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
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
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.
Investments for the Cautious
By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Investment Risk, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 28th June 2017
One of the largest, most well respected, financially sound Insurance/Investment companies in the UK has an investment product compliant for residents of Spain and Gibraltar.
With 25 million customers worldwide and over 309 Billion Pounds under management, clients can feel more comfortable in the knowledge that thier assets are being well cared for by a long established, successful management team.
So what is different about this Investment Bond?
It has very low risk, with gradual steady growth, giving 3.4%+ annualised net return (after annual management charges) and up to 101.5% allocation of premium to larger investors.
For the long term cautious investor wishing to mitigate against the effects of inflation and wanting up to 5% per annum penalty free income, this could well be the perfect solution. This Life Assurance Investment Bond can be accessed from as little as €30,000, 20,000 Pounds or $30,000 and has a very competitive charging structure.
As part of an overall portfolio of assets – for the cautious part of that portfolio – it would be worth a look.
If you would like more information about this product or to make an appointment to discuss your personal needs and aspirations for your capital, please contact me for a free confidential review of your financial situation.
Investing in turbulent times – presentation, Costa del Sol
By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Costa del Sol, Events, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, Spectrum-IFA Group, wealth management
This article is published on: 15th June 2017
The Spectrum IFA Group and Tilney Investment Management co-sponsored an excellent presentation and lunch on 13th June at the exclusive Finca Cortesin Hotel & Spa on the Costa del Sol. The Spectrum IFA Group was represented by our local adviser, Charles Hutchinson, assisted by his wife Rhona and Jonathan Goodman who attended along with Richard Brown, Lewis Cohen and Harriette Collings from Tilney.
For this event, around 25 attendees were invited and selected for this exclusive venue. They were given a very interesting interactive talk by Richard and Lewis on investing in these turbulent times, followed by a mingling lunch and refreshments in the Moroccan Room where everyone was able to personally discuss their questions with staff from both companies in a glorious and relaxing setting with gardens and fountains close by. The feedback from the attendees has been most impressive.
Spectrum was very proud to be involved with Tilney in this superb event. It is hoped this will be repeated again in the future.
Smoothing out the bumps of market volatility
By Sue Regan - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, Interest rates, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 9th June 2017
In today’s environment of very low interest rates, is it wise to leave more than “your rainy day fund” sitting in the bank, probably earning way less in interest than the current rate of inflation, particularly after the taxman has had his cut…..?
In the above scenario, the real value of your capital is reducing, due to the depreciating effect on your capital of inflation. So, if you are relying on your capital to grow sufficiently to help fund your retirement or meet a specific financial goal, then you should be looking for an alternative home for your cash that will, at the very least, keep pace with inflation and thus protect the real value of your capital.
In order to achieve a better return than a cash deposit, by necessity, there is a need to take some risk. The big question is – how much risk should be taken? In reality, this can only be decided as part of a detailed discussion with the investor, which takes into account their time horizon for investment, their requirement for income and/or capital growth, as well as how comfortable they feel about short-term volatility over the period of investment.
Although inevitable, and perhaps arguably a necessity for successful investment management, it is often the volatility of an investment portfolio that can cause some people the most discomfort. Volatility often creates anxiety particularly for investors who need a regular income from their portfolio, and for this reason some people would choose to leave capital in the bank, depreciating in value, rather than have the worry of market volatility. However, this is very unlikely to meet your needs.
There is an alternative, which is to have a well-diversified investment portfolio that provides a smoothed return by ironing out the peaks and troughs of the short-term market volatility. Many of our clients find that this is a very attractive proposition.
What is a smoothed fund?
A smoothed fund aims to grow your money over the medium to long term, whilst protecting you from the short-term ups and downs of investment markets.
There are a number of funds available with differing risk profiles, to suit all investors. The funds are invested in very diversified multi-asset portfolios made up of international shares, property, fixed interest and other investments.
The smoothed funds are available in different of currencies, including Sterling, Euro and USD. Thus, if exchanging from Sterling to Euros at this time is a concern for you, an investment can be made initially in Sterling and then exchanged to Euros when you are more comfortable with the exchange rate. All of this is done within the investment and so does not create any French tax issues for you.
As a client of the Spectrum IFA Group, this type of fund can be invested within a French compliant international life assurance bond and thus is eligible for the same very attractive personal tax benefits associated with Assurance Vie, as well as French inheritance tax mitigation.
Stop Press!!! Since writing this article the UK Election has taken place resulting in a hung parliament that brings with it more political uncertainty, but also the possibility of a softer Brexit or even a second election. This makes for a testing time for investment managers and the option of a smoothed investment ever more attractive.
Why robots will never replace Investment Advice
By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 7th June 2017
Particularly when markets are/have done well like recently, Stock picking (A situation in which an analyst or investor uses a systematic form of analysis to conclude that a particular stock will make a good investment and, therefore, should be added to his or her portfolio) is somewhat discredited these days, because low-cost passive fund managers argue that their tracker model delivers better value to savers by betting on an index, not individual companies.
And there is good argument to back it up
An article in The Wall Street Journal shows that between 1926 and 2015, just 30 different shares accounted for a remarkable one-third of the cumulative wealth generated by the whole market — from a total of 25,782 companies listed during that period. These statistics demonstrate that “superstocks” are what produce the true profits in the long run.
The research also calls into question the cult of equity, which has been followed by professional investors for more than 50 years. The experts argue that shares decisively outperform bonds and cash over time. But Bessembinder’s research shows that the returns from 96% of American shares would have been matched by fixed-interest instruments, which generally offer more security and liquidity, and suffer from lower volatility than stocks.
Spotting a business that can grow 10 or 20-fold over a period of years is a rare art
Of course, getting stock selection right is very difficult indeed when such a tiny proportion of shares contribute so much to total performance. It requires investors who are truly patient and at times extremely brave.
Amazon is one of the heavy hitters that delivered a quarter of all wealth creation in the stock market during the 90 years to 2015. Yet between 1999 and 2001, the online retailer’s shares fell by 95%. Many investors probably gave up then, and having been burnt once, shunned its 650-fold appreciation over the past 16 years.
While empirically that may appear to be correct, intuitively it feels questionable
Economies grow thanks to new technologies and entrepreneurs, who run a fairly small number of outstanding companies funded through private capital. Half the top 20 wealth creators referred to above are in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and computers. Identifying those sorts of promising industries is not too hard. But I do not believe there is a computer program — or robotic system — that can pinpoint the great achievers of the next 10 or 20 years.
Choosing the special businesses and executives that will create enormous value, and probably large numbers of jobs, is as much a creative undertaking as a scientific one.
Rigorous analysis must include a host of variables that artificial intelligence would struggle to understand — adaptability, trust, motivation, ruthlessness and so forth. I suspect all the best investors emphasise the importance of judging management when backing companies; I am not confident that computers can do that better than humans. In mature economies such as the UK, such sustained compound growth happens all too rarely.
To achieve it, a business should enjoy high returns on capital, strong cash generation, plentiful long-term expansion opportunities and a powerful franchise. And you need to buy the company at a sensible valuation. In a world awash with cash, such attractive businesses command very high prices. But if you believe the model can endure, they might be worth it.
Article written by Luke Johnson, who is chairman of Risk Capital Partners and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Sources: Bessembinder’s research and The Wall Street Journal
To read the article in full, click here:
Why a robot will never pick the superstocks of the tomorrow
Reasons to Wrap
By Sue Regan - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, Investment Risk, Investments, Saving
This article is published on: 3rd March 2017
It’s no secret that the Assurance Vie (AV) is by far and away the most popular investment vehicle in France……….and for good reason! Most of you will already be familiar with these investments, or at the very least, have heard of them, but it doesn’t harm to be reminded now and again as to why they are so popular.
What are they? – An AV is simply a life assurance wrapper that holds financial assets, often with a wide choice of investments, and there is no limit on the amount that can be invested.
