How to Choose the Best Performing Mutual Funds

The total net assets of mutual funds worldwide were over $14 trillion in March of this year.

Mutual funds are a hugely popular investment vehicle globally. However, there are a huge number of them out there, with the quality of returns varying significantly from one to the next.

For a newcomer to the world of investment, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a mutual fund. The best performing mutual funds in the past may not continue to post exceptional returns in the future, especially in these uncertain economic times.

Read on as we take a closer look at mutual funds, and what to look for when investing in one.

What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a type of investment fund. A team of professional investment managers take capital from a large number of investors and invest the resulting pool of money in various securities.

Essentially, it is a means of investing in capital markets indirectly. Rather than picking stocks or bonds and putting money into them yourself, you allow a mutual fund manager to make the choices for you.

The advantage of this is that your investments are made by a highly experienced investment professional. This is safer than picking investments yourself, especially if you’re new to the world of investment.

The Different Types of Mutual Fund

There are many different mutual fund types. You can categorize them on the basis of the types of securities they invest in, the way they are managed, and the level of risk they take on in seeking returns.

To pick the best mutual fund for your needs, you need to know what your investment objectives are. These will dictate the type of fund you should pick.

Index Funds

Index funds are so named because they track the performance of a given index. Common indexes that form the basis for these funds include the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), and the Nasdaq Composite (IXIC).

Index funds are an example of a passively managed fund. No input is required from investment managers, as the fund simply tracks an index.

Passively managed funds typically have much lower fees than actively managed funds for this reason. As outlined below, many investors who want a passively managed fund opt for an ETF rather than a mutual fund.

Stock Funds

Stock funds invest in a range of different stocks. Unlike index funds, fund managers actively pick these stocks individually and will chop and change them based on market trends.

Stock funds are therefore an example of an actively managed fund. Their fees are higher than some alternatives.

Stocks are riskier securities than bonds or other fixed-income securities. The risk of loss with a stock fund is therefore relatively high, but the opportunity for gain is greater as well.

Investment approaches vary widely from one stock fund to the next. Some managers will make more of an effort than others to diversify their holdings and hedge risks.

Specialty Funds

Specialty funds can be thought of as occupying a kind of middle ground between stock funds and index funds. Investment managers pick the stocks themselves, but within certain boundaries.

These boundaries typically relate to a market type. For instance, a cannabis market specialty fund will only invest in cannabis stocks.

Fixed Income Funds

Fixed income funds invest in low-risk securities. These include Treasury notes and bonds, as well as highly-rated corporate bonds.

These mutual funds cater to investors who prioritize income over growth.

If you’re simply trying to manage your money better with a view to long-term savings, a fixed-income fund might be just the thing for you.

Mutual Funds vs Other Fund Types

There are other types of investment fund that you may have heard about. While these can bear similarities to mutual funds, there are important distinctions to be drawn in each case.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

The ETF is a close cousin of the mutual fund. Both types of fund take payments from investors and use these to invest in a variety of different securities.

ETFs tend to focus more on passive strategies than active ones. Many ETFs track indexes.

Mutual funds also tend to have more complex structures and a greater variety of share classes.

Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are another type of pooled investment fund. However, there are a number of important differences to be aware of with hedge funds.

Hedge funds use a number of complicated strategies to extract higher returns from their investments. These include high-frequency trading and short selling. 

Hedge funds typically charge much higher fees than mutual funds.

Because of their complex, risky strategies, hedge funds are generally only available to professional investors, or those with a large number of investable assets.

What Sets the Best Performing Mutual Funds Apart?

There are certain mutual funds that regularly outperform their competition. While it is impossible to say exactly what the winning formula is for these, there are certain things that profitable funds have in common.

The first thing you should look for is a low expense ratio. A better approach to cost management means lower costs for you, and also indicates fiscal prudence on the part of the fund managers.

For actively managed funds, quality management is the key consideration. Look for managers with a proven track record of providing results.

Putting Your Money to Work

Mutual funds are a diverse family of investment vehicles. Some are designed to seek huge gains, while others simply aim to provide steady growth for clients looking to retirement.

The best performing mutual funds have consistent objectives that they stick to. The best investors do exactly the same thing. 

When you’re deciding on your next mutual fund investment, start with a clear goal in mind.

If you’d like to learn more about the work we do or the topics we cover, contact us today.

How a Financial Consultant Can Help You

For most people, money is one of the primary driving forces in their lives. After all, you need it in order to buy food, shelter, clothes, and all other goods and services. 

Money causes stress while also providing a sense of security. Much of your time and effort are invested in your career to provide a certain standard of living for your family and to prepare for retirement. 

A skilled financial consultant can help you reduce debt and make the most of your money. This article takes a look at the reasons why you should consider working with an advisor to prepare for the future.

They Help You Understand Your Goals

Believe it or not, many people have no idea what they really want. Even though the average life expectancy is around 73 years, few people approach the future with any sort of goals in mind.

A lot of the population lives paycheck to paycheck, without much rhyme or reason to their financial decision-making. 

A chartered financial planner will ask a series of questions designed to encourage you to think about the future so that you can plan accordingly. This will enable you to be conscious of the financial decisions you make going forward rather than simply winging it as you have in the past.

They Help You Develop a Plan

Once you’ve figured out some of your long-term goals, you’ll be able to develop a plan for how to actually reach those goals.

A good plan provides structure, enabling you to create a step by step roadmap that can be adjusted year after year as your wealth grows and your goals shift and change. 

Advisors are skilled at building a financial investing plan. This will be specifically tailored to meet your needs. The more specific you can be about what you want out of life, the more they can help.

They Show You the Best Ways to Invest

There are many ways to invest your money. Each type of investment tool offers different degrees of risk and reward. The key is to understand how aggressive you want to be in building wealth.

This requires working closely with your advisor.

