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Is your money safe under the mattress?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 5th March 2021

05.03.21

March is my favourite month of the year, not least because I celebrate my birthday during this month and this year will be the end of my 4th decade. Traditionally it has always been a busy month because it is a great time for events and starting new projects. This month my colleagues and I will be attending another virtual property fair hosted by Your Overseas Home. The event we did last year was very good and lots of people were able to see our presentations and then chat to our advisers from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

By October 2021 I will have lived in France for 18 years continuously, but I first arrived for my Erasmus year in September 2001 making it 20 years since I started living in France. As you may know I am married to a Frenchman and I have adopted much of the French culture and way of life. But my husband and I have very different views in our attitude to risk and finances. My husband came from a farming background where money was hidden under the mattress, you only bought when you had the money and you insured everything that could be insured. My husband will take a 10 year extended guarantee on a toaster! I came from a background where it was common to use credit cards to fund Christmas and holidays and I went to university with a student loan.

What is the point of having money?

The idea that money is safe under the mattress or in the bank is no longer true. In France the traditional popular savings accounts such as the Livret A and LDD now only have an interest rate of 0.5%. The other misled belief that French assurance vie policy holders have is that Euro Funds are a good investment and a safe investment. Whilst it is true that Euro Funds are still one of the least risky investments after the traditional bank savings accounts, their performance continues to drop year after year. The average growth rate of the Euro Funds in 2020 is 1.2% which, once you deduct social charges (17.2%) and take into consideration inflation (0.5%), the net gain is only 0.5%. One of my own French assurance vie policies, which is 69% Euro Funds, has made an average of 1.6% over the seven years since it was created. The problem with French assurance vies is that they are not bespoke; they come with certain formulas, some that you can contribute to monthly, some that you cannot, and depending on your choice you cannot go lower than the prescribed amount in Euro Funds, no matter what your risk profile.

When I compare this with the range of product providers we can offer our clients and the choice of funds, the difference is astounding. Thank goodness that as English speakers we have access to better investment possibilities from as little as £20,000/€25,000. The average performance of my clients’ portfolios is around 3% after charges, with no social charges taken at source, and they have a lot of choice and flexibility regarding which funds they want and how much of that fund they want their investment to be in. They also have access to English speaking product providers, English speaking fund managers and their own English speaking financial adviser who is supported by the knowledge and experience of all of the Spectrum advisers.

I am fully integrated into French society and believe in adhering to many things about French society, but when it comes to finances there are differences between us that we cannot ignore so it is not in our best interest to invest in French financial products.

investing in tough times

The outlook this March is thankfully much better than last March. There is more good news for Prudential policy holders. At the end of February Prudential announced no changes to the Expected Growth Rate and upward Unit Price Adjustments in the PruFund Growth Sterling, PruFund Growth Euro and PruFund Cautious Euro funds.

For other funds and the markets in general the outlook is equally positive. “The combination of vaccine roll-out, substantial fiscal stimulus, and elevated consumer savings should drive a sharp recovery in economic and earnings growth,” said Ryan Hammond, a Goldman Sachs strategist, in a report this week.

Whilst mask-wearing and social distancing will still be necessary for some time to come, a lot of our friends and family members have been vaccinated, therefore reducing the risk to the most vulnerable. With the coming good weather, meetings and get togethers will be able to take place out of doors. As always, if clients are happy to arrange a face to face meeting, I look forward to seeing them for outside meetings in their lovely gardens. If however you prefer video meetings or phone calls that is also possible.

Wishing you all a bright, sunny and floral month of March!

Bitcoin in your investment portfolio – what is Bitcoin, how to use it and what it will do

By Barry Davys - Topics: Bitcoin, Blockchain, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 18th January 2021

18.01.21
Bitcoin in your investment portfolio

Love it or hate it seems to be the approach to Bitcoin. It will be the best investment ever or it is just a bubble controlled by the few people who can pull the strings, rumoured to be the Chinese.

Let’s start with “What is Bitcoin?”. Bitcoin is a piece of computer software with the ability to share pieces of the software with other people. Of course, the other people have to pay for their share of the software and the price varies according to supply and demand. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this. It worked for Bill Gates.

To get a better of understanding of Bitcoin it is worthwhile making that comparison with Microsoft. With Microsoft we know who owns the product, the products have set prices and perform a function that makes something happen, e.g. run our computer, allow us to write letters, make presentations and do our numbers on spreadsheets. Bitcoin has none of these attributes.

The way Bitcoin pricing works is much more like a commodity. If you go to Starbucks today and buy a coffee, let’s say you pay 4€. Next week you want a coffee. The same coffee now costs 5€. The coffee has not changed, only the price. The difference may be due to shortages, logistical difficulties during a pandemic, many more people wanting a Starbucks coffee, exchange rate movements etc. Bitcoin works in the same way. The price of Bitcoin is primarily set by demand as the supply is fixed. There are only so many Bitcoins in the World. At least you can do something nice with a coffee bean. Bitcoin’s primary purpose is just as something you can sell to someone else. It has no other purpose at the moment.

