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Category Archives: Self Help

An affordable investment – 6

No Tax bill!

This is not a sales pitch for Harmoney or P2P lending and I’m no investment adviser nor registered finance consultant. I will not receive any rewards from anyone for writing and publishing this information. I just found something that’s working well for me, that could do likewise for you too and unlike investment advisers, who charge a fat fee and get commissions, I personally have invested my money in Harmoney – you could say, I have put my money where my mouth is. There will be an equivalent organization like Harmoney in your country.

Most other ways of creating wealth from home, on line over the Internet look good until you deduct taxes. They focus on gross returns, not net.
One of the biggest killers of any investment is tax. Many investments can get you into trouble because you receive your returns with interest and spend it. Then comes tax time and there’s a nasty surprise when you do your tax return – a large debt to the tax man.

Something I forgot to mention, Harmoney withhold an amount you choose, for tax. Depending on your other earnings you might have some extra tax at the end of the year but whatever it is, it is usually less than you would have from franked shares. Compared to other investments you’ll get to keep more of the rewards. Just to be safe plan on losing a bit extra in tax at the end of the year.

Screenshot of Harmoney Lender's dashboard showing withheld tax
Harmoney withhold tax so you won’t get any nasty surprises at tax time.

Some P2P lenders do not withhold investor funds for tax. If this applies to your lender, you will need to deduct tax from your investment earnings. I’d look at what your usual tax rate and deduct tax from your investment at the next rate up. For example, if my top tax rate is 30% (30c in the dollar) then I should withhold tax at the nest level up (in NZ that’s 33%). By doing this, you won’t get any nasty shocks at tax time. Remember that’s tax only on earnings.

An affordable investment – 5

Strategies to maximize your investment.

This is not a sales pitch for Harmoney or P2P lending and I’m no investment adviser nor registered finance consultant. I will not receive any rewards from anyone for writing and publishing this information. I just found something that’s working well for me, that could do likewise for you too and unlike investment advisers, who charge a fat fee and get commissions, I personally have invested my money in Harmoney – you could say, I have put my money where my mouth is. There will be an equivalent organization like Harmoney in your country.

I love the idea I can make money from home, on line by using the Internet. There’s also a few things you can do to maximise your investment too:

Be consistent – the biggest killer for any investment scheme is not being consistent. Set an achievable amount you can deposit into your investment each pay. Remember – the beauty of this investment is the small amounts you can deposit to build it up. It doesn’t require a lump sum, so make the most of it by depositing each pay day. People tend to focus on the amount rather than the frequency they deposit into their investment account. Down the track, if something comes up and you can’t make the full amount, you tend to think it’s not worth depositing a smaller amount – wrong!

One of the nicest things about P2P lending investment is you can deposit anything, it doesn’t have to be $25 or more. It goes into a bank account and when there is $25 or more, you can buy a note with it. If you can’t spare $25, depositing less this pay, is better than nothing. When you see it grow and get to say $22.00, you’ll be motivated to put an extra $3 in to afford to buy another note.

Make a rule at the very start, to deposit every pay, regardless of the amount, then select a manageable amount to deposit. Because my wages were up and down like a yoyo, I decided to put in only $25 a week. There were a few weeks where I couldn’t spare that, so I put in only $5.00 (2016 had some wild ups and downs for me – redundancy, workplace injury etc, in hindsight, a crap year but I still put something away every week).

Make a plan and stick to it – As your investment grows your attitude will change. Many people start taking more and more risks as they see the returns growing their investment. It’s the greed syndrome. What they forget is they are raising their risks of failure. Each loan has a credit risk from A1 being the lowest risk, to F5 being the highest risk of default. When you see a B3 rated loan at 15.16% and compare it to an F3 loan at 39.61%, it’s tempting to take the F3 loan but there is a significant difference in the chance of a default. Set out with a plan on day one and stick to it. My plan was to distribute my notes over all the categories evenly. This way I spread the risk of any defaults. Today I still use that same strategy.

If you feel this is a high risk investment strategy, then plan to have most of your notes in A and B loans.

Diversify – this is something Harmoney also stresses heavily but it applies to any investment.. Invest a single note in each loan rather than many notes in one loan. You will reduce the risk of losses from any defaults. Defaults are not common but they can happen so we have to factor them into our planning.