Be open and honest. This will provide valuable information that will help them know how best to proceed. It’ll also help them find the most efficient resources and tools to utilize when managing your wealth.

Keep in mind that an experienced financial advisor will explain all the investment options that are available, along with the pros and cons that come with each. 

Don’t feel pressured to invest too aggressively, but also listen closely to their advice. Try to be as open as possible to educated advice regarding ways to maximize your investment funds.

They Help Avoid Stupid Investments

It’s important to remember that your financial advisor is an expert. Investing is a complicated business, with an incredible amount of data to track and variables to consider. 

Because of this, it can be easy to make a mistake, to chase a trend that’s leading to a dead-end, or to find yourself excited about an investment opportunity that will only end up costing you money and causing frustration and pain.

An experienced advisor will help you avoid as many mistakes as possible. They have the training and skills needed to identify bad trends and unreliable sectors in the marketplace.

It can be hard to trust someone with your money. Especially when you feel like you’ve discovered a great investment opportunity. Yet, trust is exactly what will be required in order to build the level of wealth that most people only dream of.

They Provide a Sounding Board

A good advisor will also be a great listener. This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s actually one of the most important qualities to look for when seeking an investment professional.

You should never feel hesitant to talk to your consultant like a real person. Tell them your hopes and feelings. Mention ideas you’ve been thinking about, and never feel stupid for asking tons of questions.

Remember, they work for you. They are there to answer questions, provide feedback, and help give you confidence that your future is on the right track.

They Help Enforce Financial Discipline

Saving money isn’t fun. It can be a huge challenge. 

After all, it’s much more exciting to spend money on shiny new toys rather than sock cash away for the future.

This is another reason why an experienced consultant is so valuable. They will help you keep your eyes on the prize because they won’t have any emotional attachment to your finances. This means they can approach making smart investments and building your wealth from a purely educated and logical vantage point. 

They Help You Connect With Other Professionals

Your financial advisor will also connect you to a good lawyer and accountant. This will help ensure that your money matters are legal, and keep any potential tax issues from arising.

They Help You Relax 

Finally, knowing that you have an experienced consultant on your team will help you relax. You have a pro working for you, after all.

They’ll choose investments that will make your money work for you, and grow your wealth day after day. You can rest assured knowing that when you’re ready to retire, you’ll have the resources to enjoy your golden years to the fullest.

A Guide to the Benefits of Hiring a Financial Consultant

Planning for retirement can be confusing. Fortunately, hiring a skilled financial consultant will help make the process a little less stressful.

Click here to learn how to form an investing strategy for European markets.

Is Now a Good Time to Invest? Buying Stock During a Pandemic

The global pandemic has lead to a lot of predictable anxiety, lockouts, and business closures in the last few weeks and months. It has raised many legitimate questions about global finances, with one very important one weighing on investors. “Is now a good time to invest?”

What are the more robust markets to invest in right now? Can anybody, even a freelancer, do well in the market? And what is the best approach to take to keep your money safe?

Join us today as we break down some of our favourite tips.

Don’t Be Reckless

It can be easy, in the midst of everything the world is going through, to feel like the world is your oyster. You can expect to see panicked sales going on in waves over the next few months. This may seem like a tempting opportunity to wade in and start buying up everything you can get your hands on.

Keep in mind, however, that discretion is never a bad idea. There will still be plenty of bad deals floating around, and COVID-19 will run its course. You could find yourself dealing with the repercussions of a bad investment sooner than you might expect, so be careful.

Don’t Invest Unless You Can Maintain It for Three Years, Minimum

Considering buying stocks in response to falling prices? Consider the stability of the investments you’re sizing up. To be responsible, you have to be able to hold your investments for a minimum of three years so they have the chance to recover.

This goes for investments at any time of the year but is especially true during quarantine times.

You may want to sell. You could have any number of reasons for this.

Maybe you’re scared by all the instability. Maybe your broker recommends it. Whatever your reasoning, you should not invest during a stock market crash if you’re not ready to hold your investments for at least three years.

Stocks have a high potential return rate, but we only see those returns when we hold down, consistently, during episodes of volatility. Three years is the recommended amount of time necessary to overcome short-term market losses.

You also cannot, under any circumstances, invest money you may need in an emergency into these stocks. If you invest emergency funds and then, later on, have an emergency, you’ll need to sell to get access to that money.

Don’t Spend It All on the Markets

Cash tends to retain its value, even during a stock market crash. What this means for you, as an investor, is an opportunity to keep a portion of your investing power liquid and ready in case the market drops.

You’ll be more ready to take advantage of these dips in activity if your funds aren’t already all wrapped up in equity. Compared to other investors, strapped for cash and weighing up their options, you’ll have a distinct advantage.

Regret: It’s to Be Expected

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Nobody ever gets into the stock market intending to lose money. That said, losing money, at least in the short term, is an inevitability. It’s always easier to plan when the markets are behaving as they should be.

It’s no secret that investors get nervous when the stock market is erratic. They feel regret over not getting in earlier. They feel regret at not selling sooner.

You will probably feel the same way at some point in the future. It’s inevitable, and you will almost always be left something you wish had gone differently. The worst thing you could do is sell scared.

Expert investors with years of experience don’t have perfect days. If you’re trying to take advantage of the market during COVID-19, it’s important to remember not everything will go perfectly.

Stocks will fall, sometimes repeatedly. They have done so throughout history, and have always recovered. If you are bold enough to get into the stock market during a global pandemic and impending recession, you need to be bold enough to weather the storm.

A Note on What to Invest in Now

Investing in stocks and shares is about taking a smart approach to your investments. But it’s also about investing in stocks and shares you know will make a return. With all of that said, which sectors will be most likely to pull ahead during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Healthcare and Biotechnology

The biotech and healthcare fields are expected to remain entrenched during the outbreak due to their role in treating it. Look at Quidel Corporation (QDEL) and Masimo Corporation (MASI) for mid-to-large caps. 

