Keeps on giving

This time of year sees both children and adults preparing their wish-lists for the upcoming festive season. But as many South Africans continue to grapple with rising debt, now is a good time to shift the focus from giving material items to providing future financial well-being.

Giving a child an investment as a gift will not only promote a culture of saving from a young age, but will also show them how you can make money grow.

There’s a powerful story of one customer’s commitment to leave a legacy for his family, and the value of sound financial advice. In November 1968, a customer made an initial deposit of  R400 into the Old Mutual Investors’ Fund and 48 years later, his investment is today worth over R600 000.

More precious than the value of his money, however, was the culture of saving and the legacy that he passed on to his children and grandchildren. On special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays, he invested a set amount of money on his children’s or grandchildren’s behalf. With this investment, his daughter was able to provide for her daughter’s schooling.

If South Africa is to develop a generation of financially savvy adults, it is crucial to not just talk about it, but actually practise good money habits. It is important to teach your children about money, and the festive season – with the spirit of giving – is a good time of the year for parents to set a good example. Teach your children about the importance of giving within your means, as well as showing them the value of relaxing with family and rewinding after a long, hard year, while respecting the value of hard-earned money.

Families should consider starting a financial tradition of their own. Set a reasonable budget for gift giving this festive season, and instead of spending all your money on gifts that are likely to fade, go missing or be forgotten, speak to your financial adviser about starting an investment in the name of your children.

When children become old enough to understand more about money management, parents should involve them in the process. Teach them the principle of compound interest and explain why putting money away today means they will have more money tomorrow. Help them set a budget for the money they’ll receive over the festive season, encouraging them to spend a smaller percentage today, and investing the rest for the future.

Here are various ways you can give a gift that keeps on giving long after the hype of the festive period has subsided:

  1. Start saving for your children’s education: A hotly debated topic this year, the cost of education is something that needs to be saved towards and planned for. Opening an account and allocating money to it each month can help you fund your children’s future education.
  1. Life-starter fund: Every parent dreams of having the power to provide their children with the necessities in life, but in reality, this isn’t always possible. Setting up an investment and adding to it each year, even just a small contribution of R500, will enable you to provide your children with a lump sum that they can use as a deposit for their first car or deposit on a house.

Parents to save for their kids

With the start of 2017 looming, many parents may have started to consider the cost of their children’s school and tuition fees for the next school year. While families have a number of financial commitments to attend to every month, this is the time of year where school funds are often moved to the top priority to ensure that the family is financially prepared for the expenses that accompany a new school year.

Saving for a child’s education requires careful consideration and proper planning.

Here are some tips below for parents to ensure that they have planned appropriately for their children’s education costs:

Start early

Parents should start saving for their children’s education as soon as they possibly can. Many people do not consider, or are not aware of, the great advantages of compound interest, and how accumulated savings grow over several years when invested properly. By investing from an early age, parents will eliminate the financial worry of not having sufficient funds to give their children the best education possible, as the funds in their investment will grow every year.

Automate savings

The best way for parents to ensure they are regularly contributing towards their children’s education is to open a dedicated savings account and set up a monthly debit order. This way the parents will automatically save money every month towards this cause. However, they must have a strict rule in place to never withdraw any money from this account if it is not related to the child’s education.

Explore ways to get discounts

It is advisable to do some research and contact schools to find out whether they offer financial incentives that could result in long-term savings. Many schools offer a discount if the fees are paid as a once-off amount in advance. Some also offer a reduction when there is more than one child attending the school. These types of savings can make a big difference over an 18-year period.

Include education funding in the financial plan

It is important that parents include education funding in their overall financial plan. These expenses have to be accounted for as part of the monthly household expenses to determine how it will affect the family’s overall financial position. When it comes to developing financial plans, it is usually a good idea to consult a reputable financial planner who will be able to develop a solution for the client to ensure that they have provided sufficiently for their children’s tuition fees and related education expenses.

With the cost of education increasing every year, parents are faced with increased expenses for the privilege of sending their children to school. School fees are a big financial commitment, but with the right advice, families do not have to see this expense as a financial burden.

Applications affect your credit score

There is a view among many South African consumers that applying for a bond at more than one bank will have negative consequences. The belief is that these enquiries will impact on your credit score and therefore hurt your chances of getting a loan or push up its cost if you are successful.

Many people only apply at their own bank for just this reason. They think that they are taking a risk if they shop around.

This raises some obvious concerns. After all, you are only exercising your rights as a consumer to compare prices, so why should you be penalised for it?

Footprinting

What is a given is that every time you apply for a loan of any sort, this will be recorded on your credit profile. This is called footprinting, and credit providers may use this information to assess you.

