Is purchasing property a successful 'fail-safe' strategy?

Published August 4th, 2014 - 08:20 GMT

Property is often viewed as a 'fail safe' investment but are savers taking a risk by relying so heavily on one asset? Jonathan Kemp, chief actuary of Takaud, the specialist savings and pensions provider for the Mena region, discusses the issue in an analysis in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

When asked how they plan to fund their retirement, many will confidently state that their property 'is their pension,’ he says. 

Research conducted by Towers Watson found that 60 per cent of people living in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region view property as one of the top three ways to save.

According to the latest report from property consultants JLL, residential house prices in Abu Dhabi grew seven per cent during the second quarter of this year, bringing the average increase during the first half of 2014 to 17 per cent.

In Dubai, average sales prices grew by six per cent during the second quarter, with prices back to near pre-2009 financial crisis levels in some areas.

During the UAE's last real estate crash, property prices plunged more than 50 per cent from their peaks.
Against such a volatile backdrop, relying on property to fund retirement begins to feel too risky and too concentrated.

Buy and sell at the right time and you could do well, but with such mixed results, anticipating the market is far from easy.

What is the solution?

The reality is that very few investments are fail safe or guaranteed 100 per cent to keep their value.
When constructing a balanced portfolio of savings and investments, the first thing to consider is what your saving goals are.

These can range from saving for a new home, children's education and weddings through to long-term financial planning for later years.

If you are saving for retirement, for example, what kind of lifestyle do you want? Are you happy to lead a modest lifestyle or are you hoping to enjoy a little more luxury? When do you want to retire?

Once you have established the short-, medium- and long-term objectives, think about what level of risk you are willing to take with your money.

If you are willing to take some risk, investing in stocks and shares might be appropriate for you, but for those who are more risk averse, a more conservative approach is needed to safeguard their capital.

For the majority, a mix of different asset classes offers the best spread, combining equity investments with 'safer' options such as cash and bonds.

Once you have a financial plan in place, try and stick to it. With the ups and downs in the stock market, many investors fall into the 'buy high, sell low trap'.

Instead, view your financial plan as a long-term project and try and avoid the temptation to react to every bump along the road.

Relying too heavily on any one individual investment is best avoided.

While property can play a valuable role in a balanced portfolio, ensuring a mix of other savings and investments is wise.

The market for financial services products in the Mena region is maturing, so speak to an adviser about the options that are available to you - there may be more choices than you think.

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