Teleconference

Because of its role in quarantines, teleconferencing software is also attracting purchases. It’s not a field that gets as much attention in a regular year, however, so expect some inconsistencies by way of growing pains. Citrix Systems, Inc. (CTXS) and Teledoc Health, Inc. (TDOC) have both shown promise.

Safe Shelters

The safe-haven has had its place throughout dozens of national and international disasters. They’ve seen consistent growth throughout COVID-19, with climbing dividends staving off lower prices. Campbell Soup Company (CPB) recently traded near a 52-week high, while American Water Works Company, Inc. (AWK) has come in with some great returns, as well.

Is Now a Good Time to Invest?

The world is in an interesting place, right now. One of the biggest global pandemics in recent history has sent literally everybody inside, from the man on the street to whole businesses. And, with stores, restaurants, and even some non-essential public utilities all shutting down, it can be easy to think this is a bad time to invest.

The truth is quite the opposite, though. With the market shifting to products and services relevant to the virus, we’re seeing new opportunities for investors.

It’s all about changing your perspective and learning to roll with the punches, and this is the perfect environment to do exactly that in. Some of the best long term investments come out of trying times. And COVID-19 is certainly trying.

Is now a good time to invest? It’s as good a time as it’s ever been, which means “absolutely,” provided you’re ready to put in the time and effort and invest wisely.

Looking for more choice investment insights? Check out some of our other expert blog content, today!

The Best Place to Invest 100K: Understanding UK Savings Accounts

If you have £100,000 or more in savings, keeping in safe is essential. 

The risk-free, common-sense option to keep your money safe is to put into a savings account. Not only will your money be held safely, but it will also accrue interest.

But, are your savings working well for you? Are you getting the maximum amount of interest possible?

How well do you understand UK savings accounts?

We’ll explore the different savings options and the best place to invest 100k.  

How to Find the Best Place to Invest 100k

There are several factors to consider before finding the best place to invest £100k. 

Decide how long you would like to lock your cash away. The longer you leave your money, the more interest you will accrue. 

Fixed-rate savings accounts that require you to hold your money in place over a certain amount of time can provide good returns. However, if you need your money back before then, you may not be able to access it.

Are you a pensioner or a student? Banks and building societies often offer preferential interest rates for different age groups. In which case, you should look for the best saving rates for pensioners or the best savings account for students.

You should also consider that you may need to split your money between multiple accounts

Decide on whether you need access to your cash. Do you require online banking?

Is customer service important? Will you need to service your account in your local branch? 

Work out what’s important to you, and make sure that you find an account that ticks all of the relevant boxes. 

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

By spreading your investments across a range of different savings accounts, you will enjoy a variety of benefits. 

If you have short-term requirements on some of your cash, put that money into an easy-access account with the best interest rates. For the rest of your cash, look for longer-term savings accounts that offer the best returns. 

Similarly, if you are unsure about what you want to do with your money, keep it in easy-access savings accounts until you have decided. That way, you can still move your money out when you have a long term plan. 

Financial Services Compensation Scheme 

When you invest any money into a UK bank or building society account, you are protected. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme protects savings of up to £85,000, or £170,000 if it is a joint account. 

If you are looking to place your £100,000 or more into any type of savings account, you will need to set up at least two different accounts with different banks to protect your money. 

Alternatively, if you can set up a joint account, you will benefit from the higher level of protection. 

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is in place to protect your money in the event of the bank or building society being able to pay you your own money. 

Making Use of ISAs

Savings accounts in the UK are subject to tax-deductions on interest payments. 

Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) offer the opportunity to save up to £20,000 each year, tax-free. If you have a partner, you could both invest £20,000 each in your own ISAs. 

If you want to make the most of your savings, then you should take advantage of your tax-free savings allowance by opening an ISA. 

You could opt for Cash ISA or stocks and shares ISA or a combination of both. 

A cash ISA will act in much the same way as a savings account. With a stocks and shares ISA, your money is invested into stocks, corporate, and government bonds. You may return a greater degree of interest with this type of ISA; however, you may lose money too. 

Finding the Right Savings Accounts

Find a savings account that offers you a rate of interest that is higher than the rate of inflation. 

Inflation rates directly affect the value of your savings. If you place your money into an account with a 2% interest rate, then after one year, you will have 2% more money. 

However, if the rate of inflation is greater than 2%, you will have more money, but that money will have lower purchase power than it did a year before. 

Regular Savers

Regular savers accounts often offer interest rates that are higher than the rate of inflation. 

With rates of up to 5% available, this type of savings account is certainly worth exploring. 

You will need to be aware of maximum deposit limits, as well as the length of time that the rates will be valid. 

Fixed-Rate Savings Accounts

Fixed-rate savings accounts will offer you the same rate of interest over a specified period of time. Typically, your money will be locked into the account for between one and five years. 

The longer you are willing to leave your money in this type of account, the higher the interest returns will be. 

Don’t Overlook Current Accounts

It is easy to think that a current account is just for holding your cash and paying your direct debits; however, they can be a useful tool for depositing large sums of money. 

Many current accounts will offer a reasonably high rate of interest. 

Usually, current accounts will offer a higher rate of interest for a small amount, and then a lower rate for any money thereafter. 

For example, a current account may offer 5% on the first £2,500 for one year, and then 1% on everything above that amount. 

Always Research the Best Deals

The best place to invest 100k will depend on the interest rates offered by banks and building societies. Banking products change, so shop around and find the best savings account that will work for your money. 

For more advice and information about making your money work for you, explore the other articles on the blog. 

