Am I the only one who dislikes Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) and all the hype that goes with them?
Let’s take a step back before getting all excited about TFSA’s. They were introduced (by Government) to encourage non-savers to save and unfortunately, government did not want to be seen to be favoring the wealthy (that’s you and me) with these investments. That’s why the contribution rate is so low!
The reality is that on R33k (it was R30k when introduced) and with a life-time amount of R500k you are NOT going to be able to draw any meaningful income in the near (or possibly even distant) future!
Let’s look at the mathematics:
For the purposes of this exercise, if we assume that from here on you start with R33k per year and that the annual contribution amount is increased by 6% per annum (CPI) then you would have reached your life-time threshold limit in ±11 years (it’s currently R500k and has not been increased since they started). If we assume a real return on the funds of 5% (which is probably way too generous for most TFSA’s) then your capital should be worth ±R900k in 11 years time (that’s less than R500k in today’s terms) and you wont even be able to generate an income of R2000 in today’s terms.
If you leave the investment to grow for a further 10 years you should have ±R2.7million (less than R800k in today’s terms) and you could draw an income of ±R3500 per month (in today’s terms). Push it out a further 5 years (that’s 25 years of saving) and it does not look that much better – your income draw would be ±R4000 pm (in today’s terms). No one is going to retire on that!
Add to this the following realities:
- If you take any money out during the period, you cant put it back i.e. if you withdraw from the TFSA account it is gone forever…and you cant put it back without eating into the R500k life-time limit (this is crazy but it’s an admin nightmare to track it).
- Most unit trust TFSA accounts have minimum investments that are way out of reach of the “non-savers”.
- The result of the high minimum contributions is that the good old life insurance companies and banks have stepped in to fill this void.
- The life insurance companies have low minimums but VERY high fees and we know what that does to returns.
- The banks, on the other hand, have low minimums but most investors will sit in cash for the full term so there is no way you will even get close to an inflation beating return and that’s pointless.
The truth is that TFSA accounts are actually highly specialized investments – they are not simply to be used for your children – failing to consider the consequences of using up your offspring’s life time limits could result in some interesting legal cases in the future and contributions to TFSA’s for your kids could be breaching tax exempt donations limits.
In my opinion, if you are going to use a TFSA then you need to have at least a 30-year time horizon in mind (before you are even going to think about drawing the funds). You should be investing in a fund where you are going to get maximum growth and maximum tax benefits (such as a property fund). On top of this you should have made the maximum contribution to your retirement funds, topped-up your offshore investments and then, and only then, if you have spare cash to invest, consider using a TFSA. Just make sure that you are using a low cost, high growth option!
Not content with being lambasted by the tax ombudsman’s office, SARS now seem to be making up their own rules as they go along. Continue reading More SARS flu
You know that SARS is really in a mess when they still insist that Internet Explorer is the “safest” browser. It is also the only browser in which their efiling application functions correctly. How is this possible in 2017? Continue reading “Internet explorer is the safest browser” SARS*
The tax ombudsman recently made damning findings about SARS unreasonably delaying paying refunds. SARS, of course, denied that there is anything malicious in this. However, experience seems to show that they are still very much applying stalling tactics in their desperate search for funds. Continue reading SARS still employing delaying tactics
Something seriously dodgy is happening at SARS – just had the 3rd case of them rejecting an RA tax certificate as proof of contribution to an RA. They are insisting on proof of contributions (since inception). Shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain but so much additional work – and on what legal grounds?
Worse still is that they have applied the same ruling to pension and provident fund contributions and are insisting on proof of contributions to the fund – not that easy to get! And more costs to the tax payer.
And in a separate ruling, they went back to a 2014 tax return and outright declined the RA deduction – no reasons given and penalties imposed for underpayment of tax and outstanding interest. The call centre was clueless and the only possible reason they could offer was that the contribution was “too large”. Insanity! So it’s an objection and lots more cost to the client (who will win this one).
There are many with strong opinions about the merits of a share portfolio versus a unit trust portfolio. Here’s another one (strong opinion) in favour of a unit trust portfolio.
Continue reading UT or share portfolio
Just received a revised assessment from SARS for a client for the 2014 tax year, disallowing her retirement annuity contribution and thus resulting in a revised assessment and penalties!!!
