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Compound Interest Simply Explained.
Compound Interest Simply Explained
by Lyn Bell
Putting Negative Investment Returns In Context
Putting Negative Investment Returns In Context.
Adapted from an article with kind permission from Allianz Dresdner Asset Management, April 03.
�the farther backward you look, the farther forward you can see��Winston Churchill.
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HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU OFFER?
How Much Should You Offer?
By Lyn Bell
You�ve just found your dream home. Now, what price should you offer? Here are some of the things to consider:
Find out if any repairs need to be made and if they'll be made before closing the sale. If the sellers promise to make any repairs, make sure that's part of the formal written agreement.
Are You Scared to Death of Life Insurance?
Are You Scared to Death of Life Insurance?
By Lyn Bell, July 06
Why is it that so many people get their insurances wrong? They either over-insure or under-insure � neither is desirable. Some are unwilling to face the thought of death and end up never buying cover at all, while others feel guilty about the thought of leaving their loved ones behind without anything, and buy too much.
The key principles involved are to cover yourself only for the risks that you cannot afford to carry yourself � these are high severity, low probability risks which are well suited to insurance.
And that's where life insurance comes in.
If you die young, the death benefit to your family should be large enough to ensure there is no financial hardship. It is designed to create as much certainty as possible.
So how much is enough?
Firstly you will need to consider immediate costs such as funeral and legal costs. Then there�s the repayment of debt � do you have a home loan or credit card debt? Finally you may want to leave some money to help educate children until a certain age (sum x years) or are there other expenses you consider important, perhaps your daughter�s wedding or costs for a special needs child. Does your spouse earn good money or are they dependent on your income? The answer to this question will indicate whether you will need to add a sum to your life cover to replace income.
Investing and insurance are both about risk. Well, think about it � investing for retirement is the opposite of the risk of dying early as it is the risk that you will outlive your savings. But keep them separate, life insurance is cheaper and less complex that way.
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Seven Secrets to Financial Success
Seven Secrets To Financial Success.
By Lyn Bell, 2003
1. Desire to be rich
2. Set clear goals
3. Control your expenses
4. 'Pay yourself first'
5. Make your money work for you
6. Secure what you have now
7. Secure a future income
1. Desire to be rich
"The first principle of success is desire - knowing what you want." Robert Collier
Do you know what you want? So often we confuse the desires of others with our own. This may mean that we want to please our loved ones or perhaps we are not confident about our decisions.
The key to achieving success is to know what YOUR desires are.
Rich means something different for each of us. Money may not bring happiness but it sure oils the wheels. Many would shun the idea of seeking material goods and wealth. But unfortunately we live in a society where nearly everything is measured in dollars. It may be that you just want security. The security to know that you will never want for anything, and that you have capacity to help others in times of need. And that help would make you feel enriched.
Know what it is that YOU desire.
2. Set clear goals.
"Goals are dreams with deadlines". Diana S Hunt
To reach our dreams we need goals.
This is what Chris Widener of �Made for Success� has to say: �The key is to make sure that our goals are step-by-step markers on the way to our dreams. Our goals should be little bits of our dreams coming true as each time period passes by. So many people have dreams, but until they sit down and break the dream up into bite-sized bits that can be accomplished by a particular date, they will most likely never make headway in achieving their dream.�
Financial goals need to be broken into �bite size bits� too - short, medium and long-term - putting a little aside each month in order to achieve them.
Think about your dreams. Is it to become an international speaker? Even this has a dollar value attached to it. You�ll want to become a member of a speaking club such as ITC OR Toastmasters and there will be joining fees. Perhaps as you progress in the organisation you will enter contests that take you away from home.
Make your goals S-M-A-R-T: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Make a plan to achieve your goal.
"People don't plan to fail, but fail to plan."
3. Control your expenses.
Budgeting may sound boring but it is an important step to your financial success. Budgets reflect the cash effects of plans of action. You wouldn�t imagine a successful business not budgeting would you?
Have you ever had $100 in your wallet at the beginning of the weekend but by Monday there�s nothing left but you can�t remember what you spent it on? This is what can happen without a budget - a number of seemingly small payments can quickly add up. If you don�t pre-plan you can find you have made a few impulse payments on frivolous items and have nothing left for what you really want.
