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Investments

How you can benefit from share market fluctuations

By | Financial advice, Investments | No Comments

When share markets experience a downturn, it’s easy to get nervous about the impact on your investments.  But this kind of volatility doesn’t always necessarily spell bad news – as billionaire entrepreneur Warren Buffett once said, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

While it may seem strange to buy when everyone else is selling up, the fact is that even a declining market can present opportunities.  The key is to choose a mix of investments that allows you to take advantage of both positive and negative market movements.

Here are some strategies that every savvy investor should keep in mind.

Understand share price changes

When markets are driven lower by negative sentiment, assets can potentially fall below their fundamental value. These conditions may then provide valuable opportunities for investors to temporarily buy shares at a discount.

This is because the value of an individual stock is the sum of the returns it can potentially generate over the company’s lifetime.  So while short-term shockwaves such as recessions or political events can affect the immediate share returns on an asset, they won’t necessarily impact its intrinsic worth.

But be careful as this doesn’t mean you should buy anything and everything that’s on sale.  For instance, a company’s share prices may be falling because of other factors that will erode the long-term potential of those shares.  And with any investment, you want to be reasonably confident that its value will rise in the future.

Investment managers and financial advisers work hard to identify undervalued assets and take advantage of market dips.  That’s why it’s always important to seek professional advice before you make any major investment decision.

Take a long-term view

A down market offers the potential to earn greater returns than an up market.  This is because, theoretically speaking, the lower your starting point, the higher your stocks can move.  However, this is usually only true if you adopt a long-term investment strategy that will help you ride out any future market fluctuations.

Despite periods of short-term fluctuations, historically share markets tend to move upwards, and shares are an investment vehicle designed to be held for periods of five years or more.  So, whether the market is up or down, you may be wise to ‘buy and hold’ so you can increase your potential for strong returns in the long run.

Diversify your portfolio

Even the most seasoned investor knows how difficult it is to time the market.  Rather than trying to predict future movements, some say it helps to take a measured approach by investing regularly over months and years, regardless of how the market is performing.  So if you continue investing consistently when prices fall, you’ll be able to buy a larger number of shares for the same amount you usually invest.

It can also help to diversify your portfolio by investing in defensive assets such as fixed-interest investments and cash.  These tend to be less dependent on market cycles, so they can provide stable earnings through periods when markets are on the move.

Most importantly, remember that a financial adviser can help tailor your investment strategy so you can make the most of market movements.  Your adviser can also ensure your portfolio is robust and diversified, so you can protect your investments and keep your financial plan on course.

Source: Colonial First State

Buy, sell or hold: How to deal with market movements

By | Financial advice, Investments | No Comments

When share markets fall, every investor has a different emotional response.  Some investors get anxious and sell up at the first drop in value, whereas others are happy to ride out short term fluctuations to realise the long-term benefits of their investments down the track.

One of the reasons for these different reactions is that all investments carry some level of risk, and we all have different perspectives on how much risk we’re willing to accept.  This is because many personal factors can impact our investing style – from our financial situation and investment timeframe to our lifestyle goals and even our personality.

But when markets are in flux, how do you know if it’s time to change your strategy?  Here are some things to keep in mind.

How do you react to market fluctuations?

A study by Colonial First State Global Asset Management (GAM) examined how a recent period of market movements impacted people’s investment decisions.

The results showed that as confidence declined, portfolio activity increased as more investors moved away from the stock market.  In fact, the group most likely to switch out of shares were investors aged 50 and over.  This is perhaps because they were seeking to preserve their capital and minimise their risk exposure as they headed towards retirement.

While investors of all ages often respond to uncertainty in the market by taking a more active approach to their investments, this may not always work in their best interests.  Not only is switching costly, but it can also mean missing out on opportunities when the market recovers.

What happens if you sell?

Before you withdraw from an investment, it’s important to make sure you understand all the implications, including the risks and costs involved.  For one thing, if you sell your asset you may be liable for capital gains tax (CGT), which can reduce the profit you stand to make.

What’s more, even if you’re only planning to sell off part of an investment, it’s not just the face value you’ll be giving up.  You’ll also miss out on the benefits of compounding, which means you won’t be able to earn further returns on the shares you sell.

