The benefits of unit trusts

A depiction of the benefits of investing
A depiction of the benefits of investing (Photo credit: Business Insider)

A unit trust is a pooled investment plan. Unit trusts provide investors with an opportunity to build their wealth by pooling their money together with that of many other investors. The monies, or funds, are subsequently invested in either equities, bonds, property, other assets or a mixture of all of these. The main advantage of investing in a unit trust fund is the reduction in investment risks by way of diversification. Another benefit is having approved professional investment managers managing your investments. In this article we look at five reasons to consider investing in unit trusts

Better to invest in unit trusts than to save

The money we use today is called currency. The point of it is to move throughout the economy and facilitate the exchange of value. Money itself, however, does not retain value. Money saved in a bank account actually loses value since the returns on it are marginal.

You’ve probably noticed that the same amount of money tends to buy less and less stuff every year. In actuality, it isn’t that things are getting more expensive but that the buying power of money is decreasing. There are many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that the Bank of Jamaica is printing more money, making “money” less valuable. As such, money saved in a bank account (or under our beds), is continuously becoming less valuable. Over time, it is able to buy lesser and lesser “stuff”. The financial institutions fully understand this. In order to preserve the value of their clients’ money they create investment products like unit trusts that will give us a rate of return above the rate of devaluation. Banks are no longer giving us interest on normal savings accounts, so we must look for returns elsewhere. Fortunately, investment houses exist that offer us unit trusts products which yield returns that typically outpace inflation. It is, therefore, better to invest in those unit trust products than to save money.

Unit trusts are professionally managed

Unit trusts are a good investment option for those persons who do not have the time, resources, or expertise to invest their money in individual stocks or other assets. Investing in unit trusts is a great alternative because the funds are professionally managed. A licensed, investment professional is put in charge of the fund and decides how to apportion the money in the unit trust. We must remember that not all professions are created equally. Although we all have the same amount of time within a day, not everyone has the opportunity to read five newspapers and the latest quarterly report. Furthermore, you, like me, might want your doctor to spend his time learning how to save your life, not watching charts and studying pricing patterns.

Unit trusts allow the doctor to focus on saving lives while the professional fund manager focuses on growing his/her wealth. Unit trust products allow other professionals such as accountants, engineers, and lawyers to invest under the expertise of another professional, the fund manager. In actuality, when most professionals say they “invest” they normally mean that they are investors in a unit trust

The beginner investor should consider buying unit trusts first.

Okay, say I want to invest, I have J$10,000.00 and I don’t fully understand the stock market, I have never bought a stock and I don’t know what a dividend is. I advocate for buying unit trusts and earning a little interest while you learn the finer details of investing in other assets like stocks or real estate. Personally, I would prefer to put my money into unit trusts while I study stocks, bonds, silver, gold or oil as investment options. Unit trusts are also a very affordable investment option. It only takes a small amount of money to participate in a unit trust. However, you can enjoy the same benefits as a direct investment which requires large amounts of capital. This was what I did, in this way, I was able to earn interest on my money while I learnt how to manage my money myself.

Build up emotional fortitude

Markets inevitably fall. A close look at the performance of many companies will show a cyclical pattern over any five-year span. When you own unit trusts you get to build up emotional resilience to the never ending waves in the market. I remember how my heart skipped a beat after I looked at my portfolio I had put $20,000 in and saw it being worth $19,980. I was frantic… “I’m losing my money”. I then spent every day for the next month watching the balance like a hawk. I suggest buying unit trusts first so that when you eventually start buying your own stocks, you will neither lose sleep when you see the price of your stocks drop by 10 per cent in one trading day nor get overly ecstatic when the reverse happens

Unit trusts offer diversification and protection

There are many different types of assets that a person can invest in. And, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. However, a unit trust gives the investor the advantage of being diversified across many different sectors and in some cases across different asset classes. There are unit trusts that are invested solely in stocks (equities) but they are spread across various industries such as banking, manufacturing, tourism, distribution and technology. Others are spread across real estate, global bonds, commodities etc. By investing across industries and/or asset classes, the unit trust reduces the overall risk to investors. Being diversified offers a layer of protection as well since if one industry becomes adversely affected the fund will be supported by the holdings in the other industries.

Additionally, the trustee, the fund manager, ensures that the unit trust operates in accordance with the trust deed, as specified by the Unit Trust Act and Securities Act.

Final notes and next steps

These are just some of the many benefits to investing in unit trusts. Ideally, we feel the beginner investor should consider unit trusts to benefit from the expertise of a professional fund manager. The saver will benefit from investing in unit trust since the returns outperform those of ordinary savings accounts.

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