Tag: investments

20-20 vision for your finances

Happy 2020!

We’ve just stepped into a new decade and all the surprises that brings. But as we set off on the next chapter, I always think that the exciting thing is the uncertainty. Yes we know some things are definitely going to happen, like most of our New Year’s resolutions will fall by the wayside, the UK will leave the EU and that we’ll all get older and hopefully a little wiser. 

However when it comes to the markets, we can’t know for sure how they are likely to impact our personal finances. Having said that, we do have the next best thing available to us; our ability to review and amend!

Whatever your long-term plans may be, now is the time to review how the last year or two has performed for you and to put yourself in the right position to take full advantage of the financial opportunities now available. A review of your Savings, Estate Planning, Insurance Covers, Investments and Pensions now will allow you to make any changes and tweaks in your finances in order to make sure that you reach the end of the 2020’s in the financial position that you set out to achieve.

Now’s the perfect time to inspect an ISA

If you don’t currently have an ISA in your portfolio, then can I suggest that you add one to your list of things to consider this year.

It’s a great tax-efficient way of approaching investments, as your returns are free of income and capital gains tax. You can invest in an ISA up to a limit of £20,000 of which £4,000 can be paid into a LISA (for those eligible). 

As the annual deadline for ISA’s is 5 April 2020, this means that you potentially have two bites of the cherry available to you throughout 2020. By that I mean that you can currently take advantage of the ISA Tax-free opportunity for the remaining of the tax year, plus you can then do the same again on 6 April 2020. Please don’t leave it too late though, as some providers take several working days to process new ISAs, so leaving things until the beginning of April may mean you miss the closing deadline.

Take a look at a LPA And Will

The chances are that you could be amongst over 50% of the UK adults, including many in their 50’s and 60’s, who don’t currently have a Will in place. If that’s the case, could I respectfully suggest that writing one really should be high on your financial agenda for 2020. 

Whilst you may already have a Will in place, or high on your ‘To Do’ list, can I also prompt you to consider Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), as incapacity often strikes without warning. Which means that sorting out a LPA can save your estate and it’s beneficiaries considerable costs and avoid unnecessary and lengthy delays.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, please be assured that putting Will and a LPA in place is nowhere near as difficult or costly as many people think. If you are unsure regarding whom to approach to best sort these things out, then start by contacting us. We can easily arrange Wills and LPAs through our sister company Bridgewater Wealth Protection www.bridgewaterwp.com

If you do already have a Will or LPA, then please take this reminder as an opportunity to review it. Checking that it is up to date and that it reflects your current wishes.

Improve your Insurance

Even if you have insurance covers in place, now is an opportune time to review things. Our advice would be to just make sure that each plan covers you for everything you need and that the costs are correct. Your circumstances may well have changed since you took any cover out. If that’s the case, then it’s critical that you ensure you are covered for all you require and that there are no plans available that could provide better cover and possibly a lower premium too.

The wrong product can end up costing you a great deal of unnecessary expense and stress, so please take the time to review and compare cover options.

Investigate your Investments

After a bumpy year (The Queen’s words, not mine) in politics and the markets, now is an excellent time to take stock and to just check that your investment strategy is on course to achieve your goals. 

An excellent starting point would be the latest report regarding your mutual funds. There you can check to make sure that they still match your appetite for risk and that you are also happy with where your money is being invested.


A good tip, for when you consider your investments, especially when thinking about your exposure to risk, is to always include your pension, ISA’s funds and stocks together. Do this even when the funds are spread around different accounts and investment products, that way you will get a better feel for your overall portfolio.

Peer into your pension

Lastly and certainly not least, is your pension. 

Your pension is one of the most valuable assets you can have, yet it often gets overlooked; and I feel that more often than not, we don’t give pensions the attention that they deserve. 

Regular reviews of your Pension makes excellent financial sense, especially as legislation has changed massively in the last few years. So if you haven’t recently reviewed your pension position, then now would be a very good moment to do so.

During your review, ask yourself the following questions:

• Are the level of your contributions correct? Too little could leave you
wanting in retirement and too much could create problems with your
Reduced Lifetime Allowance
• Does the strategy still fit with your time horizon, changes in your current
situation or attitudes to your investment risk?
• Is your pension scheme up to date and able to take advantage of the new
pension freedoms, or is it an older scheme that can’t benefit?
• Does your pension fit with your retirement and estate planning?
• If your pension is a Final Salary Scheme, then with the increases in
transfer values, is it worth requesting a transfer value and restructuring
the pension?

Although this isn’t every question you should ask, they are certainly questions you should know the answers to, if you want to ensure that your pension is in the best place it can be.

We’re here to help whenever you need us

Although no one can see into the future, having a close look at your finances now is the difference between approaching 2020 with a clear financial strategy or setting yourself up for a cry of ‘I should have gone to Specsavers’ later in the year! 

I hope that this blog goes someway to starting the new financial year off on the right foot. If however there is something specific you would like to talk to us about regarding your plans, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous 2020.

