Concepts about investing – theories and generic ideas

RETURN TO THE 1970s

RETURN TO THE 1970s

There has been a fair bit of talk about aspects of our current political rhetoric that threaten a return to the 1970s. Whilst my early childhood was pretty care-free in that time, there is little of the 70s that I would welcome back.

Insert a film set in the 70’s. A bleak story of a character that everyone’s limited television of the time cannot fail to recognise. “Funny Cow” has a title to offend and a story that will offer little other than despair as it pushes all the stereotypes and clichés of the time. The miserable family existence that passes for life in a northern town. The wife-beating, loud-mouthed husbands and the hollowed shells of wives that have turned to the new prison of alcoholism. Yet sadly this is very close to her story.

Solomons IFA review of Funny Cow the movie

A galaxy far, far away…

If you are inclined to revisit the 70s then this film is a reminder that it really is best left consigned to the past and a collection of good memories when we were all younger. The times were very different and have thankfully changed for the better. It seems like a long time ago… a galaxy far, far away… yet in practice it’s just 4 decades ago, closing in on 5. In reality that is the sort of time that most investors save and then live off their investments.

Short-term memory

The changes in our lives are not always easy to see but flipping through your photograph albums (remember them?) is a useful reminder of our journey. When it comes to investments, the opposite happens. We are constantly bombarded with a moment by moment update of the markets, what has changed in the last 5 minutes, rarely does anyone report or assess the long-term value of investing, billboards, newspapers, emails and websites are all set to the short term, as if this tells us anything of value. In reality the valuable information is surely only the long-term results. What has happened over not 3, 6 or 12 months, but over 10, 15, 20, 25 years. However, that requires a patience that most of us have been taught to ignore.

Here is the trailer for “Funny Cow” it’s well acted, (Maxine Peake is very good) but frankly unless you want to watch misery unfold for a lengthy 102 minutes, (the irony isn’t lost on me) a better use of your time would be to sort out those photos you still haven’t put into an album… or had one printed.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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RETURN TO THE 1970s2018-11-02T23:36:16+00:00

Picking Winners – Financial Myths

Picking Winners – Financial Myths

Most of the financial services industry thrives on inertia and misplaced trust. The investing world can be broadly broken down into two categories – active or passive management of money. The terms are not helpful but can broadly be best described as active management is where Fund Managers attempt to outperform the market by use of skill, philosophy and information. Passive management basically says this is possible, but impossible to do with any repeatable success, so invest into the entire market (or index) to obtain the market return.

There are skills, systems and processes needed within passive management if truth be told, particularly when an index is forced to alter its constituents (much like the end of season promotions and relegations). However, costs are generally much lower – unless you are unfortunate enough to own a Virgin Money Index tracker. Generally active funds are more expensive – considerably. This it is argued, is due to better performance.

Anyhow, research from American Dimensional Fund Advisers, who rather pride themselves of academic research and evidence, recently concluded their study of US funds available to US investors. OK, its America not the UK, but given that the US is roughly 8 times the size of the UK stock market, let’s use it as a better sample.

Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head No.1 Album in 2002Atomic Kitten - The Tide is High No.1 single in 2002

The Unvarnished Truth

The evidence looked at equity funds and Fixed Interest Funds over 5, 10 and 15 years (2002-2017). Given that most people are investing for their lifetime, though behave as though they do so for about 12 months, these are sensible starting timeframes for such research. For the sake of brevity, I will discuss their equity fund findings (the results were much the same for both asset classes).

Of all the funds available, only 14% to 26% outperformed their Morningstar category index. The longer the time frame the lower the number that outperformed. So, in simple terms about 1 in 4 outperform over 5 years, 1 in 5 over 10 years and about 1 in 7 over 15 years.

Survival of the Fittest

However, even if it was as simple as simply picking funds on that basis, you are more likely to have picked a fund that closed. Over 5 years 18% of the funds did not survive (about 1 in 5). At 10 years this rose to 42% failing to survive (1 in 4). At 15 years, well just 51% of the funds you could have chosen from survived. That’s 1 in 2.

