Post-retirement Money-life Planning
To help you spend your sunset years in sunshine, Moneylife Foundation held a seminar to guide seniors on ensuring a financially safe and secure retirement
 
Turning 60 is no longer the big milestone it used to be. Life-spans have increased and people are living fitter and more fulfilling lives, long into their 80s. However, this means keeping pace with technology, dealing with galloping costs and poor geriatric care. Living on one’s savings for 25 years or so also needs careful financial planning and investment. On 14th May, Moneylife Foundation’s trustees, Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu, conducted a special workshop on how to plan for a safe and financially smart retirement. 
 
Ms Dalal said that the key to safe investment lies in taking care to avoid losses, especially online fraudsters. She said senior citizens were more susceptible to financial fraud and illustrated this with several real-life examples in India. The talk focused on provisions that seniors ought to know, such as the importance of nominations, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the Married Women’s Property (MWP) Act and Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. 
 
Debashis Basu guided the audience on calculating their financial needs more realistically and about how to meet the objective of earning a safe and steady return that beats inflation through a smart mix of asset classes including debt, mutual funds and equity. He also explained how ‘reverse mortgage’ allows seniors to draw value from their biggest asset—their home. Mr Basu ended the session by answering a series of questions on investment planning and closed with the message: “The earlier you start saving, the larger corpus you get at retirement.”

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‘Good election does not necessarily lead to good democracy’
A packed audience enjoyed a fascinating debate on the process of elections following the Mumbai launch of Dr SY Quraishi’s book, organised by Moneylife Foundation
 
Dr SY Quraishi’s book An Undocumented Wonder - the Making of the Great Indian Election was launched at the hands of Deepak Parekh, chairman of the Housing Development Finance Corporation in Mumbai on 9th May. There was a lively panel discussion with Kabir Bedi, television and film actor and social activist, and the Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Mumbai North-East constituency, Medha Patkar. 
 
“The book is my modest attempt to unravel the myth and mystery behind the great election machine, the men and women who run the world’s largest democracy and the citizens who participate in it with great gusto,” said Dr Quraishi at the event organised by Moneylife Foundation. 
 
Mr Parekh said, “While India waits with bated breath for the results of one of its most significant elections, one must take time to read this book to understand the nuts and bolts of what it takes to put together such a challenging exercise of conducting elections. At the time when the sole focus of the media is on the magic number of 272, there is a tendency to ignore those who have quietly worked behind the scenes. The book provides an insight into what happens backstage. As the book aptly says ‘the Election Commission is the most self-effacing organisation in India’. How little do we know about it?” Mr Parekh has been voting for the past four decades but failed to exercise his right this time because his name was missing from the election rolls. 
 
In fact, missing names, the role of money power and several other issues were raised by Medha Patkar, the renowned social activist who contested the elections on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket. Her questions prompted Mr Quraishi to say that “a good election does not necessarily lead to good democracy.” He agreed with the The Economist’s contention that India was a ‘flawed democracy’ and the EC could not change that. 
 
Kabir Bedi, spoke about the need to appreciate the nature of our democracy, instead of which we tend to take our rights and our ability to vote for granted. He said, “About 73 countries, or 42% of the countries across the world, have no elections.”
 
The panel discussion was followed by a lively interaction with the audience. Mr Quraishi noted and responded to all the queries. He also cited data provided by the EC in Maharashtra which showed that claims about missing voters were hugely exaggerated.
 

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Arbitration, a Grey Area?
Is ADR ‘Alternate’ Dispute Resolution or ‘Additional’?
 
This author is no fan of ADR, especially in normal litigation. While there is a lot to be said about arbitration in highly technical matters, experience shows that ADR is just an additional stepping stone. Arbitration, mediation and conciliation are the latest ‘catch’ words; more as a panacea for court-weary litigants rather than to provide quicker relief. Conciliation is, in our opinion, better. But, there are pitfalls, as three recently reported cases will show. 
 
What is arbitration? It is the out-of-court resolution of a civil matter. There is an arbitrator or three of them. They usually hold ‘court’ in a specified place but not in a court of law. Often, the setting is a 5-star hotel. There are two divisions in the room, one for each side to be seated. 
 
Then there are stenographers computers, and other paraphernalia. Should there be more than two disputants, the set-up is multiplied. The main difference is that while you cannot select your judge, arbitrators are chosen by both parties. 
 
Arbitrators do not pass orders or judgements. They issue ‘awards’. Does the award have the force of law? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on the terms of the contract and the terms of reference. Experience shows that matters still end up in court. 
 
In one case, involving Physicians Insurance Capital, one party did not keep a proper record of the proceedings. It was not satisfied with the award. The award was sparsely worded. It went to court. You be the judge. The court held that since the party was lethargic in its approach to the arbitration, it was at a disadvantage to prove that the award was unjustified. The lesson here is that just as ALL court records are of outmost importance, so are arbitration proceedings. And, as in a court, ask for the moon as an award. Whether you get it, or not, is secondary. 
 
In another case, this time involving two insurance companies, when half way through the proceedings, one party decided that the arbitrator was partial, since an interim (in-between) award was granted to the other side. The affected party went to court, won its day and lost in appeal. Why? The appellate court asked for final conclusion of the matter after which the aggrieved party could approach the courts.
 
In yet another case, there was a clause for the arbitration award to be reviewed by another arbitrator. Please do not ask me why, but that was the way the contract was drawn up. The employee, one 
 
Mr Dunham, lost out on both occasions against his employer, Lithia Motors Supports Services. 
 
The employee then approached the court of law. The question was whether the court should pay attention to the first arbitration of the second. Or should it look into both? Or only the final, which is the second, arbitration? You be the judge. 
 
The court decided that both arbitration proceedings needed a look-see. Fortunately, both were found to be properly handled and the award against Mr Dunham was upheld. So where is the problem? 
 
Consider the possibility that the two awards were different. Which one should the court uphold would be the question. Suppose also that both awards were similar but the court thought that both were incorrect. Where would that land the opposing parties? Another round of arbitration? We thought that the process was a fast-track one; not one that multiplies itself in endless procedures.
 
What, then, is the advantage of arbitration? For one, as mentioned earlier, highly technical matters may require an arbitrator who understands the intricacies. Yet, he needs to have a ‘legal’ background because an award has to be based on the law in force at the time. In other cases, it is more likely a throw of the dice. And a trip to the court!
 

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