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GUIDE TO GROWING YOUR INCOME

By Robin Beven - Topics: Inflation, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 10th March 2019

10.03.19

A NEW ERA FOR INCOME STRATEGIES

Income investing has moved into a new dimension. In the past, income-generating strategies were largely restricted to cash and fixed income so that, to a large extent, investors had to accept the need to sacrifice the opportunity for capital growth in order to obtain a higher yield.

Times have changed and now, an income strategy does not necessarily mean you have to accept a hit to your portfolio’s value – especially if you are in a position to take on a bit more risk with your capital.

There are plenty of choices of all persuasions available to income-seeking investors and this guide sets out a number of the available options.

FLEXIBILITY AND VERSATILITY
For many investors, an income-generating strategy forms the core of their approach. Some want a portfolio that will provide a regular income stream for them to spend. For others, an income-based approach is a consequence of their attitude to risk, rather than an instigator of their strategy, and these investors might choose to reinvest their income to boost their portfolio’s total return over the long term.

Still others might have a core investment strategy that focuses on capital growth, complemented and diversified by an income-generating segment.

Every investor will have their own unique needs – for instance, they might choose to draw the income or to reinvest it for the long term. However, an income strategy can easily be adapted to meet each investor’s changing circumstances as time moves on.

A WORLD OF CHOICE
Whatever your investment risk profile, there are a wide range of asset classes from which to formulate a diversified income strategy – from government and corporate bonds, through UK and global equities to property.

Please click on the headings below to read more:

FIXED INCOME (BONDS)

Fixed income investments provide a stable and predictable level of income many investors find reassuring. They pay a set rate of interest that does not change, regardless of the prevailing economic environment, and also have a fixed repayment date. Bond prices are influenced by fluctuations in interest rates and the rate of inflation. In addition, corporate bond prices are also affected by individual company or industry newsflow.

Changes to UK base rates, which are set by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, will affect the level of interest paid on cash in a UK bank deposit account, but base rates will not affect the level of income paid on a bond. In an environment of rising interest rates, bonds become less attractive, because investors can more easily achieve a competitive rate of interest from their cash deposits.

Similarly, low interest rates increase the appeal of bonds, as it becomes harder for savers to generate an attractive level of income from their cash deposits. Funds investing in such bonds are freely available, of course, care should be taken in choosing the best-suited one that fits-the-bill. See, “Collective Bond Funds, below.

CASH: NOT NECESSARILY KING

A cash deposit account might be the first port of call for many investors who want to generate an income. In an environment of low interest rates, however, it is difficult for savers to generate a meaningful return from their cash deposits. How times have changed! Furthermore, the impact of inflation will erode the purchasing power of their capital over the longer term.

GOVERNMENT BONDS

As the name suggests, government bonds are issued and underwritten by a government. UK government bonds – also known as ‘gilts’ – may be regarded as lower risk investments as, to date, the UK has never defaulted on its debts.

However, because they are a low-risk investment, the level of return available on gilts tends to be relatively low and they offer little protection against inflation. Index-linked bonds are the only exception – they pay a rate of income that is partly influenced by the rate of inflation. If the rate of inflation rises, the level of income they offer is adjusted upwards while, in an environment of falling inflation, the level of income paid will fall.

CORPORATE BONDS

Corporate bonds are issued by individual companies as a way of raising capital for their businesses. As with gilts, a corporate bond is redeemed at a predetermined date for a fixed sum and, during the life of the bond, the investor receives a fixed amount of interest.

Corporate bonds carry a higher level of risk than UK government bonds but that level will vary from one company to the next. High-quality companies are regarded as relatively low-risk, whereas lower-quality companies are believed to have a higher risk of defaulting on their obligations to bondholders.

The level of income paid to bondholders tends to reflect the level of risk involved. Investors who take on a riskier investment are compensated for that risk with a higher level of income. If a company should go bust, bondholders rank higher than shareholders as the company has to meet all its obligation to its creditors – including bondholders – before it considers its shareholders.

It is important to understand the risks of investing in corporate bonds. There can be a substantial difference in quality between one corporate bond and the next. Many of the large fund management houses undertake research to evaluate the potential risk of each bond, but they also often rely on research produced by credit-rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. These companies assign a rating to companies that offer bonds. A high credit rating indicates the company is believed to have a low risk of default while a lower credit rating suggests the company presents a higher risk of default.

Bonds may be divided into two classes – ‘investment-grade’ for the highest credit ratings and ‘sub-investment-grade’ (also known as ‘high yield’ or sometimes ‘junk’) for the lower grades. A lower credit rating means a higher level of income paid, in order to compensate for the extra risk involved. Generally, investment-grade bonds are seen as a relatively lower-risk asset class, while higher-yielding sub-investment-grade bonds are regarded as higher risk.

COLLECTIVE BOND FUNDS

Collective funds that focus on government and/or corporate bonds will invest in a managed portfolio that can help you to reduce your risk by diversifying across a range of investments, rather than owning just one or two. Some funds will focus on a specific area of the market while ‘strategic’ bond funds are ‘go-anywhere’ portfolios, whose managers take a view on the bond market and focus on the areas they believe offer most value. If you are interested in adding an element of additional risk to your overall portfolio, therefore, strategic bond funds can offer an introduction to the sub-investment-grade arena or to overseas opportunities.

