Here’s the link and it’s good only for the next 20-hours or so.

I recommend that you take an hour off your schedule and watch it.

I’m doing that right now.

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So, finally, ICICI Bank enables downloading of fixed deposit certificates opened online through net banking, but my delight immediately turns to dejection because I download and open the PDF only to see this –

Image of ICICI Bank Fixed Deposit receipt

Artificial Intelligence! Seriously!


One of the key takeaways for me from the Art of Non-Conformity was to identify, to the extent possible, the motivation and agenda behind everyday transactions and especially so in virtual ones (such as what’s my motivation and agenda when you read what I write over here).

I gave this some introspection and then thought let me openly pen down my motivation and agenda behind Capital Advisor –

  • To share my experiences as I traverse through my own personal finance journey (long time readers would remember that I originally started — more than seven years ago — by writing about my social experiences)

  • To share my knowledge, thoughts, and perspectives about personal finance

  • To help you learn about and manage your personal finances better and to help you avoid pitfalls on your personal finance journey

  • To build a community (tribe?) that can collectively learn from each other (your insightful comments provide a solid foundation)

  • To build a small passive income stream from the advertising links that appear on the site

  • What you will never read on Capital Advisor is random stuff written by a small army of staff writers or sponsored/paid content from financial institutions. That’s my guarantee.

Over to you now. How many of the above points do you agree with?


Tweets on 2012-05-11

by Vinaya HS on May 11, 2012

in Finance

So, here’s some of the “expert” unactionable advise I’ve read of late (in a personal finance magazine) –

Markets are receding, but it’s not the time to go bottom fishing. There will be enough opportunities and some!

Which opportunities? When? How much? Are you willing to place a bet on your own advice? And I thought that the “experts” thought that one wasn’t supposed to time the markets. Now, I’m confused. Should I time the markets or should I not time the markets?

The [unit linked] policy offers you good de-risking plans for lowering your risk levels near maturity.

The missing part of that sentence is — “After your money has been burnt beyond recognition and reach, for whatever little there is left of it, the policy offers you good de-risking plans for lowering your risk levels near maturity.”

And here’s the worst disclaimer of all — Our “experts” may or may not have positions based on their own advise.

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Are Those PAYBACK-points Worth It?

by Vinaya HS on May 9, 2012

in Finance

I’ve no idea when I signed-up for earning them, but my debit card is somehow linked to earning Payback-points. Out of the blue, one fine morning, I saw an email that said I had 6,800+ points linked to my Payback-account. Wow! I don’t know for how long the points had accumulated but I must have spent a fair bit to earn these many points! And I don’t even have one of those physical Payback cards.

Image of Payback gift item for 6800 points
I then checked the rewards catalog and found this particular item on the right redeemable for almost the exact number of points I had accumulated. D wasn’t interested in any of the other items on offer and hence I got to pick this bag. Delivery of the bag was prompt and in reality the bag indeed turned out to be an excellent choice. So, the points were worth it. But I didn’t spend any money that I normally wouldn’t spend just to earn points and get this bag. All of my monthly debit transactions are planned and happen on a single debit card. So, the points accumulated were only for spending money that I knew I’d be spending and which I’d saved-up in advance.

But of late, I’ve seen Payback-ads prompting you to spend your money at particular retail outlets within a particular time frame with a promise of earning 5-times the normal points. That’s a strict no-no in my book. I don’t and I won’t encourage you to spend money this way. No matter the amount of points earned or the tempting gift items on offer. These special spending schemes aren’t worth it.

Instead, I encourage you to sign-up for loyalty/reward points, plan your purchases out in advance, save-up for these purchases, and then let the points accumulate whenever you make that purchase. It’s OK if you have to wait a while to accumulate more points to get a particular gift item. But it’s definitely NOT OK to spend money that you don’t have just to accumulate more points to get a particular gift item. And finally, please don’t ever purchase points for cash!