Are you shocked when your credit card statement arrives? Does it look life it has a hard-core balance that won�t go away? This is expensive borrowing.
Why is it that we borrow - in other words, �spend money we don�t have�? Because we want something and want it now, but as we don�t have the ready cash to pay for it, we get a loan or use credit cards. This need for instant gratification has a cost. This cost is called interest. And credit cards penalise with some of the highest rates.
When borrowing, keep the following rules in mind:
� Borrow for things that appreciate in value and/or will generate income such as your home, shares, a profitable business, investment property.
� Avoid (or at least minimise) borrowing for things that depreciate in value. Depreciating items are things like whiteware, motor vehicles, entertainment equipment, clothes, furniture, sporting equipment.
4. Pay yourself first
Every payday you pay your bills, the rent or mortgage, you even pay your favourite restaurant for your night out - but what about you? Do you pay yourself?
� Save the money you have left, or
� Put a regular sum aside for yourself?
I would suggest that the best option is to put aside for yourself.
Carry out the process of a budget to make sure all expenses are met - yes and some entertainment too! In your budget allow for the same amount to be put aside every payday for YOU, this is a must. Start gradually to make it easier - $25 if need be. Increase the amount as you get used to living without it. Amazingly you�ll find you can get by without it. Every time you have an increase in your pay, increase your investment.
5. Make your money work for you
There are advantages to investing a regular sum. �You don�t have to be rich to be an investor but you do have to be an investor to be rich�. This is true. If you invested $100 a month (the cost of a daily cup of coffee) at say 5% after 50 years you�d have more than $250,000. This is the magic of compound interest.
By saving regularly you are positioned to purchase bargains on sale. �Dollar cost averaging� applies when you invest in assets that fluctuate in value. When you invest and the price is down you get a bargain as you buy more units or shares. You score when the prices go up and your units are worth more.
Choose investments that are suitable to your goals. After all if you want to buy a house next year your investment strategy should not be to invest in equities. Shares lend themselves more to a 5 to 10-year time horizon.
6. Secure what you have now.
Isn�t it funny how we wouldn�t dream of not insuring our home but tend to balk at other insurance - particularly for ourselves? None of us is infallible and disaster could strike at any time.
While you enjoy good health insure yourself.
� At the very least you should insure to cover your debts with some to spare to provide for your family.
� Your ability to earn an income is your greatest asset - insure it.
7. Secure a future income.
By paying yourself first you will be ensuring that your financial goals are met. Make sure to include your retirement and future lifestyle as the most important goal.
However you invest, whether in direct investments such as property and shares or in managed funds, make sure that your portfolio is diversified.
Returns on investment reflect the inherent risk in the investment. When you start on the path to protecting your future you may want to take some risk for potentially higher reward. As you approach retirement lessen the risks and preserve your capital.
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table for ratings
Based on Moody�s expected five-year default tables.
Update: 6 Sept 06.
With the increasing pressure of Finance Companies getting rated to attract new investors a number of agencies are now looking to do the job. And now the Ministry of Economic Development is considering making ratings compulsory. This can only be good news for investors.
As can be seen in the above article Standard & Poors currently uses a rating system that can cause confusion for many investors who see a B+ or BB rating as being a reasonable level of security rather than that of junk bond status.
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Read the latest articles Advertising complaints body slams Geneva Finance ad and S&P releases non-bank rating details
5 steps to the secret of knowing where your money is going
Five Steps to The Secret of Knowing Where Your Money is Going .
By Lyn Bell, September06.
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Avoid the Debt Trap
Avoid the Debt Trap.
By Lyn Bell, Sept 2006
Don’t get a loan -- simple isn’t it? But, is it really that simple, is it? Sometimes we can’t avoid having to borrow otherwise how are we to get our new home? Not many of us would have the cash to buy it outright. But what you need to understand is that there is good debt and there is bad debt. So what is good debt? Good debt is for things that appreciate in value such as property, or a successful business. It has the potential to bring in an income or to increase your earning capacity (such as a loan for education). Bad debt on the other hand would be a credit card that is never paid in full each month.
