Thoughts for this Easter season

Thoughts for this Easter season

I have been invited to contribute some thoughts for the Easter season, on behalf of the Board of Anglican Financial Care. The first thing that came to mind is that our members and customers are a mixed bunch. Some lay, some ordained, some Anglican, some from other denominations, and some affiliated with the Christian message via their workplaces or their connection with how we work. We’re also spread across Aotearoa, New Zealand, and the Pacific. It’s unlikely that Easter will mean the same to even some of us, let alone all of us.

Lent, the 6 weeks leading up to Easter, has sometimes been a time to fast or give up something. I found the words of Pope Francis entitled “Do you want to fast this Lent?” to be a refreshing approach. They’re easy to find online if you haven’t come across them. My takeaway was rather than focussing on negative thoughts and actions, we can choose to focus on positive thoughts and behaviours, somewhat like Phil. 4:8-9.

What does this look like in practice when we are surrounded by challenges? The wider church, faith, and community context is quite different this year to others. Many of us are somewhat over the impact of Covid-19 on our lives, even while being grateful we live where we do. Our Christian Church leaders have just had their annual meeting with the Prime Minister and focussed on Welfare, Income, and Wellbeing; Covid-19 and Vaccinations; and Housing. The issues they raised are what some term “wicked problems” i.e. thorny, complex, seemingly intractable realities. And faith communities are in the process of reporting to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. We, collectively, are having to account for our past transgressions. These are just a few of the many issues on our radar as Christians.

The community of Mangere that I live in is diverse, complex, exciting, young, challenged, and challenging. The media usually choose to portray the challenges rather than the strengths, talents, and opportunities that exist in abundance. As I write this, I am looking at a stunning, multi-coloured sunrise. It could mean rain if you believe the shepherds. And it could mean the sky was painted with such beauty to remind us that, in the words of the poem Desiderata “with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

As Christians we are all called, whether lay or ordained, to share God’s love with others. Sometimes the “sham, drudgery and broken dreams” can feel overwhelming. And that’s where the hope of Easter comes in for me.  Easter reminds me that there is always the possibility of a new beginning. God is available to me in my life just as God was experienced by Jesus’ first followers, both before and after his death. The forces that killed Jesus, were unable to stop the ongoing experience of God in our lives that we name resurrection.

So, amidst the busy Easter services for some, the last of the summer holidays for others, the pastoral challenges you may face, the Easter eggs, and the Easter sales, I wish you an encounter with the God of resurrection; an encounter that surprises you, maybe startles you, refreshes you, and then excites you with the possibilities of new life.

Blessings

Vicki Sykes
Deputy Chair, Anglican Financial Care

Investment Outlook for 2021

Investment Outlook for 2021

It is always difficult to predict what is going to happen. Who would have predicted the pandemic, and the variety of responses, in 2020? Returns in 2021 are likely to be just as interesting. Events like the pandemic come and go but returns over the longer term are almost always positive.  That said, and depending on your timeframe, the starting point is important.

Near term returns can move around a lot. They are very dependent on what governments and ‘experts’ say and do, and reactions to such. Governments are expected to keep interest rates low in the foreseeable future. They are hoping to fuel a recovery in earnings, which in turn should lead to employment and economic growth. Along with additional policy stimulus and increasing vaccination growth is expected to increase over time. On a positive note, the IMF (International Monetary Fund)1 recently raised its global growth forecast for 2021 to 5.5% from the 5.2% it anticipated back in October.

However, given what is considered to be current, by historic measures, high prices in both shares and bonds (low-interest rates) performances in 2021 could be up or down. Issues or events that could affect this year include developments around US policy, ongoing tensions between the US and China, the approach towards Iran, the level of global trade and initiatives adopted that might address climate issues. On top of all that no doubt developments around the virus will continue to have a big impact. In this environment, it pays to tread carefully / invest wisely. Our strategy remains to endeavour to participate well in the current market rally, while still preserving some measure of downside protection against what we believe to be “frothy” markets.

 

 

  1. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organisation of 190 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
Investment Returns at 31 December 2020

Investment Returns at 31 December 2020

 

Investment returns (before tax and fees) for the quarter ending 31 December 2020 are:

Fund 3 months 1 Year (p.a.) 3 years (p.a.) 5 years (p.a.) 10 years (p.a.)
Growth Fund 6.2% 8.7% 10.1% 10.3% 9.2%
Balanced Fund 4.5% 7.2% 7.9% 8.3% 7.8%
Income Fund 1.4% 4.6% 4.2% 4.4% 4.5%

Returns were solid over the quarter despite the growth in virus cases and renewed lockdown announcements. Equities (shares) in particular posted strong gains with most share markets returning over 10% in the quarter. Investment returns were supported by vaccine approvals, more Government policy stimulus (spending), and clarity on the U.S. election outcome. The strength of our dollar held back gains but our overseas fixed income (bond) funds benefitted from the weak U.S dollar that prevailed. Almost all investments achieved positive returns in the quarter. Whilst it is good that the run of positive returns continues we are concerned, as mentioned here before, that both share and bond prices (in general) are at levels that deem it to be prudent, that is to remain well-diversified and carefully invested. Our active management approach has nevertheless enabled us to find sound investments in most environments.

