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Financial Freedom

in Asset classes, Financial Advisory Leave a comment
The Facts and the myths

The latest advertising buzzword and tag line you’re hearing from large FSPs is ‘Financial Freedom’ – in their case it usually means either taking out loads of credit so you can ‘live your dream’ aka living beyond your means, or investing with them on their mediocre high-fee platforms. What is true financial freedom?

No more debt: If you have debt your assets are under threat from the vagaries of the economy, your job and rising interest rates. Some debt, of course, is almost unavoidable, Mortgage bonds for example. This is also the ‘cheapest’ debt, unless of course car sales are down and inventories building, in which case those manufacturers will often lure you in with ultra-low interest rates – on new cars only of course (which devalue 25% the second you drive them off the forecourt). If you default on your mortgage you’re going to be royally scr*wed by the bank, whose only interest is getting back the value of their loan. Before you take out a loan, think through a couple of ‘what ifs’; What if interest rates go up 25%; What if one of us can’t work?; What if I/my spouse loses their job?; What if my business fails? A house is not an ‘investment’ in the traditional sense – it does two things – caps the ‘rent’ you pay which will rise and fall at the interest rate level not at 10% per annum. Secondly it ‘replaces’ the need to pay rent in your retirement years. In effect, it is part of your retirement plan. If you really want this ‘investment’ to work, buy once and live in it forever. If you absolutely must, move, sell the house yourself, it really is not rocket science and you’ll save tens, if not hundreds of thousands. Your investment is still going to be nastily eroded by transfer duty though so do the math before you move just because you’re bored or trying to make a ‘good impression’. If you look like you might get underwater on your bond, get ahead of the curve and sell before the bank gets hold of it.

Nest egg: One of the best ways to be financially free is to insulate yourself from the ups and downs of the economy and life by having ‘liquidity’. An emergency fund of at least 3 months family expenses is just the bare minimum. Until your retirement pot is full, you may need to take out some life/disability cover to create liquidity for your family in case you die or are disabled prematurely. Don’t go overboard on the ‘Life insurance’ to leave a legacy for your kids, that premium would be far better spent in investment, and leave them a legacy from investments, not life insurance. Don’t mix investment an life insurance (your premiums back if you don’t claim nonsense). If you’re married, make sure that both spouses have liquidity available, this also makes sense from a tax perspective.

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Caught in the middle

in Behavioural finance, Financial Advisory, Financial Coach Leave a comment
inthe middle
Surviving financially in the sandwich generation

Change is inevitable, but not always pleasant. Pre-retirees are finding that they are not only supporting adult children (sometimes even grandchildren) but their parents as well, neither of which was planned for. There are some fundamental changes to the norms and values in society that are causing these changes. Youngsters are waiting longer to marry, but cannot necessarily afford to move into their own home – or would rather live ‘rent-free’ and spend their money elsewhere. Marriages are failing at an unprecedented rate, and these split families can often not go it alone on one income. The incidence of ‘single parents’ is at the highest level ever. There is also the demographic issue that retirees are living longer, often much longer than they ever have and their retirement funds often run out, so they have to fall back on their children for support.

Whatever the reasons, at a time those would-be empty nesters should be ‘accumulating’ retirement funds, and have the mortgage bond paid off, they are having to incur expenses both to look after children and parents, both of which can have a devastating effect on their own pensions. There is no doubt that this trend will continue, and as longevity really kicks in, could get even worse.

This pressure of being financially sandwiched between children and parents needs to be planned for – both financially and emotionally. There are also some ‘soft skill’ changes that you can start implementing that don’t usually fall under the ambit of financial advice, but quite frankly they should.
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The Curse of Longevity

in Asset classes, Financial Advisory, Retirement funding Leave a comment
longevity
What if your money disappears before you do?

It is wonderful that modern medicine not only saves many young lives that even 50 years ago would have been lost, but it is extending our life expectancy out into the nineties. Many of us can expect to see not our grandchildren grow, but our great-grandchildren too (unless the continued postponement of birth into the late thirties continues of course). For years financial planners assumed that most people would only live twenty years past retirement at age 65, but that is no longer true, and this assumption is now out by a good ten, if not 15 or 20 years (for people who are currently in their forties). This radical change in our reality needs a complete rethink when it comes to investing for retirement and how we plan for an income in retirement.

