Economist Shamubeel Eaqub: If retiring soon, move savings to liquid assets

coronavirus 23/04/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed chaos on the economy and Kiwis' individual finances, prompting many to reconsider how they save and invest.

With travel and trade routes cut off or severely limited and the nationwide lockdown halting many businesses' operations, New Zealanders' pockets will be hurting. Although the Government has stepped in to support Kiwis with the likes of the wage subsidy scheme, many have had their pay cut or been made redundant.

For those lucky enough to still have money available or Kiwis wanting to smartly manage their income when they do get back on their feet, there are several key things to consider when saving or investing.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub told The AM Show there is no blanket rule for everyone. 

"It depends on what you are saving for. If you are a young person who is saving for retirement then I would say keep investing. If you look at the share market over the last three months, it fell off a huge amount and then pretty much made up half of those losses in the last few weeks. Markets can be very wild in terms of the gyrations," he said.

"If you are saving for a home or you have got some costs that are coming up very shortly, and, in particular, if you have got some costs coming up because you are going to retire soon, it is really important that you have some of your savings in very liquid assets. Things like cash, bank deposits, those kinds of things.

"Even though they don't give good returns, it is really, really important that you have a chunk of your savings that are super secure which you can't afford to see fall in value."

Many Kiwis will have seen their Kiwisavers plummet as the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread around the world, alarming markets and throwing stocks down into near-uncharted waters. Eaqub said it is generally best to not even look at Kiwisaver accounts at the moment. 

"For retirement savings, don't touch it, keep investing. Dollar-cost averaging is what we call it. If we keep buying stocks while prices are low, all the time you will be much better off," Eaqub said.

Trying to play the market and choose stocks should also be avoided in most cases, he said. 

"I don't think for most of us, we should be trying to pick stocks. It is a fool's errand. More often than not you will blow yourself up and you will lose everything. Better to go conservative and if you must have stock picking in your portfolio, make sure you get a good financial adviser who can do it for you."