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Viewing posts categorised under: Investment portfolios

Falling investment markets

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 9th June 2022

09.06.22

Markets have fallen recently with concerns over rising inflation and interest rates and the war in Ukraine. In this uncertain environment, clients are asking me: “should I sell?”, and those with cash to invest are uncertain if now is the right time to commit to investing.

Why do falling investment markets cause concern?
Rather than seeing movements in markets as being completely normal and part of the regular cycle in markets, I believe the media instills fear among investors. I follow the financial news every day and read headlines dominated by talk of slumps, crashes, stagnations, recessions etc. but rarely see positive news stories about investments and markets such as how many global stock markets reached all-time highs in 2021.

This is getting worse with internet-based news as “click bait” headlines are used to prompt us to click through to read these apparently disturbing events.

Humans are bad investors
Our brains are not designed to make sound investment decisions as we are subject to biases and cognitive distortions and our emotions, rather than fact and logic, overly influence our decisions. One of our biggest weaknesses is our loss aversion which can lead to not taking advantage of investing at low prices during market falls.

Professionals versus amateurs
We often see professional investors reacting in an opposite manner to the general public/retail investors. Many retail investors will sell and are fearful when markets fall but professionals will be taking advantage of lower prices and be purchasing investments.

falling investment markets

Context for investing
It is important to reassess exactly why you should invest. Most people do so to protect their lifestyle as they want to ensure their investment and pensions maintain their real value after inflation over time – this isn’t possible in cash.

If you are investing for the long term, then you increase your chances of generating longer term growth and we know that, even though markets may go lower in the short term, over the longer term you are “stacking the odds” in your favour.

Time is on your side with investing
Data shows that the risk of stock market investment reduces with the time you spend in the market as you have the ability to weather the short term ‘blips’ in market. For this reason there is a popular stock market adage that time in the market is more important than timing the market.

Holding through downturn
The benefits of holding though short-term falls in the market were highlighted to me recently by Terry Smith, manager of the Fundsmith fund. He gave an example of a share he purchased at the end of 2007 for $7.07 and by 26th February 2008 it had lost almost 40% of its value at $4.28 – this promoted a lot of investor anger at his decision. However, this short term blip is dwarfed by the enormous increase the share price subsequently enjoyed, increasing in value to $172.39 by 4th February 2022. The company was Apple, until just last week the most valuable company in the world.

Tips for investors in this climate

  • Invest as early as possible and remain invested – act against ‘herd’ instinct
  • Remove the psychology from investment – draw up an investment plan and stick with it
  • Minimise tax – one of the biggest eroders of investment returns
  • Minimize fees on your investments and pensions – another big eroder of returns
  • Asset allocation – predicting which parts of the market will weather the storm better is difficult, so ensure you have a correctly constructed portfolio which is widely diversified and importantly, has corelation benefits

Investment management styles

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal, wealth management
This article is published on: 27th May 2022

27.05.22

There are several different investment management styles to consider and each will have benefits and drawbacks. The key difference are between a managed/active/discretionary route, and a passive/tracker approach, and this can be a divisive area within the investment industry.

In order to put into context the differences between these styles and which approach may be right for you, let’s first look at what a stock market index is.

An index simply measures the performance of a group/basket of shares. For example, the S&P 500 index tracks the performance of the shares in the largest 500 companies in America. As the US market is the largest stock market in the world, and the US is the world’s largest economy, it is often seen as a barometer for the health of global markets in general. The equivalent index in the UK is the FTSE 100 index.

Investment management styles

Managed/active management/discretionary
Historically, most private investors would invest through a fund manager. In this way, you would pay an annual percentage fee to an investment institution to actively manage your investment i.e. make the buying and selling decision on your behalf.

The aim of investing in managed investments is to generate better investment returns than the stock market index as a whole, or another appropriate benchmark.

Discretionary investment is a specialist branch of managed investment whereby the manager has a greater range of investment powers and freedoms to make buying and selling decisions without your consent (although always within with the remit and investment powers that you grant at outset).

Over recent years there have been numerous studies to suggest that many fund managers do not achieve their aims of beating their respective benchmarks, and it has led some investors to favour a “passive” investment approach.

Passive or index trackers

Passive investment does not employ a fund manger to make decisions, and instead of trying to outperform the market, you simply ‘buy’ the market as a whole. For example by investing in an S&P 500 tracker, you would effectively be purchasing the top 500 shares in the US stock market.