Is a SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) a Good Idea for Freelancers

A quarter of British adults have nothing in savings. Meanwhile, one in 10 Brits admits they tend to spend more than they earn. As a freelancer, you can’t get caught without a good nest egg awaiting you during retirement. By setting up a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), you can prepare yourself for the year to come. A SIPP will help you save for retirement without worry you’ll spend your savings. 

What is a SIPP pension exactly, and how does it work?

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about SIPP investments as a freelancer!

What is a SIPP?

First, what exactly is a self-invested personal pension?

A SIPP is a pension that holds all of your investments until you retire and begin drawing a retirement income. This form of personal pension works similarly to a standard personal pension. The main difference, however, is that a SIPP offers more flexibility with the investments you choose.

Once you have your SIPP set up, you can add regular contributions to your nest egg. You can also make ad hoc payments into your self-employment pension. Then, your pension provider will claim tax relief and add it to your savings.

How Does It Work?

How does a SIPP work and help you save for retirement?

With a standard personal pension, all of your investments are managed for you. They’re controlled within the pooled fund you selected. With SIPPS, however, you have the freedom to select and manage your own investments instead. 

You can also pay an experienced, authorised investment manager to make the decisions for you. 

SIPPs are best for people who want to manage their own funds. By giving you control, your self-invested personal pension also allows you to switch investments as you’d like. That way, you have the peace of mind that you’re making investments with your own best interests in mind. 

Why Is It Important as a Freelancer?

The majority of Brits between the ages of 22 and 29 have no more than £1,000 tucked away in savings. If your self-employed, it’s up to you to start a pension on your own. 

Unfortunately, many self-employed people struggle to make ends meet as they grow older. By planning for SIPP investments now, you can prepare yourself for any rocky roads ahead.

There are a few benefits to choosing a SIPP, including:

  • You can receive pension tax relief from the government
  • A strong pension plan will give you low-cost access to professional investment managers
  • The right investment manager can help you invest your money in a range of assets
  • Choosing the right assets can help you manage risk in a sensible way
  • If you die before you turn 75, your pension will pass on to your beneficiaries as a lump sum
  • New pension freedom rules allow you to decide what to do with your pension savings when you reach retirement

As a freelancer, having the freedom to choose what you do with your self-employed pension is essential. Many full-time employees are already paying into a pension. In fact, employers are now obligated to automatically enrol employees into a workplace pensions scheme. 

Other Options

If you’re currently self-employed and want to set up a private pension, start by finding any old workplace and personal pensions established in the past. Then, combine them into your new pension. Completing this process will make your new self-employment pension easier to manage in the long-run.

Working with a financial advisor can make this process easier, too. They can help move your pensions over into their system. Then, they’ll combine and transfer your pensions into your new SIPP pension plan. 

Otherwise, might need to contact your previous pension providers to get your pension balances on your own. 

In addition to a SIPP pension plan, you might decide on other options, including a personal pension or stakeholder pension. Self-employed individuals can also utilise the government scheme National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), too. However, there’s no “best” pension for self-employed workers.

It really depends on your own specific circumstances.

Ideally, try to find a provider who lets you make contributions when you want. As someone who is self-employed, your income might not end up as predictable as you’d like. Having control over the details of your self-employed pension can make it easier to manage. 

Investments

Now that you know a little more about how SIPP investments work, let’s review the assets you can choose from. A few include:

  • Unit trusts
  • Some National Savings and Investment productions
  • Commercial property (shops, offices, factories)
  • Investment trusts
  • Government securities
  • Individual stocks and shares (quotes on the recognised UK or overseas stock exchange)
  • Insurance company funds
  • Traded endowment policies
  • Deposit accounts with banks and building societies 

However, this is only a shortlist. Speaking with an expert can help you explore your options. There are also different SIPP providers who have different investment options available for you to choose from. 

You can’t hold residential property directly within a SIPP with tax advantages that usually accompany pension investments.

However, you can hold residential property in a SIPP through certain types of collection investments. For example, a real estate investment trust would allow you to include the property in a SIPP without you losing tax advantages.

These investments are often subject to restrictions. It’s also important to note that not all SIPP providers will accept this type of investment. 

In addition to your self-invested personal pension, make sure to take the time to develop an overall investment strategy. Planning now will help you in the future.

You can access and use your SIPP more flexibly now. According to new rules, you can now access the money in your SIPP at the age of 55. 

Take a SIPP: Understanding Your Self-Invested Personal Pension as a Freelancer

Prepare for the future and make the most of your money. By understanding the importance of creating a self-invested personal pension, you can save away money as a freelancer. Then, you’ll have what you need to prepare for the day you retire!

Searching for more helpful investment tips? Explore our latest Investment Management guides today.

How to Achieve Living Debt Free Quickly

Nowadays, households in Great Britain owe a sum of around £15,000.

If you find yourself struggling with debt, it can feel like a never-ending slog to pay back each and every penny. 

But, if you’re interested in living debt-free and are ready to put in some hard work and diligent dedication, then luckily it’s possible to completely change your life.

Aside from paying off your high-interest debt first, here are a few more methods for helping you live a debt-free life faster: 

1. Create an Accurate Budget 

In the UK, 10% of people admit that they are terrible with money. But, it’s impossible to pay back debt if you don’t know exactly how much your lifestyle costs you. 

Work out everything from how much you spend on food every week, how much your rent and bills cost, and how much you need for expenses such as travel or childcare. 

Next, work out how much you spend on luxury expenses, such as clothing, going to the cinema, or eating out. 

There are many budget tracking methods including apps, such as Monzo, or simply writing everything down with pen and paper.

Now, budget how much you can spend on monthly debt payments. Don’t overestimate this figure, it needs to be precise to give yourself peace of mind.

2. Take Things Slowly 

Pummelling all of your earnings into paying off your debt is simply not sustainable. You’re likely to give up completely. 