The way I look at it is: Murphy’s Law says that if only one person will default, the chances are it will be the one I have invested in. By investing in many people, The chances of all of them defaulting is much less than just one person. If I make 20% each on 5 notes and if the 6th one defaults, I haven’t lost any money (I haven’t gained either). The returns on the 5 will make up the loss on the 6th.

But it gets better – this only applies if the 6th person defaults on the very first payment. That’s rare. Most defaults occur down the track, when part of the loan is already paid off. In this case, you are not even losing the full value of your note, part of it will have been repaid already. In my portfolio, I would have to have every third note default before I would lose money. That’s highly unlikely.

An affordable investment – 4

Starting off in P2P lending investment

This is not a sales pitch for Harmoney or P2P lending and I’m no investment adviser nor registered finance consultant. I will not receive any rewards from anyone for writing and publishing this information. I just found something that’s working well for me, that could do likewise for you too and unlike investment advisers, who charge a fat fee and get commissions, I personally have invested my money in Harmoney – you could say, I have put my money where my mouth is. There will be an equivalent organization like Harmoney in your country.

The key factors to look for are:
1. No lump sum minimum to start up.
2. They have a credit worthiness assessment system for their borrowers.
3. They have a collection process for loans in arrears to prevent defaults.
4. They respond to your questions and not just divert you to a FAQ.
5. They withhold funds for taxation.

Most high yielding investments require a large amount of money and a high level of risk. Bank interest is below inflation, so investment has become beyond the reach of the average person who wants to get ahead. P2P lending could be a solution. It does have risks but I believe when you compare it to other investments, you have more control over your risk. It requires no lump sum to start it off, returns very good interest and locks the money away so we can’t spend it until it’s grown. Unlike fixed term investments the funds trickle back into your account so you can accumulate them and re-invest them.

Research – do your research first. Check their web site and also search for complaints with them. If the P2P organization is called XYZ, then do a search for “complaints about XYZ” , “Is XYZ a scam”, “Problems for lenders with XYZ” and “Borrower problems with XYZ”. Often you’ll get some moaners who broke the rules, so read the results with an open mind.

If they appear good, open an account and deposit a small amount, say enough for one “note” only. This should be money you can afford to lose. The idea is to see how the system runs. How long does it take between depositing to actually owning a note. This is important because as P2P lending becomes more popular, there will be a scrum for buying notes, you need to know the processing time. Watch their site once a day for a week or more. They will usually have one day where they release a lot of loans – day where you have far more choices.

Look at their borrowers. Who are their customers? Are they borrowing for home improvement, debt consolidation, holiday expenses or are they all businesses that could fold tomorrow and vanish into thin air. Ideally you want an assortment, not all “Ebay Power Sellers looking for investment funds to grow their business”.

Are they trading in fiat currency or crypto-currency (e.g. Bitcoin). Crypto-currency means you can trade internationally but you’ll need extra security to secure your digital funds (e.g. a cold store digital wallet) and there will be an extra delay in lodging funds to purchase notes.

In the next installment, we’ll look at some ways to maximize your returns and reduce the risks:

An affordable investment – 3

Creating personal wealth through Local P2P Investment
After looking at a few options for P2P investment, I chose Harmoney. I can make money from home and on line, using the Internet. By depositing small amounts I can afford, on an intermittent basis, I can build up a substantial investment I could not afford otherwise.

This is not a sales pitch for Harmoney or P2P lending and I’m no investment adviser nor registered finance consultant. I will not receive any rewards from anyone for writing and publishing this information. I just found something that’s working well for me, that could do likewise for you too and unlike investment advisers, who charge a fat fee and get commissions, I personally have invested in Harmoney – you could say, I have put my money where my mouth is.

The interest rates with Harmoney P2P loans range from 9.99% to over 39%. The risks rise accordingly in relation to the interest rate. The higher the rate, the higher their assessment of the risk of default but there are some ways to reduce the effects a default would have on your total portfolio:

Screenshot of Harnoney's Lender's page
A screenshot of some Harmoney loans on offer, showing the risk rating and the interest rates.

