Sunday, 12 February 2017

Too many choices: blessing, paradox or a curse?

"Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."

This Ted talk is such a "must" listen, both educational and comical...You'd be surprised how universal this observation is from buying an item to zeroing on retirement goals. By suffering from "analysis paralysis", progress, if any, is snail-paced. How about agility?...get started with something and adjust the direction as we go along (agile methodology), whether household budgeting, investing or a start up.

Got surplus cash at the end of each month, now what?

Do something about it or let the compounding inflation eat it! Investing comes to mind, but with so many choices where to start. Try googling or asking for investment options at your bank or googling. They'll tell you so many options that you'll either pick one confused, or suffer from "analysis paralysis". In contrast to traditional financial planners that tell you to start from your retirement goals, I say Jump Start investing and adjust the direction as you go along.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Ballpark budgeting for the busy!!!

We can go nuts accounting for the budgets and expenses. Frankly it is needed for the people who have no idea where their money is going, says Moneysense. Meanwhile, my partner (Sanaa) and I did it during my PhD years out of dire need. Now, we do it to stay on top of our expenses. However, it burns too many cycles. I think once the expenses are figured out then there is no need for "nit picking". Ball park budgeting is fine. Only need to pay attention when the expenses are "out of whack" compared to the budget. Similar sentiments are voiced by MoneySense Nov 2016 issue.

Other budgeting applications and calculators?

Existing work on budgeting applications is usually aimed at accounting for existing expenses or spending, and require elaborative input from the user. The extensive input is a hefty and time consuming task often requiring a sign up or a downloading a spreadsheet. In turn, the budgeting exercise transforms into a summing up of incomes and expenses -- shadowing standards for actual budgeting. Meanwhile, our work proposes a budget with only a few parameters, requires no detailed input or sign up. The key selling point of our work is that the budget is drawn based on standard guidelines and best practises that emerge from various governmental and financial institutions. Other work integrates with third party services e.g. bank accounts on user's behalf presenting a single portal to account for all their expenses. While admirable and perhaps leading, this requires a personally identifiable information or pii and poses risk of breach. Our work does not require any pii. We also propose concrete steps to reduce spending in an particular category, something that is in scarcity in the related work. Equally importantly, we propose how to utilize surplus cash.