Instead, consider your debt payments as a slow but sustainable practice. Set yourself realistic goals, such as a year or two to pay off your debts. 

Although it’s a good idea to cut down on luxuries, it’s still worth planning when and how you’ll treat yourself. Don’t let your entire working life be spent trying to pay down debt. 

3. Learn to Love the Free Things in Life

There is no point in paying off your debt only to start spending again. You need to develop interests that are free. 

Luckily, there are many free activities nowadays. Join a free running club with other locals, sign up to free trial classes, visit museums, and go to lectures.

You’ll be amazed by how much there is to do for free when you start looking. Regularly attending free events in your hometown is a great way to meet other people with similar interests and avoid those with expensive tastes!

4. Find a Mentor 

Are you struggling to keep up the motivation to pay off your debts? Find someone who has travelled along this path before you to help keep you motivated. 

This could be someone you know in your personal life or it could simply be a celebrity. There are hundreds of podcasts dedicated to finances and living debt-free. 

You’ll find untapped expertise and knowledge that will help you improve your own circumstances. 

For example, read this post by Giles Coghlan, chief currency analyst at HYCM, explaining the secret to trading on the financial markets!

5. What’s Your Reason Why?

Crippling debt has regularly been linked to depression. This is a good reason why you should sort out your finances. 

But, if you aren’t struggling with a mental health issue, then perhaps this isn’t a good enough reason for you. Instead, find your own reason why you want to live debt-free. 

Develop your own mantra that you repeat to yourself whenever you want to make an impulsive purchase. 

6. Leave the Credit Cards Behind 

Figure out why you are in debt. If you are simply an overindulger and spender, then there are many ways for you to trick yourself into avoiding spending money. 

For example, taking only the exact amount of cash you need with you whenever you go out can stop you from spending too much on nights out.  

However, if you are a struggling, single-parent, then speak to your local authorities and even your bank who may help you reduce your monthly payments. 

Analyse your circumstances and the reasons for being in debt to help you avoid this situation in the future and repeating the same behaviour. 

7. Generate More Income

This is an aggressive method for paying off debt that simply isn’t available to everyone. But, it can certainly help you get out of debt quicker. 

By picking up a second job for a few months, you’ll drastically increase how much you earn. But, don’t ever put your mental health at risk by overworking yourself.

Only take a second job if you feel that you feasibly have the time and energy to do this.

Alternatively, consider other ways of making money such as selling unwanted clothes, furnishings, jewellery and kitchenware online. If you have a spare room, then consider renting out your room. 

8. Build a Savings Account for Emergencies

As well as focusing on paying off debt, a good idea is to build an emergency fund. By doing this, you’ll have an out when something doesn’t go to plan. 

By building up this fund of a few thousand pounds, you will have the peace of mind that you don’t have to stay in a job you hate, or that you can afford rent somewhere else if your tenancy is pulled from under your feet. 

While paying off debt and building your savings account, be kind to yourself. Not everything is going to go right every month. 

Can You Imagine Living Debt Free?

Picture how great you will feel when you are debt-free and have some savings in the bank. Living debt-free requires dedication and time.

When you’ve paid off your debts, you need to make sure that you don’t slip into your old ways and spend more than you earn. If you’re struggling to pay off your debts, then consider speaking to a financial advisor or make an appointment at your bank.

Are you interested in learning more about finance? Check out the dedicated section of our blog for more information.

How to Form an Investing Strategy For European Markets

Europe is a global economic nexus, an incredibly stable and developed market.

Its heart is EU, which operates as a single market of 28 different states and 500 million customers. Technology and innovation are driving forces behind slow but steady growth.

This upward trajectory instils confidence when it comes to investment prospects. Many lucrative opportunities are just a few clicks away. You can pursue them without running into risks that emerging markets are rife with.  

Alas, launching an international investment endeavour is a daunting task. You have to do your homework and tailor the investing strategy to specifics of the landscape.

Here is a guide on how to establish a strong foothold and enhance your portfolio.

Doing the Spadework

The European market is a mature, diverse, and liquid ecosystem.

The investment risk is low, save in times of crisis. Europe is also a highly dynamic and competitive investment arena, home to leading companies of today.  

Yes, it’s easily one of the most inviting investing destinations. However, succeeding is easier said than done. To maximise your chances, you have to show due diligence.

Start by running a proper market analysis and scour the continent to discover where the best opportunities are. Evaluate your risk tolerance and put a risk management strategy in place. Two main weapons for chipping away at risk are market knowledge and portfolio diversification.

We would implore you to pay special attention to the currency risk. We’re talking about fluctuations in the foreign exchange market. They can be a double-edged sword, spurring both unexpected losses and profits.

Once research tasks are sorted out, set your chief objectives. Do you want to go for foreign direct investment (FDI) or portfolio investment? Is your goal to have a small portion of shares, source raw materials or control a whole company?

Get your priorities straight before moving to the next stage.  

The Main Pathways to Investment Glory

One of the easiest ways to gain exposure is thru exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The three main options are:

They offer simple means of portfolio diversification, unlike the US, which is a predominantly stock-based market. It’s possible to invest in hundreds of different companies, as well as specific industries/countries. At the same time, you can avoid the steep fees associated with mutual funds.

Familiarity is another benefit you can score. Europe harbours some of the most renowned names in modern business.  

There is also an alternative approach, which is two-fold. The first tactic is buying American Depository Receipts (ADRs). The second one is acquiring stocks via foreign stock brokers.

The drawback is you have to worry about legal and tax issues. You also face hurdles such as translating foreign languages and currencies. On top of that, it can be tricky to conduct in-depth research on foreign stocks.

Note that ADRs are free of these risks. Unfortunately, they are limited to large foreign corporations that boast liquidity in spades.

The Million Dollar Question of Where

It makes a lot of sense to examine investing opportunities thru regional lenses.

