Monthly Archives

December 2019

6 Tips to Sidestep Investment Mistakes

By | Investment Planning

This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial or investment advice. To receive personalised, regulated financial advice regarding your affairs please consult us.

Even the very best, most experienced investors make mistakes. The great Warren Buffett, for instance, claims that he regrets some of the decisions he made over the years. A case in point was his purchase of Berkshire Hathaway stocks in the 1960s, a self-described “vindictive mistake” which he estimates cost him $200bn.

It’s important to recognise that if you invest in the markets for any length of time, you’re likely to make some mistakes. The point is to try to identify the ones that can be prevented, especially those which require the extra, impartial eyes of an experienced financial planner. In this short guide, our financial planning team here at WMM will be sharing six common investor mistakes, and what you can do about them:


#1 Investing in something you don’t understand

It’s unlikely that any of us can ever fully understand every investment in our portfolio. Each fund comprises multiple companies, for instance, each of which has multiple dimensions to it; profiles of business owners, cash flow forecasting, profit and loss, operational differences, distinct customer bases and different stages of product development/maturity. Understandably, few ordinary investors have the time to get their heads around all of this.

With that said, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of your investments. Which sectors do the companies within your funds operate in, for instance, and how do they make their money? Do you know the primary differences between investing in bonds and equities? Perhaps your current financial adviser has recommended you invest in something, and you feel uneasy as you don’t quite understand what it is they’re suggesting?


#2 Allowing emotions to rule

If you look at your investment portfolio and notice one of your ‘Index’ funds starting to plummet, how do you react? Typically, many people start to panic and some even try to pull their money out before they “lose any more”. This kind of reactive investment approach is one of the worst things you can do, however.

Quite often, pulling money out during these moments can cause more harm than simply staying in the market to ride out the storm. If you feel yourself getting nervous during this kind of market volatility, take a deep breath and take a step back. Have these sorts of movement happened before? Did the markets eventually climb back up again? Quite often, the answer is yes.


#3 Trying to time the market

On the other side of the coin, another common investment mistake we often see is “pre-empting the market.” Here, you might pull money out of a stock before you think it’s about to fall in price. Or, you might commit capital towards a stock which you anticipate will imminently rise. This is essentially what professional active fund managers do on behalf of their clients. Unfortunately, it is notoriously difficult to do consistently well. Even experienced fund managers typically fail to time the market effectively over the course of many years. Again, stay in the market. Don’t try to time it.


#4 Not diversifying sufficiently

Earlier in 2019, many investors were unfortunately hit by the decline and eventual closure of Neil Woodford’s flagship UK Equity Fund. At its peak, it was valued at £10bn, and eventually fell to about £2.9bn before investors’ money was locked due to the fund’s suspension. Those who put most or all of their eggs into this basket would have felt the financial pain very acutely. Those who had their capital spread out across multiple asset classes and funds, however, would have been shielded from significant damage. It’s a reminder that diversification is key to a long term, successful investment strategy. Putting your faith into one “hot stock” or fund is a big risk.


#5 Relying on past performance

It’s important to consider how successfully different funds and investment opportunities have delivered strong returns for their investors in the past. However, it’s a common mistake to assume that good past results will determine what happens in the future. Other factors are also important to consider with your financial planner, such as a fund’s fundamentals. Again, the Neil Woodford fund is a good example. Despite outperforming the FTSE All Share throughout the early 2000s, his UK Equity Fund is now closed. One important reason widely acknowledged for this was the fund’s high reliance on unlisted assets.


#6 Forgetting fees and inflation

There are numerous forces which can erode your investment returns if you are not careful. Inflation, for instance, erodes the real value of the money in your investments. This is one reason why regular savings accounts in 2019 tend to offer such poor value for those looking to grow their wealth. After all, if you have a 1% return from interest but are facing a 2% inflation rate, you are actually losing money. A lot of investors fail to take inflation into account when analysing the preservation and growth of their wealth. Be careful not to neglect this yourself.

Investment management fees are another area where investors can sometimes fail to notice the erosion of their returns. Actively-managed funds can be particularly expensive since they need to employ an active fund manager who regularly buys and sells investments (transactions which, themselves, are often taxed and these costs are passed on to the investor). Again, speak to your financial planner to ensure that you are not paying more than is absolutely necessary when it comes to managing your investments.

If you are interested in starting a conversation about your portfolio, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our friendly team here at WMM.

Reach us on 01869 331469


5 Ways a Financial Planner Adds Value

By | Financial Planning

This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial or investment advice. To receive personalised, regulated financial advice regarding your affairs please consult us.

Has anyone ever given you advice which you look back on and recognise as having benefited you in a life-changing way? Perhaps your parent or grandparent imparted a word of wisdom to you which you have clung to over the years, helping you prosper and grow as a person? If so, what kind of price would you put on that?

It’s hard to quantify the value of great advice and wisdom, but we intuitively recognise that it is immensely precious. Here at WMM, our financial planning team has the privilege of working in this realm every day. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences in life to offer wisdom to clients about their financial affairs, which then often transforms their quality of life and future prospects. It’s also hard to quantify in pounds sterling.

What are the precise ways a financial planner benefits you? In this digital world of increasing “self-help” financial coaches and “robo-advisers”, what value can a human financial planner really offer you? In this short guide, we’ll be sharing just five of many possible ways they add value.


#1 Simplifying financial affairs

Many people have highly complex finances. Perhaps you have multiple pensions, and possibly some of them are lost. Maybe you have several old protection policies which are meant to cover you in the event of serious illness, but aren’t sure how they relate to each other or where they need bringing up to date. Or, it could be that you have a complex set of investments which don’t really work well together, are not organised in a tax-efficient manner and which face high fees.

One of the benefits of working with a financial planner is that they can help you sift through all of these various elements. He/she can then start to group everything together in an organised, clear way; identifying areas which can be consolidated to make everything simpler. If you have ten pensions, for instance, a financial planner can help you track them all down and possibly bring them all into fewer more cost-efficient pots.


#2 Illuminating & correcting blind spots

No financial adviser can predict the future, yet they can leverage their qualifications and experience to help you address weak areas in your portfolio. In 2019, there have been a number of funds which have been suspended and have even collapsed, due to terrible investment performance caused by poor fundamentals. One prominent example was the collapse of the Woodford UK Equity Fund, which declined from a high point of £10bn to around £3bn. More recently, we’ve had the M&G Property fund which has had two trading suspensions and delivered weak returns (despite clients paying £100m in fees since 2016). Liquidity problems such as these cannot always be fully spotted beforehand, yet having a financial planner to assist you can go a long way to helping you allocate your investments more strategically – eliminating unnecessary risk.


#3 Giving reassurance

Are you worried about how the economy might affect your investments? Do you currently suffer from anxiety about what will happen to your home if, one day, you need to go into long term care? A financial planner can bring a calm, rational voice and list of facts to these fears. Together, you can then work to put appropriate measures in place which address them. For instance, to help you prepare for the possible costs of your care you might consult your planner about how to build up a sufficient nest egg to carry you through this time. You could also talk through other options you may not even be aware of, such as an immediate needs annuity.


#4 Preventing errors

The United Kingdom has a lot of consumer protections enshrined in law and ways to make an appeal if things go wrong (e.g. the Financial Conduct Authority and Financial Ombudsman). Nonetheless, many people across the country are still vulnerable to sophisticated scams seeking to cheat you out of your savings, pension or investments. Some of these occur during unsolicited calls about a “hot stock” with “guaranteed returns”, but many are increasingly happening online. A good financial planner will be familiar with all of these tactics and can act as a vital information source to help protect yourself. If you are at all unsure about an investment offer presented to you over a cold call, you can run this past your adviser. They can then tell you whether it is legitimate or not, potentially helping you dodge many bullets over the years.


#5 Acting as an impartial sounding board

For many big decisions in life, we often turn to trusted friends and family to “air out” our thinking, to gain their counsel. Perhaps you’re not sure about moving to another part of the country for work and need a second opinion. As precious as these people are, they’re not usually the best to talk to about your pension, inheritance tax planning or investment strategy!

If a decision is weighing heavily on your mind about your longer-term financial affairs, then one of the best things you can do is consult an impartial, experienced professional who understands the intricacies of what you’re talking about. Sometimes it helps just to voice your concerns as they carefully listen. In specific moments, they can ask focused questions which you might not have thought about, often shedding new light on the situation and giving you pause for thought. As you do this over many years with the same financial planner, the better they get to know you, the more you gain a trusted guide. This person could then help other members of your family facing similar worries or questions.


Final thoughts

Here at WMM, we believe there are many benefits to working with a financial planner. However, you still need to ensure that you pick the right professional for your needs. Lots of businesses can look good on paper, but it’s important to also meet different financial planners to establish trust and chemistry.

When it comes to your investments, also make sure you ask for the firm’s Investment Policy Statement. This should set out the types of funds or assets they invest in and why. This will give you more insight into their investment approach and philosophy, allowing you to get a better sense of how they would help to manage and grow your wealth.