Remember that expensive new restaurant you tried for that special night out? The night out has long gone, the food consumed and the wine drunk. If the credit card has not been paid in full that dinner has probably doubled in price and the interest is now what’s causing the heartburn and headache.
The golden rule then is to only borrow for things that appreciate in value. Know the difference between good debt and bad debt. What about a car loan? Is this good or bad? Well, generally you should save to buy a car but if transport is essential (and not just a desire) sometimes you may need to borrow. But make sure it’s the smallest amount possible as a motor vehicle depreciates as soon as it’s driven off the lot. And it’s so easy to end up owing more than the car is worth. Better still get a cheap car that will get you from A-B and SAVE for an upgrade.
Golden rule two -- always pay your credit card in full each month. Only place thing on your credit card that you know you can pay for when the bill comes in. Do you really need the latest technical gadget? These days you will find that electronics almost always depreciate in value. So why would you go out and use a credit card to buy an expensive electronic gadget when it will lose its value after it’s purchased? My laptop cost nearly $6000 a few years ago and now looks outdated, is slow and doesn’t do half the things I could now get for $1500. Luckily I didn’t borrow for the purchase. I might still be paying it off and feeling quite sick!
Shop at the sales -- most people love to get a bargain. But don’t get carried away by buying something that’s too small (you’re going to lose weight, yeah right!) and ill fitting or something that you wouldn’t even consider buying normally at full price. That bargain may end up forever with the price tag hanging off, and that’s not a bargain. In your budget you should have catered for clothing so stick to the limit you set yourself and don’t load up the credit card.
Golden rule three -- set up a budget and allow for savings, emergencies, tithing, bills and spending (that means entertainment too). Know where your money is going and be in charge. It’s easy to get into a cycle of debt. Credit cards never seem to reduce when you pay only the minimum. The payment often covers the interest with barely much more. And interest on credit cards is one of the highest you can get. Used wisely credit cards will save you money but used as an endless source of spending and cash you will find yourself on the debt merry-go-round. Credit card companies and banks will continue to thrive while many consumers get further into debt. Be a wise credit card user, and always pay the account in full on, or before, due date.
And never spend more than you earn and use the three golden rules.
A Time for regulation
A Time for Regulation.
By Lyn Bell, April 2004 updated Sept 06
Over the last two or three years there has been much debate regarding regulation of the finance and insurance industry and in particular its advisers. Regulation of advisers and planners remains virtually non-existent in New Zealand, especially when compared with the rest of the world. This is currently being addressed.
The Law Commission in New Zealand currently has a discussion paper on this very topic in an effort to modernize 95-year old Life Insurance legislation - the Life Insurance Act 1908.
Why is it considered necessary for regulation of the insurance industry?
Traditionally regulation was to ensure that markets worked fairly and efficiently to best benefit society, that monopolies did not mean excessive prices. Another reason was that essential insurance was seen to be not affordable to the poor.
The Law Commission�s Life Insurance discussion paper states that market regulation can be justified on three counts. These were based on the March 1997 Wallis Report �Philosophy of Financial Regulation� and are:
1. For markets to work fairly and efficiently - general regulation.
2. Recommendation of standards and qualities � safety regulation
3. To achieve social objectives.
(Philosophy of financial regulation, Chapter 2, p. 7)
Unlike many countries, New Zealand�s Government policies have ensured that the state caters for many in the form of social welfare and the inadequate availability of insurance has not been seen as a problem. The provision of many forms of social welfare has lead to many New Zealanders relying on the state and believing that insurance for health, accident and illness are an unnecessary expense as the Government will take care of them.
With the burden on the country�s coffers this is likely to change. Now the sick wait on �lists� to gain treatment that would alleviate pain and suffering. Concern grows about the likelihood of the generation of Baby Boomers further depleting recourses as they age and retire.
Let us take a look at the United States for comparison to the New Zealand market.
In regard to regulation the United States is concerned with solvency issues and market regulation (the fair treatment of policyholders). Although interrelated, solvency issues are seen to be most important. They ensure that members of the public will not suffer loss in the event of company failure.
Insurance advisers in the US are required to be licensed - each state being responsible for their own regulation. Most states require those applying for a license to demonstrate their knowledge by the completion of exams. It is also a requirement that these advisers have continuing education and are well respected and responsible members of their community.