EQUITY INCOME

Over the long term, equities offer the potential for superior returns compared with many other major asset classes. An equity income strategy focuses on shares in companies that pay consistently high and rising dividends and typically aims to generate a consistent, above-average income stream, accompanied by the potential for capital growth over the long term.

Dividends are paid – usually in cash – by companies to investors and are taxable. By law, dividend payments must be paid out of the company’s profits or from profits generated in previous years. Companies are not obliged to pay a dividend, but a high dividend payout can provide an incentive for investors to take a stake in the company.

A company does not have to pay a dividend, and many, particularly small- and medium -sized ones, prefer to reinvest surplus cash into the business. The profits of a relatively young company, for example, can be unpredictable as it seeks to establish itself – and any profit it does make will probably be used either to repay start-up costs or as a reinvestment to help growth. Even as a company grows older, its management might decide to retain profits to finance debt, expansion or product development.

Longer-established companies tend to pay higher dividends – hence an equity income strategy tends to focus on large, high-quality companies, rather than smaller, younger firms. Nevertheless, a small but rising proportion of dividend payouts are coming from medium-sized and smaller companies.

Even large, well-established companies can fall on hard times, however, and the management might decide to shore up their firm’s finances by reducing its dividend payout or cancelling it completely. Furthermore, a diminished or cancelled dividend will undermine confidence in the company and its share price is likely to be negatively affected, cutting the value of your capital investment.

OVERSEAS OPPORTUNITES

While there is a longstanding culture of dividend payments among UK companies, a growing number of companies in overseas markets are returning value to their shareholders in the form of dividend payouts. The US has, for example, traditionally been home to a core of large companies that pay high dividends. More recently, Asian companies have sought to attract and meet the needs of international investors by focusing on dividend payouts, with countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan establishing solid dividend regimes in this exiting region of the world.

A global equity income approach has become increasingly achievable, and many investment houses have launched funds to tap into this trend. Equity income investors now have much greater scope to diversify across a broadening range of countries by investing in collective funds.

EQUITY INCOME FUNDS

An equity income fund invests in the shares of companies that pay consistent and attractive dividends and then combines the dividend payouts in order to pay a regular income to investors. Diversification across a broad range of companies reduces the danger a single company’s decision to cut or cancel its dividend might drag down the overall yield of the portfolio.

PROPERTY

As an asset class, property can polarise opinion. It is often viewed as a relatively illiquid asset in that it can be time-consuming and expensive to trade. Some experts also believe investors are already overexposed to the property sector if they own their own home or a buy-to-let property, or if they are invested in commercial property through their business. However, property can play a part in an income portfolio for those investors who are not overexposed or who are attracted to its potential benefits.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

‘Buy-to-let’ is a popular means by which investors gain exposure to residential property. Traditionally, buy-to-let has enabled investors to generate income through rents negotiated on short-term tenancy agreements. More recently, many buy-to-let investors have chosen to use their rental income to finance their own mortgage payments and to wait for the bigger profit in the form of a capital gain when the property is sold. Of course, as some investors have found to their cost, there is no guarantee a property’s market value will rise over the long term as we’ve seen along the Costas.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

In contrast, commercial property investment focuses principally on the generation of a high and consistent income that is generated through rents. Whereas residential leases typically operate on a series of short-term agreements, however, commercial leases tend to be much longer – perhaps 10 or 20 years.

Income from commercial property can derive from a variety of different sectors – ranging from City real estate, through shopping centres, to industrial parks and warehouses. Each sector commands a different level of rental yield and will react differently to the prevailing economic climate.

COLLECTIVE PROPERTY FUNDS

Direct investment in commercial property is very expensive but smaller private investors can access the asset class through diversified collective funds. Diversification helps to reduce the extent to which the loss of a tenant from one particular property might negatively affect the overall performance of the fund.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS

A real estate investment trust or ‘REIT’ is a company that manages a property portfolio on behalf of its shareholders. A REIT can contain residential and commercial property. Its profits are exempt from corporation tax, but it must pay out at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders.

KEY FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU INVEST

Before deciding on the right blend of assets to generate an income stream, you should consider the following factors, which might affect the decisions you make:

INFLATION
The rate of inflation measures how the price of a basket of goods has changed over time. So, for example, if the cost of running your home increases by 5% in a year, you will need to earn 5% a year more to pay for the same level of comfort.

If you are aiming to maximise the income from your investments in order to pay for everyday expenses, you should consider the impact of inflation and – particularly over the longer term – whether you require a specific form of protection against inflation.

However, if you decide to invest in a fixed-rate investment – for example, a gilt or a corporate bond – be aware inflation will definitely have an impact. As an example, a fixed rate of 4% is attractive when the rate of inflation is 2%. However, if inflation rises to 5%, that return of 4% becomes less appealing.

RISK
Investment risk is a very personal thing as it can mean different things to different people. Some investors are not prepared to tolerate financial loss in any form while, at the other end of the spectrum, some investors most fear missing out on an opportunity. For still other investors, risk means not being able to meet future financial commitments.

Before formulating an investment strategy, every investor needs to be clear about their investment goals and their tolerance for risk. No investment is risk-free – the lowest-risk investments might guarantee the preservation of capital and/or regular income payments, but they cannot necessarily protect your money against the erosive effects of inflation.

