Almost immediately after I tell someone that I write a financial column for Daily Sabah, I get asked a personal finance question. Today, I want to answer the two most frequently asked questions so that in the future I can point to this article and save everyone a lot of time.
Question: Should I keep my money in dollars, euros, Turkish lira or some other currency? Answer: You should never take a net position - I'll explain what the means shortly - in currency markets. I wrote an article in March that details why it is impossible to make money trading currencies entitled "The 1 quadrillion dollar question." So, what's the answer to this question? The answer is your money should be denominated proportionally to the debt you hold or expenses you incur. This means if all of your debts - credit card, bank debts and personal debts - are in Turkish liras, you should keep your money invested in Turkish liras. However, if you have debts that are equally split up between euro-denominated debt and dollar-denominated debt, then you should have half of your cash in euros and the other half in dollars. Alternatively, If you have no debt but spend half of the year in the Eurozone and the other half in Turkey, you should keep half of your money in euros and the rest in Turkish lira.
Anyone that conducts any type of business already has a net currency position. This is called a natural currency position. So, if you trade or do business with steel, you are said to be "naturally long" steel if you have it and will sell it later on and "naturally short" steel if you have not yet purchased it but need to do so for your business. You are also long or short the currency in which the commodity (steel) is traded, in this case, dollars. In order to neutralize any currency position you have, you should open an equal and counter currency position you find yourself in. So, if you need to buy $10,000 worth of steel to produce the widgets your business produces, you either need to sell the product you are selling in dollars, which would neutralize your currency position, or you need to have $10,000 in dollar reserves.
Similarly if you buy or sell fabric, textiles or apparel of any kind, you need to take a dollar position - as cotton and synthetic materials are dollar-denominated commodities - and any another currency position your costs are associated with. So, if the $10 garment you export to the eurozone costs you $3 in fabric (denominated in dollars), $3 in labor (denominated in Turkish liras) and $3 in accessories (denominated in euros) with a $1 dollar profit, you need to hold $3 in dollars, $3 in euros and $3 in Turkish liras to ensure your costs will not increase or decrease and that your $1 profit in euros is preserved. So, if you do nothing, you are long $7 in euros - $10 of euros in receivables, $3 in euros in payables for the accessories - short $3 in dollars for the fabric and short $3 in Turkish liras for labor. This means you are owed $7 in euros but owe $3 in dollars and $3 in Turkish liras. This means you should divide the money you have set aside for the project by keeping three-sevenths of it in dollars, three-sevenths in Turkish lira and finally another one-sevenths of it in Turkish Liras. This will ensure that you will profit $1 worth of euros denominated in Turkish liras on the day you neutralize your positions.
Question: Should I keep my money in gold, foreign currencies, stocks or bonds?Answer: Again you should invest in instruments denominated in the currency in which your debts or expenses exist. If all of your debt is in Japanese yen, your investments should be net neutral with respect to the Japanese yen. As for actual instruments, a good rule of thumb is 100 minus your age is the percentage you want to invest in equities. Ninety percent of these equities should be "blue chip," well diversified stocks or better yet, index tracking funds. Over the long-term (30+ years), you are very likely to make healthy returns. The remaining 10 percent of your equities can be invested in emerging markets or high-tech stocks depending on your risk aversion. The remainder of your investments should be in bonds and cash. Any money you invest is money you know for sure you will not need to cover expenses. Obviously, if you have any debts, you need to retire the debt in order from costliest debt to cheapest debt.
These may seem like simple answers to simple questions, but my experience has been that even these basics are generally not well understood. Happy Birthday Annecim!