The key difference between the managed style is cost i.e. whereas a manager may charge between 1-2% per annum to manage your fund, you can access a tracker fund from as little as 0.1% which can make a huge difference to your fund value cumulatively.

Proponents of this approach accept they will only even achieve the return of the market as a whole (with no outperformance) but because you are spending far less in fees, believe they will do better over the longer term.

Proponents of active management on the other hand highlight the drawbacks of the passive approach viz. in a falling market, you will only ever track a falling market, tracker funds “blindly” sell what may otherwise be high quality investments at inopportune times, and that tracker investments can still be complex to understand, such as the difference between ‘synthetic’ versus ‘physical’ tracking methods.

Summary – balance pays
As my previous two articles have demonstrated, tax and investment planning generally involves shades of grey, rather than black and white solutions and in practice we do not believe either approach is the ‘holy grail’.

Rather each management style can offer benefits within a balanced portfolio. Holding passives can reduce the overall cost of your portfolio (thus increasing your net return) and using managed funds can complement by avoiding “blind” automatic sales and potential downside mitigation.

Whichever route you choose, minimising fund fees is crucial as it is the biggest eroder of returns over time.

When to keep ‘unsuitable’ investments

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 20th May 2022

20.05.22

A lot of people contact me believing they cannot keep certain investments. As I said in my article last week, it’s all about the subtleties, so let’s look at some examples.

Individual Savings Account
For Non Habitual Residents (NHRs), interest and dividends are tax exempt during the 10-year period but realised gains are taxed at 28%. For non-NHRs, interest, dividends and gains are taxed at 28%.

If your move to Portugal is short-term, or if you are not certain that it will be your long-term home, then there is a case for retaining your ISAs. Although you cannot add to them whilst non-UK resident, you can continue to hold them, and once you return to the UK they resume their tax-efficiency.

A planning point you may wish to consider if you have a stocks and shares ISA is to ‘rebase’ by selling and then immediately repurchasing the same funds within your ISA prior to leaving the UK to ‘wash out’ any taxable gains accrued to the point of your departure. This way, if you did decide to restructure, encash, or withdraw from the ISA as a Portuguese tax resident in the future, there would be litle or no tax to pay in Portugal.

As a general guideline, if you believe your move to Portugal is long-term (as a rule of thumb, 5 years or more) then restructuring and starting an investment vehicle that is suitable for residency in Portugal would make sense for greater tax efficiency, amongst other reasons. If this is the case, planning well in advance is advantageous, as there is no tax on ISA closure for UK residents.

when to keep unsuitable investments

Investment bonds
‘Non-compliant’ bonds are those that are not officially recognised by the Portuguese authorities. Usually all premiums paid into ‘compliant’ bonds are taxed, albeit at a very small amount. This effectively registers their tax favoured status and guarantees the tax breaks, assuming all conditions are met.

There may be a case to retain a non-compliant structure if you do not intend to make withdrawals because there is no tax to pay if nothing is taken out. However, you should still review the plan as there may be lower cost or newer options out there. If you do withdraw funds, we have seen some non-compliant bonds benefit from the same tax treatment as compliant bonds, but there is no guarantee.

Encashment would be a good idea if the policy originates from a blacklisted jurisdiction as tax on gains is punitive at 35%, rather than 28% or less depending on how long the policy is held. Also, if you want to guarantee the tax advantages and policy qualification, you will want to ensure you are holding a Portuguese compliant product. Other points that might affect the decision are how succession laws are affected, policy flexibility, currency and fund choice, and the consumer protection offered.

UK pensions
Pensions are a more complex area of planning and if you get it wrong, it could have consequences for your future lifestyle or ability to support yourself in retirement.

You should always seek personalised qualified advice when addressing your retirement planning, but as some food for thought:

You may wish to retain your UK pension if you have no lifetime allowance issues or do not plan to take withdrawals during your lifetime. Again, you should still review the pension regularly. You might look transfer to an EU based scheme if your total pension benefits are close to, or more than, the UK lifetime allowance (currently £1,073,100), or you are concerned about currency fluctuations and want certainty. You might even withdraw completely if you have NHR, no UK Inheritance Tax or succession planning considerations and want tax-efficiency post-NHR in Portugal.

