Monthly Archives: June 2016

How to find good investment

In this advice column Kirsty Scully from Core Wealth answers a question from a reader who wants to know what to do with a lump sum investment.

Q: I’ve decided to sell my house, and I expect to realise just under R1 million. I would like to use this money to pay off our debts like our credit cards and possibly our cars. That will leave me with approximately R500 000.

My plan is not to buy another house just yet as we are not sure if we may move to a different province or even different country in the next couple of years. With all that is going on in the markets and considering that all of my other money is either in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), unit trusts, retirement annuities and another property that I own, would it be wise to invest my money in physical gold? Or would it be better to invest in a money market account where I can get 6.4%?

I want something safe, as it is not often in life you get a lump sum like this. We are also sacrificing having a nice big house in order to live in a smaller dwelling for the sake of being prudent and using this opportunity wisely.

As with many similar questions that I have been asked over the years, it is vital that you meet with a financial planner. A full understanding of your financial situation is required. It is not wise to give recommendations based on only a portion of your investment information.

However, that said, let’s assume that I have understood your risk profile accurately, and that a ‘couple of years’ refers to two years. I would consider the following to be wise counsel:

It is unlikely that allocating the full amount to gold would be appropriate as the price of gold can be volatile over short-term periods. I would also assume that the lump sum of R500 000 is unlikely to be a small portion (i.e. less than 5%) of your overall portfolio, and this makes it even less appropriate to allocate the full amount to gold.

In addition, you specifically ask about physical gold, which in most cases is Krugerrands. When investing in Krugerrands there are fees of about R3 000 per ounce (you can buy for R21 000 versus selling for R18 000 as per the Cape Gold Coin Exchange), which need to be taken into account. Over a short-term horizon, these costs could be really punitive.

The gold price would therefore have to increase substantially over your two year period to beat the 6.4% per annum offered by your money market option. Remember you will also have to take into account the storage and insurance costs of holding physical gold. Therefore, taking all things into consideration, I would consider gold to be a relatively high risk investment for you.

The money market is probably one of your safest options. However, I am interested that you quote an interest rate of 6.4%, as I know other options that offer up to 8.0% per annum. Make sure that you do your homework well, in conjunction with your financial planner. You may even look at the possibility of a 24 month fixed deposit, where the interest offered is currently about 8.8%.

Do you desire for investment fees

Determining what added value you get when you pay above-benchmark investment fees for your collective investment scheme is similar to weighing the cost-effectiveness of a luxury German sedan against a Korean family car.

Will you get enough additional value from the investment to compensate you for the extra money you have to pay? Put simply, will you get bang for your buck?

If a fund delivers a 100% return during a particular year, an investor will probably have no problem sacrificing 10% of the return in fees. But if the return was 11%, forfeiting 10 percentage points in costs would make no sense.

This is probably the most important point in evaluating the fees you pay for your collective investment, says Pankie Kellerman, chief executive officer of Gryphon Asset Management. It is not about the absolute quantum you pay, but about what you buy for it.

The impact of costs

Calculations compiled by Itransact suggest that if an amount of R100 000 was invested over 20 years at an investment return of 15% per annum (inflation is an assumed 6%) at a cost of 1%, the investor would lose 17% of his returns as a result of fees. If costs climb to 3%, the investor would sacrifice almost 42% of his returns.

Unfortunately, it is not always that easy to get a clear sense of what you pay and what it is you pay for, but the introduction of the Effective Annual Cost (EAC), a standard that outlines how retail product costs are disclosed to investors should make this easier.

Shaun Levitan, chief operating officer of liability-driven investment manager Colourfield, says the time spent looking around for a reduced cost is time worth allocating.

“I think that any purchase decision needs to consider costs, but there comes a point at which you get what you pay for.”

You don’t want to be in a situation where managers or providers are lowering their fees but in so doing are sacrificing on the quality of the offering, he says.

“There tends to be a focus by everyone on costs and [they do] not necessarily understand the value-add that a manager may provide. Just because someone is more expensive doesn’t mean that you are not getting value for what you pay and I think that is the difficulty.”

Costs over time

Despite increased competition and efforts by local regulators to lower costs over the last decade, particularly in the retirement industry, fees haven’t come down a significant degree.

Figures shared at a recent Absa Investment Conference, suggest that the median South African multi-asset fund had a total expense ratio (TER) of 1.62% in 2015, compared to 1.67% in 2007. The maximum charge in the same category increased from 3.35% in 2007 to 4.76% in 2015. The minimum fee reduced quite significantly however from 1.04% to 0.44%.

Lance Solms, head of Itransact, says the reason fees remain relatively high, is because customers are not asking active managers to reduce their fees. He argues that it is easier for investors to stick to well-known brands, even if they have access to products that offer the same return at a cheaper fee.

Property and tax

In this advice column, Wendy Foley from Citadel answers questions from a reader who is selling a house that he was renting out.

Q: I bought a house in Pretoria in December 2011 for around R1.1 million. I lived there until October 2013 but then moved to Johannesburg and decided to rent it out.

I did not buy a new place in Johannesburg as I intended to move back to Pretoria eventually. With the monthly rental income I received on my Pretoria property, I paid rates and levies of around R2 000 per month, although I did not pay any municipal rates.

In time, I realised that I was not going to move back to Pretoria again and decided in February 2015 that I wanted to sell my house and found a buyer for it.

