Investment Planning

Unsure if investing is for you? Perhaps your already a DIY investor? From audits and planning through to zeroing in on your perfect investment package, our ultimate guide offers advice from experts and actionable tips that will help you make a success of investing your money.

Is now the right time to start planning an investment?

You don’t need a crystal ball to know there are tough times ahead due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s more important now than ever to take care of your finances and plan for your future. Your financial situation is unique to you and so you need to be sure that any investment you make is tailored to your circumstances and taking you in the right direction. Our ultimate guide to investment planning will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision on the most important areas of investment strategy. In this guide we will cover the following:

1. Savings Vs Investment. How to get your planning right

2. Understanding the risks of investing

3. Things to consider before making an investment

4. Types of investment products

5. A word on tax efficiency

6. Is ethical investing important to you?

7. Choosing how to invest your money

Savings Vs Investment: How to get your planning right

Personal savings and investing for the future are two different things, and it’s important not to get them mixed up. This guide is all about investing. So, when starting your plan, how do you tell the difference between saving and investing? Saving is all about putting money aside for the future. Maybe a car or a holiday. A good savings plan will be both tax-efficient and carry very little risk. Investing is more about making money from money. It usually means buying an investment such as stocks, mutual funds or property. An investment carries an element of risk, from low to high, but with that risk comes the potential of greater return. Often multiple investments are combined into a plan, with each investment having a different level of risk. It is here that the advantages of investments over savings really shine through as the returns can be so much greater.

It’s worth mentioning that a savings account can still be seen as an investment if the sole purpose of the investment is to make money as part of your investment plan, rather than to keep your money safe for a later purchase. This guide will also explore the benefits of seeking financial planning advice versus researching and investing yourself. Do you need investment planning advice? Or can you go it alone? So, if you want to make your money work harder, investments are the way to go. Whether you choose to speak to an investment planning adviser, or try your hand at DIY investing, either way we have to consider that scary word, “risk”. If you’d like a complimentary, no-obligation discussion with one of our investment advisers, book a consultation here.

Understanding the risks of investing

It is important that you have an understanding of the risks of investing before you invest any money. Generally, as the risk level of an investment increases, so does the possible return. Risk is not “bad” or “good”, but more a measure of how you expect investments to perform over time. Based on your aims, you should select a range of investments that are spread along the range of risk which you are comfortable with. The range of what suits you is often called your “risk profile”. It’s key you define this early on, as it will affect the scope and direction of your investments.

PRO TIP: Spread your risk
Just like keeping all your eggs in one basket can lead to disaster, so can keeping all your capital in one investment. Spreading out your investments is known as “diversification” and means it is less likely that all your investments will be negatively affected by a single event. This allows you to spread your investments over a range of risk profiles.

Realising your financial goals

With your aims confirmed, you’ll have a firm idea of what you want to achieve from your investment, which is an important first step. Some of the most common personal financial goals that investors aspire to are:

  • GROWING YOUR MONEY: Keeping funds in a current account leads to a loss in capital value because of low-interest rates compared to inflation. You want to make sure that your capital increases in value over time.
  • SAVE FOR RETIRMENT: Nobody wants to be stressing about having enough money after retirement. Planning for your financial freedom in later years is a common aim for investors. Normally this takes the form of a pension.
  • SUPPORTING LOVED ONES: Perhaps you want to save for your children, to make sure they have enough money to leave university debt-free or can afford the deposit on their first house.
  • PLAN FOR A SPECIFIC FINANCIAL GOAL: Making sure you’ve got the capital to pay off a mortgage, or are able to afford a holiday home within a defined time period.

Having a clear idea of where you want to be financially is a great starting point for investments.

A word from the team: Cherie-Anne Baxter, Marketing Director

“I have now got into a good habit of reviewing my finances annually, but it’s easy to overlook. Even though I’m very involved in the investment industry I had several surprises! Changes to my personal circumstances and the wider economy made me adjust my thinking on how I should organise my own money. You can review your own finances, as it will highlight areas where you could make improvements in your finances from a savings and investments perspective. However, I just don’t have the time or knowledge to do it properly and there is a danger you can have emotional bias if there is no one looking at things objectively.”