“Credit providers consider a multitude of factors when vetting applications for credit, one of which would be demand for certain types of credit,” explains David Coleman, the head of analytics at Experian South Africa. “A sudden surge in demand for unsecured or short term credit, linked with signs of stress building on indebtedness and repayment capacity of the consumer, would result in the credit provider taking a more cautious approach in extending further credit to such a consumer.”

However, short term credit is not the same as long term credit like a home loan in this regard. In fact, Nedbank says that it views multiple applications for a bond made at the same time as a single enquiry.

The head of credit for FNB retail, Hannalie Crous explains that they also make a distinction:

“From an FNB perspective we do not look at number of bureau enquiries pertaining to home loans as a key determinant of a credit score,” she says. “The handful of credit bureau enquires associated with a bond application will have no effect, however  a consistent trend indicating that a consumer is taking on multiple loans could influence the outcome of a credit application.”

Not all bureaus will see you the same

In other words, the banks don’t see it as a negative if you shop around for a bond. A number of credit bureaus approached by Moneyweb also took the same line, although with a caveat:

“Each credit bureau and each credit provider that has their own in-house score will score consumers using their own criteria,” says Michelle Dickens, the MD of TPN. “It’s not a one size fits all. As a result there will be a higher weighting towards different aspects of data that will improve or decline the ultimate overall score.”

Thought about what yo 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’!”

She relates the story of a retiree who had been in construction his entire working life.

“After a year in retirement, he decided to buy a second home, renovate it and sell it,” Harrison says. “This was very successful, so he decided to repeat the exercise using his primary residence.  This yielded a bigger return than the first one and thereafter then moved from house to house, renovating, selling and moving on.”

This way he ended up making more money in his 20 years of retirement then he did in his 40 year building career.

Paying too much in bank charges

In South Africa’s somewhat peculiar banking system, monthly charges for transactional accounts are a given. But is the few hundred rand you’re paying per month (if you’re lucky!) the best possible deal?

The first question you need to answer is whether you value having a ‘platinum’ or ‘private clients’ account with all the “value-adds” these offer?

Things like lounge access, bundled credit cards and a ‘personal’ banker are must-haves for some in the upper middle market. On the other end of the scale are basic, no-frills bank accounts (like Capitec’s Global One (and the clones from the other major banks)), but the truth is that most people need something a little more comprehensive than that. There’s likely a home loan, almost certainly vehicle finance and definitely a credit card.

So, do you need a ‘platinum’ (Premier/Prestige/Savvy Bundle)-type account? Do you actually use or need those value-adds? Or, do you enjoy the ‘status’ of having a platinum or black credit card? (Here, emotion – and ego – comes into the equation….)

This is an important question to answer, because the difference in bank charges between a more vanilla bundle account and ‘platinum’ is easily 50%!

While banks try to shoehorn you into product categories based on your salary or profession, there’s nothing stopping you from moving to another product (or refusing those ‘upgrades’). From a personal perspective, the only reason I have an FNB Premier (i.e. platinum) account (not gold) is because I do actually make use of the ‘free’, albeit diminishing, Slow Lounge access. And, the eBucks rewards I earn on this account are the most lucrative of the lot, based on the products I use, my transaction habits and spending patterns. (‘Upgrading’ to Private Clients is a mugs game because the thresholds for ‘earning’ rewards are significantly higher, to match one’s status and earnings, of course!)

Once you’ve answered this question – which is more important than most people realise – the next step is to figure out whether a bundled account or pay-as-you-transact one makes the most sense. Most of us enjoy not having to ‘worry’, so we readily sign up for the all-in-one package without actually understanding the differences in pricing.

Financial kick in the pants

  • Prepare an itemised list of all your expenses and divide the expenses into Group A, being fixed expenses, such as car repayments, other debts and payments you are contractually bound to pay monthly. Other discretionary expenses you are able to reduce or even cancel without suffering any negative legal or financial consequences such as entertainment, clothing, cable TV should be included in a Group B.Select certain Group B expenses you wish to reduce or stop [that gym subscription?), do so and allocate extra payments to shorten the outstanding payment periods (and reduce the interest payable) of Group A expenses or start a small rainy day account for those unexpected financial surprises. Which expenses should be reduced and in what order of priority will depend upon circumstances such as interest rates, tax deductibility, outstanding payment periods and so on. Always a good idea to consult a professional to assist you in making the correct decision.
  • Make an appointment with your financial planner to verify whether your life, disability, dread disease and accident benefits are adequate or surplus to your needs and whether recent product developments have resulted in more cost efficient and/or comprehensive cover being available at the same or at a cheaper cost to you. Planners are, today, required to provide you with comprehensive comparative information to provide you with the peace of mind that you are making a decision that is in your best interest.
  • Create a filing system (whether it be a lever arch file or a folder on your desktop for emailed documentation) for all your financial records such bank or credit card statements, accounts and invoices. This will save an enormous amount of time when a payment is in dispute. If you have other important legal documents, why not also save these using a similar format?
  • Request your short term broker to review your insurance to ensure that your house, car and other property is sufficiently insured against damage or loss.
  • You will have, in all probability, already made a decision as to your medical aid plan for 2017. Speak to the medical aid consultant about so-called Gap cover to meet any possible shortfalls you may experience in the event of a medical emergency. These plans are relatively inexpensive and worth consideration.

