Monthly Archives: August 2017

Time better to invest or put money into your bond

In this advice column Alexi Coutsoudis from PSG Wealth answers a question from a reader who wants to know what to do with a lump sum investment.

Q: I have R100 000 in a unit trust. At the same time I have an outstanding bond. Would it be better to remove the funds from the Investment and offset part of the home loan?

Advisors are frequently asked this question. This often has more to do with personal risk preference than with economic rationality. To answer this question, however, certain assumptions must be made, and I specifically won’t look at tax to keep the answer succinct.

The rational answer

Let us assume that the interest rate on the bond is at the prime lending rate. That is currently 10.50{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e}

The second assumption we need to make is about what the risk level of the unit trust in question is. A money market unit trust has a very different risk and associated return goal than an equity unit trust.

A low-risk money market or income fund aims to beat inflation and offer a real return of 1{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e} per annum. Thus, if the R100 000 is in an income unit trust only yielding 7{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e} to 8{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e}, it would be rational to secure the higher guaranteed return of 10.5{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e} and transfer the funds into the bond.

However, if the money is in a balanced fund which generally targets a 5{abaf7da085c97d97c5749780ad44a0e55d5a01fb0b713ae478e338e15f926a8e} real return, it would be more rational to remain invested as the real return is in excess of the bond interest rate.

It is also important not to fall into the trap of looking at the short-term underperformance of equity linked funds in a time like now and compare this to a resilient prime rate. This may result in the wrong decision to sell out at the wrong time. Every situation is unique and the best course of action is to get advice from a financial advisor who will look at the big picture and your individual circumstances.

The subjective answer

The other way I would advise a client on this is a more subjective approach – the sleep test. Quite simply, what makes you sleep better at night? Would that be a bond balance of R100 000 lower than it is now with no funds invested, or the same outstanding bond balance but R100 000 invested?

How to teaching your children about money

For many parents, money is an uncomfortable subject. Discussing finances with your children is either too scary or too personal for many people.

However, a panel of experts at The 2016 Money Expo agreed that this is one of the most important subjects any parent has to manage. Preparing your children for their financial futures is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Nikki Taylor from Taylored Financial Solutions said that the earlier parents start on this journey, the easier and more effective the lessons will be.

“For me, it’s about starting them early,” said Taylor. “How do you teach children manners? You don’t wait until they are 15. You start when they are really young.”

Brand manager at Emperor Asset Management, Lungile Msibi, said that even two- and three-year olds can appreciate the lessons of delayed gratification and working towards a goal.

“Start kids when they are young with goal-based savings,” she advised. “If they want a Barbie doll, for instance, show how they can save towards that goal. That’s important because later in life they will understand that you can’t invest if you don’t have a goal.”

As they grow older, you will have therefore prepared them for conversations about investing for the long term. It’s particularly helpful if family members support you.

“When my kids were born I gave their grandparents bank account details for both of them and said instead of filling my house with toys at birthdays and Christmas, please put money in these bank accounts,” said Taylor. “My children still get toys and presents, but they also see the money in their accounts and how it is earning interest. They now get excited at every birthday and Christmas to see who has put money in for them and how much they now have.”

It’s also important to involve your children in how you are saving for their own futures through things like education plans or unit trusts that they will receive later in life.

“I’m saving for different stages of my son’s life and he knows what each of those investments are and what they are for,” said Dineo Tsamela, founder of The Piggie Banker. “He gets excited because he can see what that money means for him – that he will have access to a really great education and that he will have some financial security. He appreciates that money is not just about what it can get you now.”

Msibi said that it’s also important to teach children the impact of the choices they make. She used the example of a child who wanted a new iPhone, but his parents offered him the choice of having them invest that money instead.

“The value of an iPhone in one year or two years diminishes,” said Msibi. “But if your child rather invested that R10 000, it could make a huge financial difference later in life if you give it 40 or 50 years to grow.”

It is also crucial that parents instil a sense of where money comes from.

“You have to teach them the value of work,” said Tsamela. “It’s very important for children to understand that money doesn’t just happen – that there are things you have to do for it to come in.”

Are financial services companies missing the point of savings month

July is savings month in South Africa. This is an initiative that is meant to encourage us all to be more serious about putting away money for our futures.

The premise is obvious. South Africa’s savings rate is abysmal and we need to do something to fix that.

However, many of the messages coming from financial services companies this year have not focused on the country’s savings habits. They have rather been about our spending habits.

Sanlam, for instance, has collaborated with rapper Cassper Nyovest and actress Pearl Thusi on a project called #ConspicuousSaving. The two, who are usually known for their big spending, have been posting on social media about doing things like home facials, clothes swapping or a haircut at a roadside barber to save money.

At a media luncheon in Cape Town on Thursday, Liberty also looked at ways in which South Africans might try to moderate their spending. Based on the findings of a survey conducted by Alltold, Liberty showed where consumers look to cut back to make their money go further.

The primary lesson from the study, entitled The Frugality Report, was that South Africans don’t like to compromise on their lifestyles. Even when they are spending less, they don’t want to cut anything out. They just look for more cost-effective ways of doing the same things.

This suggests that South Africans are probably too attached to the kinds of lifestyles they want to lead. They aren’t willing to seriously assess what they spend their money on and how much of it is really necessary.

In isolation, there is nothing wrong with highlighting these issues and questioning our spending habits. The first step towards financial freedom is always spending less than you earn.

However, it is only that – a first step. Only encouraging South Africans not to spend so much doesn’t really address the key issue of savings month, which is how to get more people to save more of their income.

Even if one of Thusi’s Twitter followers does heed the message and saves money by doing her own nails, buying second-hand clothes and turning down the temptation to buy a new handbag, what then? What does she do with the extra money that she now has?

This is where the financial services industry itself needs to do some serious introspection. It is simply not doing enough to make it easy and cost-effective for South Africans to save and invest.

Even acknowledging that this is not a simple thing to do, it doesn’t feel like too many companies are really trying very hard. The level of innovation in building simple, appropriate and appealing products is poor.

Even some firms that already have options that could be used to attract first time investors don’t market them as such. For instance, the Stanlib Equity Fund may be the only unit trust in the country that accepts debit orders of just R50 per month, yet I am not aware of any advertising from the company that has ever centred on this fact.

Easy Equities is a rare exception trying to make investing exciting and accessible, but why has it remained an outlier? Why aren’t more companies looking at ways to do similar things?

Many of them will say that it’s not easy when faced with the amount of regulation involved, and there is truth to that. However, this is not insurmountable. There are already online platforms that allow an investor to complete, sign and submit all the documentation they need for an investmentment online and simply upload their Fica documentation. It’s a process that needn’t be burdensome on the consumer.