You would now have a valid point if you were to pull me up on this analysis. “You can use it to buy goods and services” is a fair comment to make, however, there is a ‘but’ that should follow that statement. Whilst the number of places you can use Bitcoin to make a purchase is increasing it is not widespread.

Bitcoin is super volatile, which is great on the way up and terrible when it falls after you have just bought it. Here are some important figures which tell you about Bitcoin’s volatility.

2009 – 2017 little price movement

Autumn 2017 the price rises

October 2017 $5,000

November 2017 $10,000

17th December 2017 $19,783

April 2018 $7,000

November 2018 $3,500

14th March 2020 $5,165

crypto currency

It has bounced again in recent weeks and is now at $40,714 as I write this article (9th Jan 2021). Institutional investors (fund managers, hedge funds etc) are now buying Bitcoin. Increased demand of a fixed supply commodity pushes up the price. Will this last? I do not know. Is it a bubble? Again, I do not know. However, what I do know is that institutional investors invest to a plan. They systematically take profits i.e. sell some of their holdings. They are disciplined. They manage risk by keeping a balance of different investments. Should these institutional investors take profits, other fund managers will follow and sell so as not to get caught out by a large price fall. Their careers depend on getting it right. The ability to feed their family depends on it. They analyse, have large teams doing research, watch and wait before buying and sound out other professional colleagues to ensure they sell in a timely manner. The field of behavioural finance has shown that as individual investors we use the part of our brain driven by emotion when making investment decisions, especially when there is a big price movement in an asset. This emotion based decision making often leads to poor decision making.

There is a body of opinion from Bitcoin exchanges and advocates that is putting forward the theory that Bitcoin is going to become a national currency in some countries and therefore the price is going to go ballistic (their phrase). It is unlikely that a non regulated, very volatile commodity will be used as a national currency.

Here is an example from me of the practical problems. A solicitor practice in Barcelona started to accept Bitcoin for settlement of their fees. It looked like a superb idea to show they were a forward-looking firm.

The problem comes with the volatility. Between issuing the invoice and payment by the client there is a delay. Having charged 1.03874 Bitcoins, for example, they had no idea how much they would get in the currency that would pay all the bills of the firm, such as their staff (Can we pay you in Bitcoins Mrs staff member? Ah, no!), electricity company etc. So having chosen 1.03874 Bitcoins as the fee because that would generate 4,000 in Euros, at the date of payment it could have been just €2,000 value. For this reason it is very unlikely that Bitcoin will become a national currency!

If you wish to invest in Bitcoins, it is worthwhile separating them from your primary investments. Bitcoins will then not influence your investment decisions on your main portfolio in the way that they might be if they are on the same investment platform. How much should you invest in Bitcoin? Set aside a percentage of your savings and only invest that much. Whether it is 1% or 10% will depend on your overall circumstances. However, with Bitcoin it is very worthwhile applying the rule that only invest what you can afford to lose. That way, if you lose it all it has not damaged your financial wellbeing. If it goes up 400% next week, you will be able to take some profit and perhaps spend your winnings on something frivolous.

Bitcoin profits will be taxed. Remember to put money aside from your winnings to pay tax. The amount of tax will depend on your country of residence. The annual declaration can be very difficult so keep track of all your transactions. A figure of 23% of the profit is a good guideline as the amount to put aside if you live in Spain.

investment idea

Practical Tip. A more mainstream alternative to investing in Bitcoin is the technology that Bitcoin is based on called blockchain. Blockchain has lots of uses and is good news. Uses include electronic voting in national elections, supply change management, payment systems, and anti-counterfeiting software. It can also allow companies to work together and share only what they need to for a specific project.

As an example of what is possible, there are also many Blockchain propositions for supply chain management for Covid 19 vaccines and contact tracing. For more information on blockchain, you could read “Blockchain Revolution” by Don and Alex Tapscott. You can already find many investments to include in your main portfolio such as ETFs and funds. For more information on these funds email barry.davys@spectrum-ifa.com

A final point on Bitcoin.  When someone sells a Bitcoin what does the buyer pay with? It is one of the major currencies. Sellers still want good old fashioned US dollars, Euros or Sterling when they part with their coin.  That tells us something!

What’s the story with ESG investing and what can it do for your savings?

By Barry Davys - Topics: ESG investing, investment diversification, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 7th January 2021

07.01.21

ESG investing is now a mainstream type of investing and a useful part of a portfolio. But what is it and why is it good for me?

A year ago, someone came to ask for advice on moving investments from UK investments to Spain investment. We discussed their position, their requirements, their reasoning behind moving the money to Spain. All the reasoning behind the thought process was very sound. However, there were some practical aspects that I highlighted that needed addressing before making the move. The issues were taxation in Spain and their requirement for sustainable and/or responsible investments.

These people were really pleased with their investments with returns over 120% in 8 years. The increase in value in these funds had been so spectacular that there was a large capital gains tax liability in Spain if they were to sell. Also, the funds also still meet their belief in ESG values.My advice was for them to keep their investments.

