A guide to investing
This guide helps you work out how to invest your current assets and your future savings to achieve your financial goals. It covers the types of assets you should buy and when and how you should buy them. It also discusses related investment issues.
In this guide
- Investing options
- Important investment decisions
- The investment process
- Understanding returns – net returns are important; net real returns
- Understanding 'risk'
- Understanding tax
- Different types of assets
- Determining an investment strategy
- Suggested investment strategies
- Investment options
- Investment goals
- Investment principles – diversification; flexibility; fees; timing; liquidity; fads; past performance; simplicity
- Other issues – property; rule of 72; dollar cost averaging; compound interest
This guide helps you work out how to invest your current assets and your future savings to achieve your financial goals. It covers the types of assets you should buy and when and how you should buy them. It also discusses related investment issues.
If you have “$x” to invest, one option is to put it in the bank. This is known as a “cash” investment. Before tax, this is likely to return 5.5% to 5.75% a year1, on average, over the next 20 to 30 years. While averaging 5.5% to 5.75% a year, the gross (before tax) return in any year will probably vary between 3% and 9%.
The attraction of such an investment comes from:
- the convenience of making the investment.
- the certainty of the return in the immediate future.
- the security of your capital. Unless the bank goes under, you will get your money back.
- the flexibility of the investment.
- the fact that administration and management fees are not directly incurred.
- the current low level of inflation.
At the lower end of the expected range and after tax at 28% (the maximum PIE rate) and inflation of, say 2.5%, bank deposits give an expected net real return of 1.5% a year on average.
|tax @ 28%||-1.54%|
|1.46%||(net real return)|
Even if inflation is higher (e.g. 3% p.a.), you will still normally get a positive average return after-tax and inflation. That is, if you invest your money, then together with the return, it will buy more goods in a year’s time than it can today.
Bank deposits are easy and can be very flexible. However, bank deposits may not be the best investment if your intended period of investment is 5 to 10 years, or if you need a higher level of income. Also, if your investment horizon is 5 to 10 years, there is no guarantee that inflation will stay low. With cash investments there is little margin to protect an investor against unexpected inflation.
As an alternative, by leaving a little of the “$x” in cash (for a rainy day and your expenditure over the next few years), and investing the balance in, say, fixed interest or bonds, the expected average return increases. Good quality - but reasonably safe - bonds are expected to return 7.25% to 8%2 p.a. over the next 20 to 30 years.
But while the average return is higher, to get the higher return, your money is invested up for the duration of the bond. If you were to need it sooner, you may have to incur a loss when you try to sell it before the end of the term. That’s why some of your money should be kept in bank deposits for a rainy day and your short term expenditure. Still, if you are investing for 5 to 10 years, overall bonds will be better on average, than only money in the bank. You could also buy a bond with a higher yield but it will not be as secure. In addition, not all bonds paying 7.25% to 8% are secure. You still need to be careful and possibly retain some in government bonds.
Of course, if you are investing for 10 to 15 years or longer (e.g. for your retirement), you may be better off to have some of your money in shares. Longer term (20 to 30 years), shares are expected to provide on “average” a return of 8.5% to 9.5% a year before tax.
The problem with shares is that while they may return an average 8.5% to 9.5% gross a year, they won’t in every year. In some years, the return may be as low as -20%, say, or as high as 45% or possibly lower and higher. If you may need your money in a year’s time, you would probably not want to risk getting the minus 20% return. However, if you don’t need your money for at least 10 years, investing in shares should provide you with a better average return than cash or bonds, but will give you some highs and lows along the way.
In practice most investors have some short-term, medium term and long-term needs. This is why a combination of cash, bonds and shares often gives the best result.
Investing in bank deposits is the short-term safe and flexible option, and for many people this is the right option. However, by accepting a little less flexibility, and being willing to tie up your money for longer, (as you may get a loss if you cash them in short term), you should be able increase your returns by investing in bonds and/or shares. The amount of money you allocate to cash, bonds and shares is called your “investment strategy”. This is one of the most important decisions you will make.
The reason that most people invest their money (capital) is to generate a future income stream to meet their future expenditure needs. This might be to provide an income (e.g. to live on in retirement) or for a lump sum (e.g. to help buy a house). These form part of a person’s financial goals. It is important to understand your goals in terms of their timing, amount and importance.
