Personal-Finance

Will there be a brighter outlook for 2019?

2018-12-19 14:29

We’re often told about the doom and gloom when it comes to our finances, but what many forget to focus on is the positive actions and trends that could affect our wallets for the better.

The elections are not far away and political uncertainty is always going to make people (and the markets) nervous. When it comes to money, there will always be unpredictability, but here’s what you could look forward to next year:

TECHNOLOGY WILL MAKE THINGS CHEAPER THANKS TO MORE COMPETITION

The establishment of Bank Zero – a digital-only bank, backed by former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan – promises to provide most services free of charge.

So next year will definitely see a shake-up in the banking sector in South Africa. It’s not going to be the only entrant, with Discovery having a go in the banking sector, too.

More competition in banking is sorely needed because, for too long, banks have got away with charging consumers for virtually every transaction; banks in countries such as the UK don’t charge for banking at ATMs because they make their money through credit facilities.

Jordaan says: “Fortunately quite a few things will become cheaper next year, such as solar-power generation costs which will continue to drop in line with the long-term trend.

"Bank fees will come down, driven by new entrants, such as Bank Zero, and mobile data costs will reduce, also because of new entrants like Rain.”

Rain is a mobile data-only network operator and it’s due to launch a new 5G wireless network, according to its chairperson, Paul Harris.

At present Rain offers one plan – a 4G data-only service priced at 5c per meg, R50 a gig.

It boasts that its customers are free from contracts, bundles and expiry.

“You only pay for the data you use, at the end of the month. Simple,” it says on its website.

THERE COULD BE MORE REWARDS

At a London event last month Discovery Vitality’s CEO Adrian Gore promised that he would get 100 million people 20% more active by 2025.

To incentivise its customers – and to reach this goal across South Africa, the UK, the US and other areas where it is present – there are bound to be more rewards.

It will probably not be alone in using this technique. Bronwyn Williams, trend translator and future finance specialist for Flux Trends, predicts that consumers can expect more punitive and rewards-based “behaviour modification” products from insurers and banks.

But she warns that consumers should be aware of the trade-offs related to perks or convenience versus data privacy and control.

BETTER GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY

Stanlib chief economist Kevin Lings believes that although the first half of next year will remain challenging for consumers, they will start to feel some relief in the second half of the year.

He is optimistic that inflation will start to moderate and that economic growth will pick up.

Although the government is unlikely to provide tax relief, there should be fewer tax hikes.

He also anticipates less downward pressure on employment and more jobs on offer as a result of the government’s recent initiatives to promote private sector and domestic investment. Confidence, says Lings, should also increase after the elections.

Ultimately, while consumers may not be flush, the deterioration in the economy should abate. He warns consumers to avoid making risky decisions if they are able to hold off for the next few months. This includes maintaining insurance policies and medical aid payments.

BETTER PROTECTION

The year ahead will be characterised by greater protection for policyholders, predicts Johan Ferreira, legal and compliance officer at African Unity Life.

The introduction of the Conduct of Financial Institutions Act will provide further protection for policyholders by regulating the market conduct of all financial institutions in South Africa to ensure consumers are treated fairly, he says.

NEW PRODUCTS AND INNOVATION

Innovation will become the hallmark of new micro-insurance entrants, offering a range of fresh new products to the lower-income end of the market, says Ferreira, making life easier for a host of South Africans who, until now, have really been able to access only funeral cover.

BETTER TECHNOLOGY

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, telematics and big data analytics are increasingly being deployed to create greater efficiency in business processes which will ultimately reduce the overall cost to serve and improve overall service.

The personal lines market (which covers products aimed at consumers) already is driven largely by technology although this is still less prevalent in the commercial market.

A WEAKENING DOLLAR WILL TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF

For the emerging markets, Keith Wade, chief economist and strategist at Schroders, says a weaker dollar could be the silver lining.

“Although an escalation of the trade wars and the prospect of slower global growth does not bode well, a weaker dollar would help ease pressure on the region.

“Last year rising US interest rates and a stronger dollar squeezed borrowers outside the US, put pressure on emerging market currencies and forced local central banks to tighten monetary policy.

“Dollar strength also weakened commodity prices and hurt world trade.

“Next year there is scope for some of these factors to unwind, thereby easing financial conditions and supporting emerging market assets.”

A WORD OF CAUTION

Although next year will bring some positive news and be a bit kinder on our wallets (particularly in the latter half of the year), experts are warning consumers not to overextend themselves with debt in the coming year.

“It’s crucial to understand what you are buying when it comes to financial products and to allocate some spend in the budget towards insurance and saving.

“Moreover, don’t cancel short-term insurance policies, even if the first few months of the year are tight,” says Ferreira.

He encourages consumers to live within their means and save every month towards retirement.

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May 19 2019