Ultimately, in order to enjoy an absence or reduction of risk, a cautious investor has to accept the prospect of lower returns. Equally, an investor who is willing to pursue higher returns will also have to accept the possibility of increased potential for risk to their capital.

DIVERSIFICATION
Since every source of income carries some form of risk, it pays to diversify your portfolio across a range of different asset classes. Diversification helps to reduce the possibility that especially weak (or even strong) returns from a particular investment or asset class might have a disproportionate effect on the overall performance of the portfolio.

There is a world of choice out there for income investors. Whether you are a more cautious person or someone willing to take on higher levels of risk in the hope of achieving, ultimately, higher returns, please do get in touch so we can help you find a solution that meets your individual needs.

BEWARE: FADS AND FASHIONS

By Robin Beven - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 5th March 2019

05.03.19

The best way to start diversifying your portfolio and to blend together the myriad options in a way that best suits your personal circumstances is to speak to a professional adviser. Not only are they able to offer vast experience of the investment market, but they can also advise on the most suitable structures and products for your investments to match your individual needs.

Nowadays there are many more esoteric investment choices than ever before to capture the attention of potential investors – but they can create unpalatable risks if bought alone.

A GUIDE TO DIVERSIFICATION
This guide is designed to help start you on the road to building an investment portfolio. With a little groundwork, a balanced, well-diversified portfolio ought to be able to weather short-term storms and fluctuations. It should smooth out the various peaks and troughs and help you meet your financial objectives over the longer term, without causing too many shocks along the way.

Diversification is a much-used term in the financial world and one that can be employed at many levels. Most fund managers claim their aim is to diversify risk by buying a range of different investments, even when the area they specialise in is quite small. A smaller-companies fund manager, for example, with perhaps only 500 potential investments from which to choose, would suggest their hand-picked selection of 70 holdings offers diversification.

At the same time, it is my job as a financial adviser to help you diversify your portfolio by guiding you through the range of different assets, allocating your portfolio across the different options and, ultimately, helping you meet your objectives while staying within a level of risk that is acceptable to you.

When looking to invest, it is important to acknowledge that, no matter what the type of asset, there will be risks involved. These risks are made up of two principal aspects: market risk (the impact of economic factors, say, or government changes) and investment risk (the uncertainty and volatility of returns). Diversification can help to reduce both of these.

Market risk cannot be eliminated but it can be reduced by spreading a portfolio over a range of different asset ‘classes’ that should behave differently in different market environments. By broadening a portfolio’s exposure across a range of asset classes, you raise your chances that, at any one time, some assets will be rising while others may be falling – and the two movements should, to an extent, offset each other.

The same holds true for investment risk. While, for example, all shares are similarly exposed to investor sentiment towards the stockmarket on which they are listed, the investment-specific risk will vary from company to company. This means the share prices of each company will not move in the same direction, by the same amount and at the same time. Each share plots its own path, resulting in a smoothing of returns.

Investing across different asset classes sounds like a good move but you should also be aware of the other side of the coin. By diversifying your portfolio, you will also lower the level of return you would have received if you were fortunate enough to be invested only in the best-performing asset class. The skill comes in balancing your asset allocation so the relative payoff matches your own attitude to risk and reward.

This might lead you to ask how diversified your portfolio should be and the answer will depend greatly on your attitude to risk. Given the lessons of history, we can with some confidence assume nobody can accurately predict the performance of markets to the degree they will know exactly where to be invested at any point in time.

If this were possible, we would of course all be millionaires. Therefore, in effect, we use diversification to hedge our bets. The extent to which we need to diversify depends on how much volatility we feel able deal with – put simply, how much we tend to worry or panic when the value of our portfolio starts to fall.

SPREAD YOUR EGGS ACROSS MANY BASKETS
Any portfolio can be diversified. Do remember, however, when you diversify your portfolio, risk is not the only thing you will reduce. You will also lower the level of return you would have received if you had been fully invested in just the best asset class. The skill comes in balancing your asset allocation so the relative payoff matches your individual attitude to risk and reward.

Investment Advice for Expats

So that is the theory. In practice, once you know what risk you can deal with, the effectiveness of your diversification strategy will depend on the degree of ‘correlation’ between various elements in a portfolio – that is to say, the extent to which different investments move in relation to each other – and combining them appropriately so the overall movement is in line with your expectations.

Government bonds, for example, are perceived as being a safer haven when markets are rough and equities are volatile. Property, on the other hand, has tended to protect against inflation over the long term, while also not moving in line with equities. Then there is cash, which depends entirely on interest rates for the level of income generated. To a greater or lesser extent, each asset class responds differently to external influences such as interest rates and inflation.

DIVERSIFY WITHIN ASSET CLASSES
Within each asset class, there are further opportunities for diversification. Within equities, for example, the returns of some companies versus others are not related in any way. Generally speaking, there is little correlation between the performance of, say, biotechnology stocks and utilities – such as water and electricity companies – as the market forces driving these two sectors can be completely different. However, as both types of company are listed on the stockmarket, they are both exposed to factors that affect the overall equity market, such as the impact of a government’s monetary policy, or general investor sentiment.