When it comes to investing to achieve your goals, there are two important decisions that you need to make that influence the return you will receive:
- what your investment strategy will be?
- how will you implement the strategy?
What is an investment strategy?
An investment strategy is the allocation of your money between the different types of assets that is how much is invested in cash (e.g., bank deposits); in bond or fixed income assets (e.g., government stock, corporate bonds); in property (e.g., commercial buildings, residential rentals), and in shares. (e.g., local and overseas shares).
Investments in cash provide short-term certain returns, but no growth. Investments in bonds provide medium term certain returns, variable short term returns, but no growth unless you save part of the return. Investments in property and shares provide some income and long-term growth, but have very variable short and medium term returns.
The investment strategy therefore determines the emphasis that is placed on your immediate income and certainty needs, relative to obtaining potential growth to provide higher long-term income.
The income from the investments comes from the return received, which is made up of actual income (e.g. interest, dividends on shares, and rent on property), and the growth in the value of the investments (i.e. the increase or reduction). At times expenditure may also be met by spending capital.
For a given market environment, your investment strategy generally explains 80% to 90% of the gross return you receive. How you implement your strategy accounts for the remaining 10% to 20% of your gross return. But, because of deductions by way of tax and fees, how the strategy is implemented, will often reduce the gross return by half and therefore is equally important.
How do I implement my investment strategy?
When it comes to implementing an investment strategy there are many options. You can either do-it-yourself or invest in one or more investment products or you can delegate decisions to a third party manager (e.g. investment adviser, investment manager etc). You can also employ someone (an advisor) to help you choose investments or choose a manager. In practice for most people a combination of doing it themselves and employing a manager is the right approach.
However, whatever the approach, the best way to implement a strategy is to follow three principles:
- maximise diversification - spread your investments and not become dependent on the judgement of just one manager or the performance of one investment -- unless you're prepared to spend a lot of time researching it and then monitoring it.
- maximise tax efficiency - adopting a long-term buy and hold approach and reduce or defer tax. The motivation should be to be tax efficient.
- minimise fees and costs.
Getting the investment strategy right in the first place is important, but implementing it well (i.e. focusing on minimising tax and fees) is equally important. There is no point in getting a high gross return if the tax and fees then reduces it to a low net return. At the end of the day, it is the net return that you end up with.
The investment process can be considered to be a 7 step process.
- Purpose. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your investments, in terms of your goals and why you are investing. You will have several short-term goals in the context of your long-term plan. Different investments are suited to different goals. Therefore, you should consider each goal separately and then look for synergies between goals.
- Return. Decide on what returns you require, in terms of your immediate income, long-term income and growth to achieve your goals. The income and the growth components make up the total return.
- Time frame. Decide on what time frame you are investing for to achieve your goals. Your time frame is a combination of the period until you will spend your capital (e.g. to retirement) and the maximum period you are willing to wait until you want to see success in your investment results. This will give you confidence that you are on track to achieving your goals.
- Risk. Decide on which investment risks and how much risk you are happy to take. Likewise, decide on which risks need to be and can be managed.
- Investment strategy. Decide on what investment strategy is best to balance your return requirements and your risk requirements over your time frame.
- Assets. Decide on what assets (or products) you will buy (or managers you will appoint) to implement your strategy.
- Review. Repeat steps A to F, as required, to reflect changes to your goals and circumstances, together with your experience.
In following the above process, you will often require help and advice. It is often a good idea to discuss financial goals with someone who can assist you to be objective and realistic. Likewise, when it comes to identifying the appropriate assets for that strategy, you may require someone with that specific expertise.
To understand the likely returns that the different types of investments are likely to produce, see the section “what returns can I expect? In each case it is the net of tax and inflation return that is important.
Net returns are important
In terms of building wealth, the only returns that are important, are the “net” investment returns. The net returns are the returns that you end up with (i.e. the additional money you receive) after the payment of tax and the deduction of all fees. There is no point in earning a high “gross” return, if high tax and high fees then come off it, leaving you a low net return. The net return is what you get to spend. This leads to the equation of value. The equation value is:
|gross return||less fees||less tax||=||net return|
Successfully investing requires not only a focus on the gross return (i.e. the investment strategy), but also a focus on ensuring that the fees paid are justified (i.e. add value) and tax is minimised.