Top of the Pops Investing

As many advisers and most online sites promote and select “top performing funds” it may interest you to know that a Fund Managers historic performance does not ensure a decent future performance. The data revealed that top quartile performance for consecutive 3-year periods occurred on average between 17% and 33% of the time. In short, not many sustained even a short-run, or strong track records failed to persist. Coldplay and Atomic Kitten both had good years in 2002 (when the data range begins). Who remains “successful”?

As stated, an often-cited argument is that active funds cost more because they perform better (we have established that some do – 14% of them over 15 years). Higher costs mean better results, right? Well not according to the evidence. Those with high charges (fund manager costs) with an average expense ratio (AER) of 1.93% almost entirely underperformed (94% of them). Those with the lowest costs (AER of 0.83%) delivered better results, with 25% of them outperforming.

The research also found that trading costs also impacted results (unsurprisingly). Some Fund Managers changed their portfolios almost entirely, the more they did and the longer the timeframe, the fewer that beat their benchmark. Yet this is typically claimed to be their true skill. Only 9% of high turnover funds beat their index over 15 years.

Hey Big Spender…

I have been in this game for quite some time, but it doesn’t need much experience to learn that those with more money have more money to spend…. On their version of reality (marketing) which is why many advisers, Product Providers and media swallow the myth that active management costs more because it delivers more. It can, but only in a very small number of cases and the chances of selecting such funds is virtually non-existent when most look at 3-year top quartile performance data.

There is another way, a better, cheaper way. We call it low-cost investment techniques rather than passive investing, because there is nothing passive about it. High costs and excessive turnover are likely to contribute to underperformance. You can avoid this completely, if you want to.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Picking Winners – Financial Myths2018-06-21T16:30:43+00:00

Lady Luck – The Domino Effect

Lady Luck – The Domino Effect

I have a growing awareness of my good fortune.  I might call it luck. This week I was on a training course and we had a very good talk about diversity. We examined the topic from several perspectives, but for the sake of time, this was for application to our own firms (how we employ and empower staff) and also for clients and prospective clients – how we engage in a way that is authentic and accessible.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am fortunate. Lucky to have many “natural” and geographic advantages. Lucky in so many ways and many that I will probably never truly appreciate.

The session prompted some thinking and will inform some of the decisions I make in the future. New, helpful, relevant information tends to do that, doesn’t it?

Luck is not a Superpower

On the train home, I thought about the new film “Deadpool 2”. OK, it probably isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea”. It is an ironic, send up of the superhero, by a superhero. Violent and full of choice language it pokes fun at itself and the cinematic world. There are many comedic moments, which are best understood in the context of superhero films, this is not really a family film, yet it is about family.

Domino (Zazie Beetz) claims that her superhero strength is “luck”. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) mocks her, claiming that “luck is not a superpower… it’s not cinematic”. It is unreliable and outside of anyone’s control…yet Domino uses her natural skills which are enhanced by luck, which of course makes for an amusing sequence of events in the movie.

Checking back to real life, many of us may fail to appreciate the luck we have. Few can fully do so, some give it a different name. However, when it comes to reliability, luck sometimes isn’t a lady (Guys and Dolls). Luck is not a plan, it is not a super-strength and it definitely has no place in a financial plan, unless your plan is to gamble.

Coming to terms with Carnage

Markets are what they are, hostile for those that do not appreciate how they operate, they have their own “natural laws”. One is a correction. Equities are volatile, we need them to be, that is precisely what provides long-term growth and value. Yet almost everyone behaves as though it is your enemy. The media will fill its vacuum with tales of Armageddon like carnage that neither Deadpool or The Juggernaut could possibly match. Yet this is the unvarnished truth… markets are volatile, they fall, and they rise again… repeat, ker-ching…

The great untruth, is that risk can be removed, that there is growth without pain. Risk can only ever be swapped, not removed.

OK, so here is the trailer… click play at your own risk, lots of F-word and violence. You’ve been warned.