Eastern Europe is an interesting region due to the potential for rapid growth. Investors comfortable with higher risks head there chasing hefty profit margins.

On the other hand, one enters Western European markets for reasons other than explosive growth. Namely, those who favour a climate with low volatility should feel at home here.

Germany is probably a must-consider, as the largest economy of Europe. It houses many of the top-500 publically traded companies in the world. County’s biggest companies (by market capitalisation) are available via the DAX 30 index, which is similar to the Dow Jones index in the US.

In terms of other, small economies, there are certain rules of thumb. You want to pay close attention to conditions like domestic policies and international agreements. These are the main tools countries employ in order to attract foreign investment.  

Apart from that, it’s a good idea to stick to predictable and transparent markets. EU member states have an advantage in this regard. Common institutions handle and synchronise investment rules, including areas like dispute resolution.  

The Old-School Way

Beyond that, you should feel free to invest in asset classes such as property.

The yields tend to be higher than in the case of bonds. This trend persists across different regions and states. What is more, the returns are often adjusted up for inflation.

This is to say real estate investment can act as a blanket insulating you from monetary risk. Besides, the spectrum of possibilities is very wide. You can aim for steady cash flow or speculative profit.                

One piece of advice is to keep an eye on hot local markets such as Amsterdam. There, a combination of limited supply, demographic influx, and scarce land inflates prices year after year.

Finally, we shouldn’t overlook the commodities.  

This traditional asset class involves minerals, fossil fuels, ores, crops, and trees. Propelled by global economic growth, the consumption and demand remain stable, while supply is finite.

Again, one of the main benefits is protection against inflation. Of course, commodities also come with risks such as price volatility. Just take the example of gold, which has been on a rollercoaster in recent years.

The lesson to draw is clear: be ever vigilant and be advised.

Investing Strategy for Europe: Taking Portfolio to the Next Level

The world’s largest regional economy is a Promised Land for many investors.

However, that doesn’t mean profits are just there for the taking. You need to put together a smart investing strategy before anything else. Rely on facts and figures to make it as sound as the Euro.

Likewise, make sure to assess your risk tolerance and financial appetites. Pick your region and industry sector accordingly. Identify up-and-coming companies and business champions with a bright future.  

You can hardly go wrong fuelling your investments via European ETFs.

Just stay quick on your feet and steer away from pitfalls in the shifting monetary dimension. Keep up the pace with changing regulations and standards. Following these steps, you should be able to make headways into burgeoning European markets.  

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any lingering questions and dilemmas. It’s time to elevate and diversify your portfolio.  

The Ultimate Guide to British Taxes

The United Kingdom has a long list of tax codes, so it might seem confusing. However, British taxes are relatively simple for many people.

Unless you have a slew of properties and investments, you don’t have to know a lot to pay your taxes. All you need to know is how you earn money and how much, and you can determine what taxes you need to pay.

Basics of British Taxes

If you live in the United Kingdom, you should have a basic understanding of British taxes. Whether you grew up in the UK or an ex-pat living abroad, you need to know what taxes to pay and how to pay them.

In the UK, there is a long list of tax codes, so it can be complicated. However, you don’t need to understand everything, only what applies to you and your situation.

You don’t need to be a UK citizen to pay taxes, but you will need a national insurance number. You’ll typically get a number when you work in the UK, and this gives you access to certain benefits.

Residency and British Taxes

Whether you’re a citizen or not, you may still have to pay British taxes. If you live in the country during a tax year, you’ll have to pay taxes on the income you earn there.

Only UK citizens have to pay British taxes on income from other countries. Citizens of other countries may be eligible for a tax allowance, which prevents you from paying taxes on income to two different countries.

There are a few factors you can use to determine your residency status.

  • If you stay in the UK for 183 days out of the year, you will count as a UK resident.
  • You can also count as a resident if you buy a home and live in it for at least 91 days, as long as 30 of those days are within the tax year.
  • Another way to be considered a resident is to work in the UK for 356 days with no long breaks from work.

Determining your residency can help you figure out what taxes you need to pay and whether you qualify for certain allowances. However, you have to consider the UK tax year when calculating dates of work or residency.

The UK Tax Year

In the UK, the tax year starts on 6 April. The UK tax year ends on 5 April of the following year.

While it can be easy to consider the calendar year, it can be a problem. If you fit the qualifications for residency, you need to make sure you base that off the tax year.

The same is true if you don’t want to qualify as a UK resident. In that case, you would need to make sure you’re out of the country for the proper length of time.

What Taxes Do You Have to Pay?

When learning about British taxes, you should understand the basic types of taxes. Like other countries, you will probably have to pay income taxes.

However, depending on your situation, you may have a few other types of taxes to consider.

Income Taxes

Income taxes are the easiest type of tax to think about. The amount of income you earn determines how much you owe in taxes.

Your income taxes include money you make from a traditional job. However, it can also include income from other sources:

  • Self-employment income
  • Certain state benefits
  • Benefits from a job
  • Pensions
  • Interest on savings accounts
  • Rental income
  • Income from a trust

You will typically get some sort of tax allowance, which means you won’t have to pay taxes on some of your income. The Personal Allowance covers income you earn up to £12,500.

If you have freelance income or income from a rental property, you won’t have to pay taxes on the first £1,000 you earn. The tax rates for income tax vary from 0 to 45 percent.

Property Taxes

If you own any property in the UK, you will need to pay taxes on that property. When you buy a home worth more than £125,000, you’ll need to pay a Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).

However, you won’t have to pay SDLT on your first home unless it’s worth more than £300,000.

SDLT has different tiers, and that can determine the amount you’ll pay in property taxes. If you have to pay taxes, you will need to figure out the value of your home.