Over the short-term, focussing on the actual level of the net return is important. Over the long-term, focussing on the level of the net-real-return is what counts. The net-real-return is the return you receive after adjusting for the changes in the cost of living over time.
The net-real return is the return you receive after allowing for inflation. This means you will be able to buy more in the future than you could today. This makes it worthwhile saving.
|net return||less inflation||=||net-real-return|
If the prices of goods are going up at 2.5% p.a., then a TV that costs $1,000 today, will cost $1,025 in one year’s time. If you have $1,000 and want to buy a TV, but not for a year, you need to make sure, that your $1,000 grows by at least inflation, so you can still afford to buy the TV. For example if you earn a gross return of 9.0%, and the tax rate was 28%, your-net-real return is:
|Gross return||9.0%||90||(i.e. 0.09 x $1,000)|
|less tax (28% say)||2.5%||25|
|Less fees (1.3% say)||1.3%||13|
|Net return||5.2%||52||This is important short term|
|Less inflation (2% say)||2.5%||25|
|Net-real-return||2.7%||27||This is important long term|
As can be seen while $90 is earned before tax and fees, after tax and fees have been deducted, you only have $52 left. And, of the $52 left, $25 is required to protect the original $1,000 against the impact of inflation (so you can still buy the TV), leaving only a real return of $27 left over. It is the net-real-return that is important in the long term as this decides whether your savings go ahead or backwards i.e. will buy you more or less TV’s in the future.
What returns can I expect?
The return you will get will be mainly influenced by your investment strategy i.e. the mix of cash, bonds and shares.
The expected long-term “average” returns, before fees, of the different sorts of assets are:
|Gross "average" return||5.50%||7.25%||9.0%|
|Tax at 28% (say)||1.54%||2.03%||1.4%|
|Net "real" return (before fees)||1.46%||2.72%||5.1%|
Source: MCA NZ Limited Actuaries & Consultants
Note: Investment management and advisory fees (if any) need to coe off the net "real" returns shown. Remember, these are long-term average return expectations.
When it comes to investing there are a number of risks that investors face. Some risks are real and, if not managed, can have an adverse long-term consequence on the ability to achieve your goals and some are simply perceived and driven by emotion.
There are the obvious risks, such as the investment going bankrupt, so that you permanently lose your money. However, this doesn’t happen often and the consequences can be minimised by diversification and not chasing the very “high” returns.
The more important risks are that you don’t earn sufficient returns to achieve your goals, or the nature of the returns (i.e. mix of income and capital movement) is wrong for your purpose. This often occurs because an investor is too conservative or too greedy, or gives up to much of their returns in tax and fees.
The basic principles of managing risk:
1. There is normally no return without risk
- the return is only half of the investment equation. Investments earning higher average long-term returns usually carry higher short-term risks. The rewards go to investors who take and manage risks and do not look to avoid risk altogether. What is important is that the risks taken on are appropriate for the investment and goal time frame.
2. Risks must be understood and returns transparent
- if risks are not understood they can’t be managed. If the sources of returns are not transparent, the risks are “higher” because of the unknown. Investing first requires understanding and then the application of common sense.
3. Experience and judgement count
- risks can’t be managed solely by a mathematical model. A model, at best is a tool that forms the basis of sound judgement.
4. Understand what can go wrong
- all assumptions should be questioned. The consequences of different scenarios should be discussed be on a regular basis.
- multiple investments reduce risk without altering the expected return. Diversification reduces the level of uncertainty that the return outcome is below the average.
6. Consistency and discipline
- a rigorous and consistent approach will manage risk better than a constantly changing process and provide a better framework for understanding the outcome. It is also important to understand where competitive advantages are and where decisions are made on the basis of a guess.
As a general principle, tax should not drive investment decisions. However, efficient tax management can make a significant difference to the investment outcome.
Tax is also complex and a booklet of this nature cannot provide the necessary details of the legislation. The comments below provide a general overview and an investor should always make sure that they understand how tax will affect the returns of their investments.
An investment vehicle such as a unit trust or managed fund can apply for portfolio investment entity (PIE) status. A vehicle with PIE status, attributes its investment income to individual investors. The tax regime for a PIE vehicle is the same as a non-PIE vehicle for all investments, except NZ and certain Australian shares. These shares are taxed on dividends only.
