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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.

5 reasons cash might not be king

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 16th May 2022

16.05.22

In the words of Warren Buffett, “The one thing I will tell you is the worst investment you can have is cash”.

If one of the world’s most successful investors believes this, let’s look at some of the reasons why holding large amounts of cash is bad for long-term financial planning.

Inflation
We all need access to cash for daily spending and emergencies, so it is important that you hold enough cash on deposit for if the boiler breaks! But holding large amounts of cash over long periods is damaging when the interest rates are well below the rate of inflation.

To illustrate this in real terms, if your annual spending was £10,000 in 2011, you would need £12,968 in 2021 to make the same purchases as inflation averaged 2.6% p.a. However, during that same period, the average savings account interest rate was 1.6% p.a. so the same £10,000 in a bank account would only have grown to £ 10,160.

Low-interest rates

Interest rates offered by banks to customers rarely beat inflation, so using this as a long-term savings strategy is not ideal.

According to the most recent data available provided by the Bank of England and Portugal, the average UK deposit interest rate offered in December 2021 was 0.3% and the average rate in Portugal was 0.06% as at December 2020.

With inflation currently sitting at 5.4% and 3.3% for the UK and Portugal respectively, we can see that inflation will rapidly erode the value of your savings.

Taxation
One of the commonly overlooked factors when making any investment is the tax consequence. In the UK there are great tax-free savings vehicles such as ISAs, but here in Portugal, the choice is much more limited but that does not mean that tax-efficient savings are not available.

For those with NHR, there is not so much of a concern as foreign earned interest is tax-free. However, for normal residents, all interest paid is taxable at 28%. Please note, interest from bank accounts held in blacklisted jurisdictions such as Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man is always taxable at 35%.

5 reasons cash might not be king

Investments usually outperform cash in the long-term
Most people feel more comfortable holding cash, maybe because they do not understand the stock market or they are reluctant to seek financial advice.

It is true, investing in the stock market does carry some risk and you will experience volatility which can be unnerving, but over the long-term markets have outperformed cash.

The Barclays Equity Gilt Study 2019 analysed cash, equity and gilt performance from 1899 to 2019 and it found that £100 invested in cash in 1899 would be worth £20,000 in 2019; a stark contrast to the £2.7m it would worth if invested in equities over the same period.

We might not all live to see returns over 120 years, but even with the global health and economic crisis today, many global stock markets finished the year higher than they started. For example, Morningstar’s Global Markets index was up nearly 15% by mid-Dec 2021, whilst banks were offering returns below 1%.

Dividends
Stocks and shares pay dividends in addition to the expectation that their price will increase. Cash only pays interest, and with inflation, there is a near-certain expectation our cash value will erode in real terms over time.

Lastly, what are the alternatives? Simply put, investing. What you should be investing in and where will be dependent on several factors such as your goals and the risk you can, and are prepared to, take. If you would like to discuss your options, please get in touch.

Bonds – still a low-risk investment?

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: Investment Bonds, Investment Risk, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 5th May 2022

05.05.22

Are bonds going out of fashion?

Bonds, which are fixed income instruments, are probably one of the most popular asset classes along with equities, and have been used by organisations to raise funds for many years. Because these instruments pay regular interest (coupons), they are attractive to investors, but are bond investments really as good as people think they are?

Let’s begin by defining what bonds actually are. A bond is a debt instrument, meaning that the organisation that issues them, be it a government or a private corporation, is obtaining a loan from the general public. The reason for opting to get a loan from the public rather than a traditional bank is simple; they will pay less interest making it a much cheaper method to finance a project. An example of a bond would be one maturing in 10 years’ time, paying an annual interest rate (coupon) of 2.5%. This simply means that if an investor had to purchase €1,000 worth of this bond issue, they will receive €25 per year for 10 years and they will get the initial amount (principal) of €1,000 back at maturity. The fact that money is being received every year tends to deceive investors. The truth is, for a coupon as low as 2.5% they will just be moving in line with inflation, which has been around 2-3% in recent years and has started to creep up in recent months. This means that with such an investment they are not adding value to their wealth and actually risk losing value.

Investment Bonds

After reading this you might be wondering what investments could help you beat inflation.

Over the past 10 years the asset classes that have performed the best have been US equities and REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) (www.blackrock.com/corporate/insights/blackrock-investment-institute/interactive-charts/return-map).

