Topic: Investment

Keep focused on long-term investment

Investing for income, growth or a combination of the two

Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy plays a vital role in securing your financial future. But we live in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Human tendency is to prioritise negative over positive news content, and no one is immune from bad news. So as an investor, when you do get it, how do you process the information, deal with it and move on unscathed?

Take it to the max

How to make the most of the various pension allowances

Saving into a pension is one of the most tax-efficient ways to save for your retirement. Not only do pensions enable you to grow your retirement savings largely free of tax, but they also provide tax relief on the contributions you make.

Time in the market, not timing the market

Don’t get distracted from staying focused on your investment goals

Investment market swings can be unnerving, but they shouldn’t distract you from staying focused on your financial goals.

Periods of market volatility, like whose we’ve seen over recent months, will undoubtedly be unsettling times for most investors. The risks of incurring losses can make holding investments difficult to bear, with the temptation being to sell out and cut your losses. But volatility is part and parcel of investing.

How sustainable is your portfolio?

Increased investor focus on environmental, social and governance considerations

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues continue to be a priority for many investors. Your values define you. But do your investments reflect who you are?

Increasingly investors are urging companies to build ESG considerations into their long-term strategy, bringing it up during engagements and using shareholder proposals to force companies to take action. Investing sustainably means putting your money to work on issues ranging from adapting to and mitigating climate change, improving working conditions and diversity, to tackling inequality.

Policy of engagement 

Recent research has identified that nearly three quarters of women aged 40 and over would divest their pension from companies with poor pay practices, led by 74% of female ‘boomers’[1]. A majority of men of the same age group agree but younger women are split 50:50.

By contrast, many Millennials want to divest their pensions from the fossil fuels industry. Half (49%) of all age groups prefer a policy of engagement before divestment.

Governance practices

An overwhelming majority of older women would divest their pension from investments in companies with poor pay and governance practices. Women aged 40 and over are much more likely than men of the same age group to agree with such steps, with a slimmer 59% majority of men of the same age willing to do the same.

Within the older female age group, 74% of female ‘baby boomers’ and 73% of women belonging to ‘Generation X’ would invest less, or not at all, if they knew their pension was invested in companies that have attracted criticism for their governance and pay practices. However, younger women are split on the issue. Only half of millennial women would follow the same policy of cutting out these companies from their pensions.

Generational differences

Revealing clear and generational differences the findings highlight a strong contrast between the relative importance of ESG issues to older generations and the views of younger people, who are more focused on climate issues.

Millennials were more likely than any other generation to want to reduce their exposure to the fossil fuel industry, despite any potential consequences. Even if there was a resulting performance impact, 45% of Millennials would opt to divest their pension from fossil fuels. This compares to 30% of Generation X, while Baby Boomers (at just 23%) were half as likely as Millennials to divest from fossil fuels regardless of the investment outcome.

Investment returns

Including a further 41% of Millennials who would only divest from fossil fuels if it didn’t impact investment returns, a combined 86% of millennials would choose to divest their workplace pension from fossil fuels if it would have no negative impact on their pension.

But several of Britain’s top pension funds say they would have lost hundreds of millions of pounds had they sold out of oil and gas stocks in recent years, highlighting a potential cost to scheme members as funds face pressure to help fight global warming.

Workplace pensions

Reuters contacted 47 of Britain’s largest pension funds, with 33 saying they were not divesting from fossil fuels. Some highlighted the potential impact on returns, and their preference to engage with oil and gas companies as reasons.

Across all age groups nearly half of all adults (49%) would prefer a policy of engagement to encourage change, before divesting. It is also notable that only half of respondents were already aware of the types of investments within their workplace pensions, implying many more may not be aware of possible inconsistencies between these investments and their own beliefs.

Investments with social impact 

More and more, investors want to invest sustainably: they want to combine investing for a financial return with a positive contribution to the environment, society or both. Whether you’re just curious about what options are available to you, or if you’re strongly opposed or for certain investment options, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk for further information.

Source data:

[1] Research from Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) conducted by Watermelon Research (fieldwork): 22–29 October 2019 consisting of 1,000 interviews (online) with UK adults between the ages of 25 and 65, who have a workplace pension and work in the private sector.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS.  

ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. 

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS MAY GO DOWN AS WELL AS UP, AND YOU MAY GET BACK LESS THAN YOU INVESTED.

 

Looking to the future

Successful life planning also requires a significant degree of financial planning

We spend our lives planning our next holiday, for a family, buying a property, funding a child’s education and for the day we retire. So then why is it that some people seem to have the ability to live the life of dreams and pass on their wealth to the next generation when others are faced with huge tax bills, the prospect of selling their home or worried about healthcare costs?

Retirement matters

Staying invested and giving your money the greatest chance to grow

Perhaps the most common investment advice is to stay invested. But with markets being so volatile, the ease of sticking to that advice has been sorely tested in 2020. Even though we’ve seen global markets bounce sharply from their March lows, understandably there will still be those investing for retirement who remain worried and wonder what the best approach is for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Inflation-proofing your portfolio

One of the biggest threats to the health of your investments

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the global economy. Around the world, economic activity has dried up. Fewer consumers are buying and fewer companies are investing.

Investment diversification

Investing in an unpredictable world

Diversification is an important part of investing. In practical terms, diversification is holding investments which will react differently to the same market or economic event. Generally speaking, there are four broad asset classes: cash, fixed interest (bonds), property and shares (equities).

Since performance in any one asset class can be unpredictable depending on shifts in the market, investing across several asset classes can provide greater diversification potential. Therefore, if one asset class performs favourably, it can potentially offset another that is performing less favourably, providing more balance to your portfolio when market shifts occur.

