Goodwill to all: a closer look at ESG stock options

Swiss banks hold a certain cachet about knowing good from bad investments, and currently the hottest topic on their lips are ESG funds.

ESG stock options – or, rather, ‘Environmental, Social and Governance sustainability’ – have been steadily gaining traction among investors in the last few months, emerging into something of a buzzword.

Once considered a ‘hippie tree-hugging’ concept, ESG funds are having a moment in the sun (hopefully a sustained moment…). And, in December, they’re likely to have more of a moment still. After all, this is the season of charity and goodwill to all. Wouldn’t it be nice to ensure that our investments were in line with ethical corporate behaviour and preserving our planet?

But ESG investing is far more than just putting money behind nice people. It can make sound financial sense too, according to the big players.

Expert opinion

For Marriott’s Dividend Growth Fund, which has a solid track record, it’s less about ESG for ESGs sake and more about the fact that companies synonymous with sustainability practises and good governance tend to also have more solid predictors of success in the market.

“Marriott’s investment team monitors and reports on ESG issues on a regular basis. An area of particular importance to Marriott relates to company reporting and disclosures. Companies with a reputation for withholding important shareholder information will not be considered for inclusion in a portfolio as the future prospects of these businesses cannot be determined with a high degree of certainty. Companies which take advantage of ill-informed consumers are also immediately excluded, not only from an ethical standpoint, but also due to the unsustainability of exploitative business models. The Marriott team also carefully consider environmental initiatives undertaken by companies to ensure their products and future business prospects are sustainable.

“Studies have shown that companies which pay, and grow, their dividends tend to outperform the market over the long term. This is evident in the performance of Marriott’s local equity fund – the Dividend Growth Fund – which has won a number of awards for risk-adjusted returns,” said Marriott’s Robin Hartslief in a recent press release about ESG funds.

The charts below illustrate the dividend track records of some of the companies the Marriott Dividend Growth Fund currently invests in. As you can see, it pays to be the nice guy:

ESG in the rest of the world

Overseas too, the Financial Times noted this month that ESG tends to seriously outperform in some key areas. “ESG assets under management have grown the fastest among smart beta strategies, at a compound annual growth rate of more than 70 per cent over the past five years, according to a recent report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch,” it said. In Europe, Lipper EMEA Research noted that “we have witnessed an above average increase of assets under management driven by market performance. Additionally, a high percentage of the overall net inflows in the European fund industry are invested in mutual funds and ETFs with a sustainable investment approach.”

ESG funds offer exciting opportunities for investors. They are still a tiny portion of the market in SA with not much but the fact that they’re a buzzword known about them when it comes to the average investor.

Just like with any other change in investment strategy, this requires a comprehensive conversation before making any switches, but if you’re looking for new options – ESG funds could be a great addition to your portfolio.

Setting goals and taking stock

How you finish your year is a powerful way to create momentum for the new year. How much you achieved (or didn’t quite manage) this year can inspire how much you aim to achieve next year. In the same way that an athlete pushes harder in every game, or an artist stretches their skills with each new work, so too can we set our sights higher for the year ahead.

And, planning for it now presents us with an opportunity of walking into the new year knowing what we want to achieve, right from the starting blocks!

Here are some tips to help you set next year’s goals.

Reflect on the current year’s achievements

What you want is most effectively framed by looking at what you already have. Reflecting on the goals achieved this year gives you an idea of what you could strive for in the new year.

Take some time to reflect on your current plans and check how much progress you’ve made. Reflect on what you drew motivation from, for example; consider the books you’ve read that gave you new insights, or flip through your playlists for music that made you feel productive, creative and positive.

Reflect on your hurdles as well; this can help you know what you need to work on in order to achieve more next year and complete the goals that you haven’t ticked off your list yet.

Think about your short and long term achievements

Seeing all these goals as part of your overall life plan will give the confidence to continue pursuing them. So, as much as it is important to attach a timeframe to your goals, keep in mind that 12 months can be a short time to achieve everything. Be kind to yourself and don’t be afraid to lengthen your timelines.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals

Many people love this approach to setting achievable goals.

