Credit Card- A Blessing & A Curse

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Everyone knows that little rectangular piece of plastic that several individuals carry around in their purse or wallet. This is what we call a credit card, which is issued by a financial institution, most commonly banks, for consumers to purchase goods or services at the initial expense of the institution. This I like to call short term borrowing.

Do not get this confused with the other rectangular card called a debit card. They are two different types of spending, either spending your own money (debit) or spending the banks’ money (credit). The word credit merely means providing the resources or money to another party without immediate payment.

As Jamaicans, we can relate as many shops or wholesales offer regular customers the benefit of ‘Trust’, where they take the goods and pay at a later date. It is the same concept, just that a credit card allows you to purchase an item or service (the retailer gets their funds) but you pay the bank at a later date.

The phrase short term borrowing is used because minimum payments are due every month end at a specific date to lower the principal and interest and if those payments are not made, then the card is blocked from usage.

Based on a 2016 survey, over 67 percent of persons over the age of 65 was in possession of a credit card and in Q2 2017, there was about USD$ 780 Billion in credit card debt in the United States.

Credit cards can be a blessing, but how? When used responsibly and how they are slated to be used, there can be numerous advantages. Firstly, when making a reservation, for example at a hotel, a credit card is needed to either hold the reservation or be on file in case there has been any damage during your stay. Secondly, they are amazing for emergencies, when you don’t have ready cash to deal with medical bills, buying food etc.

Additionally, before the introduction of debit cards, credit cards were the only source available to allow online banking which is deemed more convenient to consumers and also provides security against fraud. Some banks ever offer bonuses, giving cash back and miles for travelling. However, one of the main uses of a credit card is to be able to have good credit history so that it is easier to get loans and even lower interest rates.

However! The Curse! – Most owners of credit cards do not use them properly or responsibly. What persons make the mistake of is making their credit limit higher than what they can afford or even higher than their monthly paycheck, which makes it difficult to repay when in debt and causes financial distress. Persons tend to even have 3 or 4 credit cards which may result in more debt and then is only able to make the minimum payment, fall short of it or even pay late. This can cause a problem.

To avoid getting bad credit and decreasing your chances of getting a loan, being able to rent or even getting employed, be smart about your credit cards, make on time payments, more than the minimum if possible, stay within your limit and have self-control.

If you generally cannot pay for an item or service that it is not an emergency or need, do not charge your credit card. If you know you have no self-control, do not get a credit card. Do not get another credit card if you don’t have to and always try to pay your bill on time.

Do not fall for the temptation of credit cards, they are there to give benefits not put you in debt. It is important to live within your means instead of finding a different source of income by loan.

Be smart and have good credit or stay away!

 

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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At What Age is the Ideal Time To Buy A Home?

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The answer?

There’s no right age to buy a home.

But what should be the determining factor is where you are in your own life. Purchasing a home is the most significant investment most owners make in their lifetime, and your status as a homeowner can help you or hurt you financially speaking.

Perhaps most importantly, it affects your quality of life.

When Should You Buy?

Buying a home can benefit you at any age, young or old, as long as the conditions are right. You might be ready to buy when, at a bare minimum, you:

  • Can afford the monthly payments and expenses of home ownership;
  • Can get approved for a good loan (or better yet, pay cash);
  • Plan to keep the home long enough to recoup transaction costs from buying and selling, as well as any price declines;
  • Can afford the risks, including surprise maintenance expenses or your home losing value in a weak market.

None of that is meant to suggest that you’re irresponsible if you don’t buy a house at a certain age. Owning a home can be an expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating endeavour. Renting comes with its own set of challenges, but it’s a lot easier to pack up and leave when the only thing holding you down is a one-year lease.

At What Age Do Most People Buy?

It’s important to live your own life, but it might be helpful to know when others typically buy.  There may be good reasons behind the fact that homeownership rates increase with age. On average most become homeowners later in life.

Age Range    Homeownership Rate

35 to 44 years old    58.9 percent

45 to 54 years old    69.5 percent

55 to 64 years old    75.3 percent

Age 65 and over    79.2 percent

Reasons for Buying Young

If you have the ability and desire to buy young, there are potential benefits to getting an early start.

Build wealth: Assuming things go well, owning a home is a route to increasing your net worth. The forced savings of your monthly payments help you build equity in the property, which you can use for another property or other goals.

Price appreciation: There is no guarantee that your home will gain value, but that is what happens in many cases—over the long term. Real estate can help hedge against inflation, assuming your property keeps pace with rising prices.

Reasons for Waiting

If you’re not feeling rushed, that’s okay. Waiting can pay off in several ways. Making a home your own and moving can be a pain, so you may prefer to minimise the number of times you buy and sell.

More certainty: As you get older, you develop a clearer picture of your ideal home. The future is always uncertain, but you gain more information about several factors as you age:

  • Your work location, or your ability to work remotely;
  • Your income available for housing payments;
  • The size of your family, if any;
  • Financial strength.

Instead of being house poor and dealing with your property in your 20s and 30s, you can spend those years saving for a significant down payment, travelling, or doing anything else you want. What’s more, you can build credit over the years to get the best loan possible.

