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Monday, 11 August 2014

Hang on to the roof over your head

Purchasing a property while the prices and mortgage rates are within reach becomes a secure way of protecting your finances against the battering of rising inflation - Both primary and secondary markets are worth considering

The ever changing economic condition and unpredictable spending behaviours make it even more challenging to find the real equilibrium in interest rate.

Bank Negara’s recent move to raise the benchmark overnight policy rate (OPR) from 3% to 3.25% was expected since the last OPR adjustment was three years ago in May 2011.

An OPR increase is always associated with an increase in interest rate.

Bank Negara has taken a bold step to address the economic challenge and became the first country in South-East Asia to increase the benchmark rate in an improved economic environment.

It is a prudent move by the authority in view of the upward pressure on inflation rate and the high household debt at 86.8% of gross domestic product in 2013.

So, how does this increase in interest rate affect us, the public?

Most people generally only relate an interest rate hike to financing cost which includes mortgage and personal loan rates.

In effect, it has a far more profound impact.

Changes in OPR directly affect the overall Base Lending Rate (BLR) which in turn, affects the spending behaviours of businesses and consumers as well as the dynamics of the overall economy.

On one hand, it is used to curb rising household debt and control spending.

On the other, higher interest rate would help to generate a neutral real rate of return for normal savings which is comparatively higher than fixed deposit rate.

However, what does this mean to us in the long run when interest rate is on the rising trend?

This is an interesting question in terms of personal spending and investment planning as it relates to interest rate movement.

Prof Dr Jeremy Siegel, of the Wharton School of Business and best selling author of Stocks for the Long Run, used to say when inflation kicked in, stock prices would go down in the short-term, due to concerns of reduced profits.

Eventually, however, stock prices would rise again in the medium and longer term, when investors realised that stocks could be used as a tool to hedge against inflation, as businesses would past higher costs through to their customers.

It is also interesting to see people sell and buy stocks for the same reason at different times with different considerations.

Similar movements may be observed in other types of investments when people take a longer term view of better ways to navigate through the challenges of inflation.

Prudent spending is always encouraged regardless of good and bad times.

With it, comes prudent planning and investment.

When inflation rate is on an upward trend and value of currencies continues to drop due to the massive quantitative easing (printing of money) measures around the world, using investments to hedge against inflation is one of the strategies to secure our financial future.

One of the investment assets that warrants deeper consideration and provides longer term investment protection is property.

Real estate works well as a hedging tool for a couple of reasons.

Investing early in real estate protects investors against rising land prices, and increasing construction costs during inflation.

Properties purchased before the onset of inflation will still have the protection of the continuous demand to meet the housing needs of a growing population in Malaysia.

An advice that I have continuously heard since my schools days till today is “Hang on to the roof over your head. It will help to keep you financially strong.”

This advice has remained valid over the years. It is not enough to just keep enough cash for rainy days.

Purchasing a property while the prices and mortgage rates are within reach becomes a secure way of protecting your finances against the battering of rising inflation.

This is especially true for those who have yet to own one.

Both primary and secondary markets are worth looking at, as there is surely be something out there that will meet your financial requirement.

“Hang on to the roof over your head” is a time-tested wisdom that will protect you in more ways than one for the future.

FIABCI Asia-Pacific regional secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email

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