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 2002
Atomic 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

Picking Winners – Financial Myths2023-12-01T12:18:00+00:00

The UK General Election

The UK General Election

Over the long run, the market has provided substantial returns regardless of who lives at Number 10. This is not a piece that I wrote, but it is worth sharing as it makes a very useful point. Think and act long term.

Next month’s snap election is the first national vote in the UK since the EU referendum. While the election’s outcome and overall impact are unknown, there is no shortage of speculation about how the election will impact the stock market. Below, we explain why investors would be well-served avoiding the temptation to make significant changes to a long-term investment plan based upon these sorts of predictions.

Here’s a chart to consider – Growth of £1 invested into the Dimensional UK Market Index between January 1956 – December 2016…. some 60 years, which is rather like investing at 30 and living until 90.

Note smallprint:

For illustrative purposes only. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Index is not available for direct investment, therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual fund. Dimensional indices use CRSP and Compustat data. See “Index Descriptions” in the appendix for descriptions of index data.

In plain English – this is really an example to demonstrate the wisdom of long-term thinking (and investing) rather than the constant short-term anxiety and to be blunt “mucking about”.

Investing is not meant to be gambling

Trying to outguess the market is often a losing game. Current market prices offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the aggregate expectations of market participants— including expectations about the outcome and impact of elections. While unanticipated future events (genuine surprises) may trigger price changes in the future, the nature of these events cannot be known by investors today. As a result, it is difficult, if not impossible, to systematically benefit from trying to identify mispriced securities. So it is unlikely that investors can gain an edge by attempting to predict what will happen to the stock market after a general election.

The focus of this election is Britain’s exit from the EU. But, as is often the case, predictions about the outcome and its effect on the stock market focus on which party will be “better for the market” over the long run. Exhibit 1 shows the growth of £ 1 invested in the UK market over more than 60 years and 12 prime ministers (from Anthony Eden to Theresa May).

Markets and 10 Downing Street

This exhibit does not suggest an obvious pattern of long-term stock market performance based upon which party has the majority in the Commons. What it shows is that over the long run, the market has provided substantial returns regardless of who lives at Number 10.

Equity markets can help investors grow their assets, but investing is a long-term endeavour. Trying to make investment decisions based upon the outcome of elections is unlikely to result in reliable excess returns for investors. At best, any positive outcome based on such a strategy will likely result from random luck. At worst, such a strategy can lead to costly mistakes. Accordingly, there is a strong case for investors to rely on patience and portfolio structure, rather than trying to outguess the market, in order to pursue investment returns.


Dimensional UK Market Index: Compiled by Dimensional from Bloomberg securities data. Market capitalisation-weighted index of all securities in the United Kingdom. Exclusions: REITs and investment companies. The index has been retroactively calculated by Dimensional and did not exist prior to April 2008.

Investments involve risks. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee strategies will be successful. The information in this material is provided for background information only.  It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services or products for sale and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

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 UK General Election2023-12-01T12:18:32+00:00

More thoughts on Brexit

More thoughts on Brexit

I have spoken to a number of clients, all of whom expressed great sadness at the outcome of the EU referendum. I’m sure that some of our clients voted to leave for very good reasons (such as the EU being a huge bureaucracy that seems unwilling to change its ways). If you could cut through the bile of the media and politicians, then there was a debate to be had. Sadly, many are ill-informed about the actual issues, facts, experts, historical context and any sense of idea about what the impact really might be.

Many are still deeply distressed about the result, because it feels wrong. It feels as though something has been stolen from us all. Our nation, which is one of the most tolerant and safest places for anyone to live, has appeared to give the impression that we simply don’t care about others any more. We have had enough… “we want to take our country back”.

I am one of those that is deeply angry. At times, I have lost the internal conflict and said some things which probably doesn’t help. I apologise. I have been fed up that most of the commentary within my sector is written by white men, who are fairly wealthy and have little experience of racism in person and because they don’t see it, assume its not very bad.

Another stereotype – give me a badge

I am deeply concerned about the way that the far right appear to have been given permission to behave in a manner which feels like a threat to the core of this country, or what I think this country is. I have watched and read in dismay at stories and videos of some horrible incidents. There is an air of menace, interrogation and intimidation. As a large, bald, white male, sadly I appear to match the general stereotype of a thug. I feel the need to wear a badge that says the equivalent of “I didn’t vote for this, I don’t want you to leave, you are safe with me”. What I still fail to understand is why so few seem so unwilling to recognise that this was always the likely outcome. People that I respect and admire greatly, of all creeds and ethnicity.

I know full well that Westminster has condemned racist acts in the past, and did so again yesterday (Monday) but to be blunt, lots of white middle class men (largely) invariably move their lips to a soundtrack that seems at odds with their actions. However “good” a Prime Minister David Cameron has been (which is of course subjective) he was the one that agreed to run the referendum and its result has created this deep state of unease.

We have clients from all backgrounds. We have friends, colleagues and neighbours. Many are deeply worried for their future because of the newfound “courage” that fascists have been handed with a vote to “leave” for which they read – tell everyone to go (it seems). We have to stand up against this, not afterwards, but in the moment, during. If that is a frightening prospect, well that’s the practice of standing in another’s shoes and what it means to stand against racism.