My questions relate to how all of this should be reflected in my tax return.

For the last two years I have included the rental income in my return, whilst deducting items such as interest and levies. I paid the full outstanding municipal rates of around R30 000 when I sold my house in June 2015. For the 2016 tax year, can I deduct all of the rates for the period that I was renting out the property, which is about 18 months?

Secondly, when it comes to the proceeds of the sale, am I eligible for the R2 million exemption on capital gains tax for a primary residence?

To answer all of your questions, let us first consider the tax treatment of rental income. Any rental income you receive should be added to any other taxable income you may have, and assessed in its entirety.

The taxable amount of rental income may, however, be reduced, as you may incur expenses during the period that the property was let. Only expenses incurred in the production of that rental income can be claimed. Any capital and/or private expenses won’t be allowed as a deduction.

Expenses that may be deducted from taxable income are your rates and taxes, interest on the bond, advertisements, fees paid to estate agents, homeowners insurance (not household contents), garden services, repairs in respect of the area let, and security and property levies.

It is important that maintenance and repairs should be noted as specific costs and not confused with improvement costs. Improvements are a capital expense and cannot be claimed as an expense. They can, however, be included in the base cost of the property to effectively reduce the capital gain (or loss) on the disposal of the property, for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes.

To answer your first question then, the municipal rates were paid as a lump sum amount of R30 000 in June 2015 on the sale of the house. Assuming that the property was still being let during the 2016 tax year that runs from March 2015 until February 2016, the seller would be able to deduct the full amount of R30 000 in the 2016 tax year.

What are you do after disputed debit

images-37Mounting financial burdens on consumers has led to a 54% increase in disputed debit order complaints over the past year, says the Ombudsman for Banking Services Clive Pillay.

“It is a worrying sign that so many people are cash-strapped and that so many people are over-indebted,” said Pillay.

According to data from the Payments Association of South Africa (Pasa), around 31 million debit orders amounting to R72 billion are processed per month, of which 1.2 million are unpaid and a further 170 000 are disputed.

There are two categories of debit orders: EFT debit orders, which are processed on the date chosen by consumers and mostly after normal business hours, and early debit orders, which are collected shortly after midnight and immediately after the processing of EFT credit payments such as salary payments, explained Pillay.

He said several complaints lodged with his office centre around non-authenticated early debit orders, whereby transactions are processed prior to the agreed date. Pasa data show that almost 14 million non-authenticated early debt orders worth R9 billion are processed each month, 4 million of which are unsuccessful, with 600 000 disputed.

An estimated 90% of disputed debit orders are for so-called ‘cash management’ reasons, Pillay said, citing Pasa data. “The Payments Association investigates every disputed debit order and often they are legitimate disputes, but there are also ones that are not legitimately stopped. They are done simply because you have to pay five people but you only have money to pay four, so you stop one debit order and then double it up the following month,” he said.

Consumers struggling to meet their financial commitments should approach their banks for assistance, advised Pillay.

The Code of Banking Practice commits banks to assist clients in dealing with financial difficulties. As such, banks are obliged to review their clients’ financial situation with the said clients and develop a plan to address any financial difficulties. Such a plan may include a so-called ‘payment holiday’, whereby certain payments are suspended for a three-month period, a temporary reduction in instalments or halting of interest payments, he said.

He added that such informal assistance would not lead to clients being blacklisted or being listed as a bad risk with various credit bureaus, which will have a negative impact on the client’s ability to access credit in the future.

“Access to finance is the lifeblood of industry and the individual. Without access to finance, you will be reduced to a cash existence and, if reduced to a cash existence, you will probably have a low quality of life,” he said.

Data burning a deeper hole in the pockets

In the wake of the #DataMustFall campaign, it seems that the data revolution might have a valid and legitimate plea. The campaign founders made a presentation before the Parliamentary Communications and Postal Committee on September 21 on the costs of data in the country.

According to the soon-to-be launched findings of the FinScope South Africa 2016 consumer survey, the results show that the average South African spends about 9% of their purse on airtime and data recharge, cellphone contracts, telephone lines and internet payments. The average person spends approximately R700 a month for communication-related expenses.

Parallel to the #DataMustFall campaign, which is gaining traction, is the #FeesMustFall (reloaded) campaign, which is also resurfacing in light of the announcement of an up to 8% fee increase made by the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. While university students would like to see a 0% increase, universities are requesting increases to sustain operations and fund research.

Therefore, in light of these developments and expenses, how does the purse of the South African consumer fair? The preliminary results of the FinScope 2016 survey shows that South Africans spend R688 per month on average on education.

The FinScope findings further show that South Africa’s total personal monthly consumption (PMC) expenditure in 2016 is estimated at R220 billion (monthly). On a monthly basis, the average individual spent approximately R5 400 during the period of conducting the FinScope 2016 survey. The results show that the main components of expenditure are on food (21%), transport (11%), utilities (11%) and communication, which amount to 9% of the spending purse.

Overall, individuals’ spending on education is 6% of their purse (estimated monthly spend of R12.2 billion). Further demographic analysis of the data per race showed that black communities still bear the greatest brunt of the education costs. For the average black South African, education expenses constitute 7% of their purse – this is higher compared to other races for which the purse composition for coloured, Asian, Indian and whites are at an average of 4.3% of their purse.