Give your children a financial head start

Many parents find it very difficult to talk to their children about money. Either the topic is seen as too sensitive or they just feel that they don’t know enough to give good advice.

However, the worst lesson that any parent could ever give a child about money is not talking about it. Children learn the most from the example that they are set, and that is why it is so important to show that money is not something to be scared of or anxious about it. It is something that should be made to work for you.

This is why it is best to expose children to the idea of saving sooner rather than later. From a young age they should see that they can have control over their money.

Here are three easy ways to get them thinking the right way about saving:

Give presents that mean something

Of course children love toys and having something to play with, but not every present they receive has to give them instant gratification. Putting money in a unit trust or stock broking account might not sound like the most exciting gift in the world, but it can be very rewarding.

For a start, it gives them some sense of having their own savings and some money of their own to look after. Over time, it’s also the best way to teach them about different savings products, asset classes, and things like interest and dividends, as they can see for themselves how they work.

A low-cost online stock broking account could even allow them to make their own decisions about what stocks to invest in. At an early age their decisions are not likely to be influenced by rigorous analysis, but they can still invest in companies that they know something about.

For instance, if they like eating at Spur, why not show them that they can actually buy a part of that company? Or if you always do your shopping at Pick n Pay, let them buy the stock. Over time, the likelihood is that their interest will grow in how these businesses work, how they generate earnings, and what being a shareholder means. This will eventually lead them to making more informed decisions about their investments.

Involve them in their own savings

If you are saving for your child’s education, are they aware of it? Do they know that you are putting away money every month, where it is going, and what it is for?

Explaining to your children that you are saving for their future allows for you to have a discussion around why it’s important to do this and how it works. Not only will this give them some sense that they can’t just take things for granted, but it also gets them thinking about the importance of financial planning.

Think of their future before they do

The earlier your children start saving for retirement, the less they will need to save. One of the biggest impacts you can make on their future financial well-being is therefore to start for them.

Plan to present your child with a lump sum on their 18th or 21st birthdays, either in their own tax-free account or placed in a retirement funding vehicle. You may not think you are contributing much, but just R10 000 will grow to nearly R1 million over 45 years at a compound growth rate of 10% per year. That is a worthwhile boost to their future retirement, and will also get them thinking about their financial future as soon as they enter the working world.

If you do this in a retirement annuity (RA), they will not be able to access the money until they are at least 55, which will ensure that it is kept for what it is meant for. However, if you believe that they will be disciplined it makes more sense to use a tax-free savings account. This is because over such a long period the benefits of a tax-free savings account will likely be greater, and you can also invest fully in growth assets like equities, while an RA will have to meet the restrictions of Regulation 28.

As with all savings, the earlier you start planning for this, the better. If you put away just R100 every month from the day your child is born, you would have saved R21 600 by the time they reach 18. If this portfolio grows at 10% per year, you could present them with over R60 000.

It is possible to do this through a tax-free savings account from the start, as you can open an account in your child’s name. It doesn’t, however, make as much sense to open an RA for them while they are still children, as nobody will gain any benefit from the tax deductible contributions. If you want to give them money in an RA, invest in a unit trust until the point where you want to give them the lump sum, and then transfer it into an RA once they are income-earning adults and will benefit from the tax deduction.

The best deal on your personal cheque account

Bank charges are the bane of many customers.

The latest report by the Solidarity Research Institute shows that increased competition among the nation’s banks appears to be driving fees down. But increased financial pressure on consumers means charges, albeit lower, can still be a significant burden.

So, how do you get the best possible deal on your personal cheque account?

Negotiate your bank charges

There is no law or code regulating the negotiation of bank charges. But Advocate Clive Pillay, the Ombudsman for Banking Services, says the charges levied on ordinary cheque accounts can be fully negotiated.

