How Achievable Are Your Financial Goals?

Published: May 30, 2013 at 6:39 am

Last Updated on

‘How much risk an investor can take’ and ‘how much risk he should take’ are two very different things. ‘Invest as per your risk appetite’ is half-decent advice. However it is not universally valid. A person who hates equity can choose to avoid it only if he can afford to regularly invest a sizable (often impractical) amount of money for long term goals. A person who loves equity cannot invest in it if his goal is only a couple of years away. The investors risk appetite is relevant only when the goals risk appetite is also accounted for.

The goals risk appetite determines the risk the investor should take while the investor risk appetite determines the risk the investor can take. A goals risk appetite can simply be represented by estimating the return needed with the following inputs

  • How much the investor can invest
  • How long the investor has for the investment to grow
  • A reasonably close estimate of how much is needed.

Some background is necessary to put this post in perspective. This post is the 4th in a series on long term goal-based investing:

  • Part I listed in detail the steps needed for goal-based investing and included a calculator to determine the return needed for one goal.
  • Part II dealt with the importance of rebalancing when accumulating a corpus. It came with a rebalancing simulator with historical Sensex and FD returns to drive home the point.
  • Part III dealt with consolidating and optimizing all financial goals. A way to minimize the total amount required for investing by treating all goals to be funded from a single portfolio was described with a calculator.
  • Part IV, which is the current post, also deals with consolidation and optimization of all financial goals. Here too we shall assume all goals to be funded from a single portfolio and determine the return required to accomplish all goals with the total amount we can spare each month as the input.
how achievable are your financial goals?
Photo Credit: Erix (Flickr)

The idea of a single portfolio is briefly explained here. More details can be found in part III. The amount we can afford to invest for all our financial goals (excluding PF or NPS contribution) is assumed to be invested each month from now until retirement. As the corpus grows we take out what we want from it as and when required for all goals except retirement. When we are ready to retire, the final value of the corpus is (ideally) equal to the retirement corpus needed for a financially independent retirement. The idea then is to determine the return required. From this, given the debt allocation and estimated (conservative) post-tax debt return, the equity return required is estimated.

When return is determined:

  • The amount we can invest is an input. That is, the amount we must invest (optimized or not) is not involved. Since, at any point of time, we can only invest what we can, the input is by default optimal!
  • The return needed is an output. That is, the return expected is not involved

The advantage of doing this is, it can immediately warn the (wary!) investor if something is impractical with the goal inputs. If the returned expected is too low it could mean inflation expected is too low and/or current cost of goal input is too low.

If the return is too high (the more common problem!) then it could mean that for the amount we can invest each month, some goals (or at least parts of them) cannot be achieved in tune with expectations. So we may need to modify goal inputs accordingly.

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The goals in question are long term goals. That is they are 10 or more years away. This implies that we could afford to invest 60-70% in equity and the rest in debt. Assuming a post-tax return of about 6% from debt instrument the returns from equity can be estimated. If the return expected from equity is more than 12%, I would get worried and revisit my goal inputs. Although the worry-threshold may vary from person to person, equity returns above 15% even for goals more than 15 years away is simply impractical.

So decision making in this case is a combination of the investors and the goals risk appetite. That is the upper and lower limits of ‘how much risk I can take (and therefore returns I can expect*)’ is determined by ‘how much risk I must take’.

Use the attached calculator to check if your long term financial goals are achievable, given the amount you can invest.


  • Inspiration for this calculator: Video demonstration of FiscAlmanac, a comprehensive, but expensive, financial planning software.
  • The ideas mentioned in this post and part III were first introduced to me by Mr Centhil of Horus Financials. An elaborate example can be found here: The Fallacy of Goal based Investment ‘Tagging’
  • Quote adapted(*): Risk and return are not necessarily related; risk and expected return are related. If there were no risk there would not be higher expected returns. – Larry E. Swedroe in ” Think, Act and Invest Like, Warren Buffet”

Download the Returns Estimator for Integrated Financial Goals!

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the author and owner of  He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras since Aug 2006. Pattu” as he is popularly known, has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management.  He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. Pattu publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates  and associations(see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, TamilNadu Investors Association etc. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
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  1. This is an excellent tool. I can use this to monitor my portfolio year on year. If it is giving me returns above what I require, then I can move the excess to safer debt instruments, and if it is below what I require, then i can be more aggressive. Another interesting factor I noticed was that even a small reduction in post retirement expenses can make a huge difference in terms of reducing the need to be aggressive with your portfolio !

    1. Thanks. Yes expenses play a crucial role in retirement plan. A frugal lifestyle is very important for its success.
      Rebalancing porfolio by looking at returns! Thats a nice idea. Will check it is the same as rebalancing with respect to asset allocation. Nice idea Thanks!

  2. Prof,
    Have you surveyed if monthly SIP provides better returns than daily SIP?
    Meaning, if a person has Rs 11,000/month to invest in SIP, is he/she better off in a daily SIP (Rs 500 each for 22 working days) as compared to a monthly SIP?
    I suspect daily SIP will outdo monthly SIP. However, monthly SIP is more sensitive to when the person buys the units (On 1st of the month, 5th or 15th!).
    What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Prasanth,
      Personally I have come to hate SIPs because of the paperwork. I think periodic self investing is better and that is what I do now. Reg. your question I think investing something at some regular intervals is more important and monthly vs. daily is a bit of hair splitting. However to I will have a look at twp MFs and see which is better.

      I will choose HDFC Equity and Quantum Long Term Equity

      Okay with you?

  3. Hi Pattu
    First of all a big big thanks to you for providing such a wonderful excel tool..I didn't imagine that these could be available in internet….

    However, while using excel tool called "Financial Goal Achievability", I did not find a place where I can enter my existing investments i.e. in FD , RD and existing MF balances. Although tool asked to enter existing PPF balance. The existing investment in other mode (RD/FD) should also contribute a lot in achieving financial goas…

    Can you suggest me where to enter this detail OR you can suggest a similiar tool?


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