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Spring clean your investments ahead of the tax year end

Written by: Andy Clark
It’s not too early to review your investments ahead of tax year end in April.

Whether or not you’ve set yourself personal goals and resolutions for the year ahead, it’s important to keep in mind that financial goals are equally essential – regardless of whether you’re saving for retirement, education, or a down-payment for a first home.

As such, it is vital to ensure that your investment portfolio continues to produce the best balance of risk and returns for your circumstances. With this in mind, we’ve identified five financial New Year’s resolutions you should consider making for the new tax year:

1) Plan ahead

No matter what your personal ambitions are, it’s vital to have a long-term financial plan to help you meet those ambitions. When planning, always look to understand your investment needs. Based on your targets, how much money will you need and when? And how much risk are you willing to consider to achieve those goals? To help answer these questions and plan ahead, do consider consulting a professional financial adviser.

While many investors leave the majority of their savings in cash the effects of inflation can mean that its spending power diminishes over time. In fact, £10,000 in 2007 would be worth only £9,041 in 2017 spending terms – and for those of us with longer memories, in the 1970s a pound bought 10 loaves of bread. Today you’d be lucky to get one.

2) Don’t have all your eggs in one basket

When constructing a portfolio, asset allocation and diversification are key. It’s very unlikely that a single asset class will deliver the highest return all the time and focussing on one area can result in a bumpy ride for investors. This means that combining different asset classes in a portfolio can help diversify the risks and improve returns over the longer term. However despite the importance of diversification, in the UK only 11% of people are likely to invest in stocks and shares to help fund their retirement, compared with 38% in Taiwan, 34% in Hong Kong, 30% in China, and 29% in Singapore, according to research by HSBC.

But it’s not just about setting out on the right investment path. Investors should review and rebalance their plans as personal circumstances change. It can be a good idea to review and rebalance once a year, and consider plan reviews when major life events occur.

3) Look out for inflation

We’ve all heard the message that investments carry risk and the value of investments can go down as well as up. We believe that this year one of the major risks investors will face is that inflation starts to build to the point where central banks are forced to raise interest rates faster than expected. How many asset classes are priced today would mean there would have to be a significant adjustment in financial market prices. If this were to happen there may not be many safe haven options for investors to retreat to. Watching the economic indicators on global growth and inflation will be critical.

4) Keep an eye on market pricing

An important question for investors to reflect on is how much of the economic good news we saw last year is already discounted in market pricing. Some observers might argue that after a year of such strong market performance, it is reasonable to assume that “everything is overvalued”, but we don’t think this is quite right. On the basis of our proprietary, cross-asset valuation framework, the ‘risk premium’ – the amount investors expect to receive for taking risk – of many asset classes like global equities or selective emerging market local debt continue to look attractive for investors.

5) Look beyond your home market

Investors naturally tend to feel more comfortable with their home market, with those in the UK keeping almost a quarter of their equity portfolios in UK stocks. However, while it’s tempting for investors to ‘stick with what they know’, the danger for investors is that they miss out on global growth and miss opportunities hidden in different markets and sectors. Investors owning only UK stocks would unintentionally have half of their portfolio in just three sectors – Financials, Consumer Staples, and Energy – and almost none in Technology.

Global stock markets and emerging markets recorded robust returns in 2017, driven by simultaneous growth across all major economies, low inflation and strong corporate results. Macroeconomic factors created a favourable business environment and this should continue to support corporate profits in 2018. Though it’s important to note that where overseas investments are held the rate of currency exchange may also cause the value of such investments to fluctuate.

Additionally and more generally, the baton of growth momentum has passed from advanced to emerging market economies. Despite previous concerns, emerging market growth remained strong in 2017. Investors should also consider allocating to assets in markets that are undervalued and can benefit from the strong global economic environment, such as China.

While it remains to be seen what 2018 brings, we believe that there are many ways investors can build and protect their portfolios for the future. But like all resolutions, it’s not just making them, but keeping them that leads to success.

Andy Clark is chief executive officer, HSBC Global Asset Management UK

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