Continue reading SARS – touching lives negatively
At first I thought that maybe it was only me and that the settings on my computer must be faulty – turns out it’s not me. It’s everyone who uses efiling…
Continue reading Bad design – come on SARS
Much has been written about the value of financial advice. There are many people who believe that financial planners offer little value for the fees charged while there are others who believe that the value financial planners add is very significant.
Research by Morningstar has revealed that the value of advice (they call it “gamma”) can be as much as 3% (of the client’s portfolio) per annum. This is, among other things, a result of managing investor behaviour and greater tax efficiency for the advised client.
We have more than a few clients who prefer to manage their own funds with no on-going advice fees and who will then consult with us from time to time when they think it necessary. And while this may seem to save them an “annual advice fee”, in my experience, it has almost always cost them significantly more than the fee that they would have paid as an “advised” client. Consider the following example from our practice.
The client retired a few years back and transferred his funds to a living annuity – he met with us around the income draw, asset allocation and resulting fund selection and has been looking after it on his own since then. He has been drawing the minimum income (as a result of some consulting that he was doing) until the anniversary earlier this year when the consulting stopped and he needed to increase the annuity. Which he did – without consulting us and without any thought to the tax consequences.
He did not consider that he had a discretionary pot of money from which he could effectively draw (close to) tax-free income. The result is that he is now paying at least R100k in tax that he need not be paying. This is R100k that we would have saved him if he had been an advised client (or if he had at very least sought advice before making the change). The R100k is certainly many times the quantum of the annual fee that we would have been paying. And he is currently staring at an estate duty problem because of the choice to increase the annuity income draw and leave the discretionary assets in his estate.
Add to this the fact that he recently switched funds – “the funds had done nothing for the past few years” and so he made the change. The move was at exactly the wrong time and his asset allocation is now also out of kilter (way too much offshore exposure for a living annuity with a 5% draw). The annual fund fees that he is paying is also way too high – he had “no idea that was an issue”.
Clearly in this case, the value of advice would have been way less than the cost to his portfolio. But then, perhaps we have ourselves to blame. If all clients think we do is choose funds then why would you pay (a significant) ongoing fee for that?
We need to make sure that clients fully understand that asset allocation is but one part of the value-add from a professional financial planning service. There is so much more to the financial planning service, but they wont know that if we don’t tell them and more importantly, if we don’t demonstrate it.
I get a lot of spam email but I really hate it when I receive unsolicited offers to invest from insurance companies. Today I received an email from Old Mutual offering to save me money with their Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Apparently, you can start saving with as little as R170 per month, pay no tax on the investment and withdraw the funds at any stage although it is advisable to stay invested for at least 3-5 years.
So let’s take a closer look at this offering from OM.
One of the most important things to consider is the fees and costs of a product – there is no point being able to save when a significant portion of your investment will be gobbled up by fees. So what are the costs on the OM TFSA?
“An administration charge of 0.75% per year of your fund value will be charged. This will be deducted at the end of every month. If you do not have a regular investment set up on any of your Old Mutual Invest Plans, or if your regular investment is cancelled, the administration charge will be a minimum of R20.00 per month. The administration charge can be reduced with our Investment Maximisers.
Asset management fees are deducted by the fund managers of the underlying investment funds which you choose. The amount of the asset management fees will depend on the funds you choose.
If your regular investment is less than R350, an investment charge of 5% will apply to each regular investment.”
This is taken from their website (my highlighting)! If you save “from as little as R170 pm” you are going to lose 5% of each contribution you make. So over a year you would have invested R2040 but would lose R102 of this in fees. In addition to this you are also going to pay an annual admin fee of 0.75% and then the fund fee on top of that.
Reading the fine print more closely also reveals that if you invest less than R350 pm then you can only invest in the OM Moderate Balanced Fund. Although relatively new, the fund has a poor track record and also has an annual fee of over 2%. You certainly will make a small fortune if you use this product.
While the OM TFSA might make some sense if you plan to invest the maximum each year, it certainly does not make sense to me if you are investing less than R350 pm. If this is the case then stay away from the OM TFSA.
There are many better options out there with similar low investment amounts but before you invest in any of them, make sure that you understand all the fees that will apply.