  • Specific – Set simple and specific goals. Try brainstorming your goals and discuss what you want to accomplish, why it matters, who is involved, where it’s located and which resources are required.
  • Measurable – Measure your goals and keep tabs on your progress. You can measure your goals by asking yourself questions like, How will I know when it’s accomplished?, How much effort do I need to put in?
  • Achievable – Set realistic and attainable goals that are within your abilities to achieve. An achievable goal is something that you can easily figure out how to accomplish within your constraints.
  • Relevant – Set goals that matter to you and align with your life goals. Just because you see your friends swimming in the deep end, doesn’t mean you should start there when you learn how to swim.
  • Time-bound – Instead of simply saying “Next year I want to learn how to swim”, set a specific timeframe for you to accomplish that goal. Attaching a time to it, is designed to prevent you from being complacent and remember your deadlines.

Create a strategy for success

Have a plan of action for your goals. Write out the next steps you need to accomplish them. Develop a map and routine for your goals.

For example, if you want to lose weight. Your plan would look something like this:

  • Your why: To feel light, healthy and athletic
  • Action 1: Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day and substituting the Friday afternoon beer with a vegetable shake, for the next 6 weeks.
  • Action 2: Go running twice a week and do more chores – learn to be busier and active.
  • Routine: Weigh yourself at least once a week to keep track of your progress.

Have someone who will hold you accountable

This is powerful! Choosing someone who you trust and will listen to will keep you motivated and remind you of what you wanted to achieve. It’s as valuable as a snooze button in the morning… sometimes you need a second alarm to wake up properly.

Even if one of the ideas above helps you, remember, these are YOUR goals. They’re not a chore or an obligation; they’re your commitment to a better you.

December-proof your investing

December should be a time of peace, cheer and goodwill to all men. But, if you’re a South African investor, it’s the month that likely brings up residual trauma of some decidedly un-jolly happenings from recent years’ Decembers. Cabinet reshuffle. Nenegate. Steinhoff. What is it about the twelfth month of the year that turns the festive season into the silly season?

If you’re understandably nervous this time of year as an investor, fear not. While no portfolio is fireproof to completely uncontrollable events like black swans and major unforeseen global macroeconomic events (like the first 2016 Brexit referendum), there is a lot you can do to limit your exposure to market-affecting shenanigans on the home front.

Here are a few ways to ensure that your portfolio doesn’t go ‘ki Dezember’ crazy this month, if the markets do:

Manage your emotions

It’s amazing how simple logic is so easily questioned when the buying of Christmas gifts, expensive holidays, Black Friday remorse and seeing far more family and friends that we usually do all play into the mix. Against this highly emotionally charged backdrop people tend to behave a little irrationally. And, when it comes to investing, emotional = dangerous.

The age-old maxim of ‘buy low, sell high’ works for a reason. And, most of the year, you may well stick to it. In December, be aware that you may try to knee-jerk sell. Don’t do it. Unless a major macroeconomic event like the actual apocalypse is happening, let’s have a quick WhatsApp catch up or a short phone call to double-check the best options.

Cash is king – in context

You don’t get much more liquidity than cash. And in times of trouble or uncertainty, people opt for several versions of the old ‘cash under the mattress’ trick, like holding cash in a standard bank account or stocking up on Krugerrands.

Cash is an option, but it works best inside of a diversification strategy. Nothing short of a very well-proven crystal ball will help you move exactly the right thing at the right time to the right place. It’s about having all your assets in different places, different classes and with different levels of liquidity that will see you through.

Don’t make any sudden moves

When it comes to investing, always remember: any change costs something. A change when everyone else is pulling the same change (like investing offshore), is also expensive. Try not to suddenly pull huge lump sums out of equities and into a different class without it being in line with your long-term strategy.

A move like this, which may seem simple enough, could cost you five times: the price of the fee to pull money out of equities, the setup price of moving into bonds, the loss of momentum on your equities, the loss of any compounding you may have been about to tap into or eventually attain on your equities and the price of starting from zero in the new asset class.