DIVERSIFY BY GEOGRAPHY
Geography also allows some of the impact of stockmarket movements to be dissipated, as your portfolio is not only exposed to the economics and government decisions of one country. Different markets are affected by different economic and financial factors and are therefore not perfectly correlated with one another. If the Far East performs badly, for example, it does not necessarily mean European stockmarkets will have fallen. And within Europe, there is the possibility of further geographical diversification, as the performance of each underlying European stockmarket will not necessarily be aligned with that of its peers.

Even so, all equities are capable of being affected by global influences and particularly when investor sentiment is involved – just consider the boom in telecom, media and technology stocks in the late 1990s and their subsequent collapse in 2000. The effects were global – although markets such as the US, which had greater exposure to these sectors, were more heavily affected, almost all countries suffered from the somewhat depressed equity environment during the bear market that prevailed through to early 2003.

DIVERSIFICATION WITHIN BONDS AND PROPERTY
The same sort of thinking can go for fixed interest investments and property. Government bonds, for example – and particularly those of more highly-rated countries such as the US or the UK – do not tend to behave in the same fashion as the so-called ‘sub-investment-grade’ corporate bonds that are issued by less financially secure companies. Within property, meanwhile, even commercial and residential property are not always correlated in the returns they offer but both can be illiquid.

MAKING YOUR DECISIONS
Most investors should in general start by making a detailed assessment of their attitude to risk. If you could not live with the fluctuations of the stockmarket and would be very worried by the sight of prices going down, then you are a lower-risk investor and your portfolio should be biased towards correspondingly lower-risk assets, such as cash and perhaps some fixed interest.

If on the other hand you are comfortable with some volatility and are investing for the longer term – at least five years, say – you might decide to include a small element of equity exposure. Then again, if you are at the opposite end of the scale – a high-risk investor, who is perfectly happy with the ups and downs of markets – then you would most likely have the majority of your portfolio in equities.

USING COLLECTIVE INVESTMENT FUNDS
Collective investment funds are inherently diversified to some degree as they hold a number of different investments, generally in a particular market, industry sector or asset class. You could, to pick just a handful of examples, choose an emerging market equity, global technology, government fixed-interest, UK corporate bond or North American smaller companies fund.

As collective funds tend to hold 50 or more stocks, they automatically offer more diversity than just one or two stocks from these markets. By selecting funds, you hand over the job of stock diversification to expert fund managers, leaving you and your adviser to concentrate on the other main decision elements – asset class and geography.

If you are making your first steps into investment, or have only a small amount to invest, you can hand over even more of the decision process by targeting the broader portfolios of global equity or managed funds. Within these, the fund manager will diversify not only by type of company and level of exposure, but also by geography – and these portfolios usually involve some element of asset allocation as well.

Please note: The value of any equity, bond or property investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Property is a specialist asset class and expert advice should be sought before making a decision to invest.

“the effectiveness of your strategy will depend on the extent to which different investments move in relation to each other.”

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
When considering a portfolio’s proportions, many investors pursue simple strategies such as, for example, a ‘core & satellite’ approach. Typically, the ‘core’ portion would make up the larger part of your portfolio since it should be relatively less volatile and provide a solid base on which to build. The satellite investments would then add ‘spice’ to your portfolio by taking smaller positions in higher-risk regions, asset classes or industry sectors.

A lower or medium-risk investor might concentrate their core portfolio in cash, bond and property funds, or perhaps in an equity fund linked to larger, more highly regulated stockmarkets such as the US or the UK.

However, “multi-asset” funds are becoming the first choice for investors, be they lower, medium or higher risk investors, because the fund manager runs the fund for you without the distraction market noise.

Putting financial concerns in perspective

By John Hayward - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 25th February 2019

25.02.19

Perspective ( /pəˈspɛktɪv/)
To compare something to other things so that it can be accurately and fairly judged

We know that there is much going on with Brexit negotiations; we know that Trump is having issues with the Chinese and the Mexicans; and there are plenty of other things which we don´t yet know about, that could have an effect on our lives. When investing in stockmarkets, either directly or indirectly, there tends to be a focus on performance, whilst ignoring all other financial factors such as interest rates and inflation. It is regularly reported that markets are up, down or flat. It is rarely pointed out that interest rates have been low for a long time and that inflation has been consistently eating into the value of savings. There is also the fact that shares can receive dividends, which is pretty much ignored in reporting.

Another point to consider for those receiving pensions (or other income) from the UK in pounds, but spending in euros, is the GBP/EUR exchange rate. In this case, fluctuations in the exchange rate can seriously affect your disposable income.

In order to clarify my point, the charts below illustrate the behaviour of these factors over the last 15 years. This period includes arguably the worst period for all aspects over the last 15 years: 2008 and 2009.

I have accessed the information that makes up the basis of these charts from a variety of sources(*).

Interest Rates and Inflation

Interest Rates and Inflation

GBP/EUR Exchange Rate

GBP/EUR Exchange Rate

FTSE100 Index Level

FTSE100 Index Level

Comparison: inflation rate, interest rate and annual percentage changes in the GBP/EUR exchange rate and the FTSE 100

Comparison: inflation rate, interest rate and annual percentage changes in the GBP/EUR exchange rate and the FTSE 100

So what do we learn from this exercise? Putting them all together, apart from it being a pretty busy chart, we can see that, in the financial world, things go up and down. Nothing amazingly newsworthy there, but it is appreciating the size and frequency of these movements, in either direction, which is key. Then it is a case of seeing how these movements compare with the other factors. For a British immigrant in Europe who is paid in sterling, there has been a 20% fall in the spending power of his pounds since 2004. Interest rates have been below 1% for 10 years. Inflation, on the other hand, has averaged almost 3% since 2004. Put all of these together and for the cautious investor, finding the right home for savings has been more than tricky.

