fine.

Director’s Financial Responsibilities

The new Association director is often thrust into the job with little idea of what his or her duties and responsibilities are, other than the conceptual knowledge that s/he is obligated to serve in the best interest of the Association. Unless s/he has been an active member of CAI (which is not likely if s/he is a first-time director), s/he is not even aware of the educational resources that are available for guidance in learning what a director’s responsibilities are. Further, many directors serve only a one-year term and therefore have little incentive to go through the effort of getting the education necessary for performing their job, since their term will be completed before they can even begin to learn everything they should know.

The purpose of this article is to attempt to provide guidance to the director on his or her financial responsibilities. The most important rule with respect to financial transactions is that they should be well-documented. While the Association may produce monthly financial statements and an annual budget, it is also important to document (preferably in the minutes of the Board of Directors) the following types of financial decisions:

Authorization for new bank accounts
Authorization of changes in signers of bank accounts
Approval of transfers of cash between accounts
Authorization for purchases of major equipment, or major expenditures
Approval of the annual budget
Acceptance of monthly treasurer’s report
Acceptance of monthly interim financial statements from the management company
Approval of the annual audit or review report and tax return
Authorization for an officer of the Association to sign the annual income tax returns
Documentation of board actions and responses with respect to the accountant’s management letter that accompanies the annual audit report
Collection actions (authorization to lien member property, authorization to foreclose on member property)
Documentation of board decisions regarding insurance coverage
Adoption of a conflict of interest policy
Authorization of contract for preparation of a reserve study
Authorization of reserve expenditures
Adoption of reserve policies
Adoption of Revenue Ruling 70-604 Election (This election should be made annually and should preferably be made at the annual membership meeting, then ratified at a Board of Directors meeting.)

Accounting is a complex, technical subject in which very few people have an active interest. However, the impact of financial transactions is something that permeates every aspect of our lives, and certainly that of a community association. While no individual can be given a complete accounting education in a short enough period of time to enable them to gain a complete understanding during their term of office, there are certain things that the director can and should do on a procedural basis that would allow him or her to adequately exercise the oversight of financial responsibilities of the members of the Board of Directors of an Association.

The director needs complete financial information in order to perform an adequate review of transactions. Accordingly, the monthly financial reporting package for a community Association should generally include the following documents:

Monthly financial statements

a. Balance Sheet on an accrual basis

b. Income Statement on an accrual basis with budget-to-actual comparisons ( The income statement should include both current month and year-to-date amounts.

General Ledger
Cash Disbursements Journal
Aged Assessments Receivable Listing
Copies of all bank reconciliations
Copies of all bank statements
Copies of paid invoices

While the above list may seem like overkill to some, these documents should be distributed to the board members prior to the Board meeting so that they have an adequate opportunity to review them and be ready at the time of the meeting to either approve the reports or ask the necessary questions. It is not reasonable to expect even a CPA to be given a set of financial statements during a Board meeting and on the spot, have to review, understand, and approve the financial statements and, by inference, the underlying transactions.

For the director to competently review this financial package, he must have a basic understanding of each of the documents.

The balance sheet is a statement that reflects the financial status of the Association at a specific point in time (generally month-end or year-end). Common components of a balance sheet are:

Assets

Cash – Petty cash on hand or in checking accounts, savings accounts, or other types of accounts with a financial institution

Assessments Receivable – Amounts owed by members to the Association as of the date of the financial report

Fixed Assets – Property acquired by the Association with a useful life greater than one year and of significant cost

Prepaid Expenses – Payments of expenses in the current period that will benefit more than one period, such as insurance, which is often paid in a single payment for an annual premium

Liabilities

Accounts Payable – Expenses incurred, but not yet paid

Prepaid Assessments – Dues/assessments paid in advance

Income Taxes Payable – Income taxes due for the current year and any prior years

Fund Balances

Operating Fund – Accumulated earnings or losses of the Association from the current and prior years.

Replacement Fund – Amount set aside for future repairs and replacements (this balance should have an equal amount of cash set aside to accumulate for major expenses).

The income statement reflects, for a period of time, the income and expense activities of the Association. A preferred format would reflect both the current month’s and year-to-date budgeted and actual activities. Revenues generally consist of member assessments, fines, vending machine, parking, or other income and interest income. Expenses would include operating maintenance costs, utilities, management company fees, and other administrative and operating fees. Amounts transferred to reserves are generally reflected as an expense of the operating budget, unless financial statements are prepared on a fund basis.

The general ledger is a document which underlies the financial statements and summarizes all activity by account. For instance, if three different checks during the month were written for repairs, they would be grouped into the repairs expense account (even though the checks were not in sequential order). The total of those three checks would represent the current month’s total repair expense, which should agree with the income statement. This document can be used by the director to research questions such as “what is in utility or repair expense this month?”, and “why is it so high compared to prior months or prior years?” The general ledger should provide sufficient detail for you to find the answer to that question.

