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SaurusDNA

TFIA - Local vs foreign ETFs - ideal split?

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For a while now I've been asking the question: "What percentage of my TFIA ETFs should be in 'foreign' indices?"

 

Some people will immediately say "Put everything in foreign indices - the Rand is going to collapse or South Africa is going to be downgraded to junk" etc. And yet, the experts will typically tell you to put only 30% to 40% in foreign ETFs and the rest in local indices. So I've done a ton of study to find out why and the results surprised me - so much so that I have now changed the desired weightings of my TFIA ETF portfolio to allocate a greater percentage to local ETFs.

 

Here's the thing. On the one hand, the Rand depreciates on average by 4% per year against the Dollar, and has pretty much done so since the time of Adam and Eve. Therefore, by buying ETFs of foreign indices, you are 'guaranteed' a 4% gain on your investment due to the weakening Rand.

 

Now, on the other hand, let's look at foreign growth and interest on bonds, for example, where a 3% above-inflation is considered a good investment. Let's take England as an example. With its inflation close to 0%, a 3% return on an English investment would be considered "good." So if you had invested in an "England ETF, you would, by way of illustration, get your 0% inflation plus 3% return plus your 4% due to Rand depreciation, a total return of 7%.

 

However, locally, it is South Africa's high inflation that makes it ideal for investment, which at first may seem counter-intuitive. Interest-bearing investments such as bonds and preference shares may also typically return inflation plus 3% - so with our 6% inflation, that gives a total return of 9%. And the JSE does much better than just inflation plus 3%! The other countries (outside of emerging markets) just don't have our inflation and therefore don't have the growth that the JSE index does. This is also why emerging markets are expected to give higher returns than developed markets in the long term.

 

Secondly, putting more than say 40% in foreign indices means you are no longer diversified in the sense that if the Rands strengthens significantly, your portfolio collapses (and historically, it is highly unlikely to average a drop of more than 4% per year). On the other hand, the JSE index is not affected by the Rand in the same way, so  whether the Rand drops or climbs, you're still guaranteed your above inflation growth on your local index ETFs.
 

So betting too much on foreign indices is, in essence, going for a higher risk, but with lower returns, the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

 

Of the academic studies I've read, most put the optimal risk-to-reward ratio for investing at 60% local and 40% foreign ETFs, and often support this with models. But now I finally understand why my previous 50% : 50% local : foreign split was considered high risk.

 

 

Edited by SaurusDNA
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In light of the above, I have changed my target TFIA ETF ratios to be 60% local and 40% foreign indices and my new target TFIA portfolio looks as follows:

 

LOCAL (60%):

 

Local equities:

CTOP50:  10%

DIVTRX:  10%

NFEMOM: 10%

STXQUA: 10%

 

Local property:

PTXTEN:  20%

 

FOREIGN (40%):

 

Foreign equities:

ASHGEQ:  7.5%

GLODIV:  7.5%

STXEMG: 7.5%

SYG4IR: 7.5%

 

Foreign property:

GLPROP:  10%

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Everything foreign, but not because the Rand is going to tank. Your house, RA, pension etc. are all either completely or almost completely in South Africa and with your TFSA being (relatively) such a small portion off your wealth you can just as well push it all offshore. Think I may have mentioned that a couple of times before so I might be starting to sound like a broken record.


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This whole discussion is academic, of course.

 

Every person's financial situation is different and what suits one person may not suit another.

 

I'm not so sure that I agree with you with regards to the pensions and RAs being all RSA though. Most pensions and RA plans have 30% directly offshore, and the 70% that is left is usually market capped, so your Naspers etc. weigh heavily with quite a lot of indirect offshore exposure, bringing the actual offshore exposure closer 50%.

 

Edited by SaurusDNA
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If we're going down the route of saying most of the JSE listing have offshore exposure then this whole topic is moot.

 

Your RA and pension is 70% JSE. Your home is 100% RSA (unless you own property offshore, but then you're probably not reading this thread). For most that is the bulk of their wealth and we're not even mentioning any cash and other assets you have locally.

 

Your TFSA being so small by comparison can just as well go 100% offshore.

 

But to each their own: if you are renting and don't have an RA then this all changes.

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The JSE and Msci Emerging markets index are highly correlated and emerging market index outperformed local equities the last 5 years. I would change the local exposure to STXEMG only. Less risk for similar performance and no "if" the local market bounces back scenarios...

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That is a most interesting observation. I have posted up the graph of STXEMG vs the JSE All-share index below. The correlation is clear to see and the difference in growth between the two is 10%!

 

Capture.thumb.JPG.011106cea969b8525ab4ea9612af7537.JPG

 

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I posted this graph in a post some time ago, its a year old but one can find the updated one on msci's website. I have SYGWD and STXEMG market ETF's in my portfolio with equal weighting. This makes me sleep well at night!

emerging_vs_sa_in_ZAR.png

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