Sweet travel deals are still around

With airlines passing on more of their costs to us and the dollar being stronger against the rupee, airline fares have gone up over the past few months. But you sure can still make a neat saving on your travel expenses

While airlines don’t want to do it, they have to do it. They will not survive for long if they went about distributing tickets for less. So, they’re squeezing every paisa they can to drive up revenue. But promotions are ways of attracting customers so it seems marketing departments still churn out quite a few of those.

SpiceJet recently announced a “Monsoon Hungama” where it is offering a new discount code on their website every day. The discount code is applicable on a per segment per person basis, which means if you booked six people together on one return trip, you would actually get 12 times the value of the discount code applied on your ticket. That is a generous offer, however, available only for booking via www.spicejet.com. Looks like this will go on for an undisclosed period right now.

Jet Airways is offering its standard 5% discount on booking online on www.jetairways.com on return trips. However, if you are booking for travel on weekends, you may notice that there is a Rs500 discount on one-way reservations, which could help you save more rather than booking a return ticket. As of now, this promotion is on till 15 July 2012, but I hope it gets stretched further ahead.

Air India has an ongoing promotion where if a passenger buys a full-fare economy or business class ticket, a family member can travel along in the same class of service by only paying the taxes. If you book far ahead in advance, you will notice this is not for you, but if you have to make some urgent travel plans, this could be something to keep handy. After all, tickets may be more expensive closer to departure date, and by paying a little extra for a full-fare economy ticket, you may be able to save a lot of money on a second ticket. However, you will need your travel agent to help with this since these tickets cannot be booked online.  

For travel inside India, Kingfisher still seems to be offering lowest fares on some segments. While it has shrunk to being very small and only serves key routes now, the current route network is reliable for the time being. You may consider booking on it if you want to book lowest fares.

Jet Airways and Air India do also offer ongoing discounts on domestic tickets to various categories such as students, armed forces personnel, physically challenged, amongst others. Discounts could range from 20% to 50% and with some conditions, more details are available on http://www.jetairways.com/EN/IN/SpecialOffers/ConcessionalFares.aspx and http://www.airindia.in/SBCMS/Webpages/Other_discounts.aspx?MID=23. GoAir is also offering a flat Rs500 off to serving and retired defence, paramilitary and police officials and their dependants. You need to ticket via their call centre or ticketing offices and produce your relevant ID at check-in to get the benefit out of this offer.

Online travel agents are feeling generous, as well. Cleartrip.com is offering a 25% cash-back (up to Rs600) if you use an HDFC Bank Credit Card to book a domestic roundtrip, valid for booking till 31 July 2012. Similarly, Axis Bank and Ezeego1.com are offering a flat Rs500 cash-back on domestic bookings made via Ezeego1.com and paid with your Axis Bank cards. They are also offering a flat Rs350 off on Indigo and Jet Airways for travel between 10 and 20 August 2012.  

So there you go, you’re all set to travel again and shave off some money from your travel expenses.

(AJ writes a travel and aviation focussed blog from India at www.livefromalounge.com. You can follow him at @livefromalounge on Twitter.)


Many new products for senior citizens are not backed by proper regulatory protection

Moneylife Foundation’s seminar on retirement planning held at Moneylife Knowledge Foundation was attended by a packed audience 

Moneylife Foundation today conducted a seminar on retirement planning titled "Plan your Moneylife Post Retirement with Safety, Security & Financial Independence". The session was conducted by Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu, Trustees of Moneylife Foundation.

Ms Dalal began by saying that there was a need to redefine seniority today-people between 60 and 80 are living longer, healthier and more active lives.  While this is good news, it also means that a person retiring at 60 has to plan for nearly 25 years of living on savings and interest income. This means the need to avoid a loss at any cost, then to invest safely, have adequate insurance for contingencies and to healthcare and safety issues.