ESG Investing

So what is ESG investing and why have the returns been so good? Why is it a good type of investing for the coming years? ESG is short for Environmental, Social and Governance. ESG investing is investing in the shares of companies that have good practices in these three areas.

An example of a company that would tick all three elements is a company that sells solar panels and a maintenance contract for them but does not charge for the electricity that the panels produce. Many of the established players in the market sell panels and then charge for the electricity in the same way as a normal electricity company.

This is my view, but charging for the electricity produced is wrong. The source of the power, sunlight, is free. Sunlight costs the seller of the solar panels nothing and should not therefore be charged to the panel buyer. Companies that sell solar panels without charging for the electricity meet the governance criteria. They also meet the environmental aspect because it is a renewable energy. These companies are now providing social benefit because they are setting up systems for communities, e.g. apartment blocks. They are a good example of a company that meets the ESG requirements.

Why is this good for your portfolio? When the “good” companies highlight that energy is free once you have bought their panels, sales will increase. We would all like free energy having bought the panels. Other recent ESG examples include Zoom and other companies that allow us to work from home (+400% share price increase in 12 months), Geely who owns Volvo, Lotus and other brands all converting to electric cars (+70.66%) and BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager who has just declared it is moving to ESG screening for every investment it makes (+41%).

BlackRock assets are $7.81 trillion as at 31st December 2020. They are joined, in varying degrees, by the following fund managers in ESG vetting of and investing in companies with ESG credentials.

  • Fidelity
  • JP Morgan Asset Management
  • Morgan Stanley
  • PIMCO (World’s biggest bond fund manager)
  • Vanguard $6 Trn fund manager

This is a small number of the fund managers that have declared their intentions to invest in ESG assets. Are they doing this because of a collective social consciousness? They may tell us that, but the reality is the companies that can be classed as ESG are often the companies of the future. This is where the growth is and with this much collective demand from the above managers and more the sector will be well supported.

At Spectrum we believe in the benefits of ESG investing; it goes alongside our support of a number of charities. However, we also believe in it as a method of adding future value to our clients’ investments.

If you have a question about ESG investing and would like to discover more, please feel welcome to get in touch. We are also happy to review your investments to see how you can incorporate ESG investing into your savings.

As individuals, you can join the ESG movement.

The recovery of stock markets cannot be ignored

By John Hayward - Topics: Inflation, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain, Stock Markets, wealth management
This article is published on: 15th October 2020

15.10.20

Apart from the uncertainty of whether or not you will still be able to use your UK bank account after 31st December 2020, there are plenty of other things going on to mess around with our lives such as Brexit, the US elections, coronavirus with its lockdown, and other global disasters. With all of these things happening, it is hardly surprising that people think that investing money in stocks and shares (equities) at a time like this is crazy.

However, we have what appears to be an illogical movement upwards in equities, especially noticeable in the USA. How can this be? They have Donald Trump! In the rest of the world, there have also been sharp upward movements since the coronavirus led crash in March 2020 (other than the UK and I will return to this later). The fact is that billions have been pumped into the global financial system to fend off another financial crisis. Some companies have fallen anyway but others have developed, or sprung up, which has led to a much prettier picture than the press would lead us, or even want us, to believe. Coronavirus and Trump seem to be the only stories pushed our way.
When there is financial stimulus, there are opportunities; not only to survive but to develop. Robert Walker of Rathbone Investment Management has this investment outlook.

“We can expect more monetary stimulus and support from central banks that have an enormous amount of unused capacity available for alleviating any renewed stress in financial conditions which is positive for equity markets. This should keep corporate borrowing costs low.

We do not believe therefore that this is a good time to reduce our long-term equity exposure, but economic and political uncertainty warrants cautious positioning and a bias towards high quality companies where we believe that earnings growth is still possible. We believe it is sensible to remain broadly invested but with a continued preference for growth and only high-quality cyclical companies that can benefit from a shift to a digital and more sustainable economy.

We believe high valuations of growth businesses are underpinned by the increasing scarcity of growth opportunities while interest rates and the returns on low risk assets are expected to stay low into the foreseeable future.”

is the economy in good shape

It is important to note Robert´s last few words regarding interest rates. They are not likely to increase in the short term, or possibly long term, if companies, at all levels, are trying to succeed to keep the economy in good shape. At the same time, inflation could increase which means any money “safely” on deposit in the bank is losing its spending power each year.

Let´s go back to my comments about the UK. Rather than me put my words to this, I will use Robert Walker´s more eloquent script.

“The difference in returns in the third quarter are stark, with US equities seeing a strong performance especially in the big technology companies while the UK’s FTSE 100 was -5% lower on a combination of Brexit and Covid-19 fears.”

“The poor performance of the UK since the referendum is well known, as is the high likelihood that leaving the EU with or without Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal will make the UK relatively worse off. Most independent economic researchers forecast that UK GDP, relative to current arrangements, will be between 3% and 6% worse off in seven to 10 years if the UK and EU sign a free trade agreement, the faltering prospect of which has seen the pound fall by 15-20% since 2015. As we write the likelihood of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is still too close to call.”