Five things to consider before making an investment

Investments aren’t for everyone, and it’s crucial to make sure you don’t jump in with both feet and end up with something unsuitable. Taking stock of a few key factors will help ensure that you don’t later regret an investment you’ve made.

1. Think about your current financial situation

It’s best to sit down and do a full financial review before even looking at the types of investment available. It might sound a bit dull, but having a clear view of your personal finances will offer you much more peace of mind in the long-run. How much are you earning now? Will that change in the near future? Do you have any savings, and how are they performing? What debt do you have, and at what interest rates? Do you own or rent? If you have a mortgage, what type of mortgage product is it? These types of questions will help inform you about what type of investments you could and should consider.

2. Think about your own personal strengths and weaknesses

A bit of soul-searching about the type of person you are can also help you meet your investment goals. If you’re a ‘hands-off’ kind of person, then do you really want to manage your own portfolio? If you get easily stressed or anxious about money, you might want a second pair of eyes on your investments. Do you enjoy getting into the nitty-gritty of facts and figures or does fine detail bore you to tears? Now is the time to think about if you want to do your own investing, or get a helping hand.

3. Start to consider your risk profile

Remember we mentioned risk in the introduction? Well now is the time to get to the bottom of how you feel about it. If the idea of risk scares you silly, then you need to be upfront about that. Perhaps your investment aims require a particular level of risk to achieve the returns you are looking for? With investments, there is no such thing as a ‘sure-fire’ winner so you’ll need to be comfortable with the risk your investments carry and what might happen if their value goes down, not up.

4. The term of your investment

In common with most financial products, like loans, mortgages and life insurance, investments have a planned term. That’s not to say the term can’t be changed during the life of the investment, but it will form a large part of your overall plan. Short-term investments can be easily converted to cash (or yield their return) in less than three years. Examples of short-term investments are high-yield savings accounts, short-term bonds, and money market accounts. Longer-term investments are those over 3 years and include stocks, shares, property and pensions.

5. The ethical considerations that are important to you

We’ll look at ethical investments in more detail later on, but now is the time to think about your ethical position when it comes to investments. Perhaps you have religious beliefs or a cause you feel particularly strongly about. If your investments conflict with these personal ethics, then you might be left wishing you’d planned differently. If you work hard to lower your own carbon footprint, but then find one of your investments is in the oil and gas industry, how would that make you feel?

Types of investment products

Having looked at what an investment is, why you should invest, and the way you want to go about it, we can now look at the types of investments available to you. Listing every type of investment on the market would take quite some time, so we’ve focused on the types that are most commonly included in personal investment portfolios.

  • Stocks
  • Private company shares
  • Investment funds
  • Property
  • Saving products
  • Bonds
  • Pension investments
  • Workplace investment schemes
  • Cryptocurrencies

A breakdown of investment products

Stocks

From day-traders to Wall Street professionals, the process behind stock market trading is the same. Public companies are owned, in whole or in part, by the general public via floated shares. These shares are bought and sold on the stock market, rather than being sold privately.  Each country has its own stock market and the rules around stocks are controlled differently. There are various ways to buy and sell shares. In the UK you work with a broker, who does the buying and selling on your behalf. However, newer methods like “direct market access” allow personal investors to place orders directly through licensed brokers. When you trade on the stock market, you’ll normally be charged a fee to buy or sell stocks as a percentage of the trade. These fees can, if not managed correctly, start to rack up alarmingly quickly and eat into any return. Since shares are a small fraction of the value of the company, their value goes up as well as down as the company does well or poorly. While different types of shares all carry different levels of risk, high returns can be made by investing in the stock market in quite short time scales.