 

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

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A Frank Look at Gender Disparity in Indian Culture

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In countries such as India, traditional norms are still surpassing the ever-changing mechanisms of modern society. In particular, gender disparity within their workforce still mimics that of century old practices, where women are expected to take care of homes, rather than play the role of “breadwinner”. Though different in each caste, women have tried for years to push barriers and enter male dominated fields even when faced with severe backlash. Some have managed to succeed and create new norms for generations to come. Kundapur Vaman Kamath, founding chief executive of ICICI Bank Ltd., developed a generation of female bankers. Among them are Kalpana Morparia who now leads JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Indian operations and Madhabi Puri-Buch, who is a stock-market regulator.

Regardless of Kamath’s guidance, Indian women are still facing difficulties in trying to actively participation in the workforce. Approximately 21 million women dropped out of the workforce in Indian villages between 2005 and 2012, while fewer took up employment in cities compared with the period 1994-2005. Because of these numbers, younger generations have opted to stay longer in school to grant themselves adequate bargaining power in the work world and increase their chances of employment. Regardless, older women still fall victim to the expectation of staying home because of lack of pressure to contribute income to households. This wasted labour supply drastically reduces India’s economic potential as labour capital is not being maximized or used efficiently. Many would argue that the male dominated culture of India is the main cause of gender disparities in jobs, but it is also mostly the result of a lack of opportunities that are available to women in both urban and rural areas that are safe, and socially acceptable.

According to a new study by McKinsey & Co., gender equality in the workforce could drive India’s business-as-usual GDP upwards of 18% by 2025. If this study stands true in practicality, then it proves that equality can drive efficiency. Many believe that the act of granting equality means only taking from the rich and giving to the poor, which lowers the incentive of the rich to produce at the capacity that it did before. However, in this case, the workforce would just be more accommodating to the participation of female labour supply so that they can also contribute something meaningful to society. Until policies are changed in the favour of female workers, India’s chance of a higher GDP is stagnant. Women have proved for centuries that they are capable of bringing forth fruitful returns in whatever seeds they sow. Having their talents and knowledge being put to use in a professional capacity can positively impact economic development and growth.

 

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Setting Financial Goals

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If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. – Yogi Berra.

This important quote can be applied to almost every aspect of life including investing. A key to earning fruitful returns on investments is having a defined end game and setting financial goals. Ask yourself, what are my goals? What do I wish to achieve in approximately five or ten years?

A new approach to managing wealth is goal-based investing, which emphasizes investing with the objective of reaching specific life goals instead of comparing returns to a benchmark. Individuals use different milestones in their lives to set the precedence for investments goals. For instance, whenever investors may have children they tend to start funds that aid preparing for college tuitions, or saving towards the purchase of a home. These goals will influence the time proximity as well as the level of aggressiveness necessary to achieve the end game. Successful investments involve defining measurable and attainable goals. These include applying a dollar amount to whatever an individual hopes to attain, as well as a time horizon in which they hope to accomplish such.

Investing is just like building a house. There is no way the house can look the way you want it to without a well thought out design and detailed blueprints. Without financial goals, an individual may not end up where they want to be, or have adverse results because of lack of planning. Important to note; it is not just about having an end game, even though it is highly necessary, but one will also need to set objectives to meet end goals. Many people who need assistance in setting objectives to meet personal goals will seek the aid of a financial advisor which is wise especially if one is ignorant about or is new to investing. These individuals are qualified to give guidance on how exactly one can achieve financial success, as well as grant smart advice on the steps to getting there. They can assist by laying out different options and help to find investments that match your risk tolerance that will be appropriate for and in line with the goal. Just like the goal itself, these objectives must be measurable and attainable within the set time span. Achieving financial success is a process and must be treated as such. It is never too early to start saving for milestones that seem to be far away. Students entering the working world need to be educated on the importance of retirement funds and setting aside funds for (possible) future dependents.

Investing doesn’t only involve daily trade requests you may send to your brokerage house, but also, it is about the goal you wish to achieve.

 

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Your Money Habits Are Holding You Back

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Financial success does not come easy, you can say it as many times you want, but without the actions, nothing will change. People tend to handle money in different ways.

Actions, tell the real story.

Are you on the road to financial success, or are you still hanging on to one or two of these tell-tale financial disaster behaviours?

Here’s how you can tell:

Do You Pay Full Price for Everything?

After all, you’ve got plenty of extra money. It’s fun to see something you want and buy it right away. You have to be a little more strategic to save.

Develop a habit of taking 24 hours to comparison shop before you buy. Consistent savings on both big items — and things you buy regularly — can add up to hundreds, even thousands over a year.

Not Thinking About Retirement.

You’re living for the now, not for the later. When you put money away for retirement, you are saving for a “future you”. That “you” is going to want to enjoy life as much as the current you. As you work toward finding a balance between now and later put as much as you reasonably can into your retirement accounts. I promise you no one gets to the future and thinks, “Oh my, we saved too much.”

You Keep Doing Business with the Same People.

Entrepreneurs!  No matter what. You have to separate business decisions from friendships. That means periodically revisiting your professional relationships as far as insurance agents, financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys. Did you hire the person thoughtfully and objectively, or simply because you knew them?

Once in a while, you’ll want to take a step back and re-assess your business relationships.

You Don’t Ever Say, That’s Not in My Budget This Month.

You’ve got an image to uphold. It is so refreshing to hear people reply to a social request with something genuine like, “I have other priorities for my money this month.” Choose how to spend your money based on your values. When a decision doesn’t fit, recognise that — and acknowledge it with a statement that reflects what is important to you.

You Set No Goals.

