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In the intricate world of finance, individuals navigate through a multitude of terms and concepts, often encountering the terms “asset classes” and “investment products.” While these phrases are fundamental to understanding investment strategies, they refer to distinct components of the financial landscape. In last week’s article, we delved into the main differences between asset classes and investment products and took a closer look at common asset classes used. In this week’s article, we will continue this topic by further unpacking investment products to better understand the role they play in a well-diversified investment portfolio.  

Think of investment products as containers within which various asset classes are held. Investment companies, such as Allan Gray, Discovery, and Momentum, as well as banks usually offer their own products with different terms and underlying asset classes. It is therefore wise to consider different products before investing your capital. Let us look at a few commonly used investment products to help you better understand the roles they fulfil in your portfolio. It is important to note that most products allow you to invest a diverse range of asset classes in them, but that equity, bonds and cash are the most commonly used. 

Unit Trusts (Mutual Funds) 

A unit trust is an investment vehicle that pools together funds from multiple investors to collectively invest in a diversified portfolio of shares, bonds, or other securities. The primary goal of a unit trust is to provide individual investors with access to a professionally managed and diversified investment portfolio, even with relatively small amounts of capital. Investors buy units within the fund, which is valued on a regular basis, usually daily. When investors want to withdraw their investment, they will effectively sell their units. If the units are worth more when they sell them, they will pay capital gains tax on the profit, while capital losses are usually used to offset future profits for tax purposes. Investments in unit trusts are usually considered to be liquid, especially if they are daily traded funds. Investors should be mindful that these funds may have different fees associated with them and that it is important to consider the risk profile and management teams of various unit trusts before investing.  

Retirement products 

In South Africa, employees usually contribute to a provident or pension fund through their employer or to a retirement annuity (RA) in their individual capacity. There are slight differences in how each of these different retirement products work, but what they do have in common is that contributions made to such funds are deductible, to a limit, from your taxable income. The maximum weight each asset class can be in a fund is also set out in the Pension’s Fund Act to ensure retirement assets are not overexposed to riskier asset classes. Previous provident or pension fund contributions can either be moved to a preservation fund when an employee no longer work at the particular employer offering the pension or provident fund, or they can leave their capital in the fund as a “paid-up” member.  

Tax-Free Savings Accounts 

A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a specialised savings and investment vehicle designed to encourage individuals to save by offering tax advantages. TFSA accounts were introduced in 2015, and they allow South African residents to invest in a variety of asset classes, such as equity, bonds, and cash, without incurring tax on the investment returns. Such tax-free returns apply to any interest or dividends earned as well as capital gains. SARS sets annual as well as lifetime contribution limits for TFSA accounts. It’s important to stay within these limits, as exceeding them can result in penalties.  

Investments are about building a portfolio with diverse exposure to various asset classes and investment products. Distinguishing between asset classes and investment products is crucial for investors seeking to build resilient and customised portfolios. Asset classes provide the overarching framework for investment strategy, while investment products offer the means to implement that strategy. Understanding the characteristics of various asset classes and the features of different investment products empowers investors to make informed decisions aligned with their financial goals, risk tolerance, and regulatory considerations. Always seek professional advice when crafting your investment strategy to ensure it aligns with your unique financial circumstances and objectives. 





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Charne Olivier

Charne Olivier - Articles provider for My Wealth Investment

Author Charne Olivier

Charne Olivier - Articles provider for My Wealth Investment

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