Yes there is a reason…

I understand that most of these people are poor, often poorly educated, a product of their circumstances and if they are constantly told that they are worthless they tend to believe that lie until someone else, proclaiming nationalistic values, provides a form of antidote with a sense of identity. However this is no excuse, just an explanation.

So however you voted, the reasons why those of us that voted “remain” were invariably beyond the mere numbers of costs, economics and bureaucracy. We know that immigration needs careful controlling, we know that integration could and should be far better than it is. But we also know that we are all lucky to be born here, which is all it is, a random roll of the dice.

Business is more than money, its also community

Perhaps this is not the place to talk about “my feelings” after all, I run a business designed to serve you to make better financial decisions. However to be candid again, the financial planning I do, that works best is all about personal values – yours (and mine) and invariably the money is the least important bit. If my job is simply to protect your wealth, then frankly this is also a part of that.

and here is an oldie… The Power of 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

More thoughts on Brexit2023-12-01T12:19:08+00:00

Does social media take life and death seriously?


Does social media take life and death seriously?

The storm (or lack of) depending on your experience of it generated some interesting insights into the way we express our views. Many experienced no loss or damage, some had damage to property and a small number of people lost their lives. There were many that expressed fairly widespread sentiments that the storm was not really that much of a storm – when we compare it to 1987 or indeed other storms around the world. Whether these views were expressed well or poorly, there were a number of people that pointed out that making light of the storm was inappropriate given that some people had died.

Death is a natural part of lifematteroflifeanddeath

Certainly an unexpected sudden death is a terrible experience for the family and friends of the person that died and anyone that has experienced such a loss would not want it to be taken lightly or dismissed as irrelevant. However, I wonder if chastisements for comments about a storm are really well founded. It seemed to me that we are in danger of policing comments for fear of offending anyone at all. Death is a part of life, we all know this, but few of us live as though this is a daily reality and normal.

Have you heard about the other 1% of society?

The UK population is now estimated at 63.7million by the ONS. The death statistics (sorry I couldn’t think of a nicer term) for the UK were last published to the end of 2010. This revealed that the number of people that died in 2010 was only 1.1% of the population, of which 58% were male and 42% female. Bringing this marginally up to date, 1.1% of 63.7m people is 700,700 people a year, or to put it another way, that’s 1,920 people a day (1,114 males, 806 females) each day, every day (on average). Of course the bulk of these are aged 80 or more, but there is a reasonable difference between males and females. For more women die at an older age, or to put it another way, females live longer. In 2010 nearly 85% of male deaths were aged 60+ but 91% of female deaths. This is primarily because far more men die between the ages of 35-59 than women (12.1% opposed to 7.4%). So back to our figures of averages on a typical day, irrespective of media coverage of mass shootings, crashes, natural disasters, the law of averages in the UK suggests the following will happen today and each day.

Age Range Males Females
Under 15 11 5
15-34 22 7
35-59 135 60
60-79 464 234
80+ 482 500

I am not suggesting that these figures could not alter, but death is not a question of if, but of when. It is as natural as life itself. As a progressive society we do our best not to hasten life or take it, but death is ever present. Some will read this as a rather depressing insight… but an alternative view might lead to taking the opportunities that life affords today and living it fully. In reality these are nothing more than statistics and of course each life should be cherished,we are all more than a number. For the bean counters of you… there is a death in the UK every 45 seconds…how long did it take you to read this piece?

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

Does social media take life and death seriously?2023-12-01T12:38:33+00:00

The Best Tax Systems In The World

The Best Tax Systems For Entrepreneurs

The UK is currently 16th in the world when it comes to the best tax system in the world for small to medium sized businesses. PWC, the big Accountancy firm conducted research on a global scale over several years. They considered the rates of tax, the time taken to pay it and comply with tax rules as well as the number of times tax has to be paid in a year. The UK’s position is improving, but still not in the top ten. This suggests that UK Governments are making it a little easier for entrepreneurs to start and develop their businesses. This after all is where economic growth is found and where wealth for individuals and the nation is created. However Ireland our closest neighbours is rather more favourable and ranked 6th by PWC.

Cutting Through The Red Tape

PWC are reported to have found that the typical UK SME now spends 267 hours a year complying with tax rules. A decrease of 54 hours over the eight year period that was reviewed, representing a 17% improvement. They also found that the average medium sized firm pays a tax rate of 44.7% on profits.

The Top Twenty Tax Systems

For those of you that like lists, the top twenty are as follows:

  1. United Arab Emirates
  2. Qatar
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Singapore
  6. Ireland
  7. Bahrain
  8. Canada
  9. Kiribati
  10. Oman
  11. Kuwait
  12. Mauritius
  13. Denmark
  14. Luxembourg
  15. Malaysia
  16. UK
  17. Kazakhstan
  18. Switzerland
  19. Norway
  20. Seychelles

Of course, entrepreneurs seek solutions to all manner of problems when it comes to running a business. A common trait amongst successful entrepreneurs is that they collaborate creatively and take responsibility for their actions. These are precisely the sort of people I work with.

The Best Tax Systems In The World2023-12-01T12:23:09+00:00
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