How can I keep track of my money? +
You'll have your own account and log in so that you can view your valuations, which are updated every day.
Every six months we will also give you a valuation that is set against an agreed benchmark. This will enable you to track how your investments are going against the wider world. If this is not frequent enough for you we can send more regular valuations at no extra cost. Just let us know and we can organise this.
What is your performance record? +
Every client's portfolio is different, but we have kept track of every recommended change to our portfolios since the begining of 2004. We have then applied this to Ifamax Balanced Strategy and benchmarked this against the APCIMs Balanced Portfolio. Please ask for further details on this and we will be happy to show you.
What is a benchmark? +
In essence, a benchmark tells you how well your portfolio is doing against other similar assets. Early on, we recommend a suitable benchmark that is offered by the Private Clients Investment Managers or, APCIMs for short. This benchmark will have similar risk characteristics to the strategy that we have recommended for you. The strategy that we recommend you will be based on your attitude to risk, need to risk and ability to risk.
What do you think will be the next big thing to invest in? +
This is otherwise known as fad investing. The Dot Com bubble, Spanish property, China, India, Commodities, Hedge Funds, UK property, are just some recent examples of fads. These trends come and go and our advice it to always avoid them. If you’re not sure, take a second opinion.
What investments should I avoid? +
Anything that's a fad. There is always a fad because it sells newspapers, and some brokers like to bang the drum as well as it is good for their business. We’d also recommend you avoid active fund management. Active funds cost more, and selecting a fund that will outperform a given benchmark can only be down to luck.
What's the biggest mistake to avoid when investing for retirement? +
Ignoring the long term effects of inflation. In 1975 a first class stamp would have cost 8p. Imagine you retired in 1975, right around the time the stamp was issued. And imagine your entire cost of living – the only thing you needed to buy ever – was the value of one first-class stamp. And what’s the price of a first class-stamp today? 65p. That is inflation for you!
The single biggest mistake people make is not taking into account the long term effects of inflation. ‘Riskier’ investments, property and equities, which are real assets should have more than quadrupled your income and capital over that same time period. ‘Secure’ investments, cash and bonds, carry a hidden risk. Their real value and purchasing power gets eroded over time. Planning a strategy to strike a balance between the two and diversify is essential for a financially comfortable retirement.
What are the biggest investment lessons we can learn from the past? +
There are many lessons we can learn from the past, but here is what we consider to be the big six:
- Always consider the long-term effects of inflation on your investment strategy. Just because has been low for the last few years, don't think for a moment that it has gone away forever.
- Don’t try to time a market up or down, it's a waste of time. You’ll never get the right day, week or month, and if it did happen, put it down to luck. If you got the right year, give yourself a pat on the back and accept you were lucky. The point often missed is that you have to time the market twice - out, and in. The odds of getting that right are very slim.
- Making investment choices by how you feel at the time is probably the worst decision you could make. To prevent this from happening you should adopt a process and stick to it. Separate the head from the heart. Investing should be boring!
- Don’t chase past performance, it’s gone already. This is to some extent linked with the point above. Newspapers are full of stories where things have gone well for somebody else. Good for them, but the moment’s gone.
- Don’t let recent poor performance put you off, things change very fast.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, a fully diversified portfolio covering several different asset classes should give you long-term success. The portfolios we create typically have more than 10,000 different investments.
What is an uncorrelated investment? +
Uncorrelated is a word that is often used to describe two or more different types of investment that perform independently of each other. The idea is that even if one asset is going down in value, then perhaps the other might be going up because it works in a completely different way. So even during a period of poor returns overall you may be able to point to something that has proved positive.
How much do you charge clients, and how is it paid for? +
We will explain our fees long in advance of you potentially coming on board as a client. We do not charge any fees for your initial meeting or report writing. Once on board our fees are deducted monthly in arrears as a percentage of assets under our management. For further information on how this works, please feel free to contact us.
Are there any fees if I wish to leave or transfer to another advisor? +
No. There are no fees to leave or be transferred away. We just get paid for as long as you are a satisfied customer.
Are there any situations where fees are payable upfront? +
Yes, there are a few occasions where fees are payable upfront. These are normally related to tax planning and tax products, where the work is quite transactional. Once it has been organised, there is no servicing required - so no regular service fee; but we do still organise regular valuations for you.
Do you ever charge by the hour? +
No. On the occasion we do a small piece of work for you, we ask that you make a contribution to our chosen charity; Dogs' Friends.