Debt, or bonds, has been one of the weakest performers across the board, and this has contributed to the fall in popularity of this asset class. The best approach would be to invest in a diversified basket of assets with well-established fund managers, with a track record of good returns. This will not only reduce the risk of bad performance and value destruction thanks to inflation, but will also give you exposure to higher returns.

If you are interested in discussing this matter further, or any other topic, feel free to reach out to one of our advisers. We will be more than happy to sit down with you and go over all the questions you might have.

We do not charge any fees for our initial consultations and there is no obligation to proceed further.

Saving tax in Spain

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Investments, Spain, Tax Efficient Savings
This article is published on: 19th April 2022

19.04.22

Thank goodness for the Spanish compliant investment bond!

It is a very efficient way that we can legitimately avoid taxation in Spain, as long as we purchase the correct financial products.

In the UK most people are well aware of the tax-saving nature of pension plans and ISA’s. The Spanish compliant investment bond is a tax-efficient investment solution that can be used to invest in a wide range of fully licensed and regulated investment funds while also reducing or negating your Capital Gains Tax liability.

Spain has a reputation for being a relatively ‘high-tax’ country. As a result, many UK Expats manage their affairs in such a way as to ensure the continuation of UK tax residence. The situation is becoming a greater challenge for those that find themselves spending more time in Spain each year. The Spanish tax authorities now require individuals to show concrete proof of time spent outside the country. Brexit has exacerbated the issue further; anyone who finds themselves in an ambiguous position should take professional advice to clarify their status.

Those that have chosen to take up permanent residency in Spain may find that their UK investment platforms, though tax efficient in the UK, are not so in Spain. Meeting a fully licensed Financial Adviser here in Spain could help review your current investment holdings and advise on their suitability for tax efficiency in Spain.

Based on our expectation that most people are looking for a positive return from investment markets over the medium to long term, our recommendation is that the investment product is held for a period of 5 to10 years. Whilst the appropriate holding period for each individual client will be determined by their personal investment objectives the term should be sufficient to recover from short term volatility in investment markets.

Investing During War Times

By Chris Burke - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 7th March 2022

07.03.22

Off the back of the current situation in Ukraine, many of my clients have been asking me what this means for their investment and pension portfolios. Irrespective of the size and scope of the conflict, any declaration of war has global repercussions. Instability in one area of the world will result in a ripple effect, effecting other areas of the world regardless of the countries involved. Yes, this is likely to affect your investments and your pensions but the key takeaway is that you should not worry. If you are panicking, please reach out to me and we can have a conversation about it. There are even areas of opportunity in war times and stocks in certain sectors have even bucked the trend and outperformed. In this article, I will discuss investing in war times, including the current conflict in Ukraine, and the impact that this has on the stock market performance and the wider economy.

The Current Conflict in Ukraine
In the case of the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the heavy sanctions inflicted on Russia already have and will continue to heavily effect the global economy. The sanctions are amongst the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a country, and include preventing the Russian Government from accessing up to 600 billion USD in foreign cash reserves which they hold in foreign banks around the world, banning Russia from SWIFT (thus preventing Russians from using various credit and debit cards to make payments) and the freezing of the assets of some Russian individuals around the world ranging from bank accounts, property and even private yachts.

Various multinational companies have also ceased or reduced their operations in Russia (at least temporarily). For example, Apple have closed their Russian stores, Shell and BP have sold their stakes or abandoned their Russian operations and a magnitude of aviation companies such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Boeing have either halted their flights to Russia (note that there have also been significant alterations to the accessibility of international airspace) or in Boeing’s case, suspended parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines.

Stock Market Performance

The conflict does not solely impact the Russian economy. A large number of countries throughout the world export products to Russia. If this is no longer possible, then they will see a reduction in profits, which will then go on to affect their balance sheet. Furthermore, many countries in the world import products from Russia. The key product in this case is oil, a vital energy source. Although the supply of oil has not yet been cut, we have already seen a rise in petrol prices in many countries such as the UK. Other popular Russian products such as vodka are likely to be hit. Due to the decrease in supply, we are likely to see both shortages and a rise in price of Russian products such as vodka.

However, it is very difficult to predict exactly what will happen. For this reason, when making personal finance related decisions it is recommended that you engage in a professional discussion with a professional financial adviser. In times of war in particular, it is recommended that people seek the advice of an expert to help them manage their portfolios.

