Monthly Archives: August 2018

The New Science Of Spending

In the good old days, retirement was simple.

You worked for 30 years with the same employer, received your gold watch for long service and then retired with a 2/3rds final salary pension – what could be more straight forward!

Nowadays, things are a little more complex.

We don’t tend to work for the same employer. Gone are the days of the final salary pension, leaving individuals to take more responsibility for their own retirement income. This retirement income will often come in many forms. Gone are the days of a single employer final salary pension that was completely automatic (no thought required).

Now we often work for 5 or more employers, collect various personal pension plans, company pensions, ISA’s and other savings vehicles for our retirement.

All of this needs far more management and input than has previously been the case. We no longer have the automated final salary pension where your retirement income was simply dictated by your final salary and length of service.

Now we have decisions on how much to pay in, what investment funds to choose, how much tax free cash to take and so on.

Now, the new auto-enrolment legislation has gone a small way to automating the pension system again, but most people acknowledge that this is just a sticking plaster and much more will need to be done to see the population at large enjoy a prosperous retirement.

The psychological shift

Perhaps the biggest shift (and one that people are yet to fully get their head around) is the psychological shift from an accumulation to a de-cumulation mindset when people retire.

Back in the days of fixed income final salary pensions, you didn’t really have to worry about this. You never accumulated a pot of money in the first place, you simply earned membership in the pension scheme which gave entitlement to an income in retirement.

At retirement that income turned on and you then had a nice monthly deposit into your bank account.

In the new world of pension freedoms, people will spend 20, 30, 40 or dare I say perhaps 50 years accumulating a pot of money. All of a sudden, when they retire, they then need to start de-cumulating (i.e. spending) that money.

The problem is that this is not an easy shift to make

When you have spent a lifetime saving money and building up your nest egg, it can be very distressing to see it start to fall in value.

Various studies have shown that in the investment markets, human beings feel the pain of loss about twice as strongly as the pleasure of gain.

I suspect that the same psychological forces are at work when we start to spend down our nest-egg – it hurts!

This often results in people holding back on their retirement spending plans because they simply don’t want to see the value of their pot fall. But this can lead to some real problems.

Occasionally we meet people who are living on a shoestring, despite having 7 (and sometimes 8) figure retirement portfolios and this is all because they don’t want to see the value of their precious nest egg go down.

But go down it must if we are to enjoy a great retirement – indeed, one must ask the question – if you wont spend the money in retirement, when exactly will you spend it?

 

 

 

Reflecting on the $1 Trillion Company

Lots has been said about the rise of Apple to become the worlds first company to achieve a $1 trillion market capitalisation.

I have 2 interesting observations on this milestone:

 

1 – Is Apple Really The First?

In the strictest sense, this is true, although as with many things, when you dig a little deeper, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Although Apple, is the first company to reach a $1 trillion valuation in nominal terms, this fascinating article from Time, suggests that there are at least 5 companies in history that would today be worth over $1 trillion if you adjusted for inflation.

In fact, Time suggests that on an inflation-adjusted basis, the largest company that has ever been is the Dutch East India Company, which dates back to the 1600’s, with an inflation adjusted market cap of $8.2 trillion in todays money.

Also of note is the reason for this gargantuan valuation – the Dutch tulip bubble. Many people will be familiar with the Dutch tulip craze, which is the first widely recorded ‘financial bubble’ in history. For some (still unknown reason) people went mad for Dutch tulips in the 1600’s, pushing their prices to completely insane levels.

Until very recently, the Dutch tulip bubble remained the biggest financial bubble in history (when measured by the sharp increase and then even sharper fall in value), although this crown has now been taken by Bitcoin.

Some could draw comparisons with the tech bubble of the early 2000’s, although as I think the world has now realised, technology really is worth a lot and has the power to change the world, unlike Dutch tulips, pretty as they may be.

This is confirmed by the fact that all 5 of the worlds largest companies are now tech giants in the form of Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Facebook.

 

2 – Do Record Breakers Always Suffer A Fall?

A lot will now be said about the ‘inevitable’ fall of Apple. When a record is broken, we assume that this must be the end of the road.

The same has been said about the stock market over the past 2 years or so. “Now that we have reached a record high, we MUST be due for a crash”.

This is complete nonsense. Records are made to be broken and if the British Olympic teams of recent years have taught us anything, it is that records can be broken again and again by the very same person (read company).

As such, I suggest you also read this article on how Apple could now be on the way to achieve a $2 trillion market cap, before you rush off and sell those shares!

As always, just because a record has been broken, there is nothing to say how long that new record will stand for. In Apple’s case, it only lasted a day or two, as Apple now has a market cap of $1.030 trillion.

The final point of note here, is that $1 trillion is simply a ’round number’ that has significance for us human beings only. Other than being a 1 and 12 zeros, it doesn’t really mean much else in the context of Apple’s rise and rise.

Who knows, perhaps the first $2 trillion company will be here sooner than we think?

 

Why Don’t We Ever Feel Wealthy?

In our seminars I often talk about the fact that no one really ‘feels’ wealthy.

This might strike you as odd, given that we spend our working day looking after people who are generally fairly well off by most standards.

It does seem however, that no matter how much money we have and how rich we appear to others, we don’t ever appear to feel wealthy in ourselves.

If I were to mention that this phenomenon occurs to people with £100,000 in wealth, then perhaps you could understand. Most would agree that £100,000, while a very nice sum indeed, is not enough to live a totally worry free financial life.