How many clients do you deal with? +
We look after approximately 200 families. While we deal with each person as an individual, our work is regularly in small family units, which often involves children as well.
How many clients can you deal with, or want to deal with? +
We are working towards dealing with 350 families, and we have the capacity to do so as at today.
Do you have experience of a situation similar to my own? +
It is not uncommon for an adviser to deal only with clients that have a certain level of wealth. If you have £20,000 in savings but the adviser generally deals with people who have £500,000, then you may be better off with someone else who has more experience assisting people in a similar financial situation to you.
While we have tried to outline the types of clients we deal with on the website, we do have quite a varied client base.
Do feel free to contact us and ask if we can help. If we are not a good fit for you, we probably know somebody else who could help.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure regular contact is made? +
Once you’re onboard as a client, we will never let you leave the office without booking your next appointment. If we do miss each other for any reason, we will chase you up if we have not spoken for a while.
How regularly will you assess my financial situation and provide a progress summary? +
We try to meet everyone every six months. There is the odd occasion where we cannot e.g. if someone is working or living away. In these cases we can post out paperwork and have telephone appointment, or we can use Skype.
Do you have any clients that would be willing to speak about their experiences? +
Yes. The most important aspect of this is giving you a few people to talk with that have a situation similar to yours. If you would like to hear from some of our clients before making the decision to come on board; just let us know and we will organise a contact list for you.
What should I expect from our first meeting, and is there anything I should bring with me? +
We will ask you to bring along any relevant paperwork for your financial situation together with proof of identity (usually a passport or drivers licence) and proof of your home address (usually a utility bill you have received in the past three months). The key thing for us is to find out more about you - What do you want? What's important about money to you?
What is the difference between a DB and a DC pension? +
A defined benefit (DB) pension (also known as ‘final salary’ or ‘career average’) is a type of workplace pension. It gives you an income based on your salary, length of service, and a calculation made under the rules of your pension scheme. With this type of pension, your employer guarantees a certain amount each year when you retire.
A defined contribution (DC) scheme is a personal or workplace pension based on how much money has been paid into your pot. They are sometimes referred to as ‘money purchase’ schemes. When you take money from a defined contribution pension it comes from the money you (and sometimes your employer) saved into it over the years, plus any investment returns your money may have earned. With defined contribution pensions, you can decide how you take your money out.
If I cash in my pension pot, how much tax will I pay? +
When cashing in a pension pot you will usually get 25% tax free. The remaining 75% is taxable and it will be added to any other taxable income you have in the tax year. Adding a large cash sum to your income could mean that you move into a higher tax rate. It could also affect your entitlement to any benefits.
It is therefore important that you understand what your income in a particular year may be. Remember that sources of income include: • The State Pension • Payments from private pensions (not including any tax-free cash lump sums you may have received) • Earnings from employment or self-employment • Taxable State benefits • Other income, such as money from investments, property or savings
Pension providers will often have to deduct emergency tax when pension payments are made, which may result in an over or underpayment of tax. Your provider should give you information on how to claim back any overpaid tax.
What is a guaranteed annuity rate and what are the options you can attach to an annuity? +
Some pension policies have a feature known as a ‘guaranteed annuity rate’ (GAR). It is likely to provide you with a better deal than what would currently be available in the annuity market if you were to buy one today, and is therefore a valuable benefit. You should check whether the terms of your GAR are suitable for your circumstances, and if your fund value is over £30,000 you will need to take independent financial advice before your provider will allow you to convert or transfer your pension.
How do I know that you are regulated? +
All financial advisers have to be approved or authorised by The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can find any advice firm or advisor on the ‘Financial Services Register’ on the FCA website.
Are you independent? +
Yes, we are totally Independent.
If you are getting advice about investing your money, you need to know there are two different types of financial advisers – independent and restricted – and this can affect the advice you are given. Independent advisers offer the full range of financial products and providers available, while restricted advisers offer restricted advice, focusing on a limited selection of products and/or providers. An adviser or firm has to tell you in writing whether they offer independent or restricted advice, but if you are not sure what they offer you should ask for more information.
Independent advisers +
An adviser or firm that provides independent advice is able to consider and recommend all types of retail investment products that could meet your needs and objectives. Independent advisers will also consider products from all firms across the market, and have to give unbiased and unrestricted advice. An independent adviser may also be called an 'independent financial adviser' or 'IFA'.
