Monthly Archives: December 2016

Good investment in the short term

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.

Data burning a deeper hole in the pockets of South Africans

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.

Furthermore, as one analyses the data further, it shows that nearly 12 million black South Africans spend more than 10% of their purse on education-related expenses. This is further exacerbated when noting that the average income per month is R4 723, R6 294, R12 265 and R17 123 for black, coloured, Indian and white South Africans respectively. As such, the cost of education places a heavier burden on black South Africans.

Property and bonds

Old Mutual Investment Group sees domestic equities, property and bonds delivering higher returns in 2017, on the back of improving economic prospects.

It expects peaking interest rates and inflation in South Africa to create a positive environment for interest rate sensitive assets such as domestic property and bonds.  It sees inflation averaging at 5.4% in 2017 compared with 6.3% in 2016 and the benchmark repurchase rates falling to 6.5% by the end of 2017, down from 7% currently.

According to Peter Brooke, head of Old Mutual Investment Group’s MacroSolutions Boutique the 13.5% return on domestic bonds year-to-date as at November 24 2016 is artificially high due to an oversold bond market.

Instead, he said SA cash – with a 6.8% return in rand terms – is the best performing local asset class thus far. SA listed property delivered returns of 4% and the FTSE-JSE Share Weighted Index (SWIX) returned 2.5% over the same period.

After starting the year with the highest level of cash in its fund ever, the group is seeing more opportunities in equities as the domestic equity market de-rates.

“We’re not at the stage where the JSE is cheap yet. It is on a 13x forward but it does offer a real return in the region of 5%. We’re not back to levels that we have enjoyed for the last 100 years of around 6.5% but value is starting to incrementally rebuild,” he said.

As a result, the group upped its long term expected real returns on SA equities from 4.5% to 5% and SA property from 5% to 5.5%.

Business with bonus money

Q: A lucky investment some years ago is bearing fruit. Last year, I effectively got a 13th cheque from dividends, and I expect similar this year.

Instead of blowing it again, I was hoping to put it somewhere that will pay me a monthly income, maybe over two years. What is available out there that can serve this purpose?

 

A lot of people who get a bonus or once off additional income for whatever reason, tend to ‘blow it’ as you have pointed out. It is therefore a very good idea to try to think of better things to do with the money. I would, however, suggest that you consider not only your immediate or short term needs but also the long term potential of any extra income you receive – no matter how small.

If you have a need for extra monthly income, which might be the case if you are currently using a credit card or overdraft because your expenses are close to or more than your current monthly income, then I support your idea of putting the money in a vehicle that will allow you to supplement your income for the next two years.

A two year term, however, is a very short time horizon for an investment and I assume you intend to be drawing the full amount over the two years. In other words, you will be left with nothing at the end.

If so, you will need access to the money and very little, if any, risk. With these constraints in mind, I would suggest either multi-asset income unit trusts – the top funds produce between 8% and 10% per annum historically – or a bank savings, call or money market account with cash immediately available. These bank accounts produce between 5.5% and 7.5% per annum, depending on the amount.

Let’s use an example and say the amount is R50 000. If you can achieve returns of 10% per annum for the next two years, this will produce an income of R2 307 per month for 24 months before being depleted. At 7% per annum, the monthly amount will be R2 194 per month, so there is only a small difference, which means it is probably not worth taking the extra risk.

The question is whether you actually need additional income or if you are just going to be spending it over 24 months instead of one month. If you don’t really have a requirement for the additional income, you may want to consider investing the amount for a longer term so that it can produce even more for you.

You could consider putting the money into a tax-free savings account or retirement annuity (RA). By contributing to an RA, you would be reducing your taxable income. This means you could get something more back from the South African Revenue Service next year, depending on what retirement contributions you are already making.

Let’s use the same R50 000 we used for the example above and assume that you are below the maximum deductible contributions to your retirement funding. This is currently 27.5% of your remuneration or taxable income, or R350 000 per annum, whichever is lower.