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How to Invest – Basic Investing Strategies

By Spectrum IFA
This article is published on: 19th July 2014

Have you applied these when making an investment?

Recently, while talking to an expat who has been living in Barga in Tuscany for many years, he confided in me that he thought he could invest without advice from other professional quarters.  However, after seeing some of his investments post no real returns (ie the net return after inflation is factored in), he was in a quandary as he felt he would “lose face” by speaking to a qualified independent financial adviser. And he also added that he had friends living close by who had shared the same experience.

Learning how to invest your money is one of the most important lessons in life. You don’t need to be college educated to start investing.  In fact, you don’t even need to be a high school graduate. You just need to have a basic understanding of business and have the confidence to make a plan — consider it a business plan for your life. You can do it.


Why investing can be scary

For many of us, money and investments weren’t discussed at home. These subjects may even be taboo within certain households — quite possibly, in households that don’t have much money or investments.

If your parents or loved-ones were not financially independent, they probably did not give you good financial advice (despite their best intentions). And even if your family is/was well-off, there’s no guarantee that their financial advice makes or made sense to you. Plenty of parents encouraged their kids to buy a house during the peak of the housing bubble, because in their lifetimes, housing prices only ever went up.


The goal of investing

Of course, everyone has different financial goals — and the more you learn, the more confident you’ll be in determining your own path. But here’s a basic financial goal to strive toward:

Over decades of hard work, most people who are about to retire or those who have already retired, would like to make more money than they spend and then invest the difference. By the time they retire, they would like their investments to throw off enough cash — through dividends or interest – so that they can live on this income without having to sell any investments.

Notice the first part of this goal is about hard work. If you’re hoping to take a little bit of money and gamble it into a fortune in the stock market, you can stop reading now, this article isn’t written for you. But if you have worked for a few decades, and want to make sure that you don’t have to work until life’s end, you’ll need to spend less than you make and invest the difference.

Also, you’ll notice that this goal doesn’t recommend selling your investments. Rich people don’t sell-off their assets for spending money — if they did they wouldn’t be rich for long. They stay rich because their assets provide enough cash flow to support their lifestyle. And these cash-producing assets, through careful estate planning, can be passed down from generation to generation.

Enjoying your twilight years by living off your investment income and having something left over for your loved ones or for a charitable organization is something that all investors should aspire to. It may not be possible for everyone, but it’s the right attitude.


What to invest in?

Before you even start to look at this area, it is absolutely imperative that a “proper” financial risk analysis of yourself is carried out. And this does not take the form of much-used generalised risk questionnaires (that would be like you or your wife doing a compatibility quiz in a woman’s magazine!!) No, the emphasis is on the words “proper risk analysis”

Once this has been done you move on to the most important factor in investment planning.


Diversification (or, Spreading the Risk)

Many, many investors are under the impression that if they have, say, a term deposit at bank/institution A, another at B, and a third at C, they are diversifying. They could not be more wrong.

When investing one looks at doing so across what is commonly referred to as Asset Classes. These comprise Cash (very Conservative Risk ie term deposit), Bonds (Moderate Risk), Equities (high risk) and Commercial Property (Moderately Aggressive Risk). Then, taking one’s appetite for risk (from the Risk Profiler), one invests across the Asset Classes accordingly.

The most common investments are mutual funds (unit trusts), insurance investments, bonds and the stock market. This article is not aimed at those with the time, experience, acumen and who can afford losses by direct share purchases.

Unit trusts/Mutual funds can own shares or bonds and with some commercial property exposure on your behalf.


Know the difference between saving and investing

Your investments and your savings are very different things. What if the stock market crashes? If you do not have a cash savings account to cover for emergencies (usually about six months’ income), you would probably have to sell your investments at the worst possible time. Don’t fall into this trap.

Being a successful investor requires money, patience and, just as importantly, confidence. Having confidence to make and stand-by your financial decisions requires education. Never stop learning.


When last did you do a “proper risk” analyser?

What applied five years ago is not going to necessarily be the same today. We are getting older and as the years go by, more often than not we tend to become more conservative. Hence the need to do a refresher where risk is concerned and then use this to analyse your investments in order to ensure the two correspond accordingly. If not, you actually run the danger of investing by default/error which could have a material impact on your life in the not-too-distant future.

If you realise from the above the importance of risk classification and correct diversification, just as you visit your doctor (or should) for an annual check-up, why not give me a call in order to facilitate a meeting where we can ascertain things. As the saying goes “you owe it to yourself!!


‘Risk’ (with an Italian flavour)

“If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor”

 Neil Simon, Playwright


Article by Spectrum IFA

The Spectrum IFA Group is committed to providing a professional financial advice to the expat community in Europe. The Spectrum IFA Group operates in a number of jurisdictions with 12 offices in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal with over 50 advisers.

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