From the financial perspective, Ms Dalal said that people must be careful not to fall for financial frauds that can deplete a chunk of their savings. She mentioned various kinds of internet-based fraud and identity theft that commonly ensnare people. She pointed to statutory provisions such as the "Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007" which provides legal protection to senior citizens. For senior citizens who are asset-rich but cash-poor, there are options such as reverse mortgage, which allow them to encash the value of their homes, while continuing to live in them for the rest of their lives as well as that of their spouse.

She also talked about retirement communities and how they are great options for many senior citizen couples with a comfortable income.  Ms Dalal pointed out that many new products and services such as reverse mortgage or retirement communities have one weakness-inadequate regulatory protection.  She ended the session with a detailed discussion on wills, nominations and the issues involved in transmission of assets.
Mr Basu, who discussed investing for retirement, said that the decision is guided by the answer to three simple questions:
1. When do you retire?
2. How long can you let the money grow?
3. How much to invest and in what products?

The answer to this depends on the money needed at a specific time based on clear needs. For instance, if you need the money in less then three years, then fixed deposits or liquid funds are the obvious answer. If needed between three and five years or longer, it can be invested partly in fixed income instruments and partly in equity diversified mutual funds.
In an answer the question of how much savings is enough to retire? Mr Basu said about 80% of your expenses at the time of retirement must be covered. However, one US study had put it at 135% of expenses based on what savers would like to do as opposed to what they make do. He said that any estimate of a person's post retirement needs is based on a few difficult assumptions about longevity, lifestyle (which determine expenses), sources of income and the need to provide for heirs. He also told the audience that most people tend to ignore the impact of inflation, which steadily diminishes savings and increases expenses, since it always races ahead of any secure fixed income.

Conventional idea of a post-retirement plan is that one needs to be conservatively invested after 60 or 65. However, Mr Basu came up with the radical idea that if you are in good health, do not need the money and wish to leave your money to your heirs; you should stay invested in equity diversified mutual funds even at your ripe old age.


Mall supply in India falls 30% during 1st half of 2012 on deferment

The NCR saw highest mall supply deferment of over 80% while Bengaluru witnessed the highest mall supply of 1.5 msf during the first six months of 2012

New Delhi: The retail real estate market in India recorded a deferment of more than 30% of retail mall space against the projected supply in the first half (H1) of 2012, reports PTI quoting a a report by Cushman & Wakefield (C&W).

A fresh mall supply for H1 2012 stood at 2.27 million sq ft (msf). About 1 msf of expected mall supply was deferred to second half of the year or next year, the commercial real estate services firm said.

Jaideep Wahi, director, retail agency, C&W India said, "This slowdown in mall construction need not be viewed as a negative growth indicator for the retail real estate segment. The current pace is, in fact, expected to help in maintaining a healthier supply to demand equation; especially for oversupplied micro-markets".

The overall vacancy rate for the major cities as of H1 2012 stood at 19.6%, marginally higher than the previous quarter.

National Capital Region (NCR) saw the highest mall supply deferment of over 80%, ensuring the city maintained vacancy levels at 28%. NCR saw only 120,000 sq ft of mall supply in Q1 and no supply in Q2 2012.

Bangalore witnessed the highest mall supply of 1.5 msf in H1 2012. The retail activity in the city continues to remain strong as the new mall supply became operational with 90% occupancy, whilst overall city level mall vacancy stood at 12.6%.

With high vacancy levels as well as cautious expansion plans of retailers, the deferment of supply is a necessary measure to bring stability in the retail market, he said.

According to C&W, rental values across most mall destinations within these cities remained largely stable, except for certain micromarkets in Bangalore, NCR, Kolkata and Mumbai where mall rentals have seen a growth over the previous quarter in the range of 2-13%.

Elgin Road in Kolkata recorded the highest growth in mall rents at 12.4% over last quarter mostly owing to renewals of existing tenants at a higher value.

In the same period, some prominent high streets across major cities recorded higher increase in rental values as against malls, reflecting the bent of interest amongst retailers for high street properties, the report said.


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