How To Invest - Funds Or Individual Shares?

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As you can probably imagine, we read a huge amount about the subject of investments. Included here, as well as the more 'serious' reading we do, are the many journalists who write numerous articles about the 'best way' to invest your hard earned money.

One such journalist is a chap called Harvey Jones, who writes for The Motley Fool. Their motto is to "Educate, Amuse & Enrich", and a recent article covered the subject of having a strategy for your investments.

As we have said before, the vast majority of new dentists and doctors that we meet don't have a strategy; they simply have a collection of policies and plans built up over the years.

So, what was Harvey keen to share?

Well, what he was saying was that a year ago he made a decision that was to cost him dearly. He was aware that many of his own unit trusts had high annual charges, and that by buying individual stocks he could 'escape' from these charges. So, he sold five of his unit trusts and purchased four individual stocks.

Twelve months on he was reviewing the outcome of this decision, and he was somewhat dismayed with the results.

Three of the stocks had shown negative returns, with one giving a small positive return. When he then looked at the performance of the unit trusts he had sold, he found that they all showed large positive returns ranging from 11.1% to 30.3%!

So as you can imagine Harvey was not a happy man!

He bemoaned the fact that every decision had been a bad one, and that he estimated that he was around £2,000 down.

Now, he accepts that the timescale here was a very short one, and that the timing of selling and buying can have a huge effect on any result, particularly over a short period.

As well as this, as Harvey agrees, buying a few company stocks is more risky than diversifying through a pooled investment fund such as a unit trust. Also, being aggressive can backfire he says - yes it can!

He also seems to believe that the high charges he was paying the fund managers on the unit trusts he sold (that was 'paying for their lunches) was worth it after all.

He then contradicts himself by saying that "even the best fund managers struggle to beat a good index tracker" which has lower charges!

He concludes that he is going to keep things as they are for now, as he hopes for the upside in the longer run.

So that should be wonderful news for the investors who chose to invest this way three years ago, shouldn't it?

For many, however, it has proved that the marketing hype has far exceeded the reality. The article goes on to show that some of these funds have been wound up due to terrible performance, and others have shown falls in value of 30% to 50%!

Again, investors are being misled we feel, and in the absence of an investment strategy, find themselves being influenced by hype. These mistakes can be extremely expensive, and we often meet new clients who are genuinely puzzled by the whole thing.

Who can blame them!!

When we introduce new clients to the concept of having a risk assessed portfolio for all seasons, and explain how and why this will help them in their own lives, it is gratifying to see "the lights go on".

The resulting investment strategy means that they have peace of mind, and no longer have to listen to salespeople with the latest "wonder fund", for example.

The Financial Tips Bottom Line

Don't be misled by the hype. Develop your own strategy and stick with it for the long term. If you use an adviser then ensure THEY have an investment philosophy.

ACTION POINT

What is your experience here? Have you a collection of funds in ISAs and Pensions that have been sold to you over the years. Or perhaps you own individual stocks?

Do you change or are you advised to change your investments frequently?

It is vital you have a strategy you have confidence in. If you are unsure how to proceed ask your adviser their views.

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