You want to be in the same place next year as you are right now. Imagine yourself one year from now. What would you like to have accomplished? Do you want the same amount of money in the bank or more? Write down where you want to be. Then write down the action steps you’ll need to take to get there. Now, schedule dedicated time on your calendar to do these tasks. Do this consistently, and financial success will be yours.

Securing a solid financial future takes good money habits and lots of self discipline. You can achieve your goals once you take consistent action and pay attention to what’s happening in the world of finance.

 

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Quick Tips on Making Sensible Investment Goals

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Welcome to the world of investing! Learning to set investment goals is crucial especially as a new investor, because it helps you keep track of where you have been, where you are, and where you are going as it pertains to your finances on your journey to financial independence.

The best investment goals typically have three things in common:

Good investment goals are measurable.

This means they are clear, concise, and definite. Saying to yourself, “I am going to set a goal of saving J$1,000 per week” is useful because you can evaluate your finances and determine whether you succeeded or not. Either you did, or you did not, save J$1,000 per week. In contrast, saying something like, “I am going to set a goal of saving more money each year” is vague because it doesn’t hold you accountable to a specific target.

Good investment goals are reasonable and rational.

If you say that you want to reach US$1 million in personal net worth by the age of 40, you can use things like the time value of money formula to test whether or not your present rate of saving is sufficient. You aren’t going to get there by putting aside J$5,000 a year between the age of 18 and 40 at a historically, reasonably probable rate of return. This means you need to either lower your expectations or increase the amount of money you are putting to work each year.

Good investment goals are compatible with your long-term objectives.

Money is a tool that should exist to serve you.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

The sole purpose of money is to make your life better; to give you the things that allow you to experience more happiness and utility. It doesn’t do you a bit of good to end up with an enormously large balance sheet if it means you have to sacrifice everything of value in your life and end up dying, leaving behind the fruits of your labor for heirs or other beneficiaries who are irresponsible or who have no gratitude for the labour you gifted them.

Sometimes, it is better to have a lower savings rate and enjoy the journey more than you otherwise would have. The trick is to make sure you’re wisely balancing your long-term desires and your short-term wants in a way that maximises joy. There is no formula for that as only you can determine which trade-offs you are willing to make; which sacrifices pay bigger dividends for you down the road.

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Why Are Financial Reports Important?

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As an investor, it is essential for you to understand how to read, and analyse financial statements so you can get a full and accurate understanding how much money there is, how much debt is owed, the income coming in each month, and the expenses going out the door before investing in any stocks. To help you do that, here is a general look at financial statements.

The Annual Report

At the end of a company’s financial year, which may or may not follow a calendar year, the company will publish their financials.

Many of the financial statements you need to understand a company are contained in the annual report. These reports are free and can easily be accessed on the company’s website or the stock exchange site on which it trades.

Sheet #1: Balance Sheet

Of the three important statements, the balance sheet is the one that provides a snapshot in time of what is owned (assets), what is owed (liabilities), and what is left over (net worth or book value).

Sheet #2: Income Statement

The second of the three statements is the income statement. Sometimes called the profit and loss, the income statement shows you money coming in the door (revenue), money going out the door (expenses), and what’s left over afterwards (income, or profit). The income statement is important because you can use it, along with the balance sheet, to calculate the return you are earning on your investment.

Sheet #3: Pro Forma Financial Statements

If you read an annual report and you see something called “Pro Forma” reports, you should stop, take a moment, and seriously consider whether or not you can trust management. Pro forma means that the financial statements do not comply with the GAAP rules.

Financial Ratios

The main reason to learn how to read financial statements is so that you can calculate financial ratios. Financial ratios let you know how a company is doing, how profitable it is, whether management is taking on too much debt, potential problems investors could face down the road, and much more.

Looking Beyond

Sometimes, you need to look beyond the financial statements to understand what is going on and the dangers threatening your investments. Imagine, for a moment, that you are looking at the financial statements of a horse and buggy manufacturer in the early 20th century. No matter how cheap the business appeared, you wouldn’t want to buy shares because the automobile was going to decimate the entire industry soon.

 

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Bond Funds vs Bonds

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Investing in bonds is one of the long-established foundations of any well-diversified portfolio.  Even in times of low-interest rates, bonds provide a bulwark against stock market and real estate crashes, while throwing off interest income.  If the past tells us anything is that even a small fixed income component, grounded in highly rated bonds, can significantly reduce volatility without subtracting too much return from the overall portfolio.

While investing in individual bonds is typical, it is not advisable unless you have significant funds to go into one; at least US$100,000.  For smaller investors, there is an alternative, called a bond fund.

When most investors discuss bond funds, they are often talking about professionally managed investment funds that invest in stocks, commonly in the form of an index.

Bond funds, in contrast, pool money from investors to purchase bonds, gaining diversification that would otherwise be difficult.

Some bond funds specialise in corporate bonds, others in municipal bonds, still others in junk bonds.  In fact, the odds are if you want to own a specific type of bond, there is a bond fund that will let you do it with as little as a few hundred, or perhaps even a few thousand, dollars.

The Benefits of Investing in Bond Funds

There are several advantages to investing in bond funds.

