Ghana is facing what some economists term the worst-ever economic crisis since the 1980s. The country is engulfed with high inflation, cedi depreciation, high public debt rising to 95% of GDP, and on top of it all debt distress. What has even made greater waves and has been a major topic for discussion is the government domestic debt exchange program, which has been referred popularly as 'haircut'.
These issues have not only caused hardships for Ghanaians but have also affected investment and growth in the country. Despite these challenges, there are several important lessons that we can learn from Ghana's economic situation. In this article, we will explore key takeaways from the current economic situation in the country and how they can help us in making financial/investment decisions.
I. There is no Risk-Free Investment.
Most of us were taught in school that investing in government securities like bonds and treasury bills came with no risk. Almost every piece of literature on finance equates government securities to a risk-free investment. We were made to believe that government is the safest borrower. You will sometimes hear finance professionals saying that "when a current government borrows and is not able to pay another government will come and pay". The current economic crisis has "lifted the veil" on this assumption and highlighted the fact that every investment comes with a certain level of risk. That is why you receive returns on your investment as compensation for postponing your consumption. The government's Domestic Debt Exchange program means that investors will not be able to realize all the returns on their government bonds. What you should have in mind as an investor is that every investment vehicle carries a form of risk, no matter how juicy the returns may be.
II. Know your Risk Appetite
When it comes to taking risk to earn returns, different people have different attitudes. Investments giving lower returns normally come with lower risk. On the other hand, investment with higher returns involves taking higher risk. How did you react as an investor when you first heard about the government's debt exchange program or you saw a drop in your investment returns? This is the best time to understand your risk appetite and the kind of investment suitable for you. Every investor will either be a risk lover, risk averse or neutral to risk. A good understanding this will help you to choose a suitable investment portfolio that will give you financial peace of mind even in a period of economic turmoil. Speak to a trusted financial advisor to understand your risk appetite.
III. You MAY NOT always have Positive Returns.
Investing money can be both rewarding and risky. It can bring financial security and freedom, as well as a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, when it comes to investing, there are not always positive returns. Understand that the investment market can be unpredictable and the potential for losses is real. Even the most experienced investor can find themselves in a difficult situation if the market takes a sudden turn. It’s important to understand that there are no guarantees when it comes to investing and that it’s important to be prepared for a range of outcomes. Due to the country’s economic problems, a lot of investment schemes are making losses which are really expected in a period like this. However, it does not call for making panic withdrawals by liquidating your investment. Once the economy returns to normal and there is growth, your investment will start having appreciable returns. Knowing your objectives, the risks involved and having a strategy in place can help to minimize losses and maximize returns. Armed with this knowledge, you can make smart investment decisions that will help you stay on track to reach your financial goals.
IV. Diversify your Investment
The main objective for investing your hard-earned money is to create a financial cushion and build wealth over time. Ghana's economic woes have widened the need for proper diversification of your investment. You might have heard the popular saying "do not put all your eggs in one basket". You may have been a victim of the current economic situation if you had all your funds in one investment instrument. It is very important to diversify your investments to ensure that your money is well spread across different financial securities to minimize market volatility and potential. Diversifying can be one of the most important steps in successful investing, as it allows you to spread your money across different asset classes, industries, and even countries. With careful planning and research, a diversified portfolio can help you to reach your financial goals.
V. The need for Liquidity in financial planning.
Liquidity is an essential factor in investing, especially during challenging economic times. It helps investors to maintain flexibility and manage risk, ensuring that they are better equipped to navigate market uncertainties and make informed investment decisions. Liquidity simply refers to the ease with which an asset or financial instrument can be bought or sold for cash without affecting its market price. As the investment environment continues to evolve, the need for liquidity has become increasingly important for investors, businesses, and financial institutions. Whether it is for managing risks, meeting cash flow needs, or making investment decisions, the availability of liquid assets can play a crucial role in financial success. In uncertain times, the availability of liquid assets can help investors to meet their short-term cash needs, such as paying bills or covering unexpected expenses, without having to sell investments at a loss. One surest way to ensure you have liquidity in uncertain times is to have an emergency fund that is easily accessible.
The country is going through economic challenges which has caused a lot of uncertainties especially in the investment space. These key lessons will help shape your financial and investment decisions. It is very important that you speak to a financial advisor to assist you make a well informed decision in this period of economic uncertainty.
Bonds are fixed income investments which allow an investor (the holder) to lend money to a government (issuer) or another entity (issuer) for a set period of time. Bonds are described as fixed income because investment in bonds earns fixed payments over the life of the bond. Bonds are often issued by governments and corporate entities. Corporate entities issue bonds to fund existing operations, brand-new initiatives, or acquisitions. Governments sell bonds to raise money and complement their tax revenue. By purchasing a bond, you become a debtor of the organization issuing the bond.
