Thursday May 16, 2013 at 9:00am
In 2002 the Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton University psychology professor. He had never even taken a course in Economics. However, Kahneman was recognised “for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision making under uncertainty.”
We have long advised clients that investment success is as much to do with their own investment behaviour as it is to the performance of the capital markets. The reasons for this come directly from Kahneman and other researchers. Their evidence is that people persistently make poor decisions, especially in situations characterised by complexity and uncertainty. Behavioural biases such as overconfidence, hindsight bias and over reaction to infrequent events lead to significant errors of judgement. In other words, rather than worry about the remote possibility of coming to a sticky end in a plane crash simply ensure you use a seat belt in the car as this is a much more common and dangerous way to travel.
Overconfidence in investments leads to poor decisions
In the investment world overconfidence leads to people and managers trading on poor information which is little more than financial noise, they trade too often and end up with an excessive concentration of investments rather than proper diversification. According to the academics, people are overly impressed by managers who “sell” what they have been doing for the past few years without realising that they would get similar returns if there was no skill in picking stocks or running funds.
Kahneman pointed out that a glaring example of investor irrationality is their confidence that markets can be beaten by a clever few. Any stock market is comprised of millions of individuals which makes it extremely unlikely that any one person (without inside information) can beat the market. The question is - why people believe they can do the impossible and why do investors believe them?
Investment industry encourages an irrational response
You can’t blame investors for this; to a large part the investment industry reinforces irrationality by promoting a belief in disequilibrium. They would have us believe that the price of specific equities or even entire asset classes are either overvalued or undervalued. And consequently they tempt investors to enhance their returns by switching from one equity or asset class to another. Interestingly the fund charges a fee for the advice and the investor takes the risk on whether they really can predict the future or not.
It is a reality that markets are volatile and short term anomalies do occur for which some alternative managers such as hedge funds can be spectacularly successful in the short term. Even in these anomalous situations the investor is at a disadvantage. Such talents in the short term are in high demand which means that like any scarce resource; recently successful fund managers command a high price. Hence a successful hedge or equity fund will raise fees, thus diluting the payoff from their research. In the end the providers of the scarce resource, the fund managers and not investors will reap the bulk of the benefit.
Investment is all about risk and reward
So, there is no free lunch, the market provides a return significantly higher than cash over the long term, in return for investors taking more risk. All of this risk other than the all-important risk of the market can be diversified away with a properly diversified portfolio.
If you want to know more about our investment philosophy and globally diversified, low cost investment portfolios I’d be happy to tell you more.
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday May 9, 2013 at 9:00am
Apparently 80% of estates that pay Inheritance Tax could have avoided that charge if planning had been put in place during the lifetime. People often think that the only way to avoid inheritance tax is to give assets away. If they don’t think that they believe the only purpose is to avoid tax. However, often by rearranging your affairs you can be better off and remain Inheritance Tax Free.
Death can be an expensive business as these figures show:
Estate value IHT Liability
Here are 5 reasons clients put planning in place in their lifetime
- Avoid 40% of their wealth disappearing in tax
In most cases clients would rather see their children benefit from their money rather than the state. Some wish to pass some wealth to children in their life time. Others simply wish to leave their estate in a clear and tax free way to their family on death. Making tax free gifts during lifetime and on death are possible with a little planning during lifetime.
- Provide income or retain capital for the future financial security of loved ones
It is not uncommon to put money into trust for the future education or maintenance of children or a spouse. Likewise a husband and wife may hold their home as tenants in common and in the will instruct that their share of the property is used for the surviving spouse for life and then passes to the children. In both cases the use of a trust ensures capital and income is set aside for a specific purpose.
- To reliably ensure wealth is used as the donor intends
There is a saying that you never really know someone until you share an inheritance with them. In order to avoid uncertainty and family disputes on death a clear will and direction of assets into trust on death with specific letters of wishes avoids confusion and ensures assets end up where the donor would have intended. It can also save a lot of tax.
- To do planning now but retain flexibility into the future
By placing wealth in discretionary trusts either during lifetime or on death the donor (settlor) effectively avoids tax but leaves the absolute direction of the assets in the trust until a later stage. A common instance of this is where parents will put money into trust for children and direct the trustees to make bequests to children at their discretion which will depend on how they think the children are going to spend the money. Alternatively the money could be used for specific matters such as education or property purchase. In this way the planning is put in place immediately but the ultimate beneficiary will be determined by future events, thus retaining flexibility over how the trust money is distributed.