Private company shares

Private limited companies are also made up of shares, which if allowed by the owners, can be bought and sold. While most limited companies disallow this, you may reach an agreement with the management of the company to do so. Depending on the company involved the risk will vary considerably. Owning shares doesn’t always mean you have any control over the company, and realising income from your shares may ultimately be out of your control.

Investment funds

When multiple investors club together to buy stocks and bonds, it’s called an investment fund. These are managed by investment managers whose job is to get the best return possible. Funds may focus on a specific investment type, like technology, or be more general. They can also be based on ethical concerns such as environmental protection or animal welfare. The fee structure can be pretty complicated. The investment manager may charge an annual fee, a percentage of the capital you invest, a percentage of the return you make, or some mixture of the three. There might also be entry and exit fees, trading costs, performance fees and advice fees. You’ll need to check before buying.  There are multiple types of funds, unit trust, tracker funds and active managed funds. Some funds are nested into bigger funds such as hedge funds. Do be clear about what you’re getting involved with before making an investment. As with any stock market investment, risk will vary.

Property

When you actively invest in property, you buy either a part of, or a whole, property. It might be residential or commercial. You can then either improve the property in some way and try to sell at a profit (also known as ‘flipping’ a property) or try to rent it out for a longer-term investment. This type of investment is normally pretty hands-on and may require you to improve the property at additional cost.  The risks here are buying a property that turns out to have some structural or planning issues, or that needs a further capital investment to make improvements. The performance of the property and rental markets can also fluctuate. You can seek to invest in property indirectly via Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Property Authorised Investment Funds (PAIFs) or other property investment funds.

Savings products

As we mentioned, a saving product can be considered an investment if it’s planned that way. At the moment, if you put your money in a standard high street bank the interest could be less than inflation, meaning you’ll actually lose money. High yield savings accounts that lock your money away for one, two or three years will offer better rates. The popular ISA saving product is a tax-free way to invest money and can take the form of a cash ISA, stocks and shares ISA, innovative finance ISA or Lifetime ISA. You can have multiple types of ISA concurrently but there will be a maximum tax-free amount you can invest each year.

A word from the team, Greg Harris, Chartered Financial Planner

ISAs are rightly popular, with over 11 million adults setting up ISAs in 2019. With the various choices of ISA available we look at which might suit our clients investment aims best over time. With so many products on the market the Unividual investment panel is careful to select only those that are going to work well for our clients.”

Ask Greg which is the best investment for you

Bonds

When you invest in a bond, you are loaning your money to a government or company that needs to raise funds. You’ll invest for a set period of time and get your loan amount back when the bond ‘matures’ (the set time period). During that time you’ll be paid interest, known as ‘coupons’, at an agreed rate. Bonds are either long-term (10+ years) or short-term (1-3 years), and can be guaranteed or not. If it’s not guaranteed, there is a chance you’ll get back less than you originally paid, making a loss on that investment.

Pension investments

When talking about an investment that is designed to provide income after retirement, we call it a pension investment. There are many types of pension, including ones you manage yourself.  Pensions by their nature are longer-term and can be made up of multiple types of investments. You can also have more than one.

Workplace investment schemes

This used to mean a workplace pension, but some employers now also offer a variant of the ISA called a Workplace ISA or a Share Incentive Plan (SIP). Each offer the possibility of tax efficiency and so are worth investigating, if your current employer offers them.

Cryptocurrencies

It seems you can barely open a newspaper now without some mention of the digital currency market. Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum are examples of these types of investment. They are bought and sold on ‘exchanges’ and make use of digital ‘wallets’ that hold a record of the transactions that take place. These wallets, and the central ledger, are encrypted to high levels, hence the name ‘crypto’ currency. Their lack of government backing means that they are not subject to any central controls, so are very volatile, making large unpredictable swings.

Tax efficiency: What is a tax wrapper?

The importance of making your investments tax-efficient cannot be overstated. Falling foul of a ‘tax trap’ or making an incorrect tax filing can have serious consequences. Making use of the available tax breaks and tax wrappers can help you meet your investment aims within your timeframe. Tax efficiency might be gained from the types of investments you choose (also known as your portfolio diversification) or how and when you pay into those investments.

