A guest post by @smartyannette
We all desire to save and/or invest at some point in our lives but we fail to accumulate the little extra we have or we lack adequate financial know how to do so. Obviously, we are more likely to save if we have an investment goal and that's why I think Unit trusts are a much better deal compared to saving accounts in banks.
Unit trusts are professionally managed collective investment schemes where investors pool their money. The accumulated funds are then invested in a portfolio of assets (stocks, bonds, bills, etc.) and the individual investors gain in proportion of their investment, if the value of the underlying assets increases.
Common Unit trusts are Money Market funds that invests in short term securities like Treasury bills, Equity funds that invest in a variety of stocks, Bond funds for bonds and finally Balanced funds that combines all these asset classes. The money market funds are considered low-risk and tend to have lower minimum balances. The others are mainly long term investment options. Gains from Unit Trusts range from about 8% to 16% per annum based on level of risk. In comparison, Commercial banks offer about 4% per annum and only fixed deposit accounts compete favorably, with some over 10%.
You should probably choose Unit Trusts over savings accounts because the former offer better rates of return. Also, If you desire to invest in the securities market, but want to avoid the risk of investing in one company then you may consider Unit trusts as a safer and more stable option. Unit trusts also enable one to invest in a variety of securities at once and get periodic interest unlike some banks that only award interest at year end.
Investment Banks are specialized unlike commercial banks and you are more likely to easily access financial information and advice as well as brokerage services from the former. The recently-ended Capital Markets Authority open day expo in Nairobi showcased a variety of firms that offer their customers the option to invest in Unit Trusts. They Include Old Mutual, Genghis Capital, Stanbic Investments, Dyer and Blair investment bank, Britam, Apex Capital, Apollo and CIC. The minimum balances are as low as Kshs. 500 at Genghis Capital and Kshs. 100,000 (~$1,200) for some of the other firms.
Most firms give a capital guarantee, meaning that the principal you put in is secure, but it is always safe to check. Management fees and initial fees also vary depending on the type of fund, and while some companies charge it based on the interest earned, others may charge it on principal. Some firms also allow you to access your money upon request via MPesa while others require you to wait for 3 business days for payments to clear. In comparison, money in a savings account is only an ATM visit away so chances of misspending are high.