Another way to retain flexibility is to put assets into investments that qualify for Business Property Relief. Such investments are outside the estate after two years but the capital and interest are still available to the investor in their lifetime should they need it.
- Retain control of family wealth through the generations and avoid unintended consequences
By placing property in trust on death or in lifetime the donor (settlor) can retain control over that money and ensure it ends up going their children. Without proper planning this may not actually be the case.
One common example of this is where say a husband sells a business and promptly dies. The proceeds pass to his wife who remarries. Any old will is automatically nullified on remarriage. The wife then dies and what was the first husband’s wealth passes to the new husband. The unintended consequence of this is the children of the person who created the wealth do not ultimately enjoy the benefit. It is highly unlikely that this was ever intended by either the first husband or his wife but it is an unintended consequence of not planning.
Another simpler example is where a child inherits money from their parents, marries and divorces and half the inheritance passes to the former spouse. Again by simply planning in advance the gift can be made to avoid such a consequence.
So if you are planning on passing wealth to your children either in lifetime or on death (and who isn’t?) then make sure you plan for it in advance. Above are at least 5 good reasons why you should do so.
If you would like to discuss any of the ideas in this blog please give me a call.
Chartered Accountant & Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday May 2, 2013 at 9:00am
Don’t let short term distress cloud long term vision
The economic system works and has provided positive returns over cash over time. Investors simply receive a higher return for taking on the risk or volatility of equity investment. However, investor behaviour is tainted irrationally by what is happening in the local market. For example here in the UK the Chancellor in the recent budget had to cope with the loss of coveted AAA status for UK debt, a possible third dip to the recession, slashed growth forecasts and lack of progress or policy in stimulating growth.
This all sounds quite worrying for the UK economy and living and working in the UK we feel the pain of the economic recovery in many ways. However, this does not translate to our investment clients simply because of diversification. Holding an internationally diversified portfolio means that the impact of any one country is reduced on the overall performance as each country is at a different stage of their economic cycle.
Life can feel quite volatile and scary for investors in the short term simply because markets do a good job of pricing in the bad news as soon as it is expected. This can lead to anomalous situations like now in the UK where the economic news is bad and priced into the market months ago but stock market performance is good. This further reinforces our insistence that clients take a long term (5 year plus) view when investing in equities. Even though our chancellor is seen as one of the most influential finance ministers in the world with a budget of £700 billion, his relatively short tenure in No 11 might not make much of a difference to an investor with a sensibly long term time horizon.
There is some interesting research done by Dimensional Fund Managers which points out that between 1971 and 2008 the average market return from high growth countries was practically the same as the return from low growth countries. The supposition is that investors still require the same premium return for taking more risk. Stock markets do not always move in tandem with each other and underlying economic growth. For example, in 2011 the US stock market was only one of three G20 countries to show a positive return and the US economy grew by 1.7%. In contrast the Chinese stock market fell by 22% whilst their economic growth was 9.3%.
- It is futile to try and time entry and exit in the stock market
- It is crucial to hold a globally diversified portfolio of investments
- Equity investment is only for those with a long term, 5 year plus time horizon
- What is happening in your local economy is not what is happening elsewhere and so don’t let this influence your investment behaviour
Chartered Financial Planner, Birmingham
Thursday April 25, 2013 at 9:00am
Last week saw another good example of emotion and the herd instinct at work in the investment world. Richard Buxton is one of the UK’s most popular active fund managers where he manages the UK Alpha plus fund for Schroders. He has announced that he is leaving and he is going to join Old Mutual, another fund manager. Such is his following amongst investors that Schroders have warned that almost one third of the UK Alpha plus fund is at risk of being sold as investors withdraw their money and put it into Mr Buxton’s next fund.
But very few people really know what the UK Alpha plus fund invests in and they probably don’t care, they are simply backing a manager. However the essence of good investing is to understand where the best returns are to be found, and why.
Why the academics say “Don’t follow the manager”
A great deal of research has been done on what type of companies provide the highest stock market returns. Not surprisingly the academics tell us that companies with lower stock market valuations, so called small cap shares, outperform their larger sized brethren over the long term. Likewise those companies that have a market value similar to their accounting net asset value, so called value shares also outperform the market as a whole over the longer term.
The reason for this apparent anomaly is quite straight forward; companies that are of low market capitalisation and those companies that trade at a valuation close to their book value carry more risk. Hence the investor is rewarded for taking this extra risk by receiving a higher return.