Previous Wars and Their Impact on Stock Market Performance
It’s important that we consider previous wars and the impact that they had on the stock market. Some civil wars and internal conflicts, such as those in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) and the Central African Republic in 2013, caused severe disturbances in those countries’ economies. However, from a global perspective, these wars did not cause disturbances in the stock market of first-world nations such as the USA. On the other hand, large-scale wars such as World War 1 and 2 did effect the US market, even before the US entered the conflict.

Global markets in the past operated very differently from how they operate today. For example, prior to World War 1 every country operated independently and the countries that operated in global trade were seen as at ‘gold standard’ level. London was the world’s financial capital and used in this way when a financial centre was necessary, however the requirements and responsibilities were very different when compared to nowadays.

At the close of World War 2, significant changes were made to the global financial system which increased interdependence between countries. The World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) were created, and from then on stocks reacted very differently from World War 1 and World War 2 when conflicts arose.

It’s also important to consider the popularity of the war on the home front and the amount of time in which the war goes on for. For example, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War both saw very different stock market outcomes in the USA due to the difference in popularity of the wars amongst Americans. Furthermore, the Afghanistan War lasted almost 20 years. In this 20 years, the markets saw both highs and lows. Ultimately, the longer a war goes on the less reactive a market is to its influence. A war may start to be seen as a ‘Business as usual’ type of operation.

I created the below table, summarising previous wars and their impact on the economy and stock market performance (I used the Dow Jones stock market as a comparison).

WAR EFFECT ON ECONOMY
World War 1
  • Nations that imported more than they exported lost gold reserves, negatively impacting their economies, because the slow economic conditions saw greater demand for exports
  • When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, what is considered as the start catalyst of the war, the stock market was barely effected
  • When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914, the Dow Jones dropped by 30% and the market had to close to maintain order and stability. When it opened a few months later, it sawed up by 88% and continued to rise until late 1916
  • When the US declared War in Germany in 1917, the stock market took a hit and continued trending downwards into 1918. It didn’t recover fully until mid 1919, on the news that the war was over
World War 2
  • The US was just emerging from the Great Depression in 1939 when the war started. In the early days of the war the Dow Jones increased over 10%, offering hope that the geopolitical environment would put an end to the challenging economic times. However, the conflict started to disrupt international trade and after this initial boost, the market started to fall significantly
  • Rapid action from various impacted Governments around the world prevented the stock market from falling further than it did
  • From 1939 to the end of the war in 1945, the Dow Jones was up 50%. Considering the economic conditions, this was a rather unexpected gain. The gain was put down to the various international cooperation agreements which succeeded in stabilising and growing the US economy
Korean War
  • The Dow Jones dropped around 5% on the first day – the war was a shock to most investors
  • The recovery was fast, and by the time the war ended in 1953 the Dow Jones was up almost 60%. This is thought to be due to a number of Government policies such as increasing taxes and not borrowing money to fund the war.
Vietnam War
  • The Dow Jones grew by 43% from the start to the end of the war (1965 to 1973), despite its low popularity
  • However, it was not all plain sailing. The Government’s decisions on funding the war caused inflation, setting off a mild recession in 1970
Gulf War
  • The Gulf War only lasted for 7 months. Due to its shortness, it is more difficult to separate the changes caused by the conflicts from those related to other world events. For example oil prices increased, causing a brief recession, which is an unusual event for war times
  • When comparing the Gulf War with the previous wars, the US economy has changed a lot. The economy changed from processing natural resources and manufacturing capital goods to primarily knowledge based work (producing information and services). This may have meant that the stock market reacted differently during this war compared to previous wars.
Afghanistan War
  • The Afghanistan War lasted for almost 20 years, making it difficult to measure the impact of the war
  • There were two crashes (2008 Global Financial Crisis and 2020 Covid Pandemic) which were both followed by quick recoveries, however these were largely unrelated to the war
  • Industries such as Real Estate, Data Processing and Information Services and Computer Systems design and related services saw huge growth, suggesting that the war did not influence them. Shares in industry-leading defense contractors also profited significantly during the war.

Do any Patterns Emerge from Historical Stock Market Performance During War Times?
In the early days, there is certainly volatility. For example, both the FTSE and the Dow Jones took a dip last week (25/02/22) when Russia invaded Ukraine, however both have recovered since then. Logic dictates that this volatility continues throughout war times, however history has shown that this is not always the case. Yes, during pre-war times and at the beginning of a war (especially if there is no escalation period and the war breaks out suddenly without warning) stocks prices tend to decline due to shock and uncertainty. However, once war begins, history has shown that the stock market goes up, as has been the case with the Dow Jones and the FTSE this week (as of 03/03/22).