There are of course many other investments or structures out there such as premium bonds, EIS, VCTs, trusts, QNUPS etc. that may or may not work for you in Portugal and I suggest you discuss your options with a qualified and experienced professional.

Investment portfolios | The Principles of Success

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 18th May 2022

18.05.22

The world of investments can be intimidating, even for the most seasoned investor. Here, we will put aside the jargon and push past the hype of ‘the next big thing’, and instead focus on the key principles that every investor should know when building a portfolio of investments; irrespective of how engaged or involved you wish to be.

Ideally, you should look at your assets as a whole – your pensions, property, savings and investments, rather than at each area or structure in isolation. This way you can apply the principles to your wealth as a whole and be in the best position to potentially meet your financial objectives.

Asset allocation is key to investment success
Asset allocation is the percentage of each type of asset class making up your overall investment portfolio. In turn, asset classes are groupings of similar types of investments such as cash, equities, commodities, fixed income, or real estate.

The key principle behind asset allocation is to include asset classes that behave differently from each other in different market conditions to reduce risk and generate potential returns. For example, if equities are falling in value, certain fixed income assets may be rising.

The goal here is not solely to maximise returns but to blend your holdings to meet your goals, whilst taking the least amount of investment risk. The right allocation for you will depend on several factors such as your willingness and ability to accept losses, your investment time frame, and your future needs for capital – unfortunately, there is no one size fits all.

Many studies have shown that asset allocation is the most important driver of portfolio returns, so getting this first step right is critical.

Diversification to reduce risk
Once you have decided on the right asset allocation for you, you must then pick the individual types of holdings or investments within each asset class. Each asset class is broken down into subclasses, for example, fixed income includes holdings such as fixed deposits, gilts and government or corporate bonds.

It is not enough to simply own each type of asset class; you must also diversify within each asset subclass. For example, taking corporate bonds which is a type of fixed income asset class, you can hold them in many different types of companies, industries, currencies, countries, or long or short term.

Rebalancing
As assets perform differently over time, the initial percentage asset allocation will deviate over time. A typical example is the huge increase in the US stock market over the last couple of years which, whilst good for investors’ returns, will have increased the level of share exposure. This increase in the value of equity holdings because of the sustained rise will lead to increased risk across the portfolio as a whole.

This can be solved by regular rebalancing to ‘reset’ the portfolio to your original asset allocation. This involves selling holdings that are overweight and buying ones that are undervalued.

Rebalancing also provides the ideal opportunity to revisit your financial goals and risk tolerance, and to tweak your asset allocation accordingly.

investment portfolio

Long term perspective and discipline
As humans, our emotions can lead to poor decision making when it comes to investing. Decisions that seem logical in daily life can result in poor investment returns, with many retail investors selling through fear at the very point they should be buying at lower prices, and conversely, buying at much higher prices during a gold rush.

It is vital for most investors to keep a disciplined approach as it is easy to get caught up in the daily noise of the markets.

Minimise costs and maximise tax efficiency
Einstein described compounding as the 8th wonder of the world and the effect of compounding applies to fees. A charge that might seem small at the beginning can turn into a significant cost over time and research has shown that lower-cost funds tend to outperform in the longer term.

As a simple example, assume a €100 investment and no growth. After 10 years, an annual charge of 2% will result in €82, a 0.2% charge would result in €98.

Focus on minimising fund, structure and adviser fees. In the world of investing, more expensive does not necessarily mean better.

Tax is an often-overlooked cost, which if minimised can lead to the same positive compounding effects over time. This is done by ensuring that your investment portfolio is structured correctly for your resident status, and it might be different planning for normal residents, Non-Habitual Residents, or depending on if your move to Europe is for the rest of your life or if you intend to return to your home country in the future.

Withdrawal strategies
If you are taking income from your investments, you should consider the way in which you do this and the order. Not only will this affect the type of investments you hold within your portfolio, but it could also affect how you hold your portfolio and provide tax planning opportunities or pitfalls.

Focus on total return
With interest rates at historically low levels, it is difficult to rely solely on income returns in this investment environment. The total return is a truer picture of performance and takes into account the capital appreciation as well as the income received.

Be boring!
To quote Warrant Buffet, one of the world’s most successful investors: “Lethargy, bordering on sloth should remain the cornerstone of an investment style”.

Do not try to chase returns or the trends in investments – stick to tried and tested assets. At Spectrum, we only use investments that have worked over the long term, are easy to understand, daily tradable and transparent.