Switching things up in your portfolio is sometimes necessary, but it must be done inside of a comprehensive strategy, not a panicked whim. When nearing the end of an investment term, it could be a good time to change your weighting in various classes and the diversification of your portfolio. Feeling scared watching the news is not.

Be commitment wise

Don’t get involved in something you don’t know well. December is often the time of year-end bonuses. Feeling jolly, you may think: ‘hey, why not try out Bitcoin?’

Unless you’ve been studying the market history, inner workings and headlines surrounding Bitcoin for more than a year, maybe give it a little more thought.

Many tried this back in 2017 when Bitcoin was trending and either lost all that irreplaceable, untraceable investment in a hacker’s spree or waited until December 2018 to find out it was worth 80 percent less.

Ultimately, investing always works best when you have a trusted, second opinion to every move you want to make. Either knuckle down and focus on the people around you and let your money work for you, or let’s get in touch and have a comforting cup of coffee to bolster your portfolio.

How to stay out of the malls

Whilst the holiday season holds many treats and treasures, one of the most stressful errands is shopping for gifts. Finding the perfect gifts for your family, friends and colleagues isn’t a simple job. In addition to trying to find thoughtful and affordable gifts, battling the queues and parking frenzies only adds to the stress.

Thankfully you can do your shopping from the comfort of your own home – online. Finding the best online gift sites is now one of the first things that come to mind when people shop.

If you’re trying to find something awesome fast – try these sites out first.

Yuppiechef offers the latest leading kitchen cookware for less. Founded in 2006, this online gem is best for finding novel items to stock up the kitchen and living area or for the perpetual entertainer who ‘has everything’.

They also offer a 30-day return policy as well as a newsletter which has exclusive information on latest releases and sales events direct to your inbox.

For the fashionistas in your crew, this is where you will find an impressive selection of trendy clothing brands at affordable prices. They are ideal if you’re looking for fashion labels you can give as gifts without breaking your budget.

Zando also offers free delivery on all orders without any minimum spend as well as seven ways to pay. You get up to R200 off when you sign up for their newsletter and they also promise easy collections and returns.

This online store sells everything, from the latest tech to clothing, camping gear and cookware. Consider them your online wholesaler with a massive catalogue which includes books, entertainment systems and games.

With Takealot you get free delivery with purchases over R250 and they run superb daily deals.

Exclusive Books

South Africa’s leading book retailer’s website is loved by bookworms because the wide range of book genres that they offer, from history to fiction, from self-help to spiritual gurus, you’ll definitely find international and local best-sellers all on their list.

Sure, few things beat the experience of smelling a book and perusing the aisles of a bookstore on a lazy day, but when it’s busy… it’s way less fun. You qualify for free delivery when you make a purchase of more than R350, with which you also get 21-day returns.


Another store that has a variety in their stock. You get a fantastic range of gym and sports equipment, outdoor gear, kids’ toys, necessities and groceries. If you’re looking for gaming consoles, TVs, computers and other electronics then check out Makro.

You have the choice of collecting your order in-store at your convenience or having it delivered to you. If you’re running out of time and simply want to bypass the queues, this is a good option.


Woolworths is another premier option for all your apparel, home accessories, food, and generally great gift ideas. They have a handy gift guide for him, her and the kids.

For first time order they offer free delivery. There’s also a 60-day return policy and food items will be available for next day delivery.

Order from Woolworths online and skip the supermarket checkout queues and get all your gifts delivered to you.

Remember, it’s the thought that counts – so if you don’t have the budget or the means, a handmade gift, home-baked goods or handpicked posey often mean so much more!

Watching what you spend… and what you eat!

With all the treats at the social gatherings, watching both your budget and your diet during the festive season can be a challenge.

Whether we’re talking about savings goals, or weight goals, it’s easy to get a little carried away. It’s wonderful to treat your loved ones and enjoy yourself, and during a holiday it’s important to be kind to yourself and let loose a little. However, if you want to enjoy the season to its fullest, it’s helpful to have a positive mindfulness towards what you’re consuming.

An over-inflated tummy can be just as troubling as over-inflated expenses that need to be paid back in the months to come.

With the former… here are some tips you can use to help you keep to your health goals during the festive season!