Oh.. if you do go to see the movie, as with all Marvel films, there is more to come within the long rolling credits.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Lady Luck – The Domino Effect2018-05-17T19:57:55+00:00

Remembering Montmartre 1899

Remembering Montmartre 1899

It is 1899 and I’m at the latest Secret Cinema event, transported back in time to Montmartre, Paris in 1899, arriving at la vie Boheme – the Moulin Rouge. We are greeted by Monsieur Zidler and shortly bump into a certain Henri, one Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with friends and then serenaded by a new young writer. We marvel at the guests, who like ourselves are not themselves, but suitably attired for their profession in 1899.

Most will not be familiar with Secret Cinema, it is, after all, secret and has a tag line, reminiscent of Fight Club – Tell No One. The concept is simple – gather a crowd of film lovers to come along to watch a movie together. The twist is that its immersive to the extent that there is a successful attempt to create the feeling of being in the movie, with not simply “sets” but landscapes to explore. Engage, (in character) with the actors who perform their screen roles before and during the screening of the film. It’s a lot of fun.

Champagne Lifestyle

Sadly not all in Montmartre was 1899 – the prices certainly were not. A bottle of Champagne (well why not? after all Monsieur Pol Roger died in 1899 and Jules Medot founded the Champagne house Louis-de-Custine in 1899) at the Moulin Rouge was £40 and as we all know that doesn’t go terribly far… So pandering to my slightly sad interest in inflation, I wondered what the price of Champagne was in 1899 and whether it was possible to re-inflate it back to 2017. Sadly the £40 price tag for a bottle of Champagne in 2017 wasn’t deflated to the 1899 price of just 33pence (best attempt)…..probably just as well, £40 then would have bought 121 bottles.  Inflation is arguably the most underestimated element that any investor must contend with and must be factored into any sensible financial plan.

Returning to the 70’s?

Many are currently suggesting that due to Brexit and the unfathomable Mr Trump, we are (collectively) in for a bumpy ride, perhaps something akin to the 1970s. If this does indeed become the case, presumably we can expect power cuts, strikes, industrial meltdown, oil price hikes and rampant inflation (well, by British standards anyhow). Personally, whilst I’m not pretending that everything is well, I don’t have a bleak outlook and find many of the scaremongering, nothing other than a tune for peddling. It is probably obvious to you by now that I’m not a fan of Mr Trump, or Brexit,

Inflating the figures

Anyway, back to the inflation issue and the 1970s. Remember that for the power of your £1 to remain the same it needs to keep pace with inflation. How inflation is measured is of course hugely contentious. We tend to use CPI and RPI as the most common metrics. That said, there often seems to be a disconnection between the rising prices of things you personally pay for and what the Office of National Statistics say they are. This isn’t a political jibe, if most of your spending is on utilities, then it’s likely that your personal rate of inflation is rather higher.

How do you remember the 1970s?

For the record, £100 at the end of 1970 was £364 by the end of 1980 because of the inflation (RPI) in the 1970s, which increased 9%, in 1971 then 7.6%, 10.6%, 19.2%, 24.9%, 15.1%, 12.1%, 8.4%, 17.2% and 15.1% in 1980.  This represents an average annualized inflation rate of 13.3%. The FTSE All-Share achieved an average annualized return of 12.2%. So didn’t quite keep pace with inflation and saw some huge market declines (-28.6% in 1973 and -51.6% in 1974) Any investor that lost their nerve at the end of 1974 would have missed out on the 151.4% recovery in 1975. These huge changes eventually ushered in a fundamental change in monetary policy and “Thatcherism” in an attempt to control the supply of money and inflation specifically.

Think and act life-long

The advantage of standing back and considering a long term approach is that the short-term volatility of a year or even a decade reinforces the rarely practiced investor skills of discipline and patience.

If you are interested in Secret Cinema, here’s the promotional trailer. Click here for the link to their website, where you can find out about many of their immersive film experiences, but tell no one…

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Remembering Montmartre 18992017-03-09T06:50:37+00:00

Markets are High, the End is Nigh

Markets are High, the End is Nigh

I have no idea why radio and TV stations broadcast the level of the FTSE with every news bulletin. It’s as though they are screaming “the end is nigh”. Think about it for a moment, what purpose does it serve? The only people that can do anything about their investments are traders – who had the information already. To my mind the only reason I can think of is so that you and I panic. The markets are high, so we panic with the good news fearing that is must be coming to an end. Alternatively, they have fallen, so the anxiety and fear is by how much and how far.