Let’s look at some of the implications of living longer:

  • Governments and companies are already pushing out the pensionable age to take the burden off the State. If you’ve been winding down in anticipation of retirement, suddenly having to push that out another couple of years is not fun.
  • The income purchasing power for your retirement funds has to be maintained through the whole of life after retirement. This isn’t a simple matter of keeping up with inflation, because some key expenses that are vital as you get older, like health care, have been increasing faster than inflation for the last two decades, so it is reasonable to assume it will continue to do so. The cost of energy is also increasing above inflation.
  • Past age 80, one often needs additional care and that can double the monthly income requirement. There is more than one way to plan for this but it is going to expensive and needs to be considered.
  • The older you get, the greater the chance that you will get a severe illness that will require expenses over and above medical aid, who lamentably decrease in benefits every year. This requires additional capital/income or payments toward a risk premium to cover those expenses, and the foresight to get into those products while we are still healthy.
  • Your capital in your retirement fund may have to last double the time that was assumed when you started your planning, and if you’re closing into retirement accumulating more may just not be possible. If you work for a company that has a pensionable age, you could be forced out whether you like it or not. Starting a new career as a ‘pensioner’ is difficult.
  • If you get close to retirement and it becomes clear that your pension pot is just not big enough you have a few options:- You can keep on working longer, put away more of your current income, take less at retirement and use smart asset allocation to ensure your capital is going to yield an income for the whole of your life.

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So you want to be an entrepreneur?

in Behavioural finance, Business Assurance, Financial Advisory, Financial Plan Leave a comment

frame style=”clip” align=”center” full_width=”false”]risk entrepreneur

Hidden traps waiting for unsuspecting entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs, especially if they haven’t been cursed with climbing the corporate ladder or an MBA, have some unique challenges when navigating the field of personal and small business risk and finance. Perhaps it’s that fearless spirit and boundless confidence that will guarantee your success, but “jump and build your wings on the way down” sometimes ends in a bloody mess at the bottom. A bit of homework on wing design and jumping with the right tools would have prevented that – and the same goes for that entrepreneurial venture you dream about.

Test your idea: Unless you’re buying a franchise, a new venture usually starts with an idea, and with a product (which could be a service of course). It is important to iron out at least some of the bugs before you sink too much money into the venture. Who is your target market? What are their expectations? How much are they prepared to pay for the product? What after sales service do they expect? How often will they buy your product? How can you retain their loyalty? Don’t let a poor product sink your venture before it even starts.

Everyone needs to ‘maak’ a plan: Seat of the pants ventures or bootstrapping your way through the early years probably works a charm in your early twenties when you don’t have obligations, not so much later on. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is to buy into the fallacy that business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, business qualifications are all bureaucratic nonsense designed to kill your dreams. Dreams and visions are all very well, but unless you know what your “break-even” is for example – and when you might achieve that dream – then it can become a nightmare. The good news is that all this information is freely available on the net, in books and online courses. Do all that homework and put your plan together before you leave your day job. If you’re ‘between jobs’ then use the time to do this homework, but keep looking for a job, even if it as a temp, Uber driver or from your rented room while you rent out your house. Money to launch your venture is hard enough to come by without spending it doing the homework and learning basic business skills.

Who are your clients going to be and how are you going to get them? This is key to any venture’s success. If you’re starting a business very similar to your ‘day job’ tread carefully, if you cannibalise their clients or copy their products, you might spend a chunk of your change in court. Brushing up on social media marketing and building your potential network takes time and trail and error as you find out what works and what doesn’t. You can also use social media to test your product or use free tools like Survey Monkey

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Life Cover Hacks

in Disability, Dread Disease, Financial Advisory, Life cover Leave a comment
arum

Secrets from an insider

‘Life Cover’ is probably one of the major grudge purchases a working age adult will make, and once you start adding other benefits it can become really pricey. Here are some hints and tips so you can make sure you’re getting what you expect, without paying the earth now – or in the future.