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

Whilst you don’t have to stick to every calorie (because that’s a serious buzzkill) use your current dietary goals as guidelines that you’re willing to be flexible with.

Fill out every meal and snack time with fruits and veggies. You can even bring your healthy meals to the social events you will be attending. Offering to bring your own dish of greens may be a good idea.

If you’re hosting, that means you have control of the menu. You can make healthier choices when shopping for the party, your guests may appreciate some healthy (and tastier) alternatives too. Healthy eaters are happy Peters!

Eat enough – check your meal portions

If that lavish roast on the table, with all that sauce, looks too good to avoid, don’t go wild on it. Have a glass of water before a big meal and you will be less likely to overeat. Don’t continue eating even when you feel full, you’ll regret it an hour later and enjoy the rest of your afternoon/evening far less.

If you have kids, or are celebrating with other people who have children, check how they feel about sweets and treats and don’t hand out chocolatey temptations without their consent.

If you go to restaurants with harvest tables, remember that the size of your portions equal the amount you will pay. So, being practical about your meal portions means being practical about your finances as well.

As the host, don’t over cater; avoid wasting food and don’t go over your food budget.

Keep to your exercise regime by changing it up a little…

Another key aspect to feeling happy and healthy is stimulating the flow of endorphins. It’s not always easy to keep up with a training schedule, or gym visits over the festive season, so why not consider mixing it up a little?

If you can’t run on the treadmill, ask your family to join you on a walk or trail. Spend some time on the trampoline with the kids, swim some lengths in the pool with a child on your back or play some pool games with your mates. Take the dogs for a run on the beach or explore a new trail that you’ve been dying to visit.

Remember, looking after your health doesn’t have to happen under the false-lighting of a near-empty Virgin Active.

Making mindful choices during the festive season is good for both your health and financial goals. Your holiday budget should align with your health goals, how much (and what) you eat will affect how much you spend.

You are in charge. You’re able to make healthy choices that will help you enjoy the festive season. Eat well and spend well!

Reasons to be happy about inflation in SA

People are often quick to comment on doom and gloom posts and add their voice, and with the current subdued economic outlook, there seems to be plenty to be grim about. But what if we looked at something, like inflation, and highlight a positive South African success story?

“… Inflation??” you cry.

Hear this out.

When people speak of inflation, it’s often the villain of the financial story. It’s blamed every time we swipe our cards to pay for goods and services, or look into our bank accounts when times are tight.
And why not? After all, the very concept of inflation is that our money is now worth a little less than it was before.

But, inflation is not that bad guy it’s made out to be. In fact, the lack of inflation can be far worse.

When inflation is bad

Most people confuse inflation with hyperinflation – an excessive amount of inflation in a short space of time. A classic example of hyperinflation is what happened to the Zimbabwean dollar. In first world countries, hyperinflation usually only happens in very dire circumstances (the German Deutschmark after WW1 comes to mind).

Inflation, on the other hand, is when the prices of things in a country go up moderately, usually three percent or less in one year. Just under two percent is considered typical.

When inflation is good

Inflation can be good for three kinds of people: savers, earners and investors. If you are simply spending all your money, inflation is undoubtedly negative in the short term. You can now afford less things than you could before. Inflation also does – in most cases – tend to trickle down to salaries as many employers aim to increase salaries on a regular or annual basis in order to compensate for inflation.

But if whatever you have isn’t likely to be spent any time soon, inflation can be a very good thing. To put it very simply, inflation is measured by economists as how much money is exchanged for goods or services in a country. This means that the money part of the equation increases in value.

If you have used that money to buy, for example, a house, then that house is now worth more than it was. Someone else wanting to buy it from you after an inflation hike would have to pay you more than you paid at first. This means that, for investors, inflation is great.

The world’s ongoing inflation woes

Global markets, particularly the US, haven’t had material inflation in quite a while. Risk of deflation has been talked about – more than a decade, in fact – and that is indeed very bad.

Deflation is what economists call ‘demand-pull inflation’ – when you have too much supply and not enough demand on goods. This happened to the property market in America in 2013 and, to a lesser extent, has just happened a couple of years ago in South Africa. House prices plummeted by as much as 30%, meaning that no one was buying. Why buy now, when you can wait a month and get an even better deal then? People couldn’t sell their houses without losing a lot of money.