Your seedlings are growing

Your seedlings are growing

Your Christian KiwiSaver Scheme is unique in having direct investment in a pine forest in the southern Hawkes Bay, Hapua Forest.

Just like KiwiSaver, forestry is a long-term investment with a typical forest usually taking some 25 years to mature. Our forestry land value has soared in recent times as investors have come to realise the ability of forestry to provide a carbon offset.

We’ve almost completed harvesting our first crop which was planted as seedlings in 1992-1993 and since 2018 we’ve been steadily replanting our land. So far over 300,000 seedlings have been planted. The next photo shows an area of seedlings planted in 2018.

Replanting in 2020 faced some obstacles with COVID-19 affecting the availability of labour and the Hawkes Bay drought delaying replanting. Some of the forest land is also not suitable for replanting, we don’t plant along the banks of the waterways and there are areas of native bush that we wish to protect and leave to regenerate. See the photo below of an area of retained native bush.

In our October 2019 article, we mentioned that we source our seedlings from Murrays Nurseries Woodville. Seedlings are ready for planting when 25–30 centimetres tall and are mainly planted by hand. It’s labour intensive and done by skilled teams. The number of trees planted per hectare can vary from 600 to 1,400.

Radiata pine was first introduced to New Zealand in the late 1850s to see if it would be a good candidate for widespread planting. Its excellent growth rate prompted seed imports from California in the 1870s, mainly for shelterbelts and woodlots. By the first forestry planting boom in the 1920s and 1930s, it had been adopted as the species of choice.

It proved to be versatile and grew well throughout New Zealand on a variety of soil types, including coastal sands, heavy clays, gravels and volcanic ash deposits.

Logging is a big deal in New Zealand. It is our third largest industry after dairy and meat.

A third of the world’s radiata forests are grown in New Zealand, with Australia and Chile being other major producers. New Zealand now has 1.75 million hectares of planted forest, of which some 90 percent is radiata pine, much in first rotation forests. These forests cover around 7% of New Zealand, which’s about the same area as 10 Stewart Islands. A substantial part of New Zealand (24%) is also covered in indigenous (native) forest.

There are other articles on Hapua Forest in February 2019 and October 2019.

Your annual KiwiSaver check up

Your annual KiwiSaver check up

Like almost anything of value we own, your KiwiSaver account needs a little love and attention now and then. Let’s call it a health check. It won’t take long, and your KiwiSaver account will love you for it.

Look at it as a “do-it-yourself Warrant of Fitness”. We suggest it be done annually; perhaps at the beginning of each year or when you receive your annual member statement.

  1. Is your investment profile suitable for your current situation?

This is about where your funds are invested. Is your choice of investment funds too conservative, too aggressive or just right?

The Sorted website has a useful tool to help you called Investor Kickstarter at www.sorted.org.nz/tools/investor-kickstarter. You answer a few questions and it provides a guide to what type of investor you are, a typical investment mix for your type and what sorts of returns you could expect.

  1. Are you contributing enough?

If you can afford it, should you increase your contribution rate or make extra voluntary contributions?

If you have suspended making contributions, is it time to recommence contributing?

The Sorted website has another useful tool to help you with these questions, the KiwiSaver Savings Calculator www.sorted.org.nz/tools/kiwisaver-savings-calculator. You answer a few questions and it provides a guide on how big your balance could be at age 65 and how much you could get per week in retirement. Try different contribution rates to see the impact on your future savings.

  1. Is your Personal Investor Rate (PIR) correct?

You don’t want to have too much tax taken from your KiwiSaver earnings or too little and face a tax bill by having the wrong PIR rate. Your PIR is based on your income. If that changes, so might your PIR. We have a handy guide to help you with calculating your PIR on the scheme’s website www.christiankiwisaver.nz/documents.

If these three items are in good order, your KiwiSaver account should be running well.

Our staff are happy to help you with any questions you have on this.

 

Investment Returns at 31 December 2020

Investment returns at 30 September 2020

The September quarter was another positive quarter as shares and bonds both benefited from a number of factors including continued optimism with regards to the development of a covid-19 vaccine, economic recovery and further possible supportive measures from various governments around the world. However, concerns about the likelihood of fiscal stimulus (or spending) from the USA government weighed on sentiment toward the end of the quarter.

The health situation and government stimulus are two very important factors that could influence future returns.

The pandemic has blown the global economy into a very unfamiliar place. Government budget deficits have mushroomed and public debt ratios have surged. Despite this, interest rates have fallen, remain low and many share prices have soared.

With so much uncertainty around, we remain cautious with all our investment activity. We expect that asset prices will remain volatile (i.e. go up and down) in the short term but that returns should be positive over the longer term.

Investment returns (before tax and fees) for the quarter ending 30 September 2020 are:

Fund 3 months 1 Year (p.a.) 3 years (p.a.) 5 years (p.a.) 10 years (p.a.)
Growth Fund 3.2% 5.1% 9.2% 9.6% 8.7%
Balanced Fund 2.6% 4.7% 7.4% 7.9% 7.5%
Income Fund 1.2% 3.7% 4.0% 4.2% 4.5%

Not already a member of Christian KiwiSaver Scheme? Join other like-minded Kiwi Christians growing their savings ethically today!