The knock on effect of this lack of confidence in the UK is reduced investment in that area and, therefore, from what we have seen, investing in the UK has not been top of investment managers’ agendas. My point here is that, when you look at the performance of the global economy, do not necessarily base it on the movement of the FTSE100. This could be, and ultimately has been, the undoing of many people who have been waiting for Brexit to go through before investing. Some now are even waiting for Covid-19 to go away, but I believe that they could be waiting a long time.

Here are a couple of graphs to illustrate my point. One is from 23rd June 2016, the date of the Brexit referendum, and the other is from the start of 2020. They include two of the funds that we use and compare them to the FTSE100 and an inflation index. Remember interest rates would be little more than a flat line on these charts.

equities and inflation
FTSE 100 and inflation

Being in the market before the vaccine is introduced

Timing the market (knowing exactly when to buy in and when to sell out) is nigh on impossible. Even experts do not get it right 100% of the time. However, one of the uncertain certainties is that there will be a vaccine for this coronavirus. The uncertain part is when. The important thing is that you are invested before it happens, because it is likely that financial markets will rise sharply when it is available.

stockmarkets have gone against the negative thought trend.

Of course, we know that there are other problems around the corner, as there always have been in the past. We make decisions based on our own experiences, calculating whether something is safe to do or it carries a higher risk. History has shown us on

many occasions, including through world wars, that in times of low confidence, or even panic, stockmarkets have gone against the negative thought trend.

Staying invested through the last 6 months has been really important. For those who have money in the bank, earning little or nothing, now is the time to consider making your money work for you and your family. With careful investment planning, through trusted and experienced investment managers, we can help make your future wealth more secure. We can evidence how people have “survived” this latest scary time with the opportunity to benefit in the future by the willingness to stay invested.

Invest when you have the money and disinvest when you need it
My final comment on this is actually one from another investment manager I spoke to recently. It is to do with why we have money and try to accumulate it. His extremely simple tip is to invest when you have the money and disinvest when you need it.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

There is more to (investment) life than the FTSE100

By John Hayward - Topics: Costa Blanca, FTSE stock market, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain, Stock Markets
This article is published on: 2nd September 2020

02.09.20

Dependence on the UK stockmarket has damaged wealth

In the last 5 months, life has not been easy. We have all had to change our lifestyles to one extent or another and we don´t know exactly what lengths we will need to go to in order to remain safe. Hopefully the worst has passed and we can get back to thinking about our future in a positive way and not have to constantly worry about coronavirus.

Aside from the pain of having to wear a mask, in the last 5 months I have had concerns about work, I have learned new words and phrases linked to coronavirus, and I have obtained a new Spanish residence card. Certain things have not changed during this time. People read the same newspapers, watch the same television programmes, express their disdain for Donald Trump, and base their investment decisions on the performance of the FTSE100.

New investment trends

Whilst certain business sectors have suffered over the last few months, others have prospered and have a positive outlook. Technology has come to the fore, both in terms of purchasing goods and communication.

Investments and the FTSE100

Aside from the investment vehicle and the tax structure your investments and pension funds are held within, it is important that the investments themselves are well managed. Some people have held off investing through fear of coronavirus. There are also those who had previously delayed investment decisions until Brexit had been sorted out. The consequence of this has been that they have missed out on growth over the last 5 years, even with the downturn in March/April, as well as suffering from the real loss through inflation if they have left their cash in the bank.

Most UK nationals refer to the FTSE100 to find out what is happening with stockmarkets. This is mainly due to it being the one we, as followers of British financial news, are most familiar with. The FTSE100 has been lagging behind global stockmarkets in the last few months. However, the FTSE100, the index of the top 100 companies in the UK, only represents a small percentage of global stockmarkets. Almost 40% of the 100 are banks/financial, oil/energy and consumer staples which include retailers. All of these sectors have been hit by coronavirus. It is overweight in certain sectors and, although they are all big companies, their recent losses are reflected in the movement of the index. Banks especially have had a rough time. Therefore, it is far from being a stockmarket index which represents all global markets and sectors. I appreciate that it is an indicator, but it shouldn´t be used as a decision maker.

You will see from the chart below that by referring to, or even relying upon, the performance of the FTSE100 in order to make investment decisions could have been a mistake. It compares the FTSE100 with the US S&P500 and Nasdaq, and Japan´s Nikkei. The chart runs from the start of 2020. The FTSE100 is D, the blue line.

FTSE100 comparison

Not only has it been important to be aware of global stockmarket performance, but there are other sectors and assets to invest in. For example, gold, that was not immune to the panic in March, has shown itself to be in demand as a safe haven.

Gold prices

Well managed investment portfolios

I am pleased to say that all my invested clients are better off now than they were at the end of March. The most pleasing thing is that not only did they suffer relatively low falls in March but now many have made a complete recovery. We do not push people towards FTSE100 tracker funds. They may be cheaper but that is because there is little or no management. As is often the case, cheapest is not the best.