South Africa and inflation

In contrast to elsewhere, South Africa has been relatively protected from inflation issues. We mostly hover around the four percent mark, with increases of less than two percent a year.

According to Investec: “during the past two decades, the significant swings in South Africa’s inflation rate have been driven to a large extent by exogenous shocks, mainly energy prices (international oil prices and domestic electricity tariffs), food prices and the exchange rate. More recently, inflation appears to be firmly under control… headline inflation has been within the target range of 3-6% since April 2017.”

Investec goes on to say that their “current forecast is for headline inflation to average 4.2% in 2019 and 4.6% in 2020, compared with the SARB’s forecasts of 4.2% and 5.1%. We expect core inflation to average 4.2% in 2019 and 4.4% in 2020. By historical standards, inflation is subdued, but not dead, and not without risks. We assess these risks, however, to be fairly balanced.”

This is quite different from other countries, whose inflation rates are well below that are starting to be a real concern.

(Source: Statistics South Africa and Investec Asset Management, as at 30.09.19. Investec Asset Management forecasts are from 01.09.19 onwards.)

When to re-think your medical plan

The first benefit of medical cover is peace-of-mind, the second is that you will be protected from potential financial ruin should your hospital bill be more than you can manage. It is important to be on a medical plan that suits both your monthly affordability and caters to most of your medical requirements.

Since changing your medical plan or option can be costly, you need to change at the right time and for the right reasons. Here are some tips on what to consider when you rethink the suitability of your medical plans.

Change at the right time

It is advisable to change medical plans or options at the end of the year, so you get to access the full membership benefits for the new year. Changing at the end of the year also does not carry the penalty costs you would have had to pay when changing mid-year, but having said this, many medical plans do not allow for upgrades in the middle of the year.

Check benefit limits

It is important for you to know what your plan covers, especially if you or your dependents have chronic conditions or special medical requirements, but also to know where the limits will kick in. For example, would you be needing new glasses every year? Some medical plans allow for a new pair every year for every member, whilst some will only allow for one per year for the whole family and others will take the cost out of your medical savings.

For more serious conditions, it’s helpful to know if you can claim multiple times in the year and where your limits will start to attract co-payments or no longer be covered by your medical plan.

When changing to a new scheme, make sure that the benefits of the new scheme are a good match for the health conditions you and your family experience or are likely to experience.

Upgrading or downgrading options needs to make sense

Moving to a higher or lower cost option within the same scheme also needs to make sense. It’s wiser to only change to a lower option because you have less risk and the benefits you need are still covered in that lower option, not because you want to save money.

Look for your favourites

As you rethink your medical plan, find out whether visits to your favourite GP will be paid for by you or the new scheme. Check if the GPs and specialists in your area are covered, in case your medical cover only pays for visits to someone across town or far from you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with how to make a change (or if a change is even needed), then let’s have a chat and see how we can work together to help you make a better decision.

Sharing Is Caring

You’ve learnt lessons throughout your life. Some of them are unique to you, but many will apply to others too. Being open to sharing these will benefit those nearest and dearest to you – and help you reflect on what you’ve learnt.

This is profoundly true when it comes to how we make decisions around our finances. Sharing these lessons may be a sensitive topic but it’s worth breaking the ice!

Encouraging these conversations promotes honesty and transparency. Everyone has an opportunity to understand the goals and challenges of financial planning, can engage with how it relates to your (or their) personal circumstances and will be able to contribute their thoughts, fears and excitement for what you are building together.

How you share is also important, it is not as simple as saying, “I’m saving money.”

Start with what money means to you, and how it fits inside of more comprehensive events, dreams and goals. If you’re sharing this with your family, take the time to show them how the plans consider everyone. Tell your kids how investing is your way of taking their future seriously for anything they may want to do in the future. Remember, it’s not only about what you’re saving for, it’s also important to discuss what you’re currently spending.

