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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Financial Planner as Consultant

On my blog, one of the topics I like to cover is explaining how the personal financial advice industry works. Most people get financial advice from someone who is a salesman of insurance, annuities, mutual funds, and other products. You can also get help from someone whose main profession is something related like a CPA or lawyer who offer advice as a side business. The best way to get advice however, is from someone who functions as a consultant.

There are financial advisors out there that charge by the hour for financial advice. They often call themselves financial planners to distinguish themselves from financial advisors. You can find these financial planners through industry associations like the Garrett Planning Network and NAPFA.org.

I say it’s best to work with a consultant style of advisor because the consultant works only for you. Ask yourself what someone’s motivation is. A financial advisor employed by an insurance company or investment company (like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, Vanguard, etc.) has sales managers above them making sure they sell a certain number of contracts every month. You don’t want to be one of those sales targets. It may work out for you, and there are representatives who do look out for their clients, but ask yourself what their motivation is before signing anything.

By hiring a financial planner that charges fees only and no commissions, you are going to get an advisor who puts your best interest ahead of their own. Ask the advisor to sign the fiduciary oath. Advisors out to meet sales performance targets won’t put their fiduciary duty in writing. By going with a consultant style of advisor, not only will you get sound financial advice, you won’t wonder if the advisor recommended a product because his sales manager told him to.

3 ways to 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.

How to get 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.

Ditch ATM withdrawals

Multiple ATM withdrawals, especially those over and above bundle limits can, significantly increase your bank charges. Instead opt to withdraw cash at a point of sale (POS) from a participating retailer, such as a major supermarket. If you really must get cash from an ATM, ensure you use your own bank’s machine as a cash withdrawal at another bank’s ATM, a Saswitch withdrawal, is considerably more expensive.

Honour your debit orders

Ensure that you have sufficient funds in your account to avoid high fees. Fees can be incurred for dishonoured payments due to insufficient funds, or for payments that have been honoured (direct debits) before the bank systems realise you don’t have sufficient funds in your account.

Take advantage of online banking

Performing a wide range of functions online is often free and if not cheaper than seeking help over the telephone or visiting a branch. Opt for a bank with free online banking and take advantage of this service.

Review your statements

“Check your charges monthly to make sure you are not being charged for services you are not using and if there is something on your statement you do not understand ask your bank about it,” advises Pillay.

Adapting your banking behaviour and taking heed of your bank’s attempts to incentivise lower-cost channels, can result in savings.

Tips to reduce the costs in an estate

The death of a spouse, friend or relative is often an emotional time even before estate matters are addressed.

And truth be told, death can be an expensive and cumbersome affair, particularly if estate planning was neglected, the claims against the estate start accumulating and there isn’t sufficient cash to settle outstanding debts.

People generally underestimate the costs related to death, says Ronel Williams, chairperson of the Fiduciary Institute of Southern African (Fisa). Most individuals have a fairly good grasp of significant expenses like a mortgage bond that would have to be settled, but the smaller fees can also add up.

To avoid a situation where valuable assets have to be sold to settle outstanding debts, it is important to do proper planning and take out life and/or bond insurance to ensure sufficient cash is available, she notes.

Costs

The costs involved in an estate can broadly be classified as administration costs and claims against the estate. The administration costs are incurred after death as a result of the death. Claims against the estate are those the deceased was liable for at the time of death, the notable exception being tax, Williams explains.

Administration costs as well as most claims against the estate will generally need to be paid in cash, although there are exceptions, for example the bond on the property. If the bank that holds the bond is satisfied and the heir to the property agrees to it, the bank may replace the heir as the new debtor.

Williams says quite often estates are solvent, but there is insufficient cash to settle administration costs and claims against the estate. In the event of a cash shortfall the executor will approach the heirs to the balance of the estate to see if they would be willing to pay the required cash into the estate to avoid the sale of assets.

If the heirs are not willing to do this, the executor may have no choice but to sell estate assets to raise the necessary cash.

“This is far from ideal as the executor may be forced to sell a valuable asset to generate a small amount of cash.”

If there is a bond on the property and not sufficient cash in the estate, it is not a good idea to leave the property to someone specific as the costs of the estate would have to be settled from the residue. Where a particular item is bequeathed to a beneficiary, the person would normally receive it free from any liabilities. This could result in a situation where the beneficiaries of the residue of the estate may be asked to pay cash into the estate even though they wouldn’t receive any benefit from the property, Williams says.

The most significant administration costs are generally the executor’s and conveyancing fees.

If the will does not explicitly specify the executor’s remuneration, it will be calculated according to a prescribed tariff, currently 3.5% of the gross value of the assets subject to a minimum remuneration of R350. The executor is also entitled to a fee on all income earned after the date of death, currently 6%. If the executor is a VAT vendor, another 14% must be added.

Assuming an estate value of R2 million comprising of a fixed property of R1 million, shares, furniture, vehicles and cash, the executor’s fee at a tariff of 3.5% would amount to R70 000 (plus VAT if the executor is a VAT vendor). Conveyancing fees will be an estimated R18 000 plus VAT. Depending on the situation, funeral costs may be another R20 000, while other fees (Master’s Office fees, advertising costs, mortgage bond cancellation and tax fees) can easily add another R10 000. By law advertisements have to be placed in a local newspaper and the Government Gazette, with estimated costs of between R400 and R700 and R40 respectively. Master’s fees are payable to the South African Revenue Service (Sars) in all estates where an executor is appointed with a gross value of R15 000 or more. The maximum fee is R600.

Where applicable mortgage bond cancellation costs, appraisement costs, costs of realisation of assets, transfer costs of fixed property or shares, bank charges, maintenance of assets and tax fees will also have to be paid. The executor is also allowed to claim an amount for postage and sundry costs, while funeral expenses, short-term insurance, maintenance of assets and the cost of a duplicate motor vehicle registration certificate may also have to be taken into account.

Luckily, there are ways to reduce the costs involved

Williams says the first step is to try and negotiate the executor’s fee with the appointed executor when the will is drafted. The fee could then be stipulated in the will or the executor could give a written undertaking confirming the agreed fee. But even if the deceased did not negotiate it at the time of drafting, the family or heirs can still approach the nominated executor and negotiate a competitive fee when they report the estate to the executor.

“Depending on who the executor is and what the composition of your estate is, you can probably negotiate up to a 50% discount.”

The composition of assets will generally be a good indicator of the amount of work that needs to be done and the executor will quote a fee against this background. The sale of a fixed property and business or offshore interests may complicate the process of winding up the estate.

If the surviving spouse is the sole heir, and/or there are no business interests and sufficient cash is available to cover the costs, the executor will generally offer a larger discount. Ultimately, the executor is responsible for signing off the liquidation and distribution account, confirming that all the costs are correct and that it will be settled.