The fact that the states have individual responsibility means that the quality of regulation tends to be uneven. Because of this there are critics who feel that federal regulation is the answer. However opponents of this change see the diversity of the states as preferable.
Currently in New Zealand only advisers and planners giving investment advice need comply with the provision of disclosure documents. Even then the Investment Advisers (Disclosure) Act 1996 only requires that an initial disclosure be made regarding certain information. It is only on request that a full disclosure needs to be provided showing education, experience, commission and other remuneration. Where Insurance Advisers are concerned there is no such requirement however changes are currently being debated.
For a review of current insurance product provider�s Ministry of Economic Development discussion document September 2006 click here
In an article by Sharmala David (Life Insurance Reform, Financial Alert, 6 April 2004) she states that
�Risk only products do not fall into the definition of a security. A proposed Bill, expected to be introduced into Parliament in mid 2004, will give the Securities Commission power to make orders and take civil action against errant investment advisers, including suspending them for up to 14 days. Extending these provisions to advice for risk-only products does seem logical.�
Certain Industry professional bodies such as the IFA (Institute of Financial Advisers), and the LBA (Life Brokers Association) have a Code of Ethics which members must abide by. The IFA is by far the largest of the industry organizations having in excess of 1300 members. It is worth noting that in 2004 only about half of New Zealand�s 3000 advisers belonged to a professional body.
The IFA opted for self-regulation requiring its members to provide both initial and full disclosure when dealing with all clients. Some would like to see any self-regulation model include those who sell investments, shares, managed funds, insurance and mortgages.
The ISI (Investment and Savings Insurance Association) is a voluntary organization representing many investment and savings companies and most insurers. It does not represent fire and general insurance but the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) does.
In the absence of statutory disclosure requirements the ISI has set its own standards for the sale of term life and disability insurance. Its manual states the minimum information requirements for insurers and intermediaries. All members must contribute to the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Scheme (ISO).
The ISI has long called for a review of the Life Insurance Act.
The ISO was established in 1995. Its purpose is to help resolve complaints against insurance companies represented by ISI members. The ICNZ are also members of ISO.
Various pieces of general legislation provide methods of regulation for insurance industry adviser and protection for consumers. However the Acts are not specific to the industry and are limited in application. These are:
1. Fair Trading Act 1986
2. Privacy Act 1993
3. Consumer Guarantees Act 1993
The Fair Trading Act is designed to stop certain conduct and practices in trade and to ensure consumers are given full and complete information when buying products and services. The act covers advertising and misleading first impressions.
In the US the Unfair Trade Practices Act prohibits the use of �unfair methods of competition� which includes false advertising, twisting and rebating. Twisting is the practice of encouraging a policyholder to cancel or lapse a policy and replace it with another without sound reason. In New Zealand this is known as �churning� and is frowned upon but not regulated apart from industry representatives requiring the completion of a �replacement business� form.
The Consumer Guarantees Act covers services as well as those relating to goods. For the service provider the consumer has the right to expect reasonable care and skill and that the work compares with a person of average skills and experience. The product (cover) is fit for the purpose intended. As there is no set standard required by law for insurance advisers what is provided may just be that � average.
The Privacy Act requires that information be collected for the purpose intended and that this will not be divulged to any third party without consent of the consumer. Insurance applications have the necessary consent built into the wording. This is important as insurance proposals gather a lot of person information.
It can be seen that many organizations in the insurance industry have taken it upon themselves to �self-regulate� the industry by ensuring their members adhere to their particular codes of ethics. It is because of these proactive organizations that the insurance industry has enjoyed relative success in New Zealand. These institutions have done the ground work and set the standard. It remains now for law to be passed requiring that all advisers belong to a professional body in order to be able to sell insurance and investment products.
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Agent or broker?
Should you call yourself an insurance agent or a insurance broker?
by Janene Bone | Thursday, 19 October 2006
The terms "insurance agent" and "insurance broker" are often used interchangeably, even though they are different and indicate an entirely different duty of loyalty.
Writing in Best�s Review, US insurance commentator Matthew Farmer says that although both relationships are fiduciary in nature, the agent transacts on behalf of the insurance company, while a broker is the agent for the insured and transacts business for the benefit of the insured.
