Monthly Archives: April 2017

The importance of giving within your means.

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:

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.

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.

Set up a tax-free savings account for your children: A tax-free savings account can enable you to save towards your children’s long-term dreams and financial goals, but is also flexible enough to be accessed at any time should it be required. Also, by investing in a tax-free savings account, you won’t get taxed on the growth earned from the investment.

Find more ideas for save money this Christmas

Christmas may be the season of joy and goodwill, but it is also the season of spending. Often our enthusiasm for being festive outpaces our bank balances.

However, there are some simple ways to save some money without taking the enjoyment out of the season. Some of these may even make your Christmas even better.

Here are four simple ideas to curtail your Christmas budget:

Make your own crackers

Who isn’t tired of paying up for expensive crackers with the same gifts, the party hats that make you sweat, and the same lame jokes every year? (What’s Santa’s favourite pizza? One that’s deep pan, crisp and even.)

Making your own crackers might sound like an awful effort, but it can really be quite simple and extremely cost effective. A number of craft shops sell the cracker bodies that just need to be folded into shape, together with the ‘snaps’ that deliver the necessary bang when they are pulled. (You could download the template from the internet and cut some patterned cardboard or wrapping paper yourself, but this would be a lot more time consuming.)

Easy, cheap and always popular fillings, include luxury chocolate balls, mini soaps or lip gloss. Tiny bottles of whisky or liqueur also go down well, depending on the company.

Making Christmas crackers can also be a fun activity for your children to keep them busy for a few hours during the holidays. And that is priceless.

Make your own gifts

Depending on the size of your family, Christmas gift shopping can easily bite a big chunk out of your budget. It could also mean spending hours at crowded malls dodging speeding trolleys and cosmetics salespeople.

A far more relaxing and cost-effective option is to make gifts yourself, and it’s quite possible to do this tastefully. Baking biscuits and making jam are old favourites, but there are other options too.

You can make up your own mini hampers by ordering small hand-crafted pottery dishes online and filling them with personalised treats like artisanal chocolate and home-made confectionery. Wrap these up in cellophane and you have gifts that everyone will love.

Order your drinks online

Christmas almost demands good wine or even some top class South African brandy, and who doesn’t deserve a drink after a long year of hard work? But just popping down to your local off-license and filling a trolley is not always the best idea.

Firstly, you can’t be sure of getting the best prices, and secondly you’re likely to grab more than you really need just because it’s there and you’re in a festive mood.

Ordering drinks online can be a lot cheaper as you can looks for specials at the many local online stores available. You can also be unemotional about how much you actually need when the bottles aren’t staring you in the face.

Some shops also allow you to collect, which means there is no delivery fee. And that’s more money you can keep in your pocket.

Save for their kids school fees

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.

A 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.
  • Harass your banker for a better deal around your banking options. Is it really worth all those bank charges to have a Rolls Royce cheque account and credit card if you are not making use of all the benefits they offer? Consider a down grade of the banking package, at the risk of losing benefits you don’t use anyway but in so doing your bank charges may very well be substantially reduced.
  • Contact a credit bureau and request your free creditworthiness check, even the basic information provided by these reports can be an eye-opener. If there are there any adverse debt payment findings present on your profile, take steps to correct these by speaking to an attorney or the creditor responsible for the adverse record. Be particularly aware of possible instances of identity theft where your personal information and even identity number has been fraudulently used to obtain financing or credit facilities without your knowledge.
  • Assess your available credit facilities and, if necessary reduce the facility(ies) to a reasonable limit. For instance, having a credit facility to buy clothing for R50 000 may be flattering on your monthly statement but if you only regularly use R5 000 of the available amount the surplus R45 000 availability will negatively impact on the amount of any further credit you may apply for when wanting to purchase, say, a car or even a house!
  • Strategise your next vacation, it’s anticipated cost and save regularly in a separate investment such as a Money Market or Income fund type investment to fund the holiday. Your financial planner will be able to advise you as to appropriate investment options taking into account your personal circumstances, duration of the investment period, relevant amounts, costs and any risk that may be involved.
  • Consult with your tax advisor to identify any tax savings strategiesavailable to you. At the very least confirm that you are investing an adequate tax deductible amount in retirement annuity investments. A visit to your HR department to ascertain whether you can make an additional contribution to your pension or provident fund may also provide a tax efficient investment option.Take the information from your HR Department and your last tax assessment to your financial advisor and ask him to make proposals concerning your retirement annuity investment and/or any possible topping up of your pension or provident fund investment. Be very careful to assess the cash flow impact of any decision you make to increase contributions.

A simple calculation to do

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.

For the purposes of this exercise, FNB pricing will be used (as its most relevant to me). But, the overall price structures (bundled vs unbundled) are roughly the same for the four full-service banks, and links to the most recent pricing for the various banks are available here:

  • FNB (July 2016 to June 2017)… Moneyweb analysis here
  • Absa (from January 2017)… Moneyweb analysis here
  • Nedbank (from January 2017)… Moneyweb analysis here
  • Standard Bank (from January 2017)… Moneyweb analysis here

Now, figure out what an average month of transactions on your cheque account looks like. For most, this won’t change meaningfully month-to-month. There’ll be some debit orders (internal and external), electronic account payments, inter-account transfers (e.g. settling your credit card or moving money to a savings account), and perhaps some withdrawals from an ATM. It isn’t too useful to look at one month in isolation as there may be atypical transactions that distort the picture.