“In the case of a ‘big account’ with much activity and a reasonable balance, a bank would be more likely to negotiate a reduced rate, to retain the customer, than it would in the case of ‘a small account’, with little activity, such as a salary deposit each month and a number of withdrawals during the course of the month with a very low balance,” he told Moneyweb.

However, it is important to note that the bank can refuse to negotiate lower rates by “exercising their commercial discretion,” says Pillay. In which cases, customers can do little but switch banks, provided the new bank offers lower rates.

If that fails, there are other relatively simple ways to save money on bank charges.

Make sure your account suits your needs

Some banks offer two types of basic cheque accounts: bundles and pay-as you-transact accounts. Depending on the amount of activity on your account, one option may prove more cost-effective than the other.

Bundles, offered by the big four banks, comprise fixed monthly fees for a package of transactions including finite cash deposits and withdrawals, and oftentimes unlimited electronic transactions and notifications. Any transactions which breach the bundle limits are typically charged on as pay-as-you-transact (PAYT) basis.

The PAYT charges – offered by Absa and Standard Bank – include a minimum monthly service and additional fees per transaction. Capitec’s sole account option, the Global One Account is a PAYT account.

Taxation questions answered

Q: My son has been working in Hong Kong for the last nine years. He remitted R3 million to South Africa over a few years to build a property here. He has not emigrated formally and has not submitted any tax returns to the South African Revenue Service (Sars) for nine years.

In 2008, my son requested that his tax practitioner contact Sars to terminate his tax number as he was going overseas. He was under the impression that all was in order. He has a bank loan of R3 million in South Africa, secured by a property worth R6 million. He tried to repatriate some of the funds back to Hong Kong but Sars would not issue a clearance certificate. He also tried to apply for a clearance certificate to invest the R2 million offshore but Sars insisted on him submitting tax returns for the last nine years. He has since applied for and been granted a Hong Kong passport and has relinquished his South African residency and citizenship.

As he is no longer a South African resident or citizen, we would like to know how his property investment in South Africa will be treated, i.e. will this investment and his funds be blocked in South Africa forever, or will he be permitted to move some funds out the country in future without having to submit tax returns to Sars for the past 9 years?

A: South African taxes are based on residency, which becomes extremely important when determining what taxes are due. Although your son has relinquished his South African passport and citizenship in favour of Hong Kong and no longer resides in SA, he has a property in SA and remains a registered taxpayer with the South African Revenue Service and has not formally emigrated. Sars views this as “world-wide wanderings” with the intention to return to South Africa at some stage. The fact your son purchased a property in South Africa whilst in Hong Kong reaffirms this.

Your son would need to look at the South African residency test  –“ordinarily resident” which must be interpreted under our common law and suggests that you are “ordinarily resident” in the place you would regard as your permanent “home” … the place you would tend to return to after your world-wide wanderings. Therefore if you left SA with the intention to come back after a period of time, you would still be “ordinarily resident” in South Africa and subject to world-wide tax in South Africa, no matter how long you lived “temporarily abroad”.

Fortunately foreign earnings from employment will be exempt from taxation in SA provided you are out of the country in aggregate of more than 183 days, of which more than 60 days were continuous. However, all your other income and any capital gains would be subject to taxation in South Africa, even if taxed in the country where you are living. You will get some relief from double taxation only if the country in which you live has a Double Tax Agreement with South Africa.

Therein lies the issue and why Sars will not issue a tax clearance certificate, especially as his tax returns for the last nine years have not been submitted.

Although your son has been working in Hong Kong for the last nine years, earning an income and paying his taxes in Hong Kong, he was at the same time still registered as a taxpayer at Sars. As long as he remains a registered taxpayer with Sars he is still obliged to submit tax returns annually irrespective of the fact that he was not earning an income in SA, and would only become a non-resident taxpayer once he formally emigrates.

However, as he has an asset in SA being the property he purchased, and due to SA exchange controls, I suggest he remains a taxpayer to allow flexibility to move these assets at a later stage should he wish to do so.

South Africa’s current exchange controls allow for individual taxpayers to transfer up to R10 million per annum offshore with a tax clearance certificate and R1 million per annum without tax clearance as part of your annual travel allowance or gifts and entertainment.

This in effect means that your son can move R1 million out of the country every calendar year without any tax clearance required.

However, any amount above R1 million would require an application to Sars for tax clearance. Assuming your son was not earning any income from the property or any other source of income in SA over the last nine years, he could simply submit nil tax returns for every year, bringing his tax returns up to date which in turn should solve his problem and to ensure Sars issues the required tax clearance certificate for his offshore investment.