  • For houses up to £125,000, you won’t ever pay any taxes.
  • Between £125,000 and £250,000, you’ll pay 2 percent.
  • The tax rate from £250,000 to £925,000 is 5 percent.
  • If your home is up to £1.5 million, you will pay 10 percent on the value over £925,000.
  • Finally, any value over £1.5 million will have a tax of 12 percent.

While you may not need to pay proper taxes at first, you may need to in the future.

Capital Gains Taxes

Another type of tax you should know about in the UK is the capital gains tax. You’ll only need to pay this type of tax when you dispose of an asset, especially when you make a profit.

You can expect to pay this tax if you sell property, give it as a gift, or exchange it. The tax applies to possessions worth more than £6,000, except for your car.

It also includes property that isn’t your main home, business assets, and some investment shares.

Inheritance Taxes

Inheritance taxes are not too common, but you should know about them if you have family in the UK. When you inherit an estate, you may need to pay a UK inheritance tax.

If the value of the estate is less than £325,000, you won’t have to pay anything. You can also avoid the tax if you leave the value over that threshold to your spouse, children, or a qualifying organization.

VAT

A more common type of tax to pay in the UK is VAT, or Value Added Tax. The tax rate varies based on the type of goods or services you purchase.

It can be as low as 0 percent or as high as 20 percent. Twenty percent is the standard rate, while food and children’s clothes can qualify for no VAT.

Other goods and services might have a reduced rate of five percent. Don’t forget to budget for VAT when making purchases.

Tax Facts

Whether you’ve lived in the UK your whole life or just moved there, you should understand how British taxes work. Not only should you consider the tax rates, but you should also consider the types of taxes.

If you know you have certain investments or properties, you’ll know you need to pay taxes on them. However, if you don’t have any of that, you will primarily have to worry about income taxes.

Do you want to learn more about finances in the UK, check out our recent blog posts!

A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Foreign Currency

More than $5 trillion is traded in foreign currency exchanges every day. Could you jump into investing in foreign currency and get a piece of that amount?

Absolutely! However, trading foreign currency is not as simple as it might sound. A beginner who tries to invest without some knowledge of what they’re doing will find success hard to come by.

There are many insider things to learn about this form of trading. If you’re considering getting into the game, we want to make sure you’re equipped to do so.

In this article, we’re laying out the basics of investing in foreign currency. We’re giving you the terms and the concepts so that you have what you need on hand before you pull the trigger on your first trade.

What is Forex?

Forex is the term used for trading in foreign currency. It is also the Foreign Exchange Market where currencies are traded. Forex is managed by banks and financial institutions rather than a centralized exchange like the Nasdaq.

Forex is, at its simplest, the buying and/or selling of two currencies. It uses the value of one currency against another to determine prices for buying and selling.

The exchange rate is the rate at which your trade will occur. The exchange rate is the value of one country’s currency against another. It is shown as a ratio, so, for example, 1 Euro might be worth 1.68 US Dollars.

Which Currencies Can You Trade?

Investing in foreign currency is always done in pairs. Pairs of currencies are represented by 2 three-letter codes put together. The codes are for each currency in the pair. 

For example, EURUSD is a pairing of Euros and US Dollars. The first currency is the base and the second is the quote. 

Pairings of currencies come in 3 categories. The categories are major, minor, and exotics.

Major Pairings

Major pairings are a combination of two of the major currencies of the world. The major currencies are:

  • US Dollars (USD)
  • Euro (EUR) 
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • British Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • New Zealand Dollar (NZD)

When beginners start investing in foreign currency major pairings draw their attention because they fluctuate more and more often.

Minor Pairings

Minor pairings feature one or more of the major pairing currencies but never the US Dollar.

Exotics

Exotics combine a heavily traded (usually a major currency) with a lightly traded currency. For example, you might combine the US Dollar with the Brazilian Real for a minor pairing.

Keys to Investing in Foreign Currency

When you are starting your journey into investing in foreign currency you need to be aware of terms, how to buy and sell, and what you can expect from your trade.

Buying Foreign Currency

When you want to buy foreign currency you are buying the base currency and selling the quote currency in the pairing you have chosen. So, if you want to buy US Dollars and sell British pounds you will have a pairing of USDGBP.

If you are buying currency you want the value of your pairing to rise. You can then sell it later if it falls to make a profit.

Selling Foreign Currency

The opposite is true if you are selling currency. In that scenario, you will still have a pairing of USDGBP but you will be selling the base currency and buying the quote currency.

When selling currency you want the pairing to fall in value. That way you can buy it back later if it rises in value.

Liquidity

Liquidity is the amount of demand for any given currency. Liquid currencies are bought and sold more frequently. The more liquid a pairing is the more likely you will be able to buy and sell at a profit. 

Major pairs are usually more liquid than minor or exotic pairs. This is because there is more international trading of major pairs and more demand for the base and quote currencies.

Liquidity is measured in pips. Pips represent 0.0001 of the quoted price for the pair. If a pair has a quoted price of 1.57789 and moves to 1.57790 that is a change of 1 pip. 

Pairings with more liquidity will typically have changes of around 100 pips a day. Pairings with less liquidity have changes of 50 pips or lower a day. 

Bid and Ask

The terms “bid” and “ask” are also important to understand when investing in foreign currency.

The bid is what a broker will pay you for a pairing. The ask is what the broker will want you to pay for a pair.

The difference between the two numbers is called the spread. So, if the bid is, say 1.5111 and the ask is 1.5115 the spread is 0.0004, or 4 pips. In order to make a profit from a buying trade, you’ll need the pair to cross the spread above 1.5115.  

Study So That You Know All About Investing in Foreign Currency

Forex trading is tricky. Spend time learning about the pairings. Investigate trends and spreads, and look at how liquid a pairing is before you jump in.

Because pairs of currencies don’t move a lot, up or down, investing in foreign currency does not result in huge gains or losses for beginners. 