What’s so good about them?…..quite simply, their huge tax advantages, such as:
- Tax-free growth – funds remaining within an AV grow free of French Income and Capital Gains tax
- Simplified tax return reporting – considerable savings in terms of time and tax adviser fees
- Favourable tax treatment on withdrawals – only the gain element of any amount that you withdraw is liable to tax. There is an additional benefit after eight years in the form of an annual Income tax allowance of €4,600 for an individual and €9,200 for a married couple
- Succession tax benefits – AV policies fall outside of your estate for Succession tax and the proceeds can be left directly to any number of beneficiaries of your choice (not just the ones Napoleon thought you should leave them to!). There are very generous allowances available to beneficiaries of contracts taken out before the age of 70.
Why invest in an International Assurance Vie?
There are a number of insurance companies that have designed French compliant international AV products, aimed specifically at the expatriate market in France. These companies are typically situated in highly regulated financial centres, such as Dublin and Luxembourg. Some of the advantages of the international AV contracts are:
- The possibility to invest in multiple currencies, including Sterling and Euros.
- A large range of investment possibilities available.
- The majority of international AV policies are portable, which means that should you return to the UK, it will not be necessary to surrender the bond.
- The documentation for international bonds is available in English.
At Spectrum, we only recommend products of financially strong institutions and domiciled in highly regulated jurisdictions. If you would like to know more about these extremely tax efficient investments, or would like to have a confidential review of your financial situation, please feel free to contact me.
The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter at www.spectrum-ifa.com/spectrum-ifa-client-charter
How safe is your bank?
By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Banking, Investment Risk, Spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 27th January 2017
Which bank? Which jurisdiction? As more amazing stories come out about the world’s banks, we have seen a shift from Deposit Accounts being a low risk investment, to a much higher rated risk. So what exactly does each jurisdiction offer as security against your bank going bust?
| Isle of Man
|| Personal / Company Account
|| 50,000GBP / NIL
(from 31st January 2017, proposal by
Government to increase to 85,000GBP)
Many people in this area of Andalucia have bank accounts in Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey. Of the above list, apart from Gibraltar, these jurisdictions have the least protection for the account holder.
I often write about spreading your risk, by investing in different asset classes. Perhaps now we should also spread our bank accounts and have smaller deposits in more banks, in more jurisdictions.
It can make life a little more complicated, but it makes financial sense not to put all your eggs in one basket. At least then, if one egg gets broken, you do not lose all of them!
Holding cash as an asset class is no longer a “safe bet”. With interest rates so low now, the real value of the capital is being eroded by inflation. People that relied on the income from deposit accounts have seen their disposable income fall drastically, especially if they are sterling investors in receipt of sterling pay or pensions. Many are having to eat into their capital to maintain their lifestyles.
Alternative investment strategies need to be considered in order to protect the wealth that you already have and maximise the returns from that wealth.
Coveting the shiny stuff – Gold
By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Investment Risk, Investments, Italy, Saving, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 7th September 2016
Dear Readers, please forgive me for I have sinned. It has been quite some time since my last post and during this time I confess I have been having impure thoughts.
I have been dreaming that the UK did not vote to leave Europe. I have been dreaming that Sterling had not fallen 12% against the Euro since June 23rd and that pasta was not now 10% more expensive in the UK, I have been having impure thoughts about low(ish) inflation in the UK and not rampant price increases after BREXIT. Lastly, I have been dreaming that interest rates would rise and not fall further into negative territory, basically charging customers to hold money with them.
Forgive me for my sins and lead me not into new temptation…………GOLD
There is a lot of talk going around at the moment about gold being the best investment to hold and certainly since BREXIT it has proven its case. However, gold has some signifcant shortcomings alongside other forms of investment. Essentially, it is of pretty much no use and it does not produce any yield. True gold has some decorative and industrial uses but demand is limited and doesn’t really use up all of the production. If you hold a kilo of gold today it will still be a kilo of gold at the end of eternity (taking into account any chance events which may affect the gravitational effects on earth).
THE INVESTMENT CHOICE DILEMMA
Today the worlds total gold stores are approximately 170,000 tons. If all this gold was melded together it would form a cube of about 21 metres per side. Thats about as long as a blue whale. At $1750 per ounce, it is worth about $9.6 TRILLION.
