How To Buy Insurance

If you are over 30 and an Indian, chances are you already have “some insurance cover”. Chances are also pretty good that you are ‘under-insured’, which means you do not have enough Insurance cover to safeguard the interests of your dependents.

According to John Nelson, chairman of Lloyd’s, the world’s largest insurance market, “India is the second most under-insured market in the world“.

So, what’s going wrong?

Two things, we think. First is the relatively poor understanding of the buyer. Second is the selling practices of the Insurance service providers.

First things first – you need to understand what you are buying.

The point of taking “insurance” is to insure against risk, so that your loved ones are taken care of, even when you are no more.

Imagine you earn about Rs. 50,000 per month. Your annual income, therefore, amounts to Rs. 6 lakhs. If your current expenses are more or less being met by your income, with a modest surplus being generated each month, your family will need that annual figure of 6 lakhs per year, if you are no more.

Assuming a thumb rule of 10x to provide for roughly 10 years of their living, that amounts to Rs. 60 lacs. Even with a modest inflation rate, that figure is likely to be closer to Rs. 90 lacs, in order to provide for the cost of living in the future.

Therefore, an adequate amount of Insurance cover for such an individual would be close to Rs. 1 crore as sum assured. And that’s just with a take-home salary of Rs. 50,000, to accommodate 10 years of your family’s expenses. If you earned double of that, the target sum assured would be Rs. 2 crores.

In addition to the standard calculations shown above, you would also need to add to the insured amount when your life-stage changes e.g. a new addition to the family, or when you take up a large home loan. But, most of us don’t factor these variables into account, and merely end up buying “some insurance” as a tax-saving instrument.

So, if you do not have adequate insurance cover, don’t go down the path of buying exotic, hybrid products that offer insurance cover plus the promise of market-linked investments. Instead, choose a “term” product to cover your basic risk at the lowest cost possible. Then, look for other options to add to your portfolio.

Tip: Insurance agents may not talk about such products unless probed, because they earn very little commission on such products.

Note: This blog post is strictly an educational and informational service, and does not constitute personalized investment advice. The commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and recommendations represent the personal and subjective views of the Editor, and are subject to change at any time without notice.

Inception: MindBlowing

The Rolling Stone described it as “James Bond meets The Matrix”, while Wired wrote that it is “Dense, intense, brainy and beautiful to look at”. Yes, I’m talking about Inception – the hottest sci-fi entertainer of 2010, and the newest entrant to the “Top 10 movies I have ever seen”!

I went in with huge expectations, considering the last I’d seen of Christopher Nolan’s work was The Dark Knight (my review of which is still pending).  His body of work is small but very, very impactful.  If you’ve seen Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige or The Dark Knight, you know what I’m talking about.  (If you haven’t seen any of these, stop reading right now, and go get yourself the DVDs.) 

By the end of Inception, I was left with one overwhelming feeling – Nolan is a genius! 

Inception has a twisted storyline that takes some effort to grasp, but the journey is so worth the effort that the 2 hours and 22 minutes pass by in a flash.  I’m not going to bore you with the details of the plot and its main characters.  You can get all that on Wikipedia or on the Warner Bros’ official site.  What I’m here to tell you is this…

Inception is an incredible piece of work. 

Narrating a story that transcends multiple layers of the “dream state” is no easy task for any storyteller.  But, with Inception (and The Dark Knight), Nolan proves that he’s achieved artistry in his profession of choice.

Brilliant performances by DiCaprio and the rest of the cast, a huge canvas for Nolan to paint, spectacular special effects that add to the story, appropriate use of visual elements (and Hans Zimmer’s music) to heighten the drama and tension, and finally, enough science to make it all seem believable.  I especially liked the restraint shown by Nolan in his use of special fx and dramatic devices, so they don’t end up being overbearing, but instead, weave their place in the story as it progresses in complexity.

Don’t miss Inception.  It will blow your mind!!!

Raavan

So often, I find that movie critics and reviewers in India fail to recognize the merits of any thing that lies outside of mainstream cinema.  Typically, there is such little understanding of the art of story telling, and such little regard for the nuances of movie making, that the essay turns out to be nothing more than a detailed storyline, sometimes accompanied by a thrashing down of whatever the reviewer deemed unsuitable in the movie.