As much as people may be fearful of investing in stocks and shares, the fact is that over time, especially in the last 15 years, people have seen good returns when a considered and careful managed approach is taken. For those who are nervous about putting their money directly into stocks and shares, but want to, or even need to, have their money grow at least at the rate of inflation, we feel that we have the solution. As you will see from the chart below featuring a fund available to both UK and Spanish residents, keeping on top of inflation has been possible in almost every year in the last 14 and people have seen their funds grow consistently but with only a fraction of the risk of stockmarkets.

A Solution

PruFund Growth

The Spectrum IFA Group has been operating in Europe for many years; I have been with them since 2004 helping my clients through the volatility described above. With so much uncertainty, why not see if what we have available to us will be of interest to you?

Let us help you to put everything in perspective.

* Sources
Interest rates – Mortgage Strategy
Exchange rates – XE Money Transfer
FTSE100 – Yahoo Finance
Inflation – Iamkate
PruFund – Prudential

No warranty is made as to the accuracy of any information on third party websites and no liability is accepted for any errors and omissions or for any damage or injury to persons or property arising out of the use or operation of any materials, instructions, methods or ideas contained on such websites.

The danger of waiting for Brexit

By John Hayward - Topics: BREXIT, Interest rates, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 22nd February 2019

22.02.19

There are many questions that we don´t know the answers to regarding Brexit. There are also questions that we don´t yet know. However, some facts are known. One of these is concerning investing, or not, since 20th February 2016.

This was the day that David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, announced that there would be a referendum on the UK´s membership of the EU. People have been fearful due to the uncertainty as to what will happen post-Brexit.

In the last three years, life has continued in the financial world and investment markets have risen significantly. At the same time, inflation hasn´t disappeared just because Brexit is on the menu. Figure 1 below shows how the FTSE100 has performed since 20th February 2016 along with the UK Retail Price Index.

With dividends reinvested, £100,000 would be worth around £136,000 as at 18th February 2019. If we allow for inflation, this would be more like £128,000 but still 28% up. If the £100,000 had been left in a bank account, with no interest which is commonplace these days, the true value would now be more like £91,000. Waiting for Brexit has cost the wait and see person £9,000.

Figure 1. Performance of the FTSE100 since the referendum announcement in February 2016 along with the UK Retail Price Index.

There are people who are not happy taking on investments which carry risk.

If we ignore the risk of inflation for the time-being, we have solutions which can cater for those who are happy taking some investment risk but without the volatility of stocks and shares.

Figure 2 illustrates that an investment with approximately an eighth* of the risk of the FTSE100 has still managed to perform well, certainly when compared to inflation. One must bear in mind costs but, even allowing for these, people who were invested in this type of investment on 20th February 2016 would have seen an increase of around 23%.

Taking inflation into consideration, it would still have produced growth of around 14%; a lot better than “losing” 9% by leaving the money in the bank.

Figure 2. Performance of a low risk investment along with the UK Retail Price Index

With the exchange rate between GBP and Euros down about 11% over the same period, the need to receive more in income has become even more important. Losing 20% or so in real spending power has proven to be a tough pill to swallow. Get in contact so that the possible “Never Ending Story” of the Brexit can being kicked down the road doesn´t lose you even more over the coming years.

To find out how we can help you with our financial planning in a manner protecting you and your loved ones, contact me at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call/WhatsApp 0034 618 204 731

* Source: Financial Express

Investment Categories

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 3rd March 2018

03.03.18

The risk scale, i.e. volatility of return, for general investment categories sorts investments from 1, least risk, to 8, highest risk.

  1. Bank Account
  2. Cash or Money Market Funds
  3. Debt Investments: Bonds and Bond Funds
  4. Common Stocks and Shares (Equities) and Equity Funds
  5. Real Estate
  6. Collectibles and Commodities ( stamps, art, gold, diamonds, oil etc)
  7. Options
  8. Futures

Categories 1 and 2 usually have returns that are near to the rate of inflation. In other words, not a good return on your investment in the long term, though they are low risk.

Category 3 usually has better returns than 1 and 2 and in most cases Bonds provide a fairly safe investment. However, there is a wide range of risk within this category; from Junk Bonds with very high risk to Treasury Bonds with lowest risk.

Category 4 is where most investment is based. In general, mixed, managed, well balanced stock markets funds are safer than individual stocks because of diversification and professional management. The professional management allows the investor to concentrate more on family, job etc. instead of having to spend large amounts of time managing a portfolio of individual stocks.

Category 5, real estate, is a very localised investment fraught with more “negatives” than most people realise and not easy to sell at short notice i.e. illiquid. However, it can be – if bought, managed and sold correctly – a great source of wealth.

Categories 6, 7 and 8 should only be considered by experts in the relative fields. The risk is too high for investors without specialist knowledge.

Before making any investment decisions, be sure of your personal risk rating, diversify your portfolio and get advice from a Licensed Independent Financial Adviser. Call Pauline Bowden on 616 743 108 or email Pauline.bowden@spectrum-ifa.com for a free, personal, confidential consultation.