Market Volatility a lesson from NASA

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Don’t Take A Giant Leap

Back on the 20thJuly we celebrated the 50thanniversary of the moon landings. I was totally in awe of Neil Armstrong, who took over the piloting of Eagle, from the computer once he noticed that the preselected landing place wasn’t going to be suitable.

Both he and Buzz Aldrin calmly worked together, whilst the vital fuel that would get them home was used to pilot Eagle over the rocky surface to a safe point of touchdown.

It was this calm, panic free approach that saved their lives, the mission and the hopes of the whole planet.

They trusted what they knew to get them through what must have been a terrifying descent. But they stuck to the plan established by NASA and they achieved what they’d all set out to accomplish.

I can’t help thinking that this idea of sticking to a plan, no matter how appealing it may be to abandon it, is a lesson for us all in the current investment markets, as we go through periods of increased volatility.

I say this because, unlike Apollo 11, we are not actually in uncharted territory. History shows us that volatility is a normal function of the markets.

Our long-term journey as investors will have highs and lows. However we should no more emotionally jump from a growing market than we should from a declining one. As reacting emotionally to market volatility could be far more harmful to your portfolios performance, than the market drop itself.

Here’s something to remember

This interesting graph showing the Dimensional UK Market Index returns by year (from 1956 – 2018*), should help put things in some perspective. As we can see, the markets have provided positive returns for investors for 47 of the 62 years shown (that’s 75% of the time).

So whilst it is sometimes difficult to remain calm during a market decline, it is however important to remember that volatility really is a normal part of investing.

Investors, who do seem to be able to time the market, usually do so with more luck than judgment. With the general wisdom suggesting that the big returns in the total performance of individual stocks over time, are usually produced in a small handful of days.

As investors can never really accurately predict when these days will come along, the prudent strategy would seem to suggest that remaining invested during these periods of volatility, rather than abandoning the stocks, means that investors won’t be on the sidelines on the days when the strong returns occur.

 

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In a changing market, knowledge is power

Hear are the most frequently investment questions I get asked in times of volatility:

I’ve been looking at funds with strong past performances; can I assume that they will do well in the future?
Whilst some investors are known for selecting mutual funds based on past returns, research suggests that most US mutual funds in the top 25% of previous five-year returns did not maintain that ranking in the following five years.

So the short answer would be: No, past performance is just that, history. It offers little insight into possible future performance.

Is being a successful investor all about out-thinking the market?
The short answer is to let the markets do the thinking for you. It’s a fair assumption that people want a positive return on any capital they invest. Over time history shows us that the equity and bond markets have provided growth of wealth that has more than offset inflation. So instead of fighting the markets and trying to out-think them, let them work for you. Remember, financial markets reward long-term investors.

Should I think of stepping out of the UK and exploring international investing?
It’s a good question. We all know that diversification can help reduce risks and that diversifying only within your home market limits that benefit. Not only does global diversification extend your investment opportunity; but by holding a globally diversified portfolio, you are better positioned to seek returns wherever they occur.

To give you an idea of the opportunity, according to MSCI UK and ACWI Investable Market Index (IMI), the UK is one country with 364 stocks; whilst the global opportunity for investments ranges across 47 countries with 8,722 stocks.

Will constantly changing my portfolio help me achieve better returns?
As it’s almost impossible to know what market segments will outperform the others, it’s better to avoid unnecessary changes that can be costly.

Can my emotions affect my investment decisions?

There is a vast body of psychological research that shows that we struggle to separate our emotions when investing our money. Just remember that markets go up and down. So kneejerk reactions are usually poor investment decisions.

Every time I hear the news, I’m tempted to make changes to my portfolio,
is that a good idea?

Day to day commentary can make us question our investment discipline. Some news will stir anxiety about the future, whilst other news tempts us to chase the latest faddy investments.

My advice is to always consider the source and to keep your long-term objectives in focus.

I feel like I need to do something – so, what should I be doing?

Get another perspective on things, especially and independent and expert one. Talk with your financial adviser who can help you focus on actions that add value.
Sticking to actions that you know you can control can certainly lead to a better investment experience.

  • Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance.
  • Structure a portfolio along the dimensions of expected returns.
  • Diversify globally.
  • Manage expenses, turnover, and taxes.
  • Stay disciplined through market dips and swings.

Stay on mission

Neil and Buzz didn’t panic. They didn’t cancel the mission, because things looked tough. They trusted in the plan. They stuck to a pre-agreed course of action and rode out the challenges that faced them on the descent to their ultimate goal.

I totally appreciate that market volatility can be a nerve-racking time for investors. However, reacting with your emotions and altering long-term investment strategies could prove more harmful than helpful.

Sticking to a well-thought- out investment plan, ideally agreed upon in advance of these periods of volatility, you’ll be better prepared to remain calm during periods of short-term uncertainty.

As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future investment strategies, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help.

* Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.