However, when I go for some of these films, despite the warnings in the papers, I find myself being thoroughly rewarded for my time!  Recent such examples in Indian cinema include the fantastic “Road Movie, The Film” and the newly-released “Raavan”.

Raavan is a class act that is clearly not for the masses.  Yes, it has all the popular elements of a bollywood masala film – love angle, action, drama, etc., but the “treatment” is refreshingly unique.

Fundamentally, it is a tale of good versus evil, and about the shades of good and evil that lie dormant within us all.  Raavan’s main characters are clearly not on any one side of the spectrum, and that’s what makes the story interesting (and also probably unappealing for the common man).

I was impressed with Abhishek’s ability to “get into character” by way of mannerisms and expressions that I thought were remarkably consistent with the persona that he was playing.  I especially enjoyed his character’s ability to deal with his inner conflicts, whether he’s coping with new-found jealousy or experiencing fear for the first time.

I was also left impressed with the film’s canvas.  Almost the entire length of the movie has been shot in pouring rain – a feat that is not easy to pull off.  Yet, somehow, the green and grey palette works like a charm, helping the characters blend-in in places, and making them stand out in contrast, in other frames!

The cinematography is truly exceptional, and among the best I have ever seen coming from Indian movie makers.  The makers of the film seem to have taken the trouble to scout some of the prettiest natural locales of the country in which to set the story.  I thought that many of the shots were visually stunning, giving the film a very artistic quality.  Unlike typical bollywood fare, I was also pleased that the nuances of the film were more-or-less in sync with the way of life of the story’s setting – whether it’s the food they eat, their mode of transport or their attire and living conditions.

If I had to nitpick, I’d probably drop Govinda (allegedly the “Hanuman” element) from the story altogether, since he did not seem to add too much value to the plot.  And, it would have helped to see a little more build-up to explain to audiences why the two key characters are hell bent on destroying each other from frame one.

But, all said and done, Raavan is definitely a movie worth watching and represents Mani Ratnam’s best work till date.  Critics be damned!

Lost Art of Letter Writing

Many things change with time, but not every thing changes for the better.  One such phenomenon I can think of is the lost art of Letter Writing. 

For years, I have lamented about the fact that the only “mail” I receive (via snail-mail) any more is bills and receipts.  No letters.  None whatsoever. 

Aunts and uncles who used to send out letters once in a while, have switched to email.  Moms and Dads had to, simply to keep pace with their teenage sons and daughters.  Even the greeting cards you used to send out till just a few years ago, have transformed into free e-cards that do their dance on your computer screen, and die a painless death in 90 days or less.

I know, I know.  Electronic communication is so fast and friendly; so instantaneous in delivery.  Who would want to write letters?! 

Now, I love Technology as much as the next guy.  Maybe, even more.  But any one who’s ever received a well-written missive would agree that email could never replace the charm, the magic, of a handwritten note.  The use of appropriate grammar, the unhurried attention to detail, the choice of good stationery on special occassions… even words that were striken or revised would leave their mark on the note, for every reader to see. 

It was almost as if, every time you put pen to paper, you chose to bare your soul to the reader. 

Makes me think that we’re fast losing touch with an art form that was an important part of our heritage, without even pausing to ponder on it… 

In the decades to come, will our children even understand the antiquated practice of actually writing a letter using pen and paper?  Would Abraham Lincoln’s letters gain the legendary status they have, if he’d shot off some emails from his Mac instead?  Most importantly, in the absence of such cultural cues, how will we know what was really important and worth preserving?  What will History be “written” on?!

Worth a thought, isn’t it?

Happy New Year

Diwali (Deepavali) is a significant festival for millions of people around the world.  Wikipedia writes:

While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”… While the story behind Diwali varies from region to region, the essence is the same…

Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one’s true nature.

Me?  I chose to celebrate this Diwali with a new beginning to my online presence.

I’ve been busy the past few weeks, working on the migration.  And, I am pleased to say that the entire process is now complete.

A new domain name and new email ids for the entire family.  New designs for both my blogs.  A completely new photoblog.  And, a new website for all my online initiatives.

My new web home – http://Naveen.Bachwani.com

Hope you make the most of them…