Emotional Challenge

By Chris Webb - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Madrid, Spain
This article is published on: 28th February 2018

28.02.18

THE RATIONAL, IRRATIONAL AND EMOTIONAL STRUGGLE
In such challenging times, emotions may play a significant role in investment decisions. Investors feel the variances in their portfolios’ performance much more than the average return over the life of their investments. Rationally, investors know that markets cannot keep going up indefinitely. Irrationally, we are surprised when markets decline.

IN VOLATILE MARKETS STAYING INVESTED MAY BE CHALLENGING
It is a challenge to look beyond the short-term variances and focus on the long-term averages. The greatest challenge may be in deciding to stay invested during a volatile market and a time of low consumer confidence. History has shown us that it is important to stay invested in good and bad market environments. During periods of high consumer confidence stock prices peak and during periods of low consumer confidence stock prices can come under pressure. Historically, returns trended in the opposite direction of past consumer confidence data. When confidence is low it has been the time to buy or hold.
Of course, no one can predict the bottom or guarantee future returns. But as history has shown, the best decision may be to stay invested even during volatile markets.

DECLINES MAY PRESENT OPPORTUNITIES
An emotional roller coaster ride is especially nerve-racking during a decline. However, the best opportunity to make money may be when stock prices are low. Buying low and selling high has always been one of the basic rules of investing and building wealth. Yet during these emotional and challenging times it is easy to be fearful and/or negative so let’s turn to the wise advice of one of the world’s best investors, the late Sir John Templeton:

“Don’t be fearful or negative too often. For 100 years optimists have carried the day in U.S. stocks. Even in the dark ’70s, many professional money managers—and many individual investors too—made money in stocks, especially those of smaller companies…There will, of course, be corrections, perhaps even crashes. But, over time, our studies indicate stocks do go up…and up…and up…Chances are that certain other
indexes will have grown even more. Despite all the current gloom about the economy, and about the future, more people will have more money than ever before in history. And much of it will be invested in stocks. And throughout this wonderful time, the basic rules of building wealth by investing in stocks will hold true. In this century or the next it’s still ‘Buy low, sell high’.”

Watching from the Sidelines May Cost You
When markets become volatile, a lot of people try to guess when stocks will bottom out. In the meantime, they often park their investments in cash. But just as many investors are slow to recognize a retreating stock market, many also fail to see an upward trend in the market until after they have missed opportunities for gains. Missing out on these opportunities can take a big bite out of your returns.

Euro / Dollar Cost Averaging Makes It Easier to Cope with Volatility
Most people are quick to agree that volatile markets present buying opportunities for investors with a long-term horizon. But mustering the discipline to make purchases during a volatile market can be difficult. You can’t help wondering, “Is this really the right time to buy?” Euro / Dollar cost averaging can help reduce anxiety about the investment process. Simply put, Euro / dollar cost averaging is committing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals to an investment. You buy more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high, and over time, your average cost per share may be less than the average price per share.

Euro / Dollar cost averaging involves a continuous, disciplined investment in fund shares, regardless of fluctuating price levels. Investors should consider their financial ability to continue purchases through periods of low price levels or changing economic conditions. Such a plan does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in a declining market.

Now May Be a Great Time for a Portfolio Checkup
Is your portfolio as diversified as you think it is? Meet with me to find out. Your portfolio’s weightings in different asset classes may shift over time as one investment performs better or worse than another. Together we can re-examine your portfolio to see if you are properly diversified. You can also determine whether your current portfolio mix is still a suitable match with your goals and risk tolerance.

Tune Out the Noise and Gain a Longer-Term Perspective
Numerous television stations and websites are dedicated to reporting investment news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What’s more, there are almost too many financial publications and websites to count. While the media provide a valuable service, they typically offer a very short-term outlook. To put your own investment plan in a longer-term perspective and bolster your confidence, you may want to look at how different types of portfolios have performed over time. Interestingly, while stocks may be more volatile, they’ve still outperformed income-oriented investments (such as bonds) over longer time periods.

Believe Your Beliefs and Doubt Your Doubts
There are no real secrets to managing volatility. Most investors already know that the best way to navigate a choppy market is to have a good long-term plan and a well-diversified portfolio. But sticking to these fundamental beliefs is sometimes easier said than done. When put to the test, you sometimes begin doubting your beliefs and believing your doubts, which can lead to short-term moves that divert you from your long-term goals. To keep from falling into this trap, call me before making any changes to your portfolio

The Emotions of Investing Money

By Susan Worthington - Topics: Financial Planning, Financial Review, Investment Risk, Investments, Mallorca, menorca, Spain
This article is published on: 21st February 2018

21.02.18

Most days I count my blessings for having a job that I love doing. There are the odd times when it does get challenging, but when I’m helping clients all day long they are the magic cure. Being an Expat Financial Adviser giving advice on how to invest your money means it’s vital for me to get to know my clients. That involves understanding what their passions and goals are and what their fears and dislikes are too. It’s usually two things that drive investments, fear and greed, and my job is to manage these aspects. I let the experts manage the money and I take care of the emotions.

