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CREATING FINANCIAL RESILIENCE TO BECOME MONEY SAVVY

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By Joseph Phiri, certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes

 

Covid-19 and the global financial crisis highlighted how vulnerable some households were to the financial shocks that followed.

These events have led people and firms to rethink how prepared they are to weather financial shocks. This has resulted in financial resilience awareness and strategies such as cultivating habits of savings, debt reduction and smart money management.

 

What is financial resilience?

It is the ability to cope with income or expenditure shocks as a result of life events and how quickly you recover from periods of financial adversity. Many events lead to these shocks such as loss of household income, retirement, divorce, disability, ill-health and accidents. The extent to which a household can recover from loss of income or an unexpected increase in expenses through savings, insurance or both determines their financial resilience.

Households can adopt the following habits and strategies to deal with events that affect their finances, whether it be a sudden fall in income or an unavoidable rise in expenditure.

 

Joseph Phiri

Have a financial plan

A plan helps you to stay disciplined in achieving your goals. Review your goals regularly to ensure that you are on track, resetting them if you get a salary increase or increased responsibility, get married or divorced, or have children.

A financial plan is a good starting point in creating financial resilience and setting your journey in motion. A licensed financial adviser can help in drafting a plan that takes into account your circumstances and reduces the impact of applicable taxes.

 

Budgeting

A budget helps you:

  • understand where your money goes
  • control your finances while avoiding any wasteful spending
  • spend within your limits

If you want to be savvy with your money, invest time in budgeting and know where your money is going – this includes understanding your exposure to debt which affects the health of a household’s finances.

 

Managing debt

Some debts can be beneficial to households when they help to accumulate assets and to pay for education. However, if overused, debt can be detrimental to the financial health of a household. It can lead to untold distress on household disposable income, lower saving and possibly an uncomfortable retirement.

An increase in the cost of servicing debt such as interest rate increases will crowd household disposable incomes. Limit the use of and reliance on debt and if possible, only consider it for asset accumulation such as buying a house and car. Avoid unsecured lending as it is costly – rather save for some big items, use laybys or limit it to an interest-free term.

 

Retirement saving and investing for the future

The average South African employee retires on a pension income that’s around 30% of their last salary according to the Alexander Forbes Member Watch. Most have not saved enough to replace at least 60% to 75% of their income at retirement. This statistic shows that retirement can be a huge event with most South Africans experiencing a significant drop in income. Unless you are deliberate in your planning, your life may be uncomfortable in retirement.

The government has given households tax incentives to save. Tax concessions or tax relief on pension contributions can have huge benefits if you use your tax reduction strategies fully. Tax-free saving schemes also promote a culture of saving, but are accessible in the event that you require the money, which assist with your resilience. Don’t leave the retirement planning conversation to the last minute – it should be a continuous conversation that starts as soon as you are employed.

 

Have adequate insurance

The death or ill-health of a breadwinner in a household leads to household income being cut and leaving a gap that will never be fulfilled. In some cases, retirement and other savings may not be sufficient to replace such an income loss. It is prudent to buy:

  • adequate life insurance to protect dependants against the loss of a breadwinner’s income
  • disability insurance to provide continued income after an accident or illness

This category should also include insuring household goods, buildings and cars against events that may lead to unplanned increased expenses that squeeze household incomes.

 

Do proper estate planning

An estate plan aims to protect and preserve your assets so that:

  • they are distributed effectively to intended beneficiaries
  • the impact of taxes is reduced
  • assets don’t need to be sold unnecessarily to pay for cash flow, expenses or tax

You can be better prepared to face life’s future storms by taking steps that will help you to achieve better financial resilience outcomes. This is a continuous, deliberate effort of planning and commitment to a plan. In this way, you can be cushioned from unforeseen storms that put pressure on the s health of households.

 

Business

How to Build Your Credit Up Safely

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by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit

 

What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.

How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.

1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.

2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.

3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.

4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.

Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.

2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.

3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.

4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.

5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.

What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.

2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.

3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.

4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.

5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.

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Banking

2022 ESG Investment Trends

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Jay Mukhey, Senior Director, ESG at Finastra

 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) themes have been front and center throughout the pandemic. While the framework has been surging in popularity for several years, COVID-19 served as a period of reflection causing many companies, investors and other individuals to take these factors seriously. It’s something that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Jay Mukhey

We are witnessing drought, adverse weather patterns, hotter climates, and wildfires with more regularity, raising the profile of the climate crisis. Efforts were renewed at COP26 in Glasgow last November to help address the challenge, with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreement of the Paris Rulebook. As a result, we are now seeing record net new inflows into ESG investing and impact.

 

Evaluating ESG criteria

Long gone are the days when ESG issues were at the periphery of a company’s operations. In just a few short years, ESG criteria have become a key metric for investors to evaluate businesses they are considering investing in.

Investor money has poured into funds that consider environmental, social and governance issues. Data from the US SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment shows that ESG funds under management have now reached more than $16.6 trillion. It’s not just institutional investors who are embracing ESG, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that savers across the world will amass £30.2 trillion in ESG funds by the end of the year.

Due to the multitude of divergent factors that contribute to a company’s success on ESG, it can be tricky to pin down exactly what criteria to measure. Depending on the industry a company operates within, environmental criteria could include everything from energy usage, the disposal of waste and even the treatment of animals.

Social criteria are primarily related to how a company conducts itself in business relationships and with stakeholders. For example, does it treat suppliers fairly? Is the local community considered when the business makes decisions that would impact them? Do they have a statement and policy around modern slavery?

While governance criteria have traditionally been an afterthought, this may be changing. Everything from executive pay to shareholder rights and internal controls are relevant to investors within these criteria.

 

Tracking ESG for competitive advantage

Many experts within the financial services industry point to the power of ESG as a major competitive advantage, if used correctly. It has been noted that increasingly corporations, from big Fortune 500 companies down to small scale-ups, will communicate on their sustainability metrics to grow their business and to attract talent. However, it’s no longer enough to just pay lip service to ESG issues, with abstract commitments increasingly being seen as insufficient. Companies must now quickly progress to concrete objectives that can be measured and tracked.

A wide range of data providers now offer detailed information and tools that can measure ESG performance and effectiveness. Yet major challenges remain around bringing together what is often extremely fragmented data and transforming it into actionable insights.

 

Focus areas for 2022

The ESG criteria that investors measure is by no means stagnant. Complex societal challenges regularly emerge that require the attention of companies. Contributors recognize several topics that demand a sophisticated approach, including the COVID pandemic, diversity challenges and powerful social movements.

Companies operating within the financial services sector face several specific challenges related to ESG, with contributors believing that fintech will also continue to play a central role in finding answers to them.
For example, industry experts expect customers to be more demanding of firms in SME lending when it comes to understanding exactly what impact they are having on the climate. For many financial services firms, 2022 will be the year that they will try to reduce the time it takes to bring ESG products and services to market, such as green loans and mortgages, as well as checking accounts with sustainability and carbon tracking capabilities.

When selecting a service provider, customers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of their bank or financial institution. Research from PwC finds that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that stands up for environmental and governance issues. Consumers are one of the main drivers of ESG and many are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a trend that’s not going away; financial institutions need to start implementing their strategy for ESG now.

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