In a bond contract, the issuer owes the holder a debt and is required, depending on the terms, to pay the bond's creditor cash flow (also known as principal) at the bond's maturity date as well as interest (also known as the coupon) over a certain period of time. Depending on the economic value that is stressed, the period and amount of cash flow given changes, giving rise to various types of bonds. The interest is typically due at predetermined intervals, such semiannually, annually, and less frequently at various times.
I. Bond Features
II. Risks Associated With Bonds
Bonds are frequently regarded as a secure investment, especially when compared to equities, and can be a fantastic way to create income. However, holders of corporate and government bonds should be aware of any potential risks. The following are some risks associated with bonds:
III. How Are Bonds Valued?
Bond valuation is a method for determining a bond's potential fair value or price. Bond valuation entails determining the face value or par value of the bond as well as the present value of the bond's future interest payments, sometimes referred to as its cash flows.vA bond's market price is determined by discounting its yield to maturity by the present value of all anticipated future interest and principal payments (i.e. rate of return).
The bond's redemption yield is determined by this relationship, and since there would otherwise be chances for arbitrage, it is expected to be close to the current market interest rate for other bonds with comparable features. Bond prices fall when market interest rates rise and vice versa because the yield and price of a bond have an inverse relationship. This approach of valuing bonds is known as mark-to-market (MTM). A portfolio that is marking-to-market could experience volatility based on market conditions.
Assuming Mr. Osei takes a loan from Mr. Azumah at 20% per annum for the next 5 years to expand his business. By giving the loan, Mr Azumah is investing in Mr. Osei’s business with the hope that he will receive interest and his principal as promised. The possibility that Mr. Azumah’s investment will not meet that expectation is termed risk. In our everyday activities we are exposed to all sort of risks and the same applies to investments. Every investment has some level of risk. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on the potential without understanding the potential loss that could occur. It is important to consider all risks you may be exposed to when investing.
There are two main types of risks associated with investment: systematic and unsystematic risk. Systematic risk is the risk that impacts the market as a whole e.g. inflation, changes in interest rates, cedi depreciation etc. This kind of risk is normally difficult to avoid and diversify. Unsystematic risk is the risk specific to a particular company or asset. In 2022, we witnessed a clear example of systematic risk fueled by the geopolitical tensions caused by Russian-Ukraine war and aftermath of COVID 19. Beyond these broad categories there are some other risks that may affect your investments.
Credit risk is the risk that a borrower will be unable to make the principal and interest payment on its debt obligations. Holders of bonds are exposed to credit risk due to the contractual arrangement. Normally government bonds have the least amount of default risk and hence should normally have the lowest returns. Corporate bonds tend to be more risky but also have higher return expectations. Currently, Ghana’s government bonds are exposed to credit risk due to government’s inability to fund its obligation hence the introduction of the Debt Exchange Program which is short of investor’s return expectations.
Country risk refers to the risk that a country won't be able to meet its financial obligations. This may adversely affect the performance of the country’s financial securities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds etc.
Investing in foreign denominated assets or in a foreign country exposes your investment to foreign exchange risk. The investor needs to consider the effect of changes in currency exchange rates on the value of their investment. If you live in the Ghana and invest the US stock market or buy Eurobond or an asset priced in dollars even if the value appreciates, you may lose money if the US dollar depreciates against the Cedi.
Interest Rate Risk
Interest rate risk is the risk that an investment's value will change due to a changes in interest rates. When interest rates rise, the value of pre-existing bonds and other fixed income securities in the secondary market fall due to more attractive rates for new bonds thus increasing the opportunity cost of holding those. The opposite is true when interest rates fall. Bonds with longer maturities are more exposed to interest rate risk.
Liquidity risk is measures how easy it is for an investor to trade in their investment into cash. The more difficult it is, the more illiquid the investment is. For example, real estate is normally more illiquid than treasury bills. Investors will normally expect higher returns for more illiquid securities. Investors are normally advised to have some liquid assets as part of their portfolio so that they are not forced to sell illiquid assets at a loss.
Inflation is the general increase in the prices of goods and services or the fall in the purchasing power. Inflation risk is the probability that inflation will reduce the performance of your investment. One of the reasons for investing is to protect the purchasing value of your funds. When inflation high, it reduces or completely wipes of the real returns making investing less desirable.