So What?

A better question might be…. So what? How does this affect me at all? Well the truth is that your investments will almost certainly be impacted, but then that’s the point of investing. The issue is really does the rise or fall play any significant part on your financial well-being. This is where proper financial planning comes in. We know that investments fall in value. We allow for it. We also know and believe that the point of investing is so that they rise, otherwise we wouldn’t bother would we!

A picture paints a thousand words

So, I thought that I would share with you an interesting graph. This shows the returns of the FTSE All-Share over the last 30 years from 1986-2016 (31 years). The grey columns show the calendar year returns.  You will observe that 22 or the 31 are positive, 9 are negative. In other words, 70% of the time, calendar year returns have been positive. However, when the negative years occur, those years can see large falls, note the worst being -33% in 2008 (the credit crunch, supposedly the worst financial collapse in generations).

Let’s get Negative

Now observe the red dots. These represent the largest fall in each year. All falls must be negative to be a fall. So, every year has one. Note how these are pretty “bad” yet don’t really seem that bad when you consider the actual return over the year (grey column). Its noteworthy that the average fall in a year is -15.8% – the median (if you line up all the results, the one in the middle) is -12.6%. So, in short you should expect a fall every year of around this sort of amount. It should not be a surprise.

You probably remember the crash of October 1987… just after the hurricane that Michael Fish didn’t expect. Remember the headlines of millions wiped off the markets. True, it (the FTSE All Share) fell -37% however over the year it showed a return of +4%. Which do you remember? I’m guessing the crash… which you would certainly remember if you got in a panic and sold your holdings (when they were down)… selling in a panic or a crisis is the surest way to actually have one, but remembering your long-term financial goals and why on earth you are investing anyway is vital. That’s what we and any other decent financial planner will help with, when the crowd and the media and the market are telling you to panic, do something!… do not.

Diversify to Dampen

However, very few people have all their investments in the FTSE All Share or indeed entirely in shares (equities) most will have a portfolio that has some in low risk holdings as well, ideally the portfolio will be globally diversified across nations and asset classes. This will dampen the effects of both the rises and the falls of the markets.

The Only Timing that Matters

Trying to time the best moment to enter or exit the market is impossible to do with any repeatable success. However clearly you and your planner need to mindful (aware) of when you want to withdraw money. It’s all very well a favourable long-term average return, (or even a calendar year one) but what about when it’s a really bad year and you need the money out? Again, the truth is that any decent planner will help assess this advance. In practice it is unlikely that you would need all of your investments at the same time, but it can happen, particularly if you decide to use your entire pension fund to buy an annuity (income for life).  This is why we spend a lot of time getting to understand our clients, your goals, values and aspirations – importantly when you need the money,  so that that we can plan appropriately, perhaps reducing investment risk or holding more cash than you might need. Context is everything and a plan is vital. So get in touch to ensure that your investments are structured properly – for you, not for the media.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

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You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Markets are High, the End is Nigh2017-02-14T13:03:51+00:00

The Internal Fight and Behavioural Finance

The Internal Fight and Behavioural Finance

There has been lots written in recent years about behavioural finance, in a nutshell this seeks to understand the reasons why investors (private and professional) behave the way they do, when invariably this produces very poor results. We all (hopefully) know that when it comes to investing you aim to buy low and sell high, of course this is not easy, particular in a world overloaded with information and noise. The struggle most investors have is essentially with themselves.

Perhaps this tension is reflected in recent films. There is a branch of investment theory that believes in looking for social signs that provide an investment advantage. Some take the hem line of dresses to reflect the direction of shares, the number of goals, the types of films… all essentially on the belief that more general “confidence” or lack of are displayed. Of course most theories hold a modicum of truth to even raise your attention, but as a long-term process, invariably amount to little more than highly spurious claims.

