Build Your Nest Egg Smartly
The six million-odd subscribers of employee pension fund (EPF) would have breathed a sigh of relief after the EPF tax was rolled back. While the government may take its time to review and come out with a new proposal to bring parity among pension schemes, savers should look beyond EPF and the National Pension Scheme (NPS). There is no dearth of financial products available in the market. But the products highly promoted for retirement savings may not be the best suited for your needs. Many invest for tax-saving purposes under Section 80C. Some of these are excellent avenues to create a retirement corpus, but most are not. All kinds of investment products and financial outgoes are lumped together with retirement products, fetching tax benefits. This encourages the wrong kind of behaviour, such as buying pension plans of insurance companies. You need to look for other wealth creating options to build your nest egg. In our Cover Story, we take a look at products which are best suited to create your retirement corpus and those that can be avoided.
 
Undoubtedly, stocks should form a part of your retirement portfolio. But how do you pick high-quality stocks? R Balakrishnan outlines the features of quality stocks in his column on page 22. Vijay Mallya’s bad loans, of over Rs7,000 crore, are just a fragment of the estimated Rs8 lakh crore bad loans of Indian banks, overall. But Mr Mallya’s lifestyle made him stand out and the whole issue of bad loans and crony capitalism has suddenly become fodder for prime-time television. Sucheta, in her Crosshairs column, looks back and highlights how Mr Mallya consistently manipulated the system and got away, until now.
 
On 5th March, the finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that an expert group would be set up to look into the issue of consolidating public sector banks (PSBs). This is not a new idea. But the question Sucheta raises in her Different Strokes section is: When will we see some action? As always, please do keep writing in. We look forward to your feedback. 
 

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Pulse Beat

Human Milk Banks

This is the second call I am making for the need for this new development in all our maternity hospitals. I hate the situation of motherless infants and infants whose mothers have less milk than they need. They need milk banks. Mothers who have more than needed milk could (should) donate that to a bank in the hospital that might need it to feed premature babies. Some people (the wise ones) thought I was crazy. Now, new research shows the benefits of human milk for babies. Mothers who have ‘extra’ breast milk can donate it to the banks, after undergoing a screening process that includes blood tests for diseases like HIV and hepatitis. The milk is pasteurised, like any other milk. The practice may boost breast-feeding and reduce dangerous gut infections. Researchers have found that the number of California hospitals offering donor breast milk rose substantially between 2007 and 2013—from about 21% of all new-born intensive-care units (NICUs) to 41%.
 
Concurrently, breast-feeding incidence has been going up—another boon to children. “Infants also were less likely to develop a potentially dangerous gut infection called necrotizing enterocolitis,” according to findings published online 22nd February in the journal Paediatrics. With pre-term babies, breast-feeding might be a challenge. But, often, women can’t express enough milk. In those cases, donor breast milk is considered the next-best option. Hospitals get that milk from non-profit milk ‘banks’.
 

BP Lowering Drugs Dangerous for Diabetics?

How prophetic was my observation, years ago, that too much lowering blood pressure (BP) in diabetics might not be a good idea! Now comes a bombshell in the British Medical Journal. The researchers—including Mattias Brunström of the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University in Sweden—found that anti-hypertensive drugs may increase the risk of cardio-vascular death for diabetes patients with a systolic blood pressure under 140mm/Hg.
 
The American Diabetes Association recommends a target of less than 140mm/Hg systolic for patients with type-2 diabetes, though a target of less than 130mmHg is recommended for some patients, if it can be achieved safely. The team conducted a meta-analysis of 49 randomised controlled trials involving a total of 73,738 participants that looked at the cardio-vascular outcomes of people with diabetes on anti-hypertensive medications. The subjects were followed-up for at least 12 months.
 
The researchers found that participants whose BP was higher than 140mm/Hg before treatment had a reduced risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and all-cause mortality. Among subjects whose BP was less than 140mm/Hg prior to anti-hypertensive treatment, however, no cardio-vascular benefits were identified. In fact, these participants were found to be at greater risk of cardio-vascular death.
 

Alcohol in Pregnancy

Even a small amount of alcohol in pregnant ladies would put the foetus at risk of alcoholism for three generations. Many of the teen problems in the world could have emanated from pregnant mothers consuming alcohol. “Factors affecting teen drinking habits are varied and complex. They include the desire to engage in risk-taking and rebellious behaviour, as well as the wish to impress and to sustain popularity among peers.” We must start a movement to advise pregnant mothers to keep away from alcohol. 

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