How to Make Your Accountant Wince

It all seems like a pretty simple process. Put some seed money in, make regular contributions, and by the time you’re a bit grey and podgy, you’ll have a mountain of money at your disposal.

You won’t get too far into your financial education without reading about the power of compounding. All you have to do, or so it seems, is sit back and watch the money-pile grow.

But…if only it were that simple.

The problem is that you might need the money for something else…like a deposit to buy a house. You’re likely to choose a place to live in now over the potential of compounded wealth possibly decades down the track.

Each time you accumulate a decent pile of money, something pops up and snatches it right out of your hands. On top of that, your regular income disappears into a stream of bills.

Get the market to work for you

The good thing about the stock market, however, is that you can grow your wealth without having to keep tipping in your own money.

Yes, you need to get a start. You need to put up some capital, but it’s not as much as you might think.

How much? The answer is whatever you can afford without having to raid it every time you receive an unexpected bill.

You want to set it up so that, once you’ve put your money in, you get the market to work for you.

One way you can do this is through a dividend reinvestment plan. Or ‘DRP’ for short. A DRP enables you to receive shares in a company in lieu of receiving a cash dividend.

Not all companies offer DRPs. In fact, most of the 2,300 or so companies listed on the ASX don’t offer them. It’s typically only the biggest and most profitable companies — that is, the blue-chips — that offer DRPs. 

But how does it work?

When a company declares a dividend, and it has a DRP, you can elect to receive the equivalent of the dividend in the form of shares. Some companies will let you split it between shares and cash.

The good news is that companies often offer these shares at a discount to the market. Not a big discount — around 2–2.5% — but this too is a hidden strength of how DRPs help to grow wealth.

Not only are you continually expanding your shareholding — and your asset base — you are continually receiving shares at a discount to the market. And not paying any brokerage or other fees to do so.

With most of the blue-chips paying dividends twice a year, the other good news is that your shareholding also increases twice a year too.

That might not add up to anything significant at first. But, within a few years, you’ll be surprised how much your shareholding has grown. Do it for a decade and more and the results could be staggering.

Take a boring old bank stock with a yield of around 5%. By electing to participate in a DRP, you could grow your shareholding by almost 35% within a few years.

If you started with 1,000 shares, your first allocation would be 50 shares. However, the second dividend for the year would net 52 shares, and so on.

The second year would net 113 shares, and 124 in the third year. By the end of the third year, you’d own 1,340 shares. Go out to five years and this jumps to over 1,600 shares.

And when you’re ready, you can always switch back to receiving cash dividends instead. When you do, however, you’ll be receiving them on a much larger number of shares.

What’s the catch?

Of course, it would be great if you could set your DRP in action and sit back and watch your shareholdings grow. However, the taxman is never far away.

Always get your own advice; however, the ATO sets out a number of guidelines. Shares that you acquire through a DRP are treated as cash income, so you will need to pay tax on them each year. In doing so, though, you’re copping pain now for what could be a much bigger asset pile down the track.

Another thing is that each new batch of shares forms its own cost base for future capital gains tax calculations. Own the shares for a decade, and this will swell out to 20. That’s something that will make your accountant wince.

It’s not a set-and-forget process. You still have to decide whether you want to own the shares. You also need to be careful that your growing shareholding doesn’t start to dominate your portfolio.

However, if you get it right, and can afford any tax obligations in the meantime, DRPs can be a great way to build your wealth. To give investors the choice of income now — or in the future based on a bigger holding — stocks that offer DRPs are one of the things we look for at Total Income.

All the best,

Matt Hibbard,
Editor, Total Income

While many investors chase quick fire gains, Matt takes a different view. He is focused on two very clear goals. First: How to generate reliable and consistent income in a low-interest rate world. And second, how you can invest today to build wealth over the next 10–15 years. Matt researches income investments. You can find more of Matt’s work over at Total Income, where he is hunting down the next generation of dividend-paying companies for the future. He is also the editor of Options Trader, where he uses basic options strategies to generate additional streams of income beyond the regular dividend payments. Having worked for himself and with global firms for almost three decades, Matt has traded nearly every asset in existence. But now he is on a very different mission — to help investors generate income irrespective of what the market is doing. It’s about getting companies to pay you a steady, stable income, with minimal stress and the least risk possible. Matt doesn’t believe you have the luxury of being a bull or a bear in the market right now. You have to earn an income from it, regardless of whether stocks are going up or down. By getting the financial markets to pay you an income, you can get to focus on more important things than just money.

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