If an investor invests via a vehicle with PIE status, the tax is payable on the income received at the investor’s prescribed investor rate (PIR). A PIR can be 10.5%, 17.5% or 28%. The 17.5% applies to investors whose taxable income was below $48,000 in at least one of the last two years and their taxable income and PIE income in that year was below $70,000. Overseas tax residents generally have a 28% PIR regardless of their income level. Some PIEs also qualify for zero tax for overseas investors.
The fair dividend rate (FDR) is the tax regime that applies to overseas “equity” investments. This will include shares, some property and some bond products. It also applies to many Australian investments that do not fall under the Australasian tax regime for shares.
Under the FDR regime, investors are defined to have taxable income equal to 5% of the value of their investment on 1 April each year. Tax is payable on this deemed income, whether or not the investor receives that income. At a 28% tax rate, the tax on the deemed income is 1.4% (i.e. 28% x 5%). An investor’s return therefore is the total market return less 1.4%. A “de minimus” exception applies for direct investments by an individual, if their overseas assets are below a total of $50,000. This does not apply to products. Also, initial investments are based on average value and not the 1 April value.
New investments are not subject to FDR tax in the year they are made unless they are bought and sold in the same year ir biought under a unitised structure.
If you have questions on tax, it is a good idea to talk to a tax expert.
From an investment point of view, most investments fall into one of four general types of assets:
Often referred to as income assets
Often referred to as "growth" assets but provide income by way of rent and dividents
Each type has its own characteristics in terms of expected returns, what drives the return and the level of certainty of the returns over the short-term.
Taking time to understand the expected returns of each of the different types of assets is important, as it is only then that you can make sure that your investment strategy (i.e. your combination of the different types of assets) is the right strategy for you. For more information see the section “determining an investment strategy”.
The most common form of cash investments are bank deposits. However, “cash” typically includes any fixed interest investment where the capital will be repaid within a year. The return from cash is the interest paid.
A bond is often referred to as a “fixed interest” investment. It is in effect a loan to the issuer. The return is the interest received together with the change in value i.e. the profit or loss you would make if you sold it to another investor.
Property investments are land and buildings. As the owner of the property, you receive the rent paid less expenses. If the property increases (or reduces) in value, you will also receive the change in the value of that property. There are several types of property. The most common types are residential (houses) and commercial. Commercial property may be offices, industrial complexes, warehouses or retail outlets.
Share investments (also often referred to as “equity” investments or “stock”) represent a share of the ownership of a business. The owners of the shares (the “shareholders” receives the residual of the business earnings after the payments of all costs. As such, shares return to the investor the profits of a company. In some cases the profits are returned as a dividend and in others by way of retaining the profit in the business to enable it to expand and therefore grow the share price. Shares also increase or reduce in value, as other investors are willing to pay more or less for the share of the profits.
An investment strategy is the mix of cash, bonds, property and shares that your capital is allocated to.
The purpose of an investment strategy is to align the pattern of the returns (income, growth and timing) from the different investments with the pattern of your future expenditure. To the extent that they are not aligned, there is a risk that when you come to spend the money, there will be not sufficient money available and you will need to realise some of your assets and spend more of your capital than was planned.
The starting point for determining the appropriate investment strategy is to look at the expenditure pattern that will be funded by the investment returns and assets. To do this you should prepare a budget of expected expenditure and understand how that may change in future years, either through changes to the nature of your expenditure or through inflation.
For most people the expenditure pattern will be a series of payments over time, payments that generally increase to keep up with inflation. The pattern will not be smooth as in some years larger items (a new car, an overseas holiday etc.) will occur, and in other years a lower level of expenditure may be incurred. Also, unless you sell your house and spend your last dollar before you die, there will be a large payment at the end as assets transfer from your generation to the next.
The expenditure can also be broken down into required expenditure (day to day basic living costs) which is very important and discretionary expenditure. With required expenditure, a higher level of certainty is necessary as unless the
returns achieved are equal to what are required, you will have to spend some of your capital.
In terms of your expenditure, part may be met from other sources, for example, your income while you work or New Zealand Superannuation when you retire. What is important is understanding the expenditure which will be met from your investment earnings and from the capital itself.
