How to Get the Best Out of a Bad Exchange Rate

01 FEBRUARY 2024

Money matters can be a bit of a puzzle, especially when we throw terms like ‘exchange rates’ into the mix. In 2024, South Africa's economic weather forecast suggests a few storms, including a not-so-strong rand, which is certainly not a pleasant forecast for those who are a little intimidated by the financial realm. But fear not! In this article, we try to showcase how regular folk can make the most out of this situation. Let's dive into some easy-to-understand strategies to get your money working smarter, even when the exchange rate is playing hard to get.Smiling woman with cash in one hand

Understanding the Scenario:

Imagine the rand as a rollercoaster, and the economic forecast suggests a bit of a wild ride. There is no need to panic though – we've got some tricks up our sleeves to help you make the journey a little more enjoyable. Let's simplify things into easy-to-follow steps.

1. Diversification Magic:

Think of your money as a traveller. Instead of keeping it all in one place, let it explore a bit. Diversification means spreading your money across different assets and even other countries. This strategy acts like a financial safety net, protecting your hard-earned cash from the ups and downs of our local economy.

2. Cash Is King:

Hold onto your hats – here's some good news! In South Africa, cash is offering returns of around 9%, beating inflation at its own game. For those looking offshore, cash is currently giving returns of approximately 4% to 5% in dollars – a rarity that hasn't happened in quite some time. However, you do need to be mindful of the tax implications, so it is probably best to look at using larger sums for more tax-friendly options, like retirement annuities or tax-free savings accounts, which was sound advice from Chief Economist at Citadel, Maarten Ackerman, who discussed the exchange rate topic in an article on Business Tech.

3. Bonds Unveiled:

Bonds might sound fancy, but they're essentially loans you can make money from. South African bonds are offering attractive yields, compensating for the risks tied to our tricky fiscal environment. Also, consider taking a look at 10-year US Treasury bonds – currently serving returns between 4% and 5%, with the potential to soar into the double digits if the US decides to cut interest rates.

4. Cautious Steps for the Win:

In 2024, a cautious approach is the name of the game. Picture navigating a busy street – you look both ways before crossing. Similarly, adjust your financial outlook, keep an eye out for potential surprises (like national elections), and plan for the medium term. Being cautious allows you to navigate uncertainties with a smoother ride.

5. Think Globally, Act Locally:

Stay in the loop about global events, economic trends, and central bank policies. Staying informed empowers you to make savvy decisions. Global insights can help you steer your financial ship even when the local waters get a bit rough.

6. Financial Safety Nets - Hedging Strategies:

Picture putting a safety net under your money trapeze act – that's what hedging is all about. If you're concerned about the rand doing somersaults, consider financial tools like forward contracts or options. While they might come with a cost, they offer peace of mind in unpredictable times.

Taking a firmer hold of your financial matters doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Even in uncertain times, you can make your money work smarter with a little information. In 2023 there were some surprisingly strong performances in certain areas.

“Interestingly, on the investment front, 2023 proved to be positive for most asset classes which performed well. South African equities and bonds recorded solid returns of around 10% each for the year,” Ackerman told Business Tech.

“Offshore markets were even more robust. We saw strong double-digit returns from most global equity markets (with the MSCI AC World Index up more than 20%), and gold also printed solid returns. Dollar-exposed portfolios also benefited from the rand slipping by 8% last year.”

Although caution is advised in 2024, diversifying, seizing cash opportunities, exploring bonds, taking cautious steps, staying informed, and perhaps tossing in a financial safety net, are all decent strategies to consider when the forecasts are a little bleak. It's about turning challenges into opportunities and making your money dance to your tune.


Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only. You should consult your financial advisor before making any individual investment decisions.