Here’s an ad that I saw from the “bank that claims to know it all”

Image of an ad from HSBC

Tell me this — would your parents be proud/happy knowing that you’ve taken a personal loan to pay for their vacation? I’m also quite sure that they aren’t going to say “We’re so so proud of you my dear son/daughter. At 18% per annum plus a 2% processing fee, we’re quite delighted that you’ve taken a personal loan from the bank that claims to know it all just so that we can go on this vacation of our lifetime. I’m confident that we’ll have a really great time while you sit here worrying about how to pay the EMIs for the next several years.”

Yeah. 18% + 2%, that’s the nightmare you’d be getting into.

Image of a chart showing interest rate and processing fee for a personal loan from HSBC

What our parents would instead say is “Get the hell out of here. Do you really think that we need your money to go on a vacation? Or is it the other way around my dear son/daughter?”

Caution: I know that I that might be generalizing/stereotyping a bit here (please let me know if you think otherwise). But in general, I truly believe that our parents are way more hard working, are financially way smarter, know the real value of money, and don’t really need our help financially. I wish I could at least be a fraction of what my parents were.

Also shows how little the bank that claims to know it all actually knows. What do you think?


Quietly tucked away at the bottom of my credit card statement was this Cash Back offer from HDFC Bank on their credit cards.

Click to enlarge the image

I opted for the 1.5% cash back on Apparel and Department Store purchases. Having read the terms and conditions, I think this cash back in on top of any reward points earned (I currently get no cash back but earn reward points for all spends). Thought this would be useful if you do have a HDFC Bank Credit Card and are currently earning no cash back or want to switch to a different cash back program based on your purchasing trends.

Note: I will announce the winners of the March book giveaway along with my review of the book on Monday morning. Got delayed a bit due to unforeseen work at work.


Tweets on 2012-03-07

by Vinaya HS on March 7, 2012

in Finance

Read elsewhere –

Risk is typically measured as the variability of returns. Thus, a bank fixed deposit with sure shot 10 percent returns versus a mid-cap stock that could return 30 percent or lose 10 percent have very different risk-return profiles.

I also happened to read an interview with the CEO of a life insurance company where it was quoted that “the insurance company asked its customers if they’d like the insurance company to manage their investments and 95% of the customers replied in the affirmative.”

That’s one risk-return bet I’d advise you not to take — ever.

Life insurance — and insurance in general — shouldn’t be a risk-return game. It’s a risk-only game. You can do much much better elsewhere on the returns-game.

Seriously, I wonder who these people who replied in the affirmative are. Then again, I have my own doubts about the sample set chosen.


Tweets on 2012-02-26

by Vinaya HS on February 26, 2012

in Finance


The hidden message being –

  • We managed to fool you all these years under the guile of “Premium Allocation Charges.” No one in this industry knows why there has to be a special charge just to allocate your premium (premium = your hard-earned money). And no one in this industry even wants to know why that allocation charge is a function of time.

  • The best you can do now is to stick around with us because if you switch you’ll be an even bigger fool (remember, we’ve extracted all that we can out of you into our balance sheet) for paying that “Premium Allocation Charge” to someone else yet again.

I seriously hate this “holier than thou” attitude.

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Tweets on 2012-02-20

by Vinaya HS on February 20, 2012

in Finance


That’s the cryptic transaction wording seen in my HDFC Bank Savings Account for a debit of Rs 386.05. I think I know what this sneaky charge is for — for non-maintenance of some minimum average cash balance in my savings account. HDFC Bank has levied this charge exactly a week back but I noticed this only today while balancing my account. No notification sent whatsoever. Sneaky charge = Bank profits.

Someone at HDFC Bank is going to hear, quite a bit, from me tomorrow. I’ll begin by simply asking them to take a peek at the non-cash balance and by asking them if they’d like me to take this business elsewhere.


Tweets on 2012-02-04

by Vinaya HS on February 4, 2012

in Finance

Travel, travel, and more travel. To California and then to Mumbai.

