– SAVINGS AND INVESTMENTS
David Baker, Senior Manager, Financial Planning, Mazars LLP, Oxford
Top ten tips on savings and investments in the downturn are as follows:
1. Check interest rates on savings, especially regular savings accounts. The disparity between the best and worst rates is significant, especially on regular savings where you can now achieve up to 10% gross return, rates we have not witnessed for a number of years.
2. Make use of tax-free allowances. Individual savings accounts provide attractive cash rates tax free. National savings, especially index-linked savings, are increasingly attractive against a background of rising food and energy costs.
3. Maximise tax allowances. Many households have a main breadwinner who may be a higher rate taxpayer with the partner being either a basic or non-taxpayer. Ensure that savings and investments that are not tax free are in the name of the lower-taxpaying individual.
4. Ensure that your age allowance is optimised. If you are over 65 you get an additional personal allowance, which can be eroded by investment income if this takes your total income over £21,800. Capital investment bonds can provide a source of funds without affecting your age allowance.
5. Do not forget the longer term. Continue to invest in pensions as, depending on your tax rate, you will receive either an additional 20% or 40% tax relief on the investment, making these highly attractive longer term options. As you can invest in cash funds, there is no need to take any investment risk. We do not want this downturn to have an impact on long-term planning if possible.
6. Diversify your investment. Do not invest in one asset class; for example, do not have all your funds invested in cash or all your funds invested in shares. Consider a combination with fixed interest investments, alternative investments and property. Diversification reduces risk and protects your overall portfolio in such difficult times.
7. Investment risk. What investment risk have you taken? Is the risk you are taking still relevant to your requirements? Can you meet your needs by taking less risk? For example, why invest in equities if your needs can be met by cash returns? Ensure that you are taking no more risk than needed to meet your specific requirements.
8. Monitor your investments both in terms of performance and charges. Increased charges on contracts directly affect the performance. Ensure that your investments have a competitively charged structure.
9. Consider your debt. A debt could be considered as simply a negative saving or investment. What rates are you paying on mortgages, credit cards, store cards etc? Can they be improved upon? Can they be consolidated to pay one lesser cost on a monthly basis?
10. Income protection/mortgage protection policies. Although not directly savings or investments they do protect against the erosion of such assets should your employment circumstances be at risk during a downturn period.
Remember that during a period of economic downturn, this can be the perfect opportunity to buy investments when the market and consequently prices are low.
Always take professional and independent advice on any area of financial planning.