Generally speaking, there is no need to panic. Panic selling stocks and investments at the start of a war could prove to be a very bad move, considering that early sharp drops tend to be followed by steady gains. However, it is also important to note that the world is changing and that historical patterns may not play out again in future conflicts. Economics and the way in which the stock market behaves is very complex and depends on a variety of internal and external factors such as earnings, valuation, inflation, interest rates, and overall economic growth. Regardless of world events, investors should maintain proven strategies to protect and grow portfolios. The best way in which you could do this is to speak with an expert, and have your investment portfolio professionally managed.

If you would like to speak with an expert, Chris Burke is able to review your pensions, investments and other assets, with the potential to make them more effective moving forward. If you would like to find out more or to talk through your situation and receive expert, factual advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Chris via the form below:

What is a good investment return?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 11th February 2022

11.02.22

This was a question posed to me by a client recently. I was taken aback by the question as most clients (rightly or wrongly) tend to have fixed expectations about what a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ return is. It was an excellent question and I answered by saying that ‘good’ isn’t absolute; it is relative to the economic and financial environment in which we live.

For example, I remember walking into Cheltenham & Gloucester, Manchester in 1997 and opening a savings account and earning 7.5% per annum! Back then, the Bank of England base rate was 7.25%. If at the same time you were achieving a 7.5% pa return by investing in say, shares or gold, this would not be a ‘good’ rate of return because you would be taking much more risk to achieve the same return as that offered by the bank and only a few basis points above the base rate.

So, with the Bank of England interest rate currently sitting at 0.50% and the ECB base rate at a negative figure of -0.50%, a 4% or 5% pa return looks very attractive today, even though it would not have done in 1997.

Another factor we need to consider when assessing what a ‘good’ return means is the level of risk we take to achieve the return.

In constructing our portfolios at Spectrum, we always consider performance in the context of risk taken to achieve that return. For example, two funds can both achieve a 5% pa return but one fund may have fallen in value by 20% whereas another fund may be down just 5%. Clearly, the latter is a better fund.

We can analyse this in more detail by considering “scatter diagrams” which is an interesting way of looking beyond headline performance figures.

investment return

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR A LARGER VIEW

This type of chart shows performance on the vertical axis and compares this with volatility on the horizontal axis, which is a measure of risk.

Ideally, we want a fund that is in the top left of the chart i.e. it has very low risk and a very high return. Unfortunately, we know that we cannot have our cake and eat it and in the real world we have to take risk to achieve return, but the important thing that these types of charts highlight is if you are taking risk and not being rewarded for it.

For example in the above chart, fund B (purple square on the far right) is taking a high level of risk relative to the other funds as it is the furthest right on the horizontal axis and it is achieving a high level of performance as it sits high up on the vertical axis. Now, looking at fund A (aqua square second from the right), it has achieved a higher level of performance than fund B but has experienced much less volatility. It is clearly a superior fund, achieving higher performance with less risk.

The other factors we must also take into account when considering what a ‘good’ return means are the cost of running the investment and the impact of taxation.

Ensure you consider all costs when assessing whether you are getting a good return or not. Each fund manager will charge a percentage ongoing fee, but do not forget to factor in transaction costs on buying and selling investments.

Often more damaging is the taxation. Are you paying capital gains tax on each transaction as it occurs? Could you roll this up instead and benefit from compounding? Or are the tax implications impacting the decisions you make as an investor?

For example, a buy-to-let property that offers an attractive gross yield of 6% per annum looks like a good return on the surface, but once ongoing costs and tax are factored in, your net yield could be much lower, at around 2-3%.

Lastly, when comparing investments, you must always do a like-for-like comparison. So when you are benchmarking your investment ensure it is against its peers, for example, there is no point in comparing the gross return of your buy-to-let property against a BP stock you hold.

Investment performance and reliability

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: investment diversification, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 20th January 2022

20.01.22

Investment decisions can be confusing; there are just so many options! The most important thing to check is that the assets selected suit your profile and needs, and that the company handling your money is financially sound with a solid reputation. One range of funds we find works consistently well for our clients here at The Spectrum IFA group is from Prudential International. These funds are called PruFunds.