Academic research shows that it is virtually impossible to consistently outperform the market by picking shares. The stock market provides a higher return than fixed interest investments simply because the investor is being asked to take on more risk.
The key for investors is to capture this market return and not squander it on high fund charges and unknown risk that comes from not holding all of the market.
What does the UK Alpha Plus Fund invest in?
The Morningstar billing is that the fund buys large companies with no particular bias towards value or growth shares. However, in reality the fund has a bias towards smaller companies when compared to the market average against which it is measured. Hence, as the fund actually invests in smaller companies, which are known to outperform the overall market over time, this would account for its outperformance against its benchmark. Given the fund’s claim to invest in larger companies this means some investors are taking more risk than they think.
Compared to other Small Cap funds the UK Alpha Plus fund is simply ‘ok’. For example, over the past 10 years the Dimensional UK Small Cap Index, the fund we use in most of our client portfolios, has an annualised return of 11.5%. This compares to 11.2% from the Schroder UK Alpha Plus and 7.71% for the FTSE All Share Index.
An investment lesson learned
Yet again the academics are right, successful investing is more about understanding where the market return comes from (investing in smaller capitalised shares in the above example) than about following the crowd and fund managers.
If you would like to understand more about our investment philosophy at Parker drop me a line.
Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday April 18, 2013 at 9:00am
The budget was a pretty lack lustre affair. The much trailed General Anti Abuse Regime (GAAR) has failed to stop any of the tax planning that we have available. A greater deterrent to such planning is the much more aggressive approach HMRC is now taking in its correspondence.
One initiative that did catch my eye was the new Help to Buy scheme. There are two variants of the scheme with the first part being launched this month. For the next three years buyers of New Build properties up to £600,000 in value can enter into shared ownership with the government.
Help to Buy – Interest Free Loan
The scheme works as follows: The buyer needs a 5% deposit and then the government comes along with an interest free loan of a further 20% of the property value. This means that the buyer needs to raise the remaining 75% of the value of the property from the building society or bank. Clearly the commercial lenders are going to be more willing to lend at 75% loan to value at reasonable rates rather than 95% loan to value whereby they will either lend at penal interest rates if they lend at all.
The scheme is aimed at first time buyers, buy to let landlords and second home buyers are excluded. The catch, if there is one, is that the government own 20% of the value of the property, not unreasonable as they have put 20% of the money up at nil interest rate. After 5 years the lender will pay a fee on the government debt of 1.75% of the loan. This fee will increase each year by RPI plus 1%.
Help to Buy – Mortgage Guarantee
The second part of the scheme starts in January 2014 which comes in the form of a mortgage guarantee covering all properties up to £600,000 in value. As long as you have a 5% deposit the government will guarantee up to 15% of the value of the loan. The idea is that lenders will be more willing to lend in general if at least part of the loan is guaranteed. Although this scheme will be fee based the cost of the guarantee is not clear yet.
So both schemes will help first time buyers with small deposits. The Mortgage Guarantee scheme will help existing home owners with not much equity to remortgage with another lender. As you can imagine there are critics, largely aimed at what the government should do to ensure tax payers do not get stuck with loans made by banks who see the taxpayer taking the risk whilst they get the bulk of the benefit, I’m sure we have been here before.
Risks in Help to Buy
Perhaps a more serious risk is that of encouraging borrowing to purchase an asset, that is housing, that is already inflated in value on historic measures. The whole guarantee scheme works on the premise that house prices will keep on rising. So what happens if they don’t? Well the borrower loses their 5% deposit and any equity they may have had in the property. The tax payer loses the next 15 or 20% depending upon which scheme it is. And finally the bank or building society loses after that.
The government could always have helped the housing shortage by providing incentives to house builders to build more, or relaxation on planning restrictions but then there probably weren’t the votes in that one.
Although we don’t arrange mortgages we do have several good mortgage brokers we can recommend based on client experience of dealing with them.
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday April 11, 2013 at 9:00am
For a long time I have felt that the accounting industry is ridiculous. We, as accountants, ask business owners to maintain their own accounting records. This is something they are not trained to do, generally don’t have any inclination for and indeed adds no value to their business. Then the accountant comes along some time after the year end, takes the accounts away and produces the statutory accounts thus making it possible to calculate the profits and tax liability.
