INVESTMENT does not have to be for the rich and privileged only. If you earn a weekly wage or monthly income, and with a disciplined lifestyle, you can put aside $50 to $400 a month.
You may not really be a savvy investor who understands the various markets, but you still require an inflation beating return. Let me suggest that you consider unit trusts.
Unit trusts are collective funds that allow private investors to pool their money in a single fund, thus spreading their risk across a range of investments, whilst getting the benefits of professional fund management, and reduced dealing costs.
Unit trusts are open-ended portfolios of assets such as equities, bonds, cash and listed property, in which investors can buy units. Different trusts have different investment objectives: investing for income or growth, in small companies or large, and in different geographical regions.
Unit trusts offer an easy, convenient and cost effective way to invest in equity, money, bond and listed property markets. Investors share in the fund's gains, losses, income and expenses.
The wide variety of unit trusts means that they are an ideal way to build up a well-diversified investment portfolio tailored to meet your specific needs, risk profile and investment requirements.
It is important to consider what type of investor you are before you proceed. There are now a number of online tools you can use to determine if you are conservative, cautious, moderate or aggressive investor. Once you know your personality risk profile, you can select a unit trust that is aligned to your needs in terms of risk, income and growth.
Many individuals cannot accumulate large enough pools of money to give them access to an expensive service or product. Unit trusts give investors access to blue chip shares which are in demand and generally more expensive. The management company buys shares on behalf of the investors and combines them in a portfolio. The portfolio is then divided into many equal "units." The investor receives a certain number of units for the money proportional to their investment.
You can transparently determine the value of your investments on a daily basis as pricing and performance of unit trust prices are generally published in the newspapers, reflecting the previous day's closing price. Most unit trusts have easy access to funds within 24 hours and there is protection for investors via a strictly regulated industry.
The beauty of unit trusts is that the investor needs no expert knowledge. The individual doesn't require experience in buying or selling of shares. Teams of professional economic and market analysts will invest on the investor's behalf to ensure the maximum capital and income growth.
Unit trusts are an ideal way of providing for medium-term needs say three to seven years. Investing in unit trusts can meet your needs for a deposit on a home, an education for your child or starting your own business.
When you buy unit trusts you have to consider your investment objectives, your time horizon, and protection from inflation. Unit trusts are priced per unit on a forward pricing basis at the closing price of that day. Pricing changes daily, and is determined by the net asset value (NAV) of the portfolio's underlying investments.
Volatility refers to the extent that the price of a unit trust fund fluctuates over a certain period therefore, its risk. Funds with a high volatility usually offer the potential for higher returns than low volatility funds. Returns may fluctuate more over short time periods and investors need to know what their time horizon is when choosing a fund.
For unit trusts the costs that comprise the Total Expense Ratio (TER) include those that the unit trust management company is unable to quantify upfront as they depend on specific or variable circumstances. The TER is an annualised value and includes the annual service fee (this will include any performance fees, the fund’s bank charges, fund’s audit fees, taxes, and trustee fees). Other expenses may include annual adviser fees, if applicable and brokerage fees (which is a portfolio fee and covers the trading costs incurred when buying and selling securities).
Unit trusts are among the most flexible and convenient investments available. You can stop your investment at any time without incurring any penalties; although it is recommend you remain invested for at least three years. Unit trusts are one of the most tax-efficient ways of investing providing tax exemptions on interest income and capital gains.
Net Asset Value (NAV) is the price at which investors buy and sell units in a unit trust portfolio. NAV is market value of the fund plus all accrued income minus permissible deductions. The ‘yield’ is the income return on an investment expressed as a percentage of its current market value. It is derived from the interest and/or dividend income received from an investment. It may include costs incurred in purchasing or managing the investment.
The yield is not guaranteed and will fluctuate depending on the interest income earned by the investments held in the fund. The underlying assets held by a unit trust fund may earn income – this is generally made up of interest and/or dividend income.
Funds generally declare their income on the last day of a predetermined period and pay it out a few days later. Investors can then choose to have it reinvested to buy more units or to have it paid into their bank account. Funds pay out distributions after a predetermined period of time which is generally quarterly, six-monthly or annually. Investors can then choose to have it reinvested to buy more units or to have it paid into their bank account.
Regulations determine the types of assets a retirement annuity, preservation fund or pension provident fund may invest in, and what maximum percentage of the portfolio may be invested in specific asset classes. Here in South Africa the regulation sets maximum exposure limits to the asset classes in which the management company may invest namely listed equity - 75%, listed property - 25%, offshore - 25%, Rest of Africa - 5%.
With retirement annuities, life policies and fixed deposits, investors must meet particular requirements before they can turn their investment to cash. With unit trusts you have direct access to the money invested. Unit trusts are extremely flexible and one can change from a single lump sum to regular monthly investments and you can increase or decrease the amount according to your individual needs.
To invest successfully, do not invest borrowed money, only use money that can be invested for longer than three years, spread your investments, do not let short term fluctuations discourage you. When your planned investment term comes to a close you should start selling your units gradually and in good time and use the funds to achieve your objectives.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity