Category: Chartered Blog

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We all do better when we do it together

According to Global Citizen, “lockdown” is South Africa’s word of the year for 2020. This word has been used by people of all ages, races, colours and creeds. It united us and transformed the world as we knew into a “new normal,” which many of us are still digesting.

Despite the adversity, an opportunity for extraordinary growth and innovation arose.

When we closed the offices just a week before the official lockdown, we had no idea what we were in for, most of us thought we would be spending three weeks at home and then back to work. Our team at Chartered were incredible how they packed up at work and headed home, for those with laptops this was relatively easy. Still, most of our support staff work on desktops, and we ended up ubering these all over Gauteng to their respective homes. Working from home was an unprecedented challenge for each and every staff member, juggling personal and business life, a challenge they rose to most admirably. They have done a terrific job at ensuring that all our clients have been supported through probably the most challenging year in everyone’s life. I want to express our sincere gratitude to the Chartered family for doing everything possible under extreme conditions.

While I am proud and grateful for the team at Chartered, we would not have a business without you, our clients. Not only have you had to worry about your financial security, but you too have needed to adapt to this new lifestyle. Every client was so forthcoming and open to having meetings on Zoom and Teams. For many, especially the less tech-savvy, this was a real challenge. Many of you retired recently and had to forfeit trips of a lifetime that you had planned for years. Many others have delayed plans to move house and cities. More difficult than cancelling travel was cutting yourselves off socially, because of the increased risk in the 60 plus age group. I know my parents struggled not seeing their children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, we are not through it yet, but on reflection, a big thank you to our clients for their perseverance and understanding. We are all looking forward to the end of 2020 and the excitement of what 2021 brings to us.

Lastly, some exciting news for 2020. We decided to enter into the prestigious FPI (Financial Planning Institute) Professional Practice of the year competition. Following a grilling by international judges and the team at the FPI, we received news last week that we are one of the top 3 finalists. We will be attending a gala dinner this evening (Tuesday 27th October) where the winner will be announced—holding thumbs.

Warm regards
John

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Insights from Jeremy Gardiner on the impact of Covid on the markets

In Chinese Astrology, the year 2020 is the Year of the Rat. The rat is known for being inquisitive, shrewd, and resourceful, and is associated with new beginnings and renewals. This Year of the Rat has undoubtedly lived up to its name.

Recently, Jeremy Gardiner, from NinetyOne, shared his insights with the Chartered Wealth clients around the impact of Covid on both the global and local economy. In South Africa, we already had structural, social, and economic problems, and the repercussions of Covid-19 have made these stark realities even worse. Jeremy Gardiner, however, has a unique ability to point out the truths, dispel rumours and remind us what an incredible country we live in, something we are inclined to forget.

Global Impact

The major risks to the global economy are now inflation and debt. A staggering 18 Trillion dollars of stimulus has been injected into the global Fiscus, pushing global debt to GDP to a terrifying 322%.

With the impending US elections, it was noted that Jimmy Carter is the only President to be re-elected during an economic recession. Currently, the US unemployment rate is the highest in 80 years, with 20million people unemployed. With this in mind, Donald Trump has a mountain to overcome, and the initial polls are showing a 60%/40% split in favour of Joe Biden. From a planet perspective, Joe Biden is a better candidate, from a financial market’s perspective, a Trump victory is arguably a better outcome.

Local Impact

Consumer confidence dropped to a 35-year low, taking us back to 1985: a year when we were in the depths of Apartheid, the UN had imposed severe economic sanctions on us, and we were on the verge of a civil war.

From now on, South Africa needs policy certainty to spur growth. As much as 60% of our tax bill is funding salaries of government employees who make up 2% of the population. The government needs to push back harder on SOE funding and government wage bills.

Eskom is our most acute growth constraint. Like many problems in our country, the root cause can be traced back to the Jacob Zuma era. The Eskom budget is divided between maintenance and procurement – procurement has been preferential to maintenance because it is easier to corrupt. The end result for us is load shedding.

South Africa was forced to accept a loan from the IMF. Despite popular belief, this is a good thing. The repayment terms are 1% compared to 7% in the market, and we have to adhere to the emergency budget with a promise to cut government spending and tackle SOEs.

Cyril Ramaphosa rather courageously said, “the ANC does not stand alone in the dock on corruption, but it does stand as the accused number one”. The NPA is now independent, which means that should evidence of corruption emerge it is now challenging to prevent charges being lodged against anyone accused. This is a significant difference to the Zuma era. The wheels of justice are finally turning.

Apart from a few off-piste scenarios around the cigarette and alcohol ban, how have we dealt with this crisis? We have had 200 days of lockdown, resulting in 25% less virus-related deaths. Importantly, it must be noted that poverty also kills, and what is a more significant risk, Coronavirus, or an additional 3 million people without jobs?

Prescribed assets are very topical right now. The good news is there has been no mention of forcing fund managers to hold specific levels of government stock. They want the investments to be channelled on a voluntary basis – which is fine as long as it is properly structured and yields a competitive commercial return.

On a positive note, our Citrus growers are having a bumper year. Vitamin C is considered a solution to the virus. Our maize crops are also having a great year which brings down inflation. We do, however, need to resuscitate our tourism – we have to be brave and open up our borders.

From here on out, recovery is up to all of us. According to Sweden’s top scientist, the only reliable, proven way to combat a virus is to wash your hands and practise social distancing. We don’t have an unlimited printing press like the US and Europe. But we do have resilience which is engrained deep within our souls. We will rise above this, like we have before and come out a better, stronger nation, with the realisation that we are all human, and we are all vulnerable. Use this time to be with your loved ones and change things in your life that previously you may not have had the courage to do.

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The changing seasons

Isn’t it incredible to think that we are through winter and spring has arrived, the fear around winter and one’s health was quite real. With the threat of COVID all around, the slightest sniff or cough would undoubtedly get our minds thinking, could this be it? The move to level two, and the allowance for interprovincial travel has given us all the opportunity to pack a bag and escape our homes for a night or two. I managed to get the family up to Tendele in the Drakensberg for two nights, where we enjoyed a hike up the Tugela gorge. It was wonderful to escape into the mountains and enjoy what our country has to offer.

We have all gone through a massive transition over the past five months as we have all been forced to engage more with technology than ever before. It has been fascinating watching the share prices of companies like Zoom and Netflix, and how the increase in demand for these platforms has sent the shares through the roof. It is quite common to see the term FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) in the media now, almost daily the world watches as these shares continue to fly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an index which tracks the top 30 stocks in the US. The S&P 500, is an index which tracks the top 500 stocks in the US, both have returned around 10% this last month which makes it the best August in US markets since 1984. While this run is incredible to witness, there is an element of disbelief and concern as the world economy is probably in its darkest place since the 1930s. This is what makes investing so tricky, as you want to be part of all the action, but at the same time, don’t want to lose any money. This is why we hand this role to fund managers who make all these hard calls for us and have access to far more information than we do, allowing them to make informed decisions.

Although the Chartered offices have been open for the last two months, we have had very few staff in the office. We have decided to return to the office at the beginning of October formally, and will work on a rotational basis, with half the company in one week and the other half the following week. We will still be offering our full online service and don’t expect, or encourage our clients to come to the office. Yet, in saying that, you are most welcome to come in should you so wish. We have all the health protocols in place and will be managing the environment meticulously, ensuring that no one’s health is compromised.

Enjoy the spring weather, and hopefully, some early rains.

Warm regards,
John

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The importance of agility when it comes to your RetiremeantTM Plan

Covid has taught us many things, both personally and professionally. It has taught us how to be adaptable, it has taught us how to be flexible, and it has taught us how to be agile. According to the Oxford dictionary, the word agile means the ability to move quickly and easily and the ability to think in an intelligent way. At Chartered we swiftly learnt what it meant to be agile when we went into Lockdown, as we had to set up all our staff to work from home while enabling them to still do their jobs effectively. Our clients also had to be agile when it came to having meetings and attending events over Zoom. But, this agility has had to extend to other areas of the business as well.

Each year we meet with all of our clients to review their RetiremeantTM Plan. This is so we can make sure that their plan is still serving their lifestyle. This process requires adaptability and agility so that we can grow through the change. Covid, however, has required us to be more agile than ever before.

Take the example of the doctor who is a specialist. Covid has had a huge financial impact on his practice. He thought that the only solution was to close his practice, a thought that was extremely devastating to him, as he derives so much pleasure and purpose from his work. Closing his practice wasn’t the ideal solution, so instead his RetiremeantTM Plan was adapted, and he cut his costs of running the practice to the bare minimum. Personally, he made the decision to spend more time with his wife instead of focussing all his energy on the negatives, and stressing and discussing with everyone about how bad business is. Instead, he decided to see this period as a sabbatical, and use the time to upskill, learning new skills that may keep him more future fit. He also decided to implement a daily gratitude practice. Currently his plan has a year of no earnings, but will start again when things improve and when more people go back to seeing specialists. Yes, he may need to work a bit longer in order to prepare for his retirement adequately, but isn’t this a better alternative than experiencing so much stress that your health gets impacted?

Next was the client, who was retrenched at 60, a result of Covid. He was spending all his energy sending out his CV in the hope of finding a job. After a discussion with him, he realised that with his specialised skills, he could be involved in numerous projects at once, and have multiple income streams. The focus shifted from having a permanent, full-time job until his official retirement in three years, to planning on working for another ten years. By doing this, it would take the pressure off of having to earn a lot in a very short period. While he potentially may earn less in the short -term, the flexibility would make his work more like a “playcheque.”

It is easy to get despondent during this time, and it is difficult to think out of the box when you are faced with a crisis. Remember that we are here to assist you, so please reach out to us if your RetiremeantTM Plan needs adjusting.

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Factors to consider before cancelling your life cover

Covid-19 has forced us all into a state of uncertainty and a time of adaptation and reflection. Due to the significant economic impact, clients have been looking for ways to tighten the belt while they weather the storm. An interesting conundrum arises when it comes to life insurance, especially when you are retired and are no longer earning an income to fund the premiums. Does one continue to take money out of investments to fund life insurance premiums? Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer, but there are some factors to take into consideration.

The size of the premium relative to life cover benefit – Often with life insurance, the cover amount does not escalate at the same rate as the premium. There are cases where the premium has escalated to thousands of Rands, but the life cover value has not kept up with inflation. In these cases, the benefit has become expensive relative to the cost. However, the opposite can also be true.

Outstanding Liabilities – If you owe an amount on vehicle finance or a home loan when you retire, it is crucial to ensure that your estate can bear the costs of settling this debt, without negatively impacting your surviving dependents. It is also important to note that if a life policy was ceded to the bank to cover a mortgage, then this cession will need to be removed by the bank before any changes can be made to the policy.

Costs payable by your estate on death – Unfortunately, dying is not a cheap process. When you die, your estate becomes liable for numerous unforeseen costs (estate duty, outstanding income tax, capital gains tax on all your assets, executor fees, master’s fees, funeral costs). If you do not have sufficient cash or liquid investments in your estate, then assets may need to be sold to cover these costs.

The strength of your RetiremeantTM Plan – In very general terms, if you can afford to retire comfortably, then you likely don’t need additional life cover to pay out to your spouse. However, if there are concerns around the longevity of your planning, it may be feasible to keep life cover running (if the premium is affordable enough to do so). In some cases, premiums are just too high, and the impact of keeping the policy running does not create sufficient benefit for the surviving spouse. Because death is certain, but the timing is uncertain, it can be tricky to make this call.

Does your life policy have a surrender value? – Some policies may have a cash component available to you on cancellation. It is essential to measure this cash value relative to the life cover amount and premium before deciding to cancel. Suppose your policy does not have cash/surrender value. In that case, you need to be mentally prepared to stop a policy that you have contributed to for years and get no tangible benefit from (apart from a monthly reduction in spending).

Your life insurance can be converted to an “investment” for your children – This may seem unconventional, but if you struggle with the idea of cancelling a policy you have contributed to for the past decade or more, then why not crunch the numbers with your RetiremeantTM Specialist. If your children take over the premiums on the policy and are appointed as the beneficiaries, this can, in some cases, result in a good investment for them. This will, however, depend on the size of the premium, the value of the life cover, as well as your life expectancy and health.

Are there any other benefits on the policy? – Check if there are any dread disease or disability benefits on the policy before cancelling anything. These additional benefits may be needed depending on your personal circumstances. In some cases, it is possible to alter a policy instead of cancelling it altogether.

These are just a few considerations, and the decisions around any financial product should always be made within the greater context of your financial plan and in consultation with your RetiremeantTM Specialist. Please get in touch with your RetiremeantTM Specialist if you need any assistance in this regard.

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The implications of signing over a Power of Attorney

Clients frequently ask us whether they should sign a Power of Attorney (“POA”). There are some very real implications to signing over a POA, so it is important to have an understanding of the legal consequences as well as the circumstances in which a POA can be used. Used in the correct way it can be a very helpful and practical document. Before signing over a POA, consider the following factors.

A POA is essentially a notice that gives a third party the permission to act on your behalf and make decisions for you. This can be for specific matters (‘special power of attorney’) or for all matters (‘general power of attorney’). Careful consideration should be given to the person you are granting a power of attorney, as you are giving them the authority to act in your stead.

The most common instance where power of attorney is signed over is with the elderly. There may come a time when a person is too frail to physically sign documents or is physically not able to visit the bank. A POA can prove very helpful in these circumstances to relieve some of the stress on the elderly and their family.

In South Africa, there has been an increase in power of attorney being signed over from people emigrating from the country. Often people find themselves in a position when they have left the country before all of their financial matters are completely finalised. In this instance, they would sign over authority to someone still in South Africa to assist with these matters without documents needing to be sent back and forth.

COVID has presented another example of where a POA can be useful. For the elderly or those with a co-morbidity who are encouraged to self-isolate, a POA allows you to delegate authority to a trusted person, meaning one can limit their contact with people outside of their home.

It is important to remember, however, that under South African law it is not possible to sign over power of attorney if someone becomes mentally incapacitated. When a person is no longer able to conduct their affairs due to mental impairment, a POA ceases to be valid. If someone acts on an invalid power of attorney, it can be considered fraud.

It would also be reckless to accept an instruction from an agent acting by virtue of a POA where one knows the POA to no longer be valid due to the person granting the POA being mentally incapacitated.

So what can one do when someone is mentally unable to deal with their own affairs, and POA is not an option? There are two options:

  • One can apply to the High Court to be appointed as the curator of the incapacitated person’s affairs.
  • One can apply to be appointed as the administrator of such person through the Mental Health Act.

A very important consideration is that when a curator or administrator is appointed for someone who is mentally incapacitated, the power conferred is absolute. This means that the person who becomes the curator has full power under the law to conduct the affairs of the incapacitated person indefinitely and as they deem fit. In contrast, a POA can be revoked or withdrawn at any point.

The above sets out the law as it currently stands in South Africa. Please contact your financial planner if you would like to discuss putting a POA in place. If you are concerned that a loved one may be showing signs of dementia, it may be time to start looking into some of the options discussed. The legal avenues available all take time to put in place, and it may become stressful when you are not able to deal with the assets of the mentally incapacitated person as the correct legal procedures are not in place.

Podcast

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Changing landscape for our investments

Last weekend, I had the opportunity of driving down to Cape Town to pack up, after acknowledging that my daughter was not going to be returning to University this year. Under normal circumstances, a three thousand km round road trip would hold no appeal whatsoever, especially in three days, but following being in lockdown for this extended period, the thought of getting out was quite attractive. Watching the sunrise and sunset three days in a row was spectacular, ranging from the Berg to the Karoo, Cape Town and then Gauteng. We even caught the tail end of the snow on the Hex River mountains, about an hour outside Cape Town. We are spoilt with a beautiful country, something that is so easy to forget as we are all confined to our homes and the somewhat negative daily news.

This past week we saw interest rates being dropped even further, now down 3% this past year, bringing them to the lowest rate in five decades. Quite favourable to anybody who has debt, as this means that each household will have more disposable income. This low-interest rate puts pressure on those people who are living off savings, which is the majority of our clients. However, it’s important to note that inflation is 2.1%, and it may be difficult to comprehend increasing your income by only 2.1% for the next 12 months. We will discuss this with you in your review meetings. Most of our clients are in investment strategies targeting 3 to 5% above inflation. This now seems like a meagre goal, when only six months ago you could achieve a 7% return in cash. For possibly the first time in most of our lives, we find ourselves in a situation to which most people living in first-world economies are well accustomed—both a low inflationary and interest rate environment. We have often shared that the risk of investing offshore is that the returns are low, relative to South African inflation. This differential has now reduced significantly creating an opportunity to expose your assets to a more globally diversified investment portfolio.

Another argument for increasing offshore exposure is the substantial country risk that comes with South Africa. Many economists have mentioned that we were in a crisis before Covid-19, which means we are in a very desperate position now. Our various investment consultants, who manage the asset allocation of the majority of our portfolios at Chartered, are gradually moving away, where possible, from Reg 28. Reg 28 is a piece of legislation that determines how retirement funds must be invested in SA. There are two significant benefits to not following the Reg 28 guidelines. The first being that you can invest more than 30% of your investment offshore, and the second that your funds fall outside the ambit of the much spoken about proposed prescribed assets guidelines. We will be sending out a more detailed communication later this week on the increased offshore exposure.

Continue to look after yourselves during these very uncertain times. Your health is one of your greatest assets. We are here for you and happy to assist wherever we can.

Warm regards
John

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It’s not the birds and the bees, but talking about death is just as important

Just the thought of one’s mortality can bring out strong emotions and feelings of anxiety. We all know death is inevitable, but dealing with it doesn’t make it less difficult. Even more challenging is talking about death with our loved ones. The people who will be left behind to deal with loss and grief.

It can be easier to park these hard emotional conversations, and instead focus on the money side of death. Who gets what and how. Most of us know of families that have had their relationships changed forever because of the unfairness some have felt with inheritance. However, the unfairness usually stems from not having the hard conversations before death, not from the flow of money. I know from first-hand experience that this can have far-reaching adverse effects on the people, and their relationships, that you leave behind.

I encourage you to start having conversations around death with your loved ones when you next feel comfortable to do so. Ask them if they have thought about your passing, and what they felt when they did. Speak to their emotions first, and acknowledge that it is an uncomfortable, difficult conversation. Try and avoid the financial aspect of death until you have explored the emotional side. When you do bring in money, the conversations will be more valuable and comforting for all those involved.

As we like to say at Chartered Wealth, our loved ones would give up all the money they intend leaving behind just to spend one extra day with us.

Four tips to remember when it comes to your Will

  1. Make sure you and spouse each have your own original Will. Joint Wills can cause havoc as the originals are routinely misplaced by the Master’s office
  2. Make sure your original Will is signed, witnessed and dated correctly. It is also important that none of your witnesses are beneficiaries of your Will.
  3. Think carefully about who you want to act as your executor. The burden on your family is tremendous, and often does not come with the savings benefits one imagines.
  4. If you have offshore assets, make sure these are referred to in the appropriate way. Fixed assets in many countries carry additional burdens and should be discussed with professionals.

If you need help with having these conversations with your loved ones, Chartered Wealth has a number of Retiremeant™ Specialists, who are experienced in facilitating these types of discussions.
In terms of your Will drafting, Chartered Wealth are fortunate to have the services of Chartered Legacy and Trust. Kerryn Franck, and her team of specialist attorneys, understand that drafting the right Will takes time, in order to ensure that every client feels confident that their intentions have been communicated correctly through their Will.

If you would like to discuss any aspects of your will, please do so by contacting us on info@charteredwealth.co.za

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COVID-19 Market Crash – Are we out of the woods?

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The year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in the history books for several reasons. By now, there are a few catchphrases that have become part and parcel of our everyday lives. These include: COVID-19, flattening the curve, quantitative easing, social distancing, herd immunity, second-wave, new normal, “you’re on mute”, “can you see my screen” and our personal favourite, “in these unprecedented times.”

In all seriousness though, these really are unprecedented times. In late December, rumblings of a virus in China began. Most of us didn’t give it a second thought, and the general expectation was that it would be contained, and have little or no impact on us. However, by the middle of February, COVID-19 had spread like wildfire across the globe causing fear and panic amongst both health professionals and financial markets. Leading into March, we saw one of the sharpest equity downturns in the last 100 years, as countries closed their borders and shut down their economies. For the first time, this market crash affected almost all asset classes. Oil futures contracts went negative for the first time in history. The Rand reached an all-time high of R19 to the dollar. Record after record was being broken, almost daily.

In the midst of this all, racial tensions in the US flared when George Floyd was brutally murdered at the hands of a white policeman. A social movement known as “Black Lives Matter” gripped the world as protestors took to the streets to voice their racial concerns and feelings.

What was widely expected to be a “U-shaped” (i.e. slow) market recovery has, in fact, turned out to be a “V-shaped” (i.e. fast) recovery. In the second quarter of 2020 markets rallied as investors weighed up the effect of the virus on global economies, versus the sheer weight and power of the various central bank’s stimulus packages. More than 8 trillion dollars were pumped into global financial markets in three short months. Today, markets around the world are almost back to levels that seen in January.

So, are we out of the woods?

While we have no crystal ball, the reality is that the world has not returned to normal, and both counties and companies still need to go through this fundamental shift of figuring out what this “new normal” entails. Some may survive, and some may fail. While China may beat us all to shifting back to positive growth (GDP) numbers, we suspect that a vaccine is the only route to finding our new form of whatever “normality” is. While there is a major race and competition going on in finding this vaccine, it is only likely to be ready next year sometime. Given all of this, it is hard to believe that we are out the woods.

Does that stop us from investing? No. There are still growth opportunities out there, and it simply means that we invest with caution, and there are various strategies to do so. This is something that you need to seek professional advice on.

So, yes, a record-breaking 2020 so far, and the year has certainly not turned out how we expected, in more ways than one. While we are on the road to recovery in terms of markets, and a vaccine seems to be in our reach, economies will take some time to fully recover and stabilise. The stimulus packages have been a saving grace to economies and markets; thus, for now, we bank the recent gains and wait to see what lies ahead.

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Blocking out noise to avoid emotional burnout

There is no doubt that at challenging times such as these, we tend to let our emotions drive us, especially when it comes to our investments. Over the past four months, the noise in the media, about where you should be investing during these tough times, and how to secure your future wealth, has been overwhelming! Everyone is using social media as their soapbox to express their ‘expert’ opinion, which, if you are not careful, can send you spiralling out of control, cause you sleepless nights and bring on unnecessary panic.   

A top media personality has recently commented on costs of investment portfolios and the economical nature of index funds. Index funds have their place, and our independent investment consultants use index funds to some extent, thereby providing you with the best of both worlds. However, before your emotions start to run away with you, it is so important to remember that our independent investment consultants offer you, as Chartered Wealth clients, institutional pricing, meaning that fees overall are more economical when compared to you trying to manage your investments directly. 

Other topics that have come up include the exposure to local bonds and rand hedges within your investments. If you look closely, you will see that your investment strategies already expose you to local bonds, and include rand hedges, in the form of dual-listed shares on the JSE and offshore exposure.

So what do you do in the face of all this ‘noise’?

My father taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: never make a life-changing decision when you are emotional. When you are tempted to act from a place of fear, panic, anger or grief, rather let those emotions subside before making any decisions, because it is during these times that your rational mind takes a backseat. When faced with life’s challenges, we as human beings, undoubtedly become emotional.  I try to take a step back at these times and ask myself what is driving this emotion, this panic, grief, fear and anger? I then decide to rather face the cause head-on as opposed to letting it take over and drive my decision making.

This lesson rings true when it comes to your investments and the decisions you make, especially in turbulent times like these. The best thing you can do is to take a step back, acknowledge how you are feeling and get your emotions in check. Go back to your RetiremeantTM Plan, and focus on your investment strategy and all that goes into building that strategy. You will soon see that your investment strategy incorporates all available asset classes that are mentioned in the media, but more importantly, in the proportions that are right for you, specifically in RetiremeantTM.

Your investment strategy is being actively managed by our independent investment consultants who are professionals in the industry with years of experience. Be rest assured that they are working hard in the background, to make sure your investments strategy is achievable.   

Here are a few tips to help you weather these emotional storms:

  • Realise that the media will print, air and post anything to gather followers, viewership and ratings – there is so much fake news out there, learn to take it with a pinch of salt.
  • Focus on the positives, and on the things that are within your control.
  • Go back to your RetiremeantTM Plan, and have a look at your investment strategy and what it already exposes you to, this should answer a lot of the emotional questions that you may have.
  • Remember that your time invested in the market counts for more than trying to time when to invest in the market.

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