If you are interested in starting a conversation about your financial plan, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our friendly team here at WMM.

Reach us on 01869 331469


6 More Tips to Protect Your Portfolio

By | Investment Planning

This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial or investment advice. To receive personalised, regulated financial advice regarding your affairs please consult us.

The unfortunate nature of money and investing is that they are always at risk. Cash stored under your bed might be caught in a house fire. Property investments might fall in value, and equity investments might go down. The point is this: risk is tied up with all kinds of capital. The crucial task of the investor, however, is to learn how to mitigate these risks and live with them.

One of the great advantages of constructing a strong investment portfolio is that it helps to spread out your risk. Yes, your equities might go down in value during a bear market. Yet until you actually sell your shares, you haven’t actually “lost” anything. In the meantime, if you hold fixed-income securities (e.g. government bonds), cash investments and other “low-risk assets” then these can also help your portfolio to ride out the storm.

With that said, it would be a mistake to claim that simply putting your money into an investment portfolio effectively “shields” your money from all disasters. Many people make costly decisions about their investments – possibly out of fear or panic – and often come to regret them later. Here in this article, our financial planning team here at WMM will be sharing six common mistakes made by modern investors and some thoughts on how to avoid or minimise them.


#1 Don’t follow the crowd

Within particular circles of friends, family and colleagues, it is easy to become tempted by talk of the latest “hot stock” which everyone seems to be piling onto. Whilst human beings naturally want to follow the crowd due to herd mentality, it’s important to tell yourself during moments of rush like these: “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it a good idea.” Remember the bursting of the Dot Com Tech Bubble, where thousands of investors speculated on tech firms during the 1990s and $5 trillion in market capitalization was lost by 2002.


#2 Don’t watch your investments every day

This might sound like a strange point. After all, shouldn’t you keep an eye on how your portfolio is performing? Yes, of course, you should. Yet most people find it unhelpful to regularly watch their investments as they go up and down. Logging into your portfolio obsessively is likely to cause you to focus on short-term performance rather than long-term growth, which can lead to impulsive and costly decisions. Log in every month or so, some even say annually is a good option, but just try to avoid compulsive checking.


#3 Don’t over-commit to one opportunity

An age-old maxim amongst financial planners, but an important one regardless: “Don’t put all of your investment eggs in one basket.” As great as property might look at a given moment as an investment, resist the urge to commit all of your capital to that one market. Gold might look good at various points in time, but think carefully before committing vast sums to that one asset. The same applies to equities and cash. Speak to your financial planner about how to appropriately diversify and avoid unnecessary risk exposure.


#4 Stay in for the long-haul

If you plan to invest for less than five years, then you risk crossing the barrier from investing into speculating or even gambling. Only in very specific circumstances might it be appropriate to consider investing some of your money over a shorter time frame (e.g. sophisticated investors weighing up an asset-backed, time limited opportunity). Always seek professional financial advice about how to build an effective, balanced portfolio for long-term wealth preservative and growth.


#5 Rebalance regularly, at least every 12 months

Whilst it is generally unwise to obsess daily over your investment performance, it is a good idea to check your portfolio at least once a year to make sure you are still on track towards your financial goals. It might be that your equities have performed particularly well, for instance, and you need to rebalance your portfolio so that it is not sitting outside of your established risk tolerance. Or, perhaps your financial planner has identified poor fundamentals in one or more of your funds, placing your equities at unnecessary risk. Here, you might speak to them about moving your capital across into alternative funds which offer similar potential for generating returns.


#6 Breathe and tame your emotions

One of the investor’s biggest enemies is their own emotions. Fears over a dreaded, imminent market fall can lead people to “panic selling”, which can lead them to miss out on vital growth opportunities for their wealth should these not transpire. The excitement that a particular stock is about to “rocket upwards” can lead to impulsive buying, which might not later pick up and could even take a nosedive. In moments when you read headlines about the markets which cause you to start panicking or get worked up, try to breathe and gather your thoughts. Ask yourself some calm, rational questions before rushing to any investment decisions:

  • Have I seen volatility in the market like this before, or is it unusual?
  • Generally speaking, is it a good idea to make investment decisions out of emotion?
  • Do I need the money in my investments anytime soon, or can it sit where it is?
  • Do I expect my portfolio to always go up, or should I expect it to sometimes go down?
  • Is this something I should speak to my financial planner about?


Final Thoughts

If you want to start a conversation about your financial plan or investment strategy, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our friendly team here at WMM.