Restricted advisers +
A restricted adviser or firm can only recommend certain products and providers. The adviser or firm has to clearly explain the nature of the restriction. If you are not sure you should ask for further information, but some examples of restricted advice are where:
• The adviser works with one product provider and only considers products that company offers
• The adviser considers products from several – but not all – product providers
• The adviser can recommend one or some types of products, but not all retail investment products
• The adviser has chosen to focus on a particular market, such as pensions, and considers products from all providers within that market
Restricted advisers and firms cannot describe the advice they offer as 'independent'.
Other types of financial advice +
If you are only given general information about one or more investment products, or have products or related terms explained to you, you may have received guidance rather than advice. This is sometimes also called an information-only or non-advice service. The main difference between guidance and advice is that you decide what product to buy without having one or more recommended to you.
Buying an investment product in this way might reduce the cost involved but it also means you may not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong. If you are not sure whether you are receiving guidance or advice, and therefore how you would be protected, you should ask the adviser or firm to explain.
Ifamax is completely independent and provides advice from the whole market.
How often, and via what medium, will you communicate? +
We like to meet our clients twice a year, but our door is always open if more meetings are required. Typically in the year of someone's retirement we may well meet 3-4 times as we work through options as well. We like to call our clients when there is any significant event that we feel they need to be aware of. We also send out a newsletter once a month.
Can I see an example of a financial plan? +
Yes. We often send out examples when exploring ideas around income tax or inheritance tax planning.
What happens to my money if something happens to you? +
Nothing! We do not handle client money at all and client assets are completely separate from us. We have built a small team of very well qualified advisers. We take a team-based approach to our work, so while there may be one lead person dealing with you, there will be someone else who is qualified backing them up.
Should my children take student finance, or should I fund them? +
The recent changes to student financing mean that the interest on student loans is not as cheap as it used to be. Historically, student loans have been a very cheap method of borrowing money. I am often asked whether parents or grandparents should fund students’ university education rather than them taking out a loan. Well first of all, let’s explore the types of loans available:
Tuition fee loans - pays for the fees charged by the university for teaching each year of a course. The maximum tuition fee loan amounts are:
New full-time students up to £9,250 New full-time students at a private university up to £6,165
Maintenance Loans - cover living costs. The maximum Maintenance Loan for new students (as of September 2018) are:
£8,700 if you live away from home and study at a university or college outside of London £11,354 if you live away from home and study at a university or college in London £7,324 if you live at home.
Maintenance Grants As of 2016, students starting university can no longer apply for a maintenance grant. However, there will continue to be other funding options to help students. These include scholarships, hardship funds, subject grants and disabled students’ allowance (DSA).
Repayment of loan Loans begin to be repaid once earnings are in excess of £25,000 per annum (previously £21,000). Once earnings exceed £25,000, 9% per annum is paid on the excess of £25,000. For example, if a graduate earned £27,000 they would pay £180 per annum. This is taken directly from the pay they receive from their employer. Graduates can pay back all or some of their loan at any time without incurring an early repayment charge.
Interest rate on loans The interest rate payable is linked to UK inflation, measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI). For the purpose of this calculation I have assumed average RPI to be 3%. While studying (starts from the date of first payment) – RPI plus 3% (6%) Post study:
Earn £21,000 or less – rate of RPI (3%) Earn £21,000 to £45,000 – between the rate of RPI and the rate of RPI plus 3% (3%-6%) Earn £45,000 or more – RPI plus 3% (6%)
Any remaining debt is wiped out once 30 years pass (from the April after graduation).
The main point from these changes is that most graduates are unlikely to fully repay their loan. I have found a very useful calculator that shows the likely amount of time it can take to repay loans, given differing levels of starting income, which you can find here:
The calculator shows that if a student takes the maximum loans available to them, for three years, they are unlikely to repay the full amount back unless their starting graduate salary is in excess of £40,000.
Conclusion Given that some graduates will not repay the full amount of loan, it seems illogical to repay the debt early or to fund them from the start.
It is also worth noting that other investments, that produce income in excess of £2,000 per annum, will be liable to student loan repayments. This means that if you are in a situation to gift money to children/grandchildren, it would be more prudent to give them money for a house deposit, utilise ISA allowances or make pension contributions on their behalf.
Rather than thinking of the debt as a loan, I believe that we should view the new changes as a further tax on graduate income. The graduate will only pay once they are earning in excess of £25,000 and the amount payable will increase as their salary increases.
It will be interesting to see how these changes alter the trends of courses studied at universities.
Risk Warning This does not constitute financial advice. Remember that your circumstances could change. Charges may increase in the future. If you are in any doubt you should seek financial advice.