Time For An Alternative Investment Approach
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For years the investment formula applied by investors has been to craft a diversified portfolio of assets weighted more towards equities. It made sense to build a foundation on safe, low-risk, low-return capital preservation investments and, depending on your age, allocate a relatively larger portion of your investable income into higher risk, higher return equities.
But is this justified in the local context? While global equity markets have enjoyed a decade-long bull run following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, consistently delivering 10% to 15% annual returns, the JSE has been a perennial under-performer over the last four to five years.
Despite this fact, significant investor capital has continued to flow into local equities, either directly into stocks or via unit trusts, ETFs and endowments. And now amid more volatile global economic conditions, where global indexes have come off record highs in early 2018, local equities are still projected to underperform in the medium-term as the market correction that many predicted gathers momentum.
This shift is symptomatic of the volatility that currently characterises global markets as Brexit plays out, trade wars intensify, and widespread socio-political instability creates systemic economic risks. Yet, investors are still being advised to put their money into higher-risk vehicles.
Further compounding the issue is the fact that the country’s exchanges are dominated by a few large entities, which are all negatively impacted by the country’s dire economic situation. This means local investors must also contend with concentrated risk.
Despite these threats, many financial advisors have stuck to the traditional investment playbook by telling clients to “stay calm and remain invested in equities.” But given the prevailing market conditions, investors can realise better returns from investment opportunities that break from this conventional approach.
Returns from various fixed-rate investments, for example, have and continue to outperform equity investments, and do so without the associated risks.
While reducing risk is not necessarily a key concern for naturally risk-included entrepreneurs, when it comes to investing our hard-earned money we have the power to manage that risk. So, forget the old, pervasive attitude of “no risk, no reward.” It's dated and, quite frankly, unwarranted.
The new reality is that fixed-term, low-risk investments have become among the best-performing asset classes — a fact that is tearing at the foundations of conventional investment advice. Entrenched beliefs must therefore be challenged, especially when investments that offer security can match or outperform high-risk options such as equities.
So, what are our options, given that fixed-rate investment options currently abound? Well, before diving into a vanilla offering from a bank, consider what your capital is secured against.
Banks generate their returns by lending out pooled deposits in the form of loans and credit. Some of this lending is secured, much of it is not. This can introduce risk into your investment, because the ability of debtors to repay debt is often compromised in a struggling economy, and bad debts will impact the returns that a bank can offer depositors.
Forward-looking secured investments, on the other hand, offer a set rate for five years and are secured against a variety of assets, like Fedgroup’s Secured Investment in participation bonds, which removes significant risk from the equation. These types of collective investment schemes are also regulated to protect investors.
While it may not be prudent to completely disinvest from the local stock market, there is a case to be made to be more circumspect with future investments, matured investments, or that portion of your portfolio that is earmarked for reallocation. With this money, an investment that delivers both capital security and a high, fixed rate of return might well prove more attractive than the traditional wisdom of local equities.
The guaranteed, low-risk returns currently offered by fixed-rate investments have transformed these products from fringe options into mainstream investment vehicles that can no longer be ignored. With the chance to outperform the average equity investor, isn’t it time to rethink your conventional investment approach and consider the lucrative and, more importantly in such volatile times, secure opportunities offered by these alternative investment options?