Warren Buffet, who is not a fan of gold as an investment, is famously quoted as saying that with the same amount of money you could buy ALL US cropland (which produces about $200 billion annually), plus 16 Exxon Mobils (which earns $40 billion annually). After these purchases you would still have $1 trillion left over. (You wouldn’t want to feel strapped for cash after such a big spending spree, so best to leave some spare cash lying around)
So the Investment choice dilemma is who, given the choice, would choose PILE A over PILE B?
In 100 years from now the 400 million acres of farmland would have produced an immense amount of corn, wheat, cotton, and other crops and should continue to do so. Exxon Mobil will probably have delivered back to shareholders, in the form of dividends, trillions of dollars and will hold assets worth a lot more. The 170,000 tons of gold will still be the same and still incapable of producing anything. You can cuddle and hug the cube, and I am sure it would look very nice but I don’t think you will get much response.
So, taking all this into consideration, you would be forgiven for thinking that gold really doesn’t have a place in anyone’s portfolio. I think you would be wrong.
Gold may not produce any yield, but with people in Asia, especially China and India, gold is very popular. In addition, it is also proving very popular for nearly ALL central banks around the world. Are all they all going mad, or do they have specific reasons for holding gold?
Well, despite Warren Buffets’ musings above, gold has to be seen in todays world as another form of money as central governments continue to print more traditional money, uncontrollably, and the paper currencies that we use in everday life become more and more worthless.
We must remember that the history of gold is that it rose, on its own, as a tradeable form of money in the world. No one has been forced into using gold as a form of money, whereas paper money is controlled by the state and has never been adopted voluntarily, at any time.
So this is where Waren Buffets argument falls down, because actual money in itself has exactly the same characteristics as gold. Its value! (Gold has some minor commercial uses, but its true value is in its store of value). Therefore, it should not be considered an investment, but actually another form of money/currency. In its basic form it is a form of barter and exchange.
Unlike paper money which can just be created without limit and at next to no cost, gold is both scarce and expensive to mine. It takes 38 man hours to produce one ounce, about 1400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for 10 days, upto 565 cubic feet of air under pressure and lots of toxic chemicals, cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. (Just writing this makes me feel sick about the environmental impact of mining gold).
So, in summary the problem with the PILE A and Pile B scenario is that it assumes that gold is a form of investment, whereas in reality it should be considered another form of money.
For 6000 years gold has been an effective store of value.
The correct comparison that should be made is gold versus cash. Imagine a gigantic pile of cash. This pile of cash would be as equally inert and equally unproductive as gold, in itself.
The only way you could earn anything from gold or cash, in this case, is by depositing it with a bank and earning interest, at which point you relinquish your ownership (it becomes the property of the bank) and you then become an unsecured creditor to the bank itself, i.e if the bank fails it has the legal right to take all your gold and cash. Sound familiar? It might be better to hold true gold in a safe at home!
The question is whether you invest directly in gold or the gold mining companies themselves?
Timing the markets
By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, Uncategorised, wealth management
This article is published on: 29th August 2016
Staying the course
Every market cycle has both up days and down days. Often, a few very good days account for a large part of the total return. Staying the course ensures that investments will be “in” the market on the good days. Some people try to time market movements by selling stocks when they think the market is about to decline and by buying stocks when they think the market is about to rise. Resist being a market timer. By trying to time the market, you potentially miss out on market rallies that could substantially improve your overall return and long-term wealth. Thus, what’s most important is not timing the market, but rather time IN the market. Staying the course when confronting difficult markets may prove very rewarding in the long run. Consistently predicting which days will move in which direction, though, is virtually impossible and can be very costly.
Diversifying your portfolio
Diversification may reduce the overall volatility of your entire portfolio, thereby helping you achieve greater long-term returns. It is important to remember, however, that diversification does not protect against loss in broadly declining markets. Like markets in general, different investment styles come in and out of favour in Cycles Rather than trying to predict which investment is likely to be the best performer in the future, investing in a well-diversified portfolio can help you to seek returns whilst managing for volatility. Diversification strategies may be especially important in a volatile market environment, when sector rotations and market fluctuations happen continuously.