2023 was a mixed bag in terms of personal finance. We saw heightened inflationary pressure and global uncertainties, emphasizing the criticality of prudent financial planning.
The stock markets soared, reaching notable highs, presenting both opportunities and challenges for investors. While investors had a great year, it became more important to have an asset allocation strategy in place and not to get carried away.
Interest rates stabilized with the RBI not hiking rates anymore after February, bringing much cheer to homebuyers, but home prices remained stable as more Indians wanted to have a place of their own.
Small ticket loans and fake loan apps were a concern and the RBI had to step in to make the digital lending landscape more secure. The easy availability of unsecured loans meant that one needed to be more careful and manage their debt better.
Let us hear from our experts about their views on financial lessons from 2023.
Priti Rathi Gupta, Founder & MD, LXME, a financial platform for women, believes that 2023 taught us that you must learn to deal with ups and downs, and investing is about patience and consistency.
“As investors, we witnessed the markets to be volatile in 2023, but in the same year, we also witnessed record highs in Nifty, Sensex, and gold! This is where asset allocation and focus on goals come into play. We know that markets are unpredictable, therefore, it's important to diversify money across asset classes to manage risks and optimize returns. Don’t get worried about short-term market fluctuations, stay invested and continue to make your investments to reap the maximum benefits and create wealth over the long-term period,” says Gupta.
“Secondly, as women, we tend to restrict ourselves in our comfort zones, and that is a huge mistake. Thus, at LXME, we encourage women to learn and become risk-aware to plan their money better. Last but not least, we learned that the only thing that doesn't fail you is discipline. Choose discipline over "I'll do it tomorrow." It's all about taking that first step towards making your money work for you, even if it’s with a small amount,” adds Gupta.
According to experts, investors should realize that asset classes showing exceptional returns recently may not stay on top in the future.
It's crucial to avoid getting caught up in excitement and instead focus on long-term trends and allocate assets based on individual risk profiles.
Careful consideration of asset allocation is essential, as following the latest trend without caution can result in significant losses or years of underperformance.
Says Arijit Sen, a Sebi-registered investment advisor and co-founder of Merry Mind, a Kolkata-based financial advisory firm: “The financial markets reiterated the relevance of maintaining suitable asset allocation while following goal-based investment strategies. The steps taken by Central Banks across the globe in 2023, inflationary pressure alongside other macroeconomic factors highlighted the importance of each asset class viz. equity, debt, gold, and real estate. Overallocation in any specific asset class leads to negative impacts in the investment portfolio.”
“Again, the urge to time the market by playing the waiting game proved to be counterproductive in 2023. It is advisable to avoid the temptation to time the markets as predictions are seldom translated in reality,” adds Sen.
Using loans to achieve financial goals requires a careful and well-planned strategy. It's important to handle your credit needs wisely to borrow responsibly and get favourable terms. In 2023, there was a significant rise in loan applications from banks and different financial institutions. As more people looked for credit options that suit their needs and repayment abilities, fintech organizations offering flexible financial solutions saw a growing demand.
“Loans became more expensive, yet there was a significant increase in the demand for credit, particularly in retail loans, which surged by 18 per cent to reach Rs 45 trillion, despite the Reserve Bank of India's efforts to control deflation. Small loans and credit cards saw notable growth, prompting the RBI to take action to slow down the demand for loans under Rs 50,000,” says Adhil Shetty, co-founder and CEO, BankBazaar.com.
“There are indications of potential stress in the small loans sector. The key takeaway is that consumers are borrowing for various reasons, including consumption, aspirations, and emergencies. However, some may be borrowing without fully understanding the potential impact on their credit health. It's crucial to repay borrowed money in full and on time, and regularly checking one's credit report can help establish sound financial habits. On the other hand, irresponsible use of small loans can harm credit health and have far-reaching negative consequences on overall financial well-being. As we enter the new year, every borrower should reflect on these considerations,” adds Shetty.
Says Mukesh Kochar, national head of wealth at AUM Capital: "The biggest lesson of 2023 is that do not try to time the market. The market is unpredictable and full of surprises. During the initial few months, everyone was bearish on the market and waiting on the sidelines to invest. Also, during the initial run-up post-March, everyone felt that the new high was achieved and this was time to book profit. The market proved them wrong. So timing the market is not possible."
Another important thing is that one should not invest with a set mindset.
"Nowadays circumstances change very fast. Many investors or even fund managers avoid PSU stocks due to low efficiency and government interference but this year PSU has done remarkably well and has been one of the best-performing segments. There were a lot of geopolitical tensions worldwide and the interest rate environment globally was not favorable. Despite all these, the market has proved everyone wrong and has found its way. So historically what has happened does not mean that it will happen in the future also. So it is important to give longer time to your investment rather than timing the market," adds Kochar.
Looking ahead, what we learned in 2023 will shape how we invest in the coming year. It's important to focus on diversification, flexibility, and resilience. Also, staying humble and understanding the market's unpredictability can benefit investors.
As we enter 2024, investors are hopeful for a stronger and more progressive nation where every sector and stakeholder contributes to building a better future.