Operations Supervisor, Business Development, with the Barbados Stock Exchange, Barry Blenman (right, foreground)??addresses participants at the World Consumer Rights Day workshop at the Ministry of Commerce and Trade,??held on Thursday,??March 15. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Yesterday staff from the Ministry of Commerce and Trade and other government departments were given the opportunity to learn more about this year’s international theme for World Consumer Rights Day.

It came in the form of a presentation entitled: Our Money, Our Rights: Campaigning for Real Choice in Financial Services, and it was hosted by the Ministry at its Reef Road office.

Permanent Secretary, Dr. Louis Woodroffe, asserted that as consumers, we all need to "exercise our rights" and noted that while the Ministry was not directly responsible for financial services, it was concerned about consumer issues and, as such, steps would be taken to sensitise the public.

"During the course of this year, we will commence the development of our National Consumer Policy, and that policy will be broad-based.?? It will capture a number of the issues which we currently have on the agenda, such as the cost of living…[which] impacts consumers…One of the goals of the Department of Consumer Affairs this year, is to educate the consumers and, therefore, they are starting at this time with this presentation," Dr. Woodroffe revealed.

The presentation, entitled Saving and Investing – Financial Independence, That is the Goal, was led by Operations Supervisor, Business Development with the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE), Barry Blenman.?? He encouraged the participants to consider what they wanted to achieve and how investing – and saving – could assist in reaching these goals.

Mr. Blenman noted that Barbadians tend to be risk averse, but emphasised that risk was a key element in business and investing.?? He observed that budgeting was critical to attaining financial goals, and highlighted the proper management of credit card debt as key for anyone who wanted to invest. "Financial misbehaviour" such as low savings, no retirement plan, or living cheque to cheque, were also listed as red flags," the BSE Supervisor said.

He also advised those who may decide to ???take the plunge,’ that "…you make money by buying and selling shares.?? Barbadians have a tendency of buying and holding…if they get willed to you, you don’t [tend to] buy anymore.?? You just have them; you get a dividend cheque once a year or twice a year and you take the money and put it in the bank or you spend it on something…,"???????????????????? he said; but, he noted, that reinvestment could deliver additional returns.

Mr. Blenman revealed that the basic rules of investing were: having a diverse range of investments to balance out risk; understanding the levels of risk and reward; ensuring that expectations of the investment’s performance were realistic; considering

the impact of fees and taxes on returns; and noting that past performance of a particular stock was not an indicator of future performance.??

A point also emphasised was that different investments would suit different people, based on their future plans and financial capability.?? Mr. Blenman observed that for some, treasury bills, which have a maturity date of three to six months, may be more appropriate; while others would prefer an investment with higher returns – such as debentures, which mature in 10 years or more, or stocks and mutual funds, which are also long-term – more suitable for their needs.

Mr. Blenman told the audience that research was key for any investor and noted some common mistakes persons made included investing for short-term gain; and relying on their home as an investment.

He advised persons that "long-term results are not earned in a straight line" and stressed that the process of investing required commitment and patience.

World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated every year on March 15.


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