How to refocus your savings and investments, to make life more comfortable

In a world where the prices of everything goes up and your income does not keep up, it is important to refocus your savings and investments, especially since South Africans notoriously do not save and invest enough.

A report from Genesis Analytics in partnership with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) showed that 90% of South African retirees cannot sustain their standard of living before retirement, while two-thirds have less than R50 000 in their retirement funds.

To minimise the risk of insufficient savings for retirement, the rule of thumb is to save at least 15% of your salary during your working years. “This is clearly a daunting task. It can be challenging to make the necessary adjustments if you are currently saving less than 15% of your salary for your years in retirement.

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Never delay until you have ‘enough’ to save

“However, delaying saving until you have ‘enough’ money is sure to end in failure. You are far more likely to succeed if you prioritise investing and allocate money to your long-term goals before you find yourself tempted to spend on more pressing needs that life will throw your way,” says Jan van der Merwe, head of actuarial and product at PSG Wealth.

He says the key is to start as soon as possible and continue to build on that once you have a firm foundation in place.

Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • Start saving as soon as possible, even if you can only make small contributions and gradually increase what you save each year.
  • Adjust the amounts you save annually in line with inflation.
  • Keep a record of all the money you spend and compare this to your budget each month, and use one of the apps available to help you keep track of your spending. This will help you to see where you need to adjust your spending habits.
  • Avoid trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. For example, keep your cell phone for a year or two longer, drive your car for a few more years, and limit the amount you spend on the fanciest branded items, such as clothing.
  • Always preserve your retirement savings when you change jobs and do not withdraw your retirement savings when you move jobs.

“Over time, these small adjustments and sacrifices you make will gradually and consistently add up. The table below illustrates the exponential gain achieved when saving is extended over a long period. It shows that, if the period of saving is increased to 15 years, you could end up with almost double the amount that you set aside – compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world indeed.”

Amount saved per month (R) Number of years you save Total savings set aside (R) Total amount after savings period including interest (R) Amount gained in excess of savings set aside (R) Total accumulated amount as a percentage of total savings set aside
1 000 5 60 000            72 945           12 945 122%
1 000 10 120 000          180 124           60 124 150%
1 000 15 180 000          337 606         157 606 188%

Assumption: Returns are compounded at 8% per annum.

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Make provision for changes in your savings and investments

Van der Merwe says lifestyles and circumstances change over time and therefore you should revisit your products and investments regularly to ensure they are still meeting your savings needs.

Consider the product type and the underlying investments in the product.

When considering the product type, look at your employer’s retirement fund arrangement, perhaps enhanced by a retirement annuity (RA).

“If you run your own business, you will not have an employer scheme and an RA will therefore be ideal. Also, a tax-free savings account can be a valuable and flexible addition to your retirement income.”

Looking at the underlying investments in the product, Van der Merwe says there are a number of choices, such as unit trusts and share portfolios. The key factors to consider in this context are:

  • Investment time horizon: For example, if you are saving for retirement that is still many years away, it is sensible to invest in assets with a higher risk-reward profile, such as equities that will provide exposure to investments that are expected to provide returns in excess of inflation.
  • Costs: Compare the costs of different product providers and funds to make sure that you are investing in an arrangement with reasonable costs. For this purpose, use the effective annual cost (EAC) benchmark to compare the costs across product providers. The EAC is a handy ‘cost summary’, including costs associated with investment management, advice and administration. Weigh the costs up against the value you get, such as the quality of advice and the service you get from the administrator.

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