The cash disbursements journal is simply a listing of checks in numerical order for the current month, listing the date, payee, and amount.

The other reports are self-explanatory.

The procedures that the director might employ in analyzing these documents should consist of:

Examine the balance sheet and compare it against prior periods to see that cash balances and assessments receivable balances appear reasonable. Note if there are any significant fluctuations between restricted reserves in the current period versus prior periods.

Examine the bank reconciliations and see that they agree to the amounts reflected as cash on the balance sheet. Investigate any differences. Also, make sure they agree with the bank statements. The bank reconciliation should begin with cash per bank and reconcile down to cash per financial statements and general ledger. The reconciling items will generally consist of deposits in transit and outstanding checks. Investigate and question any large or old outstanding checks.

Review the bank statements to ascertain that all interest income has been recorded in the financial statements.

Make sure that all bank accounts are recorded in the general ledger of the Association.

Examine the aged assessments receivable listing and compare it to the balance sheet. The total of assessments receivable should agree with the balance sheet.

Review the aged assessments receivable listing and question any assessments receivable that are more than 30 days old. The Association should adopt a strict collection policy that would consist of assessment of late charges, warning letters, filing of a lien, and ultimately foreclosing on member property for non-payment of assessments. There should be no exceptions to these rules, especially for directors of the Association.

Review the income statement comparison of budgeted to actual activity both for the current month and the year-to-date, and question any significant variations.

For any questioned income or expense items, trace the account to the general ledger and review the detail for that account.

Review the cash disbursements journal for the month and challenge the propriety of all expenses. For instance, if any checks are written to any director of the Association, find out why. If the management company is being paid more than their contractual fee, find out why.

It will take some time for the director to perform all of the above procedures, but it will provide you with insight as to the financial transactions of the Association, and a greater understanding of how your Association operates. While this may seem like too much work to be done on a monthly basis, you as a director have an obligation to the members of the Association to safeguard the assets of the Association. Only through diligence and a step-by-step procedural review of transactions can this be done.

Avoiding Financial Investment Scams in 6 Steps

Filtering legitimate financial investment advisors from the confidence tricksters can be quite a daunting task. Take control of your finances and watch out for the following the main steps of avoiding investment scams:

1. The ‘Set for Life’ Promise.
Financial Investment professionals are well aware of the unpredictability of financial markets and how to manage consistent returns. An investor that approaches you with promises of huge payouts that will fix all your financial woes is suspicious at the very least. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Trust needs to be earned so resist the urge to invest large amounts from the get-go. Start with conservative investments and build a relationship over time.

2. Beware of Time-based Pressure.
Be wary when you are being pressured to make a decision on the spot. The fear of missing out on an opportunity is often manufactured by the swindler himself/herself. Good financial payouts do not happen overnight so neither should good financial planning.

3. Make Yourself Familiar with all the Details of the Proposal.
Be especially careful if you are unfamiliar with investment and money management. Intelligence is not a factor here. Many smart people have fallen victim to financial fraud due to skimming over the details instead of actively picking apart the investment process that will be used. If the process cannot be explained in everyday language that you can understand it would be best not to go forward.

4. Check the References.
Checking references does not necessarily mean checking client references. All investment brokers need to be licensed. Scam artists often provide overly-technical descriptions whilst skimming over details regarding their legal affiliations. Even if a potential investor supplies a financial regulator registration number you need to go one step further and check their credentials with your region/countries financial regulator.

5. Remember that Con Artists are ‘People People’.
Con Artists are experts at winning confidence with a combination of great financial jargon and good manners. They are also great at playing on natural human reactions by taking advantage your own politeness. Never feel like you owe someone your time. If you are uncomfortable you are allowed to cut off the communication channels at any given time.

6. Stay In the Loop and Keep an Eye out for Suspicious Behaviour.

You may be tempted to leave your investment management to the ‘professional’ but your money will always be your responsibility. Request frequent reports (at least monthly) and query all the details of your investment. Once again polite behaviour does not pay off. You are entitled to know what is happening with your money. If you feel uncertain of how an investment is going test the waters by trying to withdraw a small amount of the investment. If your payout is being delayed or you start getting vague excuses you may want to reconsider your investment or check this suspicious behaviour to financial regulators/associations.

Financial Investment can be greatly rewarding if you choose an experienced and reliable service provider. There is no quick fix for financial freedom but the old adages remain. Save and invest consistently and cultivate financial discipline. Be vigilant and educate yourself to guard your investments. And lastly, do not let fear or greed become your motivators.