Problems with old style accountancy
Probably the biggest problem with the old way of accounting practice is that business owners have no idea how the business is doing on a monthly or year to date basis. Neither does the accountant for that matter, thus making it very difficult to offer useful advice when there are no numbers to rely on.
There are other problems such as business owners having the cost of employing a book-keeper or training a member of staff or spouse to keep the accounting records. This in turn creates other issues when key tasks such as regular bank reconciliation, or upkeep of sales and purchase ledgers is done incorrectly and the business owner has to pay to fix these problems.
It has become very difficult to remunerate directors’ tax efficiently using dividend planning without properly prepared accounts. This is because the Companies Act stipulates that for a dividend to be legal it must be referenced to a properly prepared set of accounts. Hence interim accounts, with their associated costs, must be prepared in order to use this form of tax planning.
How things have changed
The banks have been offering online banking for quite some time. Anyone can log in and see their bank statements in real time. Gone are the days when we had to wait a week or a month to see what transactions had passed through our bank account. However, it has taken the accounting software industry quite a while to catch up but finally they have. Now programmes like Xero Online Accounts and others allow online bank feeds to pass bank data directly into the accounting software. This has revolutionised accounting by providing access to real time information for accountants and business owners alike.
Real time information
This simple facility now allows accountants like us to take client data directly from the bank and from that take care of all the client's book-keeping. Because the book-keeping is always up to date and correctly processed by us we can provide monthly accounts only days after the month end.
There is only one set of accounting records and these records are accessible by all with transactions fed in directly from the bank, financial data is always up to date with no duplicates and ease of access for viewing or working on. With Xero the records are cloud based and so backed up automatically meaning that data is also very safe.
Costs are reduced as transactions do not need to be keyed by hand and reconciled to paper bank statements.
Clients can cost effectively outsource their accounting compliance and management reporting and tax planning without ever having to worry about learning about accounts or hiring a book-keeper.
For business owners in need of up to date management information and reduced administration overheads there is now a solution available, and the best news is, it’s a very cost effective one.
Wednesday April 3, 2013 at 9:00am
PAYE (Pay as You Earn) is the system whereby income tax and national insurance is deducted from an employee’s pay by their employer and paid over to HMRC on the 19th of the following month. The employee receives their salary net of tax and national insurance. The system must be effective because it has changed little since 1944. The key point of the system is to deduct tax and National Insurance before the employee has chance to spend it.
However, with effect from April 2013 HMRC will radically improve the system thus making it less susceptible to fraud and hopefully make it quicker to fix errors. Change to the system is also needed to support the new Universal Credit system intended to streamline benefits payments. It will also provide the Department of Work and Pensions with income details of everyone, including those claiming benefits.
Real Time Information for all SME’s from April 2013
The new system will be called Real Time Information (RTI) and as you could probably guess from the title, every time an employee is paid and hence PAYE and NI becomes due, that information will be transmitted in real time to HMRC.
It is in the employer’s interest to get the information transmitted accurately the first time round. This is because each transmission will be compared with HMRC data held on the National Insurance and PAYE Services (NPS) database. It is not clear what happens if the data does not match, however filing online will become difficult and the next step is an HMRC compliance check. This is another good reason to ensure you have HMRC tax enquiry insurance in place.
More work for the employer
You may wonder what HMRC does, after all most taxes are collected by the taxpayer - VAT, PAYE and self assessment being cases in point. With RTI the employer is going to have to do more work still in order to avoid a mismatch of data under the more stringent new rules. It may be necessary to check new employee details against passport, birth certificate or Department of Work and Pensions documentation. Apparently it is quite commonplace for employers to use obviously incorrect details such as A N Other, Dummy1. Or AA000000A for names and National Insurance numbers.
What will be stricter under Real Time Information?
- It is not unknown for individuals, typically directors, to be paid by bank transfer and then the payroll records updated at the end of the financial year. This will no longer be possible as all pay must be reported in the month it is paid.
- Backdating payroll information to put good an overdrawn loan account will again not be possible as the payroll record is created when the transaction actually takes place, not when the paperwork is dated.
- It will be interesting to see how this develops but there is an argument that a debit to an employee loan account is actually a payroll payment that has not been correctly documented. Hence a properly constituted loan agreement with the company would be a sensible course of action when a loan to an employee is created.
- People paid under the NI threshold such as a part time spouse working in the business will no longer be able to simply enter the transaction in the accounts of the company and put the payment on the year end P35. Each payment must be properly reported under RTI.