It’s easier to make changes when you need them

As you open up these conversations, it’s considerably easier to adjust your budget and financial plan when needed. Those closest to you are less confused when change needs to happen and so the transition of spending habits becomes smoother; everyone knows why you’re saving – especially if you’ve made it known that it’s a collective effort.

Support is more forthcoming

When you share openly you have far more chance of receiving support to ensure the success of your plans, especially when the people included in the plan are invested in its success! Even if you’re sharing your plans with your adult children, or close friends who won’t benefit from your financial decisions directly, they will be able to support you in achieving your goals.

It’s a little like pushing a car. Pushing a car that has people inside, all by yourself, is much harder than them hopping out and helping you push.

Goals become reachable

When you’re able to be flexible, have loads of support… reaching the goals you’re working towards becomes that much easier.

Telling your spouse or partner that you’d like to save money to renovate your home will help them understand why you want to amend your household budget and with their support, it will be quicker and easier to save for those renovations. They can also help with managing the kids’ expectations and talk about how the changes will benefit everyone in the family.

Sharing your life and financial lessons with those closest to you promotes an environment of teamwork and inclusivity – and teamwork always trumps individual work!

The retirement gap needs a new rap

Retirement (as well as education and the job market) is one of our greatest future-unknowns.

We know it will happen… but we are finding it harder to understand and predict what it might look like. This doesn’t mean we should abandon planning for it. If anything, it simply means that we need to change the way we start to talk about, engage with and plan for retirement.

According to a global survey done by BlackRock, about 51% of the world’s working population, worry that their workplace pension will not cover the retirement life they want. This is why most people have a dim view of retirement. But this view is mostly framed by the conversation that retirement is meant to be a welcome reward following a successful working career. In other words, we work for about 45 years, and then we take a 20 year paid vacation….

The biggest problem with this picture is that very few people are able to save for that full 45 year period, and even fewer manage to avoid having to draw on these savings for unforeseen expenses ahead of their retirement.

That’s why we have a rap about the gap that’s not very helpful.

If we are to change this conversation and try to gain a more helpful understanding of retirement, we need to find out how to ask better questions.

How are you shaping your expectations for retirement?

A Schroders 2018 survey, showed that people usually receive less than what they expected their retirement income to be. It is important to know how much you will receive as this needs to align with your planning and your expectations. Whilst retirement is not only about how much you will earn, it’s important to know what you will have to work with.

If you would like to have the opportunity to study further, open a new business, pursue new hobbies, travel or live abroad, planning for a renewable income as well as new income sources is important.

The same Schroders survey also found that 43% of global retirees, who said their income was less than expected, still felt like their retirement income was sufficient to live off comfortably.

Some people continue working into their retirement years; not because they have to, but because they choose to. This is great as it’s part of reframing our expectations for retirement. Ideally, you don’t want to work because you are forced into it for financial reasons, but you also don’t want to avoid work opportunities purely because your expectations of retirement exclude those opportunities.

(Taken from Visual Capitalist.)

What does ‘planning ahead’ actually mean to you?

An Aegon 2019 survey says, 25% of global employees say they are on course to achieving their expected retirement income. This is often perceived as meaning: they’ve started early.

But what does ‘early’ mean for you and your personal plan? Planning for retirement even while in your 20s or 30s gives you more time to invest and grow your retirement capital. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start in your 40s. Yes, the later you start certainly poses more challenges, but not if you have other elements in your plan, or it’s part of how you perceive your retirement.

Defining your event horizon (ie. when you would like to retire) is crucial to both your mindset and your investment success. If you start with a positive and personally relevant view of what your retirement (not someone else’s) will look like, you are far more likely to achieve your goals.

How much are you willing to share with your adviser?

Help from a financial adviser has been proven to significantly improve the financial wellbeing of people – both before and after retirement. However, the level at which financial guidance and intervention can help depends on how much you’re willing to share with your financial adviser.

Building a relationship of deep trust, over time, is most often the best way to ensure open and clear communication in a financial planning relationship. Retirement should be enjoyed, not feared!

Effective planning for retirement helps you create expectations that enable you to look forward to retirement.

