Investing In Ethics

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In recent years there has been an increasing interest in ethical funds. However, as with most moral or ethical issues, things aren’t always clear-cut and sometimes it can be difficult to decide where you would draw the line in terms of what companies do.

A category of investments known as Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds has developed, so that whilst most ethical funds fall within this category, SRI funds can support a much wider agenda. A good example would be where an ethical fund might never invest in a company that carries out animal testing, whereas a SRI fund could support animal testing if there is a sufficiently valid and justifiable reason for such testing.

We have access to schemes that offer access to thousands of different investment opportunities which cover the whole spectrum of funds, from the conventional through to SRI and also those who meet the stricter ethical criteria. This means that return on investment and risk factors can be considered along with your personal beliefs and opinions.

It’s an exciting time for us at Platinum because we believe some of our clients may be wanting to take a more socially responsible approach to their investments. If this is something that interests you, then please get in touch.

Our first foray onto YouTube

2012 is already taking us into new areas, previously unexplored.

In order to welcome clients and explain how we work we have just launched two videos.  The idea is to show the videos on our new YouTube channel, Platinumifs, as well as posting links within our main website.

We always appreciate feedback from clients and contacts so would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you may offer.

2012 is the year of some major changes…

As we start the New Year hopefully everyone is feeling refreshed, making plans and looking forward to the next 12 months.

 

With his in mind I thought it is worth taking the time to note down some important dates which are due to affect all our lives and financial wellbeing.

 

1.  31st January is the most immediate date.  It is the deadline for all online Self-assessment tax returns (paper submissions were due by 31st October last year).  Equally important is the payment of any tax due for the previous tax year which must be paid in full by the deadline.  Where appropriate tax payers will also have to make a payment on account for the current tax year at the same time, followed by a further on account payment by the end of June.

 

2.  21st March is the date of the annual budget.  This year will be of exceptional interest to all of us as the Chancellor George Osborne is almost certainly going to take the opportunity to announce changes designed to maintain his fiscal tightening and inspire growth.  This will no doubt entail changes to taxation and benefits for companies and individuals.

 

3.  5th April is the year end as always and will probably involve a rush to maximise tax allowances and take advantage of any budget changes.  A major change which is due to take effect this year though is the removal of contracting out and protected rights rules.  For almost every pension plan holder his will mean a reassessment of their plans as many restrictions are removed and many existing plans will stop receiving enhanced benefits.

 

4.  1st September marks the start of Auto-enrolment. The Pensions Reform starts to take effect and the largest UK employers will have to start implementing changes and start providing ‘company sponsored’ pension schemes. These will soon have to be implemented by all employers throughout the UK as their various staging dates are reached.

 

5.  21st December is the date when all insurance companies must remove any gender pricing in any insurance product as dictated by the ECJ.  This will have a huge impact on any insurance related product, from car insurance through to pension transfer values and annuity rates, as companies will have to offer the same rates for men and women.

 

All the above regulatory changes will have an impact.  In order to ensure that you, your company or any friends, family and colleagues are prepared we recommend you seek advice or a review of your circumstances.

Reflection on the past year and a positive outlook for the future…

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As we approach the end of the year, it is worth reflecting upon the turmoil of the past 12 months, how well financial markets have withstood the onslaught and the opportunities for 2012.

At the beginning of the year the outlook was reserved.  The debt mountain was at the forefront of everyone’s minds and there was an awareness of looming cuts and a difficult year.

From the very start there was turmoil.  In January, the year started with civil unrest in the Middle East as countries such as Egypt fought for political reform and leadership change.  This created a spike in Oil prices and fuel costs which would have an impact on everyone’s disposable income.

The earthquake in Japan took everyone by surprise and it’s devastating impact reverberated around the world both financial and personally.  That said the Japanese financial markets soon started to recover as the country started setting about rebuilding their infrastructure.

Soon after, the US politicians failed to reach a decisive agreement on their ‘debt limit’ which failed to convince financial markets that the severity of the debt problem was understood by the political leaders.  This meant the US lost it’s AAA credit rating.  Whilst this didn’t have an immediate impact it was a wakeup call.

Alongside this the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis continued to build momentum as fears moved from Greece, to other countries and ultimately to the Eurozone as a whole.

This was manifested in the price of Gold which soared to new heights as it was perceived as a safe haven away from government debts.

The Eurozone crisis continues to bubble away but markets seem fairly steady as political leaders struggle to come to terms with the necessity of a fiscal union, likely underpinned by Germany.  In line with this the price of Gold has since fallen back from it’s earlier peak.