Conclusion

Active investment management has proven itself to be the best approach, certainly in problematic times. We recommend investment managers who are able to access global shares and other assets. They can buy and sell on a daily basis and not commit you to funds that can become restricted or illiquid. Many of my clients have been pleasantly surprised by the “bounce” of their investment value since March. The FTSE100 has struggled and it has been assumed that this is the case generally. They are also surprised how the United States stockmarkets, with all of the Trump and election issues, have done so well. At times there seems little or no correlation between day to day life and stockmarket performance. In fact, history has taught us that when there is panic and depression, stockmarkets tend to do well.

Over the next few weeks I shall be publishing more articles, so stay tuned:
• The expense of using your bank for insurances
• Life insurance for general living expenses and Spanish inheritance tax
• Currency exchange – your ‘free’ facility could be costing you thousands
• Applying for the new TIE – not compulsory for some but could be beneficial

With investments, there are plans that I can recommend that are clear to understand and tax efficient, and I explain the full details before you commit. The Spectrum IFA Group is not tied to any one company and I can offer you independent, impartial advice and guidance.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

What type of recovery do we foresee?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 29th June 2020

29.06.20

The days are long and sunny and lots of people are looking forward to beginning their life in France! June is a very busy month here in France because with the school holidays starting on 1st July and lasting until the end of August, June is the last few weeks to get everything done before most people go on holiday.

June has felt like a very busy month for me, with lots of meetings with future clients on the telephone, Zoom meetings and webinars. On 12th June I attended the Tilney Women’s Panel Event hosted by Tilney with guest speakers Emma Sterland (Tilney), Zahra Pabani (Irwin Mitchell LLP), Marcie Shaoul (Rolling Stone Coaching) and Charlotte Broadbent (Charlotte Loves), which was a great way to end the week listening to other women’s experiences of lockdown. Then, on 17th June, I took part in a seminar examining financial planning solutions for American expatriates, which was very interesting.

I finally got back on the road again on 18th June to visit a few clients, which was lovely. Whilst the weather wasn’t as great as I might have hoped, I was very happy to see the in-real-life faces of my clients, whilst keeping a respectable social distance during the meetings.

zoom Katriona Murray

During what has become a monthly Zoom meeting with colleagues this month, we were joined by Rob Walker from Rathbones who gave us an interesting view on the three possible scenarios that Rathbones are envisaging:

1) that there will a V shaped recovery
2) that there will be a progressive recovery but no second wave of the virus
3) that there will be a second wave and a second lockdown.

When asked to vote on which of these three scenarios seemed the most likely, about half of us suggested the second scenario and the other half opted for the third scenario. Rob told us that there has been a bias towards “stay at home stocks” with Amazon and eBay doing very well, if not for any other reason than people could not get to the supermarket during the lockdown so tended to favour ordering online. Cleaning products stocks have done very well as one can imagine. National Grid has also done very well and in addition is increasing its attention on renewable energy, which is unsurprising given widespread and growing interest in Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investing. Then there are the “Go back to work” sectors, such as retail, commercial property and tourism, which can only thrive if people do in fact go back to work.

In a possible indication of what lies ahead, Berkshire Hathaway (the company founded by renowned and highly successful investor Warren Buffet) has massively sold its holdings in airline companies. If a vaccine is found then these companies will see a rebound, but given the timing for a workable approved vaccine, this may not happen any time soon. Whilst US tech stocks are doing very well and have done very well during lockdown, Rob’s position is “Be defensive. This is no time to be heroic”.

Katriona Murray work revolution

There is no consensus on the way forward. The question is, do we want to go back to working the way we did before? For many workers going to work involves lengthy commutes on packed trains and buses, whereas the last few months have shown that many

of us can do our jobs from the comfort of our homes.

If this is a work revolution and companies decide to change their business models and allow employees to work more from home, what will be the consequences for commercial property ?

During the second part of the year the focus is going to be on Brexit and the US elections. Donald Trump is desperate to be re-elected. However, has the BLM movement hurt his chances? Will this encourage black voters to go out and vote to put Joe Biden in the Whitehouse? And in the UK, once the situation with Covid19 improves, the focus will be back on Brexit and what kind of deal the Prime Minister can agree with the European Union, if at all. The next six months are going to be interesting.

In France, a month after lockdown restrictions started being eased, the number of cases in the south west of the country still remains low. Schools have gone back with so far very few consequences.

Whilst July is a summer month, I will continue to work as normal (new normal). My children will continue to go to a holiday club two days a week. Like many of you, I am waiting to see whether a trip back to the UK to visit family will be possible in August which will determine our summer plans. I will not do a newsletter at the end of July but will probably do one at the end of August/beginning of September.

So for now, I wish you all a pleasant summer and look forward to getting back on the road to see even more clients in September!

Lockdown lessons learnt?

By David Hattersley - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain
This article is published on: 17th June 2020

17.06.20

Now as we enter phase 3,are we just beginning to get back to a different version of normality? We all have realised that we need to be around other human beings. Just going to a bar for a coffee with family,sitting outside, spending time talking with each other and people-watching has become a simple treasured pleasure as our world gets back on its feet.

LESSONS

Self -isolation & working from home.
An element of self discipline regarding work has had to take priority, but within limits as if we were at an office. Early research from New York has already shown the following:

a) People miss the interaction of an office environment that creates a positive energy and greater productivity, with the ability to expand upon and share ideas. Whilst Video Conferencing provides a two dimensional picture, it doesn’t pick up the nuances of a face to face physical meeting.

b) The morning rush hour can be a drag, it does provide time to set the day up with a sense of purpose. The evening journey creates a buffer to reflect on the day’s events or relax before you get home. Ensure that the family are aware of a disciplined time period whereby non work related issues have to be deferred until family time/free time. After all, working from home without the commute, will give you more family time and free time. Use it wisely, have breakfast and lunch with family, or more free time to carry out your own interests. Bucket Lists are no good if they aren’t followed through, or if you die before doing them.

c) Dress as if you are going to a physical meeting. One wouldn’t wear jeans or shorts to a meeting ! Learn to control technology and not let it control you, e.g. work e-mails should only be read during work-time. Avoid instant response, set time to consider and reflect on that response, but not in your downtime. Remember when you went on holiday and left your place of work for 2 weeks. Take time out to “Sharpen your blade”.

Environmental challenges

Environmental challenges.
The world is not ours by right.
With pollution in major urban areas falling rapidly, this a chance to re-evaluate our lives and the impact on our planet that we share with other forms of life. Living on the edge of a national protected park has given us the time to enjoy and observe the animals that co-exist with us, ranging

from the evening watering hole (drinking from the pool) to the raising of a variety of families of birds and mammals that return each year to breed, some of which we have never seen before e.g. a cockatiel. Dolphins now have begun to swim in our local harbours, wild boar are prevalent and discussions are under-way to reintroduce a mating couple of Iberian Lynx in our area. Speaking to a client in the UK, deer have appeared at the end of their garden.

As we have got used to only buy essentials, has this lead us to question consumerism? Do we really need to buy the latest gadget or fashion? Can we make do and mend? Repair and fix, rather than discard? In our own household, because we have strict recycling rules, why go to a shopping mall when we can “swap or gift”via a charity shop? We now use local facilities to support the small family businesses vs major groups e.g. the local hardware store. We now buy food that is locally sourced within Spain as much as possible, so in season food has become a key factor in our purchases.

Travel has also been bought into question. Having driven a Jeep V6 petrol engined car for many years (I never believed in diesel) I am now driving around in Skoda 1.2 petrol engine. There is a balance, a yin & yan: what needs to be addressed the social interaction vs unwarranted trips.So careful planning has to be considered. As for flying to the UK to see family is not something remotely worth thinking about, alternatives need to be considered. Travelling by car seems a more sensible approach because survival instinct kicks in. Plane/public Transport or your own personal self isolated vehicle!

I hope that in the biggest challenge that I have ever encountered throughout my career in financial services, I have met and satisfied my clients expectations of the service that I have provided in these difficult times.

balanced investments

But one word can sum up all the above…
BALANCED

It may seem ironic, but the fund managers we use endorse the same principals; they use their extensive collective resources and knowledge to create a number of funds and investments.

Even they are not sure of the short term future, so they are “hedging” their bets and not taking too much short term risk. Balance helps you to take advantage of opportunities, while limiting downside risk. If you would like to dsicuss how we can help improve the balance in your portfolio, please contact me for a meeting with my details outlined below.

Investing After a Stock Market Crash

By Chris Burke - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, Stock Markets
This article is published on: 25th May 2020

25.05.20

The question on any investor’s lips at the moment is, ‘Will the stock markets crash again in the near future, say in the next 6 months?’ The main reason for this question is, even if the world starts to get back to normal after this pandemic, when furloughing and all the other methods that have helped people economically are finished, soon we shall see the realisation of the following:

  • Profound job losses and companies going out of business
  • Some entire sectors (e.g. aviation) taking years to recover, some even never recovering
  • Company results being published for the 2nd quarter of 2020, when they have been effectively shut the whole time. How will the markets react?
  • Unemployment at an all-time high
  • People losing their homes, unable to obtain mortgages

What’s really unclear here is, and this is the BIGGEST question, has all of this already been priced in to the stock markets? That is to say, have all these considerations and more been valued and taken into account by people buying and selling stocks?

50% of the reason why stock markets go up or down has nothing to do with the actual value of those stocks; it’s the perception of the people buying and selling that influences it. If people are optimistic and there is some bad news, the markets might not be affected by this. However, if people are worried/pessimistic and there is some small bad news, this could be ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ sending the markets tumbling. So, what is the best approach to take when investing after a stock market crash?

upward stockmarket trends

The answer to this question depends on your risk/reward profile. If you are a more aggressive investor, then using all your allocated investment money in one go would probably be your choice. However, this equates for less than 20% of us; the most common approach

of people investing their money is balanced.