But we see this happening to people with over £1,000,000 in liquid wealth (that is excluding property values and other intangibles). Surely when you have £1 million in cold hard cash or investments you can call yourself wealthy?

Based on our experience, apparently not!

We regularly speak to people with £5 million or even £10 million in liquid cash and investments and yet they still do not feel wealthy in themselves.

Why should this be?

I don’t have any scientific evidence on this topic (perhaps this is a subject for my next dissertation?), but I have a few potential reasons why this could be:

  1. There is always someone richer. Whether you have £10 or £10 million, there is always someone richer who lives down the road or whom you know and associate with.

2. Some people don’t feel ‘worthy’. This is especially true when people have perhaps come from a less advantaged background and have made significant wealth with their own hands. In many cases, they don’t feel worthy of this new found wealth or perhaps they feel that they don’t deserve it.

3. I think the main reason though is down to mindset. Some people seem to be natural savers. They feel guilty about making large expenditures and always feel inclined to save as much as they can (even if they already have £10 million).

Other people, are natural spenders – they tend to spend money as they earn it, even if they do earn a lot.

This creates a bit of a problem because savers, generally, will continue to save and feel that they are not ‘allowed’ to spend, even when they have become incredibly wealthy.

Spenders on the other hand, tend not to become so wealthy in the first place.

So what is the solution? Well, as with most things, the middle ground is perhaps the best place to be.

It helps to have made a plan in advance about how much money you actually need to (insert goal here – retire early, but a boat etc). When you have defined the goal in advance you:

A – know when you have achieved the goal – you know when you can ‘stop’ and

B – generally feel less guilty about spending the accumulated money, if there was a specific goal or reason for saving it in the first place.

We call this ‘defining the finish line in advance’.

Much like in a race – you generally know the distance when you start and the type of pace you will need to run to win.

If there were no finish line already defined, how would you know when to stop? How would you know what training and preparation you needed to do?

The same is true with financial planning.

We find the clients who experience the greatest freedom around money are those who have a goal laid out in advance. This way, when they ‘make it’ they know that they have reached their finish line and can give themselves permission to stop (and go and spend some of that hard earned money).

 

 

 

 

Could A Bad Brexit Be A Good Thing?

I was chatting with a client the other day about the potential implications of a hard Brexit, soft Brexit, medium rare Brexit and about any other incarnation of Brexit you can imagine.

Despite all of the white papers and policy discussions, the divisions between the very people supposed to be making the negotiations with the EU suggest that we have a very long way to go before a deal becomes ‘clear’.

Our conversation turned to the timing of investments and specifically, “should I invest money now because a ‘bad Brexit’ (which in the context of the markets is supposedly a hard Bredit) could cause havoc for stock markets”.

As the conversation evolved, I realised that my response to the question was pretty much the same response I give to anyone who is worried about some sort of ‘market event’.

Granted, Brexit might be a fairly major event in the grand scheme of things (or perhaps it wont – we really don’t know), but the principles are still the same.

My response went something like:

  1. There will always, and I mean always, be some sort of potential future event to cause potential upset on the stock market.

Before Brexit we had Trump, before Trump we had a million other things we could have been worrying about.

There will always be a reason not to invest. The human brain loves not making a decision, it loves to procrastinate. The problem is that there is always something on the horizon that could be the next big disaster which gives us a perfect excuse to put off taking action.

After Brexit is complete, there will be something else – mark my words!

  1. Even when these supposedly disastrous events do happen, the effect on the stock market is often negligible or is in fact the complete opposite to what is expected.

Using Trumps election and the Brexit vote as perfect examples, both were predicted to cause financial meltdown and havoc if they became reality and indeed they did, for about 2 days!

After this incredibly short period of time, markets continued their march upwards and have gone on to break records on a seemingly weekly basis ever since.

Had you taken all of your money out of the market on the day before the Brexit vote, when would you have put it back in?

I strongly suspect that you would not have pressed the ‘buy’ button again after those 2 days steep falls and indeed, anecdotally, those who did this are still sitting in cash, waiting for the right moment to invest, having lost out on 20+ per cent growth in the mean time.

  1. Finally, all of the above is trying to predict the future, when I certainly can’t do. If anyone can, please let me know (I think we could make a lot of money together).

As such, making these timing decisions is like flipping a coin – there is no way of know which way things will turn and in the short term markets move in almost random directions.

So … back to the point … what should someone do if they are thinking of investing and they are worried about a big event triggering a crash. Our suggestion here is always the same:

  1. If you are transferring money from one investment to another, then you should do so as quickly as possible and with the minimum time possible out of the market.
  2. If you are investing a significant sum of new cash, it generally makes sense to divide this up into 5 or so tranches and invest the tranches over a period of time. So if you wanted to invest £500,000, perhaps divide this into 5 and invest £100,000 per month over 5 months.

This staggered approach minimises the potential for a big crash to upset your whole investment and in fact it could turn it into an opportunity. Lets say that the market falls 20% after you have invested your first 2 tranches. Well – you can now buy the rest of your investment at a 20% discount on what you paid before – fantastic!

Now of course, this strategy can also work against you – if the marker rises by 20% after 2 tranches, you should have invested the lot on day 1!

But all of this assumes you can predict the future and you can’t. What we achieve by investing over a period of time is that we reduce the risk of buying at a very high or very low point – we average out and in an impossible to predict world, I will take the average every time.