Closer to home there have been a number of issues regarding spending cuts & changes to public sector pension schemes.  Whilst none of these cuts are welcome the necessity of some change is unarguable and, so far, financial markets & investment managers have been pleased with the overall direction of our economy.

Looking ahead to 2012 there are some positives for investors.

It is likely the Eurozone crisis will continue to stumble onwards however as time passes each of the 17 Eurozone countries appear to be moving closer together and a long term plan will hopefully start to form.  Once a stable approach is agreed financial markets will start to move forward.

Outside the Eurozone and UK, the wider world is also coming to terms with their debt issues and changes to their political systems.  As with the Eurozone investment managers crave stability and as issues are tackled it is likely financial markets will respond.

Within the UK we are probably in a fairly robust position.  2012 is likely to be a year of little or no growth, however some things may start to get easier as inflation starts to lower and pundits will start to look ahead at 2013 to 2016, when they will see returns on investments.  As a result financial markets will hopefully demonstrate a steady climb from their current position.

In essence 2012 is unlikely to be a year of dramatic stock market climbs but it will hopefully be a year when investors see a steady positive climb in their valuations where they are invested in the right areas.

As always we are happy to discuss the financial future with any of our clients and welcome the chance to meet in the new year.

Is the Euro about to collapse?

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Recent press speculation has devoted a lot of time to the ‘end game’ which is approaching for Europe and the sovereign debt crisis.

 

A number of issues have arisen over the past few months with the most recent being the signals from financial markets that they are worried about the political leaders ability to take control.

 

Last week the main world’s central banks showed their solidarity in a co-ordinated action to lower interest rates for commercial banks.  This action achieved its goal in that it immediately calmed nerves, however the euphoria will soon dissipate if the 17 Euro countries do not move forward.

 

The sovereign debt crisis, as it is described, needs long term plans.  With their backs to the wall it is likely Germany, France and the remaining 15 ‘Euro’ countries will have to move into a fiscal union.

 

Fiscal union will probably require a new treaty with the 17 ‘Euro’ countries operating as a separate entity within the greater EU.  The new inner EU will also likely have fiscal controls dictated by Germany in return for Germany’s commitment to help support their fellow countries and their huge debt burden.

 

In the long run it is difficult to predict how the EU will develop, however it is almost certain that there are no real alternatives to a common fiscal policy controlled by the strongest country, i.e. Germany.

 

In light of the lack of alternatives financial markets are likely to see a greater fiscal unity as a really positive move, one that offers stability and an opportunity for investment mangers to concentrate on their strengths which are spotting opportunities, and generating growth and income for investors.

 

I am well aware that the regular media updates can be confusing and alarming.

 

As always I would suggest any worried client to contact us immediately to discuss their concerns and we can hopefully offer reassurance and allay any fears.  At the same time we can ensure that their savings, pensions and investments are well positioned for the future.

Does the latest government guarantee give hope to first time buyers and house owners…

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With great fanfare the government has announced some recent changes to the housing policy and a guarantee scheme for 95% Loan to Value borrowers.

The first change is to what happens to profits made from tenants buying their council houses.  These are to be used by local authorities to help build new council houses.

At the same time councils are to be given incentives and subsidies to refurbish neglected and empty properties.

On its own, this is unlikely to result in a huge leap forward in the housing market but it is an encouraging move in the right direction.

The second, major, announcement was the launch of the mortgage guarantee scheme.  Based upon the Mortgage Indemnity Guarantees of the past, this new guarantee is specifically targeting new build properties only and homebuyers who have been struggling to borrow a 95% LTV mortgage.

Essentially it is insurance, funded by the house builder and the government, to protect lenders should house prices fall further.

In time this should certainly make it easier for borrowers to get the desired mortgage and encourage a few more deals.  The knock on effect will be to help the large house building firms in particular and to get some of the large new housing estates moving again.

For the majority of homeowners the impact will be negligible or, at least, much slower.  For those living in existing properties it is unlikely to create a sudden surge of activity at the bottom rung of the ladder as the target audience for the guarantee are ‘new build’ purchasers.

In short these announcements are good news for house builders and first time buyers on ‘new build’ estates, but it is unlikely to help the mortgage and housing market as a whole.

Did you know… You can watch Asset TV on our website for the latest fund manager insights

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We have the facility on our website which allows investors to watch brief presentations by leading fund managers, economists and investment specialists.

We appreciate that for many clients the video clips may be a little indepth, however there may be the occasional presentation which may be of interest and will relate to you.

