How To Protect Yourself From The Weakening Ringgit?

ringgit performance

Although the ringgit has rebounded in May, it has a long way to go to regain lost ground.

In fact. the ringgit hit an all time low in February this year at 4.8053 against the US dollar.  This is the weakest since the 1998 currency crisis. While the ringgit slide this time around is largely due to the continuing Middle East turmoil, it still hits close to home.

How does this affect us                                                   

The weakening ringgit has caused our purchasing power to shrink. For those of us who are looking forward to year-end holiday vacations overseas, this means that it will cost more to convert into foreign currency (except for Japan!). You may have to give that shopping trip in Milan a skip with the current currency situation.

With the implementation of fuel subsidy rationalisation just around the corner, our cost of living may increase. This will leave many of us struggling even harder to grow our wealth — and for some to survive in this economic climate.

Fixed deposits are not making the cut

The current fixed deposit (FD) rates offered by banks may be relatively higher compared to historical trends. That said, putting all your money into fixed deposits as a primary vehicle of investment is barely enough to protect your money against inflation.

Furthermore, with the rising cost of living, it is pretty much impossible to attain financial freedom just through investing in FD.  At best, fixed deposits are considered as saving for your emergency fund rather than an investment.

The need to start investing

If you want to have a shot at achieving financial security and to keep up with the ever escalating cost of living, it is high time to start putting your money somewhere you can grow and provide you with higher returns compared to conventional savings and FD accounts. Here are a few suggestions you could look into:

1. ETF’s

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) not only provide diversification as index funds have a composite of firms in different industries, they also offer lower fees compared to unit trusts and mutual funds.

As an ETF follows an index, it can be passively managed (you don’t have to look at the market everyday) which appeals to passive investors. ETFs also provide healthy dividends and market capitalization growth over time.

Note that ETFs can be broken into two types: one is the standard or physical ETF’s where you hold the underlying assets like a firm’s share. Another is known as synthetic ETF’s where they have a mixture holding of the underlying assets and complex derivatives.

Investors of synthetic ETF are exposed to counter-party risk as these funds use swap contracts. This means that there’s a possibility that the fund can be defaulted, and investors might face unrecoverable loss of their investment.

2. Bonds

This is another safe instrument to invest in compared to equities. It also provides a steady stream of income in the form of coupons. Bonds are normally issued over-the-counter by private firms, government and quasi-government institutions, such as Khazanah, and can be traded like regular stocks on the market. They come in a few types: commercial paper, medium term notes and long-term bonds.

One advantage of buying Malaysian bonds is that our bonds such as Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and Malaysian Treasury Bills (MTB) are exempted from interest income tax and capital appreciation tax by our Government.

Buying bonds can be quite affordable and accessible for those who don’t have a lot of money. Only a minimum initial investment of RM1,000 and RM100 of subsequent investment is needed to get a piece of the action. A bond fund is a collected pool of money by fund managers from retail investors like us. The accumulated capital pool is then used to buy physical bonds as mentioned above.

3. Equities

Equities are direct holding of a firm’s share, meaning that you have a stake on the firm’s performance. Although compared to other investments, equities can be more expensive and risky.

However, this avenue could potentially provide higher returns. For example, the manufacturing industry are poised to gain from cheaper ringgit currency which makes exports more attractive.

4. Foreign exchange

Contrary to popular belief, foreign exchange (forex for short) trading is actually legal and available from authorized dealers under the Money Service Business Act 2011 set by BNM. If you are up for it, forex trading can be an avenue to make lucrative returns in a short period.

However, the forex market by nature is very volatile and risky. It requires you to have a good degree of knowledge in technical analysis and also strong financial discipline to stomach the volatile currency price movement.

Investing in forex differs quite a lot from other trading based investments like equities as long-term projections are extremely difficult to make as there are significantly more factors involved.

Find new avenues to grow our wealth

The weakening ringgit on top of the escalating cost of living have caused worries for Malaysians. Add to this the global economic uncertainties.

This is why upping our game on managing personal finance and not be solely dependent of our pay cheque is crucial. We have to find new avenues to sustain and grow our wealth. These are just some ways we can do that if we want to achieve financial freedom and to be prepared for any adversities.

Compare and start your investment journey with the best online investments.

This article has been updated on May 28, 2024.

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