As a general rule, expenditure that will occur in the immediate future (next 3 years) should be provided by way of cash investments. Expenditure that will be met in the next 3 to 10 years should be invested in bonds and expenditure beyond 10 years, in shares and property. This minimises the risks of having to sell an asset when the value of the asset has fallen.
While there is no single investment strategy that is right for all investors, it is possible to develop a range of sample strategies for generic circumstances that can form a basis for an investor determining their appropriate strategy. The development of the sample strategies reflects the principles discussed in Section 13.
Years to retirement
Expected years in retirement
Source: MCA NZ Limited Actuaries & Consultants
When it comes to implementing your investment strategy, there are a range of investment options. You can buy assets direct, e.g, shares in company ABC, or you can buy the same asset via a product or pooled investment vehicle, often referred to as a “managed fund”. When buying direct, you can do so in your own name or via a third party service, often referred to as a “wrap” account.
There is no simple answer of whether direct investments or a pooled investment vehicle is better. Each has different cost and tax implications. Also, managed funds may have greater diversification and access to investments not otherwise available to individuals.
The most common managed funds include:
- Unit trusts
- Superannuation schemes
- KiwiSaver schemes
- Group investment funds
- Special purpose vehicles
Also, each managed fund may be a PIE (portfolio investment entity) or a non-PIE and therefore have a different tax treatment (see section 7 – understanding tax).
When evaluating the different options the key things to think about include:
- Ability to withdraw
- Costs (entry, management and exit)
One of the best ways to achieve good financial health is to convert your financial aspirations into specific investment goals. The goals might relate to required levels of return and/or the achievement of a particular level of assets or wealth over a particular timeframe. Goals may also include clearing debt and in some cases will be for a particular purpose such as saving for a car, education or for your retirement.
Deciding exactly what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it lets you plan how to get there and allows you to monitor your progress along the way.
Your goals will generally fall into three time horizons: short, medium and longer term.
- Short-term goals might have a time horizon of up to 3 years. These could include immediate expenses, saving for a car or a boat, or buying a new fridge.
- Medium term goals generally have a time frame of 3 to 10 years. They may involve a large amount of money (e.g., to buy a business or a holiday home, or relate to specific events like a child’s university education).
- Longer term goals are generally 10 or more years away. Future retirement security is one example of such a goal.
You should also decide on the importance of the goal, as this will influence how much and what type of risks you can take along the way.
In addition to setting investment goals, to achieve good financial health you should also set non-investment, but related, financial goals. For example, reviewing your will, establishing a power of attorney, or learning more about how the investment markets work.
Having set your goals, you then need to act by deciding how much to invest and, equally important, how to invest it.
Understanding your goals and working out a plan of how to achieve them, means you are often half way there. The other half is having the discipline to stick to your plan. The best goals are written down and reviewed often, and for the longer term goals, to be broken down into shorter term “progress” goals. Some people refer to this as making your goals “smart” - Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and with a Timeframe.
There are a number of key investment principles that you should keep in mind when making investment decisions.
Diversification has, for a long time, been one of the key principles of achieving successful investment outcomes. Diversification focuses on controlling the exposure to a single investment, and thereby limiting the negative consequences if something goes wrong. Diversification means buying several investments and not just one.
You don’t buy car insurance because you know you’re going to be involved in a car accident. You buy it because of the risk that you might be in an accident, and the financial consequences if you don’t have it. Diversification is like insurance. It may mean that some of the investments you buy won’t have good returns. But you don’t diversify because you know or think that an investment you hold is going to go down. You do it because you don’t know, because markets and investments are unpredictable.
As a rule, the less time you have to monitor and manage your investments, the more diversification you need to avoid being dependent on luck.
In many cases you will be investing for long periods of time and one thing is certain and that is “change”. Your circumstances needs and the investment opportunities will change. Because of change, it is a good idea to ensure that your investments are flexible so that they can be altered within a reasonable period of time and without penalty, to meet the changed circumstances.
One of the key investment principles to achieve success is to ensure that you are never forced to sell an investment. Being forced to sell may mean you get less for your investment than it is worth. To avoid this you should always hold sufficient cash to meet your immediate and unexpected expenditure. This puts you in the position where you do not have to sell a bond, a property or a share in a rush. By holding sufficient cash, you can sell your other assets in good time, i.e., when you can get a good price.