  • Bond funds typically pay higher interest rates than certificates of deposit, money market funds, and bank accounts.
  • Investors can get the benefit of professional money managers that know their field.  It wouldn’t be worth the time or effort for the average person to learn the different rules for municipal bonds.
  • Bond funds typically receive better pricing than the small investor on the bonds acquired bonds.
  • Investing in bond funds is much, much easier than owning individual bonds outright because you don’t have to take care of “laddering” your portfolio (that is, managing the maturity date of different bonds).
  • Many bond funds pay out interest and gains monthly instead of semi-annually, as is the case with individual bonds.  It makes cash flow much less stressful for income-oriented investors who need more frequent deposits for day-to-day bills.

The Drawbacks of Investing in Bond Funds

Like all things in life, there’s always a bit of sour to go with the sweet and bond funds are no exception. Despite all of the benefits mentioned above, there are several drawbacks to investing exclusively through bond funds, these drawbacks include:

  • Bond funds typically have higher expense ratios, meaning that more of each dollar goes to management fees than a comparable stock mutual fund.
  • With an individual bond, risk decreases the longer you hold the security because you get closer to maturity when you receive your principal back from the company or organisation to whom you lent it.  It is not true with bond funds because the individual holdings are continually maturing, being bought and sold, etc.
  • In the case of aggressive management, bond funds can take on leverage.  If you don’t pay attention to this, you might be exposed to significant potential capital losses and not even know it.
  • Monthly income from bond funds fluctuates as the underlying bond assets change.  You won’t know precisely how much you are going to collect in any given year.

 

Should You Consider Investing in a Bond Fund for Your Family’s Portfolio?

The truth of the matter is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to investing bond funds. Bond funds make sense for those who have less than US$100,000 to devote to their fixed income portfolio or for those who simply want the convenience of buying and selling a basket of bonds with a single transaction.

 

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How Does Behaviour Affect Trading?

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Most investors buy and sell stocks based on emotions rather than cold, hard evidence. You may want to believe trading is based on objective information and keeping an eye focused intently on your investment goals.

But you’re only human.

You may have been influenced to purchase a stock because you saw a talk about it on social media. You may sell a stock because it’s lost some value and you’re in panic mode. You’ve probably bought or sold stocks just because it feels good to make a transaction. All these actions stem from what industry experts refer to as market sentiment.

Even if you haven’t traded based on emotion, there may be other instances where you didn’t make the optimal investment choice due to a lack of information.

Behavioural finance is a new field of study that examines this phenomenon. It looks at psychology and emotion and seeks to explain why markets don’t always go up or down the way we might have predicted.

Conventional or Traditional Finance

People have been studying finance for years. As a result, many theories and models use objective data to predict how markets will respond under certain circumstances.  But these models make false absolutes, such as:

  • Investors always having complete and accurate information at their ​disposal.
  • Investors have a reasonable tolerance for risk, and that understanding does not change. ​
  • Investors will always seek to make the most money at the highest value.​
  • Investors will always make the most rational choices.

As a result of these assumptions, conventional finance models don’t possess a perfect track record. Over time, academics and finance experts began to notice anomalies that conventional models could not explain.

 

Strange Stuff

If investors are behaving rationally, certain events should not happen. But they do.

There is no rational explanation for these occurrences, but human behaviour can explain them. Consider the so-called, “January effect” which suggests that many stocks outperform during the first month of the year. No conventional model predicts this, but studies reveal that shares surge in January because investors sold off stocks before the end of the year for tax reasons.

Accounting for Anomalies

The human psychology is complex, and it’s impossible to predict every wrong move investors might make. But, those who have studied behavioural finance have concluded that many thought processes push us to make less-than-perfect investment decisions.

These are evidenced by:

  • Attention Bias: There is evidence suggesting that people will invest in companies that are in the headlines, even if lesser known companies offer the promise of better returns. Who among us hasn’t invested in Apple or Amazon, simply because we know all about them?​
  • National Bias: A Jamaican is going to invest in Jamaican companies, even if stocks in the Caribbean offer better returns. ​
  • Under-diversification: There is a tendency for investors to feel more comfortable holding a relatively small number of shares in their portfolio, even if wider diversification would make them more money.​
  • Cockiness: Investors want to believe they are good at what they do. They aren’t likely to change investment strategies, because they have confidence in themselves and their approach. Similarly, when things go well, they are likely to take credit when it fact their good results come from outside factors or sheer luck.

How It Can Help You

If you want to become a better investor, you will want to become less emotional. That sounds harsh, but it will benefit you to take stock of your own biases and recognise where your faulty thinking has hurt you in the past.

Consider asking yourself tough questions, like, “Do I always think I am right?” or “Do I take credit for investment wins and blame outside factors for my losses?” Ask, “Have I ever sold stock in anger, or bought a stock based on a simple gut feeling?”

Perhaps most importantly, you must ask yourself whether you have all of the information you need to make the right investment choices. It’s impossible to know everything about a stock before buying or selling, but a good bit of research will help ensure you’re investing based on logic and objective knowledge rather than your own biases or emotions.

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

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Simple Tips for Building Wealth

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Accumulating wealth and living financially secure begins with healthy financial habits. Practicing healthy financial habits takes diligence and hard work. It is no walk in the park in the age of consumerism and social media’s dopamine induced highs that motivate persons to always show their best life. It’s quite easy to see the need to buy and experience more, and get thrown off track, swaying from your financial goals.

Here are some simple tips to avoid wasting money and build wealth:

Don’t Spend Your Money on Excessive Living

Ask yourself what you really need and don’t need. Do you really need that new, fancy smartphone even though your current one is still functional? No you don’t! Not if it doesn’t directly correlate to income for you. Do you really need to eat out at a sophisticated restaurant every weekend? No. Not unless you are a food blogger. You can cook two of those four weekends and eat in. Limit being excessive in your lifestyle and find ways to enjoy life while saving money.

Invest Your ‘Spare Change’

Investing is one of the most effective ways to build wealth and contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of money to get started. The random $100 bills and $20 coins you get back in change from a purchase can go towards your investment portfolio. You can also choose to keep a change jar that you keep near your door. Every day when your return home, you can add to your change jar and every quarter, use that money to add to your investment account.

Track Your Spending

You can’t build wealth if more money is leaving your wallet than coming in. To ensure you’re earning more than you’re spending, track your daily expenses. Use an excel sheet or an app to always keep a tab on where your money is going. Periodically through the year, you can assess your spending habits and compare them to your financial goals. Where there is a gap, make the necessary changes and stick to it.

Start Saving Now

No one but you is going to look after you in your older years!  No matter how small the amount, the sooner you start saving, the better life you will have in your later years. Having ample savings prevents you from needing to liquidate your investments when life gets a little rough. Saving is a habit and with all habits, it can be hard to start. Bite the bullet and start anyways and keep going for 3 months. After those 3 months, it may not get easier but you’ll feel great about the fact that you are putting you first. Don’t worry, give it time; you’ll soon become an expert saver.

Treat Investing Like Your Bills

Pay yourself first. Apart from savings, be sure to set aside your money for investments before you pay anything from your salary. Bills are important but paying yourself is critical to your overall success. The same commitment you show to paying your light, water and internet bills monthly, is the same commitment you should have to adding money to your portfolio monthly. There is never enough money to do everything you want to. It’s just the reality we all face. But, when you commit to achieving your financial goals first, you make your future a priority.

Surround Yourself With Persons With Similar Goals

Award winning talk show host, producer and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey once said, “Surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher.” Find a trustworthy person(s) that will keep you accountable in your financial journey and surround yourself with friends that are on similar financial missions to you. Learn from each other and keep listening to sound advice to stay on the path to securing a solid financial future.

Stay In Close Connection With Your SSL Financial Advisor

Your SSL Financial Advisor is always aware of market opportunities that can help you grow your portfolio. It’s important on your journey to tap into that expertise regularly and capitalize on the opportunities to grow your investment portfolio.

Preparing for your financial future isn’t something you have to do alone! SSL’s team of experts can help you to get started and grow your wealth. Contact us via our website, social pages or simply give us a call. Don’t be intimidated by the investment market or share prices. Start small and as you grow, you will be happy that your money is working for you.

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What Is Opportunity Costs and Why You Should Pay Attention

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When a person uses money to make a purchase, they often believe that the only thing they are giving up is the money itself, but this is only the half, or even the quarter of what they really lose. Many individuals are unable to identify the opportunity costs when weighing the benefits and against the costs of a payment for a good or service. Take for instance an individual makes the decision to go to the movies. They might think the only cost to them is the movie ticket and possibly something from the concession stand, however, what they don’t realize is that they forego the time they are spending watching the movie, when that time could have been used to do something else that might bring more benefit than the movie, at a lower cost. Investopedia defines opportunity cost as the benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. In layman terms, an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made.

This can be applied to the principles of investing. The volatility of both the local and international stock markets have sparked uncertainty in many tend to stash their savings to make the best possible gain. Conservative individuals may opt to take the safe route by depositing their money in savings accounts and earn measly percentages every quarter or year, more aggressive ones will take on the stock and bond markets to wager their wealth and stand to earn significantly more returns, with far greater risks. So, who has the upper hand? For everyday that passes with money sitting in a savings account, a conservative investor loses the opportunity to put their cash in low risk bonds and generate returns higher than what a commercial bank is offering. At the other end of the spectrum, everyday spent not being proactive or aggressive about investments, is another lost opportunity in making more gains than a more a conservative, or even a moderate investor.

With more private companies edging their way into the public sphere, I urge those who aren’t knowledgeable about stock markets to take the time out to learn about the wealth they can gain by investing in equities and bonds, rather than leaving money lazy in a savings account. There are risks involved in the safest instruments, but the gains far outweigh the possibility of losses, as well as the opportunity costs.

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Is Inflation a Necessary Evil?

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You hear the term, you probably listened to some financial guru speak about it, you researched the term, so you have a basic understanding. But how does inflation affect you?

Inflation refers to a situation in which you find that it takes more units of currency to buy goods and services than it took you yesterday or last year to buy the same products and services.

What are the specific effects of inflation?  

Why should you be concerned about its spectre haunting the economy?

Inflation Begins with Money Losing Value

To understand the effects of inflation consider this; a J$100 bill in 2000 cannot buy the same things today. A patty cost J$30 or J$40, but now the same patty cost J$150.

The same situation applies to bread, gas or everything you use on a regular basis. The significant effect of inflation is that a nation’s nominal currency loses value – it takes more Dollars, or Pounds Sterling, or Swiss Francs, to buy the same quantity of goods.

The obvious effect of this is that inflation makes it more difficult for people to afford the necessities of life if their labour is not able to keep pace with the inflation rate. This results in families struggling to keep up with the price of everything from cornflakes to college tuition.

Inflation Transfers Money From Savers and Investors to Debtors

Moving beyond the underlying effects of inflation, you come to realise there are two other significant effects of inflation.

The effect of inflation on savers and investors is that they lose purchasing power.  Whether you’ve buried your money in a coffee can in the backyard or it’s sitting in the safest bank in the world, it is becoming less valuable with the passage of time.  This can create an incentive to spend money or, under the wrong conditions, a disincentive to invest money in things that would otherwise be good for civilisation in the long-run.

The effect of inflation on debtors is positive because debtors can pay their debts with money that is less valuable. If you owed $100,000 at 5 percent interest, but inflation suddenly spiked to 20 percent per year, you are effectively watching 15 percent of your debt get paid off each year, entirely free of cost.  At some point, you’d be able to get a minimum wage job for $100 per hour and obliterate your debt.

Put more bluntly, the net effect of inflation is that it serves to transfer money from savers and investors to debtors.  It punishes those who postponed their enjoyment and invested in building roads, schools, factories, and businesses and gives their reward to those who are in debt.  It is a severe moral injustice, mostly caused by governments printing money — or, these days, making electronic entries — to cover expenses that cannot be paid out of the general treasury revenue.

Think about it.

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Investing Mistakes New Investors Should Avoid

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Investors work against their own best interest by making foolish, emotion-driven mistakes.  It is this lack of rationality, combined with an inability to stick with a valuation-based or systematic-based approach to equity acquisition.

All of this while paying little attention to marketing timing, which explains the research from studies put out by Morningstar and others that show investor returns are often far worse than the returns on the stocks those same investors own.

In fact, in one study, at a time when stocks returned 9 percent, the typical investor only earned 3 percent. Take into consideration all of the risks of owning stocks and enjoying a fraction of the reward being too busy trying to profit from a quick flip rather than seeking foreign cash-generating enterprises that might enrich your portfolio for the medium to long term.

We will address five of the most common investing mistakes inexperienced investors make. Though the list certainly isn’t comprehensive, it should give you a good starting point in avoiding moves that may come back to haunt you:

Paying Too Much for an Asset in Relation to Its Cash Flows

Any investment you buy is ultimately worth no more, and no less, than the present value of the discounted cash flows it will produce.

If you pay a higher price, you earn a lower return. If you pay a lower price, you earn a higher return.

The solution is to use the P/E ratio.Know how to compare the earnings yield of a stock to the long-term. This is basic stuff that is covered in beginner’s finance. If you’re unable to do it, you are one of the people who have no business owning individual stocks.

Incurring Fees and Expenses That Are Too High

Whether you are investing in stocks or a bonds costs matter. You have to know which costs are reasonable and which costs are not worth the expense. It can be tricky, but the consequences are too high to waive it away.

Ignoring Inflation

Focus on your purchasing power. Imagine you buy $100,000 worth of 30-year bonds that yield 4 percent after taxes. You reinvest your interest income into more bonds, also achieving a 4 percent return. During that time, inflation runs 4 percent.

At the end of the 3 decades, it doesn’t matter that you now have $311,865. It will still buy you the same amount you could have bought three decades earlier with $100,000. In short, your investments were a failure. You went 30 years without enjoying your money, and you received nothing in return.

Choosing a Cheap Bargain Over a Great Business

Warren Buffett warns against this in more shareholders letters than we care to count. If history is any indication, investors, are likely to have a much better chance at amassing substantial wealth by owning an excellent business that enjoys rich returns on capital and strong competitive positions, provided your stake was acquired at a reasonable price. This is especially true when compared with the opposite approach — acquiring cheap, terrible businesses that struggle with low returns on equity and low returns on assets.

Buying What You Don’t Understand

Many losses could have been avoided if investors followed one, simple rule: If you can’t explain how the asset you own makes money, in two or three sentences, and in a way easy enough for a kindergartner to understand the basic mechanics, walk away from the position. This concept is called Invest in What You Know. You should almost never — and some would say, absolutely never — deviate from it.

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Investing Techniques for Beginners

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One of the most common questions that financial advisors get asked is whether or not now is a good time to buy stocks. The answer is yes, as long you are buying reputable companies with proven track records. No one can truly predict what will happen next on the market and it is never a good idea to try and do so. SSL recommends investing for the medium to long term in securities that display the least amount of volatility in markets. To determine the volatility of securities, analysts employ a technique called the Dollar-Cost Averaging (“DCA”).

According to Investopedia, the DCA is the buying of a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. The investor purchases more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high. Investors must remember that all investments carry with it a level of risk therefore there is no technique that will guarantee that an investor won’t lose money on investments. Financial advisors favour the DCA technique of investing as it does not require a lump sum of money to begin with, but rather, encourages regular deposit of the same amount over time.

To understand this method further, we can illustrate how this technique materializes. Let us assume that Matthew decided to invest $10,000 in Apple on the first day of the month for the next three months, without the restrictions of trade fees, no minimum amount and purchasing only whole number shares. One the first month, the share price was $100, on the second, $95, and on the last month, $105. When the price increased, Matthew was able to purchase less shares with the same fixed investment amount. The opposite also held true, when the price fell, he was able to buy more shares with the same amount of money. In this example, Matthew purchased 300 shares at an average cost of $100. Given that the current price is $105, the original investment of $30,000 would now be worth $31,500.

If the investor had invested all $30,000 in one of those months instead of spreading the cost across three, the market value of the portfolio could either be higher or lower than the $31,500, subject to the month of investment. Since no-one can accurately predict the future share price of stocks, and time the market, DCA is a safer alternative strategy used by persons worldwide to hedge their risk in an attempt to lower their average price per share. This technique   eliminates the assumption that investors must have a large lump sum of money to invest and yields to more conservative, low income earners.

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5 Money Topics to Discuss with Your Valentine

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One of the many viral stories closing out 2017 was of a man who after ten years of paying rent in the house he lives with his family, fell into a coma after he discovered that the landlord of the property and his wife were the same person! While making the rounds on social media, many commented: “how could he not know that his wife owned the house?” This is not a totally unbelievable situation as money is a very challenging topic to discuss between couples. Many go to great lengths to avoid the topic altogether which can possibly result in expensive lessons and heartache. This Valentine’s day we are highlighting five money topics all couples should discuss (not all at once!) over the length of their relationship.

Start with finding a quiet area free of distractions and journey into these important money- related topics:

Retirement

You may want to retire at 50. What if your partner wants to work until the ripe old age of 70? Do you maintain separate retirement accounts or is it wiser to have one joint account? You can explore the idea of starting an investment account with SSL (shameless plug).

Children

The pitter patter of little feet may be on the horizon for you two, but how many can you afford? Children are major financial commitments and couples should discuss what is possible rather than ‘would be nice’ before starting to expand the family.

Debt

Are you or your sweetheart in the process of paying student loans? Does the apple-of-your-eye have climbing credit card debt? If marriage is on the horizon then maybe a goal before saying ‘I do’ is to tackle outstanding debt together so you can begin the next phase of life with considerably more financial security.

True Passion

Your partner is their own person with passions and goals all of their own and so are you. Knowing what keeps them going and sharing what makes you feel may not only bring you two closer, but you can pool resources and agree on what direction you will take to achieve your passions.

Once your financial goals are shared, you can get to the fun part of planning! At SSL, we have products that can be suited to whatever you need. Our team of financial advisors can help you to plan your financial future through investing in local or international equities.

 

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

 

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

 

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The Sneaky Truth about Increasing Employment Rates

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Inflation and unemployment are two of the most important economic variables that affect the quality of our daily lives.Based on the principles of supply and demand, the two have an inverse relationship, where high unemployment rates, implicates low inflation rates and vice versa.

The country’s unemployment rate, or the percentage of citizens of legal age to work who are not currently employed, is a vital rate used by governments to measure the health of a country’s economy.

In October 2017, Jamaica recorded its lowest unemployment rate in a decade at 10.4 percent which indicated that there have been positive changes in the performance of the economy.

Jamaicans are reeling at the fall in unemployment, especially since a large part of the fall is due to the rise in youth employment. However, it is essential to note that this fall in unemployment will eventually lead to a rise in inflation, and more significantly so if the unemployment rate falls below the natural rate of unemployment.

While an increase in the number of employed residents is something to cheer about, the country has to ensure that the pace of growth does not exceed a pace that cannot be sustained. An unemployment rate below the natural rate suggests that the economy is growing faster than its maximum sustainable rate in the short-term. This can create a domino effect which will see upward pressure on wages and prices, in general, leading to increased inflation.

This is evident in the upwards trend of the inflation rate between 2002 and 2017 where the average inflation rate was 9.41 percent. The latest recorded rate was 5.20 percent in October, which indicates a rise since the third quarter of the 2017.

Following a decade long record low rate in unemployment, Jamaicans must beware of the high possibility of rising prices. Inflation has negative impacts on every group in society and cannot be easily corrected.

It has been noted that the current international market slump is inducing  anxiety and fear among investors. Analysts theorise that the increase in wages in a tight U.S. labour market (forcing a rise in inflation) is one of the triggers for the fall in indices. Therefore, until the government is capable of reducing unemployment while keeping inflation rates low using stable monetary and fiscal policies, inflation is inevitable.

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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Follow by Example: Learn from Experienced Investors

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There is no set method as to how one should invest. However, based on the recent decline in market prices, why not take a page out of the more experienced investors book?

What would they do in this situation?

Investors such as Ben Graham, Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett have been around for a while. They have experienced market crashes before but have also made significant wealth from investing.

The Conservative Investor

Ben Graham made his investment decisions mostly on the financial analysis of stocks. Graham focused on safe investments and was not much of a risk taker. He preferred to invest in stocks when the market price is below the company valuation to gain significantly if the market price should increase but in the case where the prices fell there would be some cushion for the stock.

The Aggressive Investor

Peter Lynch, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. His investment decisions are based on market sentiment. Additionally, he was a long-term investor and was not bothered by market corrections.

Lynch lived by several investment principles, namely:

(a)    Be aware of the stocks in your portfolio

(b)   Do not predict interest rates or the economy

(c)   Give yourself time to realise which companies are exceptional and which are not

(d)   Identify and purchase stocks where the company’s management is strong

(e)   Adapt to changes and do not make the same mistake twice

(f)    Know why you hold, sell or buy a stock

The Moderate Investor

With a net worth of US$89 billion over a career spanning over 70 years, Warren Buffett is one of the most respected and well-known investor in the US. Buffett prefers to invest in stocks with moats. Meaning the company’s ability to stay ahead of its competitors to continue making profits and increasing market shares. Buffett describes events in the market such as market correction as a positive for investors as it is a perfect opportunity to stock pick and takes advantage of low stock prices.