PruFunds start off by spreading investments across different asset classes. The various funds on offer contain assets such as equities, bonds, property, commodities and cash. This balances the performance of the funds as a whole, avoiding the volatility that comes when money is invested in a single asset class. This is known as diversification. All PruFund funds are managed by Prudential’s specialist and highly successful multi-asset portfolio management team. The size of these funds allows Prudential to invest in a wide range of assets globally and across many economic sectors, further adding to the diversification.

investment performance

The second notable and valuable feature of PruFunds is its ‘smoothing’ mechanism. The particular attraction of the smoothing process is that investment profits are held back from market highs to protect your investment from suffering the full lows of market crashes. A steady return is something most investors greatly appreciate.

PruFunds are widely recognised for strong long-term investment performance, reliability of returns and insulation from stock market volatility. This protection from volatility, achieved through the risk-managed smoothing mechanism, is a feature of the funds which is particularly appropriate for investors seeking a balance between capital growth and preservation.

This is just a taste of what PruFund has to offer. If you have further questions, or wish to have a closer look at the various fund options available, feel free to contact us. Our initial meetings are free of charge and entirely without obligation.

Find out more about the PruFund here

Investment options

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 18th January 2022

18.01.22

Trust in the financial sector

Choosing investments can be daunting to someone who does not have a good understanding of financial matters. It is normal to feel intimidated when facing something you don’t understand, and it is a reaction many people have when considering investing their money.

For these people, the ideal investment is often something they can see and touch. Such investments are usually the purchase of property to let, or the establishment of some sort of business selling goods or services. Done correctly such ventures can be very profitable, but these types of investments require a lot of time and money, so they might not be suitable for most people.

An alternative is investing in financial markets, but how can you overcome the mental block when attempting to allocate your money? The best first step is to consult an adviser who will walk you through the key points of such investments, explaining the potential risks and also rewards of different investment options, and who will take the time to come up with the correct solution for you.

investment options

However, the most important step to get more comfortable with financial markets is to actually start investing. An analogy I like to use is of a person who has never been swimming, fearing that something terrible would happen if they were to get into the water. Typically, they would start by dipping their toes and legs in, getting a feel for this un-chartered territory. Once they feel comfortable, they will continue to walk further out, until eventually they will be completely at ease in the water. This is the approach new investors should take when looking to enter this “new world”.

If you are feeling confused or overwhelmed with all the different investment options available to you, feel free to reach out to one of our advisers. In the initial meeting we will be able to help you understand better what will suit you best and can answer all the questions you might have. All initial meetings are free of charge and there is no obligation to proceed with an investment.

Investment diversification

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 12th January 2022

12.01.22

A word which seems so simple, a concept that many think they can easily master, but do you fully appreciate what diversification means? If you check the meaning of diversification, you would find that in business terms it is usually the act of varying the range of products or services offered, or broadening the field of operations. In investment terms it has a similar meaning. Diversification involves spreading your money across different assets and asset categories.

Most of the time when people tell me that they are investing and I ask them if they have Investment diversification, I am met with a resounding “Yes, of course”. They then might go on to explain what they invested in and it is usually things which they would have come across on social media or heard about from another “investor”. These portfolios might comprise shares in a few US companies, a couple of US bonds and possibly some cryptocurrency for a touch of risk. Such a portfolio would seem OK to someone who had just begun investing some spare cash, but is it diversified?

Such a portfolio is not really diversified at all, and I will explain why. Starting off with the first part which is an investment in a few different shares. Firstly, they are all from one geographical region, meaning if something dramatic happened in US stock-markets, they would probably all be affected to some extent. Secondly, inexperienced investors often buy shares based on something they have read online or something they have heard from a friend or colleague. These investments are typically in growth stocks, in other words shares in companies which are perceived to have strong earnings potential and growth prospects, but often with a correspondingly high share price. Investing exclusively in this type of company may prove successful but also carries significant risk, as the expectation of highly profitable growth (sometimes reflected in an inflated share price) may not be realised for many years, if at all. This is why it is sometimes sensible to include more mature company shares in a portfolio, or possibly shares in a company paying good and sustainable dividends.

investment diversification

Moving on to the bond part of the portfolio, often this would be one or two bonds issued by the US government, maturing in say 10 years. It might also include a corporate bond to add a little bit of diversification. But how much attention has been given to the financial strength of the company issuing the bond or the bond’s yield to maturity (how much is received in regular income up to the date the bond matures). These are just a couple of basic questions that should be asked when considering direct investment in a corporate bond.

