Category: UK investor compensation

Top 10 Investment Guidelines

The media would have you believe that a successful investment experience comes from picking stocks, timing your entry and exit points, making accurate predictions and outguessing the market. Is there a better way?

It’s true that some people do get lucky by making bets on certain stocks and sectors or getting in or out at the right time or correctly guessing movements in interest rates or currencies. But depending on luck is simply not a sustainable strategy.

The alternative approach to investment may not sound as exciting, but is also a lot less work. It essentially means reducing as far as possible the influence of fortune, taking a long-term view and starting with your own needs and risk appetite.

Of course, risk can never be completely eliminated and there are no guarantees about anything in life. But you can increase your chances of a successful investment experience if you keep these 10 guidelines in mind:

Let the market work for you. Prices of securities in competitive financial markets represent the collective judgment of millions of investors based on current information. So, instead of second guessing the market, work with it.

Investment is not speculation. What is promoted in the media as investment is often just speculation. It’s about making short-term and concentrated bets. Few people succeed this way, particularly after you take fees into account.

Take a long-term view. Over time, capital markets provide a positive rate of return. As an investor risking your capital, you have a right to the share of that wealth. But keep in mind, the return is not there every day, month or year.

Consider the drivers of returns. Differences in returns are explained by certain dimensions identified by academic research as pervasive, persistent and robust. So it makes sense to build portfolios around these.

Practise smart diversification. A sound portfolio doesn’t just capture reliable sources of expected return. It reduces unnecessary risks like holding too few stocks, sectors or countries. Diversification helps to overcome that.

Avoid market timing. You never know which markets will be the best performers from year to year. Being well diversified means you’re positioned to capture the returns whenever and wherever they appear.

Manage your emotions. People who let their emotions dictate their decisions can end up buying at the top when greed is dominant and selling at the bottom when fear takes over. The alternative is to remain realistic.

Look beyond the headlines. The media is by necessity focused on the short term. This can give you a distorted impression of the market. Keep up with the news by all means, but you don’t have to act on it.

Keep costs low. Day to day moves in the market are temporary, but costs are permanent. Over time, they can put a real dent in your wealth plans. That’s why it makes sense to be mindful of fees and expenses.

Focus on what you can control. You have no control over the markets, but in consultation with advisor acting in your interests you can create a low-cost, diversified portfolio that matches your needs and risk tolerance.

That’s the whole story in a nutshell. Investment is really not that complicated. In fact, the more complicated that people make it sound the more you should be sceptical.

The truth is markets are so competitive that you can save yourself much time, trouble and expense by letting them work for you. That means structuring a portfolio across the broad dimensions of return, being mindful of cost and focusing on your own needs and circumstances, not what the media is trying to sell you.

ISA inheritability makes ‘allowance’ for your spouse

Details have begun to emerge on how the new inheritable ISA rules will operate. And the good news is that it will be achieved by an increased ISA allowance for the surviving spouse rather than the actual ISA assets themselves. This means clients won’t have to revisit their wills.

How the rules will work.

If an ISA holder dies after 3 December, their spouse or civil partner will be allowed to invest an amount equivalent to the deceased’s ISA into their own ISA via an additional allowance. This is in addition to their normal annual ISA limit for the tax year and will be claimable from 6 April 2015. This means the surviving spouse can continue to enjoy tax free investment returns on savings equal to the deceased ISA fund. But it doesn’t have to be the same assets which came from the deceased’s ISA which are paid into their spouses new or existing ISA. The surviving spouse can make contributions up to their increased allowance from any assets.

What it means for estate planning

By not linking the transferability to the actual ISA assets, it provides greater flexibility and doesn’t have an adverse impact on estate planning that your client may have already put in place. For example, had it been the ISA itself which had to pass to the spouse to benefit from the continued tax privileged status, it could have meant many thousands of ISA holders having to amend their existing Wills. Where the spouse was not the intended beneficiary under the Will or where assets would have been held on trust for the spouse – a common scenario – the spouse would miss out on the tax savings on offer. Instead it’s the allowance which is inherited, not the asset. This means that, even in the scenarios described above, the spouse can benefit by paying her own assets into her ISA and claiming the higher allowance. And the deceased’s assets can be distributed in accordance with their wishes, as set out in their Will.

The tax implications

The tax benefits of an ISA are well documented. Funds remain free of income tax and capital gains when held within the ISA wrapper. And it’s the continuity of this tax free growth for the surviving spouse where the new benefit lies. It’s an opportunity to keep savings in a tax free environment. But the new rules don’t provide any additional inheritance tax benefits. The rules just entitle the survivor to an increased ISA allowance for a limited period after death. The actual ISA assets will be distributed in line with the terms of the Will (or the intestacy rules) and remain within the estate for IHT. Where they pass to the spouse or civil partner, they’ll be covered by the spousal exemption. Even then, ultimately the combined ISA funds may be subject to 40% IHT on the second death.