The language and terms can be confusing. It’s an insider’s lingo. Make sure you know what all the things in this article refer to.

At the same time, Forex trading can be fun and rewarding. 

If you’d like advice on how to get started with your first Forex trades get in touch with us. We understand the foreign currency markets, and we have a wealth of knowledge to help you make the best choices on pairings and trades. We look forward to helping you. 

Brexit Opportunities: How Small Businesses are Impacted by Brexit (Plus Ways to Pivot)

Brexit is nothing short of a political tsunami, unlike anything we’ve seen in recent UK history.

It sent powerful shockwaves across the economic landscape. Small business owners are scrambling to grasp the magnitude and nature of this disruption. They have to deal with looming uncertainty and revamp their strategies, which doesn’t come easy.

But, to be fair, it’s not all doom and gloom out there.

There’s no shortage of emerging Brexit opportunities to expand, pivot, and grow your small business. They are concealed both in unexpected places and in plain sight. Leveraging them is a matter of survival in the harsh business environment.

Here is how to navigate the treacherous waters are emerge stronger than ever before.

A Deafening Wake-Up Call

We probably don’ have to repeat all the ways in which Brexit has disaster written over it.

There is a slew of notions floating around in public, which those sentiments. Instead, we want to offer something that comes in short supply– the good news.  

You can work your way around new obstacles and business risks on the road to business success. Indeed, Brexit gives us plenty of reasons to rethink our approach.

So, the first thing to do is educate yourself on all the practical consequences. The main goals are to identify opportunities amidst the chaos. They are your chance to position your business better and elevate its profile.

Some opportunities exist in the long-term horizon, while others involve a limited window of opportunity. They are also more applicable to some companies than others. There simply aren’t easy solutions and clear-cut answers.

On Top of the Game

To get on top of decision-making, factor in the particularities of your business case.

The following elements should be a part of the equation:

  • Size of the company
  • Growth/lifecycle stage
  • Industry sector
  • Type of products/services
  • Geographical presence

It’s safe to say these aspects don’t carry the same weight. Nevertheless, none of them are to be ignored.

First off, Brexit opens doors to various opportunities beyond the EU. In case you already export or serve customers overseas, that’s great news for you. If anything, it could significantly boost your sales and reinforce the market foothold.

This is also possible thanks to a weaker pound, which is conducive to export-oriented businesses. In other words, a lower exchange rate makes UK goods cheaper. It also acts as a magnet for foreign investment.

Two Sides of the Coin

The flip side is that imports are going to be more expensive.

Hence, businesses that rely on them will struggle to maintain operational profitability. One way to overcome this obstacle is to seek more UK-based partners.

Yes, such a transition requires time, resources, and thoughtful planning. But, it can pay dividends down the road.

Rest assured domestic demand is poised to surge in the wake of Brexit. In many cases, customers will be tempted to forgo foreign brands because they’ve become pricier. This is to say many UK businesses will be more competitive than their counterparts from abroad.

Of course, these are all general predictions that may not always hold to the scrutiny of reality.  

A lot will depend on the ability of the government to negotiate favourable bilateral deals. Therefore, keep up with the changes in trade tariffs, as well as currency fluctuations.

Thriving in an Unforgiving Climate

Another major influence of Brexit is regulation getting less stringent.

Yes, in general, the UK is likely to stay aligned with the EU legal framework. At the same time, however, it might diverge from it in some important ways.

This development will give more wiggle room to UK businesses. It will facilitate certain key business processes, making them quicker and possibly cheaper.  

Furthermore, bear in mind there’s one great way to capitalize on Brexit.

Namely, you could try to address newly-arising customers’ concerns and dilemmas.  The idea is to discover pain points in relation to leaving the EU and attempt to mitigate them.

A consultancy service is an obvious choice, especially for those who possess the necessary skills and expertise. But, this kind of small business is far from the only option. In fact, it’s more of a short-term, situational opportunity.

A Breath of Fresh Air

A more approachable alternative would be to refine your products and services according to the wants and needs of post-Brexit customers.

Some of the focal points to guide the process are:

These opportunities aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, legal firms are inclined to gravitate toward employment law. What is more, they could prosper by aiding UK firms in hiring employees aboard.

On the other hand, accountants may want to jump on VAT changes. A lot of businesses need assistance in comprehending them, as well as in refining related processes.

The bottom line is: conduct extensive market research and see what makes sense in your context.

Making a Strong Account of Yourself

To go the extra mile, establish yourself as a reputable expert.

Share your insights and experience with how your small business is coping with change. Turn your networking, publishing, and personal brand-building efforts a notch. Take part in discussions on how the industries ought to respond to disruption.  

Consider joining Brexit committees sprouting up recently. Get in touch with trade associations and other relevant organisations to figure out where these opportunities lie. Government consultations could also deliver a nice boost and put you close to the source of information.

Beyond that, you should feel free to explore other avenues. Trends such as automation aren’t exclusively tied to Brexit, but they certainly enable small businesses to move ahead.

Make sure you don’t miss out on those.

Brexit Opportunities: You Can Either Shape Up or Ship Out

Brexit implications come in all shapes and forms, ranging from good to bad and ugly.

This is a less-than-ideal turn of events, but it shouldn’t give rise to panic. You’re much better off embracing a proactive, paced, and strategic approach.

Do your homework to properly assess the reconfigured ecosystem. Recalibrate your business strategies and processes in the light of Brexit.

For instance, you may need to start looking either closer to home or further away from the EU neighbourhood. Make do with new tools to cover vital business functions and pave the way for expansion.

These are the stepping stones to gaining a powerful edge in the brave new market. It’s time to seize lucrative Brexit opportunities before the competition beats you to it.

Check out the entries in our economics and business section to stay in the know and future-proof your business.