Most people understand that not being invested means you could miss out if the markets shoot up, but also, if they crash lower you would lose out. However, if you believe yourself to be aligned with the following criteria, then there is a strategy you can follow which statistically should give you more safety, with a lower chance of your money being negatively impacted at the beginning:

  • You are prepared for your money to be invested for the medium to long term (5 years plus)
  • You do not want access to this money for at least 5 years
  • You understand there could be some volatility during this period
  • You want your money to grow above inflation and actually increase in its value
  • You are a balanced investor, meaning you are prepared to invest with the knowledge that the value of your money will go down, as well as up

After every stock market crash, analysts try to label what kind of a recovery it is. Is it a ‘U’ shaped recovery, meaning a sharp drop, period of downturn and then a sharp upward recovery? Or is it a ‘W’, where there is a crash, then a recovery, then another crash followed again by a recovery? The truth is, each stock market crash is different; no two are the same. Each day it’s 50/50 whether the markets will be up or down. Therefore, taking this reasoning into focus, and wanting to limit any losses and maximise any gains, let’s look at this as if it’s a business opportunity.

If you were opening up a new business, and needed to borrow money to finance it, would you either:

  • Borrow all the money you needed in one go and spend it
  • Borrow some of the money you needed, review periodically and then borrow more as and when necessary
  • Borrow some of the money you needed, review periodically and have instant access to more when necessary

Whilst Option 1 could work for you, that money needs to have interest repaid on it, and if the business didn’t go well, that’s more money lost.

Option 2, as long as you don’t have any cash flow issues, could also work well, meaning you are repaying less money and only borrowing what you need as and when. If anything happened to the business you were not putting everything in.

Option 3 gives you the same as option 2, as well as having access to a cash injection instantly should the time arise.

crystal ball

These options are all a matter of opinion, but in relation to investing, there is no future knowledge of what the stock markets will do. What we do know for certain about investing is this:

  • Historically, inflation has doubled approximately every 24 years
  • Unless your money is keeping up with inflation, in real terms you are reducing the value of your money
  • There is hardly any interest being paid by bank accounts
  • One day you will stop working, and the only income you will have is what you have built up

Therefore, taking into account these main known points, it’s clear that money needs to be managed effectively but in a risk averse way as possible. To be able to minimise risk, and to try and gain on any stock market rises and minimise any falls, the safest short-term approach would be to ‘drip feed’ your investments. However, to make sure you don’t miss out on any upswings in the market, you need to have your investment money aligned in the following way:

Example – Investment value €250,000:
Starting with €50,000, add to this €20,000 per month moving forward until one of the following occurs:

  • You have invested all your money
  • There is a large enough stock market downturn

In this second scenario, you would then decide to add much more of your uninvested money immediately; depending on how much is left and the scale of the market drop.

By using this approach, if markets took a sudden upward turn your money is already partially invested to take advantage of any gains moving forward. However, and more importantly, if the stock markets took a sudden dive, you are limiting losses and are in a position where you can take advantage of lower prices.

financial review

As I stated above, no one knows exactly what will happen or when after a stock market crash, but by investing in tranches to make your money grow, this will give you some protection against a stock market crash in the near future, and even the ability to even take advantage of it.

Two last points I would add, and those are, even if stock markets crash again, after a recent previous crash, there is more likely of a quicker bounce back. And secondly, money invested over time is the safest way to achieve long term growth of your money and create that income for when that day finally comes when you are no longer working.

My job is to help people plan their finances, managing their money in as painless and risk-averse approach as possible, at all times having their best interests as our common goal. Don’t hesitate to contact me on the details below if you would like to discuss any of the points in this article or arrange a meeting with me.

Investing for the future

By David Hattersley - Topics: investment diversification, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 14th May 2020

14.05.20

The start of a ‘new’ normality?
We are lucky to live in the region of Valencia as Phase 1 has started in some areas. Will this eventually lead to some kind of normality and what form will this take? While we have been prisoners in our own homes, the loss of freedoms and the changes that have occurred have led many of us to question what the future holds. With the obvious impact on the environment of less pollution, less freedom to travel and changing work environments, will we change our habits? How will these changes affect our plans for the future? What about our financial position and our relationships with people in the society that we live in? What will the globalised world look like in a year’s time? After all, we’re all connected to global humanity whether we like it or not.

Economy
Without a doubt this will impact global economies. Most economies will go into a recession, perhaps only for the short term, but deeper than we have known for many years. For those of us that have some form of fixed income, investments that are “ holding up” or have only fallen by a small percentage, have liquidity in our finances or have flexibility in our work patterns, we have to consider ourselves lucky.

But what of the future? No doubt there will be changes, but opportunities too.

crystal ball

Investing for the future
It may seem strange to consider this now, but the world has changed. Passive tracker funds and ETFs have produced substantial negative returns and volatility due to short term “overreaction”. Oil prices have fallen through the floor, food has become more expensive and supply chains

have been disrupted with increased costs. Governments will need to recoup lost tax revenue and increase borrowing to keep some economies afloat. Inflation is likely to rear its head, so with cash deposits for the long term returning effectively nil, can these be considered a “safe haven”?

