Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Times Series - "10 Year Savings Plan Pays Off"

Here is an article by the Sunday Times which I found to be interesting.

The owner of Foord Asset Management, Mr Dave Foord, believes in investing for the long term so compound interest can work its magic.

'Everybody can gain financial independence within 25 to 35 years,' he said.

'It's possible to save and make money. The hardest part is the first 10 years to get enough capital.'

With that capital, it will take an increasingly shorter time to double your money thereafter, said Mr Foord.

The problem for most people is discipline, added the Zimbabwe- born British citizen. 'As you earn, you tend to spend more. So, the most important thing to control is your lifestyle.'

Mr Foord, 59, is now living off the dividends from his investments and living the life of his dreams.

Home over the past 12 years has mostly been a boat, which he sailed around the Mediterranean Sea. He sold that 42-foot sailing catamaran last year for $400,000 and has just bought a 62-foot sailing catamaran in New Zealand for $2million.

He will sail it around the Asia-Pacific for the next five years.

His firm, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa, has an office in Guernsey, off the coast of France, and will have an office in Singapore by the end of the year. 'I see Singapore as the Switzerland of Asia and I think growth in Asia will be higher than in the rest of the world.'

His partner of 12 years is Ria Voutsas and he has three children, in their 30s, from a previous marriage.

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

I have always been a saver. I don't have toys or fancy cars and I have the mindset of not spending beyond my means.

I started to save diligently from the age of 27, with the aim of investing the money for a higher return.

And for about seven years, my family would mostly stay at home and eat out only on special occasions. We also did not travel as it was too expensive. Meanwhile, my friends were living it up.

Within a few years, I accepted frugality as normal. After 10 years, it became much easier, as I could still save while my standard of living was catching up with my contemporaries. Then, after 15 years, my standard of living was above my contemporaries' and I was still able to save because I had no debt and was earning compound interest on my investments.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I do not like credit cards. I have debit cards and a company card though I seldom use them. I like to carry cash.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

I started my financial planning when I was 27, when I was earning US$1,000 a month as an investment analyst with a life assurance company in South Africa.

That was when I devised this 10-year savings plan, as I believed savings would create capital and capital would free me from working and give me independence.

I calculated that with compound interest, I could end up with US$100,000 in 10 years.

The idea was to save at least 10 per cent of my monthly salary, and then invest the money in the stock market. Then, one day, the income from my savings would be the same as my earnings.

I was inspired by this book The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason, which says that if you cut back now, you can enjoy later.

It's the initial phase that is difficult. But you need to be disciplined. It's just 10 years at most.

I started saving US$100 a month. As my salary increased, I saved more. In five years, I had $25,000. I was lucky as I caught the bull market and was able to reap higher-than-usual returns from my investments in shares.

Q: What advice would you give to investors?

Saving 10 per cent per annum and earning 10 per cent on your savings, the rule of 72 (a way to determine how long an investment will take to double, given a fixed annual rate of interest) shows that you can double your investment in 7.2 years.

The second time round, it takes half that time to double your money. The next doubling can be achieved in an even shorter time. Eventually, you have enough capital to earn the equivalent of your salary without working.

If you earn a lower return on your savings, you'll have to work a bit longer, but that is okay because the big goal of financial independence will come within a few years.

When you are saving, your biggest enemy is inflation, your second biggest is yourself, and your third is the banks and financial institutions, which want to charge fees and take away your money.

You can invest in funds but not those that charge too much. You can also choose those where the portfolio managers have been beating the benchmark consistently.

Don't go to the banks and pay them upfront fees. Choose low-cost funds instead. If you have the time and inclination, select individual stocks. It's not easy. About 10 to 15 is all you need and they should not be in the same industries.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

I am an only child and I grew up in Zimbabwe. My father was a bank clerk and my mother was a secretary. They were both the only child in their families.

My father left Britain in 1948, as people there were starving after the war, and headed for South Africa.

On board the ship, he met a farmer returning to Zimbabwe and they became friends. When my father could not get a job in Cape Town, he went to Zimbabwe, where his new friend said he could find work. He did, and worked there for 35 years in the same bank. I went to school there before going to university in South Africa.

My father was pretty frugal and told me not to borrow from banks.

Q: How did you get interested in investing?

At university, I joined a portfolio competition, where I selected shares over a three-month period, and I won.

I thought it was interesting and then I found it to be a challenge I relished because it was about dealing with the future and with uncertainty. That has always been stimulating to me.

Q: What property do you own?

I own just one residential property, in Cape Town, which I bought in 1999 at a market low with cash. I bought it from a developer in trouble at a crazy low price.

Other people who bought it at the same time as me sold as soon as the money doubled. But I didn't. I spent money fixing it and it is now worth 20 times more. It shows you must have the patience to hold.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

Twelve years ago, I bought a bottle of red wine for $1,200 at a restaurant. It was an impulse purchase but I have no regrets. I shared it with a friend who loves red wine.

Q: What's your retirement plan?

I retired 12 years ago. I enjoy managing money and I now do it from wherever I am. I spend 10 hours a day managing my money. It's my hobby. I am a director at Foord Asset Management but I don't have a salary. My time is my own. I can choose to do no hours or 10 hours.

Q: Home is now...

The house in Cape Town, a boat in Asia-Pacific, and Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore, depending on the time of the year.

Q: I drive...

A 12-year-old white Audi A8 in Cape Town.

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