INVESTMENT GLOSSARY: What is a tax wrapper?
A tax wrapper is a tax break that you can ‘wrap’ around an investment. Examples are ISAs and pensions, but there are loads available. As you’ll read below, making good use of tax efficiencies is really important to effective investments.

 

Is ethical investing important to you?

Like a business, investments can be measured and rated for their environmental, social and corporate responsibility. Likewise if you are looking for corporate investments as a business, you can ensure they are inline with your company’s own values about sustainable investing. By being clear about what matters to you, you can invest in ways that benefit humanity, the environment, and your community. Some investments are ethical in general, while others are more specific. Ethical investments are sometimes set as a “shade of green”. Arranged on a scale of light to dark green, investments that keep ethical concerns at the heart of their strategy are coloured dark green. A mid-green colour relates to investments with a specific focus on a few ethical concerns, while light green will be more generalised, only looking to provide ethically minded opportunities when their performance warrants inclusion.

A word from the team, Lewis Baxter, Chartered Financial Planner

“When you are building a financial plan it is important to understand the world of tax so you can make that plan as tax-effective as possible. It’s why the Unividual approach of offering genuinely bespoke plans brings great results. Tax is such a complex issue, full of twists and turns, so it’s an area where our clients really value our expert knowledge and experience.”

Contact our tax specialist Lewis

Ask Lewis about tax-efficient investments

Choosing how to invest your money

When it comes to investing, you can choose a few ways to go about it. There is the do it yourself method, which we’ve covered in detail here. If you’re confident in what you’re doing, the knowledge you have, the tools you’ve got available and the risks you’re taking, then it is one way forward. The other method is to get professional advice and assistance. This comes in the form of financial advice and may cover the whole of the market, or a restricted set of investment providers and products. You can read more about the benefits of working with a financial adviser here. There are also robo-advisers. These are largely automated internet based systems that use computer algorithms to invest based on criteria you set. While they are efficient and low-cost, they also offer a less tailored approach. For more on this, read our article on the problem of using robo-advisers to manage your financial plan.

Investor’s eye view: Meet Cecilia, new to investment planning

When Cecilia first approached Unividual, she was very new to investment advice and had some house sale proceeds to invest. She booked a free consultation with one of Unividual’s Chartered Financial Planners in Bristol, Simon Jones. The first meeting went well and Simon went on to review Cecilia’s finances, understanding her current situation and what her objectives were, before designing a plan for her moving forward. She explains: “Simon Jones patiently took me through a range of different options for long term financial planning. Being quite new to investments, and working with a financial adviser, I really appreciated his approach. I would highly recommend to anyone looking to either invest or get general advice, whether you are a new or experienced investor. I have now got a portfolio of ethical investments that is being managed, I have just confirmed initial investments so can’t review in terms of financial performance, but feel very happy with the service provided.” The work doesn’t stop there though, Simon will regularly review Sandra’s finances over the years.

Ask Simon about investments

A final word on investment planning advice

Making the most of your money with investments may seem like something ‘other people with more money do’, but in reality it is within the reach of most people. If you have capital that you can invest, even sums of a few thousand pounds can help you meet your investment goals. It can be a big help to talk it over with an expert, just to establish what might be possible. The important thing is that investments are made based on your personal circumstances and meet your needs as an investor.

If you’ve found this guide useful, please do share it with others. You may still have questions and we can help answer them if you want to get in touch.

Guide Published: 17/12/2020

Past performance is not a guide to future performance and may not be repeated. Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested. Because of this, an investor is not certain to make a profit on an investment and may lose money. Exchange rates may cause the value of overseas investments to rise or fall.

Useful investment resources

If you still have questions on how best to plan your investments please get in touch. Or you can find more in-depth information from the list of trusted resources below. Upon clicking these links Unividual is no longer responsible for the content as they are external sites.

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