Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Investment Policy for Trust Accounts

My brother is opening the trust accounts. They will be invested in local mutual funds. Unlike Australian or US managed or mutual funds these do not make distributions but like an Australian listed investment company (closed end fund) they pay tax on their earnings. The tax though is the relevant investment rate not the corporation tax. This is 25% of the inflation adjusted gain. Also, if you sell a mutual fund in Falafelland 25% capital gains tax is withheld. Looks like we can't really avoid this tax. Foreign tax paid is not refundable as cash in Australia – it can only be deducted against Australian tax liable.* Because my son's earnings would be way below the tax free threshold (initially each of these accounts will have about AUD 44k in them) he wouldn't need to pay tax if the investment funds were based in Australia.

My brother suggested investing 70% in bonds and 30% in stocks. As a long-term investment policy – we will be investing for the next 20 years for my son – I think this is too conservative.

This is both because in the long run stocks have performed better than bonds in most countries but also because interest rates are now low. This chart shows the real returns on US investments over the last century:

Since 1980, bonds did well as interest rates fell from historic highs. But in the 40 years up to 1980 bonds lost money in real terms as interest rates rose. So, I told him if we are adopting a "set and forget" investment policy then we should go for 60% stocks and 40% bonds. The mix between local and international investments should be 50/50. The local market is one of the cheaper ones globally.
OTOH the local currency is quite strong currently. If we can revisit investment policy periodically then 70% bonds is OK for now. If there is a future larger decline in stock markets we would then switch to a more aggressive stance.

My brother's children are much older and so their trust accounts will exist for less time. If they intend to spend the money when they get it then I guess a more conservative stance might make sense. The youngest though will still need to wait 9 years to get her money so I think she can be more aggressive.

* Labor wants to make franking credits from Australian companies non-refundable as well. This would bring back symmetry in the way these credits are treated. Of course, I think we should go in the other direction and make foreign tax refundable :)

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