That’s been the theme over the past month. All on official work. Capital Advisor was on auto-pilot for some time and then once the scheduled posts ran out things went a bit quiet since I couldn’t find the time to write. Over the next week I’m expecting some more travel — one official and one personal. But I’ll try and keep the writing going.

Meanwhile in California, I had this Kia Soul take me places.


Looks suspiciously Swifty! Maybe that’s why I instantly fell in love with the Soul and didn’t want to hand it back to Avis.

And before I end, a BIG thanks to everyone who wrote-in asking about my whereabouts.


Tweets on 2012-01-18

by Vinaya HS on January 18, 2012

in Finance



Tweets on 2012-01-03

by Vinaya HS on January 3, 2012

in Finance

If you’re following me on facebook or twitter, then you’ve already had a head-start on everybody else on winning the January Book Giveaway.

If not, now’s probably a great time to subscribe to Capital Advisor on facebook or twitter. You’ll still have a bit of a head-start.


Tweets on 2011-12-21

by Vinaya HS on December 21, 2011

in Finance

An excerpt from an interview published in a recent issue of Outlook Money:

The biggest challenge for my company [Star Union Dai-ichi] is how to sell Ulips and give good returns to our intermediaries who are our corporate agents. At present, big banks that are giving us distribution business includes Bank of India and seven regional banks with whom we have tie-ups in about 7,300 outlets to market life insurance products.

Banks have been very comfortable in selling Ulip products for the last 7-8 years. But, post the 1 September 2010 new Ulip guidelines, we had to revise the products and reduce the payouts to intermediaries. Since bankers are our distributors they are not in the mode of canvassing typical life insurance products to a person by talking to him about his family, family needs or his long-term requirements. They do not have time to sell life insurance products. So, they get in touch with some potential customers who have money in fixed deposits, savings bank accounts, or those who have taken a loan. From these customers it is easier to get a lump sum single-premium deposit under Ulips.

But, in the past one year, commissions have come down from 22 percent to 6 percent and that is a cause for concern for banks. Therefore, they are not interested in selling our products. This is the biggest challenge we are facing at this present…

My thoughts:

When you know that your insurance products are being sold the wrong way, why persist with that distribution/marketing channel? Then why lament when something good (reduced commissions and hence reduced mis-selling) actually happens?

There are better ways to get customers to actually buy ULIPs. Don’t nickel-and-dime them with all kinds of lame charges/expenses/fees/commissions and all kinds of lame investment options (slow growth fund, fast growth fund, super-fast growth fund, zero growth fund, etc.). We now know that “that growth” doesn’t actually apply to us.


Tweets on 2011-12-16

by Vinaya HS on December 16, 2011

in Finance

Mutual funds today provide helpful tools like systematic transfer plans that can help the investors achieve the derisking objective with ease and convenience.

Read in the December 14, 2011 issue of Outlook Money.

I wonder why they even consider publishing such expert commentary. As an investor, have you ever had a “Derisking objective that you achieved through an STP?”


Tweets on 2011-11-21

by Vinaya HS on November 21, 2011

in Finance


Rs 44,500! Seriously. WTF?

If I actually had 44,500 to spare, what I’d do is somehow find another 5,500 and round it up to 50,000. I’d then put this 50,000 in a Fixed Deposit or a Fixed Maturity Plan. At 08% — 10%, that would add another 4,000 — 5,000 each year to my ERE-kitty.

Note: I got this pre-launch invite in my email since I’m supposedly an Airtel Platinum Customer. Thankfully, I don’t have “Platinum” spending power.

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Tweets on 2011-10-19

by Vinaya HS on October 19, 2011

in Finance

Found this really interesting analogy between flying and personal finance on Morningstar (emphasis mine):

Let me tell you a story about when I used to be an airline pilot back and in another life. Before 9/11, we could get up and wander back in the cabin and talk to passengers and stretch our legs and stuff, and occasionally the airplane would hit a little turbulence, and the passengers, many of them, would react with a white-knuckle death grip. “Oh my God! This thing is going down.” Whereas, up in the cockpit, the guys are grabbing for their coffee because they don’t want to spill it, and they are absolutely not concerned at all.

