Category Archives: Finance

Increase your wealth

unduhan-61I am regularly asked for advice by younger people looking for a sure-fire way to build their wealth. They are often surprised when I tell them to invest more time and money in themselves and their human capital.

Historically, people who do this are likely to create significantly more wealth over their lifetime than those who don’t.

It is obvious that you need to accumulate investment assets but you also need to ensure that you earn income at an increasing rate over your career. The best way to do this is by investing in yourself.

What is human capital?

Human capital is the combination of skills, knowledge and abilities you have that will enable you to generate income over your working life. Nearly all of us have an ability to generate some income but very few people consistently invest in themselves so that they can increase their earning potential over time. According to the Federal Reserve of San Francisco, university graduates generate R16 million more income over their careers than non-graduates. This might give some context to the #feesmustfall campaign in South Africa.

If you choose to invest in yourself, you need to ensure that your skills and knowledge remain relevant and adaptable to changing economic conditions and an evolving business environment. You should regularly review whether you need to add to your skills or knowledge-base. Additionally, you need to be honest enough with yourself to be able to decide if you need to change careers if you are in a dead-end street. For instance, I would not consider newspaper printing as a long-term career option!

Specialise but not too much

Some careers reward those who specialise but one should always be careful of becoming too narrowly focused in your career. For example, deciding on an academic career researching the mating habits of albino penguins in the Southern Cape might not ensure a long-term income. However there might be less risk in being the orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in surgery of the shoulder in South Africa. Many young people strive to be a manager in a large corporate. This might be the most risky career choice one can make. Managers are essentially generalists and are often the first people to be fired in a merger or downsizing. If you plan to work in a corporate, you might do better focusing on being a revenue generator or product specialist.

Not only for academics

If you are not academically inclined or you have no interest in tech, you could always consider specialising in old world industries. There is a massive shortage of plumbers, electricians and general handymen. Now that more people work in services industries, there are many fewer people who can work with their hands. This provides an ideal opportunity for reskilling yourself if you have the inclination.

In the age of mass production and “mass specialisation” provided by the internet of things, it should not be surprising that there is a major shortage of people who can build or create objects with their hands. I believe craftsmen who can make handmade items such as furniture or master builders are in big demand. It does not surprise me that craft beer, artisanal baking and coffee are becoming major industries. More people are becoming interested in where their food and drinks are made and this includes where the ingredients are sourced. This is the type of trend that is likely to suit those with old world skills and when skills are limited and demand is increasing, your earning ability increases rapidly.

Consultant funds

Sanlam Employee Benefit’s head of special projects David Gluckman penned the following in response to a recent article published as part of a Sygnia marketing campaign.

Consistency is the only currency that matters” is a well-known slogan of one of South Africa’s leading asset managers.

At the other end of the spectrum, a new player entered the commercial umbrella fund market less than 4 months ago proudly announcing “one all-in fee as a percentage of assets under management” and illustrating projected cost savings to clients adopting this model versus the competing leading commercial umbrella funds.

Besides some fees such as costly hedge funds being over and above the so-called “one all-in fee”, importantly all these projections assumed there would be no need to separately pay for the services of a consultant. Today the message is slightly different and we should now understand that these projections were never accurate in that the true intention was always to leave “financial room for the employment of independent consultants.”

But the new player does raise some valid questions as regards the most appropriate governance model for commercial umbrella funds. These questions are important given the massive growth in this market (see graph below).

Two recent experiences highlighted to me that a very important question to explore is what will in the future be the role of the consultant in commercial umbrella funds.

  1. One highly respected independent consultant to a large book of Sanlam Umbrella Fund clients (and who also has many clients participating in other major commercial umbrella funds) raised the issue with me at our 2016 Sanlam Employee Benefits Benchmark Symposium, and said he is worried about the sustainability of his business given the increasing power of the major commercial umbrella fund sponsors.
  2. Various senior Financial Services Board officials also raised the matter in an April 2016 workshop with Sanlam Umbrella Fund representatives, essentially asking whether consultants introduce an extra and unnecessary layer of costs. They wanted to explore whether Sanlam could instead provide these advisory services thus savings costs for the ultimate clients of umbrella funds being the members.

Personal Financial advice for you

images-36In this advice column Riette Coetzee from Alexander Forbes answers a question from a reader who wants to know whether he really needs a financial advisor.

Q: I will be going on pension at the end of this year at the age of 65. I have no debt and my home is paid for.

I have been involved with four different financial advisors, but cannot get away from the exorbitant costs that are involved. I have my pension and a separate retirement annuity (RA) and about R2 million in cash which they all would love to invest for me. I am left with the impression that they could invest my money to earn about 1.5% per annum more than I could, but since their fees will be 1%, it hardly makes it worth my while.

I now seem to think that my best option is to take my R500 000 tax-free allowance from my pension and draw down the minimum of 2.5% on the rest. If I subsidise myself from my cash reserves, I can survive for the first six years of my retirement while still leaving the rest of my pension to grow. I would not even have touched my RA yet.

However I’m still wondering if I  would be better off investing the cash amount through a financial advisor?

To answer this question, we need to take a step back. Before you can decide what you want to do with your money, you need to know what you want to do with your retirement.

One person’s retirement dreams are very different from another’s. For some it is to slow down, but for others it is to do the things that your working life never allowed you to do.

At your age a financial plan should support your remaining life plan and lifestyle. Your  financial plan is one component of a flexible life plan that will need to see you through from your mid 60s into your late 90s.

Bear in mind that if you manage your investments yourself, you need to set aside the time to monitor your portfolio and be disciplined to adjust to different market conditions. You also have to keep your emotions in check when markets are volatile. These demands and complexities of successful investment management can prove challenging, even for the most informed individual investor.

