Mythbusters: The Fibs That Stop People Investing
Heard all those bad stories about investing? Don’t believe them. Amy Hamilton Chadwick exposes the lies that stop Kiwis growing our wealth.
16 August 2022
Common misconceptions about investing can really do some damage – they can put us off investing by making us feel like it’s too risky, we’re too poor or we’ll never get the timing right.
These myths are attractively simple and persuasive, when in fact they’re usually hiding the truth.
Here are four investment myths that you should stop believing in right now.
Myth 1: The share market is just too risky
Saying the share market is risky is like saying that sex is risky: it really depends a lot on what you’re into.
You can avoid it to protect yourself from any risks, but you’re potentially missing out on some fun and rewarding experiences.
There’s something for all tastes when it comes to shares, with risk levels ranging from conservative to nail-bitingly scary.
At the vanilla end of the investment spectrum, money invested in an index fund tracking the S&P 500 (shares in the top 500 US companies) is pretty low-risk – it’s hard to imagine a scenario where you could lose all your money.
At the risky end is buying individual shares in a new company in a foreign country with few regulations.
You could gain a lot if it succeeds wildly or lose it all if the founder takes your money and absconds to the Caymans, for instance.
If you have a KiwiSaver account, you’re already invested in the share market, and you have a sense of the kind of ups and downs that are involved.
There is always some risk, but you need to offset that against having all your money sitting in a bank account or term deposit earning an interest rate that may not keep up with inflation. After tax, it’s likely you’ll be going backwards.
As investment author Robert G Allen puts it: “How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case.”
Myth 2: Financial advice is only for wealthy people
Wealthy people stay that way because they spend money to protect what they have. That means financial advice, insurance, accountants, lawyers, trusts, and more.
Unfortunately, if you’re on a tight budget, these can seem like luxury items.
A 2020 Financial Services Council (FSC) survey found 65.2 per cent of Kiwis felt they weren’t wealthy enough to warrant financial advice, while 62.5 per cent felt it was too expensive.
But the right financial advice should pay for itself. “The good news is, the value of advice does clearly outweigh the cost,” said Richard Klipin, chief executive of the council, when the survey was released.
“Those who are advised are delivered a 4 per cent increase in investment returns, about 52 per cent more in their KiwiSaver and save 3.7 per cent more for their retirement than those who are unadvised.”
Myth 3: You can’t assume superannuation will be there when you retire
You’ll hear this from people trying to scare you into buying whatever investment they’re selling.
Surely, they don’t really believe that New Zealand would become one of the only countries in the world to eliminate superannuation? Even the world’s poorest nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has a pension scheme.
Maybe people who say this believe the age of superannuation might rise. That’s likely, but we’d get plenty of notice.
Perhaps they mean that superannuation could be means-tested in future, so you’d be given less if you have more wealth.
If so, you might not get superannuation, but you’d only fail to qualify if you met the threshold for assets or income, so you’d already be comfortably off. You certainly wouldn’t be left destitute.
Could we run out of money? Not likely.
The NZ Super Fund (which is only designed to partly cover NZ Super) is performing extremely well, with $58.2 billion in assets and average annual returns of 10.6 per cent since inception.
NZ Super Fund chief executive Matt Whineray says it’s “well-positioned to tackle the challenges of the next 20 years and beyond, and to continue making a significant contribution to the nation’s wealth”.
Myth 4: You’ve got to get the timing right
The most entertaining stories of financial success usually involve an element of good timing.
Your friend who bought Xero shares at NZ$20, or your mate who got into Bitcoin in 2015, or that guy whose classic car has doubled in value.
When the same people get the timing wrong, they’ll keep that information to themselves.
Timing in the housing market is always a hot topic.
When the market booms, it’s common to hear that it’s a bubble that will burst at any moment. The implication is that if you bought at this point, you’d be incredibly stupid.
When the market is flat, it’s not the right time to buy either, because property isn’t performing as an investment.
Taking into account the stories and the warnings, it’s easy to feel as though timing is everything – and you’ve somehow missed the boat. It’s enough to keep you too nervous to invest in anything.
The truth is that markets are impossible to predict, and ‘good timing’ is often a matter of simple luck.
You can’t tell whether you’re buying at the peak or the trough – it’s only in hindsight that the high and low points can be spotted. The only way to invest is to take a long-term perspective.
“Do you know what investing for the long run but listening to market news every day is like?” asked the late financial journalist Alan Abelson.
“It’s like a man walking up a big hill with a yo-yo and keeping his eyes fixed on the yo-yo instead of the hill.”
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