�Both are, in effect, �agents� for somebody else.
The term �broker� is used to signify the insurance salesman is not the �agent� of the insurer, but the insured.� As both relationships are fiduciary, the agent/broker must be faithful to whom he/she represents and a high degree of trust must exist, he says.
An agent�s duties to the insurer are dependent on a contractual relationship, and the agent may be an employee or an independent contractor. The nature of the relationship will define the degree of control the insurer has over the agent�s activities, and some contractors will hold multiple agency agreements.
The agent must serve the best interests of the insurer and sometimes this �may present difficulty to the agent who may desire to serve the best interests of the insured to the insurer�s detriment,� notes Farmer.
While an insurer does have the policyholders� interests at heart and will want the agent to maintain customer service standards, there will be times when the interests of the insured and the insurer clash and disputes can ensue.
Farmer says one of the most important responsibilities is the agent�s duty of loyalty. The agent is precluded from using the relationship for self-gain to the detriment of the insurer, and must maintain exclusivity if that is part of the contract. S/he must also account for all moneys collected or paid on behalf of the insurer.
The insurance company in turn owes duties to the agent, including acting in good faith. These duties may be further defined by the contract between the two. The contract may also define the nature of or degree of confidentiality, of information passed between the two parties.
Under certain circumstances the agent will also owe duties to the insured, especially where the relationship has built up over years. But these are different from the relationship of a broker who has the overriding duty to get �the best insurance deal� to fill the insured�s needs.
One other important issue, says Farmer, is who owns the book of business.
�Obviously, the insurance tendencies of a group of insureds, together with expiration dates, are the lifeblood of the insurance industry.�
Usually, the agent for an insurer does not own the book of business, while the broker does. However, this is another area that may be modified by the contract between the insurer and salesperson and disputes over ownership may arise, he notes.
First published in financialalert magEzine (Vol 16, 19 Oct 2006, p2)
� 2006 financialalert Limited.
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What Is Your Investment Style?
What Is Your Investment Style?
By Lyn Bell, June07.
Knowing what your risk tolerance and investment style are will help you to make wise investment choices. While there are many different types of investments that can be made, for most of us there are basically three main specific investment styles � and those styles tie in with your risk tolerance. These investment styles are conservative, moderate (also known as �balanced�), and aggressive.
To a planner there are two other known styles, one falling between moderate and aggressive, known as mildly aggressive (growth investor) and defensive which is the lowest risk of all. An example of a defensive investor would be a retired person who is willing to accept a lower than average return in order to keep their funds safe � you could say they are even more conservative than a conservative investor.
Naturally, if you find that you have a low tolerance for risk, your investment style will most likely be conservative or moderate at best. If you have a high tolerance for risk, you will most likely be a moderate or aggressive investor.
At the same time, your financial goals will also determine what style of investing you use. If you are saving for retirement and are in your early twenties, you should use an aggressive style of investing � after all you have a number of years to recover from any negative market dips. But if you are trying to gather funds together to buy a home in the next year or two, you would want to use a conservative style.
Conservative investors want to maintain their initial investment. In other words, if they invest $5000 they want to be sure that they will get their initial $5000 back. This type of investor usually invests in term deposits, bonds and short term money markets. Normally income is important to conservative investors and they are willing to accept returns that are average.
A moderate or balanced investor usually invests much like a conservative investor, but will use a portion of their funds for higher risk investments. Moderate investors tend to invest 50% of their investment funds in safe or conservative investments, and the remainder in riskier investments such as shares.
An aggressive investor is willing to take risks that other investors won�t take. They invest higher amounts of money in riskier ventures in the hope of achieving larger returns � either over time or in a short time frame. Aggressive investors will often have most of their investment funds tied up in the share market.
Again, determining what style of investing you will use will be determined by your financial goals and your risk tolerance. No matter what type of investing you do, however, you should carefully research the investment. Never invest without having all of the facts and make sure that you do not invest all your money in only one investment � spread your risk. And that goes for aggressive investors too.
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Budget on a Pay Rise
Budget on a Pay Rise
By Lyn Bell, September 07.