- Should a company become insolvent and there be a large overdrawn loan account to a director the excuse that this is a payment in lieu of salary will be much harder under RTI. Again the payment to the individual should be reported to HMRC as it is made and not when the company goes into liquidation.
It will be interesting to see how RTI works as it is a huge responsibility for companies to get right from the start. This is especially true as HMRC have implemented the change across the board for all SME companies with no real support or lead in period.
If you are struggling with Real Time Information (RTI) or concerned about overdrawn loan accounts talk to your accountants now. You only have until the end of this month before your first RTI return must be filed.
Chartered Accountant, Birmingham
Thursday March 21, 2013 at 10:00am
With the budget putting a focus on tax and HMRC in the news, now is probably as good a time as any to look at some of the news affecting the tax collector and the tax payer in the UK.
Barclays stops offering tax advice: Barclays always seems to court controversy; from banking pre apartheid South Africa, to aggressive pricing and bonuses and now the closure of their tax structuring unit which advised companies on using complex structures to reduce tax liabilities. No doubt a sign of the times as the spotlight is currently on this type of planning.
IHT threshold frozen to £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for couples until at least 2019: The idea is that this will help pay for the “unfair” cost of social care for the elderly. Another subjective word used in the discussion about tax. This can only be good for accountants, like us, specialising in mitigating IHT through the non aggressive use of trusts on death. Incidentally such planning is absolutely non-aggressive and merely represents arranging your financial affairs so that on death they are more tax efficient.
Multinationals pay 5% Tax: According to the OECD the rate of corporation tax paid by international companies is around 5% compared to up to 30% for UK based business. Clearly the world has moved on with new communication technologies and the tax code has not kept pace.
It is interesting to look at just how they do this, Amazon for example is a US company with European headquarters in Luxemburg where Corporation tax is 21% (currently around 9% lower than UK) and VAT is 15% (5% lower than UK). Although Amazon has warehouses and a marketing department in the UK they are not considered permanent establishments for tax purposes. Hence, under the double tax treaty between the two countries, profits are taxed at the Luxembourg rate rather than the higher UK rate.
Starbucks is a little more complicated. Their European operation is based in Amsterdam. The UK owned Starbucks businesses buy coffee from the Netherlands with a 16.5% margin added for the service. The UK owned (that is not franchised) shops pay 4.9% on money borrowed from the Netherlands parent also. So that is how Starbucks pays very little UK tax as their buying costs are inflated thereby significantly reducing UK profits. What is more interesting is how they avoid paying corporation tax at 25% in the Netherlands. Reuters reports that up to 84% of the Amsterdam operations' annual revenue is spent on buying and roasting coffee which they get from their Lausanne operation in Switzerland. Coincidentally profits tied to international trade in commodities, like coffee, are taxed at rates as low as 5% in Switzerland. So basically their European operation buys very expensive processed and roasted coffee from their Swiss operation which has a very low tax rate according to lawyers over there.
Welcome to France: within a month of signing, David Beckham’s deal to join Paris Saint-Germain is being looked into by the French Treasury. Probably not coincidental with the Socialist French Government’s plan to bring in a top rate of tax of 75% on the wealthy.
Any finally, more inspectors: the HMRC unit responsible for examining the tax affairs of affluent individuals (i.e. those with wealth of at least £1m) is recruiting an additional 100 tax inspectors.
As a firm we are seeing clients move away from transactions with high tax risk. Luckily there are plenty of ways to avoid tax that carry no tax risk and interest and demand for this type of planning is growing.
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday March 7, 2013 at 11:22am
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter S Thomson
I came across that quote recently and it really made me stop and think and prompted this blog.
The reality is that it is not so easy to “skid in broadside...thoroughly used up” and worn out because to do that actually takes a lot of planning. Unless we plan to get the most out of life it simply does not happen. We think we would like to do more with our lives and then the phone rings and we are immediately dragged back to the tedium of the every day.
However it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact you only need to do two things.
- Know what you want
- Make sure everything you do is getting you closer to what you want and keep doing it, if it isn’t then stop doing it.
So, it is important to prioritise the right things and that is where Zig Ziglar comes in. He said “you will get all you want in life if you help enough people get what they want”. For me I simply look at point two above and ask “is what I am doing helping my clients get what they want”, if so I keep doing it and if not I stop doing it.