But that’s not all: if the value of your investment is falling, this is only a hypothetical or ‘on paper’ loss.  If share prices begin to rise again, your investment could soon return to profit without you doing anything.  However, if you sell your investment while its value is down, you essentially crystallise your losses – making them real and irreversible.

Are there alternative options?

When tailoring your investment mix, it’s important to focus on the big picture and think long term.  That way, you’ll be able to ride out short-term fluctuations and take advantage of growth opportunities.

If you’re investing for the long term – for instance, with your superannuation – it’s important to have a diversified portfolio.  This means investing in a variety of different asset classes. GAM’s research revealed that Australian investors tend to react to uncertainty overseas by reducing their exposure to international shares.  But while this may seem like a sensible move in theory, it also means your overall portfolio will become dependent on a smaller pool of asset classes.

On the other hand, a diverse portfolio allows you to spread your risk exposure across different asset classes and markets, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.  This provides a financial buffer whenever an individual asset class declines in value.

If you’re thinking about changing your investment strategy, a financial adviser should be your first port of call.  They can review your portfolio to make sure you have the right investment mix, taking into account your financial goals, investment timeframe and risk appetite.

Source: Colonial First State

Diversification – why it should be your best friend

By | Financial advice, Investments | No Comments

Diversification is the act of spreading the money you have to invest across a number of different types of investments.  For example, rather than putting all your money into shares in one company, you split it across multiple shares in companies which operate in different industries or different countries.  You might also spread to other types of investments like bonds or property.

Why do this?  Because different investments behave in different ways.  When one peaks, another may plummet, while another stays flat.  Some provide investment returns in the form of income (for example, dividends or rent), others through increasing in value.  Diversification ensures that an investment portfolio is not at risk of suffering too much if one or more of its parts fall in value.

Diversify, yes – but also think of your objectives

Diversified investment portfolios vary substantially, but can be grouped according to what the owner (the investor) wants from their portfolio and how much risk they are prepared to take on. Broadly speaking, we can bucket portfolios under one of three labels: conservative, balanced and growth.

Conservative portfolio:

This may have the bulk of its money (70% or more) invested in cash and fixed interest (bond) investments, with the rest in growth assets such as  shares and property which are, generally speaking, more volatile.  This type of portfolio is designed to achieve lower variability in returns, albeit with lower returns than balanced and growth portfolios.

Balanced portfolio:

As the name suggest, more of a balance, with around 30% – 40% invested in cash and fixed interest and the remainder in growth assets, with slightly more varied returns through time.

Growth portfolio:

The alter-ego of the conservative portfolio, this kind of portfolio will typically have at least 70% – 85% in growth-oriented investments, aiming to provide higher returns over the long term, but with a greater likelihood of shorter term volatility. This means in some years you could see losses – even significant losses – but also higher returns in the good years.

The traps of diversification

When you manage an investment portfolio on your own, there are many risks to contend with.  First is a basic lack of knowledge.  ASIC research shows that 10% of people have at some point invested in something they didn’t understand, and 69% of people either had not heard of or did not understand the concept of risk and return trade-off.  Furthermore, some 41% of people view real estate as a low or very low risk type of investment.  A lack of knowledge and experience means many investors could be open to:

  • Buying into an investment before prices drop significantly, or selling before they increase (known as timing risk);
  • Failing to understand which investments are low risk and which are considered high risk;
  • Investing too much in one investment simply because it has already performed well.

The concept of not putting all your eggs in one basket seems logical, but working out how you do this with your own money and actually doing it – yourself – takes a lot more effort.  A financial planner can sit down and help you work out what you want from your money over time and define your financial goals.  Furthermore, Australia has a well-developed market for investment products, including managed funds, to provide one-stop diversified investment options for individuals.

About managed funds

Investing in a managed fund allows you to access investment professionals to manage your money.  In a managed fund your money is pooled with that of many others.  The investment manager controls where this pool of money is invested, using their investment process and experience to the mutual benefit of the investors.  The investment manager cannot just invest where they please; each managed fund has its own governance structure, rules to abide by and specific investment objectives – like providing long term growth, or regular income.

There is a wide range of managed funds available including well diversified options such as conservative, balanced and growth funds.  You will pay a fee for ongoing management, but beyond the investment manager’s expertise, what you buy is freedom to ‘get on with life’, as managed funds are one of the easiest ways for time-poor or knowledge-poor people to establish and manage a diversified portfolio.

Source: BT