We will  however continue to focus on the one to one contact and service which we feel is essential.

For our clients; we continue to actively manage your investments and will certainly keep you appraised of any relevant news and any actions which may be required.

If you have any queries at any time, please contact us.

Inflation – what does it all mean and how can we help you combat it…

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Inflation (or deflation) is the change in the price of something from one period to the next.  For example, the price of petrol has increased over past few years.

The typical measure of inflation is simply the rate at which a specific basket of goods change from one year to the next.  There is some variation in the different goods that are included within this typical basket and it is this difference which gives us different rates of growth for the retail & consumer price index (RPI & CPI respectively).

Recent changes to legislation mean that the CPI figure has the greatest impact on benefits and pension income, although RPI does still apply to some pensions.  The figures are usually announced monthly based upon the previous 12 months and it is the most recent figure for September which has the greatest direct impact on income.

The high rate of 5.2% in September is particularly important as it dictates the amount that all state pensions and state benefits will be increased by as from next year.

Obviously this is good news for those drawing state pensions but it is not so good news for those with bank account and cash ISA savings.

The average interest rate on bank accounts is less than 0.5%pa which means that in real terms savers are losing more than 4.5% of the value of their savings this year alone.

If you are concerned about how inflation is eroding your savings or you want to look at ways to combat inflation then please get in touch.

 

How does the Greek referendum affect investments and pensions…

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Over the past few months there has been a constant stream of news stories and bulletins regarding the financial markets and the Eurozone crisis.  As this has gone on we have tried to keep clients both informed and reassured.  This article is much of the same.

The latest headline is the Greek referendum.  In order to explain this think back to only a couple of weeks ago when the financial markets were in disarray as they waited for the 17 countries using the Euro to come to a consensus and start developing a meaningful plan for the future.

Last week the full Eurozone, including the 17 Euro based economies, finally came to some agreement which involved both recapitalising their banks and writing off some of the huge debts owed.

This plan was very well received.  Whilst the plan is unlikely to be a permanent solution it demonstrates the leaders are looking to take control.  As a result markets climbed as demonstrated by the FTSE rising more than 15%.

The news that the Greeks are to hold a referendum has shook the market confidence again.  The referendum will effectively ask the Greek people whether they agree to the latest Eurozone plan.

It is a gamble from the Greek government to try and calm the civil unrest as they try to get the population to engage with the plan.  The risks are that the Greek people decide they don’t want to have many of their countries debts halved as a protest to any form of bailout and the massive cuts their government have levied so far.

Whilst there is no doubt the Greeks would be worse of if they voted no to the latest plan, there is that possibility and by leaving any referendum until January it is likely the impact will have a drawn out effect on financial markets.

That said, ultimately the Greeks will have to resolve their debt issues as will the Eurozone.  Whether the current plan is enforced in its current form it does mark a milestone in that all 17 Euro countries have agreed a way forward.  For this reason I do feel there are positive reasons to look towards the longer term.  If investors and savers keep that longer term focus they will benefit from the eventual recovery in Stockmarkets.

Matching risk with your goals

nvestors can be divided into two broad groups: income seekers and growth seekers.

Whichever you are, it is important to establish your investment goals from the outset. This helps to determine your tolerance for risk, thereby ensuring that you select the most appropriate investments for your portfolio. Risk tolerance is actually one of the most important factors. Traditionally, there is a direct relationship between the amount of risk you take and the amount of potential return you can expect.

 

For example, a 30-year-old, with no financial obligations other than rent and savings in a deposit account, might decide to invest in a pension for later in life. With this long-term investment horizon – 35 years or so – it might be appropriate to take on more risk, as any short-term ups and downs can be absorbed in favour of the potential for higher long-term gains.

However, a 30-year-old receiving an inheritance payment, with which they plan to buy a house in five years, needs to be more cautious. Over this relatively short period, they would be more vulnerable to the ups and downs of the market cycle, and would be best served by a relatively cautious approach that will not put their capital at risk. It is important to bear this relationship in mind when making investment decisions.  Perhaps consider a range of less volatile investments such as cash, UK bonds and UK equities, to build a core, to which riskier options can then be added. These riskier options can then be adjusted as market conditions change.

 

Whatever your age we can ensure that your attitude, circumstances and the investment term is taken into account when reviewing or making investments.  In almost all situations investors circumstances change over time and it is essential your investments change to meet your approaching objectives.

 

If your circumstances have recently changed or you’re anticipating a change in lifestyle in the next few years, such as retirement or moving house, then get in touch so that we can review your finances and update your portfolio if necessary.