‘Life Cover’ insurance is made up of 3 major components – Life, Disability and Dread Disease but is all classified as ‘life’ cover because the insurance company has to have a ‘life license’ to offer them.. There are a few ancillary benefits like funeral cover, retrenchment cover etc., but these are all still classified as ‘Life Cover’. This might sound like semantics but some gap covers have fallen foul of this definition and are having to remove ‘life’ benefits like cancer lump sums.

Actual ‘life cover’ – cover that pays out if you die, need not be for life. If you take it for a defined period (called ‘termed cover’) and not for life you will be able to save money. First prize is if you can increase this without underwriting at a later stage if you still need it.

At the very core Life cover should cover your debts, liabilities plus the cost of getting your children financially independent. If you have agreed to allow your life partner to be a financial dependant on you for life, then his/her costs for the rest of their life needs to be factored in too (and you may need cover ‘for life’.) If you don’t keep on increasing your debt (smart), life cover should decrease and not increase every year.

Life cover is pretty simple, either you’re dead or you aren’t. Dread disease is slightly more difficult but there are now global standards of severity. Disability is a nightmare – be very careful which provider you choose. (Use an Independent Financial advisor who can get you a variety of quotes from different providers).

It is possible, in fact often preferable, to use different providers for the different ‘life’ benefits so that you get the ‘best of breed’.

Life cover can be bought purely on cost, as long as there are no nasty surprises in small print (read the general and specific exclusions paragraph carefully before signing.) When getting comparative quotes ask for projected premium increases on level or age-rated premiums and compare them side by side or graph them. The differences will shock you. By all means get a quote from a call centre life company – their premiums are usually a good 20% above the lowest premium from one of the big providers (and almost always age rated). Someone has to pay for all those TV ads – don’t make it you. Always get a comparative quote if you’ve decided to DIY and read all the small print and graphically plot the premium increases.

If you’re lured by the ‘cash back’ promises of some Life companies be aware that this is not free. Get a quote before and after the ‘cash back’ and compare it to investing the money yourself. Remember, if you cancel the cover or have to claim you lose that benefit, if you’ve invested it you won’t.

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Trusted Professional – Another meaningless title?

in Financial Advisory Leave a comment
white-or-yellow

Is a Financial Planner a professional? – you decide.

The adjective ‘Trusted Professional’ is popping up all over the place. I guess people think it adds some sort of gold seal of approval but very often it is nonsense. It is also not helpful to throw the baby out with the bathwater and besmirch every professional who isn’t a doctor or lawyer as neither trustworthy nor a professional. There is some debate as to whether Financial Advisory and Planning is a profession or not, so instead of tearing into the fray, let’s look at the history and description of professions and professionals.
Contrary to popular opinion, the ‘oldest profession’ (prostitution) is not really a profession at all … or is it? But I digress…
Historically (and now we are going back hundreds of years) there were only 3 recognised ‘learned’ professions, Divinity, Medicine and Law – and they persist today, albeit with some novel interpretations including the use of insecticide instead of holy water.
There appears to be a defined route that an occupation needs to take to get to the ‘profession’. According to Wikipedia (HERE) it goes like this:

  1. An occupation becomes a full-time occupation
  2. The establishment of a training school
  3. The establishment of a university school
  4. The establishment of a local association
  5. the establishment of a national association
  6. the introduction of codes of professional ethics
  7. the establishment of state licensing laws

Surveying was the next to join the list, followed by medicine, actuarial science, law, dentistry, civil engineering, logistics, architecture and accounting. By 1900 other professions had been added, most notably: pharmacy, veterinary medicine, psychology, nursing, teaching, librarianship, optometry and social work. As you can see all of these professions have followed the above pathway to professionalism.
Financial Planning and Advisory has followed that path too, so calling it a profession is correct. Of course, unless an individual goes through this process and gets qualified and certified be or she will remain a “Broker”, a noble occupation but not really a profession, just like a Bookkeeper is not considered a professional but a Charted Accountant is.

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