This brings us to the cryptocurrency portion of the portfolio, often consisting of holdings in popular names such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, or in a new ‘crypto’ trending online. Although I have nothing against a small allocation to cryptocurrency, it should always be treated as speculative with the likelihood of volatility and a high risk of capital loss. I sometimes question whether people investing in cryptocurrency understand the basics of this asset class, including its regulatory status and its ability to function as a currency. To read more about cryptocurrency – click here

One question all investors should be asking about diversification is how to achieve maximum returns with minimum risk. Or, put another way, how to make the most of their money without jeopardising their financial security. A well-diversified portfolio should include exposure to a range of asset classes, for example shares, bonds, property, commodities and cash. Investments should also not be restricted to a single country or geographic region, nor to a single theme or economic sector.

In practice, most people do not have the time or knowledge required to build a well-diversified portfolio which achieves the right balance between risk and reward, between capital growth and capital preservation. At Spectrum, on behalf of our clients, we therefore focus on identifying professional investment managers who specialise in maximising returns from efficient portfolio diversification.

If you have any questions regarding asset diversification and investment returns, our advisers are available to help. We do not charge fees for initial consultations and you have no obligation to use our services after meeting us. Please get in touch to learn more.

Investment bonds in Italy

By The Spectrum IFA Group Italy - Topics: Investment Bonds, Investment Risk, Investments, Italy
This article is published on: 22nd October 2021

22.10.21

If you are resident in Italy, or planning to move here, it is important to complete a review of your investments to avoid unnecessary and expensive tax liabilities locally. It is well known that how to handle your finances is one of the major challenges of moving to a new country – the tax and legal systems are different, and on top of this, everything is in a language you might not fully understand. An experienced adviser based in Italy will help to ensure your finances are arranged both tax-efficiently and appropriately for your individual circumstances.

The best time to carry out a review of your investments and to develop a long-term financial plan is before you make the move. This is something many people don’t consider, but acting early allows you to make the most of valuable planning opportunities and to avoid costly mistakes, for example with the timing of a property sale or taking a pension lump sum. But even if you are already here, it is never too late to make sure you are making the most of your money.

There are many ways of saving and investing as an Italian tax resident, including with banks, in directly held portfolios, in collective investments, and in trust and pension structures. Taxation in Italy is complex, and you will need an accountant to help you with tax returns. One structure that is highly tax efficient, which simplifies annual tax declarations and is also widely used across Europe, is the investment bond.

The 10 benefits of investment bonds in Italy

There are several advantages to using life insurance investment bonds for Italian residents:

  1. Tax deferral during the accumulation phase – unlike a directly held portfolio which attracts ongoing capital gains tax and income tax, investment growth within a bond is not taxable (income and gains are able to accumulate on a ‘gross roll up’ basis)
  2. Low effective tax rates when withdrawing funds from the policy – when withdrawing funds from an investment bond, the withdrawal is split into two components: the initial capital, and the growth element. Tax of 26% is due only on the growth element of the withdrawal, so effective tax rates are low.
  3. Gains are calculated net of all costs – directly held investments in Italy are always less efficient than a life insurance bond.
  4. Availability of asset management services otherwise inaccessible to Italian residents – there is a wide range of investment options, including EU authorised funds, discretionary portfolios and index trackers, all available in the currency of your choice.
  5. Your money is outside the Italian financial system – investments are held securely in Ireland or Luxembourg.
  6. Simplification of reporting and ongoing tax administration – there is only a single asset to declare in your tax return whatever the number of investments within the bond, as opposed to the complicated declarations necessary for directly-held foreign assets.
  7. Reduction in VAT – asset management services in Italy generally attract VAT at 22%, but using a life insurance bond results either in a substantial reduction to, or an exemption from, VAT.
  8. Inheritance tax savings – beneficiaries named in a life insurance bond receive the proceeds free from Italian inheritance tax.
  9. Portability – the investment bond structure is widely recognised in other jurisdictions, so you do not necessarily have to encash your investment if you relocate. However, care is necessary to take into account the differences between tax laws, so take advice prior to moving jurisdictions.
  10. Time apportionment relief on return to the UK – if you decide to return to the UK, investment bonds are particularly attractive as time apportionment relief under UK tax rules state that only investment growth generated whilst resident in the UK is taxable.

Whilst the ideal time to review your finances is before you move, we can also help if you are already resident in Italy. Contact one of our advisers (free of charge and without obligation) for an introductory discussion and an outline of how we can help.