As mentioned earlier, every investment has some level of risk associated with it. Normally investments with low risk have low potential returns and vice versa. In making investment decisions, investors must determine how much risk they want to take for a desired return. Factors like age, income levels, investment goals, liquidity needs, time horizon, and personality need to be taken into consideration. It is important to diversify your portfolio by investing in different asset classes to minimize risk.
Financial planning can be very complex and difficult for people who have little or no knowledge in finance and investment. If you are now starting your financial planning journey, you may as well be wondering where and how to start.
Financial rules of thumb can assist you have a personalized financial plan that will suit your goals and needs. Financial rules of thumb are simplified financial principles, which serve as a guide in making financial decisions. They make complex financial concepts very easy to understand and apply. These rules seek to address procedures for budgeting, savings, investment, debt management and retirement planning.
Financial rules of thumb provide a general guide for making financial decisions and may not be applicable in everybody’s financial plan. However, you can decide to tweak them to suit your financial situation.
Below are some financial rules of thumb that you can adopt to assist you streamline your finances and investment.
I. Pay yourself first
The general rule to kick start your financial planning is to pay yourself first. How do you pay yourself first when you have worked and the whole income belongs to you? It simply means that anytime you receive an income, be it daily, weekly or monthly, you should try as much as possible to save a certain percentage out of your income before you decide to go on a spending spree. This rule helps you to save first before you start spending your income. Even if you have a tight budget, you should always make room for savings. Take note, “Income minus Savings equal to Expenses”. It is recommended that you should save at least 10% of your daily, weekly or monthly income before you start spending. To be able to do this consistently and without stress you should set a standing or direct debit order on your bank account.
II. The 50/30/20 Rule
Have you been struggling with preparing a budget? Then the 50/30/20 rule will assist you prepare a budget. A budget is a simple tool to keep track of your inflows (income) and your outflows. This rule helps you to plan how much to spend and save each month. It simply guides you to live within your means. The 50/30/20 rule suggest that your income should be allocated between needs, wants and financial goals. 50% of your income should be allocated to your needs (ie. things that are necessary for your survival such as food, rent, healthcare, clothing and utilities), 30% of your income should be allocated to your wants (ie. things that are essential such as internet, electronic gadgets, vacations, eating out and entertainment) and 20% should be allocated to your financial goals (ie. savings and investment).
III. Emergency fund rule
An emergency fund provides financial support for you in the event of unforeseen circumstances like job loss or any unplanned expenses. Hence emergency fund serves as a safety net. Emergencies are unpredictable and will be very difficult to know the amount of money you will need or set aside for such situations. However, the financial rule of thumb for emergency recommends that you should have at least 3 to 6 months equivalent of your income saved for emergencies. You can set-up an emergency fund by opening an investment account which is easily accessible and make a conscious effort to put at least 10% of your monthly income into it.
IV. The 35% Rule for servicing debt
Sometimes you might need support in the form of a loan to meet certain life goals like buying a car, running a business or acquiring a house. However, before you commit yourself to acquire a loan, you should have a payment plan. The rule of thumb is that you should not use more than 35% of your monthly income to service your debt. You can run into a serious financial crisis if you are using more than 35% of your income to service your debt. You should also avoid taking on more debt if you are not done paying the initial one you took.
V. The rule of 72
Have you ever wondered how long it will take for your investment to double? The simple way to have a fair idea of when your investment is going to double is by using the rule of 72. This is by dividing 72 by the rate of return on your investment. Although rate of return on investment is not fixed, you can use the average rate of return on your investment for the estimation. For example, if the average return on your investment is 16%, then your money will double in 4 and half years (ie. Number of years =72/16 = 4.5 years). It is also important to be earning a rate of return on your investment that is above inflation.
VI. 10-20 rule for retirement planning.
One of the basic tenets of a comfortable retirement is a good retirement plan. The 10-20 retirement planning rule of thumb means you should save at least 10% to 20% of your income towards retirement. You may have to save even more than 20% of your income towards your retirement if you are above 45 years. And this can be done by having a personal pension plan which is under the three (3) tiered pension scheme.
VII. The 4% rule for retirees
The ultimate question is how much money will be enough for you on retirement? The 4% rule of thumb can be used by retirees to estimate how much they should withdraw annually from their retirement benefits. This rule suggests that the amount you should withdraw from your retirement benefit annually should not exceed 4% plus the rate of current inflation. For example, if current inflation is 12% then your withdrawal rate should be 16% of your retirement benefit. The rule seeks to provide a steady income for retirees on retirement and ensures that their retirement benefit is not depleted within a very short time. You can decide to buy an annuity plan on retirement to provide a steady income for you on retirement.