That’s not to say that I am a psychologist or psychoanalyst, but I did take advice from one while writing this to make sure I express myself as having the best interest of the client and not just voicing my opinion! If a client does not feel comfortable with advice they receive,then it must not be right. Persuading someone to do something is not in your best interest. I may have been guilty of this in the early years of my career when we were put under pressure by our management, however, at The Spectrum IFA Group we are trained differently, and age and experience have taught me that this is not the way to keep a client.

I am an investor myself so understand that the value of your money can and will go down as well as up, yet if I believe in what I recommend I can help clients when the times are unsettling. Having patience and belief in the advice you receive is paramount. If your gut instinct says that you don’t believe any part of what you’ve already done then discuss your concerns with an Adviser.

Emotions connected to your finances can relate to varying issues because each and every one of us is different. Common symptoms are: maybe you can’t sleep, you always worry about money, you are fearful about what might happen to it, you haven’t heard from your Adviser, you’ve never done this type of thing before, what happens to your money when you die, can you lose some or all of it, what if you go back to live in the UK?

When we are younger we are prepared to take more risk with our money, but as we grow older we tend to become more cautious and have concerns about whether the money will see you through. This all needs careful managing and looking after to ensure it does what you want it to.

5 Factors I take into account before making a recommendation are: what income do you have and need to live on, what assets do you own, where do you pay your taxes, what level of risk, if any, are you prepared to take and how long do you wish to plan for.

Another point to consider for living in Menorca is where is you Adviser regulated? This is important because if you have a legal problem it ideally must be dealt with in Spain. We are registered and regulated under the DGS (Correduria de Seguros). Does it work to have someone regulated in the UK when you live under the authorities of Spain? All Spectrum Advisers are regulated in the country they live and work in, they are expected to live locally and within easy reach of their clients.

3 words to say. Reassurance, Reassurance, Reassurance. To know that all is as it’s meant to be will allow you to live your life more peacefully and happily on this beautiful island.
Menorca has a special place in my heart. I used to live and still own a property here on the island and purely demand from work made living in Mallorca more practical. My opportunity now to say thank you to all my friends and clients here who keep me having to come backwards and forwards all the time!

Has your bank in Spain paid you over 3% p.a. interest on your savings recently?

By John Hayward - Topics: Costa Blanca, Interest rates, Investment Risk, Investments, Saving, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 19th September 2017

19.09.17

The probability is that it hasn´t. However, you could have made more than 3% a year in a low risk savings plan with one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. We have many happy savers who have seen steady growth of over 3% a year for the last few years. How? Read on…

Saving money in a low interest world

Losing spending power to inflation
With special offers currently being offered by banks of 0.10% APR interest and inflation in Spain running at 1.6%, there is a guaranteed loss of the real value of money at the rate of 1.5% a year. There are some who would be disappointed, if not angry, if their money in an investment had lost 7.5% over 5 years yet this is exactly what has been happening to people over the last few years without them really appreciating it. 3% a year is not only an attractive rate of return but it is necessary to cope with inflation and provide real growth.

Spanish compliant insurance bonds
ISAs, Premium Bonds, and some other investments in the UK are tax free for UK residents. They are not tax free for Spanish residents. We are licensed to promote insurance bonds in Spain which are provided by insurance companies outside Spain but still in the EU. In fact, even after Brexit, these companies will still be EU based and so Brexit will not have the impact on these plans that it could have on UK investments. As the bonds are with EU companies, and the companies themselves disclose information to Spain on the amount invested, as well as any tax detail, the bonds are Spanish compliant which makes them extremely tax efficient. We do not deal with companies based outside the EU as we are satisfied that the regulation within the EU is for the benefit of the investor. We do not have the same confidence in some other financial jurisdictions and neither do Spain.

What investment decisions do you have to make?
Although we have the facility to personalise an investment portfolio within the parameters laid down by the EU regulators, offering discretionary fund management with some of the largest and best known investment management companies, we can also use a more simple approach for those who do not require any input into the day to day investment decisions.

So what has happened over the last 5 years?
The chart below illustrates the performance of one of fund’s available to you compared to the FTSE100 and the UK Consumer Price index. The argument to stay invested when markets fall is valid when one looks at the FTSE100 roller coaster line with the increase we have seen over the last year or so since the Brexit vote. However, anyone accessing their money around the time of the vote could have seen a 25% drop in the investment values. Not so with the fund in the insurance bond.

Real cases

Real case 1 – £40,000 invested 24/07/12. £50,770 as at 14/09/17. Up 26.92% in 5 years

Real case 2 – £356,669 invested 10/09/14. £431,177 as at 14/09/17. Up 20.88% in 3 years

Real case 3 – £316,000 invested 05/04/16. £334,422 as at 14/09/17. Up 5.82% in 18 months

Real case 4 – £80,000 invested 13/07/16. £86,160 as at 14/09/17. Up 7.70% in 15 months

Real case 5 – £20,000 invested 27/01/17. £20,712 as at 14/09/17. Up 3.56% in 8 months

These growth rates are not guaranteed but are published to illustrate what has actually happened and that the percentage returns on the fund are irrespective of the amount invested.

How can they produce such consistency?
Each quarter, the insurance company estimates what the growth rate will be for the following 12 months. This rate is reviewed based on the views of the underlying management company with people situated in all parts of the globe specialising in their own particular area. In good times, the company will hold back money that it has made so that, when things are not so good, they are still able to pay a steady rate of growth to their savers.