People everywhere are also living longer. You therefore have to consider the long-term implications of managing risk, your money, tax and liquidity.

In addition, we live in very uncertain times. The IMF has cut South Africa’s 2016 growth forecast to 0.1%, foreign investment in the country has dipped to its lowest in ten years, a credit downgrade is still on the horizon, and there are still uncertainties around Brexit and Chinese growth, to name only a few. Getting the right financial advice to manage these risks is more important than ever.

Reality of retirement

In this advice column Robin Gibson from Harvard House answers a question from a reader who only has ten years to save up for retirement.

Q: I am 56 years old, healthy, have a reasonable job and presume I can work for the next 10 years.

I have a home which is worth about R2.5 million, with a relatively small bond. However, apart from an annuity worth about R300 000 I have no other savings.

My youngest child is almost independent, and in a couple of months time I will be able to save R10 000 per month. This amount can increase to R20 000 in the next 18 months.

How should I invest this money and how much trouble am I in?

The really important question here is the last one. In our view, any investor currently requires approximately R1 million for every R4 200 of monthly income they want before tax and after costs.

This yield is specifically constructed to provide an escalating income that keeps up with inflation. We are aware that an investor can source a fixed yield that is higher, but that would mean that it doesn’t increase in the future and progressively becomes worth less.

This also assumes that your capital will be maintained and over occasional periods will grow faster than inflation. This is important, because if you don’t have to use up your capital, how long you live and how long you need an income for become inconsequential. You could live beyond 100 and still have a secure income.

This is obviously the optimum position.

The next important question is then what to invest in to give you the best chance of building a retirement pot. The table below will demonstrate a value in today’s money of what your savings could be worth in ten years’ time. This is based on 18 months of investing R10 000 and then 102 months of putting aside R20 000 per month.

When looking at this table you have to consider that there are two key drivers that affect the investment return.

The first is cost. It may seem intuitive but it is amazing how investors are so easily duped. Costs reduce returns, and the higher the costs, the bigger their impact.

Where investors are usually fooled is that they are led to believe that their provider is somehow 25% to 30% better than the rest over a longer period. We are not so sure anyone can consistently claim that. There are good value options out there, so be cost conscious.

The second consideration is your choice of asset class. Investors hate volatility, but growth assets come with volatility. As a result, most dilute their returns with stabilising asset classes that have no track record of beating inflation over longer periods.

If you want to achieve returns of well above inflation, you therefore have to be prepared to live with short-term volatility. That means investing in products that predominantly hold growth assets such as equity and listed property.

Finally, something the reader has not specified is their expectations in retirement. Probably the biggest hurdle we face with individuals about to retire, is that they want to continue their current lifestyle with very limited resources.

In this particular instance, you should consider the possibility of downscaling and modifying your lifestyle to unlock the capital in your home. This will both provide more capital and potentially lower your required income.

what you will do after retirement

Traditionally, the focus of every financial plan was retirement. Everything was built around the day that you have to leave formal employment at the age of 60 or 65.

However, more and more people are having to ask what happens next. In a time when life expectancy is steadily increasing, the idea of throwing away your briefcase and putting your feet up to live out your ‘golden years’ in peace and quiet is looking increasingly less appealing, and less practical.

For a start, there is little point in retiring ‘to do nothing’. Many retirees find that they are actually busier than they were during the working lives, but the difference is that they can do what they enjoy.

“We are finding more and more people who are re-thinking retirement,” says Kirsty Scully from CoreWealth Managers. “In most cases, they have been professionals in their careers and they want to stay employed to continue with their personal and professional growth and development, yet they don’t want a typical work schedule. They are looking for flexible working arrangements so as to have a good balance between work and leisure.”

Wouter Dalhouzie from Verso Wealth says that from both a mental and physical well-being point of view, it is important for retirees to keep themselves occupied.

“I had a client whose health started failing shortly after retirement,” he says. “He started a little side-line business and his health immediately improved. When he retired from doing that, his health went downhill and he passed away within a matter of months.”

Verso Wealth’s Allison Harrison adds that she recently attended a presentation that discussed how important it is for people to remain active. “The speaker explained that if we don’t continue using our faculties, we lose them as part of the normal ageing process,” Harrison says. “The expression she used was ‘use it, or lose it’!”

When you withdraw your retirement benefit

In this advice column Beata Carstens from Veritas Wealth answers a question from a reader who is thinking of withdrawing his pension.

Q: I am 39 years old and have worked for the public service for just over 11 years. I am considering resigning because I want to further my studies for the next three years.

My current retirement fund value is R947 113.

How much will they tax me if I take this out and how best can I invest it?

The short answer to your question is that you will be paying R191 820.51 tax on a retirement fund value of R947 113. In other words, 20.25% of your retirement benefit will be paid to the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

How this is calculated is that your capital will be taxed on a sliding scale. The first R25 000 is tax free, the next R635 000 will be taxed at 18% and the balance will be taxed at 27%. Although not relevant in this instance, any amount over R990 000 would be taxed at 36%.

However, you can avoid this tax entirely by transferring the benefit to a preservation fund. This is an option you should seriously consider.

A preservation fund works in the same way as a retirement fund, except that you don’t have to keep contributing to it. You will be able to make one withdrawal from this fund before your retirement date, but otherwise you won’t be able to access the money until you turn 55.

Once you retire from the fund, the first R500 000, less any amount you have already withdrawn, will be paid out tax free. At this point you can withdraw up to one third of the capital as a lump sum if you like, but the rest must be used to arrange a monthly income during retirement. You will be taxed on your monthly income according to Sars income tax tables.

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.