Investing masterclass: Four tips for the long game

When it comes to coffee-shop conversations, little is said about the long game in the investment space – it’s often about which asset manager did well this year, what outperformed everything else in the last quarter… etc.

But, if you’re an investor, chances are high that you’re saving for future events that have a five-year-plus event-horizon (as we all should!).

Here are four thoughts for investors looking to improve their long-term results. If you’re feeling shaky in your investment behaviour, these will certainly help to master your long game.

Tip 1: The past does not predict the future

It’s the most common mistake in the book, so entrenched in investment culture that even the most seasoned among us fall into this trap. It’s the thinking that ‘X Asset Managers beat the index by nine percent last year so they’re the best bet this year’. X Asset Managers in turn, who may not even have the same actual people on board anymore or may have undergone a whole host of other changes to the ‘magic formula’, adjust their fees up accordingly.

There are plenty of problems with this. One is that, if you keep a close eye on the top performers, you’ll notice that the same managers are almost never ever in the top spot consecutively. This means that if you doggedly follow the best performers, you’re going to switch funds every year, decimating your return potential.

Secondly, as we’re well aware of in other spheres of life but conveniently forget in investing, our global future and rate of change in the next decade will be different to anything in the last century.
“But surely that won’t change the actual nature of the markets,” some may say.

Yes, it can. We’ve already had what should be an impossibly long bullish cycle and more black swan events in a decade than ever before. We need to beware.

Tip 2: Switching frequently is usually a bad idea

Most of us know the two cardinal sins of investing: not preserving when switching jobs and chopping and changing funds or managers too often.

But what about when a crisis hits? Switching from other assets into cash may be just as harmful.

When the going gets tough, generally, most investors go for cash. And there is some wisdom to this – cash is a great low-risk asset that generally does well in times of crisis and is therefore event-horizon specific. But taking money out of, say, equities, and exchanging it into cash is often a case of winning the battle but losing the war.

The thinking is that ‘if I get this out of equities before equities experiences a downturn and put it into cash, then switch it back, I’ll save the amount I would have lost.’ This gambles the losses from switching with the gains made from avoiding a loss when markets turn south. The problem with this is that most (who are not whizz asset managers by profession) will get the timing wrong. This leaves you with two losses when, longer term, simply staying put would have made more sense.

Tip 3: Care about shares

There are widely held misconceptions about different asset classes, many of which are harmful for players of the long game in investment. One of the most common is that equities are risky while bonds are safe, and cash is the safest of all. And a short-term glance at the market may seem to confirm this belief, however the opposite is true when it comes to longer-term strategies.

Think of investing in cash (a.k.a. the money market) as the investors’ equivalent of stuffing your cash under the mattress. If your aim is to not lose any money – then you’re in luck. That money may be safe from being lost short-term. But it’s also not growing as much as it could, while other things like CPI are making it worth less and less. Equities, on the other hand, have shown to give back the bigger returns compared with cash longer term, even though short-term your chances of making losses are higher.

The lowest annualised local equity returns versus the highest annualised local cash returns over different investment terms

Based on historical returns data since 31 November 2007. Source: Morningstar to end of December 2018


Tip 4: You get what you pay for

One of the biggest ‘grudge purchases’ of the financial world, after insurance, is the fees associated with funds. Some charge two or three percent, others far less. Most investors see that as three percent that could have been invested on their behalf that’s now going into someone else’s pocket.

However, you really do get what you pay for often with funds, just like everything else. According to Discovery’s August Smart Money newsletter, “the total expense ratio (TER) of an investment fund gives an investor an indication of the total fees of that fund. If we compare a relatively high-cost fund (TER of 2.47% in 2008) with a relatively low-cost fund, (TER in 2008 of 1.41%), the ten-year return from the more expensive fund was 77% higher than that of the less expensive fund.”

The good news is that regulation has cracked down significantly on what a fund may legally charge in terms of fees, why they charge fees and how transparently they disclose this information. In essence, you should only pay so much and know precisely what it is you’re paying for. If not, the law is on your side as the consumer, something which wasn’t always the case when this industry was younger.

Having enough for future life events is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s put these four tips into play, and you and your wealth will be able to go the distance.

Original article: Discovery