Reach us on 01869 331469


6 Myths of Ethical Investing, Busted

By | Investment Planning

This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial or investment advice. To receive personalised, regulated financial advice regarding your affairs please consult us here at WMM in Oxford.

The environment is climbing up the agenda in 2019. During the December UK general election campaign, for instance, The Labour Party made it a core pillar of their campaign, calling for a “Green Industrial Revolution”. ITV also ran its first-ever leaders TV debate on climate change, titled “Emergency On Planet Earth”. In the financial sector, “ESG investing” (environmental, society & governance) is also moving more into mainstream discourse.

Here at WMM, it’s a particular topic of interest for our clients who are interested in making their portfolio more ethical or environmentally-friendly. Yet, it’s fair to say that many misconceptions still circulate about ESG, ethical and social impact investing. In this short guide, we’ll be tackling some of these myths head-on. If you’d like to know more about ESG investing or want to discuss your investment strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a free consultation:

Reach us on 01869 331469


Myth #1: You need to be rich to invest in ESG

There seems to be a widespread perception that you need to be a philanthropic millionaire to be able to invest in “green opportunities”. The image is often of a young, idealistic investor with more money than sense, throwing money to the wind at individual ethical startups which have a high minimum investment barrier. The good news is that you don’t need to be super-wealthy to start diversifying your portfolio to include ESG investments. There are many “sustainability funds”, for example, which you could speak to your financial adviser about.


Myth #2: All investments labelled “green” are ethical

Just like other things in life, a fund or other investment is not necessarily “green” or “ethical” simply because it has these labels in their name. This is where working with an experienced financial adviser can offer great value. They can help you dig under the surface and look at the real composition of the fund sitting under the label.

Remember, people also have different opinions about what qualifies as an ESG investment. For some, it will be important to not just avoid certain markets or sectors (e.g. tobacco, arms or oil), but choose funds or companies which are actively combating climate change. Other people will be happy to simply invest in funds where companies are limiting their carbon footprint. The important thing is to do your due diligence and build a portfolio which you are comfortable with.


Myth #3: Making money is less important than values

Whilst we do not wish to diminish the importance of protecting the environment, it’s crucial to make the point that ESG investing is not about charity. Profits and investment returns matter. The common perception that “values beat profits” often feeds into the widespread belief that ESG investing provides lower returns compared to non-environmental funds. In other words: “To do the right thing with your money, you need to sacrifice your opportunities for wealth growth.”

Whilst past performance is not a guarantee of future returns, we should note that many ESG and other environmental funds have matched other ‘Non-ESG funds’ performance and often surpassed them. Indeed, investment platform AJ Bell researched some of the top ethical funds earlier in 2019 and found that nearly three-quarters outperformed their non-ethical counterparts.


Myth #4: There’s no difference between ethical funds

Many people believe that most if not all of the ESG and environmental funds on the market essentially contain the same investment opportunities. This perception is often accompanied by the impression that there simply aren’t many successful, growing companies with an ESG agenda which these funds can choose from.

Quite often these beliefs are rooted in a particular idea about ethical investing – i.e. it is mostly concerned with protecting the environment. However, ethical investing goes much further than that. There are companies which pursue ethical values in areas such as pornography, gambling and alcohol, for instance. ESG investing, in particular, broadens the agenda from a narrow focus on the environment to also include companies which try to make a positive impact on their staff, local communities and industry practices.


Myth #5: ESG investing is a bigger time commitment

There is often an impression that it takes more effort to invest in ethical companies and funds, since you need to check their credentials to ensure they reflect your values. Whilst this does add a bit more due diligence, investing in ethical funds is very similar to investing in non-ESG funds. Your financial planner can help you check the fundamentals of the fund, as well as the individual companies which it comprises. Unless you are a sophisticated investor interested in “Dragon’s Den-style” investing in individual companies, working with ESG and other social impact funds should not add a significant burden of due diligence.


Myth #6: Ethical investing is for idealists

Some people look down on ethical investing, seeing it as an option for less serious investors. For them, this investing style is more of a fringe activity often done by those with over-sensitive consciences. Yet this view is increasingly becoming untenable. Ethical investing is moving into the mainstream with each passing month. Just this year in 2019, for instance, the National Trust told the public that it would move its investments out of fossil fuels. More and more people care not just about their investment returns, but the ethical credentials of those investments too.


Final Thoughts

If you want to start a conversation about your financial plan or investment strategy, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our friendly team here at WMM.

Reach us on 01869 331469