Well, the difference is, they’ve got a lot of experience. They understand the airplane is built like a tank, and it’s nothing to worry about for them, but for the passengers, it’s not natural, and we all know it’s not natural to be in a sealed tube more than five miles high, more than 500 miles an hour, while you are bouncing around back there.

So, we try to keep people focused on the idea that this is not an unexpected turbulence. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we know it’s going to happen, and the odds are that we’re going to muddle our way through this, because it’s much more political than it is economic, in both our instance here in the U.S. and foreign.

To reach your objectives, you’ve got to stay on board. One good thing about the airplane was people couldn’t bail out, and our job as a financial advisor is to keep people locked in to where they are so that they don’t make a mistake that they may never be able to recover from, because what we’ve seen in the past is when people bailed out at market bottoms they never recovered from that, and it was a disaster for them and their family. So, we want to keep them locked on to, we want to get to the destination all of us together, and this isn’t really so bad. And we’ve gone through a lot of trouble to make a portfolio that immunizes them against the short-term bounces.


Whenever I travel abroad on work, I make it a point to activate International Roaming on my Airtel Postpaid connection. D and I effectively use “missed calls” as a communication mechanism without incurring those exorbitant roaming charges. Before my recent trip to NYC, upon activation, Airtel sent an email that had a couple of key things to keep in mind when you activate International Roaming. Excerpts from that email follow:

Credit Limit — To provide you continued connectivity with your loved ones while you are away, Airtel ensures you are connected. Credit Limit will not be applicable while you are in International Roaming and hence your usage during this time is not restricted to your Credit Limit. Considering significantly higher usage charges in International Roaming, we may require you to make interim payments. Payments can be made via debit or credit card by logging onto

Billing — In case the details of any chargeable events are not provided in your bill for the month where the International Roaming usage is availed, these would be included in subsequent bills for up to three months. This is on exceptional basis as the usage details from the separate service provider may be billed up to three months after receipt.

I did make and receive a few calls on a couple of occasions. I was thankfully not asked to make any interim payments and I hope everything’s charged in the current billing cycle itself. I also keep a reminder to deactivate the International Roaming facility as soon as I’m back home — it’s quite easy to forget to do this and you end up paying for unnecessary services month after month. International Data Services, are however, always blocked.

Now, I wish there was a way to block receiving those umpteen spam SMSes.

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Tweets on 2011-08-22

by Vinaya HS on August 22, 2011

in Finance

[Follow Capital Advisor on Google+ @ for short personal finance commentary that you won't read here.]

Look what I found in my email:

Greetings from Club Mahindra!

We are pleased to inform you that Club Mahindra is offering you an exclusive membership package that includes:

  • 1-week of International Holiday through Dial-an-Exchange
  • 7-days holiday for 25-years
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • Rs 5,000 worth of Resort credit vouchers
  • Access to 6,500 RCI-affiliated Resorts worldwide
  • Membership at inflation-free rates

Membership fee can be paid in easy EMI scheme. This is a limited period offer, valid on first come first serve basis.



At my previous job, a colleague was offered an LCD TV (in fashion then) in lieu of the iPhone 4 (in fashion now). Going against my advise and the consumer research that I pointed him to, he fell for the sweet-sounding marketing gimmicks. In his mind, he was already taking his wife and kids to exotic locations for the next twenty-five years. Last I heard, he was trying to send the LCD TV back and recover his money because they never had the dates that matched his dates.

Seriously, stay away from these “limited period offers.”


On the Road to Bankruptcy

by Vinaya HS on August 17, 2011

in Finance

It’s really not a good sign when you ask for your packages at the front desk and they point you to the luggage cart and ask you to lug it to your room by yourself.

550D_ 178

I’m well on the road to becoming bankrupt. Thankfully, I’m flying out on Thursday night. Then there’s still that second trip to NYC. What you don’t see on the luggage cart are items from the first trip to NYC.