With ISA rules and pension rules getting ever closer, it may be worth some clients even considering whether to take up their increased ISA allowance if the same amount could be paid into their SIPP. This would achieve the same tax free investment returns as the ISA and the same access for client’s over 55. But the benefit would be that the SIPP will be free of IHT and potentially tax free in the hands of the beneficiaries if death is before 75.

What’s next?

The new allowance will be available from 6 April 2015 for deaths on or after 3 December. Draft legislation is expected before the end of the year and the final position will become clear after a short period of consultation. The new inherited allowance will complement the new pension death rules – a welcome addition to the whole new world of tax planning opportunities for advisers and their clients from next April.

In these times of financial stress, how well protected are your investments?

Given the current turmoil in the world markets with banks going bust and insurance companies needing emergency loans to keep afloat you could be forgiven for worrying about the security of your money. However, all is not lost.

In the UK when an insurance company, bank or broker goes bust there is an organisation called the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which provides compensation to investors and policyholders who have lost out. The FSCS is funded by levies on the companies authorised to trade in the market place. The levels of compensation that it can pay depend on the type of arrangement that you hold and have been set out below:

Deposits: £35,000 per person (for claims against firms declared in default from 1 October 2007). 100% of the first £35,000.*

Investments: £48,000 per person.
100% of the first £30,000 and 90% of the next £20,000.

Mortgage advice and arranging: £48,000 per person (for business conducted on or after 31 October 2004).
100% of the first £30,000 and 90% of the next £20,000.

Long-term insurance (e.g. pensions and life assurance): unlimited.
100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim.

General insurance: unlimited.
Compulsory insurance (e.g. third party motor): 100% of the claim. Non-compulsory insurance (e.g. home and general): 100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim.

General insurance advice and arranging: unlimited (for business conducted on or after 14 January 2005). 100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim. Compulsory insurance is protected in full.

Summary
In summary, if hold cash with a bank or building society the maximum compensation amount is now £35,000 per customer at each bank. The maximum compensation for insurance policies is effectively 90% of the value of the claim (100% of the first £2000). Whilst insurance companies provide a greater degree of investor protection this relates to the surrender or claim value NOT what you paid for it. If your policy is invested in the markets it will certainky have reduced in value. If it is held in back deposits and the underlying banks go bust – you loose your money. The above levels of compensation relate to individual investors and policyholders – not institutions.

Whether you are worried about the solvency of the insitutions with which you hold money or about the effect of the markets on your investments you should not act in haste as this could trigger penalties or merely crytalise investment losses. Seek professional advice from an independent financial adviser who can provide you with impartial professional advice.

If you would like further information on the FSCS click here

In these times of financial stress, how well protected are your investments?

Given the current turmoil in the world markets with banks going bust and insurance companies needing emergency loans to keep afloat you could be forgiven for worrying about the security of your money. However, all is not lost.

In the UK when an insurance company, bank or broker goes bust there is an organisation called the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which provides compensation to investors and policyholders who have lost out. The FSCS is funded by levies on the companies authorised to trade in the market place. The levels of compensation that it can pay depend on the type of arrangement that you hold and have been set out below:

Deposits: £35,000 per person (for claims against firms declared in default from 1 October 2007). 100% of the first £35,000.*

Investments: £48,000 per person.
100% of the first £30,000 and 90% of the next £20,000.

Mortgage advice and arranging: £48,000 per person (for business conducted on or after 31 October 2004).
100% of the first £30,000 and 90% of the next £20,000.

Long-term insurance (e.g. pensions and life assurance): unlimited.
100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim.

General insurance: unlimited.
Compulsory insurance (e.g. third party motor): 100% of the claim. Non-compulsory insurance (e.g. home and general): 100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim.

General insurance advice and arranging: unlimited (for business conducted on or after 14 January 2005). 100% of the first £2,000 plus 90% of the remainder of the claim. Compulsory insurance is protected in full.

Summary
In summary, if hold cash with a bank or building society the maximum compensation amount is now £35,000 per customer at each bank. The maximum compensation for insurance policies is effectively 90% of the value of the claim (100% of the first £2000). Whilst insurance companies provide a greater degree of investor protection this relates to the surrender or claim value NOT what you paid for it. If your policy is invested in the markets it will certainky have reduced in value. If it is held in back deposits and the underlying banks go bust – you loose your money. The above levels of compensation relate to individual investors and policyholders – not institutions.

Whether you are worried about the solvency of the insitutions with which you hold money or about the effect of the markets on your investments you should not act in haste as this could trigger penalties or merely crytalise investment losses. Seek professional advice from an independent financial adviser who can provide you with impartial professional advice.

If you would like further information on the FSCS click here