Range of assets

One of the most effective ways to manage investment risk is to spread your money across a range of assets that, historically, have tended to perform differently in the same circumstances. This is called ‘diversification’ – reducing the risk of your portfolio by choosing a mix of investments.

In the most general sense, there are many adages: ‘Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’, ‘Buy low, sell high’, and, ‘Bears and bulls make money, but pigs get slaughtered’. While that sentiment certainly captures the essence of the issue, it provides little guidance on the practical implications of the role that diversification plays in a portfolio. And, ultimately, there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Your financial goals and what your attitude to risk is

Different investors are at different stages in their lives. Aside from dividing your investments across different asset classes, there are a number of other factors to take into account as well, in particular what life stage you’re at (such as early in your career or close to retirement), what your financial goals are, and what your attitude to risk is.

Under normal market conditions, diversification is an effective way to reduce risk. If you hold just one investment and it performs badly, you could lose all of your money. If you hold a diversified portfolio with a variety of different investments, it’s much less likely that all of your investments will perform badly at the same time. The profits you earn on the investments that perform well offset the losses on those that perform poorly.

Spreading your investments within asset classes

While it cannot guarantee against losses, diversifying your portfolio effectively – holding a blend of assets to help you navigate the volatility of markets – is vital to achieving your long-term financial goals whilst minimising risk. Although you can diversify within one asset class – for instance, by holding shares (or equities) in several companies that operate in different sectors – this will fail to insulate you from systemic risks, such as international stock market volatility.

As well as investing across asset classes, you can further diversify by spreading your investments within asset classes. For instance, corporate bonds and government bonds can offer very different propositions, with the former tending to offer higher possible returns but with a higher risk of defaults, or bond repayments not being met by the issuer.

There are four main types of investment, known as ‘asset classes’. Each asset class has different characteristics and advantages and disadvantages for investors.

Diversify cross assets valued in different currencies

Effective diversification is likely to allocate investments across different countries and regions in order to help insulate your portfolio from local market crises or downturns, as we’ve been seeing recently. Markets around the world tend to perform differently day to day, reflecting short-term sentiment and long-term trends.

There is, however, the added danger of currency risk when investing in different countries, as the value of international currencies relative to each other changes all the time. Diversifying across assets valued in different currencies, or investing in so-called ‘hedged’ assets that look to minimise the impact from currency swings, should reduce the weakness of any one currency, significantly decreasing the total value of your portfolio.

Creating a more effectively diversified portfolio

Achieving effective diversification across and within asset classes, regions and currencies can be difficult and typically beyond the means of individual investors. Individual funds often focus on one asset class, and sometimes even one region, and therefore typically only offer limited diversification on their own. By investing in several funds, which between them cover a breadth of underlying assets, investors can create a more effectively diversified portfolio.

Multi-asset funds hold a blend of different types of assets designed to offer immediate diversification with one single investment. Broadly speaking, their aim is to offer investors the prospect of less volatile returns by not relying on the fortunes of just one asset class.

Take a long-term view (typically ten years or more)

Multi-asset funds are not all the same, however. Some aim for higher returns in exchange for assuming higher risk in their investments, while others are more defensive, and some focus on delivering an income rather than capital growth. Each fund will have its own objective and risk-return profile, and these will be reflected in the allocation of its investments – for instance, whether the fund is weighted more towards bonds or equities.

As we’ve seen recently, stock markets can be unpredictable. They move frequently – and sometimes sharply – in both directions. It is important to take a long-term view (typically ten years or more) and remember your reasons for investing in the first place.

Be prepared to view the occasional downturns simply as part of a long-term investment strategy, and stay focused on your goals. Historically, the longer you stay invested, the smaller the likelihood you will lose money and the greater the chance you will make money. Of course, it’s worth remembering that past performance is not a guide to what might happen in the future, and the value of your investments can go down as well as up.

Emotions overcome sound investment decisions

Give your money as much time as possible to grow – at least ten years is best. You’ll also benefit from ‘compounding’, which is when the interest or income on your original capital begins to earn and grow too. There will be times of market volatility. Market falls are a natural feature of stock market investing. During these times, it is possible that emotions overcome sound investment decisions – it is best to stay focused on your long-term goals.

Resist the temptation to change your portfolio in response to short-term market movement. ‘Timing’ the markets seldom works in practice and can make it too easy to miss out on any gains. The golden rule to investing is allowing your investments sufficient time to achieve their potential.

Why you’re invested in the first place

Warren Buffett, the American investor and philanthropist, puts it very succinctly: ‘Our favourite holding period is forever.’ Over the long term, investors do experience market falls which happen periodically.

Generally, the wrong thing to do when markets fall by a reasonable margin is to panic and sell out of the market – this just means you have taken the loss. It’s important to remember why you’re invested in the first place and make sure that rationale hasn’t changed. However, it is important to keep in mind that diversification does not guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss.

Shape your personal financial journey

In these extraordinary times, many aspects of our daily lives are being disrupted. We are here to help you shape your personal financial journey. We will understand your ambitions and support you to achieve them through our long-term thinking and expertise borne of experience. To find out more, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED.

Coronavirus investment scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated, particularly with investment scams. They can be articulate and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. However, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Market fluctuations

Investments that best align with your financial goals

Without a plan, investors are prone to making knee-jerk reactions when there are swings in the market. A well-thought-out investment strategy provides the guidance needed to help you stay on track when inevitable market fluctuation occurs. It can also point you towards the types of investments that best align with your financial goals.