Which one are you?

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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Five Effect Investor Habits

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Most people get stressed out when thinking about managing their money; seeing it as just too complicated.
So to help you out, here are five simple ways to increase the odds of getting in and staying in good financial shape. We consider these five steps as key investor habits.

1. Automatic
Technology is there for a reason.

Every Investor should use it.

Set up an automatic salary deduction or a standard order, your human resource department or bank can facilitate this. More companies are giving employees this option.

Ideally, with every paycheck, have your bank send a set amount directly from an account to an investment account. You won’t miss what you don’t see in your account/salary. If you can, increase that amount over time.

The point is just to get in the habit. Even if you start small, it’s a start. And seeing your money grow can be very motivating.

2. Expect Financial Emergencies
Most persons cannot cover an emergency expense without selling something or borrowing money. So setting up an emergency fund is essential.
A more daunting prospect than needing a couple of thousands for a car repair or emergency dental work is saving in case of a layoff.

We recommend building a stash that will see you through six months of expenses. The older you are and the higher your salary, the bigger your emergency fund should be, since it may take longer to find a job you want.

3. Set An Asset Allocation And Diversify

Asset allocation is one of the most important decisions for every investor. The vast majority of returns over time come from asset allocation rather than picking the right security or the right time to invest in the market.

One rule of thumb used for setting a stock-bond allocation is that your age should equal your bond allocation. A 50-50 or 60-40 split is a good starting point, but then you need to figure out your risk tolerance and tweak your portfolio to reflect that.

Remember, investment is customized, your risk tolerance depends on you.

4. Keep Fees Low

It is important to keep fees low.
Most investors tend to panic when a stock drops, however this can provide a great buying opportunity to lower your average cost.
Focus on a cost-effective strategy.

5. Spend Less Than You Earn

Spending more than you earn has become a pattern in Jamaica. So it’s not surprising that less than a third of the population has an emergency fund in place.
Part of what can make it tough to build an emergency fund is “keeping up with the jones” lifestyle.

As we (hopefully) earn more, we often ratchet up our spending—we upgrade phones or cars or take fancier vacations—rather than increasing our retirement contributions or setting a higher amount of savings to be taken out of a salary automatically.

If you spend less than you earn, you can likely avoid getting trapped in any downward financial spiral. That can happen if you need to take out a high-interest rate loan to pay for a financial emergency you haven’t saved for.

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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The Working Class Is Expensive

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As heartwarming as it may be to see a company like Walmart [NYSE: WMT] raise wages or getting an increase in pay at work, does this add any benefits to the working class income earners?

Let’s be honest here, J$ 2,000 ten years ago cannot buy the same things today.

Don’t get me started on the exchange rate either?

On this day ten years ago, US$ 1 was the equivalent of J$70.73, today US$ 1 is equivalent to J$ 124.17.

How are typical hardworking Jamaicans suppose to survive?

In recent years, overall inflation has been decreasing since 2013 at 9.36% compared to 2017 4.7%. As of December, core consumer prices were up just 0.2 percent from two months earlier.

That said, inflation isn’t the same for everybody. The working class have experienced more of it in recent years because the stuff they buy has become more expensive faster than the stuff the wealthy buy.

The most notable drivers are rent, food, gas, healthcare, education which comprises a much more significant share of total spending for working-class consumers.

While I wait on Statin to update their website with 2017 numbers.

Just by talking to fellow working-class members and experience, I believe in relative terms, the working class is worse off.

So how do we go about changing this?

Two words.

Financial Intelligence.

“Money without financial intelligence is money soon gone.”

Educating ourselves on how money works, options outside of savings and acquiring assets vs liabilities, I believe will aid all of us to get out of what Kiyosaki called the “rat race“.

…more to come.

 

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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Saving vs Investing

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People often use Saving and Investing interchangeably, but the terms mean different things; impacting our lives in different ways.

For many, the decision to save or invest can be confusing but how do you know when to start either? That decision is based on one’s ability to take on risks, their financial goals and financial situation.

Risk

A savings account carries minimal risk. You put money aside, usually in the form of cash, to be withdrawn at a later date. An investment is not cash. Investment involves using cash to purchase assets; whether it’s equities, bond or mutual funds, which have the potential to generate significant returns with the possibility of making you wealthy over time.

This can be achieved through income generated from the investment or through gains made once the investment appreciates in value. However, the risk in investment is far higher than a savings account.

Financial Goals

Saving money should always be the foundation on which you build your financial tower. Emergency funds and school fees should be done through saving.
On the other hand, long-term goals such as retirement, planning a college fund, starting a business or even to leave a financial legacy to a family member(s), should be done through investing.

Defining short term and long term regarding the number of years for each is not set in stone or defined. However, we would like to think that short-term is under five years and long-term is over five years.

Though saving and investing may have their differences, they go hand in hand. Never forget that the money used for both saving and investing is out of the league of expenditures. Additionally, whether short term or long term, both are meant for the benefit of the future and both takes discipline.

If you liked this article and want to read other great stories, try our Archives. Also if you are new to investing you can try our Investment Basics Blog.

If you want to start investing with SSL but don’t have the time to monitor the market or to conduct the trades yourself then you can choose one of SSL’s managed Financial Planning products. We offer a variety of products for every type of investor and if you are interested in managing online trades yourself and having complete control over your investment portfolio then you can try SSL’s Brokerage account.

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