People are always asking me where to put their money so I thought I would do a simple post about it. I should add this is simply my own opinion and you should really check with a financial advisor…………tongue firmly in cheek!
Let’s start with the obvious. There is no such thing as a risk free investment. Even sovereign bonds (those issued by governments) can turn into wallpaper….look at the US Treasury market now, the world’s safest place to park your cash. Ultimately it’s just an IOU, generally backed by commodities or in the case of the US by a fairly large military and lots of nuclear rockets.
Having got that out of the way the first question you need to ask yourself is why am I investing? Is it for regular income or the hope of generating a huge pile of cash for future income generation (retirement for example).
Let’s start with the income piece by looking at what is available:
- Cash deposits.
- Term deposits.
- Government bonds.
- Corporate bonds.
- Shares that pay dividends.
Generally, as in all things, you pay for what you get. The main issue any investor should consider before making an investment is liquidity:
How quickly can I get my cash and what will I have to pay to get it?
As many investors found to their cost in recent years, liquidity is the single most important issue.
Which draws the question: is there a market for my investment?
In the case of cash that is not a problem (actually that’s not true but for the sake of this exercise we will pretend that cash is always available – see Northern Rock for further details).
Stocks can generally be sold on the spot and cash received quickly (of course stocks can be suspended at anytime which means you can’t trade it, well not on the exchange).
Bonds have a market you can trade on but liquidity can be an issue sometimes.
Property you can forget. That’s a highly illiquid asset.
Managed funds as we see all to often can be very hard to get out of and the fees can be severe. If the fund holds any kind of assets other than plain stocks then redemptions may force suspension of the fund (we’ve seen that).
Baring all that in mind cash seems like the best place to have your money if access is an issue and you are risk averse. Second up would be quoted shares with high liquidity (shares on the major index e.g. Telecom in NZ which pays a good dividend). Bonds would be next and then managed funds and property bringing up the rear.
Anything that offers these with a twist is to be avoided unless you’re a professional. Like guaranteed capital return plus 100% of the 5 year blah blah return on some index. Avoid. There are huge fees and margins built into what is a simple option structure.
I’m sorry but there’s no free lunch in the investment world. But it’s very easy to lose money or receive poor returns whilst paying out large fees and charges.
My advice is start with cash and spend some time learning about basic stocks and bonds. Believe me it is not difficult.
Armed with a little knowledge most people could construct a portfolio of cash, stocks and bonds in a few hours.
Also don’t be lulled into the idea that you are a long term investor and won’t be pulling down the cash for 20-30 years. Look at how fast the world is changing…….planning that far ahead may not actually make much sense.
As with most things in life, keeping it simple can pay off. Also spending a little time learning about investment can save you a lot of money as well as enabling yourself to take charge of your own financial destiny.