The common themes when preparing a financial plan
If this is true for me in my business I suspect it is also true for most people in business. What is not so clear for many people is to know what they really want. When clients talk to me about their goals as you can imagine they can be quite varied but there are certainly some common themes in what people say they really want:
- Less risk and more clarity about their financial future
- Less uncertainty and a road map of what they need to do financially to achieve their life goals
- Know what to prioritise and what is and is not important
- Know where the finish line is; imagine a race without knowing where the finish line is
- Having the financial freedom to do things other than work.
With a clear plan work becomes more meaningful as there is a crucial purpose behind it. The reward for achieving the plan becomes apparent. Likewise the personal cost of not achieving the plan is clearer as well. This leads to a different mind-set or attitude around running the business. This in turn is exhibited in different behaviour such as focusing on helping clients or customers get what they want rather than wasting time on not so relevant tasks that could and probably should be delegated to someone else in the organisation.
Starting to develop a plan
Understanding what you really want to achieve in life is the first of three key stages to creating a financial plan. It is the stage that I, as a financial planner, cannot afford to get wrong with clients. It is also the most important stage because it is going to be very frustrating to realise what you ended up achieving in life you never really wanted, perhaps by being the richest man in the graveyard, or possibly by working full time for a lot longer than you needed to, or perhaps wasting money on unnecessary taxes or rapidly depreciating assets which meant you missed out on the life experiences you truly wanted.
The first step to getting the Hunter S Thomson result is to develop your own financial plan.
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner
Thursday February 28, 2013 at 9:00am
Probably one of the least well understood yet most important concepts for your future financial wellbeing is the concept of investment risk. When saving for the future, especially for retirement, everyone wants to maximise the return on their investment, yet not everyone has the same attitude to risk. Of course the greater likely return, the higher risk you will need to be prepared to take. Beware of anyone who suggests otherwise.
But risks is only part of the picture, it needs to be coupled with an understanding of the effect of compounding which has a hugely significant effect on the performance of an investment over time. Or to quote Albert Einstein “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t pays it.”
The compound annual return, otherwise expressed as the internal return on an investment over time is the only thing that matters in the long run. The higher it is the earlier people can retire, the sooner they achieve financial independence and the easier they can sleep at night.
Investment risk is defined as the risk that an investment’s actual return will be different from what was expected. A mathematical way of expressing this is in the standard deviation of the average returns from the mean return. The higher the standard deviation the greater the risk. In other words a high risk investment is expected to give a higher return over time but the journey will be full of ups and downs and it is especially these falls in investment value that spook people for purely psychological reasons. Indeed Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his work in this area.
The psychology of investing
So, the question of how a psychologist can win a Nobel Prize in Economics is answered by the fact that investor emotion goes a long way to dictating behaviour and hence long run investment returns.
I went to a talk recently by Dr Greg Davies who is head of behavioural finance at Barclays. He was talking about anxiety adjusted returns whereby investors suffer discomfort now in terms of their new investment potentially falling in value, in return for higher returns over the long term.
This is expressed in the emotional roller coaster ride people take when they make an investment. As the value increases their emotional state moves from optimism to excitement and then to exuberance. As it falls their emotion turns to denial, they probably stop logging on to see the value at this point. The cycle then moves to desperation, pain, capitulation, depression and then when the value starts to rise, the emotion moves from apathy to indifference, reluctance and back to optimism.
When looked at this way the real risk of holding a volatile (and so high risk) investment is that it will have fallen in value at the point that the investment is needed. As properly diversified investments do increase over time then the time an investment is held is more important that the underlying volatility or risk.
Taking the emotion out of investing
So, perhaps the real lesson in investing is:
- Hold a properly diversified portfolio with sufficient non-volatile fixed interest to match your anxiety adjusted returns
- Rebalance each year, which will bring the original equity versus fixed interest proportions back to the original holding. If you think about it this behaviour effectively forces you to sell high and buy low.
- Ensure you have the right volatility until the time you will need the money. In other words if you are saving for a holiday next year you should not invest in equities as they are too volatile over such a short time period and they may have fallen in value at the time you need to pay for the holiday. However, if you are investing for retirement you can and probably should have a much higher equity content as you will not expect to access the investment until you retire which may be many years away.
To take the emotion out of investment and financial planning decisions it pays to have a full review of your financial situation and prepare a proper financial plan. The discipline involved will help to clarify short and long term goals which will allow you to have an investment plan designed to meet these goals.
Financial Advisor and Chartered Financial Planner