Business

Is saving in US dollars right for you?

By Shamille Scott Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 13, 2013    

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Whether it is a practical solution for business owners or for an individual to save in a secure environment, having a US dollar account is a good idea.

"Right now we have a situation where the US dollar isn't readily available it gives on the flexibility to have the currency at their disposal," said Andre Harvey, the manager of personal banking at Scotiabank.

US dollar savings also helps to diversify your investment portfolio, according to Rohan Edwards, consumer portfolio manager at the National Commercial Bank's (NCB) retail banking division.

Opening that US dollar account is quite simple; all it takes is a minimum of US$100. This is the standard for both NCB and Scotiabank.

The foreign currency can be taken in, or you can choose to bring Jamaican dollars, which can be converted, based on availability by the banks.

What's more, with a US dollar account, you are less likely to make frequent withdrawals from the account, said Edwards.

"(US dollar savers) typical accumulate these savings to meet a goal," he said.

But, both US dollar account and Jamaican dollar savings account operate on the same basis, as persons are encouraged to save on a consistent basis while interest is paid based on the funds accumulated, the consumer portfolio manager said.

Saving in the currency of a country with a stronger economy will preserve the purchasing power of your savings, said Tamara Silvera, senior manager, treasury department at the Jamaica National Building Society.

The value of your funds will be better preserved even if local inflation rates increase or the home currency depreciates, she said.

Notwithstanding, one must not neglect having a savings account in local currency, because a majority of individual expenses is in Jamaican dollars, according to Edwards.

From a business standpoint, Harvey said a customer, who operates businesses and has an American supplier, is more flexible with US dollars.

"Over time, when the need arises to make an urgent purchase, the transaction can be done without waiting until there are US dollars on the market," he said.

Without that, they could have a challenge in meeting their payments to their foreign suppliers who usually doesn't give credit, Harvey said.

The Central Bank placed restriction on the sale of US dollars - getting US$40,000 at one go may be difficult.

Medium and long- term investments in US dollars are just as ideal as the readily available savings account.

Investing in the US dollars can preserve the value of the investment, said Charles Ross, managing director at Sterling Asset Management.

"Invest in US dollar denominated instruments in order to hedge against local currency devaluation and to meet upcoming US dollar liabilities (expenses) based on investment goals/cash needs," said Annette Phillpots, assistant vice-president, Scotia Investments.

An investing is not like a bank account, it's more like saving over the long term, making it less liquid.

The strategies for investing in US dollars, according to Phillpots, are invest early, invest regularly, diversify and stay invested.

"Take advantage of compounding interest soon than later, investing early with smaller amounts of money will ensure a investor is ahead," she said.

You can use standing orders and pre-authorised automated contributions (Pacs) to invest regualry.

Buying units in a US dollar denominated product at different prices over time will ensure your average buying cost is lower than purchasing all the units at one time, Phillpots said.

But, investments aren't insured as much as savings accounts.

"Money could be lost, it's a risk," Ross said. "But, the investor will get better returns from the US dollar (than from a savings account)."

"Once you are comfortable with the risk, and want better returns and the cash flow, consider investing in US dollars," he said.

Fixed income investment in US dollar will be retain value, but, for real estate and local stocks, Ross recommends investing in Jamaican dollars.

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