It�s a funny thing don�t you think that when we get a pay rise, we still find there�s no extra money left? Why is this � taxation? Not really, it�s called human nature. The more we have the more we tend to spend.
How can we overcome this human habit? That is the question.
Start with completing a budget. Make a note of all your expenses whether they are weekly, annual, quarterly, regular or occasional. Don�t forget to include such things as gifts and clothing, doctor visits and medications.
The best way is to set aside your pay increase in your budget as an investment. Let�s go a step further and allocate 10% of your income for investment. You will find that once you think you have 10% less to spend your actual spending will adjust. Think of this as paying yourself first.
Firstly, provide a buffer for yourself and build up the money until you have a fund with two to three months as a cash reserve for emergencies. This should be in a short term money market account or a high interest bank savings account.
Once you have your reserve fund as a buffer you can look at longer term investing options.
The best way is to have this sum taken directly from your pay if this is possible, or set up an automatic payment to deduct the money as soon as it hits your account. That way you get used to having less and get into the saving habit rather than a spending habit.
There�s no need to �penny pinch� but the mere fact of creating a budget will help you focus and become more aware of where your money is going. The key is to spend less than you earn and make sure that you are paying yourself first.
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A Brief History of Mutual Funds
A Brief History of Mutual Funds
By Lyn Bell, October 07.
Today the choice of possible investment opportunities is so varied that it can become overwhelming to a prospective investor. There are shares, bonds, commodities, securities, property � to mention just a few.
Mutual funds (also known as managed funds) have become a popular choice among investors. This is because you are able to invest in many different assets with just one investment vehicle. This is done by pooling your funds with other investors to make one large investment.
In America the first modern mutual fund, the Massachusetts Investors Trust, was started in 1924. Some people think that mutual funds started in America but it may surprise them to know that the idea of a group of investors pooling their money together goes back even further.
In fact, evidence of this type of investing can be traced back to Europe, dating back to the 1800s. King William 1 of the Netherlands was credited with starting such a fund in 1822 and yet some even say that the King got the idea from a Dutch merchant named Adriaan van Ketwich whose investment trust was created in 1774. Similar pooled fund investment vehicles were started in Switzerland in mid 1849, followed by Scotland in the 1880s. Great Britain and France adopted this style of investing and the idea made its way to the US in the 1890s.
The first group in the United States to invest in this way were the staff and faculty at Harvard University in 1893. It was their group investment that went on to become the first mutual fund in US history. The fund, which had started with 200 investors and $50,000 dollars, grew in value to nearly $400,000 in only one year. As you can see this first US mutual fund was unbelievably successful.
Today there are approximately 10,000 different mutual funds available in the United States. This represents approximately 83 million investors and makes mutual funds one of the most popular forms of investing in the US.
The rules of investing in mutual funds changed significantly after the great stock market crash of 1929. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) was born, and two key pieces of legislation, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 were passed by Congress. The SEC helped create the Companies Act of 1940 and now require companies to file their financial information and provide disclosure to investors in the form of a prospectus. This means that investors are now able to see which companies are healthy, and which companies they should avoid.
In the US the creation of the SEC did wonders for consumer confidence, and by the 1960�s the mutual fund market was showing massive growth with about 270 different mutual funds. The bear market of 1969 caused a cooling off period but growth in the industry later resumed.
The history of mutual funds in Australia and New Zealand is more recent. In this part of the world they are more commonly known as managed funds or unit trusts. Australia has had managed funds since the second world war whereas New Zealand�s Unit Trust Act of 1960 signified a change of heart by the Capital Issues Committee who until then were blocking attempts to introduce the concept of this style of investment.
With new taxation rules positively affecting many unit trusts in New Zealand this type of investment vehicle will only become more popular. The Portfolio Investment Entity (PIE) regime which started on 1 October 2007 will mean a more effective taxation rate, particularly for those in the highest tax bracket. It will even make it more tax effective than investing directly into any of the asset classes. This is good news for investors in managed funds in New Zealand.
Mutual fund investing has had its ups and downs but still remains a great way to diversify, particularly for investors with smaller sums of money. It is all a matter of choosing your fund wisely taking into account your time horizon, risk tolerance and keeping your investment goals in mind. Mutual funds will around for many more years to come.
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