Minimising or ensuring that you pay only appropriate fees is a key strategy to getting successful return outcomes. Of course financial advisers and investment managers don’t want you to minimise fees as it means less money for them. This does not mean that you should pay no fees. Paying fees that reflect the work done and advice given is appropriate.
Understanding the fees you will pay is often difficult as many products don’t explain them consistently, and don’t disclose them accurately. It is always a good idea to get the adviser/manager to explain the fees you will pay including commissions, upfront fees, management fees, trustee fees, exit fees, internal fees etc.. Remember the lower the fees, the higher the return to you, all else being equal.
Timing – stick to the plan
There is a saying about investing – “it’s time, not timing that is important”. You cannot get a good 10 year average return if you have not invested in the markets for 10 years. As an investor therefore, you need to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, and have patience while you achieve it.
History has shown that the value of sharemarkets generally go up, but along the way they go both up and down. Historically, falls in share markets are generally followed by rises and, market fluctuations tend to be cyclical. However each cycle is not the same as the last, and in each case it’s almost impossible to say when the top or the bottom of the cycle has been reached, or how long the cycle will last. Even the experts find it difficult to accurately guess market movements before they happen.
Investments very rarely all move in the same direction. The investment markets are dynamic and there are many things that can have an impact on the value of an investment at any point in time. Global economic and political conditions, inflation and one-off events (such as oil shocks) all influence the current value of an investment, along with local events and conditions. At the same time investor confidence has a significant influence and can dominate over the short-term. Because the investment markets are dynamic, often by the time economies have slowed down, share markets may be positioning themselves for a recovery with share prices rising and vice versa.
Successful savers take a long-term view
Over a longer period, the evidence is that carefully chosen investments will progressively increase in value. It therefore pays to be patient, and understand the benefits time, not timing, will bring. At times when the market fluctuations lead to returns that are low or negative, it pays not to automatically sell an investment. Instead, put the negative short-term return in the context of the normal pattern of returns that arise from market ups and downs.
From time to time a particular investment will go up because it is a “popular” investment and not because it will give the best long-term return. There are many examples of this. For example, in the later 1990’s it was the technology stocks. What happens to be “the best thing since sliced bread” today will normally go stale tomorrow - it is only when and not if. Investors should avoid “fads” unless they have the time to work out when the fashion will change.
As a rule the level of past performance is not a good guide or predictor to the level of future performance. The exception is where the good returns are explained by low fees as opposed to human judgement.
If a manager or investor has had the “best” return in the last 5 years, in the next 5 years, they are just as likely to have a bad return as they are to have another good return. In fact, very rarely does one manager or one investment always or consistently have the best return.
It is normally important to keep investments simple and to understand exactly what you are investing in, what will influence the return you will achieve and what can change. When you understand the full range of what to expect, surprises and disappointments are less likely.
In the discussion on strategy, investments in property were deliberately left out. It was done so for several reasons:
- most people have a high exposure to property through owning their house.
- the risks associated with property, because of its nature (i.e. the size of the investment and low diversification (its hard to buy several properties), do not make it an ideal investment. It is not flexible and is not liquid and it is hard to get diversification.
- unless you spend time to understand the property market, you normally do not get a good return.
- property is not a good asset to buy via a managed fund or product, which is how most people end up buying such investments.
While we do not see property as a natural asset for most people’s investment strategies, we acknowledge, for the few who know what they are doing, excellent returns can be made. If you are one of the few, property may be an ideal investment. Also, many people are happy to “gear up” (i.e. borrow) to buy a property, but not other investments. This can sometimes give an advantage.
Rule of 72
The rule of 72 is an easy way to estimate how many years it will take for an investment to double in value at a given return. Simply divide 72 by the return. It can also be used to find out how inflation will affect the purchasing power of your investment income in retirement.
For example, if you wanted to estimate how long it will take for value of an investment to double, if it earned 6% after-tax each year, you divide 72 by 6 to get 12. The investment will double in value every 12 years (6 x 12 = 72).
On the other hand, if the rate of inflation was 3% a year, the effective purchasing power of your income would be halved in 24 years, i.e. (72 divided by 3).
Dollar cost averaging
Dollar cost averaging is a technique to reduce the risk that you make a major investment at the wrong time, i.e. when the market is up and about to fall. It smoothes the purchase of investments over a period of time. Instead of making an investment as a single lump sum, the investor buys several smaller amounts over a longer period of time.
Trying to pick the market’s highs and lows in order to maximise gains is very difficult to do. Therefore, through dollar cost averaging, as the price of the investment rises, fewer investments are bought, and as prices fall, more investments are bought. Overall it results in more investments being bought on average and reduces the risk that the total investment is made at the wrong time.
It is important to recognise however, that while dollar cost averaging is good when you are investing, it has the opposite effect when you are selling assets to spend.
Many people claim that compound interest is “magical” and enables you to earn greater returns. In practice it’s all about not spending your interest and therefore earning interest on it, as well as continuing to earn it on your capital in the future. This is not magic.
Compound interest is the process of earning interest on interest. For example:
Let us assume that you make a $10,000 investment and that your investment earns 5% interest per annum after tax and fees.
After one year your investment will be worth $10,500 (i.e. $10,000 plus 5% x $10,000). In short, you have made $500 interest in year one.
At the end of the second year your investment will be worth $11,025, that is you have made $525 interest in year two. The $525 interest in the second year is made of:
|$10,000 x 5%||=||$500||(interest on your original investment)|
|+ $500 x 5%||=||$25||(interest on the interest in year 1)|
Terms used in this guide and generally within the investment industry include:
- 90 day bank bill rate: The interest rate that banks pay on a three month deposit for wholesale money.
- Asset class: A broadly defined category of financial assets e.g. cash, overseas fixed interest, NZ fixed interest, overseas shares and NZ shares etc..
- Asset allocation or investment strategy: The division of money across the different asset classes.
- Basis point: A “basis point” is one hundredth of 1%, i.e., 0.0001.
- Consumer price index (CPI): Designed to compare the relative “cost of living” over time and used as a measure of inflation. The index measures, at various times, the prices of a group of selected goods and services typically bought by ordinary New Zealand households.
- GDP (Gross Domestic Product): The total monetary value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given year.
- Government stock: A fixed interest investment or bond offered over a specified term by a government.
- Gross return: The return received before tax is paid and expenses are deducted. Once these are taken into your account, you end up with the net rate of return.
- Growth investments: Include higher short-term “risk” investments such as New Zealand and overseas shares. The focus is on generating growth over the long term but they will also generate some income through dividends over the short-term.
- Income investments: Include lower short-term “risk” investments such as cash (normally with banks) and NZ and overseas fixed interest or bond investments. The focus is on generating income.
- Inflation: The rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is increasing. Typically measured by the CPI.
- Index: An index is a measure of the performance of an investment e.g. the NZSX50 index for New Zealand shares. It represents the general movement of those investments.
- Net rate of return: As for return, but adjusted for expenses such as investment expenses, tax and fees.
- Official cash rate (OCR): The base overnight interest rate at which the RBNZ lends or pays to registered commercial banks. This is the tool that the RBNZ uses to manage inflation.
- PIE: Portfolio investment entity. A managed fund may have PIE status for tax purposes.
- PIR: Prescribed investor rate. This is the tax rate applicable under a PIE.
- RBNZ: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
- Risk (for investment): A measure of the chance or likelihood of a negative event occurring. In relation to investments, it commonly refers to the variability of returns over the short-term, around the long-term average, particularly the variability below the average.
- Return: The amount of money received annually from an investment including movement in capital values. It is usually expressed as a percentage. Real rate of return: The difference between the return earned, and the rate of inflation.
- Security: Generally, an asset pledged to ensure repayment of a debt or loan and forfeited if the debt or loan is not repaid. In financial markets, the term “security” also refers to the right to an asset which is tradable such as a share, bond, etc.
- Yields: The interest rate at which a fixed interest security (bond) is issued by governments and companies and can be purchased in the secondary market.
- Volatility: A word used to describe the unpredictability of the return and the potential for an investment to fluctuate (go up and down in value) over time.
2Assumes investment grade corporate bonds. Government stock is more likely to return 6.0% to 6.25% p.a. on average.
3Assumes investment grade corporate credit.
4Assumes global shares, and tax under the FDR regime.