These are the situations that our selected fund managers have to consider. Fortunately they have massive resources available to help them. Who and what are going to be the investments for the future based on a long term view? Where are opportunities going to occur? Who or what are going to be the winners and losers? The fund managers we use are all asking the same questions and provide some hope for the future. Humankind is very efficient at adapting to changes enforced on them. By mixing a variety of managers one can add balance to a portfolio, which many of my clients have benefited from.

Role of the Financial Adviser
During the last few weeks, when face to face meetings were impossible, I regularly kept in contact with my clients via phone calls and numerous video clips that tried to make them smile. I also provided them with current valuations and updates for the variety of portfolios that they held with me. Sometimes these are complex affairs, or may need a simple explanation. I have also assisted, when required, when there were changes in personal circumstances.

But we are social animals and I have missed the face to face meetings, which in my view makes a big difference compared to talking via telephone or video call. Please feel free to contact me for a coffee and a no obligation personal review on anything financial that may be concerning you at this time.

Can we learn from the past?

By Jeremy Ferguson - Topics: Financial Planning, Financial Review, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 24th April 2020

24.04.20

Long periods of growth in the world, followed by a creeping in of greed, have normally caused previous stock market ‘tumbles’. This time, however, something completely unprecedented has caused it, wiping large fortunes from people’s pensions and savings, for the short term at least.

This latest situation is another great example of the fact that no one really knows what lurks around the corner. Investment managers may be clever people, but it’s simply impossible to accurately predict the timings of markets taking a tumble when events such as this take place.

‘Investing is for the medium to long term’ is something you will always hear about from people like myself. If you have a time horizon that’s very short, it’s normally fraught with danger; investments need time for you to reap their rewards. So my question is, how has the world faired on this front over the last century, and what we can learn from the past?

invest for the long term

The first ‘event’ was the Great Depression in the US, which started in the late 1920’s. What caused it?

The early part of the decade was full of exuberance, people borrowing money to buy cars, new houses, and even borrowing to make investments in the new world of the stock market.

Everyone was doing so well, then the whole thing fell apart and nearly 13% was wiped off stock market values. For those people who had borrowed heavily to invest, it was enough to wipe them out. They lost everything, as they couldn’t repay their debts, and then followed the Great Depression. This lasted roughly 12 years until the massive manufacturing effort of WWII kick started the recovery.

Next up, after many years of growth following the end of World War II, was the famous 1987 crash. This was the largest fall in stock market values at that point in history, with a 23% fall. So what caused this? It was similar to the 1929 crash, with the addition of the speed at which people could trade shares in the modern world.

People were borrowing money, leveraging investments with the money, and then things started to go wrong. This time fear took over, with panic selling ensuing, and people lost fortunes very quickly. At that point it was the single biggest one day fall in history.

dot com bubble

This was then followed by a 12 year recovery period, with everything being a little more controlled, until the Dot-Com bubble started to inflate. It was a frenzy of over valued companies,

people buying shares they would never have normally bought. It was all so easy to make money. Everyone was involved. Greed fevered a frenzy of madness! Then it all fell apart. The bursting of the Dot-Com bubble in 1999/2000 pushed stock markets down 23% again, but many shares fell almost 100% in value.

And off we went again… over the next 8 years, behind the scenes there was the growing greed that always seems to be lurking. Easy borrowings, people buying houses they couldn’t really afford, remortgaging the ones they had to buy more ‘things’. Banks were selling on loans to other banks.
Easy money was everywhere, seemingly fuelled by greed again. And then, you guessed it, bang! The start of the 2008 Financial crisis as it became known. The American banking system almost collapsed entirely. Never before had greed almost toppled a country. 12 years of recovery followed (sound familiar?) and 2020 is the next focal point! What more is there to say? Another large ‘tumble’ in values again.

So where am I going with this? Every time this has happened in the markets before, afterwards there ensues a protracted period of recovery and growth. The important thing is the ‘line’ keeps going up, albeit in a rather rugged manner.

The below graph is an example of 50 years growth of the 500 largest companies in the US up to the 2008 crisis. It is all over the place, but if you were invested for the medium to long term, the ‘line’ goes up and up, which is why people invest their hard earned pensions and savings. To profit!

500 largest companies in the US

This recovery is going to be tough, and in a new and changed world. It will come from companies that are agile, well financed with flexible long term objectives, and who are able to adapt quickly to the ever changing world.

Never has this been so obvious as it is now. If you have money invested, make sure as best you can it is exposed to investments that are most likely to be part of the recovery. A recovery that history has taught us always happened in the past.

Lockdown is a great opportunity to dig out your files to see what you are invested in, and if you need any assistance or a second opinion, I am happy to help. I can be contacted at :

Jeremy Ferguson
The Spectrum IFA Group
Sotogrande, 11310, Spain
Office: + 0034 956 794409
Mobile: + 34 670 216 229

jeremy.ferguson@spectrum-ifa.com
www.spectrum-ifa.com