I don´t want to take any risk
It is difficult to avoid risk. In fact it´s practically impossible. A risky investment is seen by many as something which has a good chance of failure, either in part or completely. Stocks and shares are seen as risky whilst putting money into a bank deposit account is not. It is generally known that stocks and shares can go down as well as up but some people are unaware, or simply ignore, the risk of keeping money in a perceived “safe” bank deposit. Bank accounts have limited protection against the bank going bust. Then, if it came to the situation where a bank had to be bailed out by the government, it could take months, if not years, to access your money. As already mentioned, if the account is making less than inflation, you are losing money in real terms. So a bank account is far from risk free. The fund illustrated above is rated by Financial Express as having a risk rating of 22% of that applicable to FTSE100, much further down the risk scale and in an area that many people feel comfortable with.

What are the charges?
We explain in detail the underlying costs. In my experience, far too many people commit to a contract without understanding what they have, having received little explanation of the terms and conditions. This is where we differ to most. Different companies have different ways of charging and we run through all of the charges so that you are happy with what you have. The real examples above have had charges deducted and so these are the real values. Your bank may not charge you for the 0.10% interest (less tax) they are paying you but they are making money through investment but not passing anything on to you even though you supplied the money they invest.

What do I need to do next?
Contact me and I can review your savings, investments, and pension funds. I can then explain how you could arrange these in a tax efficient way whilst giving you the opportunity to access the growth that is available, for an improved lifestyle and to cope with rising costs.

Is lending money to a government still low risk?

By Peter Brooke - Topics: Bonds, France, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 26th July 2017

26.07.17

If you buy a government bond, sometimes called GILTS (UK), BUNDS (Germany) or T-Bills (US), as an investment, then you are effectively lending that government money. Most portfolio managers say investors should have some bond exposure in their investment portfolios as they diversify away from other assets like shares.

How do Bonds work?
You start by buying a bond on ‘issue’ for a set issue price with a ‘promise’ to pay you back the same amount in a date in the future. In the meantime, the bond pays you a ‘coupon’ or interest in payment for you lending your money. The bonds are also traded on a ‘secondary bond market’ where the price fluctuates according to supply and demand but the coupon remains the same… this means that your interest rate changes depending on what price you pay for the bond.

You can also invest in ‘funds’ of government bonds which are managed by professional managers using new issue and secondary market bonds around the world to build a diversified portfolio… but are they as low risk as they are made out to be?

Traditionally these forms of investment have always been viewed as low risk, as governments, unlike companies or individuals can always ‘print money’ and so can always pay you back. This also means that the interest rate you receive (the coupon) will be lower than company bonds.

If we consider that RISK is the chance of loss then I would argue that these investments are no longer low risk. Right now, we are in an environment where interest rates are at all-time lows around the world, inflation is starting to bite and so the chance of an interest rate increase by central banks is high; even though the rate increases may be low.

If you are holding any bond and interest rates go up, then bond values will drop, therefore I would argue that at some point you are risking a capital loss by holding government bonds. Some analysts believe that a 1% increase in interest rates could lead to a 10% capital loss on most bonds. If this is the case are you now being compensated for this risk of loss? Well, no… interest rates on government bonds are around 1% now and so with inflation higher than 1% in most countries you are losing money on an annual basis too.

So, what can you do about it? The first option is to take a little more risk and swap your government bonds for high quality corporate bonds… the coupon will be greater and as long as the companies are in good health then they should be able to repay you at the end of the term… there are also funds of corporate bonds which diversify risk.

The corporate bond market is segmented by credit rating so be aware of the level of risk this can bring to your savings… “high yield” (Europe) or “junk bonds” (US) tend to behave more like shares.

Another option would be to diversify away from western government bonds into emerging market government bond funds… there is some extra currency risk, though this can help performance too. Finally, you can outsource the choice of the bonds you buy by using a Strategic Bond fund… this will invest in corporate, government and emerging markets bonds on a strategic basis and would be very diversified.

This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice.

THE MILLIONAIRES CLUB

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 24th July 2017

24.07.17

Most of us can’t join the Millionaires Club…..or can we?

So what do Millionaires do with their money? They mostly use private banking and private investment companies to manage their wealth. These institutions are usually a closed shop for the majority of investors. The private banks often want a minimum of £500,000 just to open an account!
Most of the top 100 US investment managers would expect $5,000,000 from a private investor! This same manager’s expertise can be accessed via a life assurance bond for as little as £20,000!
The Private Investment Companies are set up by very wealthy families who are willing to pay experts to manage their fortunes.
These wealthy families are guided by a philosophy of continuity. Successive generations of the family have invented investment structures to preserve and grow their wealth.

So why should we mere mortals be interested?
A few of these Private Investment Companies have opened their doors to the public, via financial institutional structures such as portfolio bonds or Life Assurance investment bonds.

This specialist investment expertise, previously denied to the likes of you and I are now allowing investments from as little as £50,000.
That may still sound like a lot of money, yet long term savings or endowment plans, the sale of a property or your tax free lump sum payable on retirement can easily exceed this amount and needs to be “preserved and grow” just like the millionaires money.

There are, of course, many tax efficient, financial instruments and structures available to suit all levels of wealth. Designed and suited to each person’s individual requirements and future financial needs.

To take advantage of this unique opportunity or to discuss this or any other financial matters, contact me for a confidential review of your personal situation.