Only buy one note in each loan. If you want to buy 5 notes, buy one note in 5 different loans, as opposed to 5 notes in a single loan. The chances of a default wiping out your investment are reduced through diversification. If one person defaults you will only lose $25, not $125. At 20% interest rate, you can lose one in 5 loans and still break even (actually due to the compounding effect, this is possible with just 2 loans at a high interest rate). It’s now January, 10 months since I started investing in Harmony. I have 74 notes and only two have defaulted. Even then, they didn’t default on day one, so I still got some money back. I didn’t lose the whole $25 outlaid for each loan. The proceeds from all the other loans will still yield me a return of 23% on my investment portfolio and that’s with those defaulted loans factored into the calculations.

Your greatest risk is at the very beginning when you have the least number of notes to diversify with. One default when you only have one or two notes, is devastating. One default when you have 50 notes is not a tragedy.

Accept the fact that there will be some defaults and they can occur in any assessment score category. Just because the person is scored A1, doesn’t mean the loan is bullet proof either. It does mean that statistically there is less risk of a default than an F5 loan.

To reduce the risks, invest in many notes right across the risk range. Reign in the greed impulse to invest only in the high interest notes. It’s easy to see the A1 notes at 9.99% as low returns, compared to those at 39.99% but even at 9.99% you are investing at a rate far higher than any bank will offer you and you are able to invest small amounts. Try that with a bank!

I started with 10 notes in March this year. They were spread across each score category. To date none of them have defaulted, all have been making payments on time. Today (December 2016), I have 49 notes, one has been fully repaid, four are late with one payment and none have defaulted (so far!). Even if all four default the total return after tax, on my Harmoney protfolio will be 16.47%. Try getting that from any institution and in only $25 investment increments!

In the next installment we’ll look at some strategies to maximize your return, supplement your portfolio and reduce your risks as you create a P2P investment portfolio.

An affordable investment – 2

The risks – International P2P lending

I also looked at some International P2P finance organisations. The one that appealed most to me was Bitbond, run from Germany. It transacts in Bitcoin and doesn’t require a huge investment startup deposit, however the part I was wary of, was the Bitcoin itself. The value of Bitcoin is extremely volatile, especially lately with hackers stealing from exchanges. Also they favored European accounts, making it a bit messy for anyone starting up outside the European community. Lately, thinking about security (as opposed to being user friendly) they asked for video identification as an extra security measure. That sounded fine at first, until I discovered they wanted me to hold up my passport to my face, in the video. Imagine if their security was preached, what would that be worth to an identity thief?

My investigations uncovered some complaints about unusually high losses resulting from loan defaults with Bitbond. It seemed they did very little to follow up defaults. Their last resort was to give you the details and let you pursue yourself. Oh yeah – I’m going to chase an eBay seller in Paraguay?
At that default rate, it wouldn’t be long before they gained a reputation as a soft target and all their customers were Nigerians. (They have since partnered with a credit collection organisation and significantly reduced their default problem.)

While they gave me assurances that their system was secure, the customer I.D. number didn’t work in their software either. As a programmer for over 30 years, if you can’t get your software to work in one area, you can’t assure people your security will work in another. It’s a whole package that either works or not. Much in all as I liked the international aspect of Bitbond, I have serious doubts about supplying such sensitive personal information to any organisation with software issues. While I have researched their methods, I have not opened an account and tested them and would have strong reservations about advising anyone else to do so. Bitcoin transactions attract hackers like bees to honey so you can’t be over cautious, in my view.

The risk with any form of lending, is the person could default and not repay the loan. Harmoney use the same credit collection practices as any other lender, so the risk is no higher than if you loaned the money through a solicitor, in my view, with one huge exception: if the Harmoney customer person defaults I’d lose $25. If the solicitor customer defaults, I’d lose at least $2,000.

To summarise, International P2P lending has more risks than local P2P lending because:

  1. It uses cyber currency, requiring extra security for your currency.
  2. It is usually based in Europe or the USA and has problems, or at least extra steps to deal with a nion European or non U.S. bank.
  3. Collection problems – it’s difficult and very costly to collect debts from hundreds of different countries.
  4. Because you are dealing in a foreign currency,transaction fees can eat heavily into your returns.
  5. Higher defaults because the borrower is not local and difficult to recover funds from.
  6. Higher debt recovery costs because they are operating overseas through agents with extra exchange rates and fees between you and the borrower.

While there’s a certain romance in becoming an International Investor, come back to earth – there’s also a lot of added costs. Unless you are looking to invest a large sum, I would not suggest International P2P lending with any organisation. There’s better opportunities closer to home.

Next installment we’ll look at one.