Over-confidence and Bad Behaviour?

Yet investors continue to display habits that are costly, panic and over confidence being two key elements. Investors find it very difficult to be dispassionate about their money, most believing that they are equipped sufficiently with common sense, market information of plain “insight” that provides advantage. The truth is rather different.

If you are persuaded that the big blockbuster movies are any indication of current sentiments, then perhaps the action-hero genre is worth consideration. As opposed to the usual theme of saving the world with the “good guy” we are presented with “Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice”, “Deadpool”, “Captain America: Civil War” and “Suicide Squad”. All reflecting concern about the assumptions we make about heroes and those we empower. Indeed also examining the conflict between friends, allies and team-mates when they disagree over the degree of Machiavellian behaviour required – ends justifying the means. Of course the deeper reflection is that we are ourselves each character, at war with ourselves. Something investors would do well to remember in the heat of trouble and why a rational, dispassionate, long-term, evidence based, sustainable investment approach is what we believe will ultimately protect and serve.

I’m hoping to put some posts together about the basics of behavioural finance, but in the meantime if you are struggling to see the enemy within, perhaps a trip to the movies may be helpful. Of course one might make the case that the current political backdrop and decisions being posed to us here in the UK are also reflected in film. We shall see quite how sensationalist, nationalistic and competitive our media become over the summer, an EU referendum, US Presidential campaign and ample national sporting events.

Here’s the trailer for the latest Captain America film “Civil War”. The Marvel franchise is very much alive to the complexity of character.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

The Internal Fight and Behavioural Finance2017-02-02T13:34:39+00:00

What can investors learn from sport?

What can investors learn from sport?

I apologise to those of you that do not like sport, the purpose of this post is not to bleat on like some bloke at the pub who is attempting to name his best eleven… again… but to make an observation about the way people behave and in particular what investors can learn from sport.

I wonder if you watched the final of the T20 World Cup at the weekend. It was a thrilling match – (spoiler alter) England were eventually beaten by the West Indies. The “English” team (nationality in sport is debatable) started badly, losing Roy, Hales and Morgan very quickly. At 23 for 3 things looked pretty bad.

These days I delude myself that I can multi-task, so flicked between TV stations, watching football, Grand Prix, the cricket and keeping an eye on the social media (yes it would appear that I’m rather sad and lacking an attention span). However, getting to my point – social media exposes an array of reactions (commentators term them emotions) that people reveal as they experience an event.

Too early to call

Many had written off England with the fall of the third wicket, several used terms like “game over” before the team had even completed their attempt to score as many runs as possible within 20 overs. The game had not even reached its half-way point, but thousands had already conceded victory.

Its not over until its over

The English fortune turned around equally as quickly once the West Indies began to bat, crumbling to 11 for 3 and struggling for runs. Suddenly there was “hope”. Indeed by the end of the 19th over (of 20) another 19 runs were needed, which seemed out of reach for Carlos Brathwaite, the facing West Indies batsman, who had 10 runs to his name. England were in the proverbial “driving seat” and now expected to win. Brathwaite had other ideas and promptly smashed each of the next deliveries for six runs, resulting in a dramatic victory and tournament win. Of course sad and desperate for Ben Stokes, the English bowler.

Investor behaviour is invariably no different from those on social media at the weekend. Reacting too quickly, feeling depressed, exasperated, then gaining some hope , followed by over confidence, followed by…. Repeat.

Your goals, not someone else’s

Investing is not a hobby, it is not a sport (unless you really are very rich). It is no way to learn about yourself and no place for reactive emotions. We approach the end of the 2015/16 tax year tomorrow. The deadline invariably pushes prices up. Whilst I am obviously (I hope) of the view that allowances ought to be used when appropriate, any investing should only be done if it helps you to reach your goals, not those set by HMRC.

Part of my job is to keep clients disciplined, avoiding mistakes and sticking to their own plans (not mine). This has been termed “adviser alpha” and adds an unquantifiable amount of value, though many attempt to quantify this.

The media in all its forms constantly stirs feelings of anxiety or missing out on opportunity. The vast majority of commentary about investing is about as relevant to your financial plan as any sporting event – completely irrelevant! Trying to perfectly time the market (the opportune moment to buy and sell) is frankly impossible to achieve with consistency. In practice few do so and fewer still can demonstrate this as skill rather than luck.

Have a Successful investing experience

Unlike sport, investing does not have to be about “winner takes all”. Everyone can win if they are investing in a way that fulfils their financial planning goals. They key is remaining calm, disciplined and clear about what you are really trying to achieve.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

What can investors learn from sport?2017-01-06T14:39:18+00:00

Bonfire of the Vanities and Awards

Bonfire of the Vanities and Awards

Perhaps you watched the BAFTAs at the weekend? It was certainly hard to miss Monday morning headlines, which largely featured Leonardo DiCaprio clutching his award for best lead male actor for his role as Hugh Glass in The Revenant.

The double-edge sword of social media is that anyone gets to have a say, which frankly is often unwise. If you follow twitter or any social media, you will probably be aware of the proverbial storm in a teacup following remarks the host Stephen Fry made about Jenny Beavan’s appearance. If you didn’t see it, well, she is a brilliant costume designer and was perhaps the only one that didn’t appear to dress up for the awards, which is generally regarded as a black tie/cocktail dress event. Though some men wear a regular tie rather than a bow tie. Ironic gesture, couldn’t be bothered, making a point, or didn’t read the memo. I have no idea, but as someone that was in London at the same time, one might consider another view that she was appropriately dressed for the weather on 14th February 2016. The truth is I have no idea.

Fury Road

Anyhow, she won a BAFTA for costume design for the film “Mad Max, Fury Road”. Mr Fry made a comment about her attire, which was met with gasps from the audience and a tidal wave of comment on social media. Mr Fry then chose to tackle this head on, saying it was a joke, with a close friend and people should.. well, find other uses for their time…. In fact had this all happened before the film was released, one could have been forgiven for thinking it was a PR stunt (Mad Max, Fury Road).

Et tu Brute?

So why bring this to your attention, what has it to do with financial planning? Nothing and everything. There isn’t a connection, but there is an observable behaviour that took place – that of the herd mentality. It seems that there are a great many people who are very quick to pass judgment without possession of all the facts and very quick to pronounce others as something unpalatable. There was the equivalent of a stampede to get one’s knife in… et tu Brute? The exchange between sides was fairly unsavoury, albeit without a single physical blow.

Investor Behaviour – the herd mentality

This happens with investors too. They panic in a herd and run for the lifeboats, just because someone seems to have yelled “lifeboats?” (or crash). There appears to be little thought of whether the facts are accurate, the context or whether to the lifeboat option is actually the safer approach. If you are RBS and your portfolio is full of rubbish, you might understandably say “sell everything” but if you don’t it makes little sense.

Investor panic is understandable in a world where the media is reporting doom and gloom, red exchange boards and falling stock markets. But remember that the media is there for a variety of reasons, not simply to provide “the truth”. It will never be held accountable for predicting the future other than in a joke about previous blunders.

As I hope you know by now, most investors underperform the market by attempting to time the market – trying to second guess when is the right time to buy and sell. They underperform by around 3%-6% a year. Yet all the time, there are those screaming – do something, sell, buy… whatever the herd is doing. If you don’t believe me check some easily found research at Dalbar.

The Subjectivity of Art

The BAFTAs and any other award ceremony is frankly nice, but just silly. They are highly subjective gongs for a very small number of people, selected by a lightly larger group of people. Yet even within the hallowed walls of such organisations, one wonders if everyone that voted actually saw the films they voted on. Frankly I suspect not. It is the only way I can rationalise some of the winners…. But then its subjective and nobody gets hurt… right?

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Bonfire of the Vanities and Awards2017-01-06T14:39:19+00:00

The Big Short

The Big Short

I have been looking forward to the release of “The Big Short” for some time. I suspect that many will yawn with incredulity at the prospect of watching a film about Bankers and the financial crisis… all that jargon, which is, lets face it, all rather dull and old news… I beg to differ.

This is a story well told, but a story that is frankly unbelievable, yet it happened. I would urge you to go and see it, I managed to do so on Monday evening (no I did not claim it as an expense). It will not change your mind about the Heads of Investment Banks or regulators, it will remind you of how utterly corrupt and complicit they have been in ripping off investors for years, and I see little evidence to suggest that this will alter.

The film makers attempt to explain some of the key terms that underpin the entire credit crunch. It is reminiscent of the musical about Enron – yes a musical essentially about accountants, but as with the musical, this is really an exposure of some rather foolish human behaviour.

Whilst the vast bulk of the film concentrates on the American story, the financial services industry is of course global and the setting for the story is largely irrelevant.

Are you sitting comfortably?

There are many that will not like the content of the film. The film is damning in its criticism of Government, regulators, bankers, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers. The only group to have really been punished for the crisis in the US were the homeowners and the poor – by losing everything (a story told very well in the film “99 Homes” – see my piece on that too).

Here in the UK, we took the collective punishment of austerity, tax hikes and pay cuts. But at least the head of the regulator (then the FSA) was even knighted for services to the financial services industry (!).

You may have some questions after watching the film, both at the practical level and the “what one earth are they thinking?” level. Here is the official trailer to get you in the mood… oh and the film is nominated for an OSCAR. Mind you, I was even more incensed having watched “Four Horsemen“…  to my mind The Big Short is the softer option (pun intended).

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

The Big Short2017-01-27T11:02:15+00:00

2015 has been a bad year…. for investors too

2015 has been a bad year… for investors too

It has not been a good year for investors, frankly it has not been a good year for lots of people – we are all aware of the disasters and atrocities that have occurred around the world. So as you review your investments which have not performed as anyone would have hoped, a sense of perspective is probably wise.

The problem with stock market or traditional investing is that we see good years a bad years. 2015 has been a bad year, with the FTSE100 opening the year at 6,556 rising to a high in April of 7,103 (up 8.3%) but currently lagging at around 6,050 (down 7.7% over the year to date).

It is natural to feel annoyed and fed up, particularly as it is easy to get the impression that somewhere, somehow others are doing better. The truth is perhaps rather different. A fall of 7.7% is what the market provided via the FTSE100 (the UKs 100 largest companies). To have a smaller fall (or even a gain) you would have had to take more investment risk (essentially attempting to beat the market return based on belief, information or frankly luck). The market return is literally the market average return. This assumes that you were invested at the start of the year. If you invested towards the end of April your “loss” would be worse.

Realisation about Loss

However what is a loss? In essence a loss is only realised when you sell your investment for less than the price you paid for it, which might happen due to changing circumstances, but should not happen within a financial plan.

Part of my role is to help clients minimise their mistakes. One would be to sell at the bottom – to panic and “get out” once markets have fallen (this would be called “realising a loss” – ie making it real). It is tempting to do so, but unwise unless your circumstances have genuinely changed.

Risk and Diversification

However all portfolios are diversified across a range of assets, so you aren’t purely in the FTSE100. Portfolios have a global nature and hold cash, commodities and Bonds. The mix (asset allocation) is the important tool we use to devise a suitable portfolio for you, given your ability to cope with investment risk and also have a context (your financial plan) for your money. This is what we call diversification of risk, but might be better understood as “not holding all your eggs in one basket”.

Yes, the year has been poor for investors, but do not be tempted to seek higher returns, and yes even cash with its dreadful returns was a better option in hindsight. The returns will “feel” and appear worse as statements at 5th April would have exposed the comparative high point in the year. However in the long-term investing rewards those that stick with the plan. There is ample and readily available evidence for this.

Noisy “genuises”

Be mindful that most people will never (or very rarely) talk about their investment losses, but invariably shout from the rooftops about their investment successes. The truth is rather different and much better hidden. This applies to private investors and professionals alike.

Tomorrow I will highlight another mistake that you can avoid and frankly, one that you need to encourage anyone you know to read the piece.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

2015 has been a bad year…. for investors too2017-01-06T14:39:21+00:00