Financial News
On this page:
Easy Steps to financial freedom
The Price of good advice
Why use a Broker/Financial Advisor
Easy Steps to financial freedom

Start at the beginning -- where you are now
The first step is to evaluate your present situation. To do this, make a list. Firstly, list your sources of income, your job, and any other possible sources of income (second jobs, income from direct marketing, interest on investments) including the amounts. Now make a list of your spending. The first part of the list is your necessities: the weekly or monthly costs that you incur on a regular basis (ie. rent or mortgage payment, water, telephone, etc). On the next part of the list, include the non-essentials; look at your last two or three months of your banks statements, or receipts collected, and list where you have been spending your disposable income, including what you spent it on and how much.

Once this information is established, you can take the next, vital step, to build a budget. There are a few things that are essential to planning for a sound future. This is what I like to call the "must have's" because these are the elements that are absolutely essential to financial security:
- Budget -- live within your means
- Savings -- pay yourself first
- Emergency Fund
-Your nest egg
- Plan for your Future
- Financial Planner

Use these lists of income and expenditures to create a budget. Take a clean sheet of paper and divided it into three columns: Income/Expense, Credit (+) and Debit (-). In the first column, listed source(s) of income and then enter the monthly amounts you bring home in the credit column. Then list the essentials like rent or mortgage payment and utilities, groceries. Entered the average amount you spend on each in the Debit column. To do this, go back three or four months of bills, and add them up, then divide by the number of months (3 or 4) to get the average. For weekly payments, multiply the number by four to get a monthly amount. Then look at your final list of other spending you have recorded over the last few months, and averaged out what you spent on gifts, clothes, entertainment, and other non-essentials.

Once this task had been completed, add up the credit column, and then total the debit column. If the total in your credit column was more than that in your debit column, you are living within your means and will be able to structure a savings plan to plan for the future and for your retirement. If the credit column is lower than your debit column, then you are living beyond your means, and you are spending more than you're making. It's time to make some adjustments to your spending, and look for ways to make reductions in the non-essentials list in order to balance those numbers.

An essential step to budgeting and planning for the future is savings. You should be squirreling away a portion of your take-home pay into savings. The popular suggested amount is ten per cent. You should put that as your first expense on your essential list, ideally 10% but as much as you can muster. This is how you will create wealth for yourself. This is the money that you can later invest, to earn you income, and may eventually become part of your retirement plan.

Paying yourself first can serve many purposes. This can serve as your emergency fund, for the new roof you need, the flight overseas for an ill parent, or any countless unforeseen necessary expenses. It can also serve as your vacation fund, or special purchase fund, so that you're not going into debt when you decide to take your family on a vacation, or install that long-awaited pool for everyone to enjoy.

Emergency Fund
As I mentioned above, it is important to have an emergency fund. We've all heard the expression "when it rains it pours". The last thing you need to worry about after your husband gets laid off is paying for someone to repair the hole in the roof. Or maybe on your way home from work you get side-swiped by an irresponsible driver and your insurance company decides the cost of the damage exceeds the value of the car and you're faced with having to buy a new car with the pittance your insurance paid for the value of your vehicle. These emergencies have a way of happening at the most inconvenient times, and without an emergency fund, can leave you scrambling. You might have to borrow from the bank, or worse, family, to make ends meet. An emergency fund, even with a couple of thousand dollars, will prove to be invaluable.

Planning for the future
Aside from emergencies and special luxury purchases, the most important element of savings is planning for the future. Although it is easy to live in the moment, everyone needs a nest egg for their golden years. We cannot rely on government pensions to allow us to live comfortably in our retirement years.

The only way to avoid this is to start putting money aside for your retirement. These days, people live well into their eighties and nineties, so you could be looking at up to 30 years of retirement living. You want to be financially comfortable and independent. There is a huge difference between being able to survive on the income you have allocated for your retirement and being comfortable.

The most effective way to maximize your retirement planning is to consult with a financial advisor about your options. There are investments loans used to build wealth, insurance policies and countless other options that should be explored.

Financial Planner
A financial advisor can assist you with all of the above steps: analyzing your current spending habits, help you create a budget, how much you can set aside for savings, planning your retirement, and investing those funds so they work for you and earn the maximum amount of return. The financial advisor works out a plan that reflects your investment goals, within your accepted tolerance level.

This is where it is important to find a good financial advisor that you trust. And regardless of who they are, and how much you trust them, you must always keep abreast of your investments, and follow how they are performing.

The relationship with your financial planner should become a life-long relationship. You need a safe place to get counsel that you will need for the rest of your life. The ability to communicate with each other effectively is key. So someone who returns your phone calls and makes it habit to touch base with you every now and then is very important.

Financial health and wealth is such a huge part of our lives; we should never hesitate to seek advice when it comes to planning and making decisions. Seeking advice and taking these steps will put you on the road to financial freedom.




The price of good advice

Article By: Henry van Deventer (acsis financial planning coach)

I have recently 'invested' in a financial planner. She charges an hourly rate (R1710) for advice and a portfolio review, and a planning fee of R1140. In addition she also charges 2.85 percent on any investments we make through them, on top of what the investment company charges for the investment.

Is this normal practice as the fees seem quite high? Am I being ripped off by my financial planner?

I can understand your concern. When we consider the fees we pay to financial planners, a number of questions come up: How am I paying my planner? What am I paying for? How much should I pay? Can I do this myself? By looking at the answers to these questions, we can create a framework of reference and a quality checklist that should stand us in good stead.

How do I pay my advisor?

When it comes to paying for financial advice, the first thing we need to do is to discard the myth of 'free' advice.

If we are not paying a financial planner a fee out of our own pocket, the truth is that these advisors get paid commissions by product providers. These commissions are often more than we realise (a long term policy of R500 per month will typically pay about R5000 worth of commission). And make no mistake — these commissions are definitely recouped from you as the investor over time.

So by going the 'cheap up front' route we run the risk paying for the product that best rewards the advisor and is least encouraged to incentivise objective advice. By the time we realise this, it's often too late to do anything about it.

If we rather choose to pay a fee for advice, we need to understand what we pay for and how much.

First, there is the fee for the advice process and financial plan itself. Typically, these fees are charged either for the planning process (fees tend to range between R2000 and R30 000) or on a per hour basis (roughly between R500 and R1500 per hour for about eight hours of work).

What am I paying for?

So is it worthwhile paying for a financial plan, or can you do it yourself? Well, let’s briefly look at what the financial planning process should deliver:


  • A financial planner will help you clearly define what you would like your money to allow you to do, sort through your priorities to help you decide what is most meaningful (e.g. living debt-free or starting a business) and help you identify strategies that will make this financially possible.


  • Bad decisions destroy wealth. Your financial plan should give you a clear idea about what the right decisions for you are before you make them (in terms of lifestyle, your good and bad behaviours and your specific objectives).


  • Your financial plan will summarise all your building blocks (investments, retirement funds, policies, etc.) and detail the most effective way of using or restructuring these to help you reach your goals. This will take account of your personal tax positions, estate plan and structures such as trusts and companies.


  • Your plan will give you a clear indication of the kind of growth you need your assets to achieve and should recommend ways of achieving it. It will also recommend the best ways of dealing with risks such as death and disability.

If you believe the above to be of value, how much you pay for it will depend on the experience and qualifications of your specific financial planner.

Make sure to check for relevant qualifications (being a Certified Financial Planner is a good place to start) and be clear up front what the advice process will entail and what you can expect at the end of it.

Should I pay more than one fee?

The second fee a financial planner could levy is an implementation fee. This is the charge for making the investments and restructuring your insurances in a way that will give you the best chance of achieving your goal. These fees have an up-front and an ongoing component. It is important to distinguish that financial advice (as discussed above) and implementing recommendations are different things. Paying separate fees for this is not unusual.

For investments, up-front fees tend to be between zero and five percent plus VAT. Ongoing annual fees generally range between 0.5 percent and one percent plus VAT.

These are sometimes negotiable, but generally — as is the case with medical or legal advice — the cheapest is seldom the best.

Shopping around for competitive fees is not a bad idea, especially if your advisor is going to charge separately for implementation. Some advisors are able to gain access to products at special low rates that bring down costs further.

Make sure you ask your advisor what he is doing to make your implementation cost-effective over time. Most financial planners do not charge for reviews, as your ongoing fees tend to cover the expense.

In summary, I think your fee structure is not unusual, although it is at the higher end of the scale. If you are satisfied that the product (quality of advice, qualifications, experience and solutions) justifies the fee, that is great. If not, this might be a good time to start shopping around.
To deal direct or to use a broker?

By Bryan Hirsch

The debate on whether to utilise the services of a broker or deal directly continues, but if you are thinking of going it alone, answer these questions:

a) What is your knowledge of investments?
• How much experience do you have?
• Do you have time for serious research?
• Do you understand how fund managers operate?
• Do you realise that past performance is no benchmark for the future?
• Can you stick to the fundamentals when it comes to investing and not get sucked in by emotions of fear and greed?

If you answer yes to all the above you might very well be able to deal directly.

But even expert opinion is divided on the future direction of markets, currencies and the world economy.

What is of greater concern is that an already confused investor might choose a particular strategy.

Investment decisions should never be based on how an investor is feeling, negatively or positively, but rather be based on fundamentals and aligned to your own strategic investment plan.

Unfortunately, if the information corresponds with one's current beliefs, one might act on it.

The danger of this is making an emotional decision and though strategies might need to be changed from time to time, an investor who acts on interpretation of advice, might well miss the next bit of advice, which puts a different spin on what is happening in world markets and change one's thinking.

It is imperative that an investor finds a strategy that removes all the short-term information from the equation.

While it's impossible to predict what's going to happen in the short term, by taking a longer-term approach all the volatility and confusion becomes muted.

The starting point should always be what you are trying to achieve.

Your answer will determine the risk you are prepared or need to take in order to set the right asset allocation.

To determine this, the value of each asset is taken, totalled and the percentage is calculated.

You must leave out all lifestyle assets, including your home.

You also need to understand the asset mixes within your retirement fund, endowments and unit trusts to be able to determine the underlying investments of each of these structures.

Surprisingly many investors are unaware that equities may make up between 50% and 65% of retirement funds.

Having done this, one must be satisfied with the split of assets and in particular, the exposure to equities, not in terms of your risk tolerance, but more importantly, aligned to your requirements for future growth.

This exercise needs to be repeated regularly to recalculate the asset mix either in the event of your circumstances changing or where your allocation becomes skewed.

The process is complicated and I revert to my opening statement giving the reasons why investors should utilise the services of a financial planner:

• Life assurance-disability and dread disease - costs, benefits and guarantees differ.
• Retirement Funds - easy to decide on how much to invest, but how can you change managers if there's been